Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ahhhhhhh, I Fink I See the Light

You know how I've been saying that something doesn' quite meet the eye about this Paulson bailout proposal? I mean, I keep hearing that not one single economist can be found who thinks this is the way to unfreeze credit, and not one person can be found who likes it. So why would BushCo propose it, I wondered, wondered I.

I heard something on Hardball today that may answer this question. One of Squeeky's guests said that Wall Street would "say" to Obama: "You're proposing all this new spending (healthcare, infrastructure, college loans, renewable energy development, etc.). Well, you can have that, or you can have this (bailout). Which will it be?"

That, Dear Readers, may be the missing piece of the puzzle. THAT would explain why a radically "free" market administration in its waning days would intervene in a market to the tune of $700 Billion.

The good news is that I also understand that Obama has seen that little move coming and inserted into the measure a clause that sticks Wall Street with any difference between the bailout amount and the sum earned for the taxpayers when these bundled "assets" are sold. The trick will be to sell them before the end of Obama's first term, or make recouping the loss a visible part of his re-election bid four years from now.

Have I mentioned? Republicans need to man up and admit that 30 years of Reaganomics got us where we are today, and McCain and his finance adviser Gramm were driving that truck.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Regarding the Bailout . . .

Thanks to the fabulous Dependable Renegade

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Palin Failin'

I'm fairly sure that Palin will be finding it in her heart to step down between now and the VP debate. I could be wrong, God knows. Many people have wrongly underestimated the depth of Republican incompetence and stupidity--with consequences that we're doomed to endure for the foreseeable. But still.

What, she's going to debate Joe Biden? If she does and he plays it as he should--straight, no condenscion, no meanness, simply presidentially--she's DOA and so is what's left of McNasty after last night's debate.

If she doesn't show for the debate, she's going to be looking at quite a consolation prize. She'll very likely depart for family reasons, which means that her dignity at least will not be shredded for all eternity. She'll also have the undying gratitude of the party, and quite likely the promise of a slot in a future senatorial campaign--very lucrative, that, as her predecessor's indictment demonstrates. But she'll almost surely also take home a couple million bucks from some source untraceable to the campaign.

If you were Sarah Palin, what would you do?

For McCain, either option is suicide, but he should have figured that out before he even thought about naming her. He deserves to lose for that reason alone. The idea of putting her a heartbeat from launch code shows such gaping contempt for the country's wellbeing that it's one step from treason.

If she leaves, he can save what's left of his face after last week's bizarre, erratic, not to say unhinged performance. If she doesn't, man oh man, he's going to reap the whirlwind of Americans' wrath. In that scenario, let's just hope he reaps it before we are forced to reap any more bitter fruits of Republican "governance."

I think she's out of here, and I hope she drags Rove's carrion-fed brain with her.

Paul Newman

People just don't come any better.

What an enduring model of authentic greatness he is.

Of course I'll miss his breath-taking good looks, but I'll miss his classy approach to living even more.

Thank you, Paul. I'll be on the lookout for a slam-bang sunset.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Phil Gramm, Wendy Gramm, Enron, Energy Crisis, and CA

In December 2001, Public Citizen, the respected independent nonprofit research group, published this report on the key roles played by McCain's finance czar, Senator Phil Gramm and his wife, Enron board member Wendy, in the Enron energy swindle that caused California's devastating energy crisis in the first half of 2001.
Read this readable but detailed indictment of Bush, Enron, the Gramms, and the enabling GOP of deregulating the state wholesale energy industry and the commodities trading market.

Then think about what's happening today and which party is likelier to have your and your children's interests in mind.

Paranoid Pastures, Part II

At the moment, it looks like the Republicans in Congress, led by Boehner, are positioning to make it look as if McCain rode in on his white horse and brokered a deal that no other mortal could broker. We all know that's BS, but that's the McCain way. Ever since he took the credit for breaking a filibuster on Bush's judicial packing, he's been racing to upstage everyone else in Washington at every opportunity. Why should we expect him to do anything decent now?

So as it stands, if a consensus measure emerges, the Republicans will claim McCain did it. If a consensus measure fails, the Republicans will clain the Democrats did it. Which will be tricky, since the hardcore opposition is coming from the core de-regulator, free market witchdoctors. They're all GOP. We'll see.

We have a broken dollar, a crashing market, the all-time petroleum crisis, global warming, with dire predictions of global starvation and global population shifts, and a nation mortgaged to the tune of $11 Trillion--which, to my mind, means that Bush's proposed $1 T bailout is throwing more borrowed money at the root of the crisis, which is too much borrowed money. We also have home values tanking just as the boomers are retiring and more than ever dependent on home values to finance assisted living and long-term care, and 3/5ths of retirees financially unprepared to retire, even as jobs are flowing out of this economy like blood out of a sliced artery. That's a whole other crisis we haven't even begun to address. Think riots in the streets.

McCain's 1,000-page medical file suggests that his days are numbered, and yet it is against that scenario that he's chosen to bring Palin one heartbeat from launch code.

Does that make sense to anybody? Well, besides the Bush Davidians, I mean.

No. It doesn't. So maybe Palin is about more than galvanizing the Christianist fascist theocrats. Maybe her presence on the ticket, is also, or will turn out to be, yet another plank in a coup d'etat platform.

It works like this.

Even Bush knows that he personally cannot risk a Palin presidency. Every Republican in Washington knows the same thing. No one with even remote awareness of and concern for the nation's monumental problems can seriously contemplate Palin at the wheel.

At the same time, the GOP/Wall Street Elite (to risk redundancy)literally cannot afford to see an Obama presidency, either. Their wealth depends on continuing de-regulation and tax cuts for the top 5%, and on the kinds of fraud and piracy that gave us $8 Billion cash pallets in Iraq, and no accounting. Nor did they consolidate power in the Executive in order to give it to a Democrat. Do the math.

It therefore strikes me as plausible that either outcome could trigger exactly the kind of Seize the Moment moment that the Christo-Fascists have been praying for.

Now comes the question posed by reader Morning Angel, in her comment to my last post: "Can we allow the deconstruction of democracy altogether?"


One, who will lead the revolution?

Two, for the 30 years we've all been pretending that the Christo-Fascists are a lunatic fringe, they've been busily organizing our military academies and our active forces, creating dozens of happy little battalions convinced that Bush Himself is the Will of God. And then there's Blackwater, and hundreds of thousands of indoctrinated police, not to mention the folks at "Justice" and in the FBI and the CIA. Or the radically expanded domestic espionage tentacles of Das Homeland Security.

Get my drift?

Hang on. It really could be a very bumpy ride.

Or I could just be a certifiable, paranoid, dotty old Chi.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What's Bush's Plan B Win?

This is the strangest political week I've ever seen.

If nothing you know adequately explains what you're being told, then it's something else, right?

Item: McCain's suspending his campaign today makes no sense on its face. He needs to campaign even harder now that he's sliding in the polls. Besides, he, like Obama, can do what he needs to in the Senate by phone and by public statement. His presence in DC is not needed unless the vote is perilously close--and it won't be. Both parties are desperate to fully share responsibility for this vote.

So what's going on? Is he setting up some kind of October Surprise, either for himself or for Palin, or is he simply exhausted? It would seem so. The mistakes are raining down. Is he using the financial crisis as a cover for suspending so that he can rest? Or does he need to pow-wow about what the hell to do with Palin, who looks more like an albatross every day? Or. . .what?

Item: Is this whole financial catastrophe perhaps not what it seems to be at all? I myself do not really believe that all of Wall Street and all the banks in the USA will be in all tha big a hurry to shoot each other and die, regardless of what we're told. In fact, the more Bush says so, the LESS I believe it. Besides, I know there are other alternatives for handling the crisis than the $1 Trillion give-away.

I think that we're not being told the truth at all, and I think Congress thinks so, too. I can tell because Bush's lips are moving. I can tell because tonight he looked EXACTLY like he looked when he was explaining that Saddam had WMD, only older. He had that wooden Howdy Doody in a Suit look, his eyes like black beads starting out of his head as he read his teleprompter.

The only problem with that theory is Bernacke. But then, on the other hand, I don't have any reason to believe he can't be co-opted.

So where we are now is in a wait-and-see. If the bailout (it's a bailout, not a rescue)takes more time than BushCo says we can afford to take and yet the world doesn't end afer all, what would that mean? What will happen if Congress calls Bush's bluff?

Might a counter-move on Congress' part become -- or have been strategized all along as -- the rationale that Bush will use to suspend the national election?

It's an extreme supposition. But to be fair to myself, plenty of wiser people have observed Bush's massive encroachments on the Constitution and the separation of powers over his terms in the White House and speculated that he and Cheney are not likely to turn the massive powers he's grabbed for the Executive over to a Democrat. But in order to pull off the last move in a collosal shock doctrine coup, he would require a huge, huge crisis. And since evidently he couldn't nuke Iran in time, are the money problems of his rich Wall Street friends a sufficiently plausible disaster whether they are real or conjured?

I don't know, but something isn't right. I still haven't heard a plausible explanation for why the Bushies waited until the 11th hour to declare a crisis, when they knew a long time ago that it was coming. I think it was to stampede Congress, but for that to make full sense, the Bushies would have to have a Plan B in mind, an an alernative "win" in case Congress balked. So what's that alternative win?

That's what we're waiting to find out, isn't it?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What's Happening? Take a Look

Simply a must-read from Salon's Glenn Greenwald, printed here in full. GO TO THE ORIGINAL TO FOLLOW HIS IMPORTANT LINKS.

Please, for your own sake, read it all. If you can't, then at least read the parts in bold type here. Especially see this from the last paragraph. It's a direct quote from the plan Bush presented to Congress Friday of this week: "Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency." [Sec. 8]

OK. Greenwald's superb piece begins here:

The complete (though ever-changing) elite consensus over the financial collapse [updated version]


John Diamond, USA Today, February 4, 2004 -- "A desert mirage: How U.S. misjudged Iraq's arsenal":

The assertion that Saddam had chemical and biological weapons -- and the ability to use them against his neighbors and even the United States -- was expressed in an Oct. 1, 2002, document called a National Intelligence Estimate. The estimate didn't trigger President Bush's determination to oust Saddam. But it weighed heavily on members of Congress as they decided to authorize force against Iraq, and it was central to Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council a year ago this week. . . .

The Bush and Clinton administrations, foreign intelligence services, and Republicans and Democrats in Congress all took it as a given that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons.


Walter Pincus, The Washington Post, August 11, 2007 --"How the Fight for Vast New Spying Powers Was Won":

For three days, Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, had haggled with congressional leaders over amendments to a federal surveillance law, but now he was putting his foot down. "This is the issue," said the plain-spoken retired vice admiral and Vietnam veteran, "that makes my blood pressure rise. . . .

McConnell won the fight, extracting a key concession despite the misgivings of Democratic negotiators. Congressional, administration and intelligence officials last week described the events leading up to the approval of this surveillance, including a remarkable series of confrontations that ended with McConnell and the White House outmaneuvering the Democratic-controlled Congress, partly by capitalizing on fresh reports of a growing terrorism threat.

"We had a forcing function," a senior administration official said, referring to the intelligence community's public report last month that said al-Qaeda poses a growing threat to the United States and to lawmakers' desire to leave town in August. . . .

A critical moment for the Democrats came on July 24, when McConnell met in a closed session with senators from both parties to ask for urgent approval of a slimmed-down version of his bill. Armed with new details about terrorist activity and an alarming decline in U.S. eavesdropping capabilities, he argued that Congress had days, not weeks, to act.

"Everybody who heard him speak recognized the absolute, compelling necessity to move," Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), vice chairman of the intelligence panel, said later of the closed session.

Democrats agreed. As delivered by McConnell, the warnings were seen as fully credible. "He's pushing this because he thinks we're in a high-threat environment," the senior aide said. . . .McConnell deemed [the Democratic draft's] fine print unacceptable, however, and in the end, it was the Republican bill, a near-copy of his proposal, that passed both chambers of Congress.


David Herszenhorn, New York Times, today, "Congressional Leaders Stunned by Warnings":,

It was a room full of people who rarely hold their tongues. But as the Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, laid out the potentially devastating ramifications of the financial crisis before congressional leaders on Thursday night, there was a stunned silence at first.

Mr. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. had made an urgent and unusual evening visit to Capitol Hill, and they were gathered around a conference table in the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"When you listened to him describe it you gulped," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York.

As Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, put it Friday morning on the ABC program "Good Morning America," the congressional leaders were told "that we’re literally maybe days away from a complete meltdown of our financial system, with all the implications here at home and globally."

Mr. Schumer added, "History was sort of hanging over it, like this was a moment."

When Mr. Schumer described the meeting as "somber," Mr. Dodd cut in. "Somber doesn't begin to justify the words," he said. "We have never heard language like this."

"What you heard last evening," he added, "is one of those rare moments, certainly rare in my experience here, is Democrats and Republicans deciding we need to work together quickly."

Leave aside for the moment whether this gargantuan nationalization/bailout scheme is "necessary" in some utilitarian sense. One doesn't have to be an economics expert in order for several facts to be crystal clear:

First, the fact that Democrats are on board with this scheme means absolutely nothing. When it comes to things the Bush administration wants, Congressional Democrats don't say "no" to anything. They say "yes" to everything. That's what they're for.

They say "yes" regardless of whether they understand what they're endorsing. They say "yes" regardless of whether they've been told even the most basic facts about what they're being told to endorse. They say "yes" anytime doing so is politically less risky than saying "no," which is essentially always and is certainly the case here. They say "yes" whenever the political establishment -- meaning establishment media outlets and the corporate class that funds them -- wants them to say "yes," which is the case here. And they say "yes" with particular speed and eagerness when told to do so by the Serious Trans-Partisan Republican Experts like Hank Paulson and Ben Bernake (or Mike McConnell and Robert Gates and, before them, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell).

So nothing could be less reassuring or more meaningless than the fact that the Democratic leadership has announced that what they heard scared them so much that they are certain all of this is necessary -- whatever "all this" might be (and does anyone think that they know what "this" even is?). It may be "necessary" or may not be, but the fact that Congressional Democrats are saying this is irrelevant, since they would not have done anything else -- they're incapable of doing anything else -- other than giving their stamp of approval when they're told to.

Second, whatever else is true, the events of the last week are the most momentous events of the Bush era in terms of defining what kind of country we are and how we function -- and before this week, the last eight years have been quite momentous, so that is saying a lot. Again, regardless of whether this nationalization/bailout scheme is "necessary" or makes utilitarian sense, it is a crime of the highest order -- not a "crime" in the legal sense but in a more meaningful sense.

What is more intrinsically corrupt than allowing people to engage in high-reward/no-risk capitalism -- where they reap tens of millions of dollars and more every year while their reckless gambles are paying off only to then have the Government shift their losses to the citizenry at large once their schemes collapse? We've retroactively created a win-only system where the wealthiest corporations and their shareholders are free to gamble for as long as they win and then force others who have no upside to pay for their losses. Watching Wall St. erupt with an orgy of celebration on Friday after it became clear the Government (i.e., you) would pay for their disaster was literally nauseating, as the very people who wreaked this havoc are now being rewarded.

More amazingly, they're free to walk away without having to disgorge their gains; at worst, they're just "forced" to walk away without any further stake in the gamble. How can these bailouts not at least be categorically conditioned on the disgorgement of ill-gotten gains from those who are responsible? The mere fact that shareholders might lose their stake going forward doesn't resolve that concern; why should those who so fantastically profited from these schemes they couldn't support walk away with their gains? This is "redistribution of wealth" and "government takeover of industry" on the grandest scale imaginable -- the buzzphrases that have been thrown around for decades to represent all that is evil and bad in the world. That's all this is; it's not an "investment" by the Government in any real sense but just a magical transfer of losses away from those who are responsible for these losses to those who aren't.

And all of this was both foreseeable as well as foreseen -- see the 2002 grave warnings from Warren Buffett on pages 14-15 of his shareholders letter (.pdf), among many other things -- and it's also happened before, when the Federal Government bailed out the S&L industry that (with John McCain's help) was able to gamble recklessly and then force the country to protect them from their losses. The people who did this have no fear of anything -- they completely lack the kind of healthy fear that impedes reckless behavior -- because they know how our Government works and that they control it and thus believe that their capacity to suffer is limited in the extreme. And they're right about that.

What's most vital to underscore is that the beneficiaries of this week's extraordinary Government schemes aren't just the coincidental recipients of largesse due to some random stroke of good luck. The people on whose behalf these schemes are being implemented -- the true beneficiaries -- are the very same people who have been running and owning our Government -- both parties -- for decades, which is why they have been able to do what they've been doing without interference. They were able to gamble without limit because they control the Government, and now they're having others bear the brunt of their collapse for the same reason -- because the Government is largely run for their benefit.

If there is any "pitchfork moment" -- an episode that understandably would send people into the streets in mass outrage -- it would be this. Nobody really even seems to know how much of these losses "the Government" -- meaning working people who had no part in the profits from these transactions -- is undertaking virtually overnight but it's at least a trillion dollars, an amount so vast it's hard to comprehend, let alone analyze in terms of consequences. The transactions are way too complex even for the most sophisticated financial analysts to understand, let alone value. Whatever else is true, generations of Americans are almost certainly going to be severely burdened in untold ways by the events of the last week -- ones that have been carried out largely without any debate and mostly in secret.

Third, what's probably most amazing of all is the contrast between how gargantuan all of this is and the complete absence of debate or disagreement over what's taking place. It's not just that, as usual, Democrats and Republicans are embracing the same core premises ("this is regrettable but necessary"). It's that there's almost no real discussion of what happened, who is responsible, and what the consequences are. It's basically as though the elite class is getting together and discussing this all in whispers, coordinating their views, and releasing just enough information to keep the stupid masses content and calm.

Can anyone point to any discussion of what the implications are for having the Federal Government seize control of the largest and most powerful insurance company in the country, as well as virtually the entire mortgage industry and other key swaths of financial services? Haven't we heard all these years that national health care was an extremely risky and dangerous undertaking because of what happens when the Federal Government gets too involved in an industry? What happened in the last month dwarfs all of that by many magnitudes.

The Treasury Secretary is dictating to these companies how they should be run and who should run them. The Federal Government now controls what were -- up until last month -- vast private assets. These are extreme -- truly radical -- changes to how our society functions. Does anyone have any disagreement with any of it or is anyone alarmed by what the consequences are -- not the economic consequences but the consequences of so radically changing how things function so fundamentally and so quickly?

Other countries are debating it. The headline in the largest Brazilian newspaper this week was: "Capitalist Socialism??" and articles all week have questioned -- with alarm -- whether what the U.S. Government did has just radically and permanently altered the world economic system and ushered in some perverse form of "socialism" where industries are nationalized and massive debt imposed on workers in order to protect the wealthiest. If Latin America is shocked at the degree of nationalization and government-mandated transfer of wealth, that is a pretty compelling reflection of how extreme -- unprecedented -- it all is.

But there's virtually no discussion of that in America's dominant media outlets. All one hears is that everything that is happening is necessary to save us all from economic doom. And what's most amazing about that is that the Natural, Unchallenged Consensus That Nobody Questions can shift drastically in a matter of days and still nobody questions anything. This is what Atrios observed as I was writing this post:

It's fascinating to watch how easily consensus is manufactured.
A few days ago elite opinion seemed to be cheering Paulson's "no bailout" line, and now they're cheering a trillion bucks thrown down the crapper. All the Very Serious People will spend their days coming up with their pony plans, oblivious to the fact that the pony plan is not an option. The Bush administration's plan is the option.
The way it works is that Bush officials decree how things will be, and then everyone -- from Congressional Democrats to the Serious Pundits -- jump uncritically and obediently on board, even if they were on board with the complete opposite approach just days earlier, and then all real dissent vanishes. That's how the country in general works. As Atrios says: "We've seen this game played before."

I don't pretend to know anywhere near enough -- in terms of either raw information or expertise -- in order to opine on the necessity or lack thereof of The Latest Plan in terms of whether the alternatives are worse. But what I do know is that an injustice so grave and extreme that it defies words is taking place; that the greatest beneficiaries are those who are most culpable; and that the same hopelessly broken and deeply rotted institutions and elite class that gave rise to all of this (and so much more) are the very ones that are -- yet again -- being blindly entrusted to solve this.

UPDATE: Here is the current draft for the latest plan. It's elegantly simple. The three key provisions: (1) The Treasury Secretary is authorized to buy up to $700 billion of any mortgage-related assets (so he can just transfer that amount to any corporations in exchange for their worthless or severely crippled "assets") [Sec. 6]; (2) The ceiling on the national debt is raised to $11.3 trillion to accommodate this scheme [Sec. 10]; and (3) best of all: "Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency." [Sec. 8]
Put another way, this authorizes Hank Paulson to transfer $700 billion of taxpayer money to private industry in his sole discretion, and nobody has the right or ability to review or challenge any decision he makes.

Apart from the most massive wealth transfer since the Spanish conquered Mexico, these are the last stages in how America becomes a fascist nation.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cafferty: "Is This Bailout a Good Idea?"

My answer:

It’s a moot point. This is the most massive wealth transfer in history. Unless the Carlyle Group and other big boys are fenced off from foisting the bad loans off onto us (again) and buying up the good ones for a song; unless taxpayers demand a hefty rate of interest and a corruption/dereliction penalty fee; unless there is a vigorous re-payment schedule; and unless the corrupt SOB CEOs who run these places are forbidden to take one nickel’s profit, this is just Shock Doctrine economics. This is GOP-Milton Friedman-Bush-Cheney standard operating procedure, just on a bigger scale than we’re used to. Socialism for the rich, capitalism for the rest of us.

Pelosi actually said something useful: How come their profit is privatized but their debt is not? Ask McCain. It's the Republican Way.

$1 Trillion MORE? I Have So Many Questions

How is it that we can afford to bail out incomprehensible corruption, negligence, and incompetence but we can't afford Medicare or Social Security? Oh. Wait. I know. We can't afford Medicare or Social Security because we bailed out incomprehensibly corrupt corporations.

How is it that we can afford to bail out these bastards but not fix our streets, electrical grid, highways bridges, subways, reservoirs, ports, and ship channels? Oh. Wait. See above.

When China and a "nuclear Iran and an increasingly aggressive Russia" (Wolf Blitzer) rattle their swords, how will we pay to raise an army, protect our country, equip our soldiers, heal our veterans, and provide GI bills now that we've just loaded our kids with another $1 Trillion in debt? Oh. Wait. See above.

How is it that bailing out incomprehensible corruption, negligence, and incompetence isn't pork, but building research centers and highways is pork? Oh. Wait. It depends on who gets it.

How can we afford to educate our kids from K through college? Oh. Wait. We can't.

How can we afford to subsidize a brand new renewable energy development program. Oh. Wait. We can't.

You watch. McPalin will take this Republican-engineered financial meltdown--AKA this flushing of our national treasure into the coffers of wealthy, crooked and incompetent Republican bastards like those who own the Carlyle Group--will be alchemized into yet another reason why Obama is a disaster waiting to happen.

This is pure Shock Doctrine.

Incalculable Fraud, Incalculable Wealth Transfer

Isn’t Bush's proposed radical new economic plan simply a massive wealth transfer from you and yours truly to the super-wealthy?

Isn’t this exactly the kind of thing Naomi Wolfe warned us about in The Shock Doctrine—minus the fighter jets and tanks (at least so far)?

Shouldn’t every American be in the streets demanding that the CEOs, boards, and senior officers of these failed companies forfeit ANY profit?

Shouldn’t we demand that the taxpayer be repaid with vigorous interest and levy a penalty fee?

Shouldn’t there be immediate prohibitions against these guys just dumping the bad loans on Fannie and Freddy (us) and skimming the goods ones at bargain-basement rates?

This is an incalculable fraud on all who invested in these outfits, and an incalculable wealth transfer, and it’s all being pulled off with perfect insouciance. I’m speechless.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Elaine Chao, Wendy Gramm

Ooops. Senior moment. Contrary to what I said yesterday, Elaine Chao isn't the wife of Republican Senator Phil Gramm.

Phil Gramm's wife Wendy, however, was on the board of Enron. Which should tell you something about the Gramms' position on government regulation. In case the fact that Phil wrote the law that deregulated investment banking doesn't tell you something.

Chao, the rapidly anti-labor current Republican Secretary of Labor, is the wife of Republican Senator Mitch McConnell.

McConnell is the ranking Republican in this Senate and has a 100% pro-business (anti-regulation) record from the US Chamber of Commerce. Which should tell you how he feels about regulating Wall Street.

So how anybody can think that McCain is going to make changes in Washington--especially in regulating corporate America--is way past me. His chief economic advisor remains Phil Gramm.

Here's what's going down: Even as he and Palin are stumping this promise, you can be sure his aides are on the phone to Wall Street saying, "Pay no attention. This is just political rhetoric to get him in office. You know John, he'll take care of ya!"

Who Could Make This Up?

This is a completely incredible week.

Thanks to the sustained, core, much-ballyhoo'd Republican "free" market, de-regulation economic policy, the stock market--that would be us, you and me--has lost over $1 Trillion Dollars, yet 45% of Americans are still supporting McPalin.

McCain, whose economic advisor is de-regulation architect Texas Republican Sen. Phil Gramm (whose wife is our Secy of Labor, by the way), is declaring himself a regulator (for the first time in 30 years), and former Hillary supporter Lady Lynne Rothschild (yes, that Rothschild, the baroness) has left the Democrats in a huff because that Obama--get that, Obama--is "an elitist."

Right. New Deal advocate Obama is an elitist, and 9-houses-and-a-jet McPalin is a feminist ethics professor and pro-gay rights market regulator.

Who could make this stuff up?

If I weren't numb with anxiety about our retirement income and the prospects for a worldwide crash, I would be in hysterics. As it is, I'm sick at my stomach.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Demand the Debate We Deserve


Monday, September 15, 2008

"The Democratically Controlled Congress"? Puh-Leeze!

The "Democratically controlled Congress." How often do we hear that as an indictment of this failure or that over the last four years? What isn't said, ever, by media whores like Wolf Blitzer and Alan Greenspan's wife, Andrea Mitchell, or by GOP hacks like that genius of corporate management, Carly Fiorina, is this: While the Democrats were in power in both the Senate and the House, (1) there was not a veto-proof majority. No matter who controlled what, the Democrats could not -- repeat, could not -- overcome the will of the GOP. (2) Senator Lieberman, who voted WITH the GOP 90% of the time, simply weakened the power of the Democrats, and did so consistently from the time Bush took power.

Do NOT confuse a stalemate with capitulation on the part of the Democrats. When I see capitulation--as now, with Pelosi-Reed's craven support for a modified offshore drilling bill, and earlier, with Obama's refusal to stand up to the telecoms who enabled Bush's ILLEGAL domestic spying, I'll say so. I'm not operating under any illusions that Democrats are perfect.

Whatever they are, they aren't the originators of Neocon deregulation. That began with Uncle Ronnie, and has hit a banana peel under W. That's core Republican ideology, and the past and the coming administrations will sustain deregulation because investment bankers are part of their base.

What we've seen with Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Bros., Fannie May, Freddie Mac, and AIG, the underlying wave of predatory lending practices and the resulting home foreclosure crisis; what we've seen with the plunging value of the dollar; what we've seen with 600,000 job losses just since January; what we've seen with eroded wages and busted unionization efforts (e.g., Wal-Mart); exploited miners and deregulated mines; what we've seen with tax breaks for oil and for corporations that export American jobs--ALL THIS IS CORE REPUBLICAN NEO-CON IDEOLOGY APPLIED TO REAL LIFE.

Did I make that up?

So: Given THAT evidence, anyone who still votes for McCain--the Savings and Loan senator who has consistently supported all this, who still, today, says he thinks the economy is "sound"; who takes his economics advice from the catastrophic Neo-Con Senator Phil Gramm; who has confessed to knowing nothing about economics and therefore has promised to continue Bush economics, is an idiot. An unquestionable, certifiable, Bush Davidian, Kool-Aid drinking, way below Zero moron.
If Americans want a better world, here at home and abroad, we'd better elect Obama and give Democrats a majority in both houses of Congress.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Palin OK'd Fees for Post-Rape Medical Exams

From the Huffington Post:

Despite denials by the Palin campaign, new evidence proves that as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Sarah Palin had a direct hand in imposing fees to pay for post-sexual assault medical exams conducted by the city to gather evidence.

Palin's role is now confirmed by Wasilla City budget documents available online.

Under Sarah Palin's administration, Wasilla cut funds that had previously paid for the medical exams and began charging victims or their health insurers the $500 to $1200 fees. Although Palin spokeswoman Maria Comella wrote USA Today earlier this week that the GOP vice presidential nominee "does not believe, nor has she ever believed, that rape victims should have to pay for an evidence-gathering test...To suggest otherwise is a deliberate misrepresentation of her commitment to supporting victims and bringing violent criminals to justice," Palin, as mayor, fired police chief Irl Stambaugh and replaced him with Charlie Fannon, who with Palin's knowledge, slashed the budget for the exams and began charging the city's victims of sexual assault. The city budget documents demonstrate Palin read and signed off on the new budget. A year later, alarmed Alaska lawmakers passed legislation outlawing the practice.
And to think, Biden withdrew from his first presidential campaign for this:
". . . he ended his presidential campaign on September 23, 1987 after being accused of plagiarism. Though he had correctly credited the original author in all speeches but one, the one where he failed to make mention of the originator was caught on video."

We've come some distance, haven't we? Unfortunately, the direction is backwards.

Bush: Just Makin' Hay While the Sun Shines

From the NY Times:

With White House Push, U.S. Arms Sales Jump
Published: September 13, 2008

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is pushing through a broad array of foreign weapons deals as it seeks to rearm Iraq and Afghanistan, contain North Korea and Iran, and solidify ties with onetime Russian allies.

From tanks, helicopters and fighter jets to missiles, remotely piloted aircraft and even warships, the Department of Defense has agreed so far this fiscal year to sell or transfer more than $32 billion in weapons and other military equipment to foreign governments, compared with $12 billion in 2005.

The trend, which started in 2006, is most pronounced in the Middle East, but it reaches into northern Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and even Canada, through dozens of deals that senior Bush administration officials say they are confident will both tighten military alliances and combat terrorism.

“This is not about being gunrunners,” said Bruce S. Lemkin, the Air Force deputy under secretary who is helping to coordinate many of the biggest sales. “This is about building a more secure world.”
Yeah? And how's that workin' for ya?

This couldn't possibly have anything to do with The Carlyle Group, of which the Bush family is the a very happy primary beneficiary.

Nah. Neither does the price of gas.

America, get a clue.
To help you out, here's a little bit of backstory you should know:
"An agreement was struck with OPEC to price oil in U.S. dollars exclusively for all worldwide transactions. This gave the dollar a special place among world currencies and in essence "backed" the dollar with oil. In return, the U.S. promised to protect the various oil-rich kingdoms in the Persian Gulf against threat of invasion or domestic coup. This arrangement gave the dollar artificial strength, with tremendous financial benefits for the United States. In November 2000 Saddam Hussein demanded Euros for his oil. It was his arrogance that was a threat -- to the dollar; his lack of any military might was never a threat. At the first cabinet meeting with the new administration in 2001, as reported by Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, the major topic was how to get rid of Saddam Hussein--[ii]

"Saddam was linked to al Qaeda – sovereign Iraq was invaded –Joe Wilson’s honest report was dismissed, his wife, Valerie Plame’s identity was revealed – and so the rest of the story goes. . . .

"The ‘liberators’ fight hard for the ‘new democracy’. The ‘new democracy’ had become the place where arms dealers line their pockets. War is good for business. Boardrooms are filled with delighted stockholders. Profits are rolling in. The bin Laden owned Carlyle Group, not content with making money out of arms, proposes to use its connections to get in other deals. It wants ‘to help manage’ up to $1 billion of the funds collected from the reparations and other claims to create an entity, initially funded by $2 billion in Kuwaiti government money, that would take control of any funds collected from Iraq [iii].

"Indeed, the bin Laden owned Carlyle group fares well when it comes to death and destruction. As the Bush administration was supplying Israel with munitions to massacre the Lebanese men, women, and children, and as the United Nations was ordered by the U.S. to allow the destruction of a nation to continue, the Carlyle Group was ready to invest in Lebanon’s ruins – another one of Mr. Bush’s ‘new democracies’.[iv]

"Was it all ‘bad intelligence’? Today we have the weapons manufacturers supplying the intelligence. An ad taken out by Lockheed Martin last year looking for intelligence recruits reads: "on substantive intelligence matters involving terrorist groups and networks . . . Centcom experience is a plus," [v]. Raytheon, the other large defense contractor, is also supplying intelligence – to the point that corporate America, the weapons manufacturers, are capable of taking us to war. And war they want. Their stocks have gone through the roof – though the Iraqis had their roofs taken away with bombs and poverty.

"The next ‘threat’ on the list is Iran. In 1999 Iran had stated that it plans to sell its oil in Euro currency (Du Boff 1)[vi] as the sanctions had made it impossible for Iran to trade in dollars. (In 2001, Venezuela's ambassador to Russia spoke of Venezuela switching to the Euro for all their oil sales. Within a year there was a coup attempt against Chavez, reportedly with assistance from the CIA). Iran has started selling its oil in other currencies - Japan had to pay for its shipment in Yen.

"Iran has been the target of false allegations and ‘bad intelligence’ for the sole purpose of an attack which would profit corporate America, the military industrial complex, and their cohorts in the Middle East, with Lockheed Martin and Raytheon supplying intelligence[vii].

"Even as the IAEA “inspectors have protested to the US government and a Congressional committee about a report on Iran's nuclear work, calling parts of it "outrageous and dishonest", and that Iran had not enriched uranium to weapons grade[viii], the warmongering media here continues to make accusations about Iran. Iran is being accused of killing Americans in Iraq, supplying weapons, and in short, of being the biggest threat to the U.S. No doubt many employees are being paid overtime to produce the right ‘intelligence’ reports on Iran to keep the war machines going and the profits coming in."
The Wall Street Journal and BBC, among other prominent sources, have reported extensively on the link between the fall of the dollar and the rise in oil prices. See this report from Paul Craig Roberts, a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. This isn't speculation even if it isn't on the nightly news. No doubt Iraq's oil figured as much in Bush's pre-invasion calculations as Saddam's plan to demand Euros. Of course it did. Look who's benefited from Iraq's oil and its resulting profits.

See the original report to follow the footnotes, and check out the rest of what Information Clearinghouse has to say about the sordid connections between the Bush Family, the bin Ladins, senior Bush Administration officials, and the Carlyle Group. It might read like conspiracy theory, but as they say: just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not coming to get you.

Reality checks: (1) Bush administrations. (2) Cheney VP. (3) Iraq occupation. (4) Weapons sales. (5) Oil prices. (6) The Carlyle Group. (7) Does anything you know about Bush suggest that he would divest his financial interests to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest? No? I didn't think so.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The NeoCon Economic Pilot Test Failed

Whatever else it is, the Bush economy is unarguably Milton Friedman's "free" market theory in application. And it is a collosal, catastrophic failure.

The wreckage is strewn from one coast to the other and from Gulf to Great Lakes. Bodies lie everywhere.

I've lost count of the number of Wall Street tyrannosauri that have died, are dying, or were rescued. (It seems that the "free" market is "free" except when it isn't "free.")

We're still waiting the count of foreclosed homes.

The stock market teeters perilously, disastrously for Boomers with little hope of ever making up the losses incurred while Bush has been in office.

Oil prices are in the stratosphere, dragging the prices of everything else along for the ride.

Equity in a home that has lost half its value is half the equity--a crippling blow for everyone, but especially debilitating for those who are retiring or need to finance assisted living through the sale of their homes. That would be everybody I know. What about you?

Yesterday afternoon, I heard MSNBC's David Schuster interview an American Spectator editor on the foreclosure crisis. Incredibly, the editor--I didn't catch his name--said that the foreclosure crisis wasn't the result of deregulation. It was the result of the socialist expectations of buyers, he said, who knew they'd be bailed out.

Well, ain't that just a Republican NeoCon for ya? I didn't get a chance to cross-examine him myself, but if I had, here's what I'd have asked him. Do you have any data on that? Can you show us the lending houses' marketing materials that promised a bail-out to an oversold buyer? Any examples? Anyone? If that's the case, why aren't there national foreclosure crises twice a year? I mean, consumers have been consuming homes for quite a while now. And, how's that expectation working out for the "socialists"?

Such a lot of lies.

The truth, of course, is that the steady dismantling of banking and lending regulations, including repeal of New Deal jewel Glass-Steagall (pushed through when Clinton was President and hostage to a GOP-dominated Congress), is exactly what caused the foreclosure pig wallow. (If you've nothing better to do, search the New York Times using "Glass-Steagall" or "banking deregulation." It's an interesting historical flashback.)

Actually, there's a fine (and readable) article about the causal connection between both W's deregulation and--heads up--the economic legislative policy of John McCain's chief economics advisor Phil Gramm to the foreclosure crisis. It's worth your time.

Honey, trust me. You don't want Phil Gramm anywhere near the country's economic policy. Didn't you learn anything from George W. Bush?

Next time you hear a conservative blame the people for the foreclosure crisis, ask him this: "Did you REALLY read EVERY SINGLE WORD in the stack of papers you had to sign for every one of your mortgages?"

I didn't think so. You just trusted your realtor and your mortgage broker, didn't you.

This is Really Eerie: Palin is Just W in Drag!

Hey, wait a minute! I think we've seen this show before! Sarah Palin is George W. Bush in drag. Totally. Selfish, arrogant, likely sociopathic, abusive, nepotistic, cronyist, liar, evangelical, ignorant, greedy and a bully. No wonder the GOP loves her. But man, are they slow learners or what!

That's my take. I report, you decide. This from yet another heads-up article in today's NY Times:

In Office, Palin Hired Friends and Hit Critics So when there was a vacancy at the top of the State Division of Agriculture, she appointed a high school classmate, Franci Havemeister, to the $95,000-a-year directorship. A former real estate agent, Ms. Havemeister cited her childhood love of cows as one of her qualifications for running the roughly $2 million agency.

Ms. Havemeister was one of at least five schoolmates Ms. Palin hired, often at salaries far exceeding their private sector wages.

When Ms. Palin had to cut her first state budget, she avoided the legion of frustrated legislators and mayors. Instead, she huddled with her budget director and her husband, Todd, an oil field worker who is not a state employee, and vetoed millions of dollars of legislative projects.

And four months ago, a Wasilla blogger, Sherry Whitstine, who chronicles the governor’s career with an astringent eye, answered her phone to hear an assistant to the governor on the line, she said.

“You should be ashamed!” Ivy Frye, the assistant, told her. “Stop blogging. Stop blogging right now!”

Ms. Palin walks the national stage as a small-town foe of “good old boy” politics and a champion of ethics reform. The charismatic 44-year-old governor draws enthusiastic audiences and high approval ratings. And as the Republican vice-presidential nominee, she points to her management experience while deriding her Democratic rivals, Senators Barack Obama and Joseph R. Biden Jr., as speechmakers who never have run anything.

But an examination of her swift rise and record as mayor of Wasilla and then governor finds that her visceral style and penchant for attacking critics — she sometimes calls local opponents “haters” — contrasts with her carefully crafted public image.
For God's sake, haven't we been there and done that?

Press Finally Outing McCain, Palin on Lies, Unreadiness, Judgment

From a New York Times news story today, "McCain Barbs Stirring Outcry as Distortions:

Harsh advertisements and negative attacks are a staple of presidential campaigns, but Senator John McCain has drawn an avalanche of criticism this week from Democrats, independent groups and even some Republicans for regularly stretching the truth in attacking Senator Barack Obama’s record and positions.
Today, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe, certainly no flaming liberals, also are reporting that Palin did NOT visit Iraq after all, regardless of what McCain and Palin claim:

Report: Palin Did Not Visit Iraq, by Anne E. Kornblut
WASILLA, Alaska -- Aides to Gov. Sarah Palin are scrambling to explain details of her only trip outside North America -- which, according to a new report, did not include Iraq, as the McCain-Palin campaign had initially claimed.

Palin made an official visit to see Alaskan troops in Kuwait in July of 2007. There, she made a stop at a border crossing with Iraq, but did not actually visit the country, according to a new report in the Boston Globe.

Earlier, McCain aides had said that Palin visited Iraq, and expressed indignation at questions about her slim foreign travel.

And meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle homed in on this jewel:
In a televised interview Friday, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin defended her request for an estimated $200 million in federal projects from Congress - even as earlier in the day her GOP running mate John McCain insisted Palin had never sought money from Congress.

In a second ABC interview with Charlie Gibson, the GOP vice presidential candidate acknowledged that she has supported millions of dollars in congressional money - including the famed "Bridge to Nowhere" - to allow Alaska "to plug into ... along with every other state, a share of the federal budget in infrastructure."

Maybe God is not yet dead after all?

I'm being facetious, of course. I mean, maybe responsible US media are figuring out that it's not in their interests, either, to shoehorn the Ditzy Duo into the West Wing.

I really hope Rightwing Reader is reading this. (By the way, he never identified his websites, did he?) He did say, after all, that he hates lying. I assume that he also hates being manipulated, and gives a damn if the nation is in competent hands (having seen what incompetence means). If so, like all the rest of us, he would do to read a wide variety of informed commentary on these campaigns and these candidates.

It's time to get our heads out and pay attention. I have a feeling we're entering the most dangerous decade in US history. I, for one, don't want Johnny Hothead and Moose-a-lini anywhere near the launch button. Whatever weaknesses Obama and Biden might have--all candidates have weaknesses--I take theirs any day of the week.
From the editorial, and keep in mind that despite the rhetoric, the Times is not a "liberal" paper. Granted, it's to the left of the Wall Street Journal, but what isn't?
This nation has suffered through eight years of an ill-prepared and unblinkingly obstinate president. One who didn’t pause to think before he started a disastrous war of choice in Iraq. One who blithely looked the other way as the Taliban and Al Qaeda regrouped in Afghanistan. One who obstinately cut taxes and undercut all efforts at regulation, unleashing today’s profound economic crisis.

In a dangerous world, Americans need a president who knows that real strength requires serious thought and preparation.
From Bob Herbert's op-ed. I quote this because I think it nails the issue precisely. This isn't about bashing bit-part mayors. That's another faux class-war bullet shot at the only party that isn't waging class war: the Democratic Party:
Later, in the spin zones of cable TV, commentators repeatedly made the point that there are probably very few voters — some specifically mentioned “hockey moms” — who could explain the Bush doctrine. But that’s exactly the reason we have such long and intense campaigns. You want to find the individuals who best understand these issues, who will address them in sophisticated and creative ways that enhance the well-being of the nation.

The Bush doctrine, which flung open the doors to the catastrophe in Iraq, was such a fundamental aspect of the administration’s foreign policy that it staggers the imagination that we could have someone no further than a whisper away from the White House who doesn’t even know what it is.

You can’t imagine that John McCain or Barack Obama or Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton or Joe Lieberman would not know what the Bush doctrine is. But Sarah Palin? Absolutely clueless.

Ms. Palin’s problem is not that she was mayor of a small town or has only been in the Alaska governor’s office a short while. Her problem (and now ours) is that she is not well versed on the critical matters confronting the country at one of the most crucial turning points in its history.

It all kind of makes you wonder what else they're lying about, and what other judgment blunders they're up to, doesn't it? Let's find out now. Before November.

Democrat, Republican, Independent, None-of-the-Above, we all deserve to know.

And surely we owe it to our kids to find out.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A 9/11 Meditation

Jim sent me this privately. I liked it so much that I asked for and was graciously given permission to post it here.

A 9/11 MeditationBy guest blogger James Christenson, PhD
I’d like to take a few minutes to recall 9/11/01 and where we have been since then.

Carol and I woke up this morning to the clock-radio playing some very moving interviews with people who lost loved ones on 9/11/01. We recalled waking up to the radio on that day and vaguely realizing that a tragedy was unfolding. We rushed to the TV room in time to see the second plane hit, followed by the scenes of desperate people jumping into thin air and the gut-wrenching collapse of the buildings. When that second plane hit, we knew that this was a terrorist attack and not some horrible accident. When the buildings collapsed, we felt grief and anger, a terrible sense of loneliness, and we knew that we would never be the same again. Apostate though I am, I found myself saying a little prayer for our country and for ourselves personally.

In the days after, our sense of grief grew worse, and our anger grew worse; we can only imagine the feelings of those who suffered personal losses. But our loneliness was relieved by the unified response of the American people, by being there for each other, and by the sympathy and good will for our people that was expressed by people around the world. Americans of all colors, classes, religions, stood together.

“United We Stand” was our motto, and I actually believed it for a while. Watching Bush’s speech from Ground Zero, I even felt for an instant that we may have had the right leader for the time. It was his best moment--apparently his last, perhaps only, good moment. After about two breaths, the Republicans started trying to blame the whole thing on the Clinton administration.

It is hard to comprehend what has happened since then. The Bush regime immediately started obfuscating, denying accountability, and converting the country into a police state. They orchestrated a counter-attack on our attackers in Afghanistan, which we all knew had to be done. Then almost immediately, came the call for war with Iraq.

Iraq?!! In no time, if you had the least reservation about attacking Iraq, your patriotism, intelligence, and sanity were impugned. We lost the support of even some of our oldest and closest allies. The Republican Congress quickly got to the heart of the matter and renamed French fries Freedom fries. The war, of course, turned out to be a complete FUBAR, its justification fraudulent and its execution catastrophic.

The Bush administration unlawfully spied on citizens, detained suspects, and, to our everlasting national shame, tortured them. In the next presidential election, the Republicans shamelessly used fear and lies to divide the nation and re-conquer the White House with their 50% + 1 strategy. For good measure, they almost certainly engaged in election fraud. I won’t even start on the corruption, incompetence, the cynical manipulation of the economy. . . .

Some have said that we lost our innocence on 9/11, but I think we gained a lot of innocence on 9/11 and have lost it since.

Which American City do You Want to Lose?

"He will make Cheney look like Ghandi." Pat Buchanan on John McCain in the White House.

This video is chilling. I happen to believe it's also one of the two most essential considerations in this election. The other is global warming. A distant third is the US economy.

To what should be our universal horror, McCain thinks Bush's economic plan is just great (see Dr. Phil Gramm if you're inclined to "whine" about it). He's a gung-ho Neocon "free" marketer. Your job? Kiss his butt. Your home? Ditto. Your healthcare and retirement. In spades.

To what should be our universal horror, Palin thinks global warming is God's work, a step toward Armageddon and the Rapture. In her eyes, anything we do to lessen it is a slap in the face of God. That's why there's not going to be any improvement in a Christianist-controlled McCain-Palin White House. (If you doubt it'll be Christianist controlled, tell me why McCain couldn't have his own choice of VP?)

McCain knows one solution to all problems, and he thinks it's funny: Bomb, bomb, bomb. As this video points out--from seasoned veteran nuclear policy guy Scott Ritter--if we attack Iran with one of our new generation of what Bush chillingly calls "usable nukes," the genie is out of the bottle and it won't go back until Islamic extremists take out at least one American city.

So, Rightwingers: Before you ride out on a flood of Limbaugh's hate-mongering to vote in White Daddy, think good and hard about that. Which city will it be?

(Thanks to friend Vicki for sending me the video.)

We're Beyond Lies. This is PsyOps: Pre-Emptive War on American Voters.

Finding the cure depends on making the right diagnosis.

Maybe in the 1970s, we could still reasonably think of political campaigns as equal mixtures of truth, lies, and video tape. Maybe in the 1970s, both parties did it in approximately the same measure.

Not now. We're way past mere business-as-usual lying.

The reality is that, in addition to "a blizzard of lies," the GOP is using bona fide psychological operations---psyops---to manipulate US elections.

Time to call this what it is. No matter how subtle it may be, this is a massive orchestrated war on our constitutional democracy.
Follow me here. I'm angry but there's good reason to be.

When, month after month, facts bounce off voters like raindrops on car tops, sensible people see that something else is going down.

When even felt, experienced disasters--Katrina, Saddams's WMD, home foreclosures, tanked retirement savings, astronomical unemployment rates, unbridled domestic espionage, homeland concentration camps, and the culture of corruption--when even these count for nothing in voters' reappraisal game, a sane observer must consider that something worse than mere lying is at work.

Everybody knows that in a normal, healthy environment--whether at work, at home, in the old-fashioned police or medical investigation--lies simply don't prevail. In normal, healthy conditions, lies always crumble, and liars almost always lose serious market share. Nixon was forced to resign. Bill Clinton was almost impeached.

On the other hand, when fact after fact fails to make even a dent--when no quantity of lies is enough to shame the mainstream media into investigating and reporting reality--then it's pretty clear that we're no longer playing in the weedy pastures of politics as usual.

I began to tip to this a day or two ago, in a post titled "The Lord of the Flies: Karl Rove, John McCain, and Sarah Palin." If you haven't read it, check it out.

Digging deeper, I looked up "psy-ops." Here's what I found:
"Psychological operations (PSYOP, PSYOPS) are techniques used by military and police forces to influence a target audience's value systems, belief systems, emotions, motives, reasoning, and behavior. Target audiences can be governments, organizations, groups, and individuals, and are used in order to induce confessions, or reinforce attitudes and behaviors favorable to the originator's objectives. These are sometimes combined with black operations or false flag tactics.

This concept has been used by military institutions throughout history, but it is only since the twentieth century that it has been accorded the organizational and professional status it enjoys now.

The word is commonly used by governments, such as the government of the United States, who do not wish to use the term propaganda or brainwashing to refer to their own work. The word propaganda has very negative connotations, and by calling it psychological operations instead, more sophisticated methods of psychological manipulation are accurately incorporated by the terminology. This euphemism for mind control is ironically an example of psychological operations--i.e., using psychological techniques to persuade [manipulate] a large number of people to support something that they wouldn't normally support." [Emphases added. See original for additional links.]
It's been solidly established that the GOP uses messaging that targets deep-seated fears to reach down far beneath the rational level to the reptilian cortex, the most primitive part of our brain. Add to that intentionally deploying made-up stuff up--the word is propaganda--to reinforce those fears (he's a closet Muslim) and to appeal to our primitive, most infantile longings for Good Daddy and Good Mommy. Soon it's plain that, thanks to Karl and John, the American public is deliberately being "manipulated to support something we wouldn't normally [rationally] support."

It's also well known that the GOP uses the "false flag" strategy, as well. Here, the Party itself can deny responsibility when third parties launch scurrilous psyops attacks on Democratic candidates. We call this "swiftboating." (Interesting, all this military jargon, isn't it? It, too, points directly to a warfare model.)

None of the fundamentals I've described is news. What's missing is the correct diagnosis.

This is deviance at depths unprecedented in the USA. This isn't campaigning. This isn't Chris Matthews' happy little battle of ideas. This GOP campaign strategy is authentic military psy-ops, and guess what? We're all IT.

Republicans, Democrats, independents, all of us are on the verge of losing our democracy. Psyops isn't the conduct of free elections in any sense of the word. There is no such thing as a free election when the public is being systematically, relentlessly manipulated with certifiable, powerful psychological weapons, backed up with rigged boxes, suppressed ballots, caged voters, 8-hour voting lines, no more ballots, and voter ID laws targeting minorities and Democrats.

This isn't an election. This is warfare. This isn't merely a direct hit on American democracy.

It's a treasonous, pre-emptive nuclear strike. It's the Bush Doctrine turned on Americans ourselves. WE are the enemy in its sights, the reasoning, reasonable American public capable of tossing Republicans out of power and entitled to do so. Unless we are stopped.
The GOP's psyop campaign has been deployed with the full support of the mainstream media (radio, tv, and print). That's evident from simple deduction and from contrasting the likes of Wolf Blitzer and Sean Hannity with Walter Cronkite and Edwin R. Murrow. The Constitution empowers a free, vigorous, investigative media. History teaches that our radio, TV, and print outlets can ably defend democracy when they choose. The question now is, why aren't they?

What do we do now? We--and I mean you, too, moderate and decent Rightwing Republicans (if there are any)--have the power to stop it. Together, we can file lawsuits, boycott advertisers, expose the psyops for what it is, demand issues coverage, not lipstick BS, and continue to flag the lies.

If we don't, if we lose this one, I don't think we'll have another opportunity, if only because advertising, marketing, and the military have compelling interests in refining psyops ad infinitum, and the beneficiaries of Bush's still unfathomed corruption have a compelling interest in ensuring that nobody else get close to their pile of booty. Four more years to refine illegal domestic espionage, four more years to wreck the economy and trash the federal government (see The Wrecking Crew), four more years of for-profit prisons needing ever more prisoners, four more years of homeland concentration camps, four more years defining political protest as terrorism, four more years of war, and war, and more war, four new years of arch-Christianist Sarah Palin near or at the launch button?

I'm just not seeing how we survive that. I'm not seeing why the vast majority of Americans of any stripe would want to, short of mass psychological manipulation.

Strategies, anyone?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Who is Sarah, What is She?


(Thanks to my buddy Michael M. for this hat-tip from progressive commentator Ed Schultz.)

Arizona Republicans' War on the Constitution, Again

Point One: Let's get clear. Proposition 102 isn't about marriage.

Proposition 102 is only one state-level deployment of a powerful weapon in radical Christianist Republicans' war on the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. That weapon is a fierce 30-year PR campaign to gin up heterosexual Americans' suspicion, dislike, and fear of gay men and lesbian women.

Again, their target--keep this front and center--is not gay marriage. Gay marriage is merely the decoy. Their target is the US Constitution.

Here's why.

All that stands between you and me and the kind of radical fundamentalist theocracy that Sarah Palin represents are the US Constitution and Bill of Rights and the Supreme Court that interprets them.

At present, only a tiny handful of constitutional guarantees, explicit and implicit, keep a possible President Sarah Palin from, say, criminalizing homosexual conduct, defining those who protest as "terrorists" under the Patriot Acts, and seizing our assets. Absurd? Not if you've paid attention to Guantanamo and St. Paul.

The distinction is merely one of degree. The thing is, if these few constitutional protections can be neutralized, there's nothing in US law to stop a powerful movement from turning its guns elsewhere: On you, for example. Even the little that we citizens have been permitted to know of the Patriot Acts makes that clear.

Exaggerated? Not at all. After all, that movement has already seized control of the Republican Party. Fact, not opinion.

The so-called "marriage protection" campaign has nothing to do with marriage except in the minds of a sector of citizens--evangelical and fundamentalist Republicans--who've been bombarded with virulent anti-gay propaganda for 30 years. This has taken the form of mass-distributed CDs, videos, direct-mail campaigns, and voter guides, and a whole host of home-schooling and private Christianist academy curricular materials, and conservative church and legal initiatives orchestrated by the extreme Christianist Right. Fact, not opinion.

The point of all this is to reverse 250 years of traditional American legal thought in order to neutralize the Constitution's defense of women, minorities, and the interests of the people as a whole vs. the rights of the individual. Campaigns like "Defense of Marriage" exist solely to draw conservatives to the polls to directly assail a handful of key constitutional protections, and to vote into office the next phalanx of radical Christianists to make laws and appoint judges who will reverse the great liberal legal tradition that has made America the beacon for freedom all over the world. Fact, not opinion.

The Targets

The Constitution's 14th Amendment guarantee to every individual of equal protection of the law is the springboard from which judges and justices at every level have found in favor of minorities since Brown v. Board of Education (1954). From that Supreme Court decision flows every subsequent legal advance in US human rights.

Its privacy protection, implicit in the 9th Amendment and reinforced in Amendments 3, 4, and 5 of the Bill of Rights, is absolutely central to each individual's defense against unwarranted state intrusion into personal matters such as non-exploitative sexual relations between consenting adults, and a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy under strict and limited conditions. It also underlies the sensible search warrant.

The Constitution's powerful 1st Amendment affirmation of every individual's freedom to choose his or her religion (or to decline religion), and the wall it imposes between your religion and mine, between my religion and yours, and between a state religion and all of us, are the last and greatest defense each of us has against the radical ideology represented by Sarah Palin, James Dobson, and John McCain.

The Strategy

It isn't a matter of opinion. It's a fact that a radical, extraordinarily powerful, richly-funded, highly orchestrated Christian Right already virtually controls the Republican party. Moderate Republicans know it and discuss it openly. If you doubt it, consider this. A few days ago, its own presidential candidate was powerless to select his own vice president. John McCain knuckled under to the Christianist Right because he had to.

Radical Christianists' takeover of the party began in 1991. Why?

Because when extreme fundamental Christianist Pat Robertson lost his White House bid in 1988, radical Christianists got it that they could never take control of the country from the top down. In 1989, they founded the Christian Coalition and developed a winning strategy to seize control of the country from the grassroot up, by seizing control of the Republican party.

This they accomplished by fielding closeted radical fundamentalists for grassroots offices in order to gain, and eventually dominate, delegates to the Republican National Convention. By this means they can, and as we can observe today, they do, write its platform and determine its presidential candidates. Obviously, with control of the platform and the presidency, they control political appointees at every bureaucratic level, dictate what happens in state and local elections, and above all, determine federal appeals court and US Supreme Court appointees.

The fundamentalists' decisive take-control strategy first came to national attention in the well-known San Diego Stealth Initiative. It continues today, more powerful than ever. If in 2000, John McCain could still denounce its takeover, by 2008, John McCain has been forced to capitulate to it and to advance it one giant step by placing extreme Christianist Sarah Palin one heartbeat from the presidency.

Paralleling this GOP take-over strategy is Part 1 of radical Christianists' legal strategy. Their lynchpin legal initiative is the "original intent" campaign, a point-blank assault on traditional American constitutional values as enunciated since the founding of the country. It asserts (absurdly) that at some unknowable place and point in time, all the founders universally concurred on one interpretation of every constitutional issue for all time. That this never occurred--and that the idea itself was denounced even by Madison himself--doesn't stand in the way of fundamentalist extremists. Truth is irrelevant.

Part 2 is the fear-based, seductive PR campaign against so-called "activist judges," also a chimera: The fact is that any so-called "activist" judge exists only in the eye of the beholder. It's a PR tactic obvious because radical Christianists deem only mainstream judges who interpret the Constitution in accord with traditional American values as "activist."

Not surprisingly, in other words, the only "activist" judges are those the Christianists denounce as "liberal." These are the judges and justices who find that the Constitution and Bill of Rights actually give equal protection to women, minorities, labor, and--powerfully--sometimes to the people as a whole (as in environmental protection and gun control) over individuals.

Given this reality check, in the real light of day, Proposition 102, Arizona's GOP-dominated legislature's upchucked version of a measure we defeated just two years ago, can be seen for what it is, and the reason it's back on the ballot can be exposed for what it is.

These are heavy duty weapons aimed at the heart of American freedoms. They and the radical theocratic ideals they serve constitute the most serious threat to democracy in our history. Such propositions are first-line guns in a war on the ideals that make Americans uniquely Americans. The ironic thing is, those guns aren't just aimed at queers.

What the founders who drafted our majestic core documents saw is this simple paradox: A Constitution that defends the rights of one American defends the rights of all Americans. Without our Constitution intact, and without a committed, staunch legal tradition and Supreme Court unshakably devoted to that simple principle, we're all at the mercy of the next commander in chief and the hidden strings that control him or her. That's not democracy. That's fascism.

So don't be stupid. If you vote for Prop 102, it's just youself you're firing at.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Women Against Sarah Palin

Hey, drop everything, go here, and write your own letter!

Interesting: I just pulled it up to find that Blogger has it under review for possible offenses. You can still see the site, but only after reading a warning.

That's the GOP for ya: no freedom of speech except for RepubliCONS.

Deepak on Palin

Deepak Chopra on Barack Obama and Sarah Palin:

"She is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and turning negativity into a cause for pride. In psychological terms the shadow is that part of the psyche that hides out of sight, countering our aspirations, virtue, and vision with qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence, selfishness, and suspicion of “the other.” For millions of Americans, Obama triggers those feelings, but they don’t want to express them. He is calling for us to reach for our higher selves, and frankly, that stirs up hidden reactions of an unsavory kind."
Read the whole post. I think it's worth your time.

Which is harder, to stand up to hate and violence, or to give in? That's what we're up against.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Lord of the Flies: Karl Rove, John McCain, and Election 2008

Amazed, astonished, appalled it's a virtual dead heat? Here's the reason.

We're watching different picture shows.

Images have always been a key part of political campaigns, but when Kennedy beat Nixon, Republicans learned that feelings trump thoughts every time.

Republicans unveiled Willie Horton, not even a little concerned about the long-term consequences for America's race relations. They knew the Horton script played on deep-seated race fears and would escalate our collective national guilt into a paranoid projection that many would be powerless to resist.

Ronald Reagan: Image personified. W: That uniquely American cowboy icon packaged as the Marlboro Man. McCain: War hero, maverick. "The Right Stuff." These are Good Daddy archetypes that bypass our brains and go directly to our oldest, most irrational fears, and trigger a panic about the state of our security.

The Strong, Good Daddy image is meant to play directly to our inner child. Contrast Republican messages about Hillary and Sarah and you'll see its female counterpart. Hockey mom Palin is pretty, fearless, maternal, upfront: Good Mommy, aka Pitbull in Lipstick, Mother, womb. Hillary is the other half of the Good/Bad duality. Bossy (pants suit), shrill, controlling, bitchy, inscrutable: Mean Mommy, aka emasculating: vagina dentata, latent dyke.

The GOP strategy works two ways. It isn't only that fear-based archetypes bypass our brains and render rational argument irrelevant. It's also that archetypal imagery like this, that speaks to the inner child, calls out the inner child, not the thinking, rational adult.

Show me a dictator who doesn't get this.

What's going on here, consciously and deliberately orchestrated by Karl Rove and the GOP, isn't a contest about what's best for the country. It's not about issues. It's really just a re-enactment of Lord of the Flies. Unfortunately for us and for the planet, the rational, problem-solving kid cannot withstand the fear of the beast. Reason, order, calm, the collective good, and the disciplined evolution of solutions isn't anywhere near as gratifying as fun, war, red meat, and individual survival.

McCain, Palin and the Right are to Jack and his tribe what Obama, Biden, and the Left are to Ralph and his tribe. That is why, for example, the inner Rightwing child isn't at all offended by McCain's adolescent, vulgar "bomb bomb bomb, bomb-bomb Iran" jibe. Their inner kid is thrilled. What could be more fun! (At this point, it's not really about reality, of course. Though he will learn to his horror, their inner kid doesn't yet know the part about torsos spilling entrails, or blown-off legs. All he knows is camping out in the back yard where Daddy and Mommy are close by if the need arises.) "Maverick's" just a big word for coloring outside the lines. What could be more natural? What could be better?

Captured by primitive terrors prodded daily into life by W's war on--guess what? Terror!--the inner Righwing child just cannot hear--much less be moved by--appeals to reason, experience, sanity. He is regressed.

Sometimes reality is its own parody. Through Sarah, future son-in-law Levi Johnston has become McCain's virile, promiscuous, bellicose young avatar, and he speaks for and he calls out all the other Levis out there:
"The boyfriend of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter describes himself on his MySpace site: 'I'm a fuckin' redneck who likes to snowboard and ride dirt bikes. But I live to play hockey. I like to go camping and hang out with the boys, do some fishing, shoot some shit and just fuckin' chillin' I guess. Ya fuck with me I'll kick ass.'"

Elsewhere, Johnston admits to having a girlfriend (Sarah's daughter, Bristol), but in the section of the MySpace page where it asks about children, he wrote, "I don't want kids." Of course he doesn't! He is a kid.

Like his older brother who will be driving for senior officers in Iraq--they don't leave the Green Zone--Levi doesn't have to worry about reality, and if he ever should, Mommy and Daddy will make sure it's all all right: No wedding? Knocked up? Whatever. Iraq? Whatever. It's all good. It's the Lord's work.

This is not so different from the legions of Rightwingers who cheer when Bush says "Bring it on," but don't actually volunteer to fight. McCain has done that for them vicariously. This isn't about reality. It's all unfolding at mythic levels where a man is a hunter/killer and a woman is a pretty hockey mom.

Here's the deal: Feelings trump thoughts every time. The GOP gets it; we don't.

As the Washington Post reported recently:
Rick Davis, campaign manager for John McCain's presidential bid, insisted that the presidential race will be decided more over personalities than issues during an interview with Post editors this morning.

"This election is not about issues," said Davis. "This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates."

This not only explains the power of GOP marketing. It also explains why the GOP can lie, and lie, and lie, and lie without ever paying a price at the polls.. The facts that contradict its messaging may be regularly blipped across our screens, but the party and the message are impervious because our kid isn't capable of using facts to manage his fears. That's not where he's at. Our kid responds only to myths. Archetypes.

Apparently this is almost incomprehensible to Democratic campaigns. Time and again, we shout out the myriad catastrophes wrought by the Bush administration, time and again we point to McCain's enthusiastic collaboration (he voted with Bush 90%-95% of the time). Time and again, we ask voters if they're better off now than they were when Bush took office. But for all our efforts, at best, the margin between Obama and McCain fluctuates a point or two.

The facts are well known, but the facts are irrelevant, just as they were irrelevant in 2004. By all logic, Bush would have been defeated. But it wasn't about logic.

Today's voters know the record--at least the parts of it that comes home, such as gas prices and home foreclosures and Bush's idle fiddling while New Orleans drowned. But that was then. This is now, and there's an uncertain future ahead.

The most profound emotion is fear. If told often enough that Obama will raise your taxes, Obama is a closet Muslim radical, McCain is a maverick, Palin cuts waste, Palin is ready now, don't let reporters be mean to Good Mommy, the voters--in a spasm of deliberately induced regression--will let their feelings trump their thinking.

Two other points, quickly.

(1) The GOP shores up this induced mass regression by vote caging, black box tinkering, and erecting hurdles, confusion, and fear for all Democratic voters. Expect that again BIG TIME this year.

(2) Obama will have a hard time playing his own fear card, which is the one thing he must do if he hope to win. He has denounced the tactic, pledged a higher level of campaign, seems sincerely committed to campaigning on the issues, and seems dispositionally uncomfortable with hitting below the belt.

But the facts are what the are: This election is about images, not issues. He'd better get into that picture show.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Real Palin

From Andrew Sullivan, conservative commentator, author, blogger:

Are we allowed to ask questions about her tenure as mayor of Wasilla? Here's a story from the Wall Street Journal, exposing just how fiscally and operationally reckless Palin's mayorship of Wasilla was:

The biggest project that Sarah Palin undertook as mayor of this small town was an indoor sports complex, where locals played hockey, soccer, and basketball, especially during the long, dark Alaskan winters.

The only catch was that the city began building roads and installing utilities for the project before it had unchallenged title to the land. The misstep led to years of litigation and at least $1.3 million in extra costs for a small municipality with a small budget. What was to be Ms. Palin's legacy has turned into a financial mess that continues to plague Wasilla...

"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities," Ms. Palin said Wednesday in her acceptance speech at the Republican convention. Litigation resulting from the dispute over Ms. Palin's sports-complex project is still in the courts, with the land's former owner seeking hundreds of thousands of additional dollars from the city.

When Palin took over Wasilla, the town had no long-term debt. By the time she was done, debt service had increased by 69 percent, the town had close to $19 million in long-term debt, making the debt around $3000 per capita. And the Mccain campaign is asking us - seriously - to consider her a fiscal conservative.

She is a Bush-Cheney fiscal conservative: low taxes, unprecedented new spending, utter incompetence, endemic cronyism and massive debt.
[Emphasis added.]

That last deserves repetition, for RWR and others of his unresearched opinion:
She is a Bush-Cheney fiscal conservative: low taxes, unprecedented new spending, utter incompetence, endemic cronyism and massive debt.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Silence that Speaks Volumes

Unbelievably, and without being called on this sorry sack of garbage by anybody in the mainstream media, the Republican Party has declared that nobody from the media can interview its Vice President candidate for two weeks.

Can you imagine what would happen if Obama declared that he would be off-limits to reporters' questions for two weeks a mere six weeks before election day?

Or Hillary? The din from the howls on the Right--that is, from CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, and of course Faux would be paralyzing and without end.

Unless she's back in Alaska scrubbing human bloodstains out of the RV, or buying off everybody she's ever known, or having a baby, the only reason the Republicans don't want Palin to meet reporters for two whole weeks is that she doesn't know squat about anything that might reach the level of national policy.

But how can this be? Weren't we assured that she's been thoroughly vetted, that she's ready to be Veep right now and to be Leader of the Free World on Day 1 should anything happen to McSame? Haven't we been told that she's even more qualified than Obama and Biden?

They weren't sequestered to cram for two weeks. They've run the (hostile) media gauntlet for years. Obama just took on that rabid ignoramus O'Reilly, yet.

This reminds me of Bush, who wouldn't allow members of the Senate to interview him without Unca Dick by his side. What's with these people? Don't they know this kind of thing screams "I was a teen-age flunkout"?

We're told repeatedly that campaigning at the national level is its own vetting, its own essential part of preparation for high office. But if there's no need for her to endure a full term of campaigning, then obviously either she's fully prepared or there's something to hide.

What's being hidden is her phenomenal unreadiness. The decision, then, is part of a continuing fraud on the American people perpetrated by Karl Rove and John McCain in service of a Republican victory at any cost. In these two weeks, senior GOP handlers and advisors will attempt to pour into this empty vessel all the substance, judgment, insight, and wisdom of a George Bush. Who else? That's where th advisors come from, after all. For some reason, even if she's a talented empty vessel, a willing sponge, I'm not reassured.

Beyond that, Andrew Sullivan put this well. It's creepy. It's eery. It's frightening. It's shades of The Manchurian Candidate, where Palin is the candidate and phalanxes of Christianists, Neocons, Bushmen, and Rove are the brainwashers.

Come to think of it, this is fitting for a woman of the Christianist Far Right. After all, she's supposed to be a willing receptacle. She's not meant to teach or lead persons of the male gender. She's only supposed to do as she's told.

Is there a worse example for America's girls?

Since W was "elected," has there been a more transparent travesty of truth?

Why We Aren't Dealing with Global Warming: Connecting the Dots

Ever wonder?

The answer lies in dominionism, the extreme fundamentalist theology espoused by Sarah Palin and a great many other local, state, and national policy makers.

Dominionism (see also Christian Reconstructionism) stems from the biblical injunction that man (used advisedly) was given dominion over the earth and everything in it. Dominion is understood to be man's right to use and abuse earth and its resources as he sees fit.

Dominionism underpins a great deal--not all--of contemporary Republicans' hard-core resistance to conservation, renewable energy, and the science of global warming. For instance, VP Dick Cheney's vocal rejection of conservation as an affront to Americans' way of life may be an outgrowth of dominionism, or (as I suspect) he may merely be manipulating dominionists to serve his "survival of the fittest" philosophy that the strongest (i.e., most ruthless businessmen) are entitled to whatever and as much as they want, regardless of the consequences to others.

Dominionism alone is destructive enough. It doesn't just apply to earth and its resources, but also to mens' status relative to women and children. Shored up by other biblical passages, dominionism is at the core of fundamentalism's unshakable patriarchy.

It gets worse.

End Times

What makes dominionism so terrifying today, however, is that Far Right Christo-Fascists like Palin also subscribe to a terrifying End Times theology. I'll try to make the connection clear.

The End Times--which they believe have commenced--will bring the Rapture, the Tribulation, and the Second Coming. (This site lays out the End Times perspective. An aside: The references there to Israel are critically important because for Sarah Palin, James Dobson, John Ashcroft, Clarence Thomas, and many, many other Republicans (yes, they're all Republicans), if events in Israel can be satisfactorily manipulated, the Second Coming can be hurried along. Bizarre as it may sound, these views ARE at work in US foreign policy now.)

End Times believers are convinced that they (the saved) will be with Christ in Heaven forever, whereas the rest of us will be consigned to burn forever in a fiery lake in Hell. Therefore, End Timers both long for the Rapture and believe they are compelled to convert as many souls as possible before the Rapture occurs. (Enter developments such as Joel's Army, the Promise Keepers, the massive buy-up of US radio and TV media since Falwell first launched his Moral Majority, Bush's faith-based initiatives, and so on, all of which have both secular political and fundamentalist theocratic objectives).

Because Far Right fundamentalists--Assemblies of God, Southern Baptists, Pentacostals, and many others, including today's fashionable "post-denominationalists" or "generic Christians" (to some extent these are both theological terms and political stealth terms)--are convinced that the End Times have begun, they believe strongly that any effort to combat global warming is not just useless but is in fact sinful. Combating global warming, developing renewable energy sources, conserving energy, protecting the environment are sinful because they obstruct in God's will for imminent End Times and delay the Second Coming.

This is why it's essential to know the code when you listen to Sarah Palin and many of those who passionately support her. When Sarah Palin says that she will govern "with the heart of a servant," for instance, she means that she will govern in accord with dominionist teachings.

She is signaling that She will be a faithful servant of the fundamentalists' vengeful God of Armageddon. She is saying that she is willing, ready, and able to rush the End Times along.

When she says that she "isn't one of those who sees global warming as manmade," what she means is that she sees global warming as an act of God designed as part of the horrible End Times. She's saying that combatting global warming, saving polar bears and beluga whales, conserving natural resources, and protecting wilderness are defiant acts of sinners that will have no place in her regime.

When she speaks of the Iraq war as the work of God, she's offering a clue to her views that apocalyse in the Middle East--in Jerusalem, to be precise--is necessary before the Second Coming can occur. Bear this in mind when you weigh various conservatives' analysis of Iran, Israel, Syria, and the rest of the Middle East. For a great many of our Republican policymakers and leaders, it's about the oil and it's about the End Times.

Don't just take my word for it. Google and read. Try "red heifer," for instance, or "End Times," Rapture, Tribulation, Armageddon, Zionist fundamentalism. etc.

You'll find many, many affirmations from the fundamentalists themselves, as well as many analyses from former fundamentalists and those who have carefully analyzed a movement that has grown from lunatic fringe to control the GOP in just under 30 years. The sheer number of websites devoted to serious proselytizing, not to mention that fundamentalist leader Tim LaHaye's "Left Behind" series has sold by now close to 80 million copies, give us some idea of the scope of what we're up against.

And that's just for starters.