Wednesday, May 25, 2005

What Is It That Needs Fixing?

Excellent point.

Why is it Social Security that needs fixing when it is the Republicans’ runaway’ spending that is the problem?!

By their own admission, the problem will occur when the excessive SS contributions begin to slow down causing the government to look elsewhere for the money they need to cover all those tax cuts they gave their rich friends (and, I suspect, themselves).

So why is it Social Security that needs fixing?

Star Wars

Finally got to see it last night. First impression: good, not great. Best of the prequels. Maybe -- I haven't completely decided yet -- maybe better than Return of the Jedi.

I have to admit, I was bored for about the first 45 minutes to an hour. The big battle in the beginning -- eh. Even the General Grievous thing didn't do much for me. But about the point where Anakin started to turn -- around the opera scene -- I started to get interested. And from there on, it was a great ride.

Best moment was when Yoda blew aside the Imperial Guards. The fight between Obi Wan and Anakin was also great. Worst moment: Vader stepping off the table on which he was built and yelling Noooooooooooooooo! I read in some review that one would be tempted to yell "It's alive!" during that scene and I definitely was. My ever-perceptive daughter noted that George Lucas really knows how to blow what should've been a great moment.

Lots of great references to the original movies, especially toward the end which ties up some loose knots. But the still unanswered question for me is why does Obi Wan not recognize the droids in A New Hope? There are other, probably more important, plot holes that I can't think of right now, but that one has always bothered me and it is not answered.

Also, parts of it are pretty gruesome, especially what happens to Anakin in the fight with Obi Wan. I'm pretty sure that's why it got a PG13.

I'll probably go see it again but I was not overwhelmed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Understanding the Nuclear Option

If you don't know how genuinely scary the nuclear option is, you aren't paying attention. Understand that in order to force through the nominations of several judges, Sen. Frist will have to overrule the Senate Parliamentarian and force the nominations through the Senate by ignoring both the rules on Senate debate and the rules for changing Senate rules. This is what's become known as the nuclear option.

Under rules that have been in place for a very long time, you need 60 votes to override a filibuster. Frist wants that changed to a simple majority (51). Also under current rules, you need 67 votes to change Senate rules. Frist is arguing that they aren't trying to change the rules.

More here.

This is truly scary -- this would mean one party would totally control government and the minority would have no voice or ability to stop anything the majority wanted to do. Its like Palpatine in Star Wars manipulating the Senate into giving him unprecedented powers. A sad day for democracy if they get away with this.

Newsweek Doesn't Deserve Diatribes --Resist!

This is about destroying public trust in the media. So was the Rather thing. The Minneapolis Star Tribune spells it out:

The accusations concerning Qur'ans in toilets have been published repeatedly over the past three years in a number of media, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, a number of other American newspapers, the BBC and a Moroccan Islamic newspaper. The only thing Newsweek added was a claim of "official confirmation." While not a small thing, that supposed confirmation did not break this story; it is old news. And one source's faulty memory over where he saw information about it does not prove that the accusations of Qur'an abuse are untrue. Indeed, they still deserve further investigation.

The White House response fits a pattern of trying to intimidate the press from exploring issues the administration doesn't want explored. Compare it, for example, to the Dan Rather report on President Bush's military service. To this day, we don't know if what Rather reported was accurate or not, or to what degree it may have been accurate. Nor do we know whether the documents he cited were genuine. All we know is that CBS can't verify that they were genuine.

Yet the hullabaloo caused by that incident appears to have intimidated other journalists from trying to pin down the full truth about Bush's military service. And now there will probably be less enterprise reporting on prisoner abuse or anything else that might embarrass this administration. It also fits neatly in with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's effort to muzzle public television and radio. This behavior seems so Nixonian, except that the current crew is much better at the
press-intimidation game than William Safire and Vice President Spiro Agnew were.
For Newsweek and other media that come in for this treatment, we have one word:

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Interesting observation:

One reason I don't think it's at all paranoid to suspect that the Republicans have deliberately taken over the voting system in order to cheat is that they keep doing things that don't otherwise make sense. There's a rather long list of things you just wouldn't expect them to think they could get away with unless they really thought they could control the ballot box, because otherwise they would have to expect that the public would kick enough of them out to not only end some political careers but also make impeachment - and prison - a distinct possibility.

Daily Show on TV Covering Bloggers

Funny segment on last night's Daily Show about the stupidity of TV covering blogging. Ed Cone was featured, looking pretty geekified. I love Ed, but the segment he did/does for MSNBC (?) was made for comedy. Stewart also picked on Skippy the Bush Kangaroo; despite the silly name, this is a terrific blog.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Crash and Burn

I hate Bill O'Reilly. But blowhards like him usually crash and burn and it appears he is. He's down more than a million viewers since last October.

lLst night, I caught a minute or two of his show -- I was flipping channels and saw footage of Angelina Jolie, who my daughter loves. So we stopped and watched. O'Lielly (as Franken calls him) was in the middle of a rant about how Jolie and Don Cheadle won't appear on his show. It was unbelievably stupid and petulant. Think Progress has more.

I'll tell you one thing, you do NOT mess with Angelina Jolie in my house!

Monday, May 09, 2005

2004 Election Stolen?

Read this and this.

Another Emily Litella Moment

That terrorist captured last week, the one the US said was #3 in the al-Qaeda hiearachy? Never mind.

More on Bush based Church

This is great -- the audio of the election-eve sermon by the mullah of that NC church telling the parishoners that they should repent or resign if they vote for Kerry.

Hey Seniors -- Food or Medicine?

That’s the choice the Bush admin is giving seniors. From Salon:

(As reported in the New York Times) some seniors who take advantage of the prescription drug plan will see some of their savings offset by a cut in the food stamps they receive. The thinking: If seniors are spending less on drugs, then they surely they have more to spend on food. As the Times reported, the Bush administration says a hypothetical Mrs. Smith might see her drug costs drop from $147 to $105 a month. But in recognition of this windfall, the government would take away $17 of her $27 a month in food stamps.

The logic isn't crazy, just cold-hearted. And we're guessing it's not what Congress had in mind when it approved the plan in the first place. In fact, we don't have to guess. The Medicare Modernization Act specifically provides that discounts and subsidies seniors receive through the prescription drug program “shall not be treated as benefits or otherwise taken into account in determining an individual’s eligibility for, or the amount of benefits under, any other federal program.”

Smoking Memo

I meant to blog about this last week or maybe even the week before. But during the recent British election, the existence of a "smoking memo" was revealed. From Joe Conason on Salon:

On May 1, the Sunday Times of London published the confidential minutes of a meeting held almost three years ago at 10 Downing Stree, residence of the British prime minister, where Tony Blair and members of his Cabinet discussed the British government's ongoing consultations with the Bush administration over Iraq.

What the minutes clearly show is that Bush and Blair secretly agreed to wage war for "regime change" nearly a year before the invasion -- and months before they asked the United Nations Security Council to support renewed weapons inspections as an alternative to armed conflict. The minutes also reveal the lingering doubts over the legal and moral justifications for war within the Blair government.

"C [Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6] reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the U.N. route ... There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."

Conason starts his piece by asking:

Are Americans so jaded about the deceptions perpetrated by our own government to lead us into war in Iraq that we are no longer interested in fresh and damning evidence of those lies? Or are the editors and producers who oversee the American news industry simply too timid to report that proof on the evening broadcasts and front pages?

When shit like this happens -- the media totally ignores a smoking memo -- we are fucked.

Top High Schools

The school my daughter will go to next year is ranked 38th by Newsweek. The other high school in our town is ranked 74th. A couple of other local schools are in the top 100; one (a charter school) is ranked 9th.

Support Dear Leader or Else

The mullah of a Baptist church in little ol' Waynesville, North Carolina, has excommunicated 9 members who refused to support George Bush. You can't make this stuff up.

Another Krugman Must Read

Well once again you must read Paul Krugman's column in today's NY Times:

Mr. Bush isn't calling for small sacrifices now. Instead, he's calling for zero sacrifice now, but big benefit cuts decades from now - which is exactly what he says will happen if we do nothing. Let me repeat that: to avert the danger of future cuts in benefits, Mr. Bush wants us to commit now to, um, future cuts in benefits.

These guys are con artists. And Robin Hood, Bush ain't:

The point is that the privatizers consider four years of policies that relentlessly favored the wealthy a fait accompli, not subject to reconsideration. Now that tax cuts have busted the budget, they want us to accept large cuts in Social Security benefits as inevitable. But they demand that we praise Mr. Bush's sense of social justice, because he proposes bigger benefit cuts for the middle class than for the poor.


After watching the Discovery Channel show on the Yellowstone supervolcano last month, I read today that the U.S. Geological Survey is rating the threat of an eruption at Yellowstone HIGH!

Friday, May 06, 2005


With all the hype around Star Wars, it was the last 20 seconds of this from director Bryan Singer's blog about the making of the new Superman movie that gave me goosebumps. You have to watch this.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Just bought this CD last night and I'm really enjoying it. Its contemporary classical music by Philip Glass, Steve Reich, John Adams (all of whom I am familiar with) and Dave Heath (who I have never heard of). Reich's "Eight Lines" is particularly good. BTW, if you've never heard Reich's "Different Trains," you should give it a listen. But this CD is, as the reviewer on Amazon put it, a one-stop introduction to minimalism.

The Game is Fixed

Excellent column by EJ Dionne in the WaPo on how the Republicans are fixing the game and recommending that its time for the Dems to just leave the table.

That the president is fixing the Social Security reform game should be obvious.

The game is also fixed because the president has narrowed the range of Social Security options to protect his most questionable policy choices.

Bush has refused to put his own tax cuts on the table as part of a Social Security fix. Repealing Bush's tax cuts for those earning more than $350,000 a year could cover all or most of the 75-year Social Security shortfall. Keeping part of the estate tax in place could cover a quarter to half of the shortfall. Some of the hole could be filled in by a modest surtax on dividends or capital gains.

But Bush is resolute about protecting the interests of the truly rich by making sure that any taxes on wealth are ruled out of the game from the beginning. The Social Security cuts he is proposing for the wealthy are a pittance compared with the benefits they get from his tax cuts. The president is keeping his eye on what really matters to him.

The real costs of progressive indexing as currently conceived would be paid by middle-income earners -- those with incomes in the range of $35,000 to $60,000 a year.

Eventually, such earners would face benefit cuts of 20 to 30 percent from what they are promised under the current program. And it gets worse:

Read the column to find out how.

Hypocrisy in Humor

Oh man, this is hysterical. You have to read it. Its Digby's take on that unbelievable Laura Bush performance the other night. I didn't find Laura funny at all, but I laughed out loud reading the Digby take on it all.

Monday, May 02, 2005

More on Bush Bamboozle

A few more things to keep in mind regarding the latest Bush bamboozle on Social Security (known as the Pozen plan for some conservative dickwad economist who came up with the idea):

Bush is now defining people who are "better off" as anyone earning over $20,000/year. When selling his tax cuts, he defined people who were the "lowest income taxpayers" as anyone earning under $100,000. -- Atrios

The Pozen plan maintains solvency in part by mandating about $2 trillion in transfers from general funds. Note, this does not include any sort of private account plan which would be also require significant up front borrowing in order to cover current beneficiaries. -- Atrios

Absent some clearly defined other plan, disability benefits would of course be cut in a Pozen-related plan. But, more than that, dependent benefits for widows and widowers with dependent children would also be seriously slashed, as they too are formula-linked to retirement benefits. -- Atrios

The Coming Dark Ages

Good interview with evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

Among other things, he says:

My American friends tell me that you are slipping towards a theocratic Dark Age. Which is very disagreeable for the very large number of educated, intelligent and right-thinking people in America. Unfortunately, at present, it's slightly outnumbered by the ignorant, uneducated people who voted Bush in.

And also this:

Bush and bin Laden are really on the same side: the side of faith and violence against the side of reason and discussion. Both have implacable faith that they are right and the other is evil. Each believes that when he dies he is going to heaven. Each believes that if he could kill the other, his path to paradise in the next world would be even swifter. The delusional "next world" is welcome to both of them. This world would be a much better place without either of them.

Love this guy.

Sticking It to the Middle Class

Krugman, excellent as always, on the Bush plan to keep on sticking it to the middle class:

I asked Jason Furman of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to calculate the benefit cuts under the Bush scheme as a percentage of pre-retirement income. That's a way to see who would really bear the burden of the proposed cuts. It turns out that the middle class would face severe cuts, but the wealthy would not.

The average worker - average pay now is $37,000 - retiring in 2075 would face a cut equal to 10 percent of pre-retirement income. Workers earning 60 percent more than average, the equivalent of $58,000 today, would see benefit cuts equal to almost 13 percent of their income before retirement.

But above that level, the cuts would become less and less significant. Workers earning three times the average wage would face cuts equal to only 9 percent of their income before retirement. Someone earning the equivalent of $1 million today would see benefit cuts equal to only 1 percent of pre-retirement income.

In short, this would be a gut punch to the middle class, but a fleabite for the truly wealthy.

Smell What's Cooking

Birthday cake for The Rock.

Can't say I've ever seen any of his movies, but I loved him when I used to watch wrestling with my son, back in the day.