Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Conservative Cowards and Hypocrites - DeMint and Hoekstra

For GOP, Short Memories on Terror Plots and Presidential Vacations
For example, on Sunday Senator Jim Demint (R-SC) blasted the administration for not "connecting dots" despite having placed a hold on President Obama's TSA nominee and joining other Republicans in blocking new TSA funding. That came after Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra similarly suggested the Obama White House did not "connect the dots" to Yemen, an assertion that flies both in the face of the aggressive U.S. military efforts there and Al Qaeda's boast Monday that the Detroit plot was launched in response to them. Meanwhile, Mary Matalin defied both logic and the calendar in wrongly claiming the Bush administration "inherited a recession" and the 9/11 attacks...
No wonder the 'war on terror" made Bin Laden into a national joke - Osama Been Forgotten by the likes of DeMint, Hoekstra and Matalin. Conservatives were the ones to sell America the idea that Iraq was the "front in the war on terror", not pursuing Bin Laden. Can we say - criminally negligent. Hoeskstra is now running for government. Like the typical Republican he thinks he should be rewarded for failure. More here, Another Day of Frightened Conservative Bed Wetters

And - Remember Bush's response to 2001 Shoe Bomber Attack?
No? Well there's a good reason for that. There wasn't any.

During that life or death struggle with forces so evil they were beyond human comprehension Bush set a record for number of days taken off for vacation.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

2010 and Still Searching for the Liberal Media

Farewell to another decade of "liberal media bias"

It might seem futile to try to select just two quotes from the previous decade and single them out as bookends to illustrate how the political press so often malfunctioned over the last 10 years. But if pressed, I know which duo I'd nominate in hopes of highlighting the absurdity behind the never-ending right-wing claim about supposed "liberal media bias."

Y'know, the same "liberal media" that over the previous decade unleashed its venom on Al Gore, morphed into George Bush's lapdog cheerleaders, and created unfair double standards for covering the new Democratic president, Barack Obama.

The first quote I'd nominate actually comes from very late 1999, but the implication was pure 2000 and the decade that followed. The passage appeared in a Time report about the unfolding Democratic primary battle and came just as the Beltway press was unveiling its unapologetic War on Gore, as The Daily Howler might put it.

The orgy of resentment that erupted toward Gore during the 2000 campaign season was likely unprecedented in American politics, as media elites did very little to hide their disdain for Gore. For years, they mocked him, bad-mouthed him, and made up nasty stories about him. (Hint: Inventing the Internet.) Acting as a conduit for the RNC, the press actively tried to delegitimize the Democratic Party nominee for president. And the chronically caustic and unfair press coverage cost Gore the election in the historically close 2000 campaign.

Which brings me to Quote of the Decade No. 1, courtesy Time's Eric Pooley and his New Hampshire primary dispatch: [emphasis added]:

[T]he 300 media types watching in the press room at Dartmouth were, to use the appropriate technical term, totally grossed out by it. Whenever Gore came on too strong, the room erupted in a collective jeer, like a gang of 15-year-old Heathers cutting down some hapless nerd.

If readers needed confirmation regarding the open contempt for Gore, blogger Mickey Kaus soon traveled to New Hampshire and announced the consensus among journalists: "They hate Gore. They really do think he's a liar. And a phony."

My second Quote of the Decade nominee arrived 110 months later and via NBC's Chuck Todd. It was uncorked inside the new Obama White House press room, on January 23, 2009. The topic on the table was the administration's proposed economic stimulus package and whether the White House, which was hoping for a bipartisan effort on the legislation, would be disappointed if the bill passed with little or no Republican support. And that's when Todd asked Robert Gibbs the following:

Would [the President] veto a bill if it didn't have Republican support?

That's right. Just days into the new presidency, Todd wanted to know if Obama would go ahead and take the unprecedented action of vetoing his own legislation designed to immediately jump-start the faltering economy because not enough members of the opposition party supported the stimulus bill.

If nothing else, Todd's absurd query highlighted the unheard-of double standard the press constructed for the new Democratic president. Namely, when addressing the issue of bipartisanship (i.e. "involving cooperation, agreement, and compromise between two major political parties") the press decided to hold only one of the political parties accountable: the Democrats. Bipartisanship was now something Democrats had to bring to fruition.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Sad Holidays for Conservatives. Wars to be Less Profitable

Pentagon sees big savings in replacing contractors with federal employees

The Defense Department estimates it will save an average of $44,000 a year for every contractor it replaces with full-time federal personnel to perform critical defense jobs, according to the House-Senate conference report on the fiscal 2010 defense appropriation bill.

The measure, which passed Congress on Saturday, contains $5 billion to hire replacements for contractors currently performing what have been termed "inherently government functions" both at home and abroad. Those functions include a wide range of activities, from supervising other contractors who provide guard services at forward operating bases, to providing oversight of aid projects overseas.

The Bush administration widely expanded the use of contractors following the invasion of Iraq. At the time, officials argued that the Pentagon and other agencies had to staff up quickly; the war was seen as a limited operation that would end quickly, without the need to either increase the size of the military or the ranks of civilian employees.

The aim was also to save money, but last year Congress reported that contract employees were each costing the government an average of $250,000 annually, an amount far in excess of what federal employees or military personnel were paid.

A recent Congressional Research Service study acknowledged that contractors played an important role in Iraq, but also indicated that they make up more than half of the Pentagon's personnel in Afghanistan. With the number of U.S. troops expected to increase by 30,000 in Afghanistan in the coming months, CRS estimated that the number of contractors there will also increase -- by up to 56,000.

Although the fiscal 2010 defense appropriation bill provides $5 billion to allow defense personnel, rather than contractors, to perform critical department functions, there was no estimate available Wednesday on how many new defense employees will be hired with that money.

The bill includes a number of other important provisions:

It provides $288 million for the Pentagon's inspector general to hire additional investigators for oversight of acquisition and contracting. Congress added about $16 million to the administration request to enable the hiring of additional investigators.

It also reduces contracted advisory and assistance services by $51 million, and includes general provisions to stop further conversions by the Department of Defense from government functions to contractors.
In other words death merchants like Blackwater(Xe) might soon be out of business.

Public Knowledge of Current Affairs Little Changed by News and Information Revolutions

On average, today's citizens are about as able to name their leaders, and are about as aware of major news events, as was the public nearly 20 years ago. The new survey includes nine questions that are either identical or roughly comparable to questions asked in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 2007, somewhat fewer were able to name their governor, the vice president, and the president of Russia, but more respondents than in the earlier era gave correct answers to questions pertaining to national politics.

In 1989, for example, 74% could come up with Dan Quayle's name when asked who the vice president is. Today, somewhat fewer (69%) are able to recall Dick Cheney. However, more Americans now know that the chief justice of the Supreme Court is generally considered a conservative and that Democrats control Congress than knew these things in 1989. Some of the largest knowledge differences between the two time periods may reflect differences in the amount of press coverage of a particular issue or public figure at the time the surveys were taken. But taken as a whole the findings suggest little change in overall levels of public knowledge.

FigureThe survey provides further evidence that changing news formats are not having a great deal of impact on how much the public knows about national and international affairs. The polling does find the expected correlation between how much citizens know and how avidly they watch, read, or listen to news reports. The most knowledgeable third of the public is four times more likely than the least knowledgeable third to say they enjoy keeping up with the news "a lot."

There are substantial differences in the knowledge levels of the audiences for different news outlets. However, there is no clear connection between news formats and what audiences know. Well-informed audiences come from cable (Daily Show/Colbert Report, O'Reilly Factor), the internet (especially major newspaper websites), broadcast TV (NewsHour with Jim Lehrer) and radio (NPR, Rush Limbaugh's program). The less informed audiences also frequent a mix of formats: broadcast television (network morning news shows, local news), cable (Fox News Channel), and the internet (online blogs where people discuss news events).
Listeners and watchers of strictly conservative media tend to be the ones ( tea baggers and conservatives in general) walking around in an ignorant daze in between ranting about death panels that do not exist and complaining about public policies about which they have no knowledge. So its little wonder that tea baggers have no solutions except blame America first. Even the intellectual leaders of the right-wing movement have no real principles.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Conservatisn is a Mental Condition Motivated Primarily by Fear and Insecurity

Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition

A meta-analysis (88 samples, 12 countries, 22,818 cases) confirms that several psychological variables predict political conservatism: death anxiety (weighted mean r .50); system instability (.47); dogmatism–intolerance of ambiguity (.34); openness to experience (–.32); uncertainty tolerance (–.27); needs for order, structure, and closure (.26); integrative complexity (–.20); fear of threat and loss (.18); and self-esteem (–.09). The core ideology of conservatism stresses resistance to change and justification of inequality and is motivated by needs that vary situationally and dispositionally to manage uncertainty and threat.

Michele Bachmann: Welfare Queen

Michele Bachmann has become well known for her anti-government tea-bagger antics, protesting health care reform and every other government “handout” as socialism. What her followers probably don’t know is that Rep. Bachmann is, to use that anti-government slur, something of a welfare queen. That’s right, the anti-government insurrectionist has taken more than a quarter-million dollars in government handouts thanks to corrupt farming subsidies she has been collecting for at least a decade.

And she’s not the only one who has been padding her bank account with taxpayer money.

Bachmann, of Minnesota, has spent much of this year agitating against health care reform, whipping up the so-called tea-baggers with stories of death panels and rationed health care. She has called for a revolution against what she sees as Barack Obama’s attempted socialist takeover of America, saying presidential policy is “reaching down the throat and ripping the guts out of freedom.”

But data compiled from federal records by Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit watchdog that tracks the recipients of agricultural subsidies in the United States, shows that Bachmann has an inner Marxist that is perfectly at ease with profiting from taxpayer largesse. According to the organization’s records, Bachmann’s family farm received $251,973 in federal subsidies between 1995 and 2006. The farm had been managed by Bachmann’s recently deceased father-in-law and took in roughly $20,000 in 2006 and $28,000 in 2005, with the bulk of the subsidies going to dairy and corn. Both dairy and corn are heavily subsidized—or “socialized”—businesses in America (in 2005 alone, Washington spent $4.8 billion propping up corn prices) and are subject to strict government price controls. These subsidies are at the heart of America’s bizarre planned agricultural economy and as far away from Michele Bachmann’s free-market dream world as Cuba’s free medical system. If American farms such as hers were forced to compete in the global free market, they would collapse.

Monday, December 21, 2009

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) Prays for the Death of 45,000 Americans a Year

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) Prays More Americans Die

Via Think Progress, we learn about the very Christian values Tom Coburn put on display yesterday when he was discussing the upcoming cloture vote on the health care reform bill:

"What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can’t make the vote tonight. That’s what they ought to pray." ( Coburn on the vote for health care reform)
Coburn in other words is a member of the Conservative Culture of Death, New study finds 45,000 deaths annually linked to lack of health coverage

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Inhofe is the new synonym for wacko

In the future anyway, anyone observed behaving crazy or wacky will be described as having gone Inhofe, After ‘Truth Squad’ Fizzles, Der Spiegel Reporter Tells Inhofe: ‘You’re Ridiculous’

Back in September, godfather of global warming deniers Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) announced that he would be going to the U.N.’s climate change summit in Copenhagen this week to present “another view.” “I think somebody has to be there — a one-man truth squad,” he said. His “truth squad” later expanded to three, with Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) joining in.

But MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow noted last night that Inhofe’s mission of wreaking havoc on the summit fell flat:

MADDOW: When Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton and all the bigwigs arrived in Denmark, the Inhofe truth squad was nowhere to be found.

We confirmed with the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works that truth squad, denialist, congressional delegation with Senators Barrasso and Wicker – that has ended up getting canceled.

Inhofe did travel to Copenhagen however — with a single staffer and when he got there, all he could muster was an “impromptu” press conference and spent a grand total of two hours in the Danish capital. But even during the press conference, few reporters showed up and the Oklahoma senator wasn’t very well received by the ones who did:

A reporter asked: “If there’s a hoax, then who’s putting on this hoax, and what’s the motive?”

“It started in the United Nations,” Inhofe said, “and the ones in the United States who really grab ahold of this is the Hollywood elite.”

One reporter asked Inhofe if he was referring to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Another reporter — this one from Der Spiegel — told the senator: “You’re ridiculous.”
Of course Inhofe has never read and will never bother to read the consensus of the world's foremost scientists that global warming is a fact, Seven Answers to Climate Contrarian Nonsense
Evidence for human interference with Earth's climate continues to accumulate

Friday, December 18, 2009

Conservative Misogynists Against Health Care Reform

Conservatives Misogynists Against Health Care Reform

On Feb. 23, Public Policy Polling released a survey showing that only 37 percent of women held a favorable opinion of hate radio host Rush Limbaugh, compared to 56 percent of men. Limbaugh was baffled by these results and decided to hold a “female summit” to find out why women hate him. Maybe, Limbaugh should just listen to his own show. Today, for example, Limbaugh griped that health insurance premiums will be going up if reform legislation is passed, in large part because private insurers will have to provide “women’s issues coverage”:

LIMBAUGH: About the premiums going up, and my brilliant dissertation on why prices will go up in the private sector, even if the public option is not there, and even if the Medicare buy-in is not there. It’s not just preconditions that are mandated to be covered in the health care bills in either the House or the Senate.

There was a recent amendment that was mandating private insurers to provide mammogram and other women’s issues coverage, including spousal abuse! Insurance for spousal abuse! And mammograms! Even though the mammogram age has been raised to the age of 50. You think of all the mandates that will be added onto private insurance, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Right now, many insurers treat domestic violence as a pre-existing condition and deny women health insurance coverage if they have been a victim. Women are also denied coverage — or face significantly higher premiums — if they are pregnant or have had a C-Section pregnancy in the past; the health care reform legislation would ban this discrimination. Additionally, an amendment by Sen. Barbara Milkulski’s (D-MD) amendment would make sure that insurers often women free mammograms and other preventive services

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tea Bagger Conservatives Act Like Stalin, Use Christmas for Propaganda

Conservatives Co-Opt Christmas: ‘Tis The Season To Kill Health Care Reform

Conservatives turned out on Capitol Hill today for a “Code Red Rally” to “kill” health care reform legislation, organized by groups such as the right-wing Americans for Prosperity (AFP). The Tax Day Tea Party website promoted the event by appealing to Americans to make a “sacrifice” right before Christmas and promised plans for a controversial “die-in“:

We call this plan “Government Waiting Rooms”. The intention is to go inside the Senate offices and hallways, and play out the role of patients waiting for treatment in government controlled medical facilities. As the day goes on some of us will pretend to die from our untreated illnesses and collapse on the floor. [...]
As usual conservatives make up their facts out of thin air. The government has been in the health-care business for years - Medicare, active duty military care and veterans medical care. People are not dying or are going to die from much needed health care reform. Americans - men, women and children are dying from lack of insurance - 45,000 Annual Deaths Linked To Lack Of Health Insurance. I'd say shame on conservatives, but they do not seem to have a sense of shame.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

They Worship Ignorance - The Shameless Conservatives

Asked How He Knows The Earth Is Cooling, Michael Steele Says ‘I Don’t!’
Earlier this year, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele ridiculed the notion that the Earth is warming, arguing instead that the world is actually “cooling,” citing the supposed examples of Iceland and Greenland:

STEELE: We are cooling. We are not warming. The warming you see out there, the supposed warming, and I am using my finger quotation marks here, is part of the cooling process. Greenland, which is now covered in ice, it was once called Greenland for a reason, right? Iceland, which is now green. Oh I love this. Like we know what this planet is all about. How long have we been here? How long? No very long.

“I’m embarrassed for the Republicans,” one Discover Magazine blogger wrote of Steele’s comments. Yesterday, a reporter from the local Fox Tampa affiliate asked Steele how he knows the Earth is cooling. “I don’t!” Steele exclaimed:

Q: Global warming, you say the earth is cooling. Michael how do you know for sure?

STEELE: I don’t! I don’t! But apparently neither does anybody else! Ok? I don’t. All i know is every morning I come on, I turn on channel 13 and I’ll see what the weather man tells me okay?

Steele, in the shadow of Rush Limbaugh of course, is the head of the RNC and does not know the difference between climate and weather.

The media is liberal? Quick Fact: The Hill advanced false claim that Jennings "gave sexual advice to minors"

The Hill advanced the false claim that Department of Education official Kevin Jennings "gave sexual advice to minors," referencing a December 9 Washington Times editorial about a controversial session at a 2000 event sponsored by the group Jennings founded, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). In fact, the workshop was conducted by Massachusetts Department of Education staffers -- not Jennings -- and Jennings reportedly criticized the discussion when he became aware of some of its content.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Are all Conservatives Serial Liars or Think Being a Liar is a Virtue

RedState's Erickson again advances smears of Department of Education official Kevin Jennings - Erickson once considered taking up arms because most manufacturers are taking the phosphates out of dish washer detergents. There are people in padded cells on heavy medication saner then Erickson.

The Consequences Of Global Warming — From A To Z . If conservatives want to deny the fact of global warming then it shouldn't be too difficult to pretend the consequences do not exist.

If We Wait for Our Time, We'll All Be Dead - Chuck Norris, who could not act still managed to live off Hollywood welfare. They probably felt sorry for Chuck, thinking he was mentally handicapped. Now he lives off conservative welfare pretending to be a writer and climate scientist. Someone needs to explain to Chuck, using very simple words and speaking slowly that trees are smarter then him and have more integrity.

Conservatism - The Party of Hypocritical Perverts

Former House Speaker Charged With Felony Assault After Sexual Encounter
The former speaker of the Missouri House has been charged with a felony after what looks like a bout of sado-masochistic sex that went way too far.

Details are still unconfirmed, we should note. But a woman appears to have suggested to police that Rod Jetton, a Republican who now works as a political consultant, may have slipped something into her drink, then beat her up during sex, after she failed to use the safe word they had agreed upon as a signal to calm things down.
Rep. Foley Quits In Page Scandal
Six-term Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) resigned yesterday amid reports that he had sent sexually explicit Internet messages to at least one underage male former page.
John "Maverick" McCain the Gigolo

Aug. 22, 2008 | What's most notable about John McCain's confusion over the number of homes he owns isn't merely that it demonstrates that, after running his campaign based on depicting Barack Obama as an out-of-touch elitist and himself as the all-American Everyman, McCain lives a life that is about as far removed from the Average American as one can get, and has done so for decades. What's notable is how McCain was able to live that way. McCain himself isn't actually rich. He just lives off the inherited wealth of his much younger former mistress and now-second-wife -- for whom he dumped his older and disfigured first wife -- and who then used her family's money to fund McCain's political career and keep him living in extreme luxury (after insisting that he sign a prenuptial agreement, which would make McCain the first U.S. President to have one).

In 2004, numerous leading right-wing pundits had many things to say about men who do that:

Joseph Farah, World Net Daily, "President Gigolo?":

But if there is one characteristic of Kerry's life that should disqualify him absolutely as a candidate for president, it is the fact that he has sought out millionaire wives to take care of him. Not to put too fine a point on it, he's a serial gigolo.

Let me ask you this: How many single women do you know worth a hundred million dollars or more? . . . After raising children with her, Kerry sought and received an annulment of that long-term marriage. Then he married Teresa Heinz Kerry, the widow of a Senate colleague five years his senior. She is worth approximately $500 million.

Is marrying well good preparation for serving as the president of the United States? . . . . He's always had a net underneath him throughout his political career -- in his case, a net woven of homespun 24K gold.

And, once again, as Boteach points out, his second wife, Teresa made him sign a prenuptial agreement when they were wed: "Which begs the question: If his own wife doesn't trust him with her money, why should we trust him with ours?"

Teresa Heinz Kerry is not sure about her husband's character. Are you?
Mark Sanford(R-SC)'s Mistress

María Belén Chapur has been identified as Mark Sanford's alleged mistress. Some outlets ID her as Maria Belen Shapur with an "S." Politico links to an Argentinian outlet that identifies the mother-of-two. ( Sanford used public funds for some of his the trysts with his mistress)

The Marriages of Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh married three times. All of the marriages of Rush Limbaugh ended in divorce.
Limbaugh is also a recovering drug addict. It is not known for certain whether that or his drinking and love of Cuban cigars contributed to any of his divorces.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Manufactured Global Warming Doubt Industry

The Manufactured Global Warming Doubt Industry by Jeff Masters

In 1954, the tobacco industry realized it had a serious problem. Thirteen scientific studies had been published over the preceding five years linking smoking to lung cancer. With the public growing increasingly alarmed about the health effects of smoking, the tobacco industry had to move quickly to protect profits and stem the tide of increasingly worrisome scientific news. Big Tobacco turned to one the world's five largest public relations firms, Hill and Knowlton, to help out. Hill and Knowlton designed a brilliant Public Relations (PR) campaign to convince the public that smoking is not dangerous. They encouraged the tobacco industry to set up their own research organization, the Council for Tobacco Research (CTR), which would produce science favorable to the industry, emphasize doubt in all the science linking smoking to lung cancer, and question all independent research unfavorable to the tobacco industry. The CTR did a masterful job at this for decades, significantly delaying and reducing regulation of tobacco products. George Washington University epidemiologist David Michaels, who is President Obama's nominee to head the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), wrote a meticulously researched 2008 book called, Doubt is Their Product: How Industry's Assault on Science Threatens Your Health. In the book, he wrote: "the industry understood that the public is in no position to distinguish good science from bad. Create doubt, uncertainty, and confusion. Throw mud at the anti-smoking research under the assumption that some of it is bound to stick. And buy time, lots of it, in the bargain". The title of Michaels' book comes from a 1969 memo from a tobacco company executive: "Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy". Hill and Knowlton, on behalf of the tobacco industry, had founded the "Manufactured Doubt" industry.

The Manufactured Doubt industry grows up

As the success of Hill and Knowlton's brilliant Manufactured Doubt campaign became apparent, other industries manufacturing dangerous products hired the firm to design similar PR campaigns. In 1967, Hill and Knowlton helped asbestos industry giant Johns-Manville set up the Asbestos Information Association (AIA). The official-sounding AIA produced "sound science" that questioned the link between asbestos and lung diseases (asbestos currently kills 90,000 people per year, according to the World Health Organization). Manufacturers of lead, vinyl chloride, beryllium, and dioxin products also hired Hill and Knowlton to devise product defense strategies to combat the numerous scientific studies showing that their products were harmful to human health.

By the 1980s, the Manufactured Doubt industry gradually began to be dominated by more specialized "product defense" firms and free enterprise "think tanks". Michaels wrote in Doubt is Their Product about the specialized "product defense" firms: "Having cut their teeth manufacturing uncertainty for Big Tobacco, scientists at ChemRisk, the Weinberg Group, Exponent, Inc., and other consulting firms now battle the regulatory agencies on behalf of the manufacturers of benzene, beryllium, chromium, MTBE, perchlorates, phthalates, and virtually every other toxic chemical in the news today....Public health interests are beside the point. This is science for hire, period, and it is extremely lucrative".

Joining the specialized "product defense" firms were the so-called "think tanks". These front groups received funding from manufacturers of dangerous products and produced "sound science" in support of their funders' products, in the name of free enterprise and free markets. Think tanks such as the George C. Marshall Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Heartland Institute, and Dr. Fred Singer's SEPP (Science and Environmental Policy Project) have all been active for decades in the Manufactured Doubt business, generating misleading science and false controversy to protect the profits of their clients who manufacture dangerous products.

.........The contrarians and the hacked CRU emails

A hacker broke into an email server at the Climate Research Unit of the UK's University of East Anglia last week and posted ten years worth of private email exchanges between leading scientists who've published research linking humans to climate change. Naturally, the contrarians have seized upon this golden opportunity, and are working hard to discredit several of these scientists. You'll hear claims by some contrarians that the emails discovered invalidate the whole theory of human-caused global warming. Well, all I can say is, consider the source. We can trust the contrarians to say whatever is in the best interests of the fossil fuel industry. What I see when I read the various stolen emails and explanations posted at Realclimate.org is scientists acting as scientists--pursuing the truth. I can see no clear evidence that calls into question the scientific validity of the research done by the scientists victimized by the stolen emails. There is no sign of a conspiracy to alter data to fit a pre-conceived ideological view. Rather, I see dedicated scientists attempting to make the truth known in face of what is probably the world's most pervasive and best-funded disinformation campaign against science in history. Even if every bit of mud slung at these scientists were true, the body of scientific work supporting the theory of human-caused climate change--which spans hundreds of thousands of scientific papers written by tens of thousands of scientists in dozens of different scientific disciplines--is too vast to be budged by the flaws in the works of the three or four scientists being subject to the fiercest attacks.

Exaggerated claims by environmentalists

Climate change contrarians regularly complain about false and misleading claims made by ideologically-driven environmental groups regarding climate change, and the heavy lobbying these groups do to influence public opinion. Such efforts confuse the real science and make climate change seem more dangerous than it really is, the contrarians argue. To some extent, these concerns are valid. In particular, environmentalists are too quick to blame any perceived increase in hurricane activity on climate change, when such a link has yet to be proven. While Al Gore's movie mostly had good science, I thought he botched the treatment of hurricanes as well, and the movie looked too much like a campaign ad. In general, environmental groups present better science than the think tanks do, but you're still better off getting your climate information directly from the scientists doing the research, via the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. Another good source is Bob Henson's Rough Guide to Climate Change, aimed at people with high-school level science backgrounds.

Let's look at the amount of money being spent on lobbying efforts by the fossil fuel industry compared to environmental groups to see their relative influence. According to Center for Public Integrity, there are currently 2,663 climate change lobbyists working on Capitol Hill. That's five lobbyists for every member of Congress. Climate lobbyists working for major industries outnumber those working for environmental, health, and alternative energy groups by more than seven to one. For the second quarter of 2009, here is a list compiled by the Center for Public Integrity of all the oil, gas, and coal mining groups that spent more than $100,000 on lobbying (this includes all lobbying, not just climate change lobbying):

Chevron $6,485,000
Exxon Mobil $4,657,000
BP America $4,270,000
ConocoPhillips $3,300,000
American Petroleum Institute $2,120,000
Marathon Oil Corporation $2,110,000
Peabody Investments Corp $1,110,000
Bituminous Coal Operators Association $980,000
Shell Oil Company $950,000
Arch Coal, Inc $940,000
Williams Companies $920,000
Flint Hills Resources $820,000
Occidental Petroleum Corporation $794,000
National Mining Association $770,000
American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity $714,000
Devon Energy $695,000 Sunoco $585,000
Independent Petroleum Association of America $434,000
Murphy Oil USA, Inc $430,000
Peabody Energy $420,000
Rio Tinto Services, Inc $394,000
America's Natural Gas Alliance $300,000
Interstate Natural Gas Association of America $290,000
El Paso Corporation $261,000 Spectra Energy $279,000
National Propane Gas Association $242,000
National Petrochemical & Refiners Association $240,000
Nexen, Inc $230,000
Denbury Resources $200,000
Nisource, Inc $180,000
Petroleum Marketers Association of America $170,000
Valero Energy Corporation $160,000
Bituminous Coal Operators Association $131,000
Natural Gas Supply Association $114,000
Tesoro Companies $119,000

Get on board the conservative hypocrisy train

Gretchen Carlson’s Hypocrisy Or Personality Disorder?
Gretchen Carlson is a committed Christian who, like Bill O’Reilly is full of moral indignation about the irreligiousity and sexual degeneracy of American culture. That being said, I wonder why she allows herself to be a part of Bill O’Reilly’s weekly “peep show,” otherwise known as “Culture Warriors, which features bodacious “booty” in an effort to analyze the deteriorating mores of an America under siege by evil libruls and atheists.
Isn't that a personality disorder when you're obsessed with peaking into other people's personal lives.

Hatch: If GOP Controlled Government, We Would ‘Get This Country Under Control’
Last night, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) delivered an hour-long speech on the Senate floor condemning the Democratic health care reform bill and accusing Democrats of displaying “the arrogance of power” in trying to pass health reform before the holiday recess. Hatch predicted that if Republicans had 60 votes and control of all three branches of government, they would “get this country under control”
Hatch is either ready for the funny farm or thinks every American is an idiot. Conservative controlled all three branches of government. A time during which they spent like "drunken sailors", lied us into a war, turned the Department of Justice into a branch of the Republican party, let Wall St run wild and designated flipping burgers at McDonalds as factory jobs to make their yearly lose of American manufacturing jobs not look so dismal.

The Unhinged and Dishonest Attacks on Kevin Jennings

Define conservative: Someone that preys on and inflames paranoia. Anti-gay right advances new smear that DOE official Jennings promoting "Child Porn in the Classroom"

Conservative blogs have claimed that Department of Education official Kevin Jennings is unfit as "Safe Schools Czar" because he supposedly promoted "child porn" by allowing an education organization he founded to recommend for students in grades 7-12 books that included sexually explicit content. The organization, however, specifically stated on its book list website that "some titles for adolescent readers contain mature themes" and recommended that "adults selecting books for youth review content for suitability"; further, schools regularly teach books that contain sexually explicit material.
Foaming at the mouth conservative ideologue Michelle Malkin in particular has a history of lies, distortions and exagerations that betrays an ideological agenda akin to some of history's worse propagandists.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fox Owner Rupert Murdoch Teams up with Saudi prince

News Corp. partners with Saudi prince who Fox News lambasted
In 2001, several Fox News personalities criticized Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal -- who reportedly suggested that the United States' Middle East policy contributed to causing the 9-11 attacks -- and praised then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani for not accepting a $10 million disaster-relief donation from Al-Waleed. However, Rupert Murdoch has recently finalized a deal giving News Corp., which includes Fox News, a 10 percent stake in Al-Waleed's media conglomerate, Rotana, according to reports.
For conservatives morality is not only relative, its disposable. Especially if they can make a few bucks off of whatever hypocrisy or scheme they've embroiled themselves.

Thank Conservatives for Their Legacy of Hunger

More U.S. households are going without food.

The survey found that 14.6 percent of American households—49 million people—were food-insecure at some point during 2008, the highest number since the survey was first conducted in 1995. In what I find to be an even more staggering view of food insecurity in the United States, a study published in early November showed that 49 percent of all Americans receive some form of food aid by the time they turn 20. And according to the latest participation-rate data, only about 67 percent of eligible Americans actually take part in the food-stamp program.

With these high numbers, you won't be surprised that there is an increasing number of people seeking supplemental food from food banks and soup kitchens. Unfortunately, the rise in clientele coincides with a drop in corporate donations as struggling companies keep a closer eye on their inventory. Vicki Escarra of Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief charity and network of food banks in the United States, said that while demand is up 25 percent to 40 percent, donations have risen only 18 percent. So the first thing you can do to help is to donate food, time, or money to your local food bank. Feeding America's food-bank locator can help you find your local provider. Multiply your efforts by organizing a holiday-themed food drive or replacing some of your family gift-giving with monetary donations to a local food bank.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

New Deal May Make Media Even More Conservative

Mega-Media Era Begins: GE-Vivendi Deal Clears Way for Comcast-NBC Merger
On Monday night, French media giant Vivendi and NBC parent company General Electric agreed to terms [1] that clear the way for US cable giant Comcast to take a controlling stake in NBC Universal. An announcement from Comcast is expected within days. The proposed merger would create a media behemoth, and clear the way for an unprecedented era of media consolidation across cable, the Internet and broadcast television.

Be afraid. Comcast is both the largest cable company and the largest residential broadband provider in the United States: a $34-billion business with 24 million subscribers, reaching nearly one out of every four homes in the country. NBCU owns [2]NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, Universal Studios, 27 television stations, and a host of other properties.

President Obama has promised that his administration would finally begin enforcing antitrust laws to prevent unreasonable consolidation of market power. If ever a media deal posed such a threat, this is it. The merged Comcast would be to media what Goldman Sachs is to Wall Street: "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money," as Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi once described the latter [3].

2009-11-19-mergerfacts_2.jpg [4]

It should come as no surprise that Wall Street and Washington are saying this is already a done deal: The media and telecommunications industry is second only to drug companies in how much it spends lobbying Washington. Its army of PR firms, lobbyists and sock-puppet think tanks is already blitzing the press corps and Capitol Hill. It's readying Comcast CEO Brian Roberts for his close-up as a new media mogul [5] and neglecting to mention the impact of this deal on everyday people.

Comcast has raised cable rates for years while raking in record profits nearly every quarter [6]. It is anti-union [7]. It cares nothing for independent, alternative programming. And if you're a startup television channel, you can forget about getting a spot in Comcast's lineup. Comcast will charge you far more for space on its lineup than you could possibly pay. Just ask Al Gore about his failed effort to get his Current TV a reasonable position in the cable lineup.

Let's not forget that Comcast is the company that was caught illegally blocking [8] peer-to-peer Internet downloads and then lying about it - earning a smack-down from the FCC for breaking Net Neutrality rules. And the company is known for blocking TV ads [9] it didn't like. The company's track record of protecting the public's interest isn't exactly stellar.

And now, Comcast is set to control media across all distribution platforms. The company is threatened by the increasing amount of free content on the Net, and a public who is both watching entertainment on the Internet, and creating their own [10]. NBC owns a major stake in Hulu, and Comcast likely wants to put the video service and all NBC content behind a paywall. Comcast and other cable companies are already putting the final touches on "TV Everywhere," a paywall that requires a traditional cable subscription to watch online content owned by these companies. Comcast's very survival depends on remaining the gatekeeper between you and the programs you want to watch, and it wants as little competition as possible.

Worse still, if the Comcast-NBC merger is allowed to go through, it will be the start of a catastrophic storm: a tidal wave of mega-deals by other content giants like News Corp. and Disney merging with distribution behemoths like Time Warner Cable and AT&T. In a nation where 98 percent of Internet users have only one or two choices of Internet service providers, we could witness a future in which a handful of phone and cable companies, merged with a handful of content companies, will put all premium content behind a paywall and make all other content hard or impossible to find.
The last time broadcast news really did news, most men wore hats and smoked a pack a day. We now have watered down infotainment that leans conservative, you know because the truth might scare away viewers. Thus they'll lose advertising revenue. The concept of the media as the people's watchful eye is just a dream.

Is Fox's Steve Doocy a Jambering Twit

Fox & Friends runs with claim that Obama never said the word "win" during West Point speech
Echoing the latest talking point from conservative media, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy claimed that President Obama never said the word "win" during his December 1 West Point speech on the war in Afghanistan, and on-screen text stated, "Pres never spoke of winning the war." In fact, Obama repeatedly referred to a "successful" end to the war.

[ ]...But Obama repeatedly discussed a "successful" end to the war

Obama: 'I want to speak to you tonight about ... the strategy that my administration will pursue to bring this war to a successful conclusion." From the first sentences of Obama's December 1 speech [emphasis added]:

OBAMA: Good evening. To the United States Corps of Cadets, to the men and women of our Armed Services, and to my fellow Americans: I want to speak to you tonight about our effort in Afghanistan -- the nature of our commitment there, the scope of our interests, and the strategy that my administration will pursue to bring this war to a successful conclusion.
Doocy, like most conservatives does not understand what successful means. George Bush and Dick Cheney for instance really do think they had a successful legacy. That legacy would be the garbage they left for working class Americans to clean up. Reality continues to be a tough concept for conservatives to grasp.

Monday, November 30, 2009

CBS is Liberal. You Must be Kidding.

CBS' Cordes falsely suggests health care bills will not reduce deficits after 10 years
CBS correspondent Nancy Cordes forwarded the Republican suggestion that the House and Senate health care reform bills are a "trillion-dollar scam" because the bills "impos[e] new taxes years before the tax credits would kick in to help Americans buy insurance," and thus would only reduce the deficit in the first decade after enactment. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that both bills would also reduce the deficit beyond the first 10 years.
Good for Nancy I hope she enjoys all the gifts she'll be getting from right-wing conservatives.

The Moral Relativity of Conservatives

Radical Christianist Rick Warren thinks that zygotes are full fledged human beings. He does not think gay people are, Rick Warren Refuses To Condemn Proposed Ugandan Law To Execute Gays
Newsweek tried to get Warren's reaction to the anti-gay work of Martin Ssempa, a Ugandan pastor who has come to his Saddleback Church multiple times. (Warren has distanced himself from Ssempa in general terms, saying the Ugandan minister does not represent him or his church.) Warren wouldn't reject the idea:

But Warren won't go so far as to condemn the legislation itself. A request for a broader reaction to the proposed Ugandan anti-homosexual laws generated this response: "The fundamental dignity of every person, our right to be free, and the freedom to make moral choices are gifts endowed by God, our creator. However, it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations." On Meet the Press this morning, he reiterated this neutral stance in a different context: "As a pastor, my job is to encourage, to support. I never take sides." Warren did say he believed that abortion was "a holocaust." He knows as well as anyone that in a case of great wrong, taking sides is an important thing to do.

Ssempa has also burned condoms "in the name of Jesus," helping roll back a highly successful anti-AIDS campaign in Uganda.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Too Bad Hacked e-mails Have Not Stopped Global Warming

Too Bad Hacked e-mails Have Not Stopped Global Warming
A group of climate scientists released "The Copenhagen Diagnosis" on Tuesday, saying that global ice-sheets are melting at an increased rate, Arctic sea ice is disappearing much faster than recently projected, and future sea-level rise is now expected to be much higher than forecast.

Meantime, controversy continues over thousands of e-mails hacked from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia. Climate change skeptics say excerpts from the e-mails show climate scientists are trying to dupe the public.

The diagnosis, a year in the making, comes two weeks before United Nations-led climate change talks begin in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The report concludes that global emissions must peak then decline rapidly within the next five to 10 years for the world to have a reasonable chance of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.
Not all of the media, just most decided that President Obama's recent Asia tour was a failure. Manufactured failure: press coverage of Obama in Asia. One of the momentous things Obama was able to accomplish that Bush ( in two terms) could not was to get China to support an IAEA censure of Iran.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

One Old Habit That is Hurting America

Is Belief in God Hurting America?

From Dostoyevsky to right-wing commentator Ann Coulter we are warned of the perils of godlessness. "If there is no God," Dostoyevsky wrote, "everything is permitted." Coulter routinely attributes our nation's most intractable troubles to the moral vacuum of atheism.

But a growing body of research in what one sociologist describes as the "emerging field of secularity" is challenging long-held assumptions about the relationship of religion and effective governance.

In a paper posted recently on the online journal Evolutionary Psychology, independent researcher Gregory S. Paul reports a strong correlation within First World democracies between socioeconomic well-being and secularity. In short, prosperity is highest in societies where religion is practiced least.

Using existing data, Paul combined 25 indicators of societal and economic stability — things like crime, suicide, drug use, incarceration, unemployment, income, abortion and public corruption — to score each country using what he calls the "successful societies scale." He also scored countries on their degree of religiosity, as determined by such measures as church attendance, belief in a creator deity and acceptance of Bible literalism.

Comparing the two scores, he found, with little exception, that the least religious countries enjoyed the most prosperity. Of particular note, the U.S. holds the distinction of most religious and least prosperous among the 17 countries included in the study, ranking last in 14 of the 25 socioeconomic measures.

Paul is quick to point out that his study reveals correlation, not causation. Which came first — prosperity or secularity — is unclear, but Paul ventures a guess. While it's possible that good governance and socioeconomic health are byproducts of a secular society, more likely, he speculates, people are inclined to drop their attachment to religion once they feel distanced from the insecurities and burdens of life.

"Popular religion," Paul proposes, "is a coping mechanism for the anxieties of a dysfunctional social and economic environment." Paul, who was criticized, mostly on statistical grounds, for a similar study published in 2005, says his new findings lend support to the belief that mass acceptance of popular religion is determined more by environmental influences and less by selective, evolutionary forces, as scholars and philosophers have long debated.

In other words, we're not hardwired for religion.

Paul also believes his study helps refute the controversial notion that the moral foundation of religious doctrine is a requisite for any high-functioning society - what he dubs the "moral-creator hypothesis."

Phil Zuckerman, a sociologist at Pitzer College whose research looks at the link between religion and societal health within the developed world, agrees with that assertion. "The important thing we're seeing here is that progressive, highly functional societies can answer their problems within a framework of secularity. That's a big deal, and we should be blasting that message out loud," he contends.

Zuckerman says the findings are consistent with his own data, collected for his 2008 book Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment — a portrait of secular society in Denmark and Sweden — and his forthcoming Faith No More: How and Why People Reject Religion.

Scandinavian countries, in particular, have achieved high levels of economic strength and social stability, and yet the influence of religion there is in steep decline, perhaps the lowest in recoded history. Coincidence or not, those countries also rank among the world's happiest populations. In The Netherlands' Erasmus University Rotterdam's annual World Database of Happiness the same Northern European countries that score low in religiosity rank high in reported levels of happiness. (The U.S ranked 27th).

What's their secret? Zuckerman believe it lies in the historically strong sense of community — perhaps a survival response to long, harsh winters - that transcends religious life in these northern climates. Social well-being, economic strength (and happiness) are products of community interaction, not faith, Zuckerman conjectures.

If that's true — and other researchers, such as influential Yale psychologist Paul Bloom, are touting the idea that mass religion's greatest value lies in the web of personal interaction it weaves — then societies that reject religion may suffer if strong secular institutions are not in place to maintain community bonds and foster positive civic associations. Social interactions both inside and outside church structure, Bloom recently wrote, is far more beneficial than "a belief in constant surveillance by a higher power."

Indeed, researchers in a variety of other studies are targeting the positive effects of church-based social interaction. One study published earlier this year in the Journal of Happiness Studies concluded that the quality and depth of personal relationships has a far greater effect on children's happiness than does religious practice itself — church attendance, prayer, meditation. In many American communities, organized religion is the principal conduit to those kinds of close relationships, as well as to civic action and problem-solving.

Zuckerman warns against hasty emulation of the Danes and Swedes. "We can't just say that secularity is good for society and religion is bad," he warns. "And nor can we say the opposite. The connections are very complex."

Paul is less compromising, characterizing organized religion, particularly the conservative Christian brand widely practiced in the U.S., as societal anathema, conspiring against real progress.

In his paper, Paul writes of an "antagonistic relationship between better socioeconomic conditions and intense popular faith" derived from fear that greater prosperity will loosen the grip of religion. That antagonism, though subtle, is evident in the debate over health care, he argues, noting the intense opposition of such groups as the Christian Coalition to universal coverage and other progressive, European-style fixes.

"These groups have a lot to lose in these kinds of debates. When you adopt progressive policy reforms," Paul says, "in the long run, religion is bound to be road kill."

Paul, 54, lives in Baltimore and is not affiliated with any university or think tank. He is largely self-taught. He has published three respected books on paleontology, claiming naming rights to a handful of species, and he earns a living as an artist and illustrator of prehistoric creatures. He migrated to the field of secular studies to wage a kind of scholarly assault on the right-wing fundamentalists who challenge both the evolutionary assumptions of paleontology and, it follows, his livelihood.

He isn't shy about promoting progressive policy reforms and is quick to blame the Christian right for a range of societal dysfunctions. (A recent study published in the journal Reproductive Health found that states whose residents have more conservative religious beliefs have higher rates of teenagers giving birth).

Yet in spite of his findings, and his secularist agenda, Paul stops short of proposing measures to suppress the role and influence of religion in America. Why? It's already happening, he insists. Although we remain largely a nation of believers, our faith and commitment are slipping. Religious affiliation, church attendance and belief in God are all in slow decline in the U.S. A recent Gallup poll found that two-thirds of adults believe the influence of religion in American life is waning, up from 50 percent just four years ago.

As these trends continue, he believes, policymaking will more effectively address the true needs of society, rather than the dogma of religious idealism. "People need to know that society without religion is not a bad thing," Paul says. "And we're seeing this in other countries. We don't need religion to have a thriving, prosperous nation."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gross Immoral Lies are the Only Contribution Conservatives Make to Health Care Debate

Former Insurance Company Executive: Health Insurers Stand Between Patients And Their Doctors
One of the most common right-wing memes used by opponents of health care reform is that progressive solutions to America’s health care problems place “Washington bureaucrats firmly between you and your doctor.” Again and again, conservatives have deployed this meme to demagogue the health care debate.

However, the reality is there already is someone standing between you and your doctor: health insurance companies. Single mother Ellen Hayden knows this from experience. After losing her mother at the age of 7 from breast cancer, Hayden has done everything she can to get regular mammograms. Following an abnormal mammogram, her doctor recommended that she have an MRI. After the scan, her insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, refused to pay for the procedure and is also refusing to pay for a follow-up second MRI her doctor has suggested.

Ned Helms, a former health insurance industry executive who now works at the University of New Hampshire, told Sea Coast Online that this is Hayden’s case is an example of “insurance people” getting between patients and their doctors:

“It’s understandable that this is an emotional issue because most patients believe that ‘nothing is going to stand between me and what I want to get done,’” said Ned Helms, a former health insurance industry executive and director of the N.H. Institute of Health Policy and Practice at the University of New Hampshire. [...]

“We have this notion in our political debate and popular culture that we can’t have reform because that means that government bureaucrats will make decisions but we already have insurance people playing that role,” said Helms

Helms went on to say that one of the major obstacles to attaining proper reform is the way insurance companies often “write their own rules for the road.”

Conservatives Lack the Moral Backbone to Lead

There generally is no sense to the conservative concept of morality. They're much like monkeys that read and memorize a distorted mirror image of morals and then repeat these distortions to the point of nausea, 30 GOP Senators Vote to Defend Gang Rape

It is stunning that 30 Republican members of the United States Senate would vote to protect a corporation, in this case Halliburton/KBR, over a woman who was gang raped. The details from Think Progress:

In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by her co-workers while she was working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. She was detained in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and "warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job." (Jones was not an isolated case.) Jones was prevented from bringing charges in court against KBR because her employment contract stipulated that sexual assault allegations would only be heard in private arbitration.

Offering Ms. Jones legal relief was Senator Al Franken of Minnesota who offered an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that would withhold defense contracts from companies like KBR "if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court."

Seems simple enough. And yet, to GOP Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions of Alabama allowing victims of sexual assault a day in court is tantamount to a "political attack" at Halliburton. That 29 others, all men, chose to join him in opposing the Franken amendment is simply mind-boggling.

Here are those who vote to protect a corporation over a victim of rape:

Alexander (R-TN)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Gregg (R-NH)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Kyl (R-AZ)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

In the debate, Senator Sessions maintained that Franken's amendment overreached into the private sector and suggested that it violated the due process clause of the Constitution.

To which, Senator Franken fired back quoting the Constitution. "Article 1 Section 8 of our Constitution gives Congress the right to spend money for the welfare of our citizens. Because of this, Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote, 'Congress may attach conditions on the receipt of federal funds and has repeatedly employed that power to further broad policy objectives,'" Franken said. "That is why Congress could pass laws cutting off highway funds to states that didn't raise their drinking age to 21. That's why this whole bill [the Defense Appropriations bill] is full of limitations on contractors -- what bonuses they can give and what kind of health care they can offer. The spending power is a broad power and my amendment is well within it."

God I love it when Senator Franken quotes the Constitution. Not every Republican was so clueless. Ten voted for the Franken amendment including the GOP's female contingent of Senators (Snowe, Collins, Hutchinson and Murkowski).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Is America Falling Apart at the Foundations

Is America Falling Apart at the Foundations

The following is an edited excerpt from the Amped Status report, "The Critical Unraveling of U.S. Society."

The economic elite have launched an attack on the U.S. public and society is unraveling at an increased rate. You may have missed it in the mainstream news media, but statistical societal indicators are reading red across the board. Let’s look at the top 15 statistics that prove we are under attack.

1) The inequality of wealth in the United States is soaring to an unprecedented level. The U.S. already had the highest inequality of wealth in the industrialized world prior to the financial crisis. Since the crisis, which has hit the middle class and poor much harder than the top 1 percent, the gap between the top 1 percent and the remaining 99 percent of the U.S. population has grown to a record high.

2) As the stock market went over the 10,000 mark and just surged to a 13-month high, the three big banks that took taxpayer money and benefited the most from the government bailout have just set a new global economic record by issuing $30 billion in annual bonuses this year, “up 60 percent from last year.” Bloomberg reported: “Goldman Sachs, the most profitable securities firm in Wall Street history, had a record profit in the first nine months of this year and set aside $16.7 billion for compensation expenses.” Goldman Sachs is on pace for the best year in the firm’s history, and it is also benefiting by only paying 1 percent in taxes.

3) The profits of the economic elite are “now underwritten by taxpayers with $23.7 trillion worth of national wealth."

As the looting is occurring at the top, the U.S. middle class is just beginning to collapse.

4) Workers between the ages of 55 to 60, who have worked for 20 to 29 years, have lost an average of 25 percent off their 401k. During the same time period, the wealth of the 400 richest Americans went up by $30 billion, bringing their total combined wealth to $1.57 trillion.

5) Home foreclosure filings "hit a record high in the third quarter (of 2009)… They were the worst three months of all time… 937,840 homes received a foreclosure letter" in this three-month period; “3.4 million homes are expected to enter foreclosure by year’s end, with some experts estimating that next year will be even worse.”

........................................How to we get to this point, Who's to Blame for the Deficit Numbers?

The revised deficit numbers reported by the Congressional Budget Office and the Office of Management and Budget today show a lower deficit than previously estimated for 2009, with higher deficits for 2010 and beyond. Political opportunists will be busy looking for chances to score points over these numbers—pinning the dismal fiscal picture on the Obama administration.

The real story is, however, fairly obvious. The policies of the Bush administration, which included tax cuts during a time of war and a floundering economy, are clearly the primary source of the current deficits. The Obama administration policies that are beginning to give the economy a needed jumpstart—the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in particular—place a distant third in contributing to the 2009 and 2010 deficit numbers. The deficit picture for the years beyond still needs to be painted.

To come to these conclusions, we calculated the relative importance of the several factors contributing to the 2009 and 2010 deficits by looking at the impact in those years of various policies. A detailed description of our approach is at the end of this column. Below is the percentage share of the major contributing factors to the total deterioration from the surpluses projected in 2000 to the current deficits according to our analysis. The policies of President George W. Bush make up the largest share, followed by the current economic downturn, and then President Barack Obama’s policies. ( Chart at the link)

Conservatism is a pox on democracy

What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It? by Philip E. Agre

Liberals in the United States have been losing political debates to conservatives for a quarter century. In order to start winning again, liberals must answer two simple questions: what is conservatism, and what is wrong with it? As it happens, the answers to these questions are also simple:

Q: What is conservatism?
A: Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy.

Q: What is wrong with conservatism?
A: Conservatism is incompatible with democracy, prosperity, and civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the modern world.

These ideas are not new. Indeed they were common sense until recently. Nowadays, though, most of the people who call themselves "conservatives" have little notion of what conservatism even is. They have been deceived by one of the great public relations campaigns of human history. Only by analyzing this deception will it become possible to revive democracy in the United States.

//1 The Main Arguments of Conservatism

From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the self-regarding thugs of ancient Rome to the glorified warlords of medieval and absolutist Europe, in nearly every urbanized society throughout human history, there have been people who have tried to constitute themselves as an aristocracy. These people and their allies are the conservatives.

The tactics of conservatism vary widely by place and time. But the most central feature of conservatism is deference: a psychologically internalized attitude on the part of the common people that the aristocracy are better people than they are. Modern-day liberals often theorize that conservatives use "social issues" as a way to mask economic objectives, but this is almost backward: the true goal of conservatism is to establish an aristocracy, which is a social and psychological condition of inequality. Economic inequality and regressive taxation, while certainly welcomed by the aristocracy, are best understood as a means to their actual goal, which is simply to be aristocrats. More generally, it is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them. Of course this notion sounds bizarre to modern ears, but it is perfectly overt in the writings of leading conservative theorists such as Burke. Democracy, for them, is not about the mechanisms of voting and office-holding. In fact conservatives hold a wide variety of opinions about such secondary formal matters. For conservatives, rather, democracy is a psychological condition. People who believe that the aristocracy rightfully dominates society because of its intrinsic superiority are conservatives; democrats, by contrast, believe that they are of equal social worth. Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy. This has been true for thousands of years.

The defenders of aristocracy represent aristocracy as a natural phenomenon, but in reality it is the most artificial thing on earth. Although one of the goals of every aristocracy is to make its preferred social order seem permanent and timeless, in reality conservatism must be reinvented in every generation. This is true for many reasons, including internal conflicts among the aristocrats; institutional shifts due to climate, markets, or warfare; and ideological gains and losses in the perpetual struggle against democracy. In some societies the aristocracy is rigid, closed, and stratified, while in others it is more of an aspiration among various fluid and factionalized groups. The situation in the United States right now is toward the latter end of the spectrum. A main goal in life of all aristocrats, however, is to pass on their positions of privilege to their children, and many of the aspiring aristocrats of the United States are appointing their children to positions in government and in the archipelago of think tanks that promote conservative theories.

Conservatism in every place and time is founded on deception. The deceptions of conservatism today are especially sophisticated, simply because culture today is sufficiently democratic that the myths of earlier times will no longer suffice.

Before analyzing current-day conservatism's machinery of deception, let us outline the main arguments of conservatism. Although these arguments have changed little through history, they might seem unfamiliar to many people today, indeed even to people who claim to be conservatives. That unfamiliarity is a very recent phenomenon. Yet it is only through the classical arguments and their fallacies that we can begin to analyze how conservatism operates now.

1. Institutions

According to the first type of argument, found for example in Burke, social institutions are a kind of capital. A properly ordered society will be blessed with large quantities of this capital. This capital has very particular properties. It is a sprawling tangle of social arrangements and patterns of thought, passed down through generations as part of the culture. It is generally tacit in nature and cannot be rationally analyzed. It is fragile and must be conserved, because a society that lacks it will collapse into anarchy and tyranny. Innovation is bad, therefore, and prejudice is good. Although the institutions can tolerate incremental reforms around the edges, systematic questioning is a threat to social order. In particular, rational thought is evil. Nothing can be worse for the conservative than rational thought, because people who think rationally might decide to try replacing inherited institutions with new ones, something that a conservative regards as impossible. This is where the word "conservative" comes from: the supposed importance of conserving established institutions.

This argument is not wholly false. Institutions are in fact sprawling tangles of social arrangements and patterns of thought, passed down through generations as part of the culture. And people who think they can reengineer the whole of human society overnight are generally mistaken. The people of ancien regime France were oppressed by the conservative order of their time, but indeed their revolution did not work, and would probably not have worked even if conservatives from elsewhere were not militarily attacking them. After all, the conservative order had gone to insane lengths to deprive them of the education, practical experience, and patterns of thought that would be required to operate a democracy. They could not invent those things overnight.

Even so, the argument about conserving institutions is mostly untrue. Most institutions are less fragile and more dynamic than conservatives claim. Large amounts of institutional innovation happen in every generation. If people lack a rational analysis of institutions, that is mostly a product of conservatism rather than an argument for it. And although conservatism has historically claimed to conserve institutions, history makes clear that conservatism is only interested in conserving particular kinds of institutions: the institutions that reinforce conservative power. Conservatism rarely tries to conserve institutions such as Social Security and welfare that decrease the common people's dependency on the aristocracy and the social authorities that serve it. To the contrary, they represent those institutions in various twisted ways as dangerous to to the social order generally or to their beneficiaries in particular.

2. Hierarchy

The opposite of conservatism is democracy, and contempt for democracy is a constant thread in the history of conservative argument. Instead, conservatism has argued that society ought to be organized in a hierarchy of orders and classes and controlled by its uppermost hierarchical stratum, the aristocracy. Many of these arguments against egalitarianism are ancient, and most of them are routinely heard on the radio. One tends to hear the arguments in bits and pieces, for example the emphatic if vague claim that people are different. Of course, most of these arguments, if considered rationally, actually argue for meritocracy rather than for aristocracy. Meritocracy is a democratic principle. George Bush, however, was apparently scarred for life by having been one of the last students admitted to Yale under its old aristocratic admissions system, and having to attend classes with students admitted under the meritocratic system who considered themselves to be smarter than him. Although he has lately claimed to oppose the system of legacy admissions from which he benefitted, that is a tactic, part of a package deal to eliminate affirmative action, thereby allowing conservative social hierarchies to be reaffirmed in other ways.

American culture still being comparatively healthy, overt arguments for aristocracy (for example, that the children of aristocrats learn by osmosis the profound arts of government and thereby acquire a wisdom that mere experts cannot match) are still relatively unusual. Instead, conservatism must proceed through complicated indirection, and the next few sections of this article will explain in some detail how this works. The issue is not that rich people are bad, or that hierarchical types of organization have no place in a democracy. Nor are the descendents of aristocrats necessarily bad people if they do not try to perpetuate conservative types of domination over society. The issue is both narrow and enormous: no aristocracy should be allowed to trick the rest of society into deferring to it.

3. Freedom

But isn't conservatism about freedom? Of course everyone wants freedom, and so conservatism has no choice but to promise freedom to its subjects. In reality conservatism has meant complicated things by "freedom", and the reality of conservatism in practice has scarcely corresponded even to the contorted definitions in conservative texts.

To start with, conservatism constantly shifts in its degree of authoritarianism. Conservative rhetors, in the Wall Street Journal for example, have no difficulty claiming to be the party of freedom in one breath and attacking civil liberties in the next.

The real situation with conservatism and freedom is best understood in historical context. Conservatism constantly changes, always adapting itself to provide the minimum amount of freedom that is required to hold together a dominant coalition in the society. In Burke's day, for example, this meant an alliance between traditional social authorities and the rising business class. Although the business class has always defined its agenda in terms of something it calls "freedom", in reality conservatism from the 18th century onward has simply implied a shift from one kind of government intervention in the economy to another, quite different kind, together with a continuation of medieval models of cultural domination.

This is a central conservative argument: freedom is impossible unless the common people internalize aristocratic domination. Indeed, many conservative theorists to the present day have argued that freedom is not possible at all. Without the internalized domination of conservatism, it is argued, social order would require the external domination of state terror. In a sense this argument is correct: historically conservatives have routinely resorted to terror when internalized domination has not worked. What is unthinkable by design here is the possibility that people might organize their lives in a democratic fashion.

This alliance between traditional social authorities and the business class is artificial. The market continually undermines the institutions of cultural domination. It does this partly through its constant revolutionizing of institutions generally and partly by encouraging a culture of entrepreneurial initiative. As a result, the alliance must be continually reinvented, all the while pretending that its reinventions simply reinstate an eternal order.

Conservatism promotes (and so does liberalism, misguidedly) the idea that liberalism is about activist government where conservatism is not. This is absurd. It is unrelated to the history of conservative government. Conservatism promotes activist government that acts in the interests of the aristocracy. This has been true for thousands of years. What is distinctive about liberalism is not that it promotes activist government but that it promotes government that acts in the interests of the majority. Democratic government, however, is not simply majoritarian. It is, rather, one institutional expression of a democratic type of culture that is still very much in the process of being invented.

//2 How Conservatism Works

Conservative social orders have often described themselves as civilized, and so one reads in the Wall Street Journal that "the enemies of civilization hate bow ties". But what conservatism calls civilization is little but the domination of an aristocracy. Every aspect of social life is subordinated to this goal. That is not civilization.

The reality is quite the opposite. To impose its order on society, conservatism must destroy civilization. In particular conservatism must destroy conscience, democracy, reason, and language.

* The Destruction of Conscience

Liberalism is a movement of conscience. Liberals speak endlessly of conscience. Yet conservative rhetors have taken to acting as if they owned the language of conscience. They even routinely assert that liberals disparage conscience. The magnitude of the falsehood here is so great that decent people have been set back on their heels.

Conservatism continually twists the language of conscience into its opposite. It has no choice: conservatism is unjust, and cannot survive except by pretending to be the opposite of what it is.

Conservative arguments are often arbitrary in nature. Consider, for example, the controversy over Elian Gonzalez. Conservatism claims that the universe is ordered by absolutes. This would certainly make life easier if it was true. The difficulty is that the absolutes constantly conflict with one another. When the absolutes do not conflict, there is rarely any controversy. But when absolutes do conflict, conservatism is forced into sophistry. In the case of Elian Gonzalez, two absolutes conflicted: keeping families together and not making people return to tyrannies. In a democratic society, the decision would be made through rational debate. Conservatism, however, required picking one of the two absolutes arbitrarily (based perhaps on tactical politics in Florida) and simply accusing anyone who disagreed of flouting absolutes and thereby nihilistically denying the fundamental order of the universe. This happens every day. Arbitrariness replaces reason with authority. When arbitrariness becomes established in the culture, democracy decays and it becomes possible for aristocracies to dominate people's minds.

Another example of conservative twisting of the language of conscience is the argument, in the context of the attacks of 9/11 and the war in Iraq, that holding our side to things like the Geneva Convention implies an equivalence between ourselves and our enemies. This is a logical fallacy. The fallacy is something like: they kill so they are bad, but we are good so it is okay for us to kill. The argument that everything we do is okay so long as it is not as bad as the most extreme evil in the world is a rejection of nearly all of civilization. It is precisely the destruction of conscience.

Or take the notion of "political correctness". It is true that movements of conscience have piled demands onto people faster than the culture can absorb them. That is an unfortunate side-effect of social progress. Conservatism, however, twists language to make the inconvenience of conscience sound like a kind of oppression. The campaign against political correctness is thus a search-and-destroy campaign against all vestiges of conscience in society. The flamboyant nastiness of rhetors such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter represents the destruction of conscience as a type of liberation. They are like cultists, continually egging on their audiences to destroy their own minds by punching through one layer after another of their consciences.

Once I wrote on the Internet that bears in zoos are miserable and should be let go. In response to this, I received an e-mail viciously mocking me as an animal rights wacko. This is an example of the destruction of conscience. Any human being with a halfways functioning conscience will be capable of rationally debating the notion that unhappy bears in zoos should be let go. Of course, rational people might have other opinions. They might claim that the bears are not actually miserable, or that they would be just as miserable in the forest. Conservatism, though, has stereotyped concern for animals by associating it with its most extreme fringe. This sort of mockery of conscience has become systematic and commonplace.

* The Destruction of Democracy

For thousands of years, conservatism was universally understood as being in opposition to democracy. Having lost much of its ability to attack democracy openly, conservatism has tried in recent years to redefine the word "democracy" while engaging in deception to make the substance of democracy unthinkable.

Conservative rhetors, for example, have been using the word "government" in a way that does not distinguish between legitimate democracy and totalitarianism.

Then there is the notion that politicians who offer health care reforms, for example, are claiming to be better people than the rest of us. This is a particularly toxic distortion. Offering reforms is a basic part of democracy, something that every citizen can do.

Even more toxic is the notion that those who criticize the president are claiming to be better people than he is. This is authoritarianism.

Some conservative rhetors have taken to literally demonizing the very notion of a democratic opposition. Rush Limbaugh has argued at length that Tom Daschle resembles Satan simply because he opposes George Bush's policies. Ever since then, Limbaugh has regularly identified Daschle as "el diablo". This is the emotional heart of conservatism: the notion that the conservative order is ordained by God and that anyone and anything that opposes the conservative order is infinitely evil.

* The Destruction of Reason

Conservatism has opposed rational thought for thousands of years. What most people know nowadays as conservatism is basically a public relations campaign aimed at persuading them to lay down their capacity for rational thought.

Conservatism frequently attempts to destroy rational thought, for example, by using language in ways that stand just out of reach of rational debate or rebuttal.