Sunday, February 27, 2005

Blogging the Oscars

Overall, I was pretty happy with the results from this year's Oscars. Towards the end of the show, I found myself rooting for "anything but the Aviator". I was very happy to see Morgan Freeman take home the best supporting actor role, Hilary Swank for best actress, Jamie Fox for Ray, Sideways for best screenplay, and Million Dollar Baby for best picture.

For the year, my favorite movies were: Hotal Rwanda, Million Dollar Baby, Sideways, Garden State, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Fahrenheit 9/11, The Corporation, Hero, Shaun of the Dead, Control Room, Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, and The Incredibles.

If I had to pick one movie to recommend that every watch, it would be Hotel Rwanda, with The Corporation taking a close second spot.


Senator Boxer and Clinton introduce "Count Every Vote Act" of 2005

Senator Barbara Boxer is at it again, this time co-sponsoring a bill with Hillary Clinton entitled the "Count Every Vote Act" of 2005. This bill is exactly what we need to solve the inadequacies of our electoral process - As well all know, the election results of 2000 and 2004 were both clouded by controversy. Initial coverage of this new bill, including discussions on Slashdot and Daily Kos does not sound very optimistic.

Maybe I'm being a little naive, but I was encouraged by the announcement of this bill. This is how we have to frame the issue - How can anybody possibly oppose this bill? Who doesn't want to encourage everyone to have the right to vote?

Some of the key issues addressed by the bill:

  • "the source and object code of all electronic voting machines to be open and readable by the public."
  • "Paper records of electronic voting"
  • "Election-day registration"
  • "Election Day as a national holiday."
  • "Restoration of voting rights for former felons"
  • "Minimum required voting systems, poll workers, and election resources"
  • "Impartial Administration of Elections"
We need to make noise on this issue. Contact your local representatives and let them know that you support this bill.

Further discussion can be found on Common Dreams and the Miami Herald (subscription required).


The Free Market Mentality - The Neoconservative/Libertarian Pipe Dream

I have to admit that when I was younger and more naive, I was a big proponent of capitalism and the free market. As an inquisitive and scientific mind, I enjoyed the beauty and relative simplicity of the free mark model. Over time, I have come to appreciate that we live in a complicated world, and that the free market model does not fit all situations that it is applied to, and that industry regulation is appropriate in certain cases.

I'll start with an extreme example - The February 18th episode of the Al Franken Show, broadcast from the Conservative Political Action Conference, featured Michael Medved. If you download this episode, fast forward to 30 minutes in to listen to the Medved segment.

Anyways, Medved appeared on Franken's show and argued that the 1964 Civil Rights Act should never have passed. His argument was that the government has no business regulating private behavior. Medved's argument is that market forces would've eventually forced all corporations to refrain from racist and segregationist business and hiring practices, because they would've faced protests and boycotts if they continued in their racists and discriminatory practices. This argument is wrong on so many levels -- First of all, the Government has no business regulating individual behavior? Are you serious? Do you believe that market forces would prevent corporations from polluting the environment, hiring child workers, and forcing workers to work in hazardous environments.

Al: So you think it should be legal for restaurants to ban black people from going into their restaurant?

Michael: Yeah...that restaurant today would be closed.

Do you see how naive these people are? In a recent blog entry, I focused on the behavior of the Wal*Mart Corporation. Wal*Mart was recently sued for ignoring child labor laws. They shut down a store in Canada that was attempting to unionize, they have been caught destroying documents and evidence, they are responsible for increasing the US trade deficit and for destroying smalltown America. Yet, market forces have rewarded Wal*Mart by making the five members of the Walton family among the ten richest people in the world, and making Wal*Mart the number one employer in the United States. In the end, Wal*Mart is a huge net destructive force, and a harbinger of things to come, as corporations continue to merge into massive conglomerations, while the neocons continue to push for further deregulation in every market.

An issue that I continue to address is the urgency in developing a national renewable energy policy. This is a task so important that it goes well beyond the profit margins of individual corporations and well being of the economy.

The chief argument against the use of renewable energies is that they are simply too expensive. The argument is that market forces are such that eventually we will switch to renewable energies when the market conditions dictate that the cost of alternative renewable energy becomes cheaper than conventional energy. Think about this for a minute -- We have a finite amount of usable conventional energy on this planet, and in a relatively short 200 year period since the industrial revolution, we have progressed to a point where we are entirely too dependent on resources that are being rapidly depleted. That is the true reality - not a self-imposed economic market.

Take a look at this blog entry about Oil Energy Future from Alternative Energy Blog. ExxonMobil is busy convincing the world that we should prepare for a switch from an oil-based economy to a liquefied natural gas-based economy. Notes from the conference can be found here. They are advocating the switch from one finite, non-renewable energy resource to another finite, non-renewable energy resource. Their argument is based on the this does not represent a good choice for our country or for our environment.

On the issue of developing a renewable energy infrastructure, individual corporations are ill-equipped to make sound decisions. General Motors decided to destroy it's entire line of EV1 vehicles, despite the fact that they have received a petition with a list of buyers wishing to purchase the vehicles. The argument on economic cost alone is a sham - The problem is that economic cost does not properly factor in the cost of environmental degradation, of continued reliance on a rapidly depleting resource, and of the wars resulting from the necessity of maintaining a readily available supply of oil.

One could argue that the cost of oil is actually much higher than the $1.90 / gallon we currently pay at the gas pump. This cost does not factor in the hundreds of billions of dollars of tax money we are spending on the Iraq war. This cost does not factor in the cost of global warming. This cost does not factor in the future we are mortgaging by rapidly depleting the world's remaining reserves of oil.

Personally, I believe that the government should impose tariffs on the price of gas, and use the proceeds to develop a renewable energy infrastructure. The argument against this is that tariffs are an artificial economic barrier -- but, that is simply not the case. The cost of continuing to rely on oil must be factored into the cost of gas. Doing so will force the American people to re-evaluate their priorities. Why do we continue to live life day after day, blissfully ignorant of the fact that we are mortgaging the future of this country - the future our children will one day have to live with. Higher gas prices will lead to increased development and use of mass transportation, and will allow alternative, renewable energies to compete on a level playing field with conventional energy. The economy does not represent reality - it is an approximation of reality, which must sometimes be manipulated, tweaked, or altogether ignored, in order to produce an outcome that is beneficial to our society as a whole.


Saturday, February 26, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging (about two days late)

I Haven't blogged much lately, as I've been on 'n off sick for the past few weeks. I've been meaning to post a Friday cat blog forever, and just haven't gotten around to it. In the spirit of procrastination, here's my Friday cat blog, even though it's technically Sunday morning. Meet Teeger and Neo :)

Free Image Hosting at

Free Image Hosting at

Free Image Hosting at

Free Image Hosting at


Thursday, February 24, 2005

From the "seems to insane to be true" department, the government has appointed D. Reed Freedman, Chief Privacy Officer of Claria, formerly known as Gator, to the Department of Homeland Security. Gator is infamous for developing GAIN, a pesky spyware application that installs itself on home computers, unknowingly and unwanted. Freedman has been appointed to the Privacy Advisory Committee. Slashdot users, in their typical cynical fashion, were quick to point out the parallels with Orwell's 1984, and the entire story is dripping with irony. This story seems like it should have originated from the pages of The Onion, but has almost come to be expected from an administration that appoints oil executives to create environmental and regulatory policies.


The Neoconservative Agenda and the Mainstream Media - Logic Need Not Apply

Time and time again, the pundits and mainstream media fail to convey the smallest hint of common sense and credibility. Over and over again, the media fails to see the big picture, instead falling for the Rove-spun and right-wing think tank spin on each issue. I'm going to run through a few major stories we've heard over the past few months - displaying time and time again the laughability of a liberal media bias and the absurd lack of logic and reasoning of so-called "mainstream political thought".

Social Security Crisis Coverage - Let's start with the illogical evidence used in the argument to advocate privatization of social security. In stating that the social security fund is in a crisis, the critics use a abysmally low 1.8% average growth rate in projections to state that the fund will go not be able to fully fund itself in 2042, while at the same time pointing to the growth in the stock market over the past 75 years, with a growth rate of double that. For one, if we experience a low 1.8% economic growth rate until the year 2042, it means that the stock market will perform abysmally as well, and will be no better off in funding social security. If higher growth numbers are instead used, the social security fund will be fine. There is simply no arguement that can be made to support the privatization of social security.

Instead, the media should be focusing on president Bush's insistence on arguing of the inevitability of a social security crisis -- an event that will not occur for 40 - 50 years. This is from a president with a track record of careless disregard for the future of our country -- abandoning environmental regulations like the Clean Air Act and Kyoto Protocol, ignoring the grave danger posed by our impending energy crisis, destroying the nation's attempt to pay off the national debt, diminishing civil rights and liberties, fighting for industrial deregulation and tax cuts, encouraging greater disparity between the rich and the poor, doing nothing to fight skyrocketing health care costs, and I might as well add attempting to destroy social security. These are the real crises that will face our country. All thanks to President Bush, a man who claims to be looking out for the future of our country.

2004 Presidential Election vs. Voter Disenfranchisement - There were very serious problems with conduction of the 2004 presidential election. Massive disparities between lines in predominately black neighborhoods vs. white neighborhoods in Ohio, due to unethical distribution of voting machines and polling stations; partisan secretaries of state; partisan CEOs of corporations responsible for developing voting technology - I am not going to rehash all this, since it is common knowledge, or at least should be. Sen. Barbara Boxer made history during the electoral vote confirmation by joining a congressional effort challenging the result of the election.

I listened to the coverage of the proceedings of this challenge on C-Span. The challenge was for a very specific purpose - to bring the issue of voter disenfranchisement and problems with the electoral process to the public forefront. Instead of focusing on the issue, the republican senators came up one after the other to argue about the partisan goals of the democrats - claiming that they were obstructionists, conspiracy theorists, and liberally evoking the name of Michael Moore, in an attempt to undermine the voice of the democratic challenge, and to marginalize the seriousness of the problems with the 2004 election. The actions of the republican senators who stood up against the challenge were childish, petty, and boorish - If these senators had nothing beneficial to add to the conversation, they should have remained seated. This was a serious issue, and I have no respect for those senators and pundits who framed the issue as partisan bickering.

Condoleezza Rice/Alberto Gonzales Confirmation Hearings vs. Race Card - Barbara Boxer, and later, Harry Reid, led the charge in an attempt to bar the confirmation of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. There were valid reasons to refuse to confirm both of the president's nominations. Condi was essential to the president's effort to deceive the American public into supporting the War in Iraq on false pretenses. Alberto Gonzales was responsible for memos that indicated that the United States condoned torture, a despicable stance beyond reproach, even more so in the wake of the Abu Ghraib and Gitmo prison scandals.

It is true that both Rice and Gonzales, for the most part, have led admirable lives, with great life stories. The issue is that the neoconservative senators and pundits once again decided to spin the issue in an unfortunate manner - they decided to play the race card, claiming that the democratic party was racist for not supporting the nomination of Rice and Gonzales.

The argument is laughable, and actually quite offensive. To claim that failing to nominate Rice to the one of the highest positions in the US government, making her the first African American women as Secretary of State is a racist action is known as race-baiting. This is also true of Alberto Gonzales, the first Hispanic nominated to Attorney General. These nominations were contested based on the records of these individuals -- not on their race.

The neoconservatives appear to enjoy bringing race into the picture only when it is for political gain, hoping to slowly make ground on the democrats, after decades of hindering the civil rights movement and affirmative action. If the neoconservatives were truly interested in racial issues, they would've been supportive of the electoral challenge, and instead used the time to discuss the voter disenfranchisement issue, rather than for political grandstanding.

RatherGate/ABC News vs. Bush's missing service records - After a very successful and respectable career spanning over two decades, Dan Rather is basically forced to retire after using an allegedly forged document to support a story disparaging of President Bush. For months on end, the story is referred to as RatherGate, and the issue does not drop of out the media spotlight. Why isn't the bigger issue looked at -- Bush's service record in the Texas Air National Guard was never truly explained. The required documentation was missing. Not one man has come forward to verify Bush's record with the Air National Guard.

Yet, the media was all over John Kerry, a war hero, after disparaging claims made by the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth. There is an obvious massive lack of credibility here. Rather, a respected journalist, goes after Bush with a credible story, based on slightly flawed evidence, and gets hammered. Bush, the Teflon man, remains unscathed. The Swift Boat Veterans, a despicable crew of miscreants, smears John Kerry, and gets away with it unharmed. Kerry, a War Hero, is left to fend for himself, and may have actually lost the election over the smear tactics of the right.

Gannon/Guckert -- Gay Intolerance/Private Life/Respect vs. Clinton - After Bill Clinton was elected as President, the right spent a massive eight year campaign attempting to smear him, first with Whitewater, and then with the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The scandals were in the rightwing press and the mainstream media for years.

Now, one of the biggest scandals in years breaks out in the Bush Whitehouse - gannonGate. Suddenly, the neocons appear to care about personal privacy - claiming that the media is invading Gannon's privacy and are smearing him because he is gay.

There are completely missing the point of the story -- Namely, why was Gannon in the whitehouse press corps, how did he get passed security, how did he know about "Shock and Awe", did the Whitehouse feed him info/talking points during the Thume/Daschle race, what role did he have in PlameGate, What role did he have in RatherGate, Who fed him his information, Who helped set up Talon News, Who set up Gannon /w the Leadership Institute, and who let him into the Whitehouse Press Corps in the first place?

This has nothing to do with Gannon's sexual orientation, and nothing to do with personal privacy. This is a story with grave implications for the democratic process and the future of the United States. Get with the program, mainstream media of America. The time to start with responsible journalism is now.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Blogosphere 1 Mainstream Media 0

...not like anyone is keeping score, anyway, but the blogosphere collectively landed one whale of a scoop with Gannongate, and the story is about to break big time. The Raw Story has the scoop on a privately circulated letter among democratic senators, initiated by Sen. Durbin, urging President Bush to initiate an investigation into Gannongate.

With support from the majority of democratic Senate, President Bush will not be able to simply ignore this letter. The investigation will have to go forward, and we will learn the truth of Gannon's involvement in the Thume/Daschle race, PlameGate, RatherGate, Shock & Awe, and how he was ever granted a whitehouse press pass, circumventing whitehouse security, which is allegedly purported to be major priority of the Bush Administration.

In any case, we are all urged to contact our local senate representatives, and to encourage them to sign on to the Durbin letter. Gannongate cannot be allowed to die.

This Sen. Durbin story has also been mentioned on Daily Kos and AmericaBlog. The full text of the letter can be found on the original Raw Story article.


Monday, February 21, 2005

Oliver Willis on C-Span

Oliver Willis, the author of the weblog Oliver Willis - From Kryptonite to Stupid, appeared on C-Span this morning. Willis appeared alongside Patrick Ruffini. Willis works for, and is a member of the Indie 500 web ring.

The blogosphere has been under attack recently -- Critics argue that bloggers are unqualified and uncredentialed, with some of the callers to the show arguing that bloggers have no business covering the news.

The blogosphere is quick to point back at the mainstream media for their inability to properly cover the news -- It was the blogosphere that broke the recent Jeff Gannon story. The Gannongate story has been circulating in the blogosphere for two weeks now, and the mainstream media still appears hesitant to cover it. This is a huge story -- It isn't about Jeff Gannon. It is about a corrupt administration that is willing to subvert the democratic process and to manipulate facts and public opinion -- The media should be all over this, but outside of Keith Olbermann, the issue has not received the level of attention it deserves.

In any case, you can check out Oliver Willis' appearance on C-Span here. I recommend checking it out.


Sunday, February 20, 2005

Slightly off-topic (My Music) ...

I've taken most of the holiday weekend off from blogging duty, instead relaxing and spending time with family. My wife managed me to convince me to upload some of my music onto a Myspace account. I wrote a few songs before we got married last spring, but I've had precious little time to work on my music since then. I'm primarily an instrumental piano player, but I'm hoping to get into songwriting sometime in the future. Feel free to check out my music at


Friday, February 18, 2005

Jeff Gannon (AKA James D. Guckert), Rove, PlameGate, RatherGate - it's all coming apart

This Jeff Gannon story keeps getting bigger. With congress calling for an investigation, and the mainstream media picking up this story, we are in for a very big story. A quick summary of what we know so far:
  • James D. Guckert (AKA Jeff Gannon) - A gay, male prostitute, who runs an escort service, and had absolutely no journalism credentials, was granted whitehouse press credentials, even though legitimate journalists from established news organizations like CBS and ABC are regularly denied access. Why was this man allowed in the Whitehouse?
  • It is obvious that the CIA did not conduct a background check on Jeff Gannon, which is required in order for a whitehouse press reporter to be granted a press pass. For starters, Gannon is not even his real name. Married female whitehouse press reporters are required to use their maiden name, so there is no excuse for allowing J.D. Guckert to go by a pseudonym, unless they were deliberately trying to hide his past
  • Video evidence from C-Span archives shows Gannon in the whitehouse press room in February 2003, with a hard pass. Talon News was not established until March 2003, and did not start regular publishing of articles until April 2003.
  • When questioned about Gannon, whitehouse press secretary Scott McClellan claimed that Gannon appeared to work for a legitimate news organization that was regularly published, and was granted daily passes, rather than a hard pass. Both video evidence and firsthand accounts from other whitehouse press reporters directly contradict these claims, as it appears that Gannon had a hard pass before Talon News even existed
  • Talon News was created to establish a back-story cover for Gannon, and is funded by GOPUSA. GOPUSA, is run by Bobby Eberle

And now for the big news items:

  • Plame-Gate and Jeff Gannon are directly linked - Gannon has seemingly self-implicated in interviews, referring to memos that were supposed to be CIA-Classified material. Gannon was instrumental in discrediting ambassador Joseph Wilson when he attempted to directly contradict President Bush's use of the yellowcake uranium as evidence of Iraq's WMD program. The leaking of Valerie Plame's identity was an act bordering on treason.
  • New evidence indicates that Gannon was also instrumental in the development of RatherGate. New evidence seems to indicate that the forged documents used by Dan Rather actually originated from directly within the Whitehouse, and were later used to frame Dan Rather. It appears that Jeff Gannon was used by the Whitehouse to ID Mapes, and was responsible in helping leading the trail away from the Whitehouse by appearing on Hannity & Colmes and providing false information. See this diary from the Daily Kos for more information on this developing story.
  • Jeff Gannon also played a pivotal role in the Daschle/Thume race, releasing a derogatory story about Daschle in coordination with a Thume campaign add. It appears that the neocons were using Gannon as an outlet to play out their political strategies.
  • CBS News has released a story implicating a direct connection between Karl Rove and Jeff Gannon.


Thursday, February 17, 2005

Why is the Jeff Gannon story important?

Bloggers are continuing to lead the investigation into Gannongate. Today, after reviewing historical C-Span White House press conference coverage, it has been revealed that Jeff Gannon (AKA James D. Guckert) had access to the Whitehouse Press Corps before Talon News even existed, and before he had taken the $50 two-day course at the leadership institute to obtain his so-called credentials as a reporter. In addition, video evidence indicates that Guckert was using a hard pass in those early videos way back in February 2003.

This new evidence completely contradicts the testimony of Scott McClellan, who indicated that Gannon/Guckert had received daily passes because he had press credentials, and because he had published regularly. Talon News did not exist until March 2003, and did not begin publishing regularly until April 2003. This evidence, along with the massive purging attempt of all website content published by Gannon, points to an attempted coverup by the Whitehouse.

Salon, Democratic Underground, and Daily Kos are all covering this story today. Members of the Daily Kos are in the process of obtaining higher quality than the relatively low-quality media offered on the C-Span website. The videos in question are the March 3rd and February 25th C-Span Videos available here.

All of this evidence appears to point to the following -- The Bush Administration was having difficulty selling the War on Terror. For some reason, an uncredentialed Guckert (AKA Gannon) was ushered into the Whitehouse Press, and given a hard press pass. Someone high up in the Whitehouse made a decision to bring in Gannon. The questions we need to have answered are who did this and what was their motive?

Further evidence appears to implicate Gannon in the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity. Was Gannon given access to the internal CIA memo which leaked Plame's identity? Was the memo given to Gannon in an attempt to quickly discredit Joseph Wilson dissent of the evidence used to invade Iraq? How high up does this go?

These are questions that need to be answered. This is not about Jeff Gannon. This is about an abusive Bush Administration willing to go far beyond reasonable ethical limits in order to sway public opinion and justify their agenda. This is an administration that has already been caught red-handed using tax-payer funded journalists to advance their agenda, in a deliberate act of state-sponsored propaganda.

I'd to leave you with a video clip I first brought up in a February 5th entry. This clip shows President Bush being questioned about Armstrong Williams and the administration's use of propaganda to promote their agenda. Immediately following three straight hard-nosed questions on the issue of Propaganda, Bush switches to a inane softball question from Jeff Gannon, which allows him to quickly move the entire focus of the press conference. Open this clip in Real Player, and advance to 34 minutes and 43 seconds. How much did President Bush know of Jeff Gannon, his background, and the inappropriateness of his presence in the Whitehouse press room? There are many questions to be answered, and we must all hope that those responsible are held accountable.


Daily Shows on Blogging, Brit Hume and the Republican Echo Chamber

Today, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (AKA Ted Hitler) did a did a segment on internet bloggers. The segment was refreshingly favorable in favor of the blogosphere, calling the old media out on their effort to discredit the blogosphere as a reputable news source, while failing to act as a reputable news source themselves.

On the surface, the blogosphere must be a threat to the vast array of pundits that have taken over news coverage in the past few years. Bloggers have been attacked for repeating allegations, covering stories without proper fact-checking, and writing biased stories.

It is true that many internet bloggers are uncredentialed, and do not have the training and education of professional journalists. I don't claim to be unbiased, but I do make an effort to only cover fact-checked stories, and to avoid propagating unverified rumors.

In reality, the accusations of bloggers made by traditional media can just as easily be pointed back at the old media. Fox News, the New York Post, the Washington Times, Rush Limbaugh, and the vast majority of the right wing radio network have made a living of biased news coverage, propagating unverified rumors, and failing to fact-check their stories:

  • Several years ago, Rush Limbaugh was caught directly quoting a feed from the Media Research Center which ended up being an Aprils Fool's Day joke.
  • Jeff Gannon, the uncredentialed Bush Administration Shill recently exposed by the blogosphere, was caught reproducing press briefings from the Whitehouse verbatim on his website, Talon News. This was actually among the less objectionable of Gannon's offenses, as the drama playing out in the mainstream media is currently revealing.
  • Day after Day, continues to expose lies produced by the Republican Echo Chamber. Instead of exposing the daily follies and lies of the Bush Administration, the so-called liberal media continues to focus on the actions of those that dare oppose the administration.
In one of the most egregious offenses of the past few months, Brit Hume, anchor of the Fox News Channel, misquoted former president Franklin Delanor Roosevelt, claiming that FDR was in favor of eventually privatizing social security. This was a complete lie on the part of Hume. Even after being called on the lie, Hume has refused to publicly apologize for the incident, or even offer a correction, instead claiming that he was misquoted. A growing movement has been calling for Brit Hume to either resign, or to at least offer a public apology to Hume's viewers.

This action by Hume goes beyond being just a disservice to America -- This level of intellectual dishonesty is negligent and demonstrates contempt for the truth and for the American Public. The worst is that, in a clear demonstration of exactly how the Republican Noise Machine functions -- the lies of Hume have been repeated by William J. Bennet, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, FOX News Live anchor David Asman, and CBS News Sunday Morning anchor and CBS Radio Network host Charles Osgood.

This offence is now bordering on the criminally negligent. Misrepresenting a former president of the United States in a direct effort to advance to agenda of the current administration is propaganda, which is a direct threat to the democracy and freedom of the United States.

The mass media has become far to complacent for far too long. The new media - the blogosphere - has stepped in to fill in the gap left by a lax media, unwilling to make the effort and sacrifice required by those that wish to aspire to a lofty slogan like "Real Journalism, Fair and Balanced".


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

If you haven't yet noticed, the groupThink blogroll has grown quiet a bit over the past month. groupThink is now a proud member of the unofficially titled indie 500 - a group of liberal/progressive independent bloggers who want to make a difference.

One blog on the list, Laughing Wild, has taken to task the job of highlighting a daily indie 500 blog of the day (I5BOTD). So far, six blogs have been highlighted by Laughing Wild. With the regrettably short amount of time I had to check out these sites, I have provided my quick take on each of the spotlighted sites below,

Upon Further Review is great - there is some pretty funny writing on the site.

Overspun - Another funny site. Be sure to check out the nuke sites comparison, which is a riot.

Freedom Camp - I hadn't previously followed the plight of the Montserrat refugees, or heard of the website. Freedom Camp is doing good work - amazing for a site up for less than two months.

Mr. Furious - I loved Mystery Men - clever name. Looks like another blogger from good ol' Ann Arbor.

From the Ministry of Truth - Good Title, Great Blog. I think this blog is going to end up on my daily reading list.

The Disgruntled Chemist - This blog is right up my ally - discussing science alongside politics, something the Bush Administration has done precious little of.

Nebraskan Liberation Front - Check out this entry on Hannity & Bennet lying about Social Security, and this entry on the analysis of Bush's Social Security privatization plan. The right continue to lie about Social Security. Also be sure to check out Al Franken's treatise on Brit Hume's misrepresentation of quotes from FDR, and subsequent call for the resignation, or at least a public apology from Hume.


Monday, February 14, 2005

Announcing the new groupThink Site Template

Working by day as a web developer and programmer, it's somewhat ridiculous that I've been blogging for several months without making any major modifications to the standard Blogspot template I started with. Finally growing weary of seeing dozens of other blogs with the exact same layout, I decided to break out my rusty design skills. A few hours of dabbling with Paint Shop Pro, a little css and plenty of page refreshes, all while soaking in 24 and the Daily Show leads us to the result you see before you. I'm not yet convinced if I am fully sold on the design, but I am glad that I have taken one small step towards establishing a brand image. Please let me know if you like the new layout, or if there are changes or suggestions that you would like to make.


Mark, groupThink


Sunday, February 13, 2005

Corporatism, Wal*Mart, Halliburton and the Free Market

I'd like to start with a specific example - the Wal*Mart corporation - and move out to a general treatment on the subject of economic policy and the destructive forces of unfettered capitolism. Wal*Mart is a prime indicator of misplaced faith in an unregulated free market. I believe in capitalism and the free market, but I do not believe we should continue down the road that is the neoconservative/liberatarian pipe dream sold to us as the accountability society.

We are all familiar with the Wal*Mart affect -- the terrible destructive forces wrought on smalltown America whenever a new Wal*Mart is opened up. At it's elementary and base form, the free market capitalist system is designed for the efficient production and consumption of goods, and the equitible distribution of goods and services. The operating procedures of the Wal*Mart corporation go so far beyond what John Adams originally envisioned -- in the end, Wal*Mart has a net destructive affect on American Society, on the cities that are drained by the devastating affects of the corporation, and on the lives of individuals who grow dependant on corporation.

When a new Wal*Mart location opens, it puts a huge financial squeeze on every other business in the neighborhood. The individuals who choose to shop at Wal*Mart cannot be blamed for this. This is a cyclical process wrought by the Wal*Mart effect. Individual stores simply cannot compete with the low cost and one-stop convinience of a Wal*Mart Megastore. Soon, all competitive business in the area is wiped out, and the people of the community who originally operated mom and pop shops now find themselves working the Wal*Mart till. With a low paying job, the people working at Wal*Mart most often have just barely enough to make ends meet, so they do all of their major shopping at Wal*Mart.

How does Wal*Mart offer such low cost goods? Primarily by underpaying their employees and selling cheap, low-cost imported goods, increasing the massive US trade deficit by a large margin. The majority of the hourly sales workforce at Wal*Mart earns less than $8.50 an hour, putting them below the official poverty line for a family of four.

The United States ran a $600 Billion trade deficit last year, making many foreign investors weary of any further investment into the US economy. Every year, the future of the United States is mortgaged, and Wal*Mart has had a large hand in mortgaging the future of this nation. Consider the following from Factline:
  • Wal-Mart global sales, 2002: $245 billion
  • Wal-Mart sales of U.S.-made goods in foreign stores, 2002: $500 million
  • Wal-Mart foreign sales of U.S.-made goods as share of total Wal-Mart global sales: 0.002 percent
  • Wal-Mart imports from China alone, 2002: $12 billion
Yet, somehow, our society has rewarded the Wal*Mart corporation by making the owners of Wal*Mart five out of the ten richest people in the World. Jim C. Walton, John T. Walton, S. Robson Walton, Alice L. Walton and Helen R. Walton all rank in the top ten richest people in the world, each with a net worth over $18.5 Billion US Dollars. Do you feel that our nation is better off do to the contributions of the Wal*Mart Corporation? Is the free market doing it's job in rewarding the efficient production and use of resources, the equitable distribution of goods and services. Is Jim C. Walton, with a net worth of $18.8 Billion, worth worth as much to society as the entire contribution of the estimated 1.5 million worldwide workforce of the Wal*Mart Corporation?

Wal*Mart has been a continous and vehiment opponent to the unionization effort of Wal*Mart employees. A Wal*Mart store in Canada became the first to attempt to unionize, and was rewarded with the closure of the store. Wal*Mart recently settled for a sum of $240,000 over accusations of abuses of child labor laws. Wal*Mart has been accused of locking employees into the building at night to prevent looting of goods.

In the end, Wal*Mart is a prime example of why unfettered de-regulation and unwavering belief in the free market is plain foolhearty. As a democracy, we of the United States should have the ability to generate laws and regulations that benefit the common good of the people - not only the CEOs, VPs and rich of this country. The Bush Administration is responsible for passing many regulations that ease regulation on corporations, and destroy the rights and freedoms of the individuals that make up the fabric of this nation. By lowering corporate taxes, eroding environmental regulations, and rewarding, let alone allowing, malevolent corporate behiviors, such as outsourcing, offshoring, downsizing, mega-mergers, and massive layoffs, the Bush Administration is rewarding behavior that is counterproductive to the needs of 99.9% of the US population.

There is simply no reason that the Wal*Mart corporation should be able to simply write off a lawsuit as a business loss when caught breaking child labor laws. $240,000 is a pittence for this offense -- the combined net worth of the Waltons alone is over $90 Billion - for them, this settlement is little more an inconvinience than a parking ticket would be for the average American citizen. There are times when an individual will park at an expired meter and risk paying the fine, simply because the cost is not worth the effort of trying to find another parking spot. Similarily, large corporations consider lawsuits and fines brought on to them as simply operating expenses, often ignoring labor laws and environmental regulations because it is not worth the effort.

Stronger and more stringent regulation is needed. Ignore the cries of the neoconservative movement -- Hearing Bush mention the words "Frivolous asbestos lawsuits" makes my blood boil. Especially when you consider that the major industry player mired in Asbestos lawsuits is Dresser - a subsidiary of Halliburton. Halliburton was itself just caught in another scandal - after getting caught conducting business in Iran last year, it was just revealed that Halliburton recently just struck another deal with the terrorist state - this goes entirely against US corperate law. This is a company that is committing crimes - yet the Bush Administration chose to reward them with over ten billion dollars in no-bid contracts in Iraq.

In the end, what we need is common sense. In general, free market forces do a good job in the efficient allocation and consumption of goods and services. In some cases, privatization is simply not a good choice. For reasons I cannot get into today, privatization of health care is simply a bad idea -- perhaps I will explore that subject at a future date. Privatization of Social Security is an equally bad idea. In some cases -- such as the development on a nationwide renewable energy policy -- the benefits to our nation as a whole should outweigh an unwavering belief in the benevolance of the free market.


Saturday, February 12, 2005

Bush, Neoconservatives, Social Security and Fiscal Insanity

I've mentioned a recent GAO report concerning long-term projections on the federal debt and the Bush Tax cuts a few times now. Check out this GAO chart, comparing long-term forecasts for the cost of interest on the federal debt, social security, Medicare and Medicaid, along with all other government spending. The accumulated federal debt currently stands at $7.63 trillion. The current US GDP stands at $11.73 trillion. The FY2005 Federal Budget has a total of $1.94 trillion is outlayed, with about $350 Billion earmarked for paying off interest on the national debt. What this means is that 18% of your taxes are immediately wasted on paying off poor fiscal decisions from Administrations of the past -- well, Reagan, Bush Sr, and Bush Jr are almost entirely to blame.

Let's take another look at the GAO chart -- what this tells us is that, if Bush makes his tax cuts permanent, 100% of the FY2042 budget will be allocated to paying interests on the federal budget. In other words, if neocons like Reagan and the Bushes continue to run our country, the United States is going to default on it's loans and have to declare bankruptcy. Currently, interest spending on the deficit stands at a relatively modest 2.98% of the GDP, based on the number above. Clinton had us on track to eradicate the deficit - leaving with a projected $5.8 trillion surplus - enough to pay off almost all accumulated debt, and to put our country back on track. After passing a massive tax cut for the rich, declaring an unnecessary war in Iraq, and otherwise bungling the handling of the economy and health care systems, in four years, president Bush has brought us from a budget surplus to record fiscal deficits. According to the GAO projections, federal interest spending on the debt will skyrocket to almost 20% of the GDP by 2042 if we do not act now.

The GAO report indicates that relying on long-term projections is not accurate - it is only meant to be used as a tool for helping form policy decisions. In arguing for the privatization of social security, the Bush Administration has been using long-term fiscal projections, along with widespread deception and dishonesty. Look - at the beginning of Bush's first term, we were sitting pretty with a projected decade-long $5.8 trillion surplus. Relying on these numbers, Bush passed a massive tax cut that has severely damaged the long-term fiscal outlook for this country. According to this chart, published by the Citizens for Tax Justice, top 1% of the richest people in this country will receive 50% of the Bush Tax Cuts in the year 2010, while costing the country $1.3 trillion dollars. I highlighted these tax cuts to show you that the Bush Administration was not able to forecast the economic future of our country four years into the future - Would they have passed the tax cuts if they knew we were going to suffer from massive deficits - Why should we depend on forecasts that are 30-40 years into the future.

In addition to relying on inaccurate fiscal projections, the Bush Administration has utilized a great deal of intellectual dishonest in arguing for their fiscal policies. In the false argument that the Bush Administration would cut the deficit in half over the next four years, they started by used the inflated FY2004 projected numbers, rather than the actual realized budget numbers. Then, they neglected to include the cost of the Iraq War, the potential Iran War, and the cost of social security privatization into their projections. In addition, the projections used in the claim of deficit reduction used a relatively optimistic 3.8% growth rate. Meanwhile, in forecasting the future of the Social Security Trust Fund, the same Bush Administration used a pessimistic growth rate of 1.8%. In addition, one might add that the long-term outlook for the stock market isn't going to be very good with a meager thirty year economic growth rate of 1.8%.

The Bush Administration claims that they wish to privatize social security because they are interested in securing the long term interests of our country. The Bush Administration's actions speak louder than their words -- The Bush Tax Cuts and massive defense spending have put this country in long-term fiscal jeopardy. The Bush Administration has not even begun bringing the discussion of a long-term alternative energy policy to tackle the impending energy crisis. The Bush Administration repealed the Clean Air act and failed to agree to the Kyoto Accord - putting the long term environmental health of our country and world at risk. The Bush Administration is completely ignoring the impending crisis of skyrocketing health care costs, and the increasing levels of poverty in our country.

The Bush Administration is simply not in the long term future of our country in any way. It is not even remotely plausible that they could focus on an issue forty years into the future, while at the same time ignoring the real crises that will face us in the short-to-medium-term future of our nation. I'll leave you with a quote from Grover Norquist, president of American Taxpayers for Reform, and one of the leading players in the neoconservative movement to destroy American democracy:

"My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."


Thursday, February 10, 2005

Social Security Talking Points #2

President Bush has publicly acknowledged that privatizing social security will not fix the solvency issues of social security. Yet, the neoconservatives continue to push for privatization. In a perfect example of how the Republican Noise Machine operates, let's take a look at the tangled web of corporate funding and conflicts of interest that orchestrate the operation of this machine:

First let's pull a quote from the August '99 issue of Investment Dealer Digest:

"Besides making direct political contributions, various financial services, firms, and banks have financed think tanks, various projects, and public policy forums that promote privatization. State Street, which managed four hundred and eighty-five billion in assets, including index funds, has been the most prominent, with Chairman (Marshall) Carter co-authoring a book, "Promises to Keep: Keeping Social Security's Dream", that he wrote with William Shipman, a principal with State Street Global Advisors, it's money management arm.

State Street has been a Financial backer to the Cato Institute. Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank that has endorsed full-scale privatization of social security, with Cato officials even calling for a sale of federally-owned national parks to pay for the cost if necessary.

Shipman is co-chairman of the Cato Project on Social Security Privatization. Back in 1996, the Cato Institute received two million dollars to be spent over a three year period to fund research conferences, and other activities involving groups, members, congress and their staff."

Jump to this week. In a recent issue (February 4th) of the Wall Street Journal, the question was asked, "Who is going to manage the tens of billions of dollars that social security privatization will pour into private accounts each year?" According to mutual fund expert Jeff Bobroth, there are only two or three companies that are capable of doing this, including State Street Corporation's State Street Global Advisor.

On February 3rd, Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute appeared with Peter Orszag of the Brookings Institute to discuss Social Security Privatization on Newshour with Jim Lehrer. Tanner falsely claimed that the Social Security Trust Fund has no real assets - that it is composed of a collection of IOUs.

This is really the most dishonest talking point pulled out by the neoconservative noise machine. First off, the so-called IOUs in the Social Security Trust Fund are US Treasury Bonds, supposedly the safest investment on the planet. By suggesting that these treasury bonds are not a safe investment, the neoconservatives are insinuating that the United States is going to default and declare bankruptcy.

This tactic is completely idiotic, and among the worst decisions that could possibly be made. By promoting investment in corporate stocks over US treasury bonds, the neocons are publicly proclaiming that US treasury bonds are not a safe investment. The United Nations has already gone on record stating that the US is in financial trouble, due to massive fiscal and trading deficits. The GAO recently stated that if the Bush Tax Cuts are made permanent, the US is at risk of having to spend 100% of the budget on paying interest on the national debt by the year 2042 -- In other words, if we do not let the Bush Tax Cuts sunset, the US will go bankrupt, rendering the entire argument over social security privatization moot.

Let's go back over what we have learned. According to the Wall Street Journal, State Street Corporation is among the two or three corporations most likely to profit directly from Social Security Privitization. Way back in 1999, State Street Corporation began funding right wing think tanks, such as the Cato Institute, and providing political donations to politicians, in an effort to promote the case for social security privatization.

The Cato Institute, who's website byline reads Public Policy Analysis, Limited Government, Free Markets, has been a very aggressive promoter of Social Security Privatization. They even registered the domain, exclusively for the purpose of promoting their agenda on privatization, with the Project on Social Security Choice. The Cato Institute, funded heavily by private individual and corporate donations, along with grants from other neoconservative think tanks, has an annual operating income of seventeen million dollars. The Cato Institute has a heavy influence on the neoconservative agenda, and has an anti-environmental, anti-regulation, pro-corporate stance on many issues. For a in-depth list of criticisms of the Cato Institute, I refer you to Criticisms of the Cato Institute.

(Update: Oops...In a bit of sloppy writing, I forgot to credit my source yesterday. The quote from Investment Dealer Digest actually came from the February 4th episode of the Al Franken Show. If you missed it yesterday, Franken stirred up a little publicity amidst rumors that he would run for the senate in Minnesota in 2006, due to the vacant seat left by Mark Dayton, who will not be running for re-election. Near the end of yesterday's episode, Franken announced that he would not run for senate in 2006, because of his commitment to Air America. Personally, I was both excited and sad about the prospect of Franken--excited, because I believe he could do great things as a progressive voice in the Senate, but sad about the possibility of loosing the Al Franken Show. In the end, Franken did not rule out running in 2008)


Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Gannongate - Jeff Gannon, Talon News, and GOPUSA may soon become Well-Known Public Knowledge

(Update #1: Louise M. Slaughter, ranking member of the house committee on rules, has published an letter to the President of the United States, George W. Bush concering the Jeff Gannon affair. This should get the media's attention)

(Update #2, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, on MSNBC, is running a special piece on Gannongate. For those of you who haven't followed the Jeff Gannon story closely, this is a great summary of the story. I believe you should be able to find a replay of the broadcast faily soon from MSN Video. As a side if having the Fox News Channel wasn't enough, Olbermann also covers a new form of propaganda from the government, The Pentagon Channel, available for free on the Dish Network)

(Update #3: David Brock, of, makes an appearance on Court-TV to discuss the Jeff Gannon Story. A link to the video is available on the website)

About ten days ago, I began writing about a possible new breaking story, and later followed it up with several additional entries on the topic, including Gannongate - Follow This Story, and President Bush, Jeff Gannon, and Ethics. Well, it appears that this story may now be breaking. Everyone and their mother seems to be searching for Jeff Gannon on the internet today. Traffic on my blog has steadily grown over the past month and half, but it has surged a little today, thanks in large part to a steady stream of visitors searching for information on Jeff Gannon, GOPUSA, Talon News, and Gannongate. Today, it was reported by that Jeff Gannon has quit his job over the controversy. In my opinion, this story is big enough to implicate Bush and Karl Rove in a convoluted plot that could wind up in an impeachment trial for Bush.

The implication is that the Rove outed Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, a CIA agent, who was investigating WMDs. It was Robert Novak, who wrote an article on Plame, who originally outed Plame. At the time, it appeared her name was leaked to Novak out of revenge for Wilson's attempt to reveal the truth concerning the Uranium Yellowcake in Niger. It has been now figured out that this was an malevolent attempt to discredit Wilson as a credible source -- to paint Wilson in the light of a typical Bush dissident. The Bush Administration used Gannon, a planted whitehouse press shill, with no valid credentials, to further the story that Plame was known to the public, in an attempt to alleviate the PR disaster that was beginning to occur.

The entire story was broken on the internet - first by David Brock at, and then by a huge community effort by the people at Daily Thanks again to Daily Kos, it is now breaking that there will soon be a call for a congressional investigation by representative Slaughter:

"According to Hudson, Rep.Slaughter will be calling for a congressional investigation within 48 hours."

Click here for a complete summary of the current story of the Gannon investigation conducted by the Daily Kos. If there is any justice in the world, this story will break, and the media will finally hold the Bush Administration responsible for their actions. The level of dishonesty and corruption apparent in this scandal is enough to bring the entire house of cards that is the Bush Administration tumbling to the ground.


Social Security Talking Points #1

  • The neoconservative movement has been fighting for social security privatization for a very long time. President Bush himself was quoted way back in 1978 stating that the social security fund would go bankrupt by 1988 if it was not privatized. Bush has been working hard since 1999 to promote the privatization effort.
  • Bush's privatized plan will require borrowing $4.75 trillion over the next twenty years. This money represents more than half the accumulated fiscal debt of the United States. If this money was instead applied directly to the social security fund, the entire "so-called crisis" would be solved.
  • Michael Kinsley, editor of the LA Times Editorial Page has written a proof of why Social Security privatized Won't Work.
  • Social Security is not a crisis - it is a problem that will emerge if adjustments are not made by 2042. There are many more serious issues we are going to face before we ever meet this so-called crisis - say Health Care, the impending Energy Crisis, Global Warming
  • Kinsley on privatization: You're in the desert, and you're desperate for water. George Bush says "How would you like lemonaid...It's really better than water". "Sure, I'll take lemonade", you say. And then he hands you the powder, and says "Just add water and stir".
  • For a great conversation on Privatization, check out Monday's edition of the Al Franken Show, with guest Michael Kinsley. Kinsley is on for about 20 minutes starting at the ten minute mark
  • Franken's take on the issue: If the Social Security fund is left alone, it will begin using more money than it is taking in the year 2018. And, what year would that be under the Bush Privatization Plan: "As soon as the plan starts"
  • For a lighter look at the subject, take a look at this chart, provided by 2 Political Junkies:


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

A Liberal Dose Of Reality #2

I according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) study, if the Bush Tax Cuts are made permanent, 100% of the US Federal Budget will go towards paying for interest on the National Debt by the year 2042. You want a crisis....How's that for a crisis!

The Daily Kos has published a Guide to the Proposed 2005 Federal Budget. The proposed budget, including a deficit of $364 Billion dollars, does not include spending on the Iraq war, the war in Afghanistan, the cost of the proposed plan for social security privatization, or the money already earmarked for the Social Security trust fund.

The United Nations recently issued a plea to the world to help the struggling US economy. It is theorized that a struggling US economy could destabilize and risk damage the global economy. The plea was prompted by the massive fiscal debt, along with massive trade deficits, caused by idiotic Bush Administration policies. The United States has become a charity case - a liability to the rest of the world - thanks to the policies of President Bush.

And yet the Neoconservatives insist that the only path forward is an ownership society - Where every man or woman fends for themselves. Take a look at the rest of the world. Canada, with a universal health care system, has a balanced budget, a healthy population, and among the best living conditions in the world. In Europe, the Euro continues to make gains on the US dollar month after month, and threatens to replace the American Dollar as the world standard currency. Meanwhile, here in the US, we struggle with higher levels of poverty, homeless, lower standards of living, poorer quality of life, and higher infant mortality rates than most of major industrialized country in the world. Ask yourself why that is -- Why is that the United States fails to recognize that in order to continue to grow as a nation, we must adopt more progressive social, economic, and environmental policies. Why is an administration intent on dragging us back into the stone ages in power?

How did we manage to go from a projected $5.8 Trillion budget surplus to the worst deficits in history. Of course, 9/11 is partially to blame. The true source of this fiscal nightmare is increased defense spending on the War in Iraq, and a massive tax cut for the rich. Take a look at this chart, outlining discretionary spending for proposed 2005 Federal Budget:

2005 Discretionary Spending

(Source: Frogs and Ravens)

Ask yourself why we are spending $300 Billion dollars on a War in Iraq. To bring freedom to the Iraqi people? The Bush Administration is worried about spending $300 billion on his own people 40 years in the future...Do you really think they care about Iraqi people? To a certain extent, yes...Who wasn't inspired and momentarily touched by the images of the Iraqi election. If the administration was really interested in fighting for freedom, they should be in Sudan....a country ravaged by genocide, where over 2 million people have been slaughtered by the Khmir Rouge in the past decade.

There are many far more noble causes we could be fighting with this money. $300 Billion US would go a long way to eradicating third world poverty. If this money was used to dig wells, provide mosquito nets to fight malaria, dig irregation trenches, build farms, and help promote sustainable lifestyles in third world countries, literally hundreds of millions of lives could be saved and forever changed.

Instead, we are fighting the supposed "war on terror" We didn't even get the man responsible for 9/11...Osama "Been Forgetten", who hasn't even mentioned by President Bush in the past
few months. The man who Bush mistakingly renamed "Saddam" during the televised pre-election debates. This is not a war on terror ... This is a war to keep the oil flowing, and the economy purring.

If anything, the Bush Administration has turned the entire middle east into a breeding ground for Anti-American sentiment, where polls show people with more favorable opinions of Osama Bin Laden than President Bush. Just look at the US history in the middle east - George H.W. Bush actually trained Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban. Donald Rumsfeld meet with Saddam Hussein, provided him with chemical weapons, and later smiled for a photo op with Saddam even after he had used the weapons on his own people. The Bush-led CIA later sold drugs and weapons to Iran during the Iran-Contra affairs. The current major players in the Bush Administration have a two-decade long history of meddling in the United States.

Now, the Bush Administration wants to sell the citizens of this nation onto the idea of mortgaging the future of Social Security on a crapshoot. By taking away the guaranteed returns offered by Social Security, the Bush Administration plans to cover the fact that they robbed the lockbox of social security and permanently damaged the fiscal certainty of this nation to provide a tax cut for the rich. The Bush Administration plans for Social Security privatization require $ 4.5 Trillion in additional spending over the next twenty years to get off the ground -- If this money is instead used directly to fund Social Security, the so-called crisis is solved.

The Social Security problem has many potential solutions -- The easiest is to re-implement the estate tax, and use the proceeds to fund social security. The neocons somehow sold the nation on repealing the estate tax by calling it a "death tax". The fact remains that the estate tax affects only those with over two million dollars in assets. The repealment of this tax goes one step closer towards promoting an aristocratic society -- there is simply no good argument that can be made for repealing the estate tax.

I will always fight injustice and imbalances of power --It is time for a more progressive and fairer America - one that represents the true promises of Democracy - a country of the people, for the people, and by the people - not a country for the corporation, by the corporation and of the corporation.


Monday, February 07, 2005

The Most Ridiculous Neoconservative Item of the Day #1

In a brilliant display of satire, Al Franken initially named his radio talk show "The O'Franken Factor", borrowing liberally from the Fox News Show's title, "The O'Reilly Factor". Franken claimed that he named the show after Bill O'Reilly's in an attempt to bring on a lawsuit, which would provide free publicity to the fledgling radio show. You can appreciate this humor further when you realize that Franken was previously threatened with legal action for using the Fox News Byline - "Fair and Balanced", in his comical look at the neoconservative noise machine in his book, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them - A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. Borrowing from this line of thinking, I would like to name my new segment The Most Ridiculous Neoconservative Item of the Day, after the similarly named segment on the O'Reilly Factor.

I have to admit that I am liberally cribbing from a recent segment on the Al Franken Show, featuring David Brock. Primarily, I am just transcribing content directly from the O'Reilly Factor. If you'd like to listen to the original segment as presented on the Al Franken Show, download this episode of the Al Franken Show, and fastforward to 1 hour and 26 minutes.

Segment #1 - January 25th, 2005 - O'Reilly Show:

Guest Caller: Let me explain the Springer contrast....the Springer comparison. You can talk about Tom Brokaw; You can talk about Russert; You can talk about Kronkite - everybody else that works for the liberal media - but you don't see these guys calling people idiots on the air; you don't see them calling others nuts on the air; You don't seem them calling them names on the air.

O'Reilly: The last time I called somebody an idiot was?

Caller - But you did Bill...and, you know you did it?

O'Reilly: When?

Caller: You did last week with Barbara Boxer - you called her a nut. You called the voters who voted for her looney. Is that not true?

O'Reilly: That's not true...I mean, what I do is what I say is that "there are looney left-wing people", or "this is nuts", but I never say, "She's a nut"

Caller: Bill, I suggest you pull your tape....You did call Barbara Boxer a nut.

O'Reilly: Her position is nutty on certain issues...I did not call her a nut. And, you know, we'll pull it, and we'll show that you're wrong.

Bill O'Reilly, on his radio show, the week before:

O'Reilly: She sponsored a bill to, um, have jet airlines be equipped with missile defense systems. It didn't pass because, um.. I mean look...this is a nut. This is a nut.

Next Day, on O'Reilly Factor:

O'Reilly: Last night on the factor, Sylvestor Brown demonstrated his anti-Fox News Bias right here. Mr. Brown is generally misguided, in my opinion, and he did challenge me at what one point, saying that I had called Senator Barbara Boxer a quote, "Nut". Now, I denied doing that, and I didn't do it on television, but on the radio....uh oh..I forgot that I did indeed apply that word to senator Boxer while analyzing her strategy or lack thereof to fight terrorism. So, Brown was right, and I was wrong, which makes me the MOST RIDICULOUS ITEM OF THE DAY....I hate that.


Fast Forward, Barbara Boxer at Condeleeza Rice's Senate Confirmation hearing:

Barbara Boxer: and, I personally believe, my personal view, that your loyalty you were given to the mission to sell this war, overwhelmed your respect for the truth...

Next day, on The O'Reilly Factor

O'Reilly: I don't have any problem with Boxer grilling Rice, but when she says to Rice, "You allowed your loyalty to the president to overwhelm your concern to the troops, for the troops...that's over the line.

Caller: Did she say for the troops, or for the truth? O'Reilly: No, for the troops. That's when she went over the line. That's when she tried to say, "Hey, you're a craven politician and you don't care anything for the guys dying in the sand. Which is what she was saying.

Caller: Okay, I thought she said, for the truth, because... O'Reilly: No, she said for the troops, and then you saw Rice say "Don't you impugn my concern for those troops over there...da da da da da da....

This entire series of segments speak for themselves. Brock and Franken did a great job putting this segment together. I literally could not stop laughing through this segment, and I have still not stopped laughing about it several days later. That is why I felt the need to share this with you.


Sunday, February 06, 2005 and Indie 500

I'd just like to point a new progressive resource available on the internet - is the brainchild of Judd Legam and Kristy Harvey, from the Center for American Progress. You might recognize Judd Legam and Kristy Harvey as regular contributors on the Al Franken Show. This website represents everything that I am fighting for and believe in for the future of America. has earned a permanent place on the groupThink blogroll.

You probably noticed that the groupThink blogroll suddenly grew quite substantially. groupThink is now proud member of the indie 500 - a group of independent progressive/liberal blogs teaming up to fight for a more progressive society in America. I encourage you to check out some of the other blogs on this list.


Bush Administration Transparency and Media Transparency

The other day, I wrote an entry on the transparency in the motives of the Bush Administration, but I never addressing the other side of the story - media complacency.

In the leadup to the War in Iraq, the Bush Administration convinced the nation of the need to invade Iraq, because of the imminent danger posed by the threat of the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Many exhibits of evidence were provided to present the case for WMDs in Iraq - surveillance photos, uranium yellowcake in Niger, Aluminum Tubes, first-hand accounts from former Iraqis, and the word of Ahmad Chalabi.

Later, it became apparent that there were disputes with every major article of evidence. The American people were lied to. The next excuse became the undisputed link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. The 9/11 commission Report refuted this claim - there was no relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

Finally, the excuse became the march for freedom - the democratization of Iraq, and the liberation of the Iraqi people. While this is a noble goal, the excuse rings hollow. Out of all of the brutal dictatorships in the world - why did they select Iraq, and what was the immediate urgency? Sudan, currently suffering from mass genocide at the hands of the Khmir Rouge, would've been a much more benevolent target. The claims of chemical weapons use by the Saddam Regime also have a hollow ring - the chemical weapons were used over a decade ago, and they were originally provided by a George H.W. Bush-led CIA, complete with photographs of a smiling Donald Rumsfeld posing with Saddam.

The war was supposed to be a War on Terror, yet we failed to capture Osama Bin Laden (AKA Osama Been Forgotten) As President Bush said "I truly am not that concerned about him," the president said, according to the official White House transcript.

Now, the Bush Administration just had a chance to offer up some accountability. In Bush's speech's proclaiming the Iraqi War cause, he claimed one of the causes of the war was to remove the rape rooms and torture chambers used of the Saddam Regime. Yet, after occupying Iraq, it was discovered that the United States had re-used Saddam's torture chambers for the use of rape rooms and torture chambers. Did we hold Alberto Gonzales, the man responsible for the torture memos, responsible for the usage of torture? No, we did not. Donald Rumsfeld offered to resign twice over the Abu Ghraib scandal, yet Bush refused the offer of resignation. To not hold the leadership responsible for torture responsible is an inexcusable offense.

The provided explanations for the Iraqi war are hanging by a thread. The Bush Administration simply has no respectability in the world stage. How can the American people not see through this charade?

A large portion of the blame must go to the mainstream media. By allowing the Bush Administration to continually change their explanation for the war, they have done a great disservice to the American public. A fairly recent PIPA study found that the majority of registered republicans in this country still believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda, despite the fact all evidence points to the contrary, and that the 9/11 Commission Report contradicted this assertion. Yet, the media allows people to be misled into believing that there was a chance that the weapons were secretly transferred to Syria. As long as the waters are muddied, the American people are contented, and able to rest without worry that the government in charge is openly lying to the American people.

With the current social security reforms now in discussion, the mainstream media now has a chance to redeem themselves. Yet, the outlook does not look good. The Bush Administration spent months trying to sell social security privatization. The product wasn't selling, so they changed the branding to "Social Security Personal Accounts"....and, the media bought it. Why is the Bush Administration allowed to continue trying different marketing strategies. Why are they allowed to continuously re-brand the flawed Iraqi war when at their whim and fancy? Why is the mass media allowing the Bush Administration to-brand the dismantling of our social security safety net without question?


Raising the Liberal/Progressive Flag in America

The progressive/liberal agenda is a populist movement - the ideals of the democratic party represent the needs of 95% of the population, while the neoconservative movement really only profits the richest 5% of the population. The results of this past election seem so counterintuitive as to be absurd - How can an incompetent and bumbling administration that represents the needs and goals of only the top 5%, while tearing apart decades of progress, be rewarded with a re-election.

The general population of the United States does not understand the nuances of the progressive movement. I believe the issue is not that democrats haven't taken the time to thoroughly explain the liberal agenda - I believe the true issue is the Republican Noise Machine, which has subverted the democratic process, and is attempting to convert the United States into basically, a subservient, corporate-owned, quasi-fascist society.

The issue at heart is that the liberal/progressive American is no longer provided a voice. The field has been severely slanted to the right. Rather than attempting to explain the entire process, I will refer you to David Brock's excellent book on the subject, The Republican Noise Machine, along with a recommendation to the site,

We no longer have a voice -- Any time a dissident voice with a platform in the mainstream media speaks out against the Bush administration, they are chastised -- labeled as "wacko", "looney", "out of the mainstream", "liberal", "Unamerican", "Unpatriotic", "A conspiracy theorist", somehow related to Michael Moore or George Soros, "alarmist", "elitist", etc - These attacks come from all angels. Witness the shalacking that Dan Rather and NBC received over the mis-use of one allegely forged document. Did we see the same outrage in the Mainstream Media over Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher, Karen Ryan, Mike McManus, and now, Jeff Gannon? As a result, the average unbiased moderate or liberal journalist or pundit is constantly treading on broken eggshells - careful to never step out of the so-called mainstream of the American political landscape.

The neoconservatives have successfully re-defined the definition of mainstream. We need to recognize this. The "Republican Noise Machine" is part of a thirty year campaign to subvert the democratic process, and to redefine the horizon of acceptable political discourse in the United States. We need to start by recognizing this fact.

Don't be scared about the moral values debate. With the 2004 election, the democratic party sunk about as low as it could go on the issue of moral values. According to the CNN Exit Polls, those that considered Moral Values to be the most important issue (22% of the overall population) voted 80% to 18% in favor of Bush. We need to recognize this fact. The key issue here is to understand how the neoconservatives use people like Paul Weyrich, Jerry Falwell, Rush Limbaugh, Dr. James Dobson, and Pat Robertson to politicize the Christian Coalition to become indoctrinated with the issues of the neoconservative movement. Abortion is a true wedge issue - Even though the majority of Americans favor abortion in some form, there is a sizable segment of the American population that considers the issue to be a trump card. The truth is that the evangelical population of this country has no business aligning itself with the neoconservative movement. We need to recognize this fact - Jim Wallace is doing a great job re-uniting Christianity with progressive politics, with Sojourners and his new book, God's Politics.
The good news is that the progressive movement can still win back America. The results of the 2004 presidential election were very disheartening. There are signs of life -- Barbara Boxer has been instrumental in re-energizing the democratic party. We need to encourage these outspoken Democratic senators -- to give the progressive movement a voice in America. In addition, the blogosphere could play an important role in the next four years. The blogosphere is still a fairly new and undervalued technology -- A true democratic technology that provides a voice to the average American citizen.

I remember reading Noam Chomsky's take on the new media, in his book, Understanding Power. The new media - television and political punditry - is ideal for the neoconservative movement. The message of the neoconservative movement is based on short talking points, and tv-friendly quotes and clips. A thorough and well-reasoned explanation no longer need apply. Liberal advocates like to take the time to explain issues - the interconnectedness of the entire progressive movement. Unfortunately, there is no time for long explanations on TV. The American Public desires talking points, and no longer has the attention span for long-winded, thoroughly sound and thought out explanations. That is why the seemingly self-contradictory agenda that is the neoconservative movement now dominates "mainstream America". That, and the fact that corporate interests have the power and money necessary to financially back the neoconservative agenda, to keep them in power.


Saturday, February 05, 2005

President Bush, Jeff Gannon, and Ethics

I hope you have RealPlayer installed. Open up real player, go to file->open, and enter the following URL: rtsp:// Advance the player to the 34 minute, 43 second mark.

Last week, I wrote about the breaking Jeff Gannon story. This is a man without media credentials, save a $50, two day course from the Leadership Institute. A man who has no business in the Whitehouse Press Corps. A planted shill.

Now check out this video clip from the Bush Press Conference from January, shortly after Payola-Gate started breaking. The segment begins with three straight questions on Payola-Gate:

"Mr. President, do you think it's a proper use of government funds to pay commentators to promote your policies? Are you ordering an end to that practice?"
Bush: There needs to be an indepedent relationship between the Whitehouse and the press...We will not being commentators to advance our opinion"

After three straight negative questions, Bush begins feeling the heat, and decides to change the flow of the press conference, by calling on his favorite shill, Jeff Gannon:

Thank you. Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. [Senate Minority Leader] Harry Reid [D-NV] was talking about soup lines. And [Senator] Hillary Clinton [D-NY] was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet in the same breath they say that Social Security is rock solid and there's no crisis there. How are you going to work -- you've said you are going to reach out to these people -- how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?

Does this sound like a good example of hard-nosed investigative journalism? Is there a better example of hypocrisy than this -- President Bush just answered three straight questions on the shaky relationship between the Whitehouse and the press, and then had the audacity to go straight to his planted shill. I could be reaching, but this almost had the feeling of a pre-written question - with the response, Bush went on a three minute response, digressing from social security to economic policy and finally, to many unrelated government reform policies.

I believe is was Janeane Garafolo of the Majority Report who put it like this: Jeff Gannon does not ask softball questions -- these are tee-ball questions -- he sets them right up for the president and Whitehouse spokesman Scott McClellan.

This is a man who quotes word-for-word directly from Whitehouse Press Releases in his news reports. Here is some more tee-ball zingers from Gannon:

  • Scott, when you talk about the unemployment -- or the jobs being created, is that based on the payroll survey, or the household survey? Because there's -- because of the tax cuts, there's been a tremendous increase in the number of entrepreneurs that have started their own businesses, and those numbers aren't reflected in the payroll survey.
  • "Thank you. First of all, I hope the grand jury didn't force you to turn over the wedding card I sent to you and your wife. (Laughter.) Do you see any hypocrisy in the controversy about the President's mention of 9/11 in his ads, when Democratic icon Franklin Delano Roosevelt's campaign issued this button, that says, 'Remember Pearl Harbor'? I have a visual aid for folks watching at home."
  • Thank you. The imam [Yassin M. Aref] that was arrested in [Albany] New York last week was discovered because his name appeared in a Rolodex in a terrorist training camp in Iraq before the war. The book was found after, by U.S. troops, but he was in Iraq before the war. Is this another piece of evidence showing the direct terror ties between Iraq and al Qaeda?
  • Last Friday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report that shows that Ambassador Joe Wilson lied when he said his wife didn't put him up for the mission to Niger. The British inquiry into their own prewar intelligence yesterday concluded that the President's 16 words ["The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa"] were "well-founded." Doesn't Joe Wilson owe the President and America an apology for his deception and his own intelligence failure?
  • Thanks. Why hasn't the administration made more of the U.N. inspectors' report that says Saddam Hussein was dismantling his missile and WMD [weapons of mass destruction] sites before and during the war? And doesn't that, combined with the now-proven al Qaeda link between Iraq -- between Saddam Hussein and the terrorist organization -- unequivocally make the case for going to war in Iraq


Thursday, February 03, 2005

New Film by Michael Moore - Bloggers & Me

I just read about this on Sweet Silhouette, and decided to pass it along. At first glance, It appears that Michaeal Moore is working on a new documentary entitled "Bloggers & Me".

A quote from Michael's new blog about the film, Bloggers & Me:

A documentary about the rise of blogs and their influence, which resulted in the re-election of George W. Bush. Details the attempts of filmmaker Michael Moore to get an interview with the movers and shakers of the Blogosphere.

This is actually a lame attempt at parody, rather than a legitimate blog, although not completely obvious,, as the writing and humor is quite lame. Michael Moore's website,, makes no mention of this project. In addition, last I heard Moore already had two projects in the works: Sicko: a documentary about the state of Health Care in the United states, and Fahrenheit 9/11 1/2, a documentary, presumably on the Bush Administration.

It would be cool if Michael actually took a bigger interest in the blogging community. A feature-length film on the blogging community would do wonders to increase the public's awareness of blogs.


The Complete Transparency of the Bush Administration

It's funny how it is...just yesterday, I blogged about how I was going to quit focusing on the Bush Administration and their policies, and here I am discussing President Bush once again. Some friggin' moron on O'Reilly right now is stating that the only reason the AARP is opposing the privatization of social security is because they make their money on the publicity they get from opposing issues like this. Are we living in a twilight zone? Why is Fox News on the air? Why do people watch this propaganda. How can the people of this nation not see right through the corporate and aristocratic vision that is the neoconservative agenda. The neocons are destroying everything gain that has been made in America in the past century. And yet, the Bush Administration has the audacity to evoke the legacy of FDR in their quest to rob this nation of it's only remaining truly progressive social security policy and safety net.

I am so furious about this -- what is this country thinking? Where is this so-called liberal media ready to condemn the bush administration for the . Now O'Reilly has a third straight right-wing pundit on, claiming that we will see an eleven trillion dollar shortfall in social security if we don't act now. Who are these sleezebags, and where do they drag them out from?

There is a simple solution to the so-called social security "crisis"...All we need to do is put on a 4% tax on all income greater than $120,000, with no additional social security benefits provided for this additional taxation. Case closed. There is no crisis. Right now, there is a cap...Individuals pay social security taxes on only the first $90,000 of income. There are claims that removing this cap will put a further squeeze on the middle class American. I don't know about, but I feel like anybody making $120,000 or over can live pretty comfortably, and they aren't going to feel much of a squeeze on a 4% tax on income over that amount. The claim that this will put a crimp on the economy, and cause job losses is hogwash.

Quit listening to the Republican Noise Machine for a minute, and take a look at the results. Under eight years of democratic leadership under Bill Clinton, we witnesses unprecedented economic growth, better paying jobs, and a balanced budget. With four years under republican George W. Bush, we have witnessed massive job losses, layoffs, outsourcing, economic decline, record budget deficits, and a massive deficit.

Bush came in with a projected 5.8 trillion dollar budget surplus. Get this straight -- The Bush Administration came in, saw the projected surplus, and stated "This money belongs to the people". They gave a huge tax cut to the rich -- and, look at the final result: The neoconservatives were not even able to forecast our economic outlook four years into the future. We went from a projected 5.8 trillion dollar surplus to the largest budget deficits in the history of the United States. Just remember that when you listen to the administration's estimates when they attempt to predict the economic conditions forty years into the future.

Look at what the Bush tax cuts to the rich have done for US: In eight years under President Clinton, the United States witnessed an amazing per-month average of 116,000 new jobs - a sustained period of growth. In four years under Bush, we have not witnessed ONE NEW JOB. Tax cuts for the rich do nothing but promote corporate fascism, an imbalance of power, and, ultimately, an aristocratic society.

Calling social security a "Crisis" is truly intellectual dishonesty. Social Security is currently the fiscally healthiest government program in existence, with a yearly budget surplus of over one hundred and fifty billion dollars, and a reserve of almost two trillion dollars. The system will continue to pull in budget surpluses every year until somewhere around 2018. This is by design, as the system prepares itself to handle with the large baby boomer population begins to retire. Guess what? Our population is not continuing to grow at the rate witnessed during the baby boom. The large blip in population growth eventually passed, and it will pass through the social security system without harm if we can successfully keep the neoconservative hands off of the federal reserve.

Did you know that when Bush once predicted that social security would be bankrupt by the late eighties if it was not immediately privatized. Guess what? It's twenty years later, and social security is still doing fine.

The Bush Administration is completely transparent -- They believe that the US economy would receive such a surge in productivity by the privatization process that we would once again be the world leaders in economic growth. This just isn't going to happen. The money will be soaked up fund managers, money managers, CEOs, VPs, and stockholders -- all the people who do not need social security, and have no business putting their grubby hands on this.

Social security is a social safety net. Ask yourself this -- Why is it that every other department is allowed to work in the red year after year. We spend around 400 billion dollars a year on defense spending. Between now and the time that Social Security begins going into debt in 40 years, we will most likely have spent over 16 trillion dollars on defense spending. Is this massive disparity in our countries financial commitments not striking? We will gladly spend trillions upon trillions of dollars on weapons systems, missiles, tanks, and airplanes, yet we will call spending a few trillion on the well being of the citizens of our country forty to fifty years in the future a crisis. Where are our priorities?

Social Security is simply not a crisis. The true crises of our time are the following - Economic Justice, Outsourcing and Corporate Reform, Fighting Budget and Trade Deficits, and promoting a viable and sustainable energy policy, based on renewable and alternative resources and the elimination and reduction of wasteful usage of energy and environmental resources. These are the true crises facing our nation, and this is where the attention of the President of the United States should lie.