Saturday, February 04, 2006

One of these days W...Pow, straight to Mars!

In his State of the Union address W. called for the training of 70,000 Advanced Placement teachers and the recruitment of 30,000 math and science professionals. "In order for America to be a competitive nation in the years to come, we have got to have a work force that is strong in engineering and science and physics," he said in a speech in Dallas yesterday. The NYT writes that the White House published its so-called "American competitiveness initiative" which will "double federal spending on basic research grants in the physical sciences over the next 10 years , at a cost of $50.000 billion." [NYT]

That's all great and fine, but it's kind of ironic that the guy who thinks "intelligent design" should be taught in science classes is now calling for more money for science. W. has done everything in his power to undermine science that doesn't jibe with his version on reality and has constantly undermined legitimate scientific findings for political advantage. There's a reason we turn out 70,000 engineers every year and the Chinese produce 600,000: they don't believe in fairy tales about guys with big white beards throwing lightning bolts at nonbelievers.

NASA is a good example of W.'s war on science. As long as the scientists there are working on moon bases and trips to Mars he's fine with it, but whatever you do---don't talk about climate change. James Hansen was threatened with what he said were "dire consequences" if he kept talking about global warming. This is a guy who has spent 30 years studying the climate and apparently he knows a little too much. White House Commissars are out to get him. The NYT says NASA administrator Michael Griffin issued a statement yesterday "calling for 'scientific openness' throughout the agency in response to Hansen's claim that he's being muzzled. It's not the job of public-affairs officers to alter, filter or adjust engineering or scientific material produced by NASA's technical staff," says Griffin. Of course, that describes what they are doing to a T. This is classic administration non-denial denial.

If everything is so honky-dory at NASA and they're not threatening Hansen, why does he have to talk to a lawyer before he does interviews with the media? On NPR's Living on Earth he told Steve Curwood he was late to the interview because he had to go over with his lawyer what he could and couldn't say. No, there's not attempt to stifle legitimate scientific discussion here.

And there is certainly no effort to "adjust" material produced by NASA scientists. No, no, heaven forefend! The agency, according to dozens of public-affairs officials and dozens more agency scientists, "has transmitted verbally through a chain of midlevel workers" directives saying that "all news releases on earth science developments" have to "allude to goals set out in Mr. Bush's 'vision statement' for the agency." Naturally, that "vision" thing is a return to the moon and then a manned mission to Mars. So links between wind patterns and recent warming of the Indian Ocean" gets turned into analysis that can be "useful in studying climate systems on other planets." Not on this one, though, we're out of here! As soon as we get a base on Mars, W. & CO. are leaving this sweatbox for the Red Planet, which W. thinks is just like a great big Red state. (It's like Kansas in space, Mr. president.)

What is it with W.'s obsession with Mars, anyway? He can't even balance a budget or run a war without massively screwing it up, what makes him think we could pull off a trip to Mars? I say, if he's really serious about going ahead with this science fiction boondoggle, Schwarzenegger should be the first one to go. Or maybe this is all really about building a forward fire-base on the moon to defend us from aliens! That makes as much sense as the rest of the stuff that comes out of the White House.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

OBL better run

It looks likes the U.S. has been able to swing China and Russia into a referral to the Security Council. Despite my misgivings about the usefulness of sanctions and my deep suspicion of W.s motives, I have to say the more Ahmadinejad does stupid stuff and the more the Iranian government as a whole becomes more belligerent, I start to see a need for some sort of action.

To her credit, Condi has managed to get the Europeans all on the same page and it looks like we might be having some sort of rapprochement with them after all this trouble over Iraq. See, W, you don't have to bully people all the time.

That is all good. Of course, maybe it's not all what it seems. It could be, too, that we're just threatening to leak some info on what the French and Germans knew about all those CIA kidnap flights.

Saudis and Pakistanis to fight terror. Finally!

I have no worries about anything,anymore. AFP reports:

Saudi King Abdullah held talks with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on a wide range of issues said a joint statement issued at the end of the monarch's two-day visit to Pakistan. "There is a need to intensify and coordinate bilateral, regional and international cooperation to combat terrorism and to eradicate its root causes," the statement said. The two Islamic nations said they would cooperate to "fight the menace of terrorism and other international crimes such as money laundering, drugs trafficking and arms smuggling in a sustained and comprehensive manner," it said.

Boy, I feel safer already, don't you? You know when these two guys are on the job OBL better run!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

State of the Union speech: 1/31/06

Sometimes I wonder why I even bother to watch the State of the Union speech every year. I know it's going to be nothing more than a political ad with no substance, along with a whole lot of insincere applause, but you can always hope something interesting might happen. I really miss Clinton's speeches these days, though. He would say nothing but he always said it so damn well; W. can't even get two words out without stumbling over his tongue.

Last night, I kept wishing someone would stand up and challenge some of the more egregious lies W. spewed, but deep down I knew no one would. There might have been a chance of some drama if Cindy Sheehan hadn't been arrested just before she got inside (That's freedom for you!). Why can't we have a Prime Minister's questions type of thing here? I'd love to see W. have to defend his bullcrap every week in front of the opposition. When you think about what Tony Blair has to go through compared to the weak tea that is W.'s (or Putin's) press conferences, you really have to wonder which country has the real democracy.

I'm not going to bother running through all the inconsistencies of the speech, lie by lie, there's no point. For an excellent analysis of the speech I'd recommend listening to Radio Times from this morning. Two former presidential speech writers really did a great job of dissecting the speech from every angle: from the process of writing it to the style of it and, of course, the politics of it.

The Rummys:

I can't say the whole thing last night was a total waste of time. There were a few interesting moments before the speech began when all the bigshots came in. The way Jim Lehrer was introducing them, as they followed the Sergeant of Arms in, I got the idea that this was like the Oscars or some other awards show, like the "Rummys" or something. Then I got to wondering who would win the war criminal of the year prize. I noticed Rummy and Alberto "Waterboard" Gonzales came in together and sat together and I imagined them both sitting there nervously expecting the award to be announced.

'And the award goes to....Rummy, for best warmonger!' (que applause.) And then David Brooks would say something like: 'Well Jim, no surprise there. Albert Gonzales was really hoping this would be his year, but writing a few torture memos and singing off on warrentless wiretapping really can't cut it compared to starting two wars. And sending the troops into combat with only their jockstraps on and some do-it-yourself up-armor kits was just genius."

When the camera panned over the Supremes, I saw Justice Thomas and Alito-the-Hun sitting together and I could just image what they were saying.

Thomas: "You know, you gotta' watch out for Ginsberg, she put a pubic hair on my coke!"

Alito: "Thanks for the warning. By the way, is there any truth about you all putting rat poison in Steven's creme brullee?"

Thomas: "Oh, hell no. Coulter's an idiot, we use Exlax."

Didn't Michael Chertoff look like a wraith? Did anyone notice that? Here he thought he got off scott-free after everybody blamed good ol' Brownie for the Katrina mess and now this GAO reports comes out and it fingers him.

David Walker wrote that lessons learned from hurricane Andrew, 13 years ago, were ignored. There was no single person accountable to the president, "the central focal point." The report went on to say, "Neither the DHS Secretary nor any of his designees, such as the Principal Federal Official (PFO), filled this leadership role during Hurricane Katrina, which serves to underscore the immaturity of and weaknesses relating to the current national response framework." [WaPo]

You know, Chertoff might just be up for a medal.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

David Brooks versus the sans-culottes

Tonight W. gives his State of the Union Address and it's sure to be anything but. The real state of the union is pretty shabby, but you won't hear that from our dear leader. As the consequences of his criminal misrule mount, one wonders why there isn't more outrage from the American public. Maybe, it's because they get so little actual truth from the media.

And speaking of truth and the media, I can't wait to see Brooks and Shields tonight after the speech recapping the "bold initiatives" the president will announce. Shields will be dipping from his flask under the table and Brooks will be expounding on the progress of the president's policies in Iraq and the strong economy.

I can hear Brooks now, 'My gosh, Exxon made more money than any corporation in history last year, that must mean things are on the upswing! So, they're ripping off the American taxpayers for hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid fees on natural gas taken from publicly owned land. Don't you understand, silly liberals, their profit margins are so slim they can barely stay in business.! [NYT]

All these naysayers are all of bunch of liberal crybabies!Everybody knows---and even liberal economist Stephan Rose has to admit---"that only 19 percent of males and 27 percent of females are poor or working poor----a percentage that is 'probably much smaller than most progressive commentators would admit.'" Yeah, Al Gore, stop trying to "rally the insecure working majority against the privileged minority." You know, some analysts are starting to think "there is no frightened majority longing for government succor." [NYT]

Damn straight! Those 238 (probably a lot more than that) people living on the streets of Center City Philadelphia and the 3,080 in shelters---of whom 1,063 are children---just need to get over it. [Inquirer]

I don't know if David Brooks gets out into the streets of DC too often, but he might have noticed some of those people not "longing for government succor" sleeping over vents and huddled under sleeping bags at Metro Station, or not. See, they're not the ones the democrats should be worried about according to Brooks; they don't vote! This seems to be the point of Brooks' lecture to liberals. Most polls show, Brooks says, that people from 26 to 59 are making an average annual income of $63.000 and they feel they're "doing quite well and don't feel oppressed by forces beyond their control." Well, bully for them!

Jill Carroll:

Yesterday, as the media moved their wall-wall coverage of an American journalist being held hostage in Iraq to the injuries of ABC anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt---and reported incessantly on the wonders of modern military medicine---Jill Carroll was seen again in another video this time dressed in Arab head gear and sobbing. Her captors are still threatening to kill her unless the US military releases all Iraqi female prisoners. This time, the military can't claim that the only hostages they have---and won't release---are Dr. Germ and Mrs. Anthrax, they've been released. No, this time, possibly one of the reasons Jill Carroll and her family have to suffer so terribly is because the military is holding the wives and mothers of suspected insurgents. This tactic just has red- white-and-blue, apple pie and fairplay written all over it, doesn't it?

Nancy Youssef reports for the Inquirer that, "A series of e-mails written by U.S. soldiers and an internal Army memo, which were released Friday in response to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, describe two cases of women who were imprisoned because U.S. officials wanted information about their husbands."

AP reports, "Iraq's deputy justice minister, Busho Ibrahim Ali, dismissed such claims, saying hostage-holding was a tactic used under the ousted Saddam Hussein dictatorship, and 'we are not Saddam.'"

But, apparently, we are.

Monday, January 30, 2006

It looks like the Bush administration is going to continue on its path of ineptitude regarding the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Condi Rice is in London today to sign a big check for Hamid Karzai, deal with the Iranian nuclear issue and meet with the "Quartet" to discuss cutting off international aid to the PA. Although, I totally understand the US and EU's reluctance to give money to Hamas, a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Israel, I also understand that there are about 136,000 employees of the PA expecting a paycheck in the next few days. If chaos in the territories is the outcome the Quartet is looking for here, then this is the policy to follow.

If you really want to compound the major mistakes this administration has made throughout its tenure, including helping Hamas get into power, then defiantly cut off all aid to the PA until Hamas disarms and renounces violence. There are very few good options in this situation, but crippling the PA is probably the worst. At least, by providing a steady source of funding to the new Hamas led government---always with the threat of a cut off for bad behavior---you maintain some leverage, which would go out the window if they started receiving their funding from Iran for instance.

Glenn Kessler in the WaPo pretty neatly lays out the long litany of failures W. & Co. have been responsible for ,which has ultimately led to this political disaster. As usual, the motivation at the beginning was not to do anything that Clinton had done. Kessler writes that administration "officials were disdainful of the Clinton administration's deep involvement in the peace process, which they believed to be micromanaging." Just like in the case of North Korea: do anything but what Clinton did---and we know how well the Korean policy has worked out.

I heard this morning on NPR that Condi is asking her staff to investigate how the State Department got it so wrong on predicting the Hamas win. I find that pretty ironic because, didn't Condi, the big Sovietologist, completely blow it on predicting the fall of the USSR? In fact, I think she was fired by Cheney shortly afterward, wasn't she? She gets a lot of things wrong, but luckily for her she works for a guy who gives medals and promotions out for complete incompetence.

Jonathan Last on Iran:

This past Sunday, I read a very puzzling column by Jonathan Last in the Philly Inquirer. Last wrote that the issues of human rights and WMD are "inseparable" when it comes to rogue regimes. The reason we can't let Iran get the bomb is because "we care whether or not a country has WMD capabilities because of its record on human rights. This is why we did not worry when India tested its first nuclear device in 1998. (We didn't?) It is why we would not be panicked if we learned that Jordan or Oman was on the verge of entering the nuclear club." After coming to this astounding conclusion---i.e. Jordan and Oman are bastions of liberty and freedom---he rolls off a list of horrific human rights abuses perpetrated on Iranian citizens by their own government (basically the entire column).

First of all, I think we would all stipulate to the fact that the Mullahs in Iran are not exactly the most enlightened people in the world, but they're certainly no worse than any number of other countries guilty of equally terrible treatment of their own people why we give a pass to. The Saudis, for instance, are the poster children for going medieval on their own people, yet W. regularly has King Abdullah to the ranch down in Crawford (really Waco) for some barbeque, handholding and kissing and nary a discouraging word is ever heard. Also, since the Saudis provided the bulk of the 9/11 attackers and now supply a steady stream of suicide bombers to Iraq, I'd say they're much more of a threat to the US than the Iranians are---right now, at least.

If nuke getting into the hands of terrorists is the real concern, then I'd be much more worried about Russia's loose nukes and the Bush administration's lack of any plan to deal with them. Iran doesn't even have a bomb nor are they likely to have any time soon, but Pakistan does and they've been passing them out to anyone with a big enough check book for years. Pakistan also continues to support any number of terrorist groups and Pervez Musharraf isn't exactly the model of a Jeffersonian democrat. So, why not the same level of concern for Pakistan, Jonathan?

Something tells me human rights isn't really what's behind Last's column. To me, it reads more like a typical anti-Iranian diatribe supplied by the small group of Iranian ex-pats who want the son of the late Shah back in power, a la Ahmad Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress before the Iraq invasion. Yes, we all want reform in Iran, the majority of Iran's people want a more democratic, western leaning government, too, but the last thing they want is a return of the Shah! I'm not saying Jonathan Last is on the payroll of the Shah in exile, but he ought to come clean with his readers on where he's getting this stuff.

My final thought on Last's article is: what on earth were the editors of the Inquirer thinking when they decided to publish it?
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