Thursday, June 29, 2006

Maybe Democracy is Just a Good-Bye

New e-voting study shows it's really easy to steal an election:
"given the widespread, ongoing evidence of rampant insecurity in popular electronic voting systems (Google 'Diebold,' for instance) and the mystifying nationwide failure to do anything about it, will another voice shouting that the house is on fire be enough?

I have this fantasy where I organize a group of computer science types who've been working for years on electronic voting problems and we write a book called, How To Steal a National Election: An Step-by-Step Handbook. The book would come complete with everything from discussions of the theory underlying how you could steal a presidential election by rigging a few key counties, to a nuts-and-bolts, 'push this, pull here, type in this command' guide to how to rig specific machine models. We'd also include a CD with source code, applications, schematics, all the other tools the modern election fraudster needs. I feel that if there were some way to make clear just how real this threat is and just how easy it is to actually steal and election, maybe folks could get motivated to care. But maybe I'm just fantasizing."
I find that I am really frustrated with the state of the "debate" on this question. Why are people so friggin' stupid!?!!

Responsible individuals feel little or no obligation to take even the most obvious precautions or to feel guilty for egregious election tampering.

Here's a link to a press release on the Electronic Voting Task Force Report that triggered the little fantasy quoted above.

Revenge of the Wal-Mart Voters

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Revenge of the Wal-Mart Voters:
"Weekly Wal-Mart shoppers make up about one-fifth of the U.S. population.

Zogby finds that while 85 percent of frequent Wal-Mart shoppers voted for President Bush's reelection in 2004 (and 88 percent of people who never shop there voted for Sen. John Kerry), Wal-Mart voters have turned on the president dramatically. In a poll taken earlier this month, they gave Bush a 35 percent approval rating -- compared to a 45 percent positive rating from born-again Christians, 49 percent from NASCAR fans, and 54 percent from self-identified conservatives.

Most worrying for the GOP: Fifty-one percent of Wal-Mart voters agreed with the statement that it's 'time for the Democrats to take over and run' Congress -- as opposed to just 31 percent who think 'Republicans deserve to retain control.'"
Thanks to Carpetbagger Report for the link. I think this development is almost hopeful.

Rolling Stone : Al Gore 3.0

Rolling Stone : Al Gore 3.0: "Right now we are borrowing huge amounts of money from China to buy huge amounts of oil from the most unstable region of the world, and to bring it here and burn it in ways that destroy the habitability of the planet. That is nuts! We have to change every aspect of that."

Gore clearly believes that a great and radical change in direction in political direction and policy is possible. Please.

The Corporate Right-Wing Media, volume 17

Atrios questions::
"Why these cable networks believe that chasing the shrinking Fox audience is a smart thing to do I have no idea.

Fox does do some things that a ratings-conscious network probably should think about emulating. But isn't the market for conservative assholes saturated?"
One of the curiousities of our time, regarding the Perfect Political Storm, which never comes, is, why does the Perfect Political Storm never come?

Part of the answer, accepted across the blogosphere, is that the Corporate Right-Wing Media is increasingly incompetent in ways that tend to help reactionary Republicans at the expense of liberal and progressive Democrats. Daily Howler recently offered a summary explanation, including (my words):
1. Corporate consolidation
2. Class (the pundits are all Rich)
3. Resentment (journalists are mostly mediocre or worse in intellect and professional achievement, and envy and resentment make them more comfortable with morons like Bush than with geniuses like Clinton)

Atrios, above, points out what I regard as the best evidence of the effects of Corporate Media Consolidation, and why a thorough-going, slice-and-dice Media Reform has to be a top priority for Democrats.

Those arguing that capitalism puts effective limits on the utility of Corporate Media as the Propaganda Unit of the Fascist State, which Bush has been building for 5 years, have to explain the behavior of CNN and MSNBC, which have failed as business enterprises, pursuing the wildly successful Fox. Businessmen, pursuing profit, would recognize that half the potential cable audience is liberal, progressive or moderate, and the way to profit is to zig to Fox's zag. Fox goes conservative, you go liberal. Not exactly rocket science, just Business Strategy 101. MSNBC's most successful show is Olbermann's, because Olbermann is an entertaining moderate voice. But, that doesn't get MSNBC to dump its roster of right-wing losers. Nor do MSNBC's generally abysmal ratings matter to the profit meisters at General Electric (MSNBC's owner).

Bottom line, the Corporate World is not so dedicated to Profit, that they will voluntarily cater to liberal, progressive or truthful viewpoints.

If Democrats, liberals, progressives, moderates, and patriots want to survive politically, something effective will have to be done. It is not a winner as a campaign issue, but it is a must-do-something-immediately policy issue, should the Democrats find themselves thrust again into power.

One thing the Democrats could do, even out of power, is to try to buy editorial control of MSNBC or CNN. As a business proposition, this makes perfect sense, and should not cost anything out of pocket (for the purchase -- investments would have to be made to upgrade either CNN or MSNBC). A smart investment banker can negotiate a deal, which would allow the Party or its surrogates to sink money into production values and (gasp!) news gathering, while G.E. or Time-Warner gambles on increased ad revenues following on big increases in ratings, reach and audience quality.

Making a serious business offer is a winner politically, if it is refused, because it becomes Exhibit A in any subsequent regulatory Reform effort.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hussman Funds - Weekly Market Comment: June 26, 2006 - Recession Risks are No Longer Dormant

Hussman Funds - Weekly Market Comment: June 26, 2006 - Recession Risks are No Longer Dormant: "In a reasonable world, one would look directly at the huge U.S. government deficit and paltry U.S. savings rates, combined with a housing boom that's creating a growing inventory of unsold houses, and say, “Wow, we're not saving enough, and we're investing in the wrong stuff, and as a result, we're becoming dangerously dependent on foreign savings that will be hard to repay with future productivity.” Unfortunately, we're living in a world with no introspection, so we actually see analysts arguing with a straight face that our current account deficit reflects – I'm not making this up – a “foreign savings glut.” That's like the Garth Brooks song where he looks at the beer he's holding and sings “lo-ooong neck bottle, let go of my hand…”"

Monday, June 26, 2006

'When will America again have two national political parties?'

tristero at Hullabaloo asks:
"When will America again have two national political parties?

"I honestly wish I could say 2006. There are some positive signs that a second party could emerge, in the face of major attempts to suppress it, from what's left of the Democratic Party. It certainly would save a lot of time. Building a second party from scratch will be no picnic.

"But let's not kid outselves. A political party that announces 'A New Direction' which scrupulously avoids Iraq, Katrina, and the fundamental issue of competence in government... That's not a political party with national influence as a goal.

"That's the bad news. The good news is that the time is ripe - overripe - for a new generation of intelligent, hard-nosed, passionate, and responsible political organizers to create a truly mainstream political party that could easily route the Bushists. 'Cause what's goin' on is just plain ridiculous and everyone knows it."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Threat to the Planet

The New York Review of Books: The Threat to the Planet:

In order to arrive at an effective policy we can project two different scenarios concerning climate change. In the business-as-usual scenario, annual emissions of CO2 continue to increase at the current rate for at least fifty years, as do non-CO2 warming agents including methane, ozone, and black soot. In the alternative scenario, CO2 emissions level off this decade, slowly decline for a few decades, and by mid-century decrease rapidly, aided by new technologies.

The business-as-usual scenario yields an increase of about five degrees Fahrenheit of global warming during this century, while the alternative scenario yields an increase of less than two degrees Fahrenheit during the same period. Warming can be predicted . . . based on knowledge of how Earth responded to similar levels of greenhouse gases in the past. . . . Climate models by themselves yield similar answers. However, the evidence from the Earth's history provides a more precise and sensitive measure, and we know that the real world accurately included the effects of all feedback processes, such as changes of clouds and water vapor, that have an effect on temperature.

How much will sea level rise with five degrees of global warming? Here too, our best information comes from the Earth's history. The last time that the Earth was five degrees warmer was three million years ago, when sea level was about eighty feet higher.

Any responsible assessment of environmental impact must conclude that further global warming exceeding two degrees Fahrenheit will be dangerous. Yet because of the global warming already bound to take place as a result of the continuing long-term effects of greenhouse gases and the energy systems now in use, the two-degree Fahrenheit limit will be exceeded unless a change in direction can begin during the current decade. Unless this fact is widely communicated, and decision-makers are responsive, it will soon be impossible to avoid climate change with far-ranging undesirable consequences. We have reached a critical tipping point.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

No Storm Forecast or Expected

Whiskey Bar: The Wages of Sin: ". . . what it really indicates, I think, is the complete confidence the GOP majority now places in the chronic amnesia of the American voter -- and the willingness of the corporate media complex (particularly its broadcast arm) to avoid doing or saying anything that would jog the patient's memory, at least when doing so might directly damage the interests of a powerful business constituency."

billmon is reflecting on the action of the House in accepting a cost of living increase -- the seventh straight -- for themselves one week, and then torpedoing an increase in the minimum wage -- now at its lowest level in 50 years after being frozen in place for a decade. But, it could be anything, really.

The American People, apparently, are ill-informed and, though unhappy, are unwilling to do anything about it.

Billmon: "There no longer seems to be any limit on what the devious and the dishonest can get away with in this country, as long as they're willing to be patient about it."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Libby to be pardoned??

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall June 19, 2006 10:47 PM: "the groundwork is now being laid for pardoning Scooter Libby for his alleged crimes relating to the Plame case."

Libby is being prosecuted for stonewalling the investigation into the Plame leak, and Bush is running a trial balloon on pardoning him. Assured of a pardon, he won't talk, and if he doesn't talk, the prosecution of the leak itself cannot go forward. Thus, the whole scandal is squelched, and the underlying bad behavior is unpunished.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Foreign Policy: The Terrorism Index

Foreign Policy: The Terrorism Index:Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, summarizing a survey of 100 foreign policy experts, which found 86% believing that Bush has made things worse
". . . it’s clear to nearly all that Bush and his team have had a totally unrealistic view of what they can accomplish with military force and threats of force."

Conservative failure

The Washington Monthly:
"Bush has been almost uniquely incompetent among modern presidents. But the real failure of the Bush years is a fundamental failure of ideology. For the first time since 1932, conservatives have controlled every branch of government. They had a chance to show they had a real governing ideology, and it turned out they didn't.

. . . Are George Bush and Tom DeLay and Bill Frist real conservatives? Of course they are. They've failed because of that, not despite it."

The deep question for this blog, though, is, "will anyone, other than that rarity, the intelligent liberal pundit (aka Kevin Drum) notice?"

In 1932, conservative politics managed to cook up an economic disaster, a depression deeper and more persistent than any the country had previously seen. Conservatives have always liked depression, and prior to 1932, conservative policies usually made them worse for the poor and working class, on purpose, because that made depressions "better" for the very rich. But, in 1929, things got seriously out of hand. And, liberals and progressives got a firm grip on power, and did not fully let go until 2001.

Conservative politics gave us two world wars, the Great Depression and sixty years of Jim Crow. They were a disaster, and they got blamed.

Conservative politics are a disaster today, as well, but will they get blamed for the consequences?

Friday, June 9, 2006

Hullabaloo: what a delusional fool is he!

Hullabaloo: "Jesus, what a delusional fool he is. We'll be lucky if 9/11 and Iraq are the worst things that happened to us under this idiots leadership."

Having an incompetent fool as President really is dangerous. Maybe he could not have prevented 9/11, but, he did not try. Maybe, forming a Department of Homeland Security (god, how I HATE that fascistic name) was not his idea, exactly, but he did not have an idea of his own, other than to . . . wait for it . . . invade Iraq. Invading Iraq is the dumbest thing the U.S. has done since LBJ escalated Vietnam, and it has cost us vastly more, in money and prestige if not casualties.

A idiot President is still President. Most idiot Presidents have been passive, and done little damage, by doing little. Bush is an exception.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Pewr: Bush's Support Declines

Pew Research Center: Bush's Troubles Shake the GOP Base:
"the number of white, evangelical Protestants strongly backing the president has fallen from six-in-ten after his re-election down to 34% today. Strong support for Bush has declined at similar rates among southerners (40% to 20%), high income earners (34% to 22%), weekly church-goers (42% to 25%), and those who are married with young children (41% to 26%)."

Doubt creeps into the heart of the heartland, I guess.

". . . those who strongly disapprove of his performance outnumber those who strongly approve by more than two-to-one (45% vs. 19%, respectively)."

Most people do not pay any appreciable attention to the news, and many of those who do, watch Fox. But, people do get a lot of impressionistic information from each other, and Bush's approval ratings are hurt, first, by the daily experience at the gas pump (Yes, Americans are THAT shallow), and, second, by expressions heard from people, who feel strongly. The number of people, who strongly approved of Bush once neatly balanced the people, who strongly disapproved. Now, more than half the country disapprove, nearly half STRONGLY disapprove, and those, who strongly approve are down around 20% -- seriously marginal territory, occupied by people who report being abducted by aliens or sighting Elvis at the local carwash.

With nearly half the country aroused to seriously badmouth Bush, and a vanishing cadre of defenders to balance them out, even without any signal events, Bush's approval ratings will continue to tank.

The political avalanche comes when the opposition is fully legitimized, that is, when those disapproving begin to sound sensible, when the "Bush-haters" cannot be demonized or marginalized. That day may be not far off.

Rough start for some as voting begins > News > Politics -- Rough start for some as voting begins: "Among the races generating a lot of interest was the fierce battle between Republican Brian Bilbray and Democrat Francine Busby to replace former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who resigned from his 50th District seat because of a bribery scandal. Cunningham was sentenced to prison after admitting he took $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors."

The race in CA-50, which is both a special election to fill out the remainder of Duke Cunningham's last term, and a primary to determine, who will run in the Fall, is possibly the most important election of the day.

If the Democrat wins in this heavily Republican district, it will signal that the political Storm is definitely on the horizon, the Storm that will wash away Republican control of Congress. Otherwise, which is more probable, it will signal that the country has not been moved sufficiently to ensure that the Republicans lose control. It will reinforce the ambiguous, but discouraging message of Paul Hackett's loss to a vicious sunt in Ohio.

Frankly, I'm betting on the Republican lobbyist winning the election. The American suburban fascist is corrupt and rotting, and that is who votes in Califoria's 50th district.

One Man's Storm is another Man's Stab in the Back

MyDD :: The 'Blame-Firsters' Start the Stabbed in the Back Narrative: Rush Limbaugh: "This Haditha story, this Haditha incident, whatever, this is it folks, this is the final big push on behalf of the Democratic Party, the American left, and the Drive-By Media to destroy our effort to win the war in Iraq. That's what Haditha represents -- and they are going about it gleefully. They are ecstatic about it... Folks, let me just put it in graphic terms. It is going to be a gang rape. There is going to be a gang rape by the Democratic Party, the American left and the Drive-By Media, to finally take us out in the war against Iraq. Make no bones about it. "

This blog has been a sundry attempt to occasionally chronicle the rhetorical anticipation of the consequences of ill-advised Republican policies. Politics is partly drama, from which the body politic, as observer, draws moral lessons. Bush has pursued policies, which are inadvisable on many levels, not least of which are the inevitable political and moral consequences for the nation, but it is never clear what conclusions a largely ignorant and inattentive electorate will draw from events, as they happen. Proximity counts for more in politics, than actual cause-and-effect.

Bush and the Republicans have been quite deliberate in adopting policies, which do not have immediately catastrophic consequences. The timing of tax cuts, in particular, was conspicuous in putting off the greatest consequences for 2009 and later. Ditto for the Bush proposals on Social Security. The prosecution of the War in Iraq has become a holding action; with no clear endpoint in sight, the objective appears to be to keep a weak Iraqi government on a knife's edge, where they cannot afford to ask us to leave.

If the Republicans have miscalculated, and one or more catastrophes visit the U.S., while Bush is still in the White House, Bush may be blamed. The Right-Wing is ready with narratives, which will displace blame, for whatever is coming.

One such narrative is the idea that Bush is a liberal. (Don't laugh.) That's right, Bush is not a true, blue conservative, and his policies were actually liberal policies, so his failures should be blamed on the liberals.

The other narrative is that Bush's failures are not his fault, but rather the fault of the liberal Media and the powerless Democrats, who have made him fail in Iraq, by reporting that failure and criticizing his destructive policies.

It is weird, but it might work.

Progress in Iraq

The Carpetbagger Report: "The U.S. military has cut the number of Iraqi civilians killed at U.S. checkpoints or shot by U.S. convoys to about one a week today from about seven a week" last July, when they first began keeping track.

Meanwhile, . . .
No Escaping Iraq Violence - Los Angeles Times:
"In Baghdad, leaving home to work, shop or visit family has become an increasingly dangerous proposition. Violence rears up without warning; residents navigate a citywide obstacle course of roadside bombs, shootouts and security checkpoints.

The city just had its deadliest month since U.S.-led forces invaded the country in 2003, new Iraqi government documents indicate. More people were shot, stabbed or otherwise violently killed in May than in any other month since the invasion, according to Health Ministry statistics. The figure does not include slain soldiers or civilians killed in bombings, on whom autopsies are not usually performed.

Last month alone, 1,398 bodies were brought to Baghdad's central morgue, the ministry said. All over the city and out into the provinces, corpses surface on a daily basis in garbage dumps, in abandoned cars or along roadsides. They often bear marks of bondage and torture.

Friday, June 2, 2006

The Recovery about Nothing

The Recovery about Nothing | Stirling Newberry at TPMCafe: "something is destined to break, quite probably when the housing rout starts in earnest."

The economy does, indeed, seem to me to be about to take a nosedive.

Slowly, but surely, the Iraqis appear to be working themselves up to asking us to leave.

Hurricane Season started, yesterday already.