Gary Hart

Gary Hart has some good posts up.

But the war on terrorism is now the excuse for America to assume imperial powers and to employ those powers even when our traditional allies oppose our actions. The war on terrorism is fundamentally altering our global policies. We have discarded our half-century reliance on the Atlantic Alliance for collective security. We have marginalized the United Nations at the precise time it should have been empowered to undertake peacemaking roles. And we have alienated key regional powers, including Russia, China, and India, at a time when we should be encouraging them to assume greater responsibilities for regional stability.

All this has transpired in the space of a few months without congressional hearings or review, any comprehensive statement by the administration, serious editorial discussion, or public debate over this new foreign policy. Throughout American history major departures in foreign policy have been the occasion for lively, even contentious debate. This has not been the case as the war on terrorism morphed into the centerpiece of a new imperial foreign policy.

And a great supplement to what I wrote the other day:

Second, we’ve had satellite surveillance of Iraq for many years. Either destruction or movement of large quantities of weapons of mass destruction (many barrels; many trucks) would have been detected. Let’s quit pretending that these weapons, at least in the quantities that we’ve been warned about (and not to say the delivery systems that were being urgently built, so we were told), have become part of an international shell game. No one in the intelligence community believes that, and neither should we.

Thanks to uggabuga, who got it from Roger Ailes, we find this in the Washington Post:

In a U.S. News & World Report column about frivolous lawsuits, owner Mort Zuckerman serves up a couple of doozies:

“A woman throws a soft drink at her boyfriend at a restaurant, then slips on the floor she wet and breaks her tailbone. She sues. Bingo — a jury says the restaurant owes her $100,000! A woman tries to sneak through a restroom window at a nightclub to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge. She falls, knocks out two front teeth, and sues. A jury awards her $12,000 for dental expenses.”

Great stuff — and, unfortunately for Zuckerman, totally bogus. Two Web sites — StellaAwards.com and Snopes.com — say the cases of the soda-slipping Pennsylvania woman and the window-wriggling Delaware woman are fabricated, and no public records could be found for them.

Zuckerman has plenty of company. A number of newspapers and columnists have touted the phantom cases since they surfaced in 2001 in a Canadian newspaper.

Ken Frydman, Zuckerman’s spokesman, did not dispute that the pair of cases in the column two weeks ago were imaginary, but would not address whether the magazine will publish a retraction.

“These cases were reported in a variety of other reputable publications, such as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the London Telegraph, and Mr. Zuckerman could have cited dozens of other cases,” Frydman says. “Few Americans would disagree with the proposition that there are far too many frivolous lawsuits filed.”

In a letter to the magazine, Mary Alexander, president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, chides Zuckerman for using “phony, nonexistent lawsuits that have been widely exposed as ‘urban myths’ to justify his assault on our legal system.”

Does anyone remember when President Clinton was accused of selling plots in Arlington Cemetery? (Especially read this.) When the story was shown to be fabricated (it was in a Moonie magazine – Insight) one pundit wrote that it was a justified story because it “sounded like something Clinton could have done.”

Totally fabricated “news” reports are OK, because they fit the line that someone is paying to drive into the public mind. Would it be interesting if we learned that the same people (search for “tort”) who are behind the anti-Clinton efforts were also funding the tort reform movement?

By the way, why is this Zuckerman story fabrication somehow different from that Blair did at the NY Times? Why are ANY of the reporters and pundits who went after Clinton still employed?

Dirty Tricks & Differences

I’m watching Governor Dean’s declaration of candidacy on the web, and have to make one comment. I see that the Green Party is practicing Republican-style dirty tricks. They’re trying to ruin his announcement by holding up a giant Vote Green sign right behind him, so it’s the backdrop that everyone sees. Nasty. I think it says a lot about the Greens that they emulate the Republican model of no respect for others.

Another thing I notice is that there are no goons “escorting” the sign holder away from the camera’s view. We all know what would happen if someone tried this at a Republican rally. I wonder what would happen if Dean peop-le tried this at a Green rally? We don’t know because they haven’t – in fact they have reached out to the Greens.

Update -OK, I was unfair to the Greens there. It was one or two people holding up that sign, not the Green Party. I was trying to provoke a couple of regular Green commenters I have here, but I was a little too harsh. Sorry. And the darn comments aren’t even working today anyway.

How To Counter The Right

Over at The Left Coaster they’re continuing the discussion of how to get a moderate/progressive message out. Go have a read and leave a comment.

Here’s a comment I left: (EDMMLB — Edited to make me look better.)

Reply to CTDem2“Toss a thousand coins, and 700 come up heads; the next thousand coins will probably bring the average closer to center.”

Not if someone is catching the coins in the air and then placing them on the ground heads up. This is the analogy to what the right is doing to our society.

Societies do not self-regulate. In fact, once the mechanisms for moderation are removed – as has happened here with the right wing takeover of the press, the courts and the media, history shows that they become more extreme.

We’re all going to have to donate our time, energy and money to combating the right and restoring moderating influences to our society. It isn’t going to happen by itself.

Reply to comment from pessimist — I don’t think the fault lies with the Democrats. Politicians respond to the public. The right changed the PUBLIC, and that is how they took over the Republican Party. They were able to do this because Scaife and a few others stepped up to the plate and provided the money. On the moderate/progressive side our philanthropists are NOT funding the kind of organization that can make a difference – except in the case of Podesta’s American Majority Institute. But while that is a very necessary component of what we need to do, it is a short-term, “hot issues” Washington-focused organization. This is much needed, but without working to change the broad, general public it is only going to fight a defensive action to try to hold back the onslaught.

What we need is for our philanthropists to step up to the plate and start funding organizations that work over the long term to change the public BACK to moderate/progressive principles. We need a Scaife of our own, and a few others, to start funding progressive ADVOCACY organizations, that work to change the broad, GENERAL public back to progressive principles of helping each other, supporting equality and democracy, respecting community, supporting collective bargaining, and other ways that people work together to combat the influence of money. This means things like working in the South and the Midwest and churches – advertising at auto races, football games, writing general-interest books, producing movies, etc.

It’s a big task, but the model is in front of us. The right has been successful and we can look at how they did it. They build their system over time using a trial-and-error approach. By following the model they have developed we can take advantage of what they have learned and get this going in a much shorter time.

One thing we need to do is recognize just how broad the right-wing infrastructure is. The people you see speaking on TV are FUNDED. People like Bill Bennett are FUNDED. The organizations that promote their ideas are FUNDED. Their activists are FUNDED! And this is what WE need as well!

But there is MORE money on the moderate/progressive side – and there are MORE people. The problem is that our philanthropists are funding narrow-focus environmental programs, etc. This is great, but with the right’s attack going on it’s almost useless – a waste of money. If they would divert 10-20% of that funding to building a broad progressive infrastructure similar to the right’s, developing public support of progressive principles in general, then this public support leads to progressive candidates getting elected – and even leads to environmental organizations, etc. having a broader base of funding support – all of which leads to the accomplishment of the very goals that the original narrow-focused programs were trying to achieve! It is an INVESTMENT and it will pay results. So the philanthropic community – the foundations, etc. – need to wake up and see that their money is wasted without building broad public support for progressive principles.

No Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq

The Wurlitzer is trying out the focus-group tested “he hid them or moved them out of the country” excuse for no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) being found in Iraq. I want to remind you of something. Before the war, when the inspectors were still in Iraq, the Bush people were saying that they needed to be able to talk to scientists in private, with their families protected, so the scientists could feel safe telling them what they knew.

Well, now we control Iraq (mostly), and we’re not only able to protect the scientists and their families, we’re certainly offering unbelievable rewards to anyone who can bail Bush out and provide evidence of WMD. So far no scientists, no technicians, not even any anthrax-lab janitors have come forward to say that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We haven’t found any storage locations, not even recently emptied. We haven’t found any labs. No trucks for moving them to war zones. No remotely guided aircraft. No soldiers who talk about having seen stockpiles of curiously guarded bombs or shells. No anything. Nowhere. Nothing.

Whatever the reason we got into this war – intelligence failure, people hearing what they want to hear, intelligence agencies ordered to manipulate information, manipulation of our entire intelligence process by Iraqi exiles, flat-out lying by fanatics intent on starting a war for geopopolitical conquest, or just an old-fashioned scam to seize the oil, loot the country and give lucrative construction contracts to cronies – we have invaded a country that did not threaten us, we’re stuck there now with soldiers dying and this will go on for years, the world hates us, and the government and the administration have no credibility left.

It is urgent that we remove this President from office and begin attempts to repair the damage.

Why Bush Must Be Removed — A Comment I Left

Here’s a comment I left, to this post over at Daily Kos: (edited to make me look better)

When a President of the United States comes to the public and says there is a threat and he needs our support to deal with it, then we gotta go along. He might be right. He might know something we don’t. It’s the President’s job, so we gotta trust him on this. It’s our security, and our lives on the line.

So if a President abuses this, or even uses this incompetently, where does that leave us? Breaking down the trust between the public and Office of the President on this kind of thing it opens us up to doubt or cynicism if there is a next time. This endangers the country.

There is no question that the Office of the President was misused over the Iraq issue and over national security issues. Calling for a war vote before the election was an abuse – it necessarily brought politics into the issue when it could have been avoided. Creating the Department of Homeland Security the way they did was pure politics. Saying there was an imminent threat from Iraq when, at the very least, the intelligence did not support such a claim, opens the public up to doubt the next time a President needs to protect us from an ACTUAL threat.

This is why this President must be removed from office. He has broken the bond of trust between the public and the Office of the President on the most critical issue, and politicized the process, and this has placed us all in danger should there be an ACTUAL threat to our nation and our lives in the future.

Update – this continues in the post above titled, “No Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.”

Pundits and Blogs

I read the San Jose News on paper, then onto the web and read the NY Times and the Washington Post every morning. I read the professional high-paid pundits like David Broder. Usually, they are a yawn. (Krugman’s never a yawn, but his day job isn’t pundit.)

And then I read things like this post, Dwarves and Midgets by Steve Gilliard over at Daily Kos. Compare this GREAT piece to the tired inside-the-beltway crap you read from the professionals, who are pulling in hundreds of thousands a year. There just is no comparison. That’s “old media.” Blogs are new media.

Reading some of the great stuff I find on weblogs feels a bit like when Clinton won in 1992 and we all felt so good about a new generation taking over from the tired old politics-as-usual crowd. Blogging isn’t a new generation, it’s a new way of expressing opinions. New media. I think if Gilliard got a job as a pundit making hundreds of thousands he would probably become a tired boring David Broder. (Wow a number of bloggers are pissed at me now! They were hoping blogging would take them to the top-tier make-a-million level.)

Anyway, good post, Steve.

Part 203 In The Continuing Series Titled, "A Comment I Left"

Here is a comment I left, over at Atrios (edited to make me look better.)

I think the full impact of two recent events are going to take some time to dawn on all of us.

1) We just went to war with a country that did not threaten us. However we got there, that is a huge change in the nature of our country, and a huge change in the world order. As the world recedes from the fog of propaganda surrounding this war the consequences will begin to appear. I think it still has only barely started to dawn on everyone how big a deal it is that this happened – never mind how we got there.

2) We are only starting to wake up to the consequences of the Bush tax cuts. Before the tax cuts the administration was assaulting everything we care about, on many fronts at once, overwhelming our ability to gather a response. But the tax cuts – they have virtually destroyed the government a few years out. Aside from the international consequences of racking up that much debt there is the effect on the ability to pay for our government — Starting a few years from now Social Security is gone, Medicare is gone, even fixing roads is gone! As I said, the consequences of ALL the money being gone are only beginning to dawn on us.

The Pop-Up Is Gone

OK, the Dean pop-up is gone. I couldn’t stand it anymore, and readers were complaining. All of you who were annoyed are now ethically bound to go contribute to Dean so he can show a great quarter at the end of the money, and become the nominee, and get Bush out of the White House.

I actually think there is some validity to determining the viability of a candidate by how much money the candidate can raise early in the process. It is a gauge of whether the candidate is able to generate committed support, which is necessary to sustain a campaign for the White House. BUT I think it is just as important to look at the number of donors as it is to look at the amount. If a candidate is able to inspire a lot of people to send $100 checks, that says a lot. If a candidate is mostly raising $2000 check, that’s a different story – that tells you how many rich people who don’t CARE about spending $2000 the candidate attracts, and could lead to absurd pro-rich positions like supporting repealing the estate tax.

I think people who send $100 checks are almost always people for whom that $100 really matters. I think people who can send $2000 are more likely to be people to whom $2000 doesn’t matter all that much.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to send $100 if you CAN send $2000! Gov. Dean needs every penny if he’s going to be able to go after Bush.

I will be writing about how I think we can beat Bush’s money advantage. I’ve been percolating an idea.

Bubbles and Disconnects

Paul Krugman starts his column today with:

“The big rise in the stock market is definitely telling us something. Bulls think it says the economy is about to take off. But I think it’s a sign that America is still blowing bubbles ?— that a three-year bear market and the biggest corporate scandals in history haven’t cured investors of irrational exuberance yet.”

A news story this morning, Foreclosures Hit Record High in 1st Qtr:

Home loans in the process of foreclosure climbed to 1.2 percent of all mortgages in the first quarter, beating the previous high of 1.18 percent set in the fourth quarter of 2002, the Mortgage Bankers Association of America said.

Mortgages entering the foreclosure process rose in the quarter to 0.37 percent from 0.35 percent in the fourth quarter.

The percentage of all loans for one- to four-unit homes that were delinquent — at least 30 days overdue — slipped to 4.52 percent from 4.53 percent in the fourth quarter.

And a little story in this morning’s San Jose Mercury News, Home sellers paring prices to speed deals:

“In general, homeowners are selling at lower prices, even in the lower-end ranges of homes,” said Richard Calhoun, of Creekside Realty, who tracks Silicon Valley real estate data. “With increased inventory, buyers have more choice. And if a seller is not aggressive on pricing, the property doesn’t sell.”

The drop in prices in May was steeper than in previous months this year, suggesting that sellers are accepting lower prices to close sales.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve sees a need to cut interest rates further,

All the debate in financial markets this week has been on exactly how much “insurance” the Fed will want to take out. Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said recently that in the face of sluggish growth, insurance is cheap compared to the cost of disappointing growth that could eventually lead to deflation.

And the trade deficit, expected to decrease as the dollar falls, is rising, U.S. trade deficit swells,

The latest snapshot of trade activity reported by the Commerce Department Thursday shows that the mushrooming “current account” deficit in the first quarter was 5.8 percent larger than the previous record deficit of $128.6 billion set in the fourth quarter of 2002.

OK, the Federal Reserve is concerned enough about the economy that they are using up their last interest rate cut. The housing bubble looks like it could burst very soon. The Federal budget deficit is wildly, massively, unbelievably out of control. Japan is in deflation and Germany looks like it’s there as well. The dollar has dramatically fallen, but the trade deficit is UP. And the jobs picture is still declining.

But the stock market is engaged in a major rally. What’s up?

I think we’re seeing one more part of what I will call a “disconnect society.” This is the disconnect between the top tier of people who are doing well and managing things, and the rest of us. I think we are seeing the effects of a widening gap between the affluent and regular people, where the affluent lifestyle depends on greater and greater isolation from reality — a reinforced head-in-the-sand view of the world.

In today’s stock market rally we see a disconnect between the wealthy elite who manage the stock funds, and the real economy. They live well, they commute from the wealthy suburbs around New York into office buildings inhabited by other top tier elites, they don’t know anyone who is hurting, they read the Wall Street Journal (written by other top tier elites) and they watch the world on TV. They think things are great, everyone THEY know is doing well, and we’re in a “recovery” and heading for a prosperous Republican future.

We see the same disconnect in news reporting. Our local paper, the San Jose News, occasionally runs stories about how people live, and invariably picks people living in four-bedroom million-dollar houses, with six-figure incomes, and tells their readers how hard things are for them because their exclusive private school tuitions have risen. It is infuriating! The paper’s managers, editors and reporters are well-paid and live in that top-tier world. The news anchors and reporters on the networks make seven figure salaries. The head of the companies they glorify make hundreds of millions! The politicians make six figures and live in the Washington yuppisphere – and say that people who talk like I am talking are on the “fringe.”

And people in business are living this disconnect. Look what they expect people to be able to pay. Cable TV with a premium channel is $65-70 per month. A cable modem or DSL is another $40-50. (Cable modem is better.) A cell phone account for two is $65 or so. Then they show up with offers for internet or satellite radio for another $10-20 per month and think people can afford it – because THEY can. Never mind that they are moving YOUR job to India. I’m not talking about essential services here; my point is that they’re trying to get customers and are pricing for a society that is living like they are. (Health insurance – $500 a month for a couple, minimum.)

I’ll write more about this disconnect society. Leave a comment.