Monday, February 28, 2005

Chris Rock on Bush at the Oscars

"A lot of people like to bash Bush. I'm not going to bash Bush here tonight. I saw 'Fahrenheit 9/11.' I think Bush is a genius. I think Bush did some things this year nobody in this room could do -- nobody in this room could pull off.

Bush basically reapplied for his job this year. Now, can you imagine applying for a job, and while you're applying for that job, there's a movie in every theater in the country that shows how much you suck at that job? It'd be hard to get hired, wouldn't it? Now I watched 'Fahrenheit' and I learned some stuff, man. And Bush did some things you could never get away with at your job, man. Never, ever ever. You know, when Bush got into office, they had a surplus of money. Now, there's like a $70 trillion deficit.

Now just imagine you worked at the Gap. You closing out your register and it's $70 trillion short. The average person would get in trouble for something like that, right? Not Bush. No. then -- then, he started a war. That's cool. Support the troops. He started a war.

Now, just imagine you worked at the Gap. You're $70 trillion behind on your register. And then you start a war with Banana Republic, 'cause you say they got toxic tank tops over there. You had the war. People are dying. A thousand Gap employees are dead, that's right, bleeding all over the khakis. You finally take over Banana Republic. And you find out they never made tank tops in the first place."

Sensible Times Op-Ed from Robert Reich

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: Don't Blame Wal-Mart: "The only way for the workers or citizens in us to trump the consumers in us is through laws and regulations that make our purchases a social choice as well as a personal one. A requirement that companies with more than 50 employees offer their workers affordable health insurance, for example, might increase slightly the price of their goods and services. My inner consumer won't like that very much, but the worker in me thinks it a fair price to pay. Same with an increase in the minimum wage or a change in labor laws making it easier for employees to organize and negotiate better terms.

I wouldn't go so far as to re-regulate the airline industry or hobble free trade with China and India - that would cost me as a consumer far too much - but I'd like the government to offer wage insurance to ease the pain of sudden losses of pay. And I'd support labor standards that make trade agreements a bit more fair.

These provisions might end up costing me some money, but the citizen in me thinks they are worth the price. You might think differently, but as a nation we aren't even having this sort of discussion. Instead, our debates about economic change take place between two warring camps: those who want the best consumer deals, and those who want to preserve jobs and communities much as they are. Instead of finding ways to soften the blows, compensate the losers or slow the pace of change - so the consumers in us can enjoy lower prices and better products without wreaking too much damage on us in our role as workers and citizens - we go to battle.

I don't know if Wal-Mart will ever make it into New York City. I do know that New Yorkers, like most other Americans, want the great deals that can be had in a rapidly globalizing high-tech economy. Yet the prices on sales tags don't reflect the full prices we have to pay as workers and citizens. A sensible public debate would focus on how to make that total price as low as possible."


Bush's approval ratings continue to tank:
Zogby Poll, Feb. 25-27, 2005.

President Bush Job Ratings
Excellent/ Good 46%
Fair/ Poor 54%

Source: Polling Report. com

Oh mercy mercy me...

Former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, Scott Ritter, made startling claims at a recent talk in Olympia, Washington. "The ex-Marine turned UNSCOM weapons inspector said that George W. Bush has "signed off" on plans to bomb Iran in June 2005, and claimed the U.S. manipulated the results of the recent Jan. 30 elections in Iraq. ", according to Mark Jensen of United for Peace of Pierce County, Washington.

"On Iran, Ritter said that President George W. Bush has received and signed off on orders for an aerial attack on Iran planned for June 2005. Its purported goal is the destruction of Iran’s alleged program to develop nuclear weapons, but Ritter said neoconservatives in the administration also expected that the attack would set in motion a chain of events leading to regime change in the oil-rich nation of 70 million -- a possibility Ritter regards with the greatest skepticism.
The former Marine also said that the Jan. 30 elections, which George W. Bush has called "a turning point in the history of Iraq, a milestone in the advance of freedom," were not so free after all. Ritter said that U.S. authorities in Iraq had manipulated the results in order to reduce the percentage of the vote received by the United Iraqi Alliance from 56% to 48%. "

I have no idea if or how Scott Ritter has access to this kind of information after he has undergone such major career assassination by the right-wing press, but it is always possible that he knows something we don't know. Our World Our Say, an activist group, is trying to raise money to publicise this thing, but I'm not sure what to make of it all. Yes, taking over Iran and Syria would fit with the plans that the neocons and the Project for the New American Century have been salivating over for years, but after the mess of Iraq it does genuinely seem like they have written off the idea of any kind of ground invasion. Noises made by Cheney, Perle and the Pres lately have suggested more of a you-revolt, we-bomb kind of deal, which I am doubtful would work in a centralized country like Iran. Any ideas anyone?

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Blog Recommendation

The Dullest Blog In The World

"I was sitting down on one of the chairs in my house. My hand was resting on the arm of the chair. I started to drum my fingers on the arm, thereby making a barely audible sound. "

Introducing Empirically Satirically

Patriarch of Constantinople inks deal with President Bush for forced conversion of Iraq to Greek Orthodoxy. Posted by Hello

A lesson in democracy for the Iraqis: don't ask questions

Relatives of Iraqis tortured by British soldiers revealed last night how they were also arrested and brutally beaten simply for asking questions.
The Independent on Sunday can reveal that the Iraqi civilians were punched and kicked after arriving at Camp Breadbasket to find out why friends and relatives had been detained.

Former operative slams CIA

Few people know more about how the CIA operates on the ground than former agent Robert Baer, one of the agency’s top field operatives of the past quarter-century.
An Arabic speaker, Baer spent most of his career running agents in the souks and back alleys of the Middle East, before becoming disillusioned with what he saw as interference by Washington politicians in the CIA’s efforts to root out terrorists.
He believes that at precisely the time when terrorist threats were escalating globally, the agency that should have been monitoring them was being “scrubbed clean” instead.
I put it to him that since 9/11, the cost of being complacent has been recognised and that the CIA is now getting its hands dirty again.
“Yes,” says Baer, “but in the wrong direction.
“It is totally reactionary,” he insists. “It’s like they woke up on 9/11 and just started shooting at anybody and anything.”
To give just one example, he says that what is referred to as “extraordinary renditions” – the controversial practice of secretly spiriting suspects to other countries without due process – is not only wrong, but often counterproductive for gathering intelligence.
“They are picking up people really with nothing against them, hoping to catch someone because they have no information about these [terrorist] networks.”
According to Baer, what happened after 9/11 was a kind of knee-jerk reaction by the CIA, taking in thousands of contractors and dispatching everybody they could, at the expense of real expertise and experienced operatives.
This desperation, he says, led to a “do anything approach” and “that’s why we ended up with Guantanamo and arresting a lot of people that were innocent.”

David Pratt, Sunday Herald


From the Sunday Herald
By James Hamilton

Germany's version of the Big Brother TV show takes a giant leap on Tuesday with the opening of a small town mimicking The Truman Show.
In the Jim Carrey movie a man called Truman is unwittingly the subject of a 24-hour TV programme that monitors his every living moment for a worldwide audience.
In the new Big Brother village, the only difference will be that contestants willingly participate in this next-generation leap into voyeurism, and it will run indefinitely.
Fifteen people will move into the set of Big Brother – The Village complete with market square and stables.
The “village” includes three different types of housing: a “poor” home located right next to the stables and equipped with the bare necessities, a “normal” house and a “rich” villa, where occupants get three-course meals and massages every day. Everyone will have to work for the show's farm, a car mechanic or a fashion label and fulfil duties according to their social status.
“It’s a societal microcosm complete with class struggle, envy and chances for climbing and falling down the social ladder,” said a spokesman for TV station RTL II.
Contestants, who will compete for prizes and money totalling €1 million per year, will also be required to take on personal challenges, such as learning a new language or getting occupational training.
Whether they’ll ever be able to put their new skills to use is questionable as RTL II officials would like to keep them locked up for good.
Katja Hofem-Best, the channel’s entertainment executive, said the show would be “endless” – “God and TV viewers willing.”
Contestants will, it is hoped, live there for years; falling in love, going to school, even getting married. The producers hope to lure in more businesses to employ them, teachers to teach them and doctors to care for the sick.
Big Brother producer Rainer Laux said: “We hope couples will get pregnant and family groups will interact with all the usual family frictions.”
Celebrity contestants will occasionally appear to raise the quota. But the main group of contestants will remain “for decades” according to Laux.
Producers of the new 24-hour show say the present format has had its day and outgrown the container. The plan now is for an entire community to be scrutinised around the clock.
The Carrey film saw Truman Burbank grow up in a city that is actually a vast studio . RTL II has ideas not quite so ambitious – but nearly. Their Big Brother village, built from scratch along the lines of a theme park, will afford fans of the show visits to the community to see the residents just as if they were visiting a zoo.
Media psychologist Jo Graibel voiced concerns that people who stayed in the fake community for any length of time would find it hard to adjust to the “real world”.


National Public Radio Poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies (R) and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (D). Feb. 15-17, 2005. N=800 likely voters nationwide. MoE ± 3.5.
"If the 2006 elections for United States Congress were being held today, for whom would you vote: the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate in this district?" If unsure: "Well, if the election for Congress were held today and you had to decide right now in your own district where you live, which candidate would you lean toward: the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate in this district?" Options rotated

Republican 36%
Democrat 42%
Unsure 22%

Source: Polling

Friday, February 25, 2005

Personal Responsibility Hypocrisy

Three week stay in life-support case

I love how the conservatives wax on about personal responsibility and less government involvement. Then along comes a husband who is forced to make the most difficult decision concerning his own life and his wife's, and in comes Jeb Bush to save the day. "You can't make this decision on your own," he seems to say. "You need the wise guidance of the state in order to make the correct moral decision. We know what you need to do, despite having to bear none of the pain or the cost."

This is a microcosm of this brave, new, neocon world. They know what's best for America, and America knows what's best for the World. If only the World could understand the heart of America, they'd see we're just looking out for everyone's best interests. This is what Bush's current trip to Europe is supposed to prove: we're not really taking over the World, we're saving it from itself. Just like they are saving Michael Schiavo from making a difficult, humane decision for his family.

Extreme Conduct - what would we do without high-quality journalism like this?

If a woman performs oral sex on a man, leaves the room, secretly uses that sperm to impregnate herself, then sues the man for child support, is that "extreme and outrageous" conduct?
Yes it is, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled this week.
-Chicago Sun-Times

Dean Comes Out Punching

View this recent debate by the chairman of the Democratic Party and Richard Perle, the man who once said "I continue to be amazed at the people who say there are no links. It simply isn’t true. What hasn’t been established is a direct link between Saddam’s intelligence and the 9/11 plotters, although even there there is evidence that suggests, very possibly, facilitation and assistance to the 9/11 hijackers."

(Go to American Perspectives page for video)

What's the deal with Kansas?

IN a nutshell, the Thomas Frank thesis courtesy of Salon:

Still, Bush's second-term focus on money issues like Social Security, the tax code, and tort law, rather than on gay marriage and abortion, proves a point that several liberal analysts put forward during the campaign: Republican politicians constantly use the culture wars to hoodwink religious people into voting for big-business ideas that, ultimately, run against the financial interests of the voters. "This is a party with a mission, a historical mission it's adhered to since the 1930s -- and that has been the mission of the business community, the repeal of the New Deal and war with the labor movement," says Thomas Frank, whose book "What's the Matter With Kansas?" offers the most detailed explication yet of the theory that Republicans fan the flames of social issues only to get their way on business issues. Social Security privatization, Frank says, is further proof that religious people "are getting played."


Well, I am pleased that I have already received a comment. And it wasn't 'screw you' or anything.

Edouardo, my Portuguese pal, has requested that I don't forget about the music. Well, music and politics can mix, sometimes quite effectively, but right now I'll throw out this fave of Eduardo's, which happens to have a fantastic website

Must hear is their version of Luna da Miel (Honeymoon):


A funny blog

Big News from the UK

First up, Blair and his team of cronies are facing serious pressure from both opposition parties and the legal profession to their own version of the Patriot Act, which would allow detention without charge, among other miscarriages of justice.

First, Blair tried talking it up, Bush-style, throwing around scary images of imminent terrorist attack:
``The aim of this new breed of terrorist is to kill as many people as possible,'' Blair wrote. ``There is no limit on the levels of murder and destruction they want to inflict, on the weapons they will use or on their targets.''

Then, the fight to oppose the bill failed, barely.
"There was also a significant Labour backbench rebellion against the new new Prevention of Terrorism Bill but moves to deny it a second reading were defeated by 316 votes to 216 - a Government majority of 100. "

Now, they are looking at a compromise measure:
"Under a planned concession being considered by ministers, the Home Secretary would be able to grant only an interim control order which would have to be approved speedily by a judge.
As currently drafted, the Prevention of Terrorism Bill would allow the Home Secretary to grant an order, which would be subject to a judicial review within seven days."

Before the Iraq invasion, Blair sought advice from legal experts as to the legality of the war ininternational law. It has long been known that their initial response was negative, and that he had to shop around a while before finding a 'plausible' argument.

It has now come out that the Blair camp probably wrote the Attorney General's legal advice for the war themselves.

"Iraq legal adviceThe attorney general's advice on the legality of the Iraq war was "his alone", Mr Hain insisted following new allegations that Downing Street drafted the advice. Mr Hain defended Lord Goldsmith saying: "This is old ground." Media reports claimed transcripts of evidence given in private by Lord Goldsmith to an official inquiry suggested the advice - presented to parliament in his name - was written for him by two of Tony Blair's closest allies."

Today's Big Item from Matt

53% of Americans 'disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation in Iraq, compared to only 40% who approve.

Source: Pew Research Center Poll, Feb., 16- 21, 2005.

Welcome to progressionsession!

You know all those enjoyable, entertaining political rants that you have all come to know and love from me? Well, they are now going to be conveniently stored in one place now! Yes, welcome to the pace-car of the blogosphere. Stay tuned.