2010/10/25

Latest right-wing talking point: Iraq DID have WMDs!

No, actually they didn't, but the Wikileaks release of nearly 400,000 documents from the Iraq War shows that there were indeed many cases of American troops discovering biological and chemical warfare shells. Only problem of course, is that all of the shells discovered were old, in small numbers and in poor repair, suggesting that the Saddam Hussein regime was sloppy about disposing of weapons that the UN had ordered them to dispose of. What the shells do not suggest is that there was a working program to launch chemical or biological warfare against even close neighbors, let alone against the US.

Britain's The Guardian publishes extensive sets of documents concerning the Wikileaks release

Huffington Post summarizes many finding

Al Jazeera's nearly hour-long video includes a Pentagon spokesperson and Wikileaks' Julian Assange

OpEd News summarizes highlights

2010/10/19

Where was the editor?

To review why Richard Cohen lost all credibility as a liberal spokesperson, after the infamous Colin Powell speech in early 2003 about Iraq being such an incredibly deadly threat to the entire world that an immediate invasion was an urgently necessity, WaPo columnist Richard Cohen was moved to declare that the evidence presented was so utterly conclusive that "Only a fool -- or possibly a Frenchman -- could conclude otherwise" that Iraq was indeed a deadly menace that had to be crushed with the greatest of haste. Howard Dean had a far more sensible take on the same speech "I was impressed not by the vastness of evidence presented by the Secretary, but rather by its sketchiness. He said there would be no smoking gun, and there was none." Cohen has never regained his liberal credentials.

Wikipedia defines "hate crimes" in America as being:

Defined in the 1999 National Crime Victim Survey, "A hate crime is a criminal offense. In the United States federal prosecution is possible for hate crimes committed on the basis of a person's race, religion, or nation origin when engaging in a federally protected activity." In 2009, the Matthew Shepard Act added perceived gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability to the federal definition, and dropped the prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally-protected activity.

It also presents a host of specific examples:

During the past two centuries, some of the more typical examples of hate crimes in the U.S. include lynchings of African Americans, cross burnings to drive black families from predominantly white neighborhoods, assaults on white people traveling in predominantly black neighborhoods, assaults on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, the painting of swastikas on Jewish synagogue and xenophobic responses to a variety of minority ethnic groups.

So how does Cohen, in an editorial this week, present the concept of a hate crime? At the end of his second paragraph, Cohen summarizes correctly:

It is not the criminal act alone that matters anymore but the belief that might have triggered the act. For this, you can get an extra five years or so in the clink.

In other words, one must first be convicted of committing a crime and only after that can one be convicted of committing the crime due to hatred for the victims' ethnicity, sexual preference, etc.

Media Matters really hammers his previous statement, though:
Almost as bad as hate crimes themselves is the designation. It is a little piece of totalitarian nonsense, a way for prosecutors to punish miscreants for their thoughts or speech, both of which used to be protected by the Constitution (I am an originalist in this regard).
Really? Calling the torture of three gay men a "hate crime" is almost as bad as torturing three gay men? That the Washington Post would publish such warped anti-gay moral equivalence doesn't really surprise me; that it would come from the paper's purportedly liberal columnist is, however, quite disappointing. [emphasis in original]

Cohen's following statement is truly puzzling:

...the liberal belief that when it comes to particular groups, basic rights may be suspended. Thus we get affirmative action in which certain people are advantaged at the expense of other people based entirely on race or ethnicity. This tender feeling toward minorities must account for why civil liberties groups have remained so appallingly silent about hate-crimes legislation.

Erm, where are rights being suspended? Convicted criminals are being given extra punishment. How on Earth does that mean that any group is being "advantaged"? Remember, people are not being convicted simply because of their bigotry, the hate crime conviction comes after they've been convicted of committing a crime in the first place. Why have civil liberties groups not been condemning hate crimes laws? Well, I'm not sure why this even has to be explained, but if society does not express any sort of official opinion about a crime that targets specific minorities, then it's far too easy for bigots to conclude that there's no real problem in targeting such minorities. To pile on extra punishment for a hate crime expresses society's abhorrence of such crimes and makes a symbolic statement. I think such symbolism is a highly appropriate thing.

I'm not quite sure that Cohen's primary example, that of "the sad case of Tyler Clementi," the young man who was spied upon using a webcam making love to another young man, is accurately described. Cohen claims that "Immediately, the cry of 'hate crime' was heard throughout the land." A Google search on "tyler clementi video" turned up only one reference containing the phrase "hate crime" in the first seven pages of results. The gay talk show host Ellen Degeneres did not use the phrase at all. She spoke instead of "cyber bullying," a still-bad, but far less serious charge. Cohen of course, does not provide any specific examples of anyone using the "hate crime" phrasing. The phrase was clearly used by a few individuals, but Cohen's description of it as it being "heard throughout the land" seems seriously overblown.

So, does Cohen deserve to regain his liberal credentials? Obviously not. But what really gets to me on this piece is ...where was the editor? Who the heck was in charge of reviewing this piece? Who ignored how shaky this piece was, how tone-deaf it was, how insensitive it was to those who favor hate crimes legislation and approved it for release anyway? What are the standards in use nowadays at the WaPo? Why didn't anyone at the WaPo direct Cohen to speak with someone who approved of hate crimes legislation and get their input on the issue? Is the attitude one of "Aw, he's a good ol' boy. We'll take his word for it."?

2010/10/14

Taking triangulation too far

In 1992, Bill Clinton picked a fight with Sister Souljah, a little-known rap singer. Clinton was deliberately throwing the community of African-American activists under the bus in order to ingratiate himself with wealthier and more powerful constituencies. Clinton continued to triangulate against one group or another. It's far from clear that this practice strengthened the Democratic brand. I and many other progressives noticed at the time that the Republicans never did this. It really bothered me and many others that there were, according to the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), "good" and "bad" Democrats. In fact, the Democratic brand was so weak by 2002 that the party actually lost seats in a mid-term election. Normally, the party out of power picks up seats in a mid-term.

Democratic fortunes began changing in 2004 when unapologetic progressives began muscling the triangulators of the DLC aside and spoke of their fellow Democrats as trusted and honored partners. 2006 and 2008 were very good years for Democrats as progressives were firmly in the drivers' seat and triangulation was a thing of the past.

Unfortunately, triangulation appears to be making a comeback. It's far worse now than it ever was under Clinton as now, conservative Democrats are openly disrespecting the Speaker of the House. This strikes me as a really, REALLY bad idea! It was really bad when Clinton disrespected powerless groups as that strategy hurt Democratic unity and muddled any message Democrats might have had, but when regular Representatives advertise how independent from the Speaker they are, WTF!?!?!?! This just sounds like the most horribly anti-unity and anti-common cause strategy I ever heard of.

Far better, in my humble opinion, to have a smaller party of people who are actually together on the issues and who are truly together because they have many beliefs in common rather than to have people who band together merely because they can pursue their own separate agendas more effectively with a "D" after their name than with an "R."

2010/10/09

Hmm, a little ticked off, are we?

A bit of background on Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher. During Campaign 2008, Wurzelbacher challenged presidential candidate Barack Obama on his plan to not renew Bush's tax cuts for people making over $250,000 a year. Slight truth and honesty problem arose. Did Wurzelbacher make $250,000? No, he hoped to buy the company he worked for for that price. That would cost him a one-time payment of $250,000. He himself most likely made about $60,000 to $70,000, $80,000 at the most. So the question that made him famous and which was used in the presidential debates was one that simply didn't apply to “Joe” (Actually named Samuel) in the first place.

Did Wurzelbacher do the slightest bit of research before delivering his opinions on puppy farms? There's no indication of that in the quotations reproduced by the World 'O Crap blogger S.Z. Reads instead like he read perhaps one piece on them and then committed his thoughts to the screen. S.Z. gets a bit hot under the collar as she obviously knows a bit about the puppy farms, but because Wurzelbacher has a much bigger megaphone than she ever will have, his audience is probably ten times bigger than hers ever will be.

S.Z. explains:

And why are national groups getting involved in trying to pass this legislation in MO? Well, MO is Puppy Mill Central — approximately 40% of all pet store puppies nationwide are bred in Missouri, where almost 200,000 breeding dogs produce up to a million puppies a year. Go here for more info.

But Wurzelbacher sees that America's liberties are at stake!

This would almost be comical if it weren’t for the OTHER, more insidious parts of this bill that hit at the very core of our liberties.


To which S.Z. responds:

The framers of the constitution would be rolling in their graves if they heard that your right to own more than 50 breeder dogs (and their attendant puppies, which could number in the 100-200 range at any given time) is in peril. Because the freedom to cruelly exploit puppies for profit is what our country was founded on!


Wurzelbacher:

This bill forces breeders to limit the number of dogs they can own – regardless of care. Think about this a minute . . . . Should the government have the right to limit the number of houses a realtor can sell?

S.Z. (This is a point that even needs to be made? This isn't obvious!?!?!)

If houses were living, breathing creatures that required adequate care,
facilities, and attention to be happy and healthy, then yeah, maybe the
government should have the right to limit the number of houses that a realtor could breed for sale.

The guy then goes on for a few more paragraphs about how terrible it is that those gosh-darn liberals are so mean to the poor, put-upon entrepreneur/puppy-mill owners who are, golly-gee, just tryin' to make a profit! Yep, sure enough is a sad tale of woe that Wurzelbacher tells us.

2010/10/07

Got my letter published in the Inky today


It's the first one of the day!

A balanced budget will have to wait

Hate to admit it, but I completely agree with the tea-party folks about the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. It's an absolutely worthless waste of time, taxpayer money, and our attention.
Dana Milbank concedes Republicans on the commission will never agree to any sort of tax increase under any circumstances ("A sober effort to tame debt," Tuesday). Even if Republicans on the commission agree to anything, the rest of their party will never go along.
The first priority of policymakers should be to get Americans back to work. To do that, the government needs to engage in heavy stimulus spending. The budget should, eventually, be in some sort of balance. But there is no urgent need to do that anytime soon.
Richmond L. Gardner


Naturally, the statement that I agreed with the teabaggers should be read as "Yeesh, the Cat Food Commission is so unbearably awful, I even agree with these guys!"
Got stuck on what a commenter said, though. And yes, in the comments, I'm rich2506.

Posted 07:24 AM, 10/07/2010
taxmancometh
"The first priority of policymakers should be to get Americans back to work. To do that, the government needs to engage in heavy stimulus spending. The budget should, eventually, be in some sort of balance. But there is no urgent need to do that anytime soon.--Richmond L. Gardner" ---It's now official folks. We may as well turn out the lights. We have had nothing BUT government 'stimulus' since 'The New Deal'. Trillions upon trillions upon trillions. We have destroyed our currency. (Our 'dollar', which is actually a Federal Reserve Note, has lost 95% of its value since the creation of the non-federal, Federal Reserve in 1913). We have destroyed our industrial infrastructure in the name of 'environmentalism', we have spent (stimulated) over 7 TRILLION since the enactment of Johnson's phony 'war on poverty', yet we have more people living in poverty today since the great depression. We have 41.8 MILLION people on Food stamps. Another Obama record! That's one in 7 Americans. We don't need any more government 'stimulus' and debt creation. We need to balance the budget by cutting spending. It is just that simple. We need to return wealth to the private sector and drain that swamp called Washington, DC. The time for action is NOW! The decades of 'stimulus' have left us all BANKRUPT, morally and fiscally.


Posted 07:28 AM, 10/07/2010
taxmancometh
Mr. Gardner, please PLEASE watch this video if you do not believe me. PLEASE. It's seven minutes long and is NOT partisan, and THEN come back and talk to me. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MQ2pk7kkm4


Posted 07:54 AM, 10/07/2010
rich2506
@taxmancometh Yep, sho enuff is a sca-a-a-areee videeeo! Pfft. Not. Look, the problem is that private enterprise does a lot of things and does them well, but it doesn't do everything. Never has, never will. The income of all US citizens has risen at the usual rates for the last 40 years, but the income of the bottom 90% of taxpayers has been flat. President Reagan didn't begin that problem, but his policies certainly contributed to it and have maintained that. Reaganomics, not overspending, is the REAL problem here.


Posted 08:39 AM, 10/07/2010
taxmancometh
Well Rich, have fun in the bread line. And I didn't say anything about private enterprise. Your comment about the bottom 90% flat lining was not true from the period of 2002 to 2007. During that period ALL incomes rose between 3 and 4%. But those gains were the result of inflation caused by the printing of massive amounts of worthless paper fiat currency, which is what I pointed out in my first post. But we are now entering the end game phase, where Congress has overspent the ability of Maericans to produce enough wealth to correct the problem. It is happening all over Europe as we speak. Even England is starting to cut welfare benefits as they are out of money. Cuba is laying off 500,000 government workers because Castro's own brother admitted their economic model is a failure. There is a somewhat humorous video from two Australian comedians that is a great watch! It discusses the fiscal problems in Europe and the debt incurred to finance ever enlarging social 'entitlements'. It runs about 2:36 -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5D0VhS8qXT0


Posted 08:42 AM, 10/07/2010
taxmancometh
For more research on American taxation as it relates to income levels, please visit this IRS page, http://www.irs.gov/taxstats/indtaxstats/article/0,,id=96679,00.html#_grp9 --- and scroll down to the section marked, 'Individual Income Tax Returns with Positive "1979 Income Concept" Income'. There you can pull up the totals from IRS tax returns and determine who paid what percentage taxes, which income bracket grew (all of them) and you will see that the bottom 50% of wage earners saw their tax burden fall, which means the tax cuts were not just 'for the rich'. Enjoy the read.

The video simply made the point that government costs money. Duh! Next thing ya know, he'll tell me that the sun rises in the East. Now, the idea that everyone's income rose a bit during the Bush Administration is one that I have a hard time with as Bush's term was generally a complete flop in just about everything connected to economics and the failure to create enough jobs to keep up with population growth was a continual problem.

Now, I would think that the IRS table that taxman refers to, when it says "top 50%," would mean that it would include all the other groups above the 50% line, I found the definition of "1979 Income Concept" and it's not helpful at all. If there had been a table of "quintiles," that would have been meaningful as quintile means five separate groups. To compare the bottom four quintiles to the top one would tell us whether everyone advanced during Bush's term or whether, as I strongly suspect, the top quintile advanced, the second quintile did well, but not as well, and the bottom three remained static or lost ground. I suspect the way the statistics are defined, it just looks like everyone's income advanced.

My web searching uncovered lots of quintile data, but it usually just goes up as far as 2000 or 2003. Can't find anything up to the present. Anyway, that's why I only have one comment up there today.

2010/10/06

Oh, good grief!


This has gotta take the cake for the most moronic exchange I've seen in a while. MMFA wrote a piece detailing how Dinesh D'Souza flagrantly and obviously lied in his book "The Roots of Obama's Rage" (Obama has to be the least "enraged" person on the national scene. In his 2008 debates with McCain, Obama was the very essence of cool), going so far as to claim that "when the story regarding Rev. Jeremiah Wright's inflammatory sermons broke, 'the networks and major newspapers pretended not to notice.' " Erm, I seem to remember that when the Rev. Wright made a single inflammatory sermon (Obama claimed he wasn't present for that particular one, no one could prove he was there), that resulted in an absolute firestorm that spread all over the media landscape. Obama quickly denounced Wright and has yet to settle on another church. Many other lies and distortions are detailed in the piece.

So we get a comment:
Author by follow_me_on_twitter@[deleted] (October 05, 2010 1:27 am ET)
Why is it when someone doesn't agree with the POTUS, they're labeled as an RACIST?



This has nothing to do with "agreeing" with the POTUS. This has to do with MAKING STUFF UP to attack the president. Much of the MADE UP STUFF has a racist tone to it.

Learn to read.


Like what? What makes this guy a racist according to you liberal
[HTML code] crickets [code]


The crickets don't work unless you give responders more then a few minutes to respond, as the times denoted between your posts indicate.
...

Cool-- The crickets don't work unless you give responders more then a few minutes to respond, as the times denoted between your posts indicate.

Yeah, I kinda figured that. But, I had to go to work and didn't want to wait until tomorrow to get it in. Gotta have some fun sometimes ;)
...

It's pretty hard to overstate how completely and utterly moronic Floyd is being here. He quite obviously makes the (completely unwarranted) assumption that his question is so blindingly good and so awesomely intelligent and unanswerable that we liberals will be staggered and flummoxed and speechless in response.

Yeah, right, whatevuh.

2010/10/01

Test on happiness

Found an interesting Internet test on happiness and decided to see how I scored.



You were a smiley student

Passed on this as actually, I remember being annoyed at looking at my old pictures because I had kind of a dippy-looking smile. In later years, I learned to make my smile more presentable for photographs.



You have a sister

Heck, I had (And still have) two sisters! Passed on that.



You're not glued to the TV


Yee-haw on that! I watch what's called "Appointment TV." When I watch Jon Stewart's Daily Show at 11:00pm, I get up from what I'm doing at 10:57, get snacks and/or drinks, sit down and watch it, then at 11:31, the TV goes dark unless I turn it to a music channel. I record lots of shows, but watch those mostly as I dress.



You keep souvenirs on display

Aye! In the Navy, a lot of us had what we referred to as an "I love me wall" that has our
memorabilia, our awards, etc. I've got collections of family pictures, shotglasses, buttons, pictures of sailing vessels, various documents, etc.



You make exercise a priority

Yeah. I tried to exercise in gyms for a bit and found that I have the necessary self-discipline to exercise once I'm there, but getting there was a bit tough, so I just make exercise part of my daily routines. I try to walk to places, etc.



You have a healthy love life

Complete failure on this. The official term is "Maslow's hierarchy of needs," which just basically means that while I'm living "hand to mouth," when I'm always scraping to get by, it's very difficult to concentrate on building any sort of love life. Not that I've ever been a particularly smooth or suave fellow anyway, which means that even if I got a really awesome job tomorrow and started making lots of money, it'd then still be quite some time before I got anywhere in that area.



You hang out with happy people

Mmm. Yeah, more or less. I hang out with people who are generally busy, people who have projects going on, people who feel a sense of purpose in their lives. Yeah, I'd say I pass on this one.



You stay warm with hot cocoa

I read a cautionary tale on alcohol when I was a teenager, that a fellow was a heavy drinker, but was okay as long as he enjoyed it. As soon as he no longer enjoyed it, but kept drinking anyway, that's when he ran into real problems. I developed real weight problems and folks tell me I looked pale and sallow, but when I more or less completely stopped (I still drink socially), I stopped without feeling any compulsion to continue. I also stopped all my consumption of high-fructose corn syrup, so yeah, it's tea, coffee and seltzer for me.




You have two best friends

Nope. I've very rarely kept in touch with people after we've stopped working together and I've never really been in a social environment in which to make non-work friends. Again, living hand to mouth all the time makes it difficult to concentrate on this aspect of life.



So, I guess I'd give myself a score of seven out of nine. Eh, not too bad.