Friday, June 30, 2006

Hamdan and the Worst President

I've been more focused on going with my son on our next Boy Scout trip--no mountains this time!--and haven't had time to comment on the Hamdan decision from the US Supreme Court.

Marty Lederman and Jack Balkin give us a great summary of the key findings and provide us with some excellent analysis as to why the Hamdan decision is momentous, but perhaps not as sweeping as some initial media reports had stated. For example, I am wondering how the Supreme Court can tell us that treaties the US signed don't have to be followed if Congress says no, but I'll study this issue further before saying this aspect of the holding is correct or not.

One thing jumped out at me and that was Justice Thomas' bed-wetting dissent. It was long on citations of authority from President Lincoln's time, when Lincoln was neck deep trying to put down a civil war and rebellion (see Article 9--Limits on Congress section)--a situation where the US Constitution gives a president far more power than at any other time, including a formal war against foreign powers. Thomas also cited a decision from early in World War II just after Pearl Harbor was bombed and the US lost almost 40% of its navy.

But what really made Thomas' decision a bed-wetting decision is his abject fearfulness ripped from newspaper headlines about terrorists that lead Thomas to say he'll basically trust the president over what he seems to believe are merely "laws." Worse from a judicial philosophy standpoint, and, contrary to his professed stance as an originalist about the Constitution, Thomas revealingly says the following in footnote 6 of his dissenting opinion:

"Indeed, respecting the present conflict, the President has found that 'the war against terrorism ushers in a new paradigm, one in which groups with broad, international reach commit horrific acts against innocent civilians, sometimes with the direct support of states. Our Nation recognizes that this new paradigm—ushered in not by us, but by terrorists—requires new thinking in the law of war.' App. 34–35. Under the Court’s approach, the President’s ability to address this 'new paradigm' of inflicting death and mayhem would be completely frozen by rules developed in the context of conventional warfare."

"New paradigm?" Worrying about our nation being "frozen" by old rules?

This sounds like Thomas and Bush are channeling Jacques Derrida, a so-called "postmodernist" schmuck usually placed on the left wing of the political spectrum. Most of the time, Thomas is one of the whiners, like Robert Bork, who believes the right to privacy or some criminal law ruling of the Court is untethered from or wrongfully goes against the "original intent" of the Constitution. But here, Thomas embraces a jurisprudence that would give the president broad, new, expanded military and political power simply because the Worst President made a speech about a "new paradigm."

I guess I might begin to understand Thomas' position if the current Congress was filled with pacifists who also had the "integrity" of say, Karl Rove--and were undermining the president for crass, political reasons while bombs were going off in various cities and the US was facing anarchy. But, really, all this president has to do is ask or get a search warrant--but he can't be bothered with even such relatively routine things because he wants to be the dictator; something he now calls being the "decider."

(Edited)

When all else fails, can we try peace talks?

Following up on yesterday's post...

It didn't take long for the murderous thugs who kidnapped the young settler to kill him. And the Israeli government, in addition to bombing, has "detained" some Hamas leaders (How Biblical: Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, capture for capture). It might work in getting back the soldier, but one wonders about the overall temperature for peace at this point. As usual, Ha'artez has an interesting backgrounder opinion piece.

As someone in the US who follows these events in Israel rather closely, I am left asking my usual question: When all else fails, isn't it time to talk peace? As the backgrounder notes, Hamas may or may not have been splitting, and some moving toward peaceful overtures toward Israel, just in time for a referendum most observers believed (before these events of the past week) would be overwhelmingly in favor of peace. In retrospect, we should not be surprised that the (relatively) militant ones within Hamas took this dastardly step to derail peace. Nor should we be surprised that the current Israeli leadership did its "overwhelming power" response and...there they are again with more war and bloodshed.

And, separate from the substance of the events in Gaza, just try to imagine this "official" editorial from an American newspaper or media outlet--or this op-ed piece on American television, radio or in an American newspaper. Reading those editorials in Ha'aretz, those who think the US media is "anti-Israel" should more objectively reexamine their beliefs on that subject. Really.

The worst one can say about the American corporate media as a whole, in its reporting on Israel, is that it may be too focused on Israel compared to other areas of the world. Such overexposure compared to other areas of the world can sometimes alter perceptions about the nature of the Israeli government's conduct compared to the conduct of other governments. However, the reason for the relatively extensive coverage may be tenuously, but sufficiently, related to our nation's oil dependency and perhaps because too many media folks are from the Northeast or West Coast in the US (Jewish and non-Jewish), where there are far more Jews than in most other places around our nation.

On the other hand, Israel is a fairly open society in a closed region of the world that is, nonetheless, occupying land and opressing a somewhat native population. That's a heck of a story and one not too far removed from the historical American experience of a democracy that had slavery and was fighting--and displacing--Native Americans. In any event, it is still clear that the US media has nothing on Ha'artez or other Israeli media outlets in terms of being critical of the Israeli leadership.

Notice how carefully I phrased the above comments, too. And I'm Jewish. I say this because I believe it is vital for American Jews to stand up and talk about this topic because the subject of Israel is often difficult for American Christians and non-Jews in general to speak about without wondering when someone will call them insensitive to Jews or worse, anti-Semitic. Even American Jews who speak up can be smeared, as Nation writer Eric Alterman knows very well.

(Edited)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Provocations have "paid off" for Israeli and Palestinian militants

Those Israeli and Palestinian militants who want more war are getting their way to attempt to undermine the Palestinian referendum for peace set for July 26, 2006.

After months of provocations, more aggressive and brutal by the Israelis, I must admit, the Hamas have captured an Israeli soldier and another Palestinian group have kidnapped an Israeli settler. Both Hamas and the other group have threatened to kill their captured/kidnapped Israelis.

One Hamas leader, who is obviously in the faction inside Hamas that wants to promote peace, said Hamas' capture and threats against the solider's life was "inhumane." (Scroll down in link) Still, he too wants a swap of the single soldier for all Palestinian women and children who are in prison. Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas, in the same link, called Israel's invasion of Gaza an act of war against humanity, probably because Israel has taken out the power lines and most water lines. On the other hand, when Hamas says it plans more of these captures of soldiers--and the other group is obviously not going to be shy about more settler kidnappings--should Israel accept such actions by negotiating under such conditions, or should Israel harshly react because such actions by the Hamas (now an official governing body) are legitimately considered an act of war?

At first blush, I thought maybe there is a reasonable basis for a swap of the women and children prisoners, as that implies some level of innocence, doesn't it? But here is an example of the Palestinian women in prison. It's not like they are modern day versions of Emma Goldman. Are there Emma Goldmans among them or, separately, those who were in fact just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Maybe that's the basis on which to negotiate. Still, I understand those who say Israel should not negotiate under such circumstances of kidnapping of settlers and capturing of soldiers with an intent to kill those kidnapped or captured. Oh, and the "children"? They are largely teenagers who took an active part in suicide bombings or attacks on soldiers, so let's not get too carried away with the initial assumption about "women and children."

But let's not beat our American chests in moral indignation against the Palestinians because, if we do, we will immediately forget that Israeli settlers are people who want to take land that Palestinians lived on for generations too. That is also an attack on one's community. Still, I simply cannot equate the two and neither should most people, including those who are more sympathetic to Palestinians than Israelis.

As I have said for many years now, if Palestinian leaders would insist on non-violent civil disobedience, they would get further with an Israeli public which is more often than not in favor of closing settlements. Note, too, the interesting reaction of the father of the soldier and the differing reactions among the political parties, with the religious parties wanting more bloodshed and the secular parties wanting to find ways to diplomatically resolve matters without the loss of life.*

This opinion article provides us a background to the events, which shows how easy it was for those on both sides to undermine efforts for peace. My sense is that people must learn to not retaliate and instead, die for peace, not further retaliation. With the kidnappers and capturers of the settler and soldier, maybe the answer is demand their releases and don't negotiate, but restart diplomacy for peace instead of invading Gaza. That may be the best way to break the retribution cycle. Hopefully, cooler heads among the people in Gaza and the West Bank will prevail for the July 2006 referendum and that the solider and settler will be alive by then.

*And if someone thinks I'm too sweeping in that statement about organized religion, consider this example in the same Ha'aretz paper today as to how organized religion sometimes promotes violence rather than love. Oy.

ADDENDUM: Apparently, the Israeli military expected Hamas to try to capture and hold hostage Israeli soliders. This does not mean the Israelis knew the particular solider would be captured and held hostage. It just means that the Israelis expected their provocations would have consequences and their spies among Hamas told them to expect such a consequence.

(Edited)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

GOP bringing home the war against "terror"

There's just something about Republican leadership that says, "We have met the enemy, and it is not Al Queda. And it is not us...it's you."

Glenn Greenwald explains, patiently, why the NY Times and other newspapers that reported on government efforts to trace money through banks around the world did not get much of a scoop and are not a threat to our nation's ability to track down terrorists.

After at least skimming that post, I humbly request that you read this historically astute article from Harper's (June 2006) by historical novelist, Kevin Baker. Too bad it's not on line, but it's worth going to a library and reading it for a half hour. The article is called "Stabbed in the Back" and is about the historical continuity among the right wing in our nation who tend to be more interested in creating and attacking domestic enemies than foreign ones.

I have also kept in the back of my mind the amazing statement from the very politically partisan general, Tommy Franks, who said that if there is another attack similar to what happened on September 11, 2001, whoever is the president (likely the Worst President himself) will assume dictatorial power and shred the Constitution. This is why I am concerned with the actions of the Worst President's administration with its approval and teaching of torture, its general refusal to secure search warrants, its obsessive secrecy to the point of violating laws that require the White House to keep members of Congress informed, and its practices of holding even American citizens for years without access to lawyers or to the public.

When one considers the failures of politicians and the corporate media in the wake of 9/11/01 in blindly supporting the PATRIOT ACT (an act so few politicians and corporate media reporters bothered to read), one can see at least the potential for whipping up hysteria that would support a dictatorship. To paraphrase Sinclair Lewis, who is to America what Charles Dickens is to England, a dictatorship still most likely won't happen here--but it could.

(Edited)

Monday, June 26, 2006

The LA Times loathes Lopez Obrador

One thing I've noticed about the LA Times over the many years of reading and subscribing to that paper is that, when it comes to matters involving Mexico, Central America and Latin America, the LA Times is openly biased in favor of technocrats and against those who openly call for a Latin American version of the New Deal (NOTE: That link was from the Washington Post, not the LA Times).

Case in point for the LA TImes: The presidential election this year in Mexico. Read the following two articles and note the pattern:

1. The news section article is entitled "Presidential Campaigning Winds Down", but most of the article is a rah-rah for the right wing technocratic candidate, Calderon, who is behind (though close) in polling. Considering the title, the article should have been focused on the candidate leading the polling or at least equally divided the space and toned down the pro-Calderon rhetoric. Also, note that the quote of a person on the street is someone openly hostile to the leading candidate, Lopez Orbrador, without anyone specifically rebutting the hostile quote. The assumption throughout most of the article is that Lopez Obrador is a demogogue, yet Calderon is the one now desperately pandering judging by the quote from Calderon in the article (I mean, really, a "free-market" candiate saying he'll be the "jobs" candidate?).

2. Then, on the op ed page, we have a classic "I'm a liberal, but I hope liberals lose" article by some professor stating the elites have only themselves to blame for Lopez Obrador running so strongly. The professor's tone is obviously going for that classic David Broder elitist tut-tut about Lopez Obrador not understanding how to build up Mexico's economy--with no evidence that the professor has the slightest understanding of nation building or nation sustaining.

The truth is that Lopez Obrador's proposed policies are more likely to help the Mexican people than anything Calderon or the hopelessly corrupt PRI candidate have to offer. Lopez Obrador is calling for the use of oil money (plenty of that these days in Mexico) to do something nobody did in Mexico before--building a superstructure of highways, dams, etc. that will create the conditions for home grown business and consumer development. How does one get consumer development from a macroeconomic policy of this nature? Because, if you put massive amounts of folks to work and pay them, they will spend money, which, for local businesses, is a good thing.

And does anyone doubt this will help lower the number of illegal immigrants coming across the Mexican border into the US more effectively than continuing policies that mostly benefit the richest elites on both sides of the border?

Closing comment: If you think today's op ed and front page articles are not indicative of the LA Times' coverage, check here (Where Calderon is quoted again as saying he will be the "jobs president", when this was originally Lopez Obrador's line; yes, the article is about how people are concentrating more on soccer, but notice the only reference to Lopez Obrador is how his ad at a soccer game "fell flat." Really? How does the writer know that?)

and here (Note how the article fails to find any well-educated person or even an economist or someone with a professional degree to speak kindly of Lopez Obrador. The article is filled with conclusionary attacks against Lopez Obrador, which, if written this way about an American candidate for president, would have been easily seen as a hit piece).


and here(An op ed by an elitist Mexican-American editor at the Times, Andres Martinez, who, in his article, includes, as his only quote from any non-candidate, a defamatory quote from a Mexican business person who compares Lopez Obrador to former President Luis Echeverria, who oppressed and "disappeared" (killed) some thousand or more Mexican citizens during his presidency in the 1960s and 1970s. Shameful is all that one can say about Martinez, who is likely pushing the anti-Lopez Obrador coverage at the LA Times.)

(Edited)

The one article you must read about climate change

Jim Hansen, the director of space studies at NASA, and an environmental science prof at Columbia University, has written an extended article in the New York Review of Books on climate change. This is the fellow who the Worst President's administration tried to silence last year.

As noted at the end of this article at Wikipedia, Hansen is very concerned about our planet reaching a tipping point with reference to the climate changes we are beginning to experience.

But, hey, let's worry about homosexuals getting married, says the Republican Party. Sometimes you have to wonder whether the Republican Party leadership is working for Al Queda or some culty messanianic group intent on helping destroy the planet or at least most human institutions we hold dear.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Not even a good fight in Afghanistan any longer? Or, good fights are hard to find...

Steven Josselson, over at Troubled Times, posts a link to a report that says the Worst President is adding to his war crimes--this time in Afghanistan. I supported the US attack on the Taliban after 9/11/01, but openly wondered whether the Worst President would follow through on what he promised, i.e. apprehending or killing bin Laden and staying what would be a rough course in re-establishing, in Afghanistan, the best of the West's open government values. The Worst President's diversion into Iraq War II has been a disaster that is a major reason as to why our nation failed to reach either of those goals.

In short, even the "good fight" in Afghanistan is going bad.

Speaking of "good fights," I have spent the past few days perusing Peter Beinart's "The Good Fight" and found it was more shallow and ignorant than I anticipated. It is not worth all the analysis given to it, including this latest article from Fred Kaplan at the Washington Monthly--which article lays out another objection to Beinart's shallowness in a still too kind manner.

In a previous post, I had said I would challenge Beinart's assumptions about the start of the Cold War and the politics of the 1940s. After going through his book via the index and reading his text and footnotes, I concluded his book is so shallow (more assumptions than scholarship) in this regard that a few points need only be made:

1. BEINART CONTENTIONS: Beinart begins his book with a story about Hubert Humphrey trying to help Henry Wallace, FDR's former Vice President, understand that Wallace was surrounded by Communists, with the additional point that Humphrey was only seeing the light against Communist infilatration in American politics not long before the 1948 Presidential Campaign--where Wallace ran as a third party candidate against Truman. Beinart also gives his readers the impression that Humprhey led a successful purge against a horde of out and out Communists in the coalition in Minnesota known as the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Parties (the "DFL").

HISTORICAL REALITY: While it is true that Wallace underestimated the number of American Communist Party members who supported him in 1948, Beinart later grudgingly admits most of Wallace's supporters were not Communists. Worse, however, Beinart fails to inform his readers that Humphrey burst on the scene in Minneapolis politics in 1943 as a friend to the business community and was immediately interested in purging not merely Communists, but people who were liberal lefties in the bosom of the New Deal. This purging also included some individuals who were even less liberal than Humphrey, but simply disagreed with his tactics or substance on one or more issues. See: "The Drugstore Liberal: Hubert Humphrey in Politics" (Grossman Publishers, 1968) by the very accomplished investigative reporter, Robert Sherrill, with Harry W. Ernst (any good university library would have this book; I have it at home, though!); see pages 47-56 of their book.

As for the view that the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Parties (a coalition known through today as the "DFL") was rife with Communists from 1946-48, in fact, during that very period, the DFL presented and supported candidates who were to the "right" of Humphrey. Worse, Humphrey used what some would call thuggish tactics against those who opposed him, starting in 1947 (see Sherrill/Ernst, pages 47-48). Sherrill's book should not be the last word, however, as it was written with a strong bias against Humphrey. The book remains valuable, though, because so much haigography exists regarding Humphrey and this period of Minnesota political history.

To Beinart, Minnesota is representative of where the Democrats and their left allies were in the mid- to late 1940s. As a more detailed analysis shows, however, Beinart's history is more myth than reality.

2. Beinart says, at page 12 of his book, that the Progressive Party, the third party formed around Henry Wallace for the 1948 election, was so anti-American that it failed to include a statement in its platform that was critical of the Soviet Union's actions. However, when one reads Beinart's book's endnote for that proposition from page 12, one discovers that the Progressive Party expressly included a platform plank that criticized both the "American business and military" and "Soviet aggrandizement and power politics." Surely Beinart is aware that the term "aggrandizement" is often used in a negative connotation to criticize a person or an entity for wanting to increase one's power or position.*

3. Beinart admits, without recognizing the import of his statement, that Truman set up loyalty oaths and programs in early 1947. These oaths and programs, as I noted in the previous post on this subject, were broad enough to allow for Joe McCarthy and the Republicans to attack the Democrats as soft on national security--for not using the oaths and programs enough to root out "communists." Ironcially, this is why Beinart is akin to Truman in Beinart's support of the machinery the Worst President used to attack everyone from Michael Moore to the Dixie Chicks to various ex-Reagan officials who thought the Worst President and his staff had gone over the deep end.

4. Beinart fails to give his readers an understanding as to how the first test of the Truman Doctrine of anti-communism wound up giving birth to a militarist dictatorship in Greece, which betrayed those Greek citizens who sought an open government in that nation. Truman led Americans to believe that Stalin was supporting the Greek Communists to take over Greece, but in fact, Truman knew (as did Churchill in England) that Stalin had kept to his deal with Churchill in 1944 not to "subvert" Greece. The support the Communists received was from Tito in Yugoslavia, who defied Stalin, which defying decision played a primary role in the split between Tito and Stalin. Wikipedia gives a decent account of the Greek civil war, which most historians of the subject date from 1943.

This detour into 1940s Greek history is extremely relevant because Beinart fails to grasp the practical, real-world consequences of theoretical policies upon various other nations, including our own. This was especially true during the "Cold War"--and the actions and policies the "Cold War" liberals joined with "Cold War" conservatives in supporting. Beinart also fails to grasp that, regardless of the individual eccentricities of Henry Wallace, who appears to have had an interest in things mystical (the way Ron and Nancy Reagan were interested in astrology), Wallace and others, including George Kennan, saw alternative methods of securing the same goal in defeating totalitarian regimes and movements. The dishonesty of Truman and his advisers with regard to Greece, including the Truman administration's cover up of a murder of an American television journalist, George Polk, who was killed by right wing elements inside Greece in 1948, was a dress rehersal for the lies that led us to take over the French colonialist position in Vietnam, which lies began under Truman as well. The late Theodore Draper, in an article not freely available on the web, made the point that one can say that Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Reagan had more in common with each other with regard to foreign policy than any of them had with FDR. See also: another non-free article, this time by Murray Kempton in the NY Review of Books from 1974 on this point.

After he left office, Harry Truman said his greatest errors were (1) the creation of the CIA and (2) his failure to understand that third world nationalist movements were more independent from Soviet or Red Chinese control than he was told (see: Merle Miller's oral history with Truman, "Plain Speaking", particularly Truman's discussion as to how he would have liked to have "handled" Castro; far more conciliatory than either Ike or JFK). Eisenhower, as he was leaving office, decided to finally warn us of the military-industrial complex. Now Beinart, after being wrong about Iraq and his red baiting of those who recognzied it was going to be a debacle, wants us to trust him again. But unlike Truman and Eisenhower, who were trying to tell us they learned why their doctrines were wrong (not merely a particular application being wrong), Beinart wants us to follow the very doctrines that led him to his Iraq War II support and Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy into Vietnam and elsewhere.

Enough. Suffice it to say that Beinart's position on Iraq and the modern world is without merit, as is Beinart's understanding of American and world history in the mid 20th Century.


* Henry Wallace, who is so easy to caricature based upon equally foolish historians' bashing Wallace every which way, ended up supporting the US-led fight against North Korea when North Korea invaded South Korea in late June 1950. Beinart, so eager to attack Henry Wallace and his supporters, again fails to inform readers of his book of information that might give modern readers a better understanding of the people who differed with the Truman-Humphrey wing of the Democratic Party in the late 1940s, when the National Security State was being formed.

(Edited!)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Most local wetlands still subject to federal regulation

This post at Scotusblog.com nicely sums up the travesty of having Justice Scalia attempt to write nearly any majority opinion--specifically today's opinion in Rapanos v. US/Carabell v. US Army Corps of Engineers. He obviously lost Justice Kennedy, who put on his Justice O'Connor hat to avoid agreeing with a sweeping, blustery style of argument that, substantively, reveals a very crabbed view of the Constitution. I think the post at Scotusblog is brilliant in discerning how Justice Kennedy significantly agreed with the dissenting opinion's legal interpretation of the Constitution and the Federal Clean Water Act.

The biggest concern is that Justice Alito joined in Scalia's opinion with what appears to be full support, unlike Chief Justice Roberts, who felt compelled to write a concurring opinion that basically said, "Okay, okay, I shouldn't fully side with the nutcases like Scalia, Thomas and Alito. Let's let Justice Kennedy's opinion be the opinion that has precedent-setting value."

Finally, here are the interesting thoughts from a right wing law professor from the Volokh Conspiracy, who is not happy with the opinion. Personally, I would have been happier with the dissenting opinion being the majority opinion, but these days, I don't mind winning ugly at the US Supreme Court--especially on the scope of the Constitution's Commerce Clause.

(Edited)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Climate change articles in Mother Jones magazine

In the latest Mother Jones magazine, there is a special section on climate change, with a focus on the source of funding for those who are the skeptics on the subject.

While I think that issue of funding is important, it is not the end of the story as I can still believe these industry-paid skeptics are sincere in their beliefs and may have earned the support of industry sources rather than being bribed.

I did find the interview with climatologist Michael Mann to be very persuasive reading, especially after earlier seeing Michael Chrichton on C-Span last year speak so horribly against Mann.

For a challenge to Michael Crichton's analysis regarding climate change, see the Brookings Institution report of January 28, 2005 and this article at the website, "realclimate.org." Also, see this article from the Boston Globe regarding Crichton's footnotes in his novel on climate change.

Also, I recommend this article from the Mother Jones special section, which concerns insurance companies, particularly in Europe, which are trying to sound the alarm on climate change because they are concerned about excessive losses from "natural" disasters that increase in the face of uncertain climate changes brought on by human activity. Thoughtful conservatives should take notice from that alone--and if conservative means cautious, one would think...well, how many thoughtful conservatives are left, for example, in the Republican Party?

Final comments: Do I understand all or even substantially all of the science? No, especially when I am reading graphics. My analytical mind works better with words than with numbers, formulas and graphs. However, the reason I doubt the doubters is that, from what I continue to read of them, they take outliers or the soft underbelly that exists in any argument or assertion in order to deny the larger and stronger arguments in favor of the particular proposition. So what, for example, if the coming change in average global climate does not resemble a hockey stick, i.e. a sharp increase in instability? Does that mean the US, India and China should continue to pursue their current rates of growth in energy consumption or increase their use of fossil fuels as a source of energy? Hardly.

Separately, though, attacking someone based upon their source of money is not terribly helpful to explain Michael Crichton. On one level, I respect his natural tendency toward skepticism of any "official" idea voiced in the scientific community. Crichton's concern that the scientific consensus on climate change may be the modern equivalent to the 19th Century's scientific consensus regarding eugenics is at least interesting. But unlike Crichton, I am a more cautious skeptic when the issue is environmental and economic, unlike a situation where "official" science tries to tell us that we should treat people with different skin colors differently in terms of their intelligence. Crichton fails to make his case that the "official" science regarding climate change is as wrongheaded as it was regarding "eugenics." If anything, those who deny any significant level of human contribution to climate change appear to be as closed minded and prone to data twisting as those who thought they could tell if someone was smart by the size of the person's outer head.

(Edited)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Barbara Epstein, founder of NY Review of Books

Barbara Epstein, one of the founders of the amazing New York Review of Books, has passed away.

I have been a reader of the NYR since age 13. It is one of the touchstones of my intellectual life. For an interesting, if sometimes flawed, history of the NYR and the changing sets of writers, from Chomsky to Vidal to Susan Sontag, and yes, Izzy Stone, over the years, see Intellectual Skywriting, by Phillip Nobile. Nobile's hostility to Stone is what makes the book flawed, though much of the information in the book provides any cultural historian with a deep insight into the 1960s and 1970s intellectual "scene" in the US.

(Edit)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Technicolor Web of Sound

I have, from time to time, listened to this late 1960s and early 1970s psychedelic rock station on the web known as "Technicolor Web of Sound."

Tonight, I just left it on for over an hour while I checked up on various magazines, blogs, newspapers, etc. It was fabulous, especially to hear bands such as James Gang again. The song played was "Ashes, the Rain and I" which used something unusual in most modern music. You know, counterpoint.

I only wish there would be more progressive rock included, but the station did play the Moody Blues' "Have You Heard (part 1)/The Voyage/Have You Heard (part 2)" which was something I hadn't played on my old phonograph in a very long time.

Amazing stuff to hear in any event. Added bonus: Every once in awhile, they play commercials from the 1960s with real bands such as the Newbeats or the Cyrkle that are highly amusing to hear as well.

UPDATE: Per one of the commenters, I went over to YouTube and listened to and watched some of my all time favorite prog bands. The black and white video of early Premiata Forneria Marconi, affectionately known by its fans as PFM, knocked me out. It was a song, if one calls it merely that, from their first album, "Storia di un minuto" (1972). Thanks for the tip!

Some caveats to "An Inconvenient Truth"

I want to see Gore's film and I think it sounds and feels fabulous. Here, though, is known anti-environmentalist skeptic Ronald Bailey, at Reason.com, with a few caveats regarding the film. But, note, even Bailey says (1) he now believes human beings are adversely affecting climate temperatures and (2) "On balance Gore gets it more right than wrong on the science..."

Bailey's attacks are largely about "when" something bad occurs to places like Greenland, Florida or New York City, not really "if." Also, while the polar bears may not be in as immediate danger as the film and Gore suggest, there is still reason to be concerned, if I correctly read Bailey.

Separate from the above, though, my head spun when Bailey ended up inadvertently saying the problem is worse than Gore suggested in the film where Bailey says:

"If we did everything Gore recommends (in the film), he claims that our emissions would drop to what they were in 1970—a cut of over 25 percent. However, some researchers argue that in order to stop the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that emissions must be reduced by 70 percent worldwide. A 70 percent cut would mean lowering U.S. emissions to 1928 levels." (Parenthesis added)

Well, Mr. Bailey. If that is the case, then to call Gore a "global warming exaggerator" is itself an exaggeration--and your more optimistic timing issues as to when Florida and NYC could end up under water may lack foundation, particuarly if we somehow hit a scientific tipping point. So, face it. You were late to believing in human contribution to climate change. And rather than hurling the usual Reason.com negative adjectives against Democrats such as Gore, you may wish to ask yourself whether you are going to be late in recognizing the climate change tipping point, too.

(Edited)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A close coal to make

A very thought provoking interview with Jeff Goodell, who has written Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future."

This article had me thinking not just about coal, but also about my favorite potential Democratic non-candidate for president in 2008, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. He pushes liquid gassification of coal and increased use of coal for energy needs. I am worried a bit by that, but I think it is a far better idea than just relicensing nuclear power plants.

Highlights of the interview with Goodell:

"Question: Coal industry executives and some politicians like to say that we have more than 250 years worth of coal left in the ground in America. At current coal prices, does the research that geologists have done bear this out?

Answer: Yes, theoretically, it’s true that we do have 250 years of coal left, and the coal boosters just love to tout this figure. But you’ll notice that no one making that claim talks about exactly where that coal is, or what it take to get it out of the ground. In places like mid-Appalachia, production is already starting to decline, while in other areas -- Montana for example -- the coal may be abundant, but much of it is too dirty to burn, or too far from any railroads, or it is buried in inconvenient places, like under schools or national parks. So yes, we have the coal, but what will be the human, economic and environmental costs of getting it out of the ground?

As coal prices go up, marginal coal becomes more profitable to mine, but it doesn't change the essential fact that we've been burning coal in America for more than 150 years now, and all the easy-to-get stuff is gone. What's left is increasingly difficult, destructive, and dangerous to extract.

Question
: Can you talk about the current coal boom in the context of the carbon dioxide levels that many scientists believe are allowable if we want to prevent major climate disruptions?

Answer: Close to 40 percent of America’s CO2 emissions come from coal. Since 1990, CO2 emissions from coal plants have risen more than 25 percent. To avoid dangerous climate change, many scientists suggest we need to cut emissions by more than 50 percent by 2050. So, clearly, if we continue to burn coal at the rate we do today, getting a handle on global warming will be nearly impossible. The picture is very bleak, actually. According to projections by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the equivalent of 1400 1,000-megawatt power plants will be built in the world by 2030. In America, as of 2005, there were 120 coal-fired power plants proposed in about 30 states. And these are mostly conventional plants with extremely high CO2 emissions. So addressing the threat of global warming will require the large-scale adoption of cleaner technology. That's beginning to happen, but nowhere near fast enough.

Question
: Speaking of cleaner technology, some politicians, President Bush included, have been singing the praises of coal gasification recently. What is this process, how widespread is it, and what can the government do to speed its adoption?

Coal gasification (also known as integrated gasification combined cycle, or IGCC) uses heat and pressure to transform coal into a synthetic gas, which can then be used for a variety of purposes, including generating electricity. There are a number of advantages to IGCC plants over conventional combustion coal plants -- they are more efficient, they use 40 percent less water, they emit significantly less air pollution. But the biggest advantage is that it's far easier and more economical to capture and eventually sequester CO2 from these new plants.

The fate of IGCC as a successful technology to reduce CO2 emissions really hinges on our ability to sequester large quantities of carbon dioxide underground. In order to make a real difference in the net CO2 in the atmosphere, we'd have to pump hundreds of millions of tons underground every year, and then figure out ways to keep it there. This is an enormous undertaking, and one that scientists and the industry are just beginning to explore.

There is also a cultural problem in the coal industry. This is a group of people who have been burning rocks for 150 years. To adopt IGCC would be to embrace an entirely new technology, and for many, this is an intimidating prospect."

Again, what does Goodell think of Schweitzer, which is something The American Prospect interviewer should have asked: At page 220 of Goodell's book (thank you, Amazon "Search Inside" feature), Goodell seems at first to call Schweitzer a cheerleader for the coal industry, but offers qualifications that Schweitzer is interested in renewable energy and wants to ensure gassification to burn coal as cleanly as possible. Goodell also repeats the point about the Montana coal being hard to mine.

Final comment: Schweitzer is not a one-trick pony about coal. See here and here.

There is no "free" trade just as there is no "free" lunch

Dean Baker, an economist who lives in the world of people, not metrics and corporate propaganda, has a wonderful post today. He points out we're all protectionists, just for different people and professions. The corporate media "hates" what it calls "protectionism," but only loves it for their friends in the professional class of doctors, laywers, accoutants, etc.

Dean is famous among certain audiences for his understanding that protection of intellectual property (i.e. film, music rights to ownership) is "protectionist" too. So why pursue intellectual property rights protections while telling American blue collar folks in manufacturing that their labor rights can be undermined by desperate peasants in Indonesia?

REPEAT AFTER ME:

1. There is no "free" lunch because someone always pays the cost of that lunch.

2. There is no "free" trade because someone always pays the cost of that trade.

3. There is no "free" market because someone always pays the cost in that market.

4. There is only trade, markets...and lunch.

In other words:

Putting "free" in front of those words are just so much propaganda. Instead, the analysis should be to determine who is paying the cost in a structure or system and what, if anything, should be done to fine tune or make fundamental changes to the structure or system at various times. There is no utopic correct answer for all time.

Ultimately, there is no left, no right and no libertarian "do without government" nonsense. Instead, we need an awareness as to how institutions work in both government and business at a more micro level, not with a mere theory about which is supposedly more efficient or other such theories. Instead, we need factual audit and anaylsis. If there is an ideology to be followed, it should be, as Lincoln said in his address to Congress in 1861:

"Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration."

Why did Lincoln say that? Because he knew it was about people first, not capital. This is not anti-capital, just a recognition of balance with government providing support for superstructures and research and development--and the need for capitalists to give more back to the community (for example, pharmeceutical companies).

(Edited)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Who needs Israelis when the Palestinians kill themselves?

The other day, when the Israeli government decided to again provoke Hamas, I concluded again that the Israeli government in power today does not desire peace. (My linked post from the past was when I was wrongfully thinking Bush's bombing of Iran was imminent).

Now, the secularist Fatah branch of the Palestine Liberation Organization has decided to increase the killing level in its intercine Palestinian war with Hamas. How destroying institutional buildings and killing Hamas supporters is going to bring peace or anything other than retaliation is not something with which the Fatah is concerned. It is only concerned that it is out of power.

The best hope for Palestinians is to survive until July 26, 2006, when the referendum vote on peace with the Israelis might be the start of a non-violent movement that will overcome the anti-peace Israeli government. Ultimately, though, this referendum scares Hamas more than abortion supporting homosexual Israelis with guns forcing all Muslim women to dress like Britney Spears. Hamas knows what most of us with eyes know: Most Palestinians want peace--and want peace to increase stability and economic fortune for themselves and their families.

This referendum could well create new coalitions if people step forward in the Hamas and Fatah organizations to call for a coalition government seeking non-violent tactics against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the continuing Bantustan style domination of the Gaza strip. This will in turn lead to people in Israel stepping up to Prime Minister Olmert, who would himself be forced to step up--or forced out of the way by events. There is already an obvious split in the Hamas organization. If peace eventually comes, it will be in spite of Israel's current government leadership. For killing people in the Hamas organization tends to embolden support for the organization.

It's as if the Fatah group and the Olmert administration in Israel are working hand in glove to keep the fighting going and provoking Hamas to act violently as well--which would mute the voices of peace. I highly doubt any connection would exist and I'd have to see strong, direct evidence before accepting such a conclusion. However, events over the next thirty days bear watching. For we know Israeli governments in the 1970s and 1980s sponsored Islamic fundamentalists to undermine the Fatah led PLO--and we can see how well that worked out for all of us who value pluralist societies, can't we?

Update: Ha'aretz reports yesterday (hat tip to Mark Kleiman's web site; specifically Jonathan Zasloff) that the bombing on Friday may not have been from the Israeli military. It might be part of the war amongst the Palestinians themselves. Still, the history of the past few months and in the 1970s and 1980s remains...It will take people willing to die for peace rather than God, Allah and...revenge.

Update II: Zasloff has the latest here. See the linked Ha'aretz article from Zasloff's comments. In short, a Hamas made bomb that went awry because it was supposed to try and stop Israeli commandos. Again, anyone want to try some non-violent opposition to the occupation? The timing is better now than in a long time.

(Edited)

Beinart's "good" fight is a recipe for more bad fights

I had this in the post below about my health and life and realized, it didn't belong there. Here it is in a different, independent post.

MJF

Well, another day is here and maybe next weekend I'll even get around to posting about Peter Beinart's flawed history of the 1940s and how Beinart has no more clue about the start of the Cold War than he does in overcoming the challenges we face from fundamentalist Islamic terrorists. Max Sawicky (aka Maxspeak) does a solid job in showing why Beinart is a putz, but there is still something that needs to be said about the early Cold War history Beinart writes about. The "liberal" Cold Warriors Beinart admires, starting with Truman, are the ones who marched us into Vietnam and, initially, set up the National Security State that Joe McCarthy and the Republicans used to attack the patriotism of Democrats and good faith dissenters. Similarly, Beinart and a few other "liberals" are the ones who marched us off to Iraq with the Worst President Ever and would likely have supported the same unnecessary undermining of civil liberties (NSA snooping through phones, PATRIOT ACT, etc.) had say, Gore, been in office.

Beinart's paint-by-colors history of the start of the Cold War proves there remains a need for a definitive book on the subject that would reveal (1) how Truman disatrously broke with FDR's foreign policy aims for a post-war world and (2) how US Cold War policies, starting with Truman, ironically increased the stature of the Soviets and allowed the Soviets to develop more power (before the Soviet system collapsed under its own weight despite those policies). George Kennan and Chet Bowles understood this, though preciously few other American non-communists did. For me, this twilight war against terrorism is developing with some strong similiarities to the early Cold War. Thus far, the Internet has proven somewhat effective against corporate media supported hysteria, but the next terrorist attack against Americans will likely create more opportunity for right-wing generated hysteria--with the "'good fight' liberals" such as Beinart and Joe Lieberman exhorting us to go along and attacking the personal intergity and patriotism of those who don't go along.

Personal stuff--egads, it's a blog after all

I feel I owe a personal column to this blog considering the events of the past month or so.

The trial is finally over, with our side winning all key rulings from the court in the first phase of what was supposed to have been a three phase trial. The other side finally saw the handwriting on the wall and finally came up with a settlement sum our clients found acceptable. In addition to money, our clients no longer have to do business with people, really, a person, they no longer trusted at any level.

In the meantime, my atrial fibrullation has been acting up and not responding, at least presently, any longer from medication. What is bad about it is that the fibrullation is occuring at normal heart rates and sometimes, I cannot even tell it is happening. Could this change be the stress of trial? Really, no, in my view, because I was far less stressed about this trial than just about any trial I've been in. My boss and I tried this together, which is nicer than trying any case of this size (thousands of pages of documents; thousands of pages of deposition testimony) by yourself. I slept as well as I usually do during the trial, which is less than 7 hours a night. No, the medication just isn't helping any longer and my doctors are not sure what to do next.

One thing my local San Diego cardiologist, as opposed to my main cardiologist in Los Angeles, thought I could do this past weekend was to go to San Jacinto mountain with my son and our Boy Scout troop--and be almost 10,000 feet above sea level. As things turned out yesterday, that was not a good recommendation. Late into Saturday night, I developed the always temporary but potentially (and literally) deadly pulmonary adema where I couldn't breathe without pain and laboring. For a few hours on and off, while walking down part of the mountain at 2 a.m. with one of the leading Dads in the troop (who stayed with me through the morning when the paramedics took me to the hospital--he was my guardian angel and went well above all call and duty), I did not think I was going to make it back home alive. Even after walking two miles down a path, it was almost 3 a.m. and I was still 8,500 feet above sea level, near a tram that would not open for another four hours and still in pain in my chest and difficulty breathing. But for my good areobic shape (ironic as that sounds when discussing my heart problem), who knows whether I would have made it.

At the hospital, a physicians' assistant in the emergency room said, "When you're that high above sea level, your heart has to work hard to pump blood through your body. With your heart not pumping consistently already, you were a top candidate for the adema." He knew because he has a year pass to the tram that takes you up part of the way to the mountain and regularly goes there. He knows what happens to people from personal experience.

Bottom line: The hospital personnel ran a series tests and took blood, x-rays, etc. I am very healthy but for the atrial fibrulation. The adema went away immediately, as it does when you get away from the high mountain, and all is...well. The docs were also glad to hear I don't smoke or drink alcohol, which apparently is associated with developing atrial fibrullation and most likely complicates treatment.

Was I really worried for my life? Yes, very much so. What did I think about as I thought I could die before help arrived? Stangely, I had a feeling of failure that overcame me more than any other particular feeling. Failure in leaving my wife and children husband- and fatherless for having gone on what was a one night, two day mountain trip. Failure for being so vulnerable, despite being so "healthy." Failure for not yet completing all of the things I am trying to accomplish for my family and myself, but are not yet accomplished--because such things take time as much as anything else. That is the id in me, I guess. It is why I push on and normally don't sleep enough as it is. I hugged my wife and kids when I saw them in that Jimmy Stewart "It's a Wonderful Life" moment. The kids reacted with that nochalant wonder kids often have, but each wound up coming over to me later to kiss my cheek and say each was happy I was "okay." The sad thing for me was that I wanted to stand on that mountain peak with my son and say, "We did it." Now, he'll only think of San Jancinto as the place Dad got sick and had to go to the hospital.

UPDATE: The thing I forgot to add is that the doctors are most concerned about an increased risk of a stroke. That's why I'm now on blood thinners, cumodin, for the time being. Yuck. One more pill to take every day.

(Edited)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Better late than never...

As Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly points out, one of the many embarrassments of the Worst President, rarely acknowledged in corporate media, was his refusal to go after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi at the early stages of the US response to the events of 9/11/01.

Today, now that the Worst President has finally struck at and killed Zarqawi, the initial reports are not reminding Americans about that failure. I know this gets old, but just imagine if, oh, I don't know, say, Clinton or Gore had refused to go after Zarqawi after detailed plans were in place in 2002--and waited until 2006 to finally hit him. Somehow, I think the television corporate pundits, conservative and whatever-passes-as-liberal would have been howling for Clinton's or Gore's impeachment for being too "soft" against terrorists.

Final comment: Deep inside the article about the strike against Zarqawi, a very wise local Iraqi is quoted as saying that Zarqawi's death may not likely have much effect on the Iraqi semi-not-so-civil war. For Zarqawi was merely a part of that overall destabilization and was largely outside the sectarian regional violence that has sprung up as a result of the toppling of Saddam's dictatorship.

(Edited and expanded)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Best Damned Article on "Net Neutrality" Period

Larry Lessig and Robert McChesney explain the importance of "net neutrality" in a succinct article in today's Washington Post (thanks for the tip, Michael O'Hare at Mark Kleiman's blog).

Hit your congressman or congresswoman in the face with emails, phone calls and letters.

The internet is starting to become an effective organizing tool for our society. If you want the internet to stay active and multi-directional, as opposed to passive, one way television, we must protect internet neutrality.

And Mike McCurry, you are hereby damned.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

June 6, 2006

In Christian religious thought, the number 666 is the mark of the beast. Some confuse this with the coming of Satan, but as this article shows, it is merely an "internal bar code" that Satan supposedly marks on people. Thanks for the link, Pharyngula!

Anyway, some folks believe June 6, 2006 (6/6/6) is a signifying and eventful day. I doubt it, unless Francine Busby manages to beat her Republican challenger in the heavily Republican-leaning San Diego County electoral district next to mine. And that would be good news in the battle against evil!

However, I do know of other significant events that happened on June 6 in the past:

1. Senator Robert F. Kennedy died from gunshot wounds at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles on June 6, 1968. The New Deal coalition died with him, which was a bad thing to happen to America and the world. But, you may ask, what if RFK lived and became president? (Insert shameless plug here)

2. On June 6, 1944, General Eisenhower led the Allied invasion of Normandy on the way to defeating, with significant Soviet Union help from the East, the evil Nazi regime in Germany. The defeat of Naziism is a great and good thing to recall and commemorate, of course.

"Fun" facts re: 666 and Ronald Reagan:

Ronald Wilson Reagan. Six letters in each name. Therefore, I sometimes like to call him Mr. 666. And certainly, with Reagan's policies of supporting regimes that had, as their mode of operation, the killing of priests and nuns, there is some reason to believe Ronald Wilson Reagan was an agent of Satan. Also, when businessmen wanted to reward Reagan for his services on behalf of corporate uber alles, a gift of a home in Bel Air, CA was chosen. The address of the home? 666 St. Cloud Road. When astrology-minded Nancy found out, the address was changed to avoid the reference to 666.

Of course, if Ronald Wilson Reagan had remained a Democrat in our time and then, ran for president as a person who was not a right wing loon, all of us would know about the number of letters in his name. Funny how that works out? You know, kind of like Republicans who tell Hollywood people to shut up, but then give us actors for candidates and tell us to vote for them because...um, they have validity as movie actors...or something.

Off to vote! And you should too!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Angelides v. Westly and the patterns of modern electoral politics

(A long post with no links, as frankly, this is a post for those who already know where the links would have been placed--MF Blog management).

This Tuesday, I'm voting for Phil Angelides for the Democratic Party's nomination for Governor of the State of California. I like Westly, but I have ALWAYS loved Angelides from the first time I saw him speak in the late 1980s.

The question Democrats are asking is "Who can best beat Arnold Schwarzenegger, aka the Governator?"

I know one potential answer to that question, i.e. "The one who is most 'centrist," is not likely correct and maybe never was correct. For one thing I have noticed over the years is that Democratic leader candidates, from Mayor to President, are defined by the pundits in the corporate media. If the Democratic Party leader candidate has strong, consistent views, that candidate gets a nick-name or a theme that usually means the candidate is strident, ideological, and/or rigid. Think, most recently on a national level, Howard Dean. If the candidate, however, is more cautious, more nuanced...do I need to say more? Cough, cough. John Kerry. Cough.

Notice how both Kerry and Dean were immediately defined in negative ways by pundits on television and radio and how that definition stuck with them no matter what other evidence existed or whether the Republican opponent could also be reasonably seen that way.

And let's now compare the media pundit treatment given to the Republican Party candidates who run for mayor, governor or president. Republicans are more often allowed to define themselves and even worse for those of us who are not Republicans, the pundits on corporate controlled radio and television often read from the Republican inspired scripts when describing or even criticizing the Republican candidates. Bush, for example, was able to define himself--twice. First time around, in 2000, Bush defined himself as a moderate conservative, a compassionate conservative. The next time, in 2004, he was allowed to define himself as resolute and strong, even when people in the media were critical of him. The words used were not as often negative sounding, like rigid, but more often, resolute.

Bush was neither a compassionate conservative in fact nor a resolute person in fact. Now, of course, when there is no election going on, media pundits pull back the curtain a bit and people see right through Bush, but not when it was counting.

Another example: John McCain. McCain is almost always allowed to define himself as a "straight talker," through today--even after all of his flip-flops and cynical twists of hanging with Falwell without any confrontation or challenge. John Kerry would have loved the press McCain got and gets, wouldn't he? Same with Dean.

Yes, Democratic Party candidates are flawed...But Republican candidates aren't flawed? Even that theme of "flawed" Democrats is an example of how our views are shaped by the constructs given by corporate media pundits.

With that in mind, let's now explore the 2006 California primary for governor. For the Angelides and Westly campaigns present two world views in terms of campaign style and campaign strategy:

Angelides, a successful millionaire businessman, is the resolute, strong Democrat who means what he says and has a strong understanding of public policy on behalf of working people and the middle classes of our fair State. Westly, also a successful millionaire businessman, is the nuanced Democrat who thinks with a businessman's sense of caution--and consequently less specifically about budget and other public policy issues. These are largely the styles each is presenting to the voters and, at least with Angelides (I know far less about Westly's views over the years than Angelides' views), reflect what the candidates truly believe.

If Westly wins, however, the times he stood with Schwarzenegger will be used against him to show that even he liked Schwarzenegger at least sometimes--thus reinforcing Schwarzenegger's "moderate" image. Also, Westly's statement "I won't raise taxes except as a last resort" will be used against him for supposedly not leveling with voters (as if Schwarzenegger's b.s. line in 2003 about cutting waste was even close to reality-or remotely honest). In saying this, I am not here to criticize Westly. It is, however, how Westly will be defined by the pundits in corporate radio and television. For me, I like Westly. He is a good and smart guy who would do a much better job than the current governor. But he's running as a Democrat and therefore, pundits on corporate radio and television will freely and widely define him no matter what he says in terms of his positions or values.

If Angelides wins, we already know what the attack against him will be: For we saw it in Westly's ads attacking Angelides when Westly accused Angelides of wanting to raise "your" taxes. In truth, Angelidies' sensible view is that, as part of balancing our State budget, people earning more than $500,000 in income should pay the same marginal rate on income taxes in California (11%) that they paid in 1998 under Republican Gov. Pete Wilson. Today, the top marginal rate is 9% for those top income earners. And Angelides' credentials for honesty will be attacked because he was a real estate developer and has continuing close ties to his former real estate developer firm.

Want a pattern from recent history? Compare the number of stories in 2000 that discussed Bush's less than honest shenanigans at Harkden Energy compared to Al Gore "Inventing the Internet" or his statement (misquoted it turned out) about "the Love Canal" or his friend, Erich Segal's book, "Love Story".

Despite the above, I stand with Angelides in this primary election because I believe California has become a sophisticated enough voting state such that progressive candidates in the Democratic Party can largely withstand the corporate media onslaught--as long as they have plenty of money on hand to go on television and radio. I have therefore concluded, why not go with the guy who looks resolute to the swing voter? And that's Angelides, who should remind voters how he stood tall during the Enron-generated energy crisis of 2001 and 2002.

Can Steve Westly win over swing voters in the fall with his more cautious approach to his public policy positions, based upon Westly's successful business career with eBay? Sure, he can. And with the money from the Democratic Party and his own money, he should be able to overcome the attacks from the corporate media pundits and Republican money.

But, one thing should be clear to both candidates: The Governator, Schwarzenegger, is the incumbent with powerful business connections. He retains at least some ability to go on friendly right wing radio and television pundit talk shows and get mileage and free air time to define himself the way he and his political adviers want him to be defined. Does anyone, for example, think Hugh Hewitt or Ken & Bob or whoever is going to want to rail against Schwarzenegger to the point where Republican voters stay home, or working class Republicans vote in some small, but significant numbers, for Angelides or Westly?

Schwarzenegger is already using his incumbency to redefine himself to swing voters, who don't want to have long memories and are prone to wanting to forgive a pro-business (sigh, really corporate executive), but socially moderate Republican.

Final point: Democrats should recall, in 1994, that Republican governor and incumbent Pete Wilson was down in the polls and came roaring back to win re-election against a Westly type of candidate, Kathleen Brown (pro-business friendly Democrat with socially moderate to liberal views). Watch for Schwarzenegger, who has lots of Pete Wilson advisers, to try to do the same as Wilson, starting with a nod (and just a nod) to the anti-illegal immigrant crowd. Both Angelides and Westly are more competent than Schwarzenegger in terms of actually running the governor's office. Each has a better sense than Schwarzenegger of workers' and middle class interests. That alone does not win elections, and sometimes it can be made into a liability.

In other words, welcome to the house of mirrors that is political campaigns...

(Edited)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

RFK, Jr. says we were had in 2004 [Update]

UPDATE: Via Digby's web site, Salon magazine rips apart RFK, Jr.'s claims one by one. I'm back to my previous belief: Some chicanery, but now add some incompetency on the part of public officials in poor and minority neighborhoods, but not enough to swing an election. RFK, Jr. appears to have written a zealous advocate's brief, and one that may have gone beyond the bounds of such advocacy in terms of misunderstanding or misstaing data. Sigh.

ORIGINAL POST:


Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who I largely adore*, has written a thought-provoking and persuasive sounding article that makes me want to re-think my view that Kerry would have still likely lost Ohio, even if the chicanery and manipulation of the Republican Party and Diebold had not occurred. I had read John Conyer's report, well, most of it, anyway, and was more convinced there was chicanery, but still not enough.

RFK, Jr., however, says there is plenty more evidence and analysis to conclude the fraud (let's be blunt here) was widespread, systematic and enough to swing the election to the Worst President.

I will study the article further, having only read the first two pages thus far. It is an important article and should be read by every American. I also look forward to reading sober analyses against RFK, Jr.'s position.

One thing that immediately struck me: I was one of those who thought it made sense that those voting for the Worst President were embarrassed enough not to admit it to an exit poller. RFK, Jr. says, "No way." And, he makes a reasoned case against such a view of accidental overcounting of Kerry voters in exit polling on the evening of the 2004 election.

Again, RFK, Jr.'s article is one we should all read if we truly care about our electoral processes.

* I would say absolutely, but his stance on the autism and mercury connection proved less than reliable to me after further reading. He is still a great guy, a great speaker, and a person who should be at least senator!

AP's dishonest reporting against Harry Reid

Josh Marshall dissects the slanted reporting on Senator Harry Reid's (D-NV) receipt of so-called VIP credentials that allowed Reid to attend certain boxing events without paying for a ticket in his home state of Nevada. Here are the bullet points as to what Reid did, whether it was legally allowable or not, and what he did in terms of voting on a relevant-in-time issue concerning those who gave him the boxing credentials to attend a few boxing matches:

1. Reid accepted VIP credentials for boxing events from the Nevada State boxing commission;

2. Under the applicable ethics laws, there is no prohibition against a US senator's receipt of gifts from state agencies (I assume, though, there is a value or sum that cannot be exceeded);

3. More interestingly, if Reid tried to pay for the credentials received, it would be illegal (Senator McCain actually paid the main promoter on one occasion, at least, and the promoter, after McCain refused a refund, sent the money to a charity);

4. At the time Reid accepted the credentials, the Nevada boxing commission was fighting against a federal bill to create more federal oversight of state boxing commissions. How did Reid then vote? To support federal oversight of state boxing commissions, including the State of Nevada;

5. Harry Reid is an avid fan of boxing. During his life, he was a boxer, a boxing judge, and was at one time Chair of the Nevada Gaming Commission (see previous link).

That's the story. Randy "Duke" Cunningham or Jack Abramoff it ain't. But, admittedly, there is something untoward about accepting these credentials. What's the point of giving out these credentials to state and federal officials other than to hopefully protect against too much oversight?

There is also, however, something more nefarious about the AP reporter, John Solomon, and his slanted reporting on this subject. On May 31, 2006, Solomon took a correction Reid made about whether an out-of-state senator, such as Senator McCain, could pay for the credential (Reid originally thought an out-of-state senator could pay; turned out Reid was wrong)--and weaved it into this lead sentence in his article:

"Reversing course, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid's office acknowledged Wednesday night he misstated the ethics rules governing his acceptance of free boxing tickets and has decided to avoid taking such gifts in the future."

That definitely implies that Reid misstated whether it was ethical for him to accept "tickets." And that implication is a lie. And Solomon had to know it from reading Reid's press release, which said:

"Senate ethics rules specifically permit any senator to accept something of value from a state agency. Senator Reid misspoke when he said the rule applies only to senators who represent the state agency. It was therefore entirely permissible for Senator Reid -- a Senator from Nevada -- to have attended a major Nevada sporting event as a guest of Nevada officials."

Yes, I am against ethics rules loopholes such as these "VIP credentials." But reporters should have ethics too and report the information as straight as they can. John Solomon has unethically reported this subject involving Harry Reid. And while I did not initially think Solomon was dishonest when the first errors were pointed out, I agree with Josh Marshall that Solomon has now proven his own dishonesty in his reporting.