Monday, December 31, 2007


In yet another example of an administration grasping at straws, the U.S. is now willing to negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan. It’s being reported that the U.S. “supports reconciliation talks with Taliban fighters who have no ties to al-Qaida and accept Afghanistan's constitution.” According to the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, William Wood:
... our only place where we have concern would be the members of the Taliban with close connection to al-Qaida, the reason being that al-Qaida is an international threat, it is a global threat and we don't believe that there should be separate peaces with al-Qaida.
What? The only place “where we have concern” is if they have “close” connections with al-Qaida. This is the Taliban we’re talking about. This is like agreeing to negotiate with the moderate racists in the KKK.

And what about the 2,974 dead from 9/11? We’re OK with this now, as long as certain Taliban elements are willing to work with Afghan President Hamid Karzai? But this is the real gem. The idea that there should be no “separate peaces with al-Qaida.” What a joke. The Bush administration has already compromised their negotiating position, and any negotiated deals.

Since they’ve forgotten, we already tried this negotiating tactic with tribal groups – they were called American Indians. They ended up hating us because one colony or, after the Revolution, the country remained hostile because certain tribes did not adhere to what was agreed to by other tribal leaders. To square this diplomatic circle, we were always disappointed that they wouldn’t keep up their end of the bargain. Put another way, hostilities continued despite treaties.

No wonder the Bush administration doesn’t know how to fight wars. Not only are they incompetent ideologues, they flunked history too.

OK, I’ve answered my opening question … these guys are idiots.

- Mark

Friday, December 28, 2007


… his policies are turning me into a prophet.

I wrote this op-ed for the Bakersfield Californian five years ago. It explains why we needed to do more than rush into Iraq with Bush’s “Fig Leaf” Coalition (which is now - like his policies - in shambles). Here’s a snippet:

A post-Sadaam Iraq will have to be rebuilt, governments must be established, peacekeepers will have to be brought in, and task-oriented multilateral agencies will have to be consulted … To do less will invite state breakdown and radical mischief in Iraq ... An even uglier reality would be the overthrow of the corrupt and kleptocratic Mubarak regime, and the ouster of increasingly authoritarian and isolated Musharraf in Pakistan. Just the threat of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falling in fundamentalist hands would prompt another U.S. preemptive strike. An additional economy busting war tax will follow.
Bush has yet call for the necessary taxes to pay for his misadventures (which makes him, at least, consistently irresponsible). Still, the results of his policy debacles - as noted above - are turning me into a prophet.

- Mark

Monday, December 24, 2007


If you want to understand why stagnant wages, debt, bankruptcies, and economic insecurity dominate the concerns of America's middle class look no further than the tragic political marriage between conservatives and industry (Adam Smith's "invisible hand" is absent here). To help us understand these dynamics, Paul Krugman once again nails it ...

It’s often assumed that the U.S. labor movement died a natural death, that it was made obsolete by globalization and technological change. But what really happened is that beginning in the 1970s, corporate America, which had previously had a largely cooperative relationship with unions, in effect declared war on organized labor ...

... These hardball tactics have been enabled by a political environment that has been deeply hostile to organized labor, both because politicians favored employers’ interests and because conservatives sought to weaken the Democratic Party. “We’re going to crush labor as a political entity,” Grover Norquist, the anti-tax activist, once declared.
Two points. First, can you imagine the uproar if someone from organized labor said "We're going to crush industry and commerce as a political entity"? The fear mongering over intolerant "Lefties" would never end. Second, democracy is nothing if it's not about competing factions. Why does Norquist hate democracy?

On the positive side, the numbers above suggest individuals understand that unions help America's middle class. Conservative politicians and the corporate controlled media would have us think otherwise. Looks like we need a champion to start framing the political debate differently ... is John Edwards our guy? He's definitely my candidate.

- Mark

Sunday, December 23, 2007


John Edwards has a pretty good blog on health care in America. Specifically, Edwards responds to Bush’s challenge that before we “start griping about the health care system here... compare it with other systems around the world.” Here are some of the lowlights …
• In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) did a comparative assessment of the health systems of 191 countries and found that in terms of the five measured performance indicators, the U.S. ranked 37th.
• In 2002, the U.S. spent more on health care per person than other industrial countries like Britain, Canada, France, and Germany.
• In 2006, unlike the other industrial countries that have universal health care systems and insure everyone, the U.S. is shown to have over 47 million Americans who lack health coverage.
• In 2007, we learned that in Bush's own home state, one out of every four Texans is uninsured. Said another way, 25% of the population of Texas are unable to access any of lifesaving services contained within Bush's fabulous system.
There's a lot more. The links are especially good. Citizens’ Health Care Working Group also has an excellent site detailing problems that George Bush doesn’t seem to understand.

- Mark

Saturday, December 22, 2007


I learned this Saturday that some people are unsure about the origin of Chickenhawk.

To understand how Chicken-hawk applies to Bush era war mongerers consider this: The chicken(hawk) on the right is smaller and, in this episode, pressuring the bigger chicken (Foghorn Leghorn) to follow him as he starts trouble.


What we really want for Christmas ...

Cheney's fate is appropriate too.

- Mark

Friday, December 21, 2007


This Saturday at 3:15 our Iowa Caucus liaison, Rich Kurtenbach, will once again return to let us know what's happening in Iowa, and how the process will play out.

For now, Rich has his own Christmas Wish List. Specifically, he wants Iowa's Democratic House legislators to vote for Labor Platform Resolutions ...

1. Prevailing Wage Legislation

2. Fair Share Legislation

3. Expanding Public Sector bargaining

Thanks Rich ...
Hopefully Santa, and Iowa's Democratic Legislators, are listening.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


What We Want for Christmas is:

10. A quick recovery for our overstretched U.S. Military from the Bush years lack of respect (stop loss orders), dunning (going after the bonuses of wounded soldiers), and shameless disregard for our wounded and incapacitated troops.

9. For the Young Republicans and the College Republicans to finally create a link to the U.S. Military on their webpages so that other “young republicans” can join the War on Terror, instead of earning their stripes as Chickenhawks, fighting bogus “culture wars” from the comfort of their homes.

8. For Democrats in Congress to quit caving in to President Bush’s spying demands.

7. A victory for the GOP’s Mike Huckabee. Arianna Huffington has the goods on why this is a good thing.

6. For someone to explain why the CIA can destroy torture tapes to "protect the identities" of CIA interrogators, but no one says a thing when virtually everyone in Bush's White House had a hand in outing the identity of CIA asset Valerie Plame Wilson.

5. For the Federal Reserve to start acting like the value of the American dollar matters to our nation’s future.

4. For Kern County’s patriotic (wink, wink) “In God We Trust” motto to go away, and for the Board of Trustees to start paying attention to the Brown Act.

3. For the Bush administration to start living up to the human right’s standards outlined in international treaties, which were signed by republican and democratic administrations alike (which means respecting Art. VI of the Constitution too).

2. For the mainstream media to start doing its job and become the Fourth Estate once again, while Bush is still in the White House.

1. For ______________ and __________________ to ____________ Check back on Saturday before the program.

More links coming ...

- Mark

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


By way of Daily Kos Arianna Huffington has the goods on potential GOP fontrunner Mike Huckabee: He’s a Christian dream come true but, strangely, influential insiders are suddenly wary of an "overdose of public piety" and "scriptural literalism” in the White House. Hmmmm. Could the concern over Huckabee’s sudden ascent be due to the fact that the “religious right base is supposed to be seen, not heard. Candidates are supposed to pander to this crowd, not actually come from this crowd."

Then we have former Reagan assistant and speech writer Peggy Noonan weighing in on how the biblical shift may have squeezed out republican icon Ronald Reagan …

I wonder if our old friend Ronald Reagan could rise in this party, this environment. Not a regular churchgoer, said he experienced God riding his horse at the ranch, divorced, relaxed about the faiths of his friends and aides, or about its absence. He was a believing Christian, but he spent his adulthood in relativist Hollywood, and had a father who belonged to what some saw, and even see, as the Catholic cult. I'm just not sure he'd be pure enough to make it in this party. I'm not sure he'd be considered good enough.

Arianna’s closer says it all: "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

- Mark


President Bush was asking congress to grant the telecom industry retroactive immunity for their part in granting the Bush administration access to their networks to spy on ordinary Americans … seven months before 9/11! Yesterday, thanks to Senator Chris Dodd President Bush didn’t get his way. There are a lot of procedural and technical details involved – not to mention the telecom “retroactive immunity” lobby will be back – so click on this link to Glen Greenwald, who explains what’s happening (if the link doesn’t work click here for the Dailykos intro).

For now, Dodd gets kudos for standing tall, and reminding us all that the Democratic Party can stand up to Mr. 24% and his disasterous presidency.

- Mark

Monday, December 17, 2007


By way of the Washington Monthly ...

It turns out that the Bush administration was asking the telecom industry to work with them to spy on Americans … back in February, 2001. Do the math. That’s seven months before 9/11. Here’s a snippet from the NY Times.

… in February 2001, just days before agency officials met with Qwest officials, the N.S.A. met with AT&T officials to discuss replicating a network center in Bedminster, N.J., to give the agency access to all the global phone and e-mail traffic that ran through it.

And the Bush administration wants retroactive immunity for the telecom industry, claiming they were helping “in times of national security emergencies”? Can anyone explain, what was the emergency in February of 2001?

- Mark

Friday, December 14, 2007


Like the Civil War, the War on Terror and our "wink and a nod" torture policy is pitting America against herself and creating a great divide ...

It’s creating a divide between people who, as our Founding Fathers wrote, believe we are a City on a Hill, a shining beacon for all of humanity, and those who believe we need to hide what we do ... It's creating a divide between those who believe respect for “inalienable rights” is part of America's value system, and those who think water boarding and chaining prisoners in a fetal position until they urinate & defecate on themselves are the best America can do ... It's creating a divide between those who think torture makes us stronger and contributes to our security, and those who believe torture undermines our values and make us weaker by forcing us into the morally bankrupt defense that “At least we’re not as bad as the Nazi’s” ... It's creating a divide between people who believe human dignity and the rule of law are driving forces in American history, and those who believe human dignity is negotiable and the ends justify the means.

America is an idea as much as it is a country. Only America can live up to its ideas. Let me give you an example of how this works ...

During and after WWII the West was faced with a dilemma: “What do we do with captured Nazi’s and their sympathizers?” We had every excuse in the world to execute and seek reprisals against people who acted as extensions of a cruel and vile criminal state. And, at the time, not many would have cried foul if we had decided to summarily execute, torture, or compel forced labor for everyone involved in the Nazi machine. There were not many willing to stand up for the Nazis. In fact, execution, torture, and forced labor were among the choices given to President Roosevelt and President Truman. In the end, it was not the choice either took.

On the program we'll discuss those options, and how the choices America made then helped create the moral authority that facilitated American leadership throughout the cold war, and helped the United States shine like a City on a Hill.

- Mark

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Is Dick Cheney's Portfolio an Impeachable Offense?

The Daily Reckoning asks this question after Kiplinger's magazine ran with the headline, "Cheneys betting on bad news?" No matter what you want to believe on how the Cheney's investment portfolio is structured, both pieces raise interesting questions.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


This stuff ticks me off.

The Federal Reserve doesn’t want to “stigmatize” regular banks who are in a bind because of the mortgage mess. So they are opening what is really just another “teller window” so that banks can get new loans by bidding on the Fed's money. What this amounts to really is another way to subsidize stupid decision-making in the financial world.

Then again, it also shows there’s no such thing as free market forces, market discipline, and “invisible hands” when it comes to the biggest players who make real dumb decisions.

Follow me down below (same title) and I’ll explain in real simple terms what I think is happening.

- Mark

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


OK, it's official. Water boarding and/or torture techniques were approved by the Bush White House. But fortunately for us, according to former CIA officer John Kiriakou, when the “enhanced interrogation” techniques were practiced on captured al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah we were able to secure useful information. So that makes it OK, right? Not exactly.

There are several problems with the evolving narrative. As former CIA officer Larry Johnson points out,
1) John Kirakou, did not participate in the water boarding of Abu Zubaydah (i.e. he can’t say what else was done).
2) The information provided by Abu Zubaydah did not cover areas inside the United States (which raises questions about national security).

Then we have these technicalities.
1) The U.S. Supreme Court held in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006) that detainees captured in the war on terrorism are protected by Art. 3 of the Geneva Conventions.
2) Water boarding also falls under the descriptions outlined in the 1987 “Convention Against Torture ...” which tells us that water boarding is ILLEGAL.
3) (For the Christians) Unless you’re partial to the Old Testament, I’m not sure Jesus would approve.

But wait, there’s more. Apparently the U.S. has a history of pursuing convictions against military personnel for conducting water boarding on U.S. soldiers, and against the enemy.
1) We convicted Japanese soldiers for using water boarding on U.S. servicemen during WW II. Seitara Hata received 25 years of hard labor for his acts.
2) Larry Johnson tells us after the accompanying photo was shown by the Washington Post in 1968 an investigation was conducted by the U.S. Military and a court martial followed.

At the end of the day, while I’m not a fan, I have to agree with John McCain on this: It “is not about who they are. It’s about who we are.”

- Mark


Remember Dick Cheney’s famous prediction that the insurgency was in its “last throes"? If my math is correct, that would make a “throe unit” about 2 ½ years because the insurgency is still going strong. Now we have this. Cheney claims that by the middle of Jan. 2009 Iraq will be a democracy. Specifically,

… it will be clear that “we have in fact achieved our objective in terms of having a self-governing Iraq that’s capable for the most part of defending themselves, a democracy in the heart of the Middle East, a nation that will be a positive force in influencing the world around it in the future.”

There you have it. America spends blood and treasure to a tune of well over $1 trillion and – civil war or no civil war – Iraq gets Cheney’s “gold star” Award of Confidence. Using Cheney’s benchmarks of civil war, and thousands dead, makes the Sudan a fledgling democracy, right? (Just asking).

And isn’t it convenient that Bush and “Throe Unit” Cheney will be out of the White House by January 2009. By predicting democracy in Iraq by January 2009 both can then pass the buck and claim "We had Iraq on track for democracy by now ... you guys blew it."

Thursday, December 6, 2007


President Bush’s critics appear to be gloating over the recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). The NIE tells us that President Bush’s war mongering over Iran’s nuclear program has little merit. But the "We-told-you-so" celebrations may be premature. Don't be surprised if President Bush, like "Bush Propaganda Network" FOX News (FOX News: “Bush Calls on Iran to 'Come Clean' on Nuclear Activities”) chooses to ignore the NIE because it doesn’t tell him what he wants to hear.

This won’t be the first time President Bush has ignored a NIE (NIEs are summaries of intelligence gathered by all 16 intelligence agencies in the country). After 9/11 President Bush's team turned a blind eye to the NIE they had on hand because it wasn’t useful. Specifically, the NIE assessment at the time stated “Iraq did not appear to have reconstituted its nuclear weapons program.” This is not good enough when you want war with Iraq.
To fix the NIE assessment problem the Bush administration ordered up another NIE. But this time he had his team on hand to help “craft” and influence the report. It all started with a December 2001 NIE that stated “Recent Iraq procurements, however, suggest possible preparation for renewed uranium enrichment program.” And just like that, the Iraq war pendulum began to swing the other way for the intelligence community.

The December 2001 NIE helped pave the way for the subsequent October 2002 NIE report – "Iraq's Continuing Program for Weapons of Mass Destruction" – which claimed “Baghdad began reconstituting its nuclear program shortly after the departure of the UNSCOM inspectors in December 1998.” Apart from paving the way for war with Iraq, the October 2002 NIE became famous inside the CIA as the "Whore of Babylon" because it explicitly endorsed Dick Cheney's "Saddam has resumed efforts to acquire ..." rhetoric.

In an effort to keep the grand lie going, and to keep experts from calling the Oct. 2002 NIE what it was – i.e. highly politicized and undependable “intelligence” – the Bush administration had a pliant republican-controlled senate stonewall intelligence hearings (led by Senate Intelligence Chair, R-Pat Roberts). Then they tried to discredit and intimidate anyone who told the truth about the Oct. 2002 NIE and other administration claims. This helps explain why the Bush administration went after Ambassador Joseph Wilson and CIA Operative Valerie Plame. Wilson's trip to Niger and his op-ed in the NY Times (“What I Didn’t Find in Africa”) told the world that the Bush administration was offering little more than a "pack of lies" on the Iraq-Niger “yellowcake” story.

There’s more. But the moral of the story is President Bush has a history of dismissing what he does not like to hear and acting on things impetuously (because he trusts his “gut”). While we can hope that common sense prevails, don’t be surprised if this NIE report does not deter President Bush from war mongering on Iran in the future.

Monday, December 3, 2007

HOW BAD: Return of Depression Economics Bad?

When Paul Krugman talked about the necessity for greater capital controls seven years ago in The Return of Depression Economics not many paid attention. Among the points he made was we have an obsolete global economic system that’s not prepared for today’s financial "innovations."

Today that system is starting to crumble. And no one – especially the so-called “experts” – really know what’s going. Many are pointing to the housing market boogeyman as the culprit. The real problem is much deeper. According to Krugman it’s so deep that “nobody knows where the financial toxic waste is buried.”

For my part, I think two of our major problems stem from (1) a belief in “deregulation” for deregulation’s sake (i.e. laissez faire economics), and (2) the Federal Reserve working to protect George Bush’s economy rather than the integrity of the dollar. For now, take a look at Paul Krugman’s latest masterwork.

Rest assured, I will be discussing the financial and economic problems we face in the future.

- Mark


Whether we are speaking about former Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace or retired Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, there’s plenty of blame for Iraq to go around, which they now acknowledge. So why is it that these guys didn’t say anything when they were active? Did they catch Robert McNamara Disease, or get caught up in this country’s “bumper sticker patriotism”? Apparently several Iraqi war vets thinks it's a little of both, and they think we need to do something about it (click on the Pace-Sanchez links). And, I'm sure, there are many sideline war cheerleaders who will not agree with the prescription.

If you’ve ever thought about service to our country as a “national obligation” take a look at this link on the proposed National Service Act. It’s got some interesting observations, and some good articles.

THE SURGE ... In Homeless Iraq-Afghanistan War Vets

This is one of those uplifting stories that make you want to call one of Bush's war mongers to ask if they have a spare bedroom (not that it would help). And just in time for the holidays …
Experts who work with veterans say it often takes several years after leaving military service for veterans’ accumulating problems to push them into the streets. But some aid workers say the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans appear to be turning up sooner than the Vietnam veterans did.

“We’re beginning to see, across the country, the first trickle of this generation of warriors in homeless shelters,” said Phil Landis, chairman of Veterans Village of San Diego, a residence and counseling center. “But we anticipate that it’s going to be a tsunami.”
I wonder how many conservative groups and Bumper Sticker Patriots are losing any sleep trying to solve this problem. See the complete story here.