Who Shall We Attack Next?

Shrubya only has until 2004 to get more wars started.  At least he’s keeping busy:

The Bush administration said on Thursday that Iran had “one last chance” to comply with nuclear safeguards and threatened to take the dispute to the U.N. Security Council if Tehran refused.


I’ve been reading a lot about this subject lately, so much so that I know if I get started on it here it will be another 500 word explanation. I’ll just put some links with brief explanations, which is something I’ve been planning on for a week or so. But yesterday I saw a news article that no one seems to be picking up on, and I find it very odd that it isn’t big news. The headlines had appeared briefly on Yahoo News, then vanished. The following version is from a FOXNews article:

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton said the Bush administration is trying to impose a “radical right-wing agenda” on the United States and is attempting to dismantle social programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

A bold thing for the Senator to say, but it’s finally somewhat safe to do. Why? Because it’s one of the main premises in Paul Krugman’s book “The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century”. The book is number four on the September 28, 2003 NY Times Hardcover Nonfiction Best-Seller List. (Why this list is available five days before 9/28 is still a mystery.)

I discovered Krugman last week during an OCDish bout of political reading.

It started with Alan Sloan’s Newsweek article The Brainteaser of Deficit Math. He says that when “you’re finished adjusting for reality, the projected budget deficit is about $7.4 trillion, not the advertised $1.4 trillion.”

After reading about Deficit Math, I stumbled upon Maureen Farrell’s article “When Will Americans Realize They’ve Been Had?” It led directly to Paul Krugman, who mentioned the aforementioned Brainteaser article in one of the first of his articles that I read.

I like it when all the sources start pointing at each other. But I wondered who is this Krugman, someone who is getting a lot of press right now?

Paul Krugman is a Princeton University professor who pens a column for the New York Times, and is the author of a new book, “The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century”. That explained why there was so much press on him.

Much of what he has to say is in a lengthy September 14th NY Times article “The Tax-Cut Con“. It may still be available at the NY Times. If not, it has been republished many times on the web. There he makes his case that there is an antitax crusade being waged by the “Starve-the-Beasters”. Supply siders (remember Reaganomics) are their nice side that Starvers support to a degree because it furthers their goals. But the Starvers’ goal is to remove enough funding from everything else that programs like social security and Medicare have to be cancelled to continue funding schools and roads.

Here are a few more Krugman links:

Buzzflash interview published 9/11/03 – He views the Bush Cartel as “revolutionary power…a movement whose leaders do not accept the legitimacy of our current political system.” This is another key point, one he got from an old book by Henry Kissinger.
This CalPundit interview explains the Kissinger concept. In part, it says:

“In the first few pages, Kissinger describes the problems confronting a heretofore stable diplomatic system when it is faced with a “revolutionary power” ? a power that does not accept that system’s legitimacy….” His description of the baffled response of established powers in the face of a revolutionary challenge is that “they find it nearly impossible to take at face value the assertions of the revolutionary power that it means to smash the existing framework”

It’s a lot clearer if you read the stuff around the part that I lifted.
Other sources include his web page, the unofficial Paul Krugman web page, and the article The ugly exploitation of Sept. 11.

If you only read one, read either the CalPundit or Buzzflash interview because they are fairly brief. If you have time, read The Tax Cut Con (pdf). I liked them enough that I ordered the book.

Oh well, it was 660 words even while I kept it brief.

Kaiju Big Battel

Kaiju Big Battel is a live event series that revolves around tournament-style performances, which are a tongue-in-cheek hybrid of American pro-wrestling, Japanese-monster-movie mayhem, and lowbrow pop-culture.  Descriptions include:

“A celebration of weird Japanese pop culture-specifically kaiju (those big monsters like in Godzilla and Ultraman), bad Japanese-to-English translations and wrasslin’.”

“This phantasmagoric phenomenon is no backyard-bodyslam ballyhoo: more spoof than sport, with a cast more comic book incarnate than Spandexed superstars, it’s a self-contained, self-parodying universe.”

Essentially it’s a bunch of people that dress up in crappy foam rubber costumes and fight each other.  Surprisingly, they have their own website.

Hide the Cheese

Researchers say they have found fossils for a nine foot long, 1,545-pound giant that thrived millions of years ago in a swampy South American forest.  They even drew a picture of it.

The largest living rodent is another South American animal, the capybara, which can weigh up to 110 pounds.  Maybe I won’t complain about my gophers anymore.

Illegal To Read Patriot Act

This just in from the Onion’s front page:

Revised Patriot Act Will Make It Illegal To Read Patriot Act
WASHINGTON, DC´┐ŻPresident Bush spoke out Monday in support of a revised version of the 2001 USA Patriot Act that would make it illegal to read the USA Patriot Act. “Under current federal law, there are unreasonable obstacles to investigating and prosecuting acts of terrorism, including the public’s access to information about how the federal police will investigate and prosecute acts of terrorism,” Bush said at a press conference Monday. “For the sake of the American people, I call on Congress to pass this important law prohibiting access to itself.” Bush also proposed extending the rights of states to impose the death penalty “in the wake of Sept. 11 and stuff.”

As a funny (?) aside showing truth can be stranger than fiction, the building codes that most cities have are derived from a book that is copyrighted.  It’s illegal to make copies, so there’s no way to learn what the law is without buying the book, or looking at the one copy that resides at your local city hall.

Low Aneurysm Risk

The Mayo Clinic is asserting that high blood-pressure and arterial plaque are not significant risk-factors for aortic aneurysms (though they are risk factors for other conditions).  The full article is here.

Not Taking A Stand?

In an LA Times article titled “Senate OKs Bush’s nuclear ambitions” (maybe this copy will last longer), they detailed who voted and how they voted.  What really caught my eye is that none of Senators running for president voted.

Five Democrats joined 48 Republicans in voting to table, or kill, Feinstein’s amendment. They were Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana, Zell Miller of Georgia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida and Ernest Hollings of South Carolina, whose state is a candidate for the new pit-production site.

Backing the amendment were 39 Democrats, Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and independent Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont. All four Senate Democrats who are running for president in 2004 missed the vote: Sens. Bob Graham of Florida, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina. So did Republican Sens. Gordon Smith of Oregon and Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois.

In this vote, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome, but I wonder if they (or any of the other candidates) are doing their jobs at all now, or just campaigning?  Or was this issue too hot-potato for them to make their views public?

War on Terrorism: $87,000,000,000.00

The Washington Post has a graph comparing the $87 billion President Bush has requested for the war on terrorism to spending on other government responsibilities.  It is more than double the amount for homeland security and a lot more than planned for education.

Back in November 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on NPR, “I can’t tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.”  I wonder if he still stands by that?

Dizzy From the Spin

Three headlines this morning: “Jobless Claims Drop to 399,000 Last Week” from Reuters, “Jobless Claims at Lowest Level in 3 Weeks” from AP, and “U.S. jobless claims inch higher” from CBS Marketwatch.

The spins are sure different, but the details in the article are mostly the same.  It looks like the weekly numbers started to fall, but the moving average is still rising.  So everybody’s right, they’re just deciding which piece fits what they want to say.

Here are some of the quotes from the three articles:

New applications for U.S. jobless benefits fell to 399,000 people filed for state unemployment insurance payments in the week to Sept. 13, down 29,000 from a revised 428,000 the week before.

The widely watched four-week moving average of jobless claims rose to 410,750 in the Sept. 13 week from 408,750 the previous week. The moving average, regarded by economists as a truer reflection of the market than the more volatile weekly figure, has been rising since late August.

After rising for three straight weeks, new claims for unemployment benefits dropped last week to the lowest level in nearly a month…

The number of people continuing to draw benefits rose by 39,000 to 3.68 million in the Sept. 6 week, the latest week for which figures are available.

The four-week average for continuing claims gained 11,250 to 3.64 million.

The continuing claims figures do not include some 800,000 workers receiving federal benefits, which are available to workers who have exhausted their state benefits, typically after six months.

About 9 million Americans are officially classified as unemployed and 4 million more are either underemployed or discouraged.

I guess that’s why we need to get news from more than one source.

Fair & Balanced Lies

From Reuters this morning (full text):

Vice President Dick Cheney, a former CEO of Halliburton Co., has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the company since taking office while asserting he has no financial interest in the company, Senate Democrats said Tuesday.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Cheney, who was Halliburton’s CEO from 1995 to 2000, said he had severed all ties with the Houston-based company.  “I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven’t had now for over three years,” he said.

Cathie Martin, a Cheney spokeswoman, confirmed that the vice president has been receiving the deferred compensation payments from Halliburton, but she disputed that his statements on “Meet the Press” had been misleading.

Cheney had already earned the salary that was now being paid, Martin said, adding that once he became a nominee for vice president, he purchased an insurance policy to guarantee that the deferred salary would be paid to him whether or not Halliburton survived as a company.  “So he has no financial interest in the company,” she said.

Okay, I can see how with the insurance policy guaranteeing an income he can say he has no direct involvement with the company.  But not that he has no financial interest of any kind.

And they wonder why we don’t believe them.

Power Shift

It’s seems like we’re not even making the pretence that our government works any more.  The power now lies in the courts, where most decisions are getting made.

What the Executive and Legislative branches of the government do is more and more frequently turned over to the Judicial for them to sort out what’s legal and what isn’t.  And the decisions made there depend upon which court ends up hearing the case.

As everybody has heard, the California recall is on hold.  One of the players doesn’t like that, and makes it plain he doesn’t believe in the system that he is a part of.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom McClintock, a state senator from Thousand Oaks (unfortunately for me), said on television and radio, “This is an outrageous decision by an outrageous court, and I’ve got every confidence that it will be overturned.”  He denounced the ruling as the handiwork of a liberal court, adding “This is the most reversed court in the United States, and for good reason.” and demanded an immediate appeal.

(Sidenote:  Meanwhile the other main Republican candidate, while trying to win over the female vote on the Oprah show, says, “These were the times when I was saying things like ‘a pump is better than coming'”.  Yeah, that’s the way to control your mouth.)

So off it goes to the Supreme Court, the one that appointed Bush president, to get a ruling that the Republicans will like.  Not to say that the Democrats wouldn’t do the same thing.  Of course they would because that’s how the game is played now.

Maybe we really don’t need any of the government to exist anymore if the courts end up making all the decisions.  Cut out the middle-men and recall everybody.  Don’t bother to replace them, just recall them.  Laws can be made by initiatives (just go hire people to get some signatures) and then voted on by people that don’t know what they’re voting on.  Then the results go to the courts to decide if the laws are valid.

Okay, so I went over the line a little bit there.  But is that really so different from what we’re doing now?

Fairbanks Capital

I was less than overjoyed when paperwork arrived saying that my home loan was being transferred to Fairbanks Capital.  Well, it wasn’t actually when the paperwork arrived; it was two days later, when I read in the LA Times about the company being a “foreclosure machine”.

They’ve certainly been nothing but trouble for me.  When additional money was included to pay down the principal, they instead used it to pay a month in advance.  And this was in spite of the fact that their payment coupon has a box for “amount of additional principal payment”, so there really shouldn’t be a question of where the money goes.

Three phone calls later, I think it’s finally cleared up.  Yes, they would make the payment apply to where it should.  And yes, they would even move it back into the month they received it, but just because I wanted them to.  I had to get off the phone when the fine employee I was dealing with said it didn’t make any difference which month the money was applied in because it doesn’t affect the loan balance.  After all, they said they would do what I wanted, so why bother to explain why?

How can a company have an employee that deals with customers (and this was even one level up the customer service ladder) not understand the basics of how a loan works?  Oh well, at least they aren’t trying to charge me late fees for making an early payment.

I’m just putting this up to say that if you can avoid Fairbanks, do it.

No On Recall

MoveOn.org has a petition that won’t do anything.  Why?  I’m not sure.  Here’s what they say:

I’m writing to ask you to join me in signing a “Recall No! Democracy Yes!” pledge to defeat the California recall.

If the recall succeeds, it will set a dangerous precedent for the whole country. A far-right businessman spent 1.7 million dollars to bring us the recall campaign, and has thrown California into chaos. GOP leaders who should have condemned the recall instead cheered it on, hoping they could gain from the unraveling of our democracy.

We can’t stand by and let this happen. These attacks on democracy are not a California issue or a Texas issue or a Florida issue — we all must step forward together and make it clear that elections will be honored in this country.

This pledge is a national effort to mobilize one million California voters in the recall election. Please sign the pledge no matter where you live and please ask friends and family in California to sign the pledge and to remember to vote October 7.

Since I agree that the recall is a waste of money and another effort of the Republicans to sidestep the normal democratic process, I’ll say click here to sign.

Patriot Act Impact

More info on current events concerning Patriot I, II & III is available in a lengthy August 27, 2003 article from the Free Expression Policy Project.

There’s no need to summarize it here, there’s enough of the basics in my earlier post.  I was mildly surprised to see that some of what was just posted is already out of date.  For instance, this is the first I’ve heard of Patriot III.

What's That Pink Thing In Your Pocket?

The revamped $20 bill, along with its faint tinge of peach color in the background, will make its way into bank vaults and consumers’ pockets in early October, according to the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department.

The interactive bill (at the Bureau of Engraving & Printing) provides an animated tutorial on the anti-counterfeiting and other design features of the new $20 note.

Disney Disposables

Disney is going ahead with plans to begin selling disposable DVDs on Tuesday with a suggested price of $6.99. The idea is to cut out the rental stores, with the draw for consumers being not having to return the disk when they are finished.

I really don’t get it. They think that people will pay about double the rental price to not have to return the disk? And for the higher price, they have to watch it within 48 hours?

Environmentalists are outraged and planning a “phone Disney” protest. The plan offers some recycling — though not in-store — and consumers will eventually be able to get a new disc in return for six used ones, says Flexplay, which owns the technology. Customers can mail their used DVDs to GreenDisk, a company that recycles old DVDs. Flexplay will cover the cost of recycling the discs.  It’s also working to get a collection or drop-off process in place, so people could avoid the cost of mailing in their old EZ-Ds.

So what happened to the advantage of not having to return them?

Saving the silliest part for last, the company also said that by making DVDs cheaper the product would also undercut the incentive to make bootleg copies. But — it’s not cheaper than renting, and nobody in the industry is saying having rentals available helps stem piracy.

Ashcroft Gets Into the Crayons Again

This just in from AP:

WASHINGTON – The government and the airlines reportedly will phase in a computer system next year to measure the risk of every passenger who boards a flight in the United States by using color codes.

According to the Washington Post, passengers will be assigned one of three codes, based in part on their travel plans, traveling companions and the date the ticket was purchased.  Sources say those coded “green” will easily pass through security checkpoints.  Others will be coded “yellow” and face additional screening.  An estimated 1 percent to 2 percent who get “red” coding will be barred from boarding and face police questioning.  They may be arrested.

Critics fear the new system will be far too intrusive, and that some people will be mistakenly “flagged” and even falsely arrested.

Say what?  1 to 2 percent will be barred from boarding and may be arrested?  Quick, with all the people now flying we better build more jails to keep up!  Or at least make sure you don’t own any airline stocks, because over time there will be a lot fewer passengers to keep those planes full.

Mindless Fun

I’ll counter yesterday’s long posting with something just for fun:  Cult Sirens.  It’s full of the bios of some of the women seen in just a few (or lots of low budget) movies.  I was hooked on the first page with Linda Harrison, not being able to recall her by name but definitely recalling her roll as Nova in the original Planet of the Apes. 

There are lots of names you may not remember, but women you will.  Whatever happened to all those Bond Girls?