Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Government Information Awareness

Inspired by Ashcroft’s TIPS plan to create dossiers on all Americans and to get you to spy on your neighbors, an MIT researcher has created the Government Information Awareness (GIA) program. Here’s the mission statement:

To empower citizens by providing a single, comprehensive, easy-to-use repository of information on individuals, organizations, and corporations related to the government of the United States of America.

To allow citizens to submit intelligence about government-related issues, while maintaining their anonymity. To allow members of the government a chance to participate in the process.

Also from the GIA site, this quote worth remembering:

“The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its soverieign control over its government.”
— Franklin Delano Roosevelt

AB

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The Party of Fiscal Responsibility

Potential recallee Gray Davis has a plan to deal with California’s $38 billion deficit by raising taxes by $8b and reducing spending by $18b. In contrast, California Republicans want to deal with the revenue shortfall without raising taxes, preferring to instead cut unnecessary services (like kindergarrten!), increase borrowing, and basically pretend the crisis doesn’t exist. This approach has predictable consequences:

Two major credit-rating agencies, alarmed by California’s continuing political and fiscal trauma, said this week that they were considering further lowering the state’s credit rating, already the worst in the nation. Such a move would significantly raise the state’s cost of borrowing and make potential investors wary about purchasing California public debt at a time when it appears that the state will have to turn to the markets to help pay its bills.

A downgrade would mean an additional $400m per year in interest costs for the state and so would presumably by follwed by Republican calls to eliminate first grade.

AB

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The Bait and Switch Program

Seriously, there is a concerted effort to pull a major switcharoo on the American public by appending the word “program” to the phrase “weapons of mass destruction”. The latest example comes from Pat Roberts, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman (R-Kansas), in a CNN.com story titled “Senate intel chairman suggests proof coming on Iraqi WMD“, but with the subtitle “Distinction drawn between program and actual weapons”. Here’s the key sentence from the story:

Just back from a trip to Iraq, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, suggested proof is coming soon that deposed leader Saddam Hussein had a WMD program that could have turned out an operational weapon on short notice.

In an effort to keep you from being fooled, I visited dictionary.com:

pro·gram n

1: a system of projects or services intended to meet a public need; “he proposed an elaborate program of public works”; “working mothers rely on the day care program” [syn: programme]

2: a series of steps to be carried out or goals to be accomplished; “they drew up a six-step plan”; “they discussed plans for a new bond issue” [syn: plan, programme]

3: (computer science) a sequence of instructions that a computer can interpret and execute; “the program required several hundred lines of code” [syn: programme, computer program, computer programme]

4: a course of academic studies; “he was admitted to a new program at the university” [syn: course of study, curriculum, syllabus]

5: a radio or television show; “did you see his program last night?” [syn: broadcast, programme]

6: a performance (or series of performances) at a public presentation; “the program lasted more than two hours” [syn: programme]

7: a document stating the aims and principles of a political party; “their candidate simply ignored the party platform”; “they won the election even though they offered no positive program” [syn: platform, political platform, political program] 8: an announcement of the events that will occur as part of a theatrical or sporting event; “you can’t tell the players without a program” [syn: programme]

Clearly, definitions one and two are the only ones relevant to the WMD issue. I boldfaced important parts of the definitions–parts that highlight the fact that “program” refers to a plan of action, not an action that has already occured. A WMD “program”, but without any extant WMD, may in fact be a valid justification for a war, but as a justification for the Operation Iraqi Freedom War, it’s a non sequitur. The war we actually just had, as opposed to some other hypothetical war, was explicity premised upon actual, existing, WMD. Billmon’s list of pre and post war quotes from administration officials, including the President, is an invaluable reference. Go print it out, make copies, and hand them to anyone who shows signs of falling for the bait-and-switch program. Here’s a typical example, if somewhat terse:

Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.
–Dick Cheney, Vice President, 8/26/2002.

AB

P.S. There may in fact be WMD hidden somewhere in Iraq, but even if found, that does not justify Republicans’ willful attempts to mislead the public by conflating actual Weapons with a “WMD program”.

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The Unemployment Circle is Almost Complete

Bush II is inching closer and closer to the unemployment levels that Bush I attained, with unemployment now reaching a level not seen since 1994:

Unemployment rose to 6.4 percent from 6.1 percent in May, the Labor Department said. That’s the highest level since April 1994.

AB

UPDATE: Via Atrios, this interesting bit of additional information: “… almost all of that jump [in unemployment] being due to female black over 20 unemployment rising from 8.0 to 9.8%.” I wonder what this implies for the level of attention the White House will give this mounting problem.

UPDATE: MB has a more detailed breakdown at Wampum.

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Howard Dean

Personally, I think the strongest team has John Edwards on top and Wesley Clark on bottom (a scenario now legal even in Texas). But I do enjoy watching Dean; he’s smart and passionate, and he accomplished two impressive feats: (1) raising more than any other candidate did last quarter, and (2) raising a bit over half of his funds via the internet. In honor of this accomplishment, check out his blog, Dean for America. Dean’s internet savvy is sure to be immitated by his rivals, meaning we’ll soon be able to read the daily thoughts of every candidate.

Food for thought: envision a blog by President Bush (http://www.bring_them_on.blogspot.com).

AB

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More Orcinus

From Dave Neiwert’s latest installment from the soon to be published (in electronic form) essays on Rush, Newspeak, and Fascism:

As the War on Terror, instead of combating the rise of fascimentalism, transforms itself into a War on Liberals; as conservatives increasingly identify themselves as the only “true” Americans; as Bush continues to depict himself as divinely inspired; as the political bullying that has sprung up in defense of Bush takes on an increasingly righteous religious cast; and as free speech rights and other democratic institutions that interfere with complete political control by conservatives come increasingly under fire, then the conditions for fascimentalism will almost certainly rise to the surface.

These conditions remain latent for now, but the rising tide of proto-fascist memes and behaviors indicates that the danger is very real, especially as fascimentalist terrorist attacks take their toll on the national sense of well-being and security. It may take fully another generation for it to take root and blossom, but its presence cannot be ignored or dismissed.

Hyperbole you say? Perhaps. On the other hand, Ann Coulter’s latest Screed (“Treason“) is currently #2 on Amazon. The good news is that, unlike Hillary Clinton, Coulter is unlikely to hit #1 (thanks, J.K. Rowling).

AB

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Thou Shall Not Violate the First Amendment in Alabama

Earlier, talking about the recent sodomy case and the upcoming Pledge of Allegiance case, I speculated that “if something is constitutionally questionable but it dates back to the American Revolution or thereabouts, then it’s ok. But if it’s constitutionally questionable and originated in the 20th century, then the court will strike it down.”

Under this theory, putting “In God We Trust” on money is consitutionally ok, whereas putting a monument displaying the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Supreme Court building is not constitutional.

Thank God!

AB

P.S. Those on the side of the judge who had the monument put in the building, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, will likely make appeals based on the Christian traditions of the nations and the importance of the Bible to the Founding Fathers, and so on. That the Founding Fathers in any way intended the government of this nation to be anything other than secular is a dangerous myth that should be put to rest. Could “God” have accidentally been left out of the Constitution? After the Constiution was ratified, was there a Philadelphia Convention where the Founding Fathers said “Oops, this document could leave future generations with the false impression that we did not intend this nation to be a theocracy?”. Christ. Libertarian blogger Amy Phillips has some good quotes on this subject. I like this one from John Adams: “The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion…”

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Media Scripts

It’s pretty tough to add much to Bob Somerby’s incomparable TM media criticism, but I occasionally try (most recently here). Salon’s Eric Boehlert, who often cites Somerby, is another great source for criticism and analysis of the political press corps. Both ask the big question: how could the press mercilessly hound Al Gore for alleged exaggerations over trivial matters and sit idly by while Bush lies on substantive matters? In the 2000 campaign, Bush lied about the size of his tax cut and the size of his spending proposals. He made up his “trifecta” line out of bee’s wax and shoestring lint. In ways intentionally deceptive, though technically accurate, the Administration consistently distorts the distribution of tax benefits by incessantly using average savings (an amount very far from what you are likely to save) rather than median savings (a much better approximation of what a randomly drawn member of the population would save). I feel like I’m missing something…

Meanwhile the discredited allegations against Gore are legion: no less than Newt Gingrich defended Gore’s crucial role in developing the internet (Gingrich: “Gore is not the Father of the Internet, but in all fairness, Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet, and the truth is—and I worked with him starting in 1978 when I got [to Congress], we were both part of a ‘futures group'”). Gore, of course, never said that he was the “Father of the Internet”, nor even that he “invented the internet”. Gore was 1/2 of the inspiration for Erich Segal’s (based on an inaccurate newspaper quote, Gore incorrectly said that he and Tipper were the inspiration). Gore did in fact start Congressional hearings over the Love Canal toxic waste, and never claimed that he “discovered” it in the sense of Magellan’s voyage. Instead, he said that after learning of a toxic site in Tennessee, he looked around the country for other sites and found one in New York–Love Canal. You have to be an idiot to, in context, read that as Gore claiming he was wandering the backwoods of the nation with a toxicity detector. What else? The Florida student without a desk that Gore cited in one of the debates (I think it was the first one) did have a desk by the time of the debate, though the school remained overcrowded. Chemically identical drugs to cost less when prescribed to pets than to people, and Gore’s dog and grandmother did in fact take the same drug, but Gore cited wholesale, not retail, prices for the two, and so is clearly a liar! There’s more, but you get the point.

Now I remember the additional Bush deception from the end of the first paragraph: exaggeration and selective use of facts designed to create the impression of an imminent threat from Iraq and thereby drum up public support for a war. But hey, that’s too trivial to create a press furor–it was just an exaggeration and all presidents do it (the emerging conventional wisdom). Besides, there were mass graves, mass graves I tell you! And anyway, let’s all trash Hillary Rodham’s book and debate the exact date she learned about Lewinsky.

In any event, Eric Boehlert has a lot more in Salon today. Watch an ad or subscribe and give it a read.

AB

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Is D.C. becoming a one-party town?

Howie Kurtz is actually good today, writing about the Republican Machine (no, not Fox News). Actually, Kurtz isn’t good, but he quotes very extensively from Nicholas Confessore’s Washington Monthy story:

“Today, the GOP holds a two-to-one advantage in corporate cash. That shift in large part explains conservatives’ extraordinary legislative record over the last few years. Democrats, along with the press, have watched in mounting disbelief as President Bush, lacking either broad majorities in Congress or a strong mandate from voters, has enacted startlingly bold domestic policies–from two major tax cuts for the rich, to a rollback of workplace safety and environmental standards, to media ownership rules that favor large conglomerates. The secret to Bush’s surprising legislative success is the GOP’s increasing control of Beltway influence-peddlers. K Street used to be a barrier to sweeping change in Washington. The GOP has turned it into a weapon.”

AB

UPDATE: Roger Ailes, who’s been really good of late, has the right take on Kurtz’s piece: “Howie has also broken the story that cable news is covering the Laci Peterson murder a lot. A lesser scribe would have missed that story completely.”

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Feeding the Base

There’s a nice NYT story today, Bush, Looking to His Right, Shores Up Support for 2004, describing how Right wing base is quite happy with Bush II. For example,

–David A. Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, said: “In the first Bush administration, the conservatives were asked to be spectators — and it was hoped that they would applaud the action in the field. In this one, they have a president who wants them to be part of the team.”

–“Just about every conservative is thrilled with a president who tells the U.N. to take a hike,” said Nelson Warfield, a conservative strategist.

Also providing fawning quotes are Grover Norquist and Wayne LaPierre of the NRA; Steven Moore of the Club for Growth is a bit angry over the impending prescription drug benefit, but otherwise quite pleased with Bush. The NYT has to go to the Libertarian Cato Institute for an honest assessment:

“His fiscal record is appalling — spending is out of control,” said Edward H. Crane, president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian research organization. “The fiscal record of the Bush administration makes Clinton look downright responsible.”

And here’s hoping that pride goeth before a fall:

“The Republicans are looking at decades of dominance in the House and the Senate, and having the presidency with some regularity,” Mr. Norquist said. “So if this year the tax cut isn’t the one we wanted — no biggie. There’s a sense that we can afford to wait.”

Take that, John Judis and Ruy Teixeira.

AB

UPDATE: Speaking of Teixeira, he’s got a blog now: Donkey Rising.

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