September 29, 2007

Who the hell is Jerry Lack?

That question might cross many people's minds in the coming months as they become aware of Lack's challenge to long-time representitive Mike Boland in the Democratic primary.

Outside of insiders, (there's a nice phrase) Lack is largely unknown. More people may be aware that he was a long-time Lane Evans aide (or "Lack-ey" perhaps? Sorry, couldn't resist.)

If you'd like to get at least a generalized idea of who he is and where he stands, at least from his campaign's perspective, here's a good place to start.

Thanks to a helpful reader for the tip.

September 28, 2007

The greatest stories ever sold

Stephen Colbert had a guest on his show last night representing The Museum of the Moving Image in New York which has compiled an extensive collection of campaign ads dating from their first appearance in the 50's to the present, even including ads designed for broadcast on line.

The web site for that collection, Living Room Candidate, is a treasure trove of television ads from campaigns past which are alternatingly hilarious, disturbing, dumb, and just plain weird. Everything from the infamous LBJ "Daisy" ad, to an unbelievable singing ad for Adelai Stevenson called "I Love the Guv" and dozens in between.

If you get the time, take a while to browse around The Living Room Candidate and see how the political PR consultants have become sought to manipulate the public over the years. (Hint: They love emotion, especially fear.)

The links to the left on the page allows the viewer to browse by year, campaign, type of commercial, or issue, and the "desktop candidate" link takes you to a collection of online advertising.

While they've become increasingly sophisticated, in certain resepects they're still as crude as ever. This site gives a good overview of how this form of advertising has evolved. (if it has.)

So go take a look around, then come back and tell us which ones stuck out in your mind and why.

September 24, 2007

The Age of Irresponsiblility, aka the Bush era.

Sept. 20, 2007 - Imagine a universe where a man can gun down women and children anytime he pleases, knowing he will never be brought to justice. A place where morality is null and void, and arbitrary killing is the rule. A place that has been imagined hitherto only in nightmarish dystopian fiction, like “1984,” or in fevered passages from Dostoevsky—or which existed during the Holocaust and Stalinist purges and the Dark Ages. Well, that universe exists today. It is called Iraq. And the man who made it possible is George W. Bush.

The moral vacuum of Iraq—where Blackwater USA guards can kill 10 or 20 Iraqis on a whim and never be prosecuted for it—did not happen by accident.

Read the rest.

September 20, 2007

Our new neighbors are too reckless and violent for Iraq

Blackwater, Inc. the multi-million dollar mercenarys-for-hire outfit, has been granted hundreds of millions of dollars of open-ended contracts to provide security and other services in Iraq, Afghanistan, and here in the U.S. that U.S. troops have traditionally provided for the past 200 plus years. It has a bad reputation, even in utterly insane and blood-soaked Iraq.

Blackwater armed mercenaries are paid much more than U.S. troops, and face no accountibility from anyone. It's very much like a private army. The BBC has an excellent profile of the company here.

In the clubby atmosphere of private security firms in Iraq, senior members of rival companies are often reluctant to criticize Blackwater.

But among the rank and file of security contractors, Blackwater guards are regularly ridiculed as cowboys who are relentlessly and pointlessly aggressive, carry excessive weaponry and do not appear to have top-of-the-line training.

Passing Blackwater convoys sometimes intimidates even Westerners, who fear coming under attack if they make a wrong move.

One is staggered to imagine just how reckless and bloodthirsty a group has to be to be actually kicked out of Iraq, but apparently after years of excesess and death, they finally went too far, and now the government of Iraq is giving them the boot.

This comes after an incident under investigation in which Blackwater cowboys, riding as they often do in big SUVs and armed to the teeth, shot up and blew up a small car containing a father, mother, and their young child, triggering a huge shooting spree which left 20 or more innocent civilians dead.

Blackwater, you may recall from a previous post here, is building an enormous and expensive training facility not too far north of here in Jo Davies County.

The enormous corporation was founded and is run a 34 year old former Nave Seal,
"billionaire right-wing fundamentalist Christian from a powerful Michigan Republican family. A major Republican campaign contributor, he interned in the White House of President George H.W. Bush and campaigned for Pat Buchanan in 1992. He founded the mercenary firm Blackwater USA in 1997 with Gary Jackson, another former Navy SEAL."

Prince's father, Edgar Prince, and Gary Bauer started the Family Research Council, where Prince interned. Prince's sister, Betsy DeVos, is a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party.

Blackwater USA received no-bid contracts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and "post-Katrina New Orleans" from the current Bush administration.

An author who has written a book on Blackwater gives a history of the company and addressses Blackwater's Illinois project.

A video produced by The Nation magazine gives another overview of Blackwater and their massive and secretive operations.

A search on YouTube using the word "Blackwater" returns several clips about this company. (as well as The Weasel Tones covering the Doobie Bros. tune of the same name as a bonus.)

Bear in mind that your tax dollars are providing all their equipment, training, housing, vehicles, and also providing the company a healthy profit.

The previous post drew several comments from gung-ho types which find this sort of thing to be... I don't know... macho, I suppose. I imagine the same will happen again. What do you think of the practice of "privatizing" our armed forces?

High stakes steak fry

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin held his 30th annual steak fry in Indianola, IA last week. I've always wanted to go and check it out, and it's hard to imagine a better year to do it than this one, but this time it snuck up on me and I didn't realize it was happening until too late to make any plans.

If you made it, and could give a report beyond, "The speeches were great, my guy had the best speech, the food was good, there were lots of people there.", please do.

I caught some of it on C-Span (video clips available on their website Click here to watch 2 1/2 hour video. Tom Harkin's site has a handy way to view video clips of the event as well.) and it seems like candidates "people", volunteers and organizers, are getting more, well, crazy all the time.

The campaigns are hooked on "visibility" at such events, which means more eye polution and things blocking people's view than you can imagine (not to mention the expense and waste involved) and trying to monopolize the background to every conceivable camera shot.

I say that due to the new wrinkle for campaign events evidently, in which besides errecting a ridiculously crazy amount of campaign signs in their visibility effort, they've now begun assembling young volunteers to produce "audiability", I guess you could call it.

In other words, they have gangs of supporters with shakers, horns, anything to bang on, and who try to outshout and outchant other groups as they harass visitors as they arrive or surround the candidates. Really pleasant. They also crowd around their candidates and yell and make noise as if they're the second coming. It's kind of fun to see kids doing this, and it's admirable that they get involved, but in a lot of respects, it begins to take away from things, rather than being a plus.

For one thing, I'm not sure what purpose is served by having people that you know are committed to a candidate, or perhaps actually paid by their campaign, standing around whoo-hooing and waving signs around their candidate. Do they think this is going to make people think that this is somehow a reflection of actually support?

But I have to admit that I really like the design of the Obama hand signs at the event. No text, not even the candidate's name, and a very, very creative design with a blue "O" evoking a rising sun over a sweeping landscape of red and white stripes. And they sure seemed to win the "visibility" sweepstakes judging from this shot of the audience.

And as with such things, it doesn't matter if it makes sense or is even slightly effective, what matters is that you outdo the other candidates. This "arms race" factor is what leads to a lot of seriously goofy and rather stupid activities.

So if one candidate's people put up 4 mungogingdillion signs, you put up 6, and if they patch 39 yard signs together into on huge sign 4 stories tall, you patch together 80 and make one the size of a small high-rise. If they start putting up signs 12 miles away from the event, you start putting them up 20 miles out. (eventually the signs could reach Kansas City)

Now apparently someone got their trons to start chanting embarassingly lame chants and making all the noise possible with bells and horns, and so now we have a contest among them all which will end..... where? With one campaign renting the Grateful Dead's sound setup and making attendee's ears bleed listening to a few dozen 20 something's screech "Go John! Go John! We want to see you on the White House lawn!" for maybe 45 minutes?

Yes, it's all good clean fun and part of the competition, but, boy, it makes you wonder where it will end. People arriving for the event were ducking and winceing almost as if they were being assaulted, (which they were) as they ran the gauntlett between these crowds of campaign people all wearing matching tee-shirts and standing on either side of the passage to the event screaming themselves hoarse in an attempt to be louder than the other candidate's supporters.

I'm just wondering what it's really like to be at this event. What was the scene like? What was the media presence like? How was it all managed? Was security tight? Did you have to walk for miles to get to the place? Who and what did you see?

It seems like a very good idea for an event, as it allows Dems to meet and talk and visit a bit more than the usual rushed event. It's obviously getting bigger and bigger every year. Hopefully someone who's been there can share what their experience was like.

No O.J., no idiot at a Kerry speech, but what's the deal with Thompson?

Fred Thompson.

The guy strikes me as an empty suit... all hat, no cattle... no there there.

What is it about the Republican core that seems to get sweaty over people who simply (supposedly) look presidential? Why are they absolutely ga-ga for image over substance?

Personally, I think Thompson looks positively cadaverous lately, almost unhealthy. Certainly not my idea of "presidential" looking, whatever that is.

And beyond that, what has the guy got to offer, other than being another utterly fake good 'ol boy that's not too intellectually threatening to right wing boobs?

Haven't the righties learned a lesson from electing a phoney "average guy" the last two times?

Thompson is anything but a down-home grits and gravy guy, and shows up to rural meet and greets wearing Gucci loafers. The guy is known as more of a lobbyist than politician, and is up to his neck in the D.C. money and influence game.

And then there's experience. What's the guy done? Not a hell of a lot as far as I can see. If Thompson's the rightie's dream boy, they're sure going to have a hard time attacking Obama for lack of experience.

Thompson is widely rumored to be lazy as well, and that's not exactly hard to believe.

Just what the country needs, another elite millionaire who can't be bothered with details and who operates from the "gut" based on wacky conservative ideology.

The country needs that like Brittany Spears needs another cocktail.

Honestly, anyone care to speculate why Fred Thompson consistently comes in ranked near the top in polls of Republicans, even though he doesn't espouse anything but more far right dogma?

I can't help predicting that he's going to flame out sooner or later. The pundits all recited their convential wisdom after he finally announced by saying it would be very hard for him to live up to the hype and anticipation, and that he had to have a very strong first couple weeks or month to really have staying power.

What did Thompson do? Well, for one thing, a week after this long awaited announcement, he took an entire week off.

What are your thoughts on this guy?

Blogging been berry berry good to me.

The Inside Dope Bombardier 45 makes it easier to get to blogging hot spots... and then get the hell out.

September 15, 2007

Bush oil cronie puts money on U.S. failure

Paul Krugman in the NY Times:
To understand what’s really happening in Iraq, follow the oil money, which already knows that the surge has failed.

Back in January, announcing his plan to send more troops to Iraq, President Bush declared that “America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.”

Near the top of his list was the promise that “to give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.”
Well, the legislation Mr. Bush promised never materialized, and on Wednesday attempts to arrive at a compromise oil law collapsed.

What’s particularly revealing is the cause of the breakdown. Last month the provincial government in Kurdistan, defying the central government, passed its own oil law; last week a Kurdish Web site announced that the provincial government had signed a production-sharing deal with the Hunt Oil Company of Dallas, and that seems to have been the last straw.

Now here’s the thing: Ray L. Hunt, the chief executive and president of Hunt Oil, is a close political ally of Mr. Bush. More than that, Mr. Hunt is a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a key oversight body.

Some commentators have expressed surprise at the fact that a businessman with very close ties to the White House is undermining U.S. policy. But that isn’t all that surprising, given this administration’s history. Remember, Halliburton was still signing business deals with Iran years after Mr. Bush declared Iran a member of the “axis of evil.”

No, what’s interesting about this deal is the fact that Mr. Hunt, thanks to his policy position, is presumably as well-informed about the actual state of affairs in Iraq as anyone in the business world can be. By putting his money into a deal with the Kurds, despite Baghdad’s disapproval, he’s essentially betting that the Iraqi government — which hasn’t met a single one of the major benchmarks Mr. Bush laid out in January — won’t get its act together. Indeed, he’s effectively betting against the survival of Iraq as a nation in any meaningful sense of the term.

The smart money, then, knows that the surge has failed, that the war is lost, and that Iraq is going the way of Yugoslavia. And I suspect that most people in the Bush administration — maybe even Mr. Bush himself — know this, too.

After all, if the administration had any real hope of retrieving the situation in Iraq, officials would be making an all-out effort to get the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to start delivering on some of those benchmarks, perhaps using the threat that Congress would cut off funds otherwise. Instead, the Bushies are making excuses, minimizing Iraqi failures, moving goal posts and, in general, giving the Maliki government no incentive to do anything differently.

And for that matter, if the administration had any real intention of turning public opinion around, as opposed to merely shoring up the base enough to keep Republican members of Congress on board, it would have sent Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, to as many news media outlets as possible — not granted an exclusive appearance to Fox News on Monday night.

All in all, Mr. Bush’s actions have not been those of a leader seriously trying to win a war. They have, however, been what you’d expect from a man whose plan is to keep up appearances for the next 16 months, never mind the cost in lives and money, then shift the blame for failure onto his successor.

In fact, that’s my interpretation of something that startled many people: Mr. Bush’s decision last month, after spending years denying that the Iraq war had anything in common with Vietnam, to suddenly embrace the parallel.

Here’s how I see it: At this point, Mr. Bush is looking forward to replaying the political aftermath of Vietnam, in which the right wing eventually achieved a rewriting of history that would have made George Orwell proud, convincing millions of Americans that our soldiers had victory in their grasp but were stabbed in the back by the peaceniks back home.

What all this means is that the next president, even as he or she tries to extricate us from Iraq — and prevent the country’s breakup from turning into a regional war — will have to deal with constant sniping from the people who lied us into an unnecessary war, then lost the war they started, but will never, ever, take responsibility for their failures.

How the News Works

Tom Tomorrow explains...

I believe him, don't you?

Just one tiny issue with reality, among many, in Bush's speech from Friday on his morass in Iraq.

This kind of exemplifies the sort of bald-faced lying and manipulation of the truth that he's willingly tried to shovel to the American public for years now.

There are still some, including a few who speak up here, who apparently still think he's an honest guy. These people are obviously too far gone for help.

From Talking Points Memo:

The President's Math

The White House has provided us with the list of 36 nations the President was referring to last night in his speech when he said, "We thank the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq and the many others who are helping that young democracy."

The key phrase there is "troops on the ground."

If you take a look at the list we were provided, by a National Security Council official, the first heading is "Countries with troops on ground in Iraq." Only 26 countries appear in that category. The remaining 10 countries are assigned to either United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq or to NATO Training NTM-I.

So by the President's own accounting, the math is wrong. As Spencer Ackerman points out, there are other problems with the numbers. Canada is listed, for example, among the 36, but it pulled out its one and only person in Iraq months ago. The numbers, in short, are a sham.

Now, whether it's 36 countries or 106, shouldn't distract from the larger shams, such as the implication that there remains international support for the U.S. mission in Iraq or the suggestion that anyone other than the U.S. is doing virtually all of the heavy lifting there.

But after the famous 16 words on Niger in his State of the Union speech, after 4 1/2 years of duck and cover on Iraq, after all of the lies, deceptions, and falsehoods, it plumbs news depths of dishonesty to include such a bogus number as "36 nations" in a speech that begins with the following lines: "In the life of all free nations, there come moments that decide the direction of a country and reveal the character of its people. We are now at such a moment."

The President once again revealed his character. Were that it was of the same quality as that of the people he leads.

--David Kurtz

Chris Matthews reporting on this bullshit attempt noted that many of the countries Bush counted among the "coalition of the willing", have literally as few as ONE person on the ground in Iraq, and Iceland just announced it was pulling it's lone representive out.

Out of the 36 nations Bush wants us to think are helping us out in Iraq, only three, Britain, Australia, and South Korea, have more than a thousand troops there.

Yeah George, it's a big happy coalition. All for one and one for all. Except that the number of foreign troops in Iraq is about 1/500th the number of U.S. troops.

But, hey, people are stupid. Especially your "base". Might as well try to snooker 'em one more time.

Seriously, since when is this considered acceptible in our country's top leader? How low have we sunk when this is considered acceptible practice?

September 14, 2007

More cognitive dissonance

I actually watched Bush's little speech last night. More than once.

It was so overly simplistic and divorced from reality that I couldn't begin to pick it apart.

One feature was the enormously fatuous and grating lie that Bush attempts when he tries to take credit for a draw down of troops who were already scheduled to be rotated out, and more which have to be withdrawn simply because we're stretched so thin that they have to go home.

Many, including pundits and politician alike, characterized the thing as an insult to the intelligence of the American people. Several pundits simply had a dazed look on their faces, as if they were in a state of disbelief.

Did he actually say he wanted a permanent security arrangement with "the government of Iraq" (doesn't exist, really, does it?)

Pundits where characterizing this as akin to our situation in Korea where we've had a military presence on the border since the 50s. But this isn't anything like Korea, where we've sustained only a handful of casualties, and are simply preventing the crossing of a border.

So Bush has in essence, in response to Saudi Arabian al Queda members attacking our country, to invade and occupy a county in the middle of an incredibly volatile region, and build fortified outposts to defend indefinitely into the future.

Hmmm. That ought to really go far to make us more secure in the coming decades.

The entire plan seems so bizarre, so through the looking glass, (as does the sabre rattling towards Iran) that one can only pray that such talk by Bush is a calculated bluff directed towards our enemies.

If he's serious, I question his sanity or whether this country should continue to follow his direction. Something needs to be done.

What do you think?

Did anyone actually endure the thing, or catch any of the pundits punditing afterward?

Also of interest was a first. The John Edwards campaign bought two minutes of air time to present his take on Iraq immediately following Bush's address.

Pretty damn shrewd, as far as leveraging an audience, but was it smart politics or smart financially?

Edwards address was pointed, unambiguous, bold, and challenged all Dems to stand up and put their money where their mouth's are, and block any Iraq funding measures which don't contain a definite deadline for withdrawal of troops.

September 12, 2007

Jacobs holds Chicago fundraiser

Thought I'd pass along info from an invite to a fundraiser event for Sen. Mike Jacobs that I recieved via e-mail.

It's a "cocktail reception" held at Carmines (?) on Rush Street in Chicago this coming Friday the 14th for two hours beginning at 5:30 p.m.

You can be a sponsor by kicking in $2000, $500, $250, or $150. The least you can pay to get in is $75 for an individual ticket.

Official hosts (who presumably have kicked in a G or two) are listed as:

Ira Alper(stage workers union official), Laura Hunter (the only likely link I could find showed a Laura Hunter of Chicago donating to a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. It may or may not be the same person), Staffing Services Assoc. of IL, BlueStar Energy Services, John Kelly, TempsNow/Scott Polen, Ted Brunsvold, son of Joel Brusvold and mentioned as a possible replacement for Lane Evans when he announced his retirement, Julie Mirostaw a lobbyist for Dan Shomon, Inc. and apparently the organizer of this event, Deb & Larry Toppert, local business owners and loyal Dem supporters, and their daughter Wes, lobbyist John Corrigan, who also apparently has worked for, or still works for Dan Shomon Pfizer/Bryon Wornson, Anthony Degrado III, president of the United Steelworkers Local 17 Decorators Union out of Chicago, Dan Shomon, of his own political PR and fundraising consultant business (who also has worked for...Pfizer), Jerry Tritsis, listed on campaign finance documents as a self-employed accountant from Northbrook, IL who has been a regular donor to Dem candidates, including giving $2000 to the Kerry campaign in '04, Jeff Dixon, (possibly Information Technology director for local business machine and consultant company R.K. Dixon) Mike Smith, Wyeth/Ann Williams, Bill Filan, yet another Chicago lobbyist with many clients, including... Pfizer, (scroll down the document) Bill Filan is Speaker Mike Madigan's former issues staff director, and his brother John is Blagojevitch's top budget aide. Bill was also involved in a real estate deal with a shady Blagojevich donor, who, as the Sun-Times put it, "In a matter of months, a $60,000-plus campaign contributor to Gov. Blagojevich went from defaulting on a mortgage to heading up a state agency that annually doles out $3 billion in loans."

and lastly Larry Suffredin, a gaming lobbyist.

RSVP to Julie Mirostaw at 312-762-7492

See all your average Joes there!

Interesting sponsor's list though, don't you think?

We have a couple of reps from Big Pharma, both giants Pfizer (the world's largest pharma corp, annual revenue of $48.4 billion), and Wyeth (makers of Advil and Robitussin, annual revenue of $20.4 Billion), (don't worry about Jacobs supporting any health care initiatives. Pharma has about 3 lobbyists for every congressman in D.C., and apparently Springfield.)

A rep from a temp firm and one from the temp services association. (The enterprising folks who profit by hiring workers, often to do work formerly done by union labor, at a fraction of the pay, usually with little or no benefits, and takes a cut of their wages, you know the drill. They drive down wages, cheapen labor, use them like expendible cattle, and make a tidy profit to boot.)

And a slew of lobbyists representing large corporate insterests, and a couple union guys.

Obviously, you know a person by the company he keeps, or in this case, the companies that pay them. Next time you hear Jacobs saying how he's working for the average guy, how could you doubt it?

Please make Checks Payable to: Friends of Mike Jacobs P.O. Box 95 Hampton, IL 61256

September 9, 2007

The Con is On

We know about the plastic turkey that Bush held on a platter during one of his staged surpise visits to Iraq a few years back, and anyone paying attention realizes that this entire war was, is, and continues to be sold as if it were some new salty snack food, complete with a group organized in the White House with the sole job of "selling" the war, and a 24/7 propaganda mill within the Pentagon set up to to shill for, and give political cover to, Bush and pals. (of course YOUR tax dollars pay for this.) They refer to it as a "war room", but the only war they're waging is on reality and on your right to know the truth.

Remember all the right wing congressmen you've heard spouting about their visits to the market, and how it was "proof" that violence was down, etc? Sure, it was laughable, as when Lindsey Graham and John McCain strolled through the market wearing body armor, surrounded by a platoon of troops, with 7 attack helicopters circling overhead. Lindsey even picked up a few rugs - cheap.

Then we had some bumpkin Republican congressman get whacked around by Wolf Blitzer of all people when he started trying to recite the new White House talking points and describing how his visit to Iraq certainly convinced HIM that everything was going great there. Heck, it was almost like walking down the streets of a small midwestern town.

But Wolf had to go a spoil it by pointing out it was a pentagon guided tour, and that he was likely heavily protected. Well, the Republican admitted, there was an entire PLATOON of marines surrounding him.

But that's not the kicker. It's this:
A more elaborate example of administration Disneyland can be found in those bubbly Baghdad markets visited by John McCain and other dignitaries whenever the cameras roll. Last week The Washington Post discovered that at least one of them, the Dora market, is a Potemkin village, open only a few hours a day and produced by $2,500 grants (a k a bribes) bestowed on the shopkeepers. "This is General Petraeus's baby," Staff Sgt. Josh Campbell told The Post. "Personally, I think it's a false impression." Another U.S. officer said that even shops that "sell dust" or merely "intend to sell goods" are included in the Pentagon's count of the market's reopened businesses.

It makes you proud to be an American when you realize that this crew has spent years and billions of your money to manufacture bullshit and then turn around and try to get you to swallow it. You paid for it. Does it taste good?

September 8, 2007

Moron mail

I'm never sure if it's a blessing or a curse that my detractors and critics are usually such incredible morons and mental defectives.

I realize I should give them the attention they deserve, which is exactly none, but it's hard when it's so easy to show how utterly stupid they are.

Case in point. The recent post about the dangerous situation on the stretch of 17th street in Rock Island that's carved into two bike lanes, two traffic lanes, and a parking lane.

I was immediatly attacked for so much as mentioning this problem. Nitwits wrote in attacking me with invented facts and every other stupid distorted lie they could imagine.

Why someone would feel threatened by simply calling attention to a potentially lethal design flaw is anyone's guess.

But despite the fact that I ignore the worst of these asshats, I did get a couple which were impossible to avoid responding to.

I'd written describing the road including that the traffic lanes are divided by a dashed yellow line. I suggested in a comment that maybe one possible idea for preventing people from driving into oncoming traffic would be to change it to a solid yellow line.

In response, one bright light wrote:

Do you want the city to paint the solid yellow lines a brighter color? Which color do you recommend? Day glow-red?

I responded that there were no solid yellow lines. Then the next day, most likely the same dim-bulb offered:

You are mistake Dope. Try again.

The lines are as yellow and solid as your breath!

Charming sentiment, but I wasn't "mistake".

Despite their ignorant bluster and certitude, I knew that there are no solid yellow lines anywhere on the road. They would have known this too, if they bothered to actually look at the road or know what they're talking about before deciding to share their mental flatulence with us.

Left to right: Mystery lane, bike lane, traffic lanes divided by dashed yellow lines, bike lane.

Same thing about a half mile north. It's the same all along the section I described in the post.

So, to the bombastic bozo who apparently either hallucinated solid yellow lines, or simply decided to lie through their teeth in order to attack, (or more likely either didn't or was unable to actually read the post and figure out what road I was talking about).... bite me.

September 7, 2007

Fool me once... errrrr.... fool me.... uhhhhh

A little addendum to the post below.

Public bend over, the next round of big lies are coming

We've been told, repeatedly, though not consistently, by everyone in Washington that we just need to wait until September to finally learn the reality in Iraq, and then debate the way forward.

This is a huge and obvious dodge which has been readily embraced by officials of both parties.

First, Bush and the White House announced, and Republicans and spineless Dems all quickly embraced, the line that the heroic Gen. Petraeus was going to give the holy grail in September. Remember? This was their shield against anyone trying to actually come up with a plan for Iraq, and effectively halted all calls for and debate on a way to end the madness there.

Dems and Republicans alike leapt at the chance to be able to put off making any judgements or hard decisions on the matter, and gladly let the "surge" make it's increasingly bloody and by all objective accounts, ineffective course.

Bush said over and over again that he was relying on the vaunted General to make all the decisions and report back on how Bush's escalation was working.

A few weeks ago though, it was leaked that the General Petraeus report .... wasn't going to be written by Gen. Petraeus, but rather written and twisted by the White House and put out under his name, effectively making Petreus nothing but a mouthpiece... another sad repeat of a somewhat honorable man willingly throwing away his integrity to aid the White House effort to continue the war like they did to Colin Powell when they set him up to destroy his substantial credibility by delivering the false report at the U.N.

Bait and switch. A favorite and oft-used tactic of a White House for whom honesty is for suckers and to whom their political fortunes far outweigh the further loss of American lives in Iraq.

A full scale sales campaign in in full swing to sell (con) the public into thinking this Iraq business is .... amazingly and against all rational and verifiable evidence... really going well. Imagine that.

Former Bush press flack Ari Fliesher is heading a group funded to the tune of millions to run ads where images of the WTC falling is conflated once again with the doomed effort in Iraq, right wing flacks are taken to Iraq and given completely stage managed "tours", and then come back to make the press rounds reporting about how they "were there" and saw incredible progress on their pentagon scripted tours.

The hard evidence that little to no progress is being made is swept under the rug, such as the Government Accountibility Office (GAO) report which said there was no evidence of any improvement.

Some sugest this report was leaked to get the facts out before the White House ordered it altered to suit it's political goals, as it has done to independent government reports in the past.

It also ignores reportsfrom active duty soldiers, who were so insulted by the rosy reports of progress by administration shills that a group of them took the unprecidented step of collectively writing a rebuttal to them in an editorial in the New York Times which provided a boots on the ground view of the increased violence, death, and danger to our troops there, as well as the lack of any progress whatsoever in achieving even a marginally stable situation.

Now, after months of build-up, after Bush has dodged the issue for months as hundreds more Americans were killed and maimed in Iraq as politicians sat largely muzzled waiting for this definitive report, we learn that there won't be any actual Petraeus report at all!

Nope, (try to believe this) it's been learned that they've decided that there will be no written report whatsoever. Beyond Petraeus' written opening statement for his testimony before congress and some charts he may use, there will be nothing, no "report" at all. Nothing in writing for this President to study on such a crucial and monumental decision. He'll just talk with Petreaus for a while, that's good enough for him. It's doubtful he could manage to get though anything longer than a memo anyway, I suppose.

So after throwing water on any debate for months by pointing to this monumental report which would be delivered in September, now that it's days from being delievered, we're told there'll be nothing for the historical record, nothing for the pentagon or the public to review, nothing on paper at all.

Let's review.

First Bush repeatedly side-steps any discussion of strategy in Iraq and kicks the can down the road by saying he can't and won't make any decisions until Petraus, a general which he repeatedly seemed to be handing over the entire war to, issued a comprehensive report on the effectiveness of Bush's surge.

Then as the date nears, it's revealed that Petraeus won't be the author of his own report. The White House will bastardize it for their own purposes and then hide behind and use (abuse) Petraeus' credibility for their own purposes, just like they did Powell.

We learn that there will be no report in the traditional sense at all. It's vapor. Nothing.

Then there's the issue of how the pentagon and White House are twisting the statistics to give a misleading impression that there is great progress in Iraq.
They simply decided to not include mass killings from bombings which often produce, including recently, hundreds of deaths at a time. They've also come up with a convenient way to not count most of the violence and death by not counting the huge number of murders committed by one sect against members of their own sect. (as if that's easy to determine.) The fact is, the data is phoney.

As Paul Krugman notes in the New York Times:
Apparently, the Pentagon has a double super secret formula that it uses to distinguish sectarian killings (bad) from other deaths (not important); according to press reports, all deaths from car bombs are excluded, and one intelligence analyst told The Washington Post that “if a bullet went through the back of the head, it’s sectarian. If it went through the front, it’s criminal.” So the number of dead is down, as long as you only count certain kinds of dead people.

Oh, and by the way: Baghdad is undergoing ethnic cleansing, with Shiite militias driving Sunnis out of much of the city. And guess what? When a Sunni enclave is eliminated and the death toll in that district falls because there’s nobody left to kill, that counts as progress by the Pentagon’s metric.

If you're feeling like an abused spouse who is constantly lied to and disrespected by the Bush gang, and can see another one coming, you're justified.

But when it's shown that someone has told you bald-faced lies over and over and over again, at some point, it's your fault for continuing to believe them.

Now if the Dems could get out of their shivering crouch and stop letting the Republican aggressors define them, stop being cowards and stand up to the effort to portray them as "weak on defense" or somehow "not supporting the troops" when they're trying to get them out of a misguided and bloody mistake. If they could stop acting like abused spouses who continually enable and cave in to their more strident and manipulative Republican abusers, perhaps the country could make some progress in the messy and unpleasant business of trying to minimize the damage resulting from the disaster Bush has led it into.

September 6, 2007

You know you wonder. What makes the new breed of conservatives tick?

In reading John Dean's engrossing and very thorough examination of why right wingers are able to accept believing often utterly contradictory ideas and are particularly vicious, aggressive, negative, and often hateful, among other charming traits, I came to a spot where he reviewed the work of researcher Bob Altemeyer of the University of Manitoba into what is dubbed "the authoritarian personality".

Space prohibits me from delving into great depth about the huge amount of data and empirical evidence he's gathered and how it correlates neatly into predicting if a person is "conservative" or Republican, but here are a few lists of traits that he found among those who hold right wing beliefs.

There are two types of authoritarians classified in this study, the followers, or Right-Wing Authoritarians (RWA) and those that tend to be leaders, the Social Dominance Orientation (SDO).

The followers are submissive to authority, accepting, "...almost without question the statements and actions of established authorities and they comply with such instructions without further ado."

This explains the bizarre phenomena of people who still cling to the notion that Bush knows what he's doing, and some who still believe that there are WMDs in Iraq and that Sadaam had something to do with the attacks of 9-11. I can't be the only one who marvels at the fact that there are still those who appear to be almost religious zealots in their inability to see anything wrong with Bush, or Republicans, at any time, and for any reason, and will willfully distort reality and truth to try to defend them.

These types are also prone to aggressive support of authority. According to Altemeyer, these right wingers have, "a predisposition to cause harm to" others when such behavior is believed to be sanctioned by authority. This harm can be physical, pychological, financial, and social.

One doesn't have to think very hard or look very far to see examples of these folks doing just that, such as the weird attack on the Dixie Chicks, or any of dozens of objects of hatered that they turned on simply at the word of people like Limbaugh or others. They often had no idea why they were supposed to hate these people, but they were eager to do so.

They are also traditionalists who reject moral relativism. Their view of sex is repressive and shaped by religious views and they regard it as sinful and almost perverse beyond procreation. They think they're the country's true patriots.

From the book, here is a list of traits that exhaustive study have shown authoritarians believe to be positive traits:

-They travel in tight circles of like-minded people.

-Their thinking is more likely based on what authorities have told them rather than on their own critical judgement, which results in their beliefs being filled with inconsistencies.

-They harbor numerous double standards and hypocrisies.

-They are hostile toward so many minorities they seem to be equal-opportunity bigots, yet they are generally unaware of their prejudices.

-They see the world as a dangerous place, with society teetering on the brink of self-destruction from evil and violence, and when their fear conflates with their self-rightousness, they appoint themselves guardians of public morality, or God's Designated Hitters.

-They think of themselves as far more moral and upstanding than others --- a self-deception aided by their religiosity (many are "born again") and their ability to "evaporate guilt" (such as by going to confession). (this is referred to as "cheap grace". "When a great deal of misbehavior is engaged in by born-again Christians it troubles their fundamentalist consciences very little, for after all, they are Saved. So by using their religious beliefs effectively, right-wing authoritarians have high moral standards in many regards, but pretty ineffective consciences.")

Many of these fit at least one of my conservative antagonists here to a tee. It's almost uncanny how well nearly all of them apply.

Dean further lays out a summary of conclusions from decades of study that enumerate the types of traits typically found in the above mentioned "social dominators" and "right-wing authoritarians".

See if they fit anyone you know.


-typically men
-opposes equality
-desirous of personal power
-intimidating and bullying
-faintly hedonistic
-cheats to win
-highly prejudiced (racist, sexist, homophobic)
-tells others what they want to hear
-takes advantage of "suckers"
-specializes in creating false images to sell self
-may or may not be religious
-usually politically and economically conservative/Republican

Anyone come to mind? Without even thinking about it, when I read those traits, it was as if they were describing .... well, a person who nails about 95% of those traits. Stunning. Especially since they're not Republican, at least publically.


-men and women
-submissive to authority
-aggressive on behalf of authority
-highly religious
-moderate to little education
-trust untrustworthy authorities
-prejudiced (particularly against homosexuals, women, and followers of religions other than their own.)
-uncritical toward chosen authority
-inconsistent and contradictory
-prone to panic easily
-highly self-rightous
-strict disciplinarian
-severely punative
-demands loyalty and returns it
-little self-awareness
-usually politically and economically conservative/Republican.

I found these studies to confirm what I already had observed, as well as to explain it further and in more depth.

Many sociologists and political sociologists have studied this type of personality for many decades, initially prompted by the desire to know and understand how Hitler was able to get his followers to abandon their morals and sense of right and wrong so easily, as well as what traits define those who lead such groups.

Dean mentions the early work of the psychologist who discoved that the majority of people will obey authority even if it comes to causing strangers extreme pain, as in the famous experiments where subjects were told to administer ever increasing electrical shocks to subjects if they made mistakes in reading text. The subjects weren't aware that the people they were supposedly shocking were only simulating extreme pain. Yet nearly all of them continued to follow the instructions of a person in a lab coat and clipboard up to and including the point where they administered a shock so severe it caused the "subject" to pass out.

This phenomena can definitely explain some of the more insane instances of the assendency of an authoritarianistic brand of conservatism completely unrecognizable from the former and original brand of conservatism exemplified by Barry Goldwater or even William F. Buckley.

It also points up the danger it holds if it is allowed to continue unchecked.

A third personality type is what is called a Double High. These people possess traits of both RWA and CDO types, and Altemeyer describes these people as "particularly scary."

In one experiment, Altemeyer had a group of 55 college students, all of whom were found to have scored high as RWA types, and seven of whom also scored high as social dominators, in other words, double highs.

He had them engage in a Global Chance Game simulation. "During the two-session simulation, Double Highs engaged in nuclear blackmail, made themselves wealthy by dubious means, provoked a worldwide crisis by destroying the ozone layer, allowed 1.9 billion people to die of starvation and disease, and sent the poor regions of the world "down the tubes."

A couple of other researchers and professors have studied the differences between various political ideologies and have a really nifty little self survey to determine where you fit on the matrix. Go check it out and see where you fall. (click on the "Run IdeaLog" link on the left.)

If you find any of this intriguing or have always thought that there was something particularly ... different... psychologically with the most extreme right wingers and the odd strain of supposed "Chrisitans" who have come to dominate the Republican party, I urge you to check out and read "Conservatives Without Conscience" by John W. Dean (Nixon's White House counsel before Watergate, for those unfamiliar)

A link to purchase the book is in the sidebar.

Any thoughts on the strong streak of unquesioning obedience to authority, fear, and bigotry that runs through today's Republican party and how this authoritarian personality type seems to dominate it?

The only bad news is that another trait that appeared in these types was a near total incapacity for self-awareness or self-examination. In other words, they're not likely to change because they're dominant and overarching sense of self-righousness and superiority manages to block out all ability to realize the hypocrisy, amorality, the the mean-spirited and contradictory nature of their beliefs.

Right wing Champaign blogger brings FEC suit against liberal blog, loses big

The conservative windmill tilters are at it again.

A Champaign, IL right wing blogger, John Bambenek, thought it would be a neat idea to bring an FEC suit against liberal blog The Daily KOS alleging that it was in fact a political committee and as such should fall under FEC regulations as a PAC.

In tossing out his suit, the FEC utterly rejected his claim and in fact said that sites like Daily KOS are clearly and completely protected from this sort of regulation as they are the rough equivalent of a newspaper or magazine which may editorialize in favor of one candidate or another.

Needless to say, to this guy, a web site that advocates election of Democrats is violating the law, but an entire television news network like Fox Noise devoted to electing Republicans, well, they're fine.

The excerpt from the FEC response posted at the Daily KOS here makes it apparent they didn't have to spend much time before slapping this suit down.

September 4, 2007

Labor Day picnic 2007

Many thanks to helpful reader UnionD for sending along these shots from the annual Democratic Labor Day picnic held at Illiniwek park.

Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) warms up an already very hot crowd on behalf of the Obama campaign.

Rep. Phil Hare speaks to the crowd as Sen. Jacobs valiantly keeps the flag from falling. To Hare's left are seated the lovely Lisa Bierman, R.I. County Circuit Clerk, Pat Veronda, R.I. County Recorder, State Rep. Pat Vershoore, and Rock Island County Clerk Dick Leibovitz.

Rock Island County States Attorney Jeff Terronez addresses the faithful while county chair Gianulis and Sen. Jacobs appear to be trying to find something.

A lineup of local Dems on the podium. (is that Mr. Potter from "It's a Wonderful Life"?)

Former Rep. Lane Evans was there, and it's great to see him out and about.

In a bit of political unpleasantness, Christie Vilsack, wife of former presidential candidate and Iowa governor Tom Vilsack and who is widely acknowledged as an excellent speaker and campaigner, made the trip to attend but was not allowed to speak on the podium on behalf of her candidate, Hillary Clinton.

The Democratic party also recognized Hellen Heiland and Chuck Johnson for their long time support of unions.

September 3, 2007

Desperation in the ranks

During Sunday's "Meet the Press", Timmy quoted a poll (sorry, I had to go to the transcript and it doesn't mention which poll) taken among Republicans, and I found the results interesting.

According to the quoted national poll among Republicans, as to which candidate they favor at this time, Giuliani wins with 27%, Fred "Hounddog" Thompson, who's FINALLY going to throw his hat in the ring Thursday, comes in second with only 17%, and Prince Romney, who's literally spending a fortune on his race, trails with 15%, and McCain gets 12%, showing that "straight talk" isn't appreciated in the Republican party.

How bad are things when Rudy Giuliani is comfortably atop that poll? And what does it say about Republicans? I'd suggest it shows that they show a penchant for being easily frightened, as that's pretty much the only feature of Rudy's campaign so far, banging on 9-11 and trying to scare the bejesus out of people about the real or imagined terrorist threat, and suggesting he's the only one who can keep us "safe".

But making the above numbers even more remarkable is the result of a poll among Republicans asking who they felt had the best chance of winning against a Democratic candidate.

Rudy does even better on that score, with a whopping 38% saying he'd be the most likely to win, then comes Thompson with 13%, McCain moves up one slot with 13%, and Romney trails with 11%.

As someone who knows another Republican administration would be a continuation of the past disasterous reign, I find these polls heartening.

Rudy Giuliani?

I think revelations about his past, his many associations with shady figures and habit of having his top assistants revealed to be crooks, dope dealers, etc. will tarnish him terribly.

His entire campaign is perched upon the publicity heaped on him as Mayor of NYC during 9-11.

Why did he get this publicity? Because George Bush ran like a rabbit and followed his insincts to go AWOL when the going got tough.

The nation was desperately looking to leadership, and Bush was hiding in a hole, only emerging on a short video that looked like a hostage tape with little George looking like he was so scared he was wetting his pants. Not exactly reassuring.

Rudy was there and performed well for the cameras, and the country was eternally grateful.

Then there's the liklihood Giulliani be eaten by his own for not conforming to the rigid intolerant standards of the fundy right which have been allowed to dominate his party.

Such backwards medievel notions might be on the way out even among Republicans. We can only hope they are for the country's sake, though if they really are determined to lose, let's hope they are every bit as obsessed with other people's sex lives. After dozens of the most strident fundy followers are revealed to have not practiced what they preached, maybe more people will realize, as the country has for the previous several decades, that intolerance isn't a moral value, doesn't strenthen our society, but tears it apart, and is not the way to prosper in the future.

Why Rudy?

And what does it say that Romney, who someone aptly compared to a Sears underwear model, is trailing so far behind?

What sort of field do the Republicans have when a guy who hasn't even announced is ahead of all but one other candidate?

One of the pundits on Meet the Press accurately described all of the Republican front-runners as having "glass jaws".

Can any of them give the Dem nominee a challenge?

And as long as we're at it, I might as well throw out the question of whether Hillary Clinton would be a lock to win were she the Dem nominee, or, as the Republicans (and Dems who fall for it) would have us believe, would she so energize opposition that she'd be vulnerable to defeat?

A good point was made by James Carville when he noted that being hated by hard-core Republicans isn't exactly the kiss of death. The rabid right would never vote for her anyway.

Fill us in

An valued reader wrote to ask if I'd gotten some pictures from the Labor Day picnic this year, and wondered who attended, etc.

As I explained to them, believe it or not, I actually had something else to do that was slightly more enjoyable than listening to stump speeches through a tinny P.A. system that makes a battery powered A.M. radio sound good by comparison and chowing on fried chicken. (I know, I know, that's impossible. What was I thinking?)

So in the interests of this reader as well as myself, can anyone give a little run-down of the event? What muckety-mucks attended? Who spoke? How was attendence? What did you observe that was of interest or note?

This is your chance to be an ace reporter. Don't blow it.

Here's a shot of Obama at the event from a couple years ago. Even then his every move was followed by cameras and microphones.

September 1, 2007

GOP shirt

Presidential Race Discussion Pt. II

Have at it.

Local Race Discussion page

A place to "discuss" (in quotes since that is a pipe dream apparently) local political races.