Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Paul Hackett Speaks Up

I was sorry to see Paul Hackett drop out of the Ohio senate race. Epluribus Media Community has a post by him; here's the first three paragraphs :

I sent the following email out today and wanted to make sure you all had an opportunity to see it. IAVA PAC is a great organization with a great mission. I hope you'll recommend this post so others can see it.

Since I left the Senate race in Ohio I have been overwhelmed by the phone calls, e-mails, and letters of support. On behalf of myself and my entire campaign, I want to thank all of you who have passed on your thoughts and encouragement.


Though I am no longer a candidate for elected office, I intend to continue in the fight I began when I returned from serving with my fellow Marines in Iraq; the fight to bring our troops home as quickly and safely as possible.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Political Blog Survey

Note: Myspace users see update at the end.

One of the largest listings of political blogs (if not the largest) is found at Technorati. In late December, the number of political blogs listed at Technorati was over 6,800; most blogs I regularly read usually list ten to fifty blogs in their links section.

I was curious to know who all these other bloggers were (and I felt the need to publicize my own site as well) so I took a deep breath and started surveying all the political blogs listed on Technorati. I used the alphabetical listing category under politics and sometimes it took several evenings to do a single letter (the letter 't' took the longest since Technorati doesn't drop 'the' from the title).

This was by no means a formal survey. For one thing, blogs were being deleted and added during the period I was doing the survey. Also, my main purpose was to locate active, frequently updated political blogs that would interest me enough to bookmark. Now I was very generous in what I bookmarked and yet I was pleasantly surprised at the number of quality blogs I found that are not listed in the links sections of the many blogs I already read.

I didn't click on every one of the more than 6,800 blogs listed. First, it became obvious that the number 6,800 is somewhat misleading. Many blogs are listed more than once and many blogs have been dormant for more than a 120 days; it became apparent that roughly 2,000 blogs fall in this category. It also became obvious that Technorati doesn't do much in the way of screening blogs that list themselves under politics. I surveyed many blogs that were really about other things and only occassionally was there a post about politics. I arbitrarily decided many of these did not qualify as political blogs. I really don't mind a variety of subjects on a political blog and in cases like Kevin Drum's blog on The Washington Monthly, I actually look forward to good non-political posts. But on many of the blogs I surveyed, there were far too many weddding pictures, baby pictures, music reviews, bad days at school or the office, technical discussions of electronics, travelogues, etc. and far too little to qualify them as political blogs. Roughly 3,100 so-called political blogs fell into the category of not-much-politics. Another 400 blogs or so fell into the category of too specialized because they were about a narrowly defined topic or they were an English-language blog about places like Malaysia; and I had to eliminate the 20 or 30 blogs in a foreign language. Some blogs were Canadian, Australian or British and I bookmarked some of the better ones (particularly if they wrote about international issues) but I considered most of them too specialized for my needs though a number of them are the equal of any American blog.

That left over 1,300 blogs that are actively about politics. I had no stomach to read every right wing screed after the first dozen or so but as far as I can guess, the blogs were reasonably divided between conservatives on one side, and moderates and liberals on the other. I should add that there were one or two dozen blogs on the left that were so over the top with conspiracy theories or so full of vitriol that I considered bookmarking them a waste of time (I can handle vigorous debate, and some good honest sarcasm and cynicism but when credibility falls completely by the wayside, there isn't much point in staying around). By the time I was done, I had bookmarked 624 political blogs that I didn't know about before. I would say that about 585 of these blogs are moderate to liberal (and a handful clearly way over to the left). The remaining 40 or so were a variety of conservative blogs that I bookmarked for reference. Some 'conservative' sites I bookmarked were the type difficult to read because of their hate-mongering, general dishonesty or outright silliness when defending Bush, but a number of conservative sites were reasonably straight forward in their posts and were readable. Some fell in the category of the thoughtful and rational conservative; whether I agree with them or not, I wish there were more in the category (see RealCurrents as an example).

So Technorati led me to 585 new moderate to liberal blogs (I'll call them progressive blogs). But I already had about 70 progressive blogs that I had bookmarked for a total of around 655 blogs listed on Technorati. I should add that I have about 35 progressive blogs bookmarked that don't appear on Technorati (or didn't appear at the time I did the survey). So let me summarize my survey of Technorati political blogs (all numbers are approximate):

Claimed Political Blogs on Technorati as of Dec, 2005: over 6,800
Duplicates or dormant blogs: 2,000
Blogs that aren't much about politics: 3,100
Political Blogs that are too specialized: 400
Active Political Blogs (my definition): 1,300
Political Blogs I bookmarked during survey: 624
Progressive Blogs I bookmarked: 585
Conservative blogs I bookmarked: 39
Technorati Blogs I had previously bookmarked: 70
Total Technorati progressive blogs bookmarked: 655
Non-Technorati progressive blogs bookmarked: 35

In the last year, I heard from different people that there are thousands of progressive blogs on the Internet. One person suggested tens of thousands of progressive blogs. Neither appear to be the case. Before I started the survey, one-third of the progressive blogs I had bookmarked were not listed on Technorati. So we have to ask how many people don't have their progressive blog listed on Technorati. If my arbitrary list of blogs just happened to be about the right ratio, the total list of progressive blogs that are active and of interest to American readers would be under a thousand. As far as I can tell, Technorati does a good job of representing most of the top 100 political blogs as measured by different surveys. So even if Technorati happens to miss many of the smaller progressive blogs that are active, it's not likely that there are more than let's say about 2,000 progressive blogs.

But I think it's safe to say there are thousands of people who comment on blogs and thousands more who leave comments on message boards. But I'll leave that survey to someone else.

One final word. The number of political blogs listed under Technorati has now climbed to over 7,800 blogs. That's an increase of 1,000 blogs in two months but I'm fairly certain that only about a hundred of those blogs would qualify for my aribitrary definition of an active progressive blog. Still, I wonder what's leading to the increased numbers?

Update: Myspace users interested in political blogs on Myspace should try IceRocket myspace search which hosts a search engine for Myspace. If you find something better, I hope you come back and let me know.

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Italian Billboard

famiglia by Bob Tyson

Open Thread

If you build it, they will come.


Feel free to comment.

Reality Check in Iraq

Thanks to Think Progress for this link to William F. Buckley:
"I can tell you the main reason behind all our woes — it is America." The New York Times reporter is quoting the complaint of a clothing merchant in a Sunni stronghold in Iraq. "Everything that is going on between Sunni and Shiites, the troublemaker in the middle is America."

One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed. The same edition of the paper quotes a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Reuel Marc Gerecht backed the American intervention. He now speaks of the bombing of the especially sacred Shiite mosque in Samara and what that has precipitated in the way of revenge. He concludes that “The bombing has completely demolished” what was being attempted — to bring Sunnis into the defense and interior ministries.

Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans.
If one of the intellectual founders of the modern conservative movement says that Bush's Iraq mission has failed, then it seems to me that George W. Bush has a problem. It's time for Bush to make changes and he can begin by firing people like Rumsfeld and hiring competent people who aren't driven by our worse instincts.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Thoughts on Nuclear Bunker Busters

Ever since Bush gave his famous June 2002 speech on unilateralism, the preemptive strike principle and the development and possible use of nuclear bunker busters, I had intended to brush up on nuclear weapons and their history. In the winter of 2003, Bush seemed to back away from the idea of nuclear bunker busters and there was an effort in Congress to limit consideration to research only. And finally, before the war started, it became obvious that Iraq didn't have a nuclear program worthy of the name and so I went beyond procrastination to putting my reading on a back burner.

Finally, last year I wrote something that required I get some accurate information on the effects of nuclear weapons and so off to the library I went. And then I had a mild shock. The books about nuclear weapons at the local library are few and far between. I recall years ago seeing more. So I went to the local state university and again found few books and what there were seemed overly technical for what I needed. But I dug around and found the information I wanted and wasn't totally uninformed when I did my writing.

Now I find that I want to remind myself of some details again since there is rumbling that Bush may consider using nuclear weapons in Iran. I assume it's just rumbling since the use of nuclear weapons would be a profound mistake; however, we clearly have been hearing of a possible preemptive conventional strike against Iran's nuclear sites. A new book, Shockwave, is out that reminds us of the consequences of nuclear weapons. The Atomic Archive has the review:
Written by BBC filmmaker Stephen Walker, who won an Emmy for his documentary on the bombing of Hiroshima, Shockwave: Countdown to Hiroshima, is a fast paced engaging book about the period of time from the Trinity Test through the events of August 6th. The story is told from many points of view—from the eyes of the pilots, the victims, the scientists and world leaders. The book begins in the New Mexico desert, as the first atomic bomb is detonated. With this success, the wheels begin to turn toward the first atomic attacks on Japan.

Shockwave is a tightly written book that gives the reader a sense of the tension that was felt by the scientists at Los Alamos, at the top-secret airbase on the island of Tinian, and Potsdam—where Truman, Churchill, and Stalin were meeting to decide Japan's fate.
The Atomic Archive itself seems to be a useful resource for a quick understanding of the nuclear age and the terrible effects of nuclear weapons.

If anyone knows of better resources, please let me know.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

UAE Port Controversy

John Kerry in 2004 said many times that we need better security in our ports. The reasons are obvious; if terrorists ever get hold of serious weapons of mass destruction, particularly a nuclear device, the most likely point of entry would be through our ports. The Bush Administration seems determined to do the opposite of whatever Kerry recommends to the detriment of our nation. The ports involved have been controlled by a British corporation and the British are our closest allies but the fact of the matter is that given the instability of the world at the moment, no nation should have control over parts of our nation that involve the security and safety of the United States. There's no question that we need better international relations, but there are some jobs that should not be outsourced.

Think Progress has a number of related stories here, here and here. Not only did Bush not know what was going on, apparently Rumsfeld didn't know either:
In a press briefing today, Secretary Rumsfeld revealed that he was not consulted about the decision to transfer operations of six key U.S. ports to the United Arab Emirates, a country with troubling ties to international terrorism.

QUESTION: Are you confident that any problems with security — from what you know, are you confident that any problems with security would not be greater with a UAE company running this than an American company?

RUMSFELD: I am reluctant to make judgments based on the minimal amount of information I have because I just heard about this over the weekend.

Rumsfeld’s statement was particularly troubling because Dubai Ports World, owned and operated by the UAE government, will also take over a major contract managing the movement of military equipment for the U.S. Army.
Apparently Bush didn't know about the deal but he's defending it to the hilt. And Rumsfeld says he wasn't consulted. The gang that can't shoot straight is at it again. So who did authorize the deal? My bet is on the guy who has overextended his stay in Washington: Dick Cheney.

Liberals Finding Their Voice in Blogs

It seems there's a rule out there that says it's impossible to please all the people all the time. I have to admit one of my character flaws is thinking that from time to time I can break that rule. I'm a liberal Democrat but given the extraordinary problems presented by Bush's presidency, I find myself reaching out to moderates and rational conservatives who are increasingly uneasy about Bush because I believe it is critical to do so.

Although I'm a liberal, I'm also a pragmatist and I know it's a simple fact that liberals, by themselves, cannot hold Bush accountable and check his abuse of office. I also know that many professionals in government are conservative and if not for them, there's a lot about Bush's transgressions we would not know.

But I also don't want to lose sight of some new and interesting voices out there that are liberal who are talking not just about how liberals can regain their voices but how ordinary people across America can also regain their voices regardless of what their politics are. The (liberal) Girl Next Door talks about some of this and may be an interesting voice herself even if sometimes she gets a little too caught up with what she's saying (it's easy for honest passion to do that to people; I know, I've done it myself). Here's one recent paragraph that caught my attention:
If sunlight is the best disinfectant, we can only assume that the Bush White House is one dirty place. They continually promote the idea that if citizens don’t have anything to hide, they shouldn’t be concerned with NSA, Pentagon or FBI spying and infringements on our right to privacy, but what about them? The more they hide, the more we question their motives for doing so. Transparency in government is as essential to democracy as the freedoms laid out in the Bill of Rights. When we are asked to give up those things, we are being asked to give up on our democracy. What does it say about us that we are even willing to consider surrendering any of them?
In another post, The (liberal) Girl Next Door writes about the marketplace of ideas:
The need for leaders to carry the message of liberals in this country has reached its pinnacle, but who those leaders will be is yet to be determined. There is a democracy of ideas that is growing on the net, with so many lefty bloggers putting out new ideas and the readers of the blogs who give right back. It is a marketplace that is growing every day and the products being sold are hope, ideas and an opportunity to have your opinion heard. It can’t be long before some smart upstart is able to capitalize on the vitality and passion that is ripe for the picking and free to whomever chooses to harvest the best ideas and whittle them down into a cohesive platform with populist appeal.
Politics is not merely a numbers game. While it is important to know the numbers and to know where the best chances of winning are, it is more important to appeal to the voters in every district of this country. Calculating exactly what position they should take on any given issue based on the number of votes gained by that position is hallow politics plain and simple. Inside the beltway politicians, lobbyists, staffers and the reporters who cover them for the mainstream media may be getting bent out of shape by liberal bloggers who are changing the rules of the game, but they better adapt to the new political landscape or risk being left behind.

Lefty bloggers are making elections more about the process and the people and less about the strategy that has been traditionally hatched by the party elite. Where the message of candidates used to be tightly controlled and beltway reporters were the only avenue for getting the message out, the lefty bloggers have changed the face of politics and it is beginning to resemble democracy again. When individual bloggers can promote primary candidates that would, in the past, have been easily relegated to nearly anonymous status, the voters have more information at their fingertips and this tips the balance away from the traditional power holders. Easy to see why there’s so much resistance to the new political system but hard to see how this is bad for the Party or bad for democracy.
A true marketplace of ideas is something that is under threat in America whether it's science, business, art, philosophy or politics; it's forgotten that respect for a marketplace of ideas is what led to many of America's great ideas, discoveries, inventions and even economic vitality. It's never been an ideal system but liberalism and the Bill of Rights came out of that marketplace as well. As flawed as our history has sometimes been, America has given a lot of great ideas to the world. A written constitution was one of those ideas.

I didn't agree with a lot of the politics of the first President Bush, but I agree with many people that he was considerably more competent and mindful of the law than the current President Bush. And yet, let me mention one small story. I remember years ago reading a small article in the back pages of a newspaper about an interview the senior George Bush gave to a magazine with a small circulation. When the senior Bush admitted that he tended to stretch the truth in a nationally televised debate, he said he was perfectly comfortable telling the magazine that information since the magazine only had a circulation of 50,000 and hardly anyone was going to read what he said in the interview. He said when talking to a large audience of millions, the goal was not to tell the exact truth, but to win. His campaign manager was Lee Atwater who perfected that advice; two of his pupils were Karl Rove and George W. Bush.

But the Internet may be changing the rules of the game. Hopefully, the Internet will survive. If it does, perhaps our democracy will survive.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Pressure on Senate Republicans Growing

The attempt by the Bush Administration to avoid accountability on the NSA domestic spying issue is causing concern around the nation. Senator Pat Roberts, for example, says one thing one day, and a few days later says something else. For once, Roberts may have to do what's right for the country and not what's right for George W. Bush. Investigations of the NSA must go forward and attempts to squash investigations is not something Americans should tolerate. The NSA needs oversight over its new programs if those programs are legitimate and necessary, but we may also need discussions about whether those programs should even exist, and Americans need to be reassured that procedures won't be ignored so that Dick Cheney or John Bolton or others in the administration can abuse NSA regulations to do a little private spying of their own as recent news reports suggest may be the case. Yet another paper, The Denver Post, is asking for some accountability, particularly from Senator Roberts and Senator DeWine:
We hope Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Pat Roberts meant it when he suggested that the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping program should be monitored by a special court. It is time for the administration to recognize that such an approach is the right thing to do.

The Republican from Kansas was among members of Congress who have expressed concerns about unbridled executive power. President Bush authorized no-warrant wiretaps in secret after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The program, which has monitored phone calls and e-mails of thousands of U.S. residents suspected of having ties to terrorists, sidesteps the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that requires a court order to eavesdrop in this country.


Last week, officials announced that President Bush would support a plan by Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, to exempt the NSA program from judicial oversight, while providing for congressional briefings on the program. Such a plan clearly does not provide adequate protection from government intrusion.
Let me add just a quick note here. Sensationalistic attempts by the Bush Administration to justify its spying programs ring hollow when we find out that a corporation owned by Arabs will be overseeing several of our ports. It's been apparent for some time that there is no lack of good honest measures that the Bush Administration can take to protect our nation without endangering our civil liberties or abusing the US Constitution.

Even if Congress passes legislation concerning the NSA spying, that still does not address the issue of bypassing the law as has apparently already happened. Nor does it address the issue that if a law is passed, what assurances will we as a nation have that the Bush Administration will follow the new law when it couldn't be bothered to follow the old law? Accountability requires that the American people understand what happened and that concrete steps will be taken so they do not happen again. Given the incompetence and the overly creative legal thinking of the Bush Administration we need a lot more answers and a lot more in the way of checks and balances.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Guest Blogger: David Breeden

My father, who cast his first vote for Franklin Roosevelt and has stood by the party through thick and thin since, said in the last election, “I wish that Kerry would get out of the way and let Edwards run.” My father has a sixth-grade education and I have a PhD, so I explained to him about Kerry’s experience and such. Now I think I was the one who needed the education. My father, who was born in a two-room shack and spent forty years in a labor union, heard something I did not: John Edwards can speak to the old, laboring, Democratic base.

Who cares about labor? It appears that John Edwards does. He is currently barnstorming the nation in support of Unite Here, a union representing service-sector employees such as people working in hotels, foodservice, and textile manufacturing. Why should anyone but a bleeding-heart labor radical like me care about them? Well, partly because eighty percent of North Americans work in the service sector. Partly because one in four US workers makes less than $8.70 an hour. This is a national disgrace. It is also an opportunity to remake the Democratic Party.

I attended the February 17th Unite Here rally in Chicago. I stood in the Drake Hotel ballroom with an overflow crowd of union-members and union-wannabes. The crowd reflected workers in the hotel industry: Hispanics, blacks, Asians, some whites. At least a third of the population spoke English as a difficult second language. I watched as John Edwards took that crowd first by the throat, then by the hand. He’s down-home. He’s personable. His is the story of the American Dream—laboring, unionized parents, education, then success. I heard his story echoed in Spanish: this is why I came to this country. For many, that dream still lives. I lived it because my father was a union member. My father’s father dodged the bullets of strikebreakers for it. Edwards speaks the language.

Edwards began with a simple point: the old unionized industrial jobs that built the American middle class weren’t always good. Before unions, as a matter of fact, they were as bad as or worse than working in hotel laundries and kitchens. Unions made those jobs good, and unions can make current service-sector jobs good too. What was Edwards talking about? He was talking about working people sticking together; he was talking about a living wage; job security; health benefits. To great applause Edwards said that replacing striking workers should be against the law. Edwards speaks the language.

Unlike my father, I am a cynic who gave up believing in the American Dream a long time ago, in the face of outsourcing and ever-growing poverty, and now a never-ending War on Terror. Among the members of Unite Here, however, I felt something I haven’t felt in a long time: a little bit of hope that the US might be a place that could care about people again. It is a message John Edwards is currently preaching across this country to people willing to listen.

After the rally, I called my dad with the news. I hope he is right again. He hopes he lives long enough to vote for Edwards.

—David Breeden

More Guest Blogging: A Quick Word

In a moment, I'll be posting Guest Blogger, David Breeden who's writing about John Edwards. Edwards is one of three or four candidates Democrats need to take seriously in 2008. I might add that John Edwards is one of the few candidates that takes blogging seriously.

For David Breeden's last post, see here. For more on David, here.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Cheney and the Niger/Iraq Scandal

I missed an article in Truthout from 10 days ago. For me, given Cheney's inability to accept personal responsibility for anything, and his tendency to blame others for his miscues, the article seems to take on more meaning for me. Jason Leopold, who has written before about the Niger/Iraq scandal and the NSA spying, has some interesting details about Dick Cheney's alleged effort to discredit Joe Wilson:
Hadley had avoided making public comments about the veracity of the Niger documents, going as far as ignoring a written request by IAEA head Mohammed ElBaradei to share the intelligence with his agency so his inspectors could verify the claims. Hadley is said to have known the Niger documents were crude forgeries, but pushed the administration to cite it as evidence that Iraq was a nuclear threat, according to the State Department officials, who said they personally told Hadley in a written report that the documents were bogus.

The CIA and State Department officials said that a day after Wilson's March 8, 2003, CNN appearance, they attended a meeting at the Vice President's office chaired by Cheney, and it was there that a decision was made to discredit Wilson. Those who attended the meeting included I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff who was indicted in October for lying to investigators, perjury and obstruction of justice related to his role in the Plame Wilson leak, Hadley, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and John Hannah, Cheney's deputy national security adviser, the officials said.

"The way I remember it," the CIA official said about that first meeting he attended in Cheney's office, "is that the vice president was obsessed with Wilson. He called him an 'asshole,' a son-of-a-bitch. He took his comments very personally. He wanted us to do everything in our power to destroy his reputation and he wanted to be kept up to date about the progress."

A spokeswoman for Cheney would not comment for this story, saying the investigation into the leak is ongoing. The spokeswoman refused to give her name. Additional calls made to Cheney's office were not returned.

The CIA, State Department and National Security Council officials said that early on they had passed on information about Wilson to Cheney and Libby that purportedly showed Wilson as being a "womanizer" and that he had dabbled in drugs during his youth, allegations that are apparently false, they said.
If these allegations against Cheney are true, it seems par for the course for the Bush Administration and particularly a statement about how Cheney operates. Facts are not important in the Bush Administration; only the administration line is important. When facts get in the way, the messenger is smeared so that the facts are taken out of the discussion. Note that if Leopold's story is true, the vice president was using the powers of the government to spy on Americans with high reputation. If Cheney can do this to high officials, what can he do with ordinary folk?

Here's another excerpt from the same article:
When Kristoff's column was published in the Times, the CIA official said, "a request came in from Cheney that was passed to me that said 'the vice president wants to know whether Joe Wilson went to Niger.' I'm paraphrasing. But that's more or less what I was asked to find out."

In his column, Kristoff Had accused Cheney of allowing the truth about the Niger documents the administration used to build a case for war to go "missing in action." The failure of US armed forces to find any WMDs in Iraq in two months following the start of the war had been blamed on Cheney.

What in the previous months had been a request to gather information that could be used to discredit Wilson now turned into a full-scale effort involving the Office of the Vice President, the National Security Council, and the State Department to find out how Wilson came to be chosen to investigate the Niger uranium allegations.

"Cheney and Libby made it clear that Wilson had to be shut down," the CIA official said. "This wasn't just about protecting the credibility of the White House. For the vice president, going after Wilson was purely personal, in my opinion."
This is yet another reason why we need proper oversight and legal constitutional authority in our government. Oversight of the NSA may no longer be enough. No official is above the law. It appears, among other things, that Cheney was abusing his office to pursue a personal vendatta.

As for the credibility of the White House, it seems the president and vice president had already managed to damage their own credibility through their own lies and incompetence. Long before Joe Wilson showed up, it was already obvious to anyone who wished to pay attention that there was something very wrong about the case being made for war in Iraq. If the White House were really concerned about credibility, Bush ought to urge Cheney to resign. It would be a step in the right direction.

View through the Station Window

centrale03.jpg by Bob Tyson

Saturday, February 18, 2006

More Oil Trouble

Oil production and shipments in Nigeria have been partially cut back due to violence in the region. Here's one story from Reuters:
LONDON (Reuters) - Royal Dutch/Shell Group (RD.AS: Quote)(SHEL.L: Quote) said on Saturday it had withdrawn its staff from its EA oilfield in Nigeria, closing 115,000 bpd of crude output after a series of attacks by militants against oil facilities in the Niger Delta.
And here's another story from the Houston Chronicle:
WARRI, Nigeria — Militants launched a wave of attacks across Nigeria's troubled delta region Saturday, blowing up oil installations and seizing nine foreigners, including three Americans. The violence cut the West African nation's crude oil exports by 20 percent.

A fire was quickly put out on a Royal Dutch Shell platform that loads the company's tankers in the western delta, but the Forcados terminal's normal operations could not continue, halting the flow of 400,000 barrels a day.
In Bush's State of the Union address, which as many of us know are fine speeches not necessarily connected to reality or to what Bush actually plans to do, he said it was time for America to end its addiction to oil and cut our dependence on foreign sources. Of course, within 24 hours, when the Saudis asked what he meant, Bush reneged on his statement leaving us once more without a meaningful energy policy. But the reality is still the same: we need an energy policy that does not leave us vulnerable to high oil prices when these kinds of things happen. And Bush's friends in the oil companies should not be the beneficiary of Bush's incompetence.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Cheney's Shotgun

Like many people, I'm unimpressed by Cheney's Fox interview concerning the shooting accident last Saturday. More than likely, the shooting was a stupid accident but the spin since last Saturday does nothing more than confirm that Cheney and Bush are two guys who believe they live by different rules than the rest of us. The title of the biography of the very wealthy Henry Ford II, Never Complain, Never Explain, only partly describes our president and vice president; to suit their needs, they have altered the slogan to: never explain, never apologize. Because they are two of the most powerful people on the planet, we're forced to take them seriously—somewhat. But in the end both these men, and their arrogance and posturings, are a bit ridiculous. Isn't that the dirty little secret the Republican Party is unable to admit? That the bitter laughter is growing?

Reader B.T. sent me an e-mail pointing out that the shotgun Cheney used was a Perazzi Brescia (he generously included pictures and links). Their shotguns come at different prices that range from just under $10,000 to as much as a half a million. I have no idea which model Cheney has but given all the tax cuts Cheney has been fighting for so that he and his wealthy friends can buy their expensive toys, I somehow doubt Cheney owns one of the cheaper models.

Many of the Perazzi Brescia models include very fine engraved artwork such as this:

But a few of the more expensive models include more elaborate artwork such as this:

Dick Cheney certainly likes the best but the above engraving, for all I know, might not suit his taste. But if it did, it would beg the question of whether he and Ashcroft were able to play well together.

Look, we take too much for granted in this era. I have no illusions about a lot of nonsense that takes place, but some things have got to be said aloud. I respect our constitution. I respect our long history of fighting for democracy and fairness. I'm proud of a system that sometimes allows people of real ability to accomplish things that benefit the rest of us and I do not mind if they are paid for their competence. But I resent having to respect power when that power is abused and is not used for all Americans, but just for a privileged few. No two politicians in high office have ever deserved to be brought down a peg or two more than Bush and Cheney. I belong to the loyal opposition but I will not cut them slack. They have had five years to do something, anything, the way people in government are supposed to do it. And these two gentlemen have repeatedly failed.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The NSA and the Bush Administration

I'm troubled by a number of issues related to the NSA spying scandal. First, we still don't know exactly what programs are in place and what exactly their purpose is. Second, any number of legal issues can't be resolved unless those legal issues are specific to each program being run by the NSA. Third, the Bush Administration is doing its best to keep Americans from finding out what its doing and its stonewalling, obfuscations, bizarre legal theories and so on have the feel of politics and not the feel of absolute necessity. Fourth, the argument that terrorists can find out what's going on by having some general aspects of these programs described is bogus; the terrorists already know they're being watched. Fifth, we have a president who has designated himself as empowered to rewrite contitutional law for that is clearly one of the things going on here and it is not restricted to NSA spying.

There's a UPI story about testimony that Russell Tice has given Congress that suggests we still are not privy to all the games that the Bush Administration is playing:
WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- A former NSA employee said Tuesday there is another ongoing top-secret surveillance program that might have violated millions of Americans' Constitutional rights.

Russell D. Tice told the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations he has concerns about a "special access" electronic surveillance program that he characterized as far more wide-ranging than the warrentless wiretapping recently exposed by the New York Times but he is forbidden from discussing the program with Congress.

Tice said he believes it violates the Constitution's protection against unlawful search and seizures but has no way of sharing the information without breaking classification laws. He is not even allowed to tell the congressional intelligence committees - members or their staff - because they lack high enough clearance.

Neither could he brief the inspector general of the NSA because that office is not cleared to hear the information, he said.
Pay attention to what Tice is saying. Even the inspector general of the NSA is not cleared to discuss the program. If, as a government official, you take your oath to the constitution seriously and you have doubts about the legality of a program, who does someone like Tice go to? The answer is problematic, to say the least: he would go to those who are cleared to know about and discuss the program. Who is cleared then? If I read it right, probably no more than a half a dozen people, perhaps a full dozen at the most. Certainly Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld would know what these programs are. See the problem for Tice?

So what are some of the issues here? Let me list a few:

1. No oversight. The people in the know are entirely within the highest level of the executive branch and are polticians. There are no checks and balances.

2. The smaller the number of people who fully understand and have access to an intelligence program and the more access a particular group of politicians have to that program, the more easily abused that program can be. A study of any number of intelligence programs around the world in the twentieth century would show any number of abuses. The FBI under J. Edgar Hoover and the Soviet Union would show classic examples of how intelligence can be abused. The system of government is irrelevant if there is no oversight.

3. There are a series of problems with this particular administration. Let me list a few:
a. This administration is in love with secrecy. The love of secrecy began before 9/11.

b. We have an administration that has repeatedly demonstrated that it is incompetent.

c. Bush and his advisers have repeatedly misled Americans.

d. Although most Americans are by temperament inclined to trust a president, Bush has steadily been losing that trust.

e. This is an administration that has sought to justify torture, special rendition, the breaking of treaties and other additional executive powers.
4. There are already news stories circulating that NSA surveillance has been abused by the administration for political purposes. In some stories, people like John Bolton and Cheney are said to have spied on other people within the administration. If these stories are true, and the fact that the Bush Administration refused to provide Congress with documents related to the charges when John Bolton was before Congress during his nomination for the UN post certainly raises questions, then it would be a stretch in credibility that abuses are restricted only to the administration.

5. And something to keep in mind is that the technology for these programs is only likely to get better. And the potential for abuse will only become greater. We need intelligence about terrorists but there is a limit to what makes sense. Just because we can build an elaborate system for spying on potential threats within the United States doesn't mean that the system can't become a threat itself to our way of life. Already people are being arrested not because they were a genuine threat or had a real plan, but because they were idiots who talked stupidly about what they might do. It doesn't take much to start arresting people who are nonviolent and believe in democracy simply because they have a negative attitude towards those currently in charge of our government. Congress needs to understand exactly what is going on, clarify by law what can be done or not done, and check the abuses.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Cheney Blunders

There really isn't much to say about a dumb shooting accident. It's the aftermath that should concern people. This administration spins everything. It is incapable of properly admitting its errors. Already I see stories blaming the lawyer who did make a small error but he was not the guy holding the shotgun. Forget the accident for a moment. The reality is that it grows increasingly difficult to put any faith in this administration. Last month, I wrote something that only makes me shake my head:
And before people get too gung ho about dealing with Iran in a heavy-handed manner, it's essential to remember who is running Washington: the gang that can't shoot straight.
You can't make up these things.

Iraq Policy Came before Facts

A story came out two days ago that is about three years old for many of us who watched the Bush Administration make its flawed case for war in Iraq. But as the story by Walter Pincus in The Washington Post shows, the pieces keep filling in on the history of one the sorriest and needless decisions ever made by an American president:
Paul R. Pillar, who was the national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, acknowledges the U.S. intelligence agencies' mistakes in concluding that Hussein's government possessed weapons of mass destruction. But he said those misjudgments did not drive the administration's decision to invade.

"Official intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs was flawed, but even with its flaws, it was not what led to the war," Pillar wrote in the upcoming issue of the journal Foreign Affairs. Instead, he asserted, the administration "went to war without requesting -- and evidently without being influenced by -- any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq."

"It has become clear that official intelligence was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made, that damaging ill will developed between [Bush] policymakers and intelligence officers, and that the intelligence community's own work was politicized," Pillar wrote.
One thing I have always suspected is that the picture of Iraq just prior to the war was to some extent influenced by ten years of conventional wisdom that was carefully cultivated and to some extent swallowed by conservatives pushing for more action in Iraq during the nineties. We know, for example, that Ahmed Chalabi, one of the favorite Iraqis of the neoconservatives, said many things over the years that never turned out to be true.

What has become crystal clear in the last five years is that what passes for conventional wisdom among the media, think tanks and political classes in Washington these days just isn't worth much. We need major changes.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

More Snow in Milan

brera_01 by Bob Tyson

Bush Reconstituted TIA Program

Apparently, after being told by Congress to dismantle the Total Information Awareness program, Bush went ahead with it anyway under a different name and organization. Think Progress has part of the story:
Congress voted to shut down the Pentagon’s controversial Total Information Awareness program in 2003 (though not before it was renamed “Terrorism Information Awareness” — sound familiar?).

During a Senate hearing last week, General Michael Hayden was asked whether TIA had simply been “moved to various intelligence agencies” after Congress tried to terminate it.
Think Progress notes the exchange between Senator Wyden and General Hayden:
SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR): I and others on this panel led the effort to close it [Total Information Awareness]. We want to know if Mr. [John] Poindexter’s programs are going on somewhere else. Can anyone answer that? …

HAYDEN: Senator, I’d like to answer in closed session.
In an earlier post, Think Progress noted this exchange between Senator Feingold and National Intelligence Director, John Negroponte:
SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D-WI): Mr. Ambassador, without getting into what the specific programs might be, can you assure us today that there are not other intelligence collection — and I emphasize collection — programs that you are aware of and that you are keeping from the full intelligence committee?

NEGROPONTE: Um… Senator, I … I don’t know if I can comment on that in an open session.
Michael Hirsh of MSNBC/Newsweek says "the core of TIA survives with a new codename of Topsail." Hirsh's piece suggests we may need such a program and but he ignores the potential for political abuse. Earlier in the article, Hirsh writes:
As a December 2002 report by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee noted, "Only a tiny fraction" of the NSA’s 650 million daily intercepts worldwide "are actually ever reviewed by humans, and much of what is collected gets lost in the deluge of data."
It is doubtful that the Senate Select Intelligence Committee had a full appreciation at the time that many of the intercepts were taking place in the United States with part of the calls overseas. And there is even now ambiguity of how many intercepts are exclusively within the United States. I have noted earlier that there has been ambiguity about intercepts between Americans who happen to be overseas (an example, though there is no direct evidence, would be intercepts between two diplomats overseas or even two journalists overseas). In 2006, what is the total daily number of intercepts now? And how many within the United States?

I don't think any of us have problem with authentic programs exclusively designed to gather intelligence on true al Qaida type terrorists. But there are a host of problems with what we now know of the NSA spying programs. First, there is a lack of oversight. Second, Bush has deliberately ignored Congress in the development of these programs. Third, Bush has ignored the oversight of the FISA courts. Fourth, Bush has largely ignored a wide range of possible measures that could keep al Qaida at bay without threatening our civil rights or democracy.

But the issue that concerns me the most is the enormous potential for abuse. The Bush Administration has already demonstrated that it is fully capable of stretching if not actually breaking the law when it comes to using government resources strictly for political purposes. Reporters have been paid to write articles friendly to the administration. Scientists have been silenced strictly for political purposes. There is considerable evidence that the administration abused several government agencies in order to lie its way into war in Iraq.

In the end, the problem continues to be trust, or rather the lack of it. Trust requires that the government tell us the truth. Trust requires a certain level of competence. Trust requires that there be no more secrecy than absolutely necessary. Trust requires that politics and party will not be put before the good of our nation and the US Constitution.

A growing number of Democrats recognize the issue. Even some Republicans are beginning to recognize the issue but more need to stand up. Our constitution and our democracy requires that our president be held accountable, however that might happen. But, at the minimum, the growing powers of George W. Bush must be checked.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Tolerance in a Diverse World

Thanks to the blog, Ed Talks Life, I was led to a Pew survey taken in 2002 on religion. The survey said that 75% of Americans believe many religions can lead to eternal life. On the surface, that result seems to say that an overwhelming majority of Americans are tolerant of other religions. The survey also said that 80% of the respondents believed that one could be a good American without Judeo-Christian values. Again, a sign perhaps of a high level of religious tolerance.

I wonder if Pat Robertson, General Boykin, Bill Bennett and others are aware of these statistics? I wonder what they would think of them? Would they assume the results were wrong? Or that the respondents were wrong? I'm not knowledgeable enough about these things to know.

There is a passage in the Bible, in the Book of Job, that goes "Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where was thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou has understanding."

The Book of Job has been taught as literature and the above passage is followed by a long series of statements that remind us of our ignorance in the face of a universe we can barely pretend to understand. Non-Jews and non-Christians have been moved by the story of Job. There are a number of ways to interpret Job but the visceral meaning is clear: no single man or woman on this earth can pretend to have all the answers.

I've started reading a book on conflict resolution by Marc Gopin; it's called: Between Eden and Armageddon: The Future of World Religions, Violence, and Peacemaking. Gopin, in his acknowledgements quotes Jeremiah:
Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you about extraordinary things, secrets that you have not known. For thus says the Eternal Being, the God of Israel, concerning the houses in the city and the palaces of the kings of Judah that were torn down.... I am going to bring her relief and healing. I will heal them, and I will reveal to them an abundance of peace and truth.
I'm not knowledgeable enough to understand the full context of the quote but I keep coming back to the first sentence: "Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you about extraordinary things, secrets that you have not known."

There's not a doubt in my mind that scientists like Kepler and Newton would have taken those words to heart. It's sometimes forgotten that the early scientists assumed an intimate relationship between their science and their religious beliefs. In their minds, it was the secrets of God they were exploring. The warning from the Book of Job held true in the early days of science: no man or woman can pretend to have all the answers. It still holds true but there are people in politics and religion who seem to have forgotten it. But there was always this other possibility that was explored for centuries and it was recognized by believers and nonbelievers: that the universe might yield its secrets, or at least some of them. And there's an added subtlety that the early scientists understood: our beliefs and history are not fossilized; more pages are added all the time to the books of life. So much is written no one can be certain what it all means whether one belongs to one of the major religions or is agnostic or atheist or believes in things they hold private. But those who study conflict resolution have come to understand this: there is more that binds the people of the earth than there is that separates us. If the Pew survey is correct, and there is more tolerance than perhaps we generally recognize, it is important to hold accountable those in our country who would exploit our differences for purely political reasons. There is a danger that at home and abroad we are steadily drifting towards territory that is unthinkable.

Bush and Coretta King

William Rivers Pitt has an excellent post over at Truthout. I have to admit I'm not happy with Pitt's title for his article, "Trapped Like a Rat," particularly since we have a president working to acquire far more power than he needs and who's already abusing what power he has. "Forced to Listen for Once" might have been more to the point. But, title aside, Pitt gives us his usual fine writing and makes many useful points. Here's the first three paragraphs:
The funeral for civil rights leader Coretta Scott King on Tuesday was quite a sight to see. The depth of sadness in the room could not be overcome by the happiness that came with the celebration of her life and accomplishments. It was the measure of Mrs. King's impact upon our society that four presidents - Carter, Bush, Clinton and Bush - sat before her flower-draped casket and spoke of her life.

And then, of course, the foolishness began. The nattering nabobs of network nonsense blithered into their cable news studios to deplore all the political statements that were served up before the appreciative crowd in that church. It was the Wellstone funeral all over again.

Let's be clear. The life of Coretta Scott King was one that involved politics from every angle. Any lifelong struggle against poverty, racism and war is going to be a life immersed in politics. That is simply the way it is; because so many politicians and political ideologies center around statements and legislation that directly add to the burdens of the poor and minorities, any person choosing to fight poverty and racism is going to wind up dealing in politics.
I am saddened by the way that so many politicians and people in the media have forgotten the many things that Coretta King and her husband stood for. These are two people who fought nonviolently for a better world and there aren't enough people in Washington at the moment who understand what that means. Or what the personal risks were.

Our nation will soon have 300 million people. We are not abstractions. We may not all think alike or look alike but each of us is real. We are the people mentioned in the very first words of the US Constitution. And Washington is forgetting us.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The NSA Challenge to Our Constitution

As I recall, the FISA system was put in place not just as a response to Richard Nixon and the crimes surrounding Watergate. It was noted at the time that other administrations had stretched the law when it came to spying on American citizens. And the worst abuser may have been J. Edgar Hoover who was way out of line on a number of occassions where the purpose of the spying clearly involved a political agenda. Yesterday, with the funeral of Coretta King, we were touched again by the long memories of abuses of power when J. Edgar Hoover saw fit to spy on Martin Luther King for reasons that had nothing to do with the security of our nation or law enforcement.

People who have acquired power and enjoy power and are in a position of power for long periods often have a tendency to abuse their powers. That is one reason why we as a nation decided to limit presidents to two terms and it may be a reason to consider limits on how much time people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld can occupy powerful positions in government. Preventing abuses of power is why we have a long history of checks and balances that liberals, moderates and conservatives have often agreed on; as a nation, we have often worked together to ensure that no one is above the law and that when unusual situations arise, there will always be measures to provide for some form of accountability.

Glenn Greenwald of Unclaimed Territory says the NSA fight is just beginning and that the opponents of Bush's growing abuse of power are going to have to be focused if accountability is take place. Greenwald is becoming an essential critic of Bush Administration arguments defending NSA spying; he is worth checking on the latest developments and legal arguments. His post is highly readable but it is a long one. I'm going to quote extensively the three main suggestions that Greenwald has concerning how some accountabillity can be brought to bear:
The case that ought to be made need not and should not depend upon the types of overly calculating and manipulative message manufacturing in which our political consulting class so relentlessly (and unsuccessfully) traffics. This scandal resonates so passionately with so many people because it implicates our most basic political principles. For that reason, any campaign to persuade Americans of the seriousness of this scandal must, in my view, be rooted in that passion and adhere unapologetically to those principles. Following are a few of the types of arguments and approaches which I believe could be powerful and effective:

(1) The President is now claiming, and is aggressively exercising, the right to use any and all war powers against American citizens even within the United States, and he insists that neither Congress nor the courts can do anything to stop him or even restrict him.

It is true, as many have been pointing out, that this scandal, at its core, is about the rule of law -- about whether the President has the right to break the law. But it will not suffice to rely upon that slogan because Gonzales has now articulated a clear response to it: namely, he has claimed that they did not break the law because there are legal authorities and legal theories that allowed them to do what they did.

They then parade around lawyers such as Gonzales and others to spout esoteric legalisms and, as intended, the impression is created that this is nothing more than a mind-numbingly complex lawyer dispute to be resolved with legal briefs in court. If all we say is "the President broke the law" and they say "no, we adhered to the law," nobody will be persuaded either way.

It is undeniably true that Gonzales, in his testimony, articulated a clear and coherent legal theory to defend Bush’s violations of the law. But that legal defense is so radical, so dangerous, and so contrary to our most basic political values, that the first priority, in my view, is to make Americans aware of exactly what powers the Administration claims it has the right to use -- not just against Al Qaeda, but against American citizens, within the United States.

The Administration’s position as articulated by Gonzales is not that the Administration has the power under the AUMF or under precepts of Article II "inherent authority" to engage in warrantless eavesdropping against Americans. Their argument is much, much broader -- and much more radical -- than that. Gonzales' argument is that they have the right to use all war powers – of which warrantless eavesdropping is but one of many examples – against American citizens within the country. And not only do they have the right to use those war powers against us, they have the right to use them even if Congress makes it a crime to do so or the courts rule that doing so is illegal.


(2) This scandal is not about liberalism or conservatism, but is about core American political values.

There are scores of prominent conservatives and conservative organizations vigorously opposed to the Administration’s actions, and every public event and campaign should include them in order to prevent this scandal from being (falsely) depicted as the by-product of liberal softness on terrorism or personal hostility towards the President. There are multiple ways to achieve this and several reasons why doing so is vitally important.


(3) Do we want to radically change the way our Government works for the next several decades all because of Al Qaeda?

America is a country that has faced numerous, grave external threats in its history – including several which threatened the very existence of our nation. The strength and genius of our country is that we defeated each of those threats without ever needing to abandon our founding principles by vesting the type of unchecked and overriding authority in a President which George Bush has now seized. Indeed, FISA itself, which Bush claims he has the right to violate on account of Al Qaeda, was enacted by Congress and signed into law by the President in 1978 -- at the height of the Cold War, when we faced a threatening and powerful Soviet Union.
One of the dangers of Bush's presidency that can't be over-emphasized is the tendency of administration officials to take shortcuts that essentially paper over serious incompetence. In a climate of secrecy and 24/7 spin, the blunders that result from incompetence, a lack of accountability and the lack of real debate can only increase with greater consequences.

Snow in Milan

brera03 by Bob Tyson

Saturday, February 04, 2006

DSL Problems

I'm having dsl problems so the posts will have to be light until Wednesday or so.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Reaction to Bush's Speech

I've been surveying the TV networks and the internet for the last day to see what other people thought of Bush's speech. Most of the TV commentators were polite about a speech that was one of the worst State of the Union addresses in ages.

Most liberals and moderates on the blogs and the rest of the internet gave Bush's speech low marks. Most conservatives tended to hear a different State of the Union address, or pretended to, as they continue to circle the wagons around Bush's failed presidency.

I saw no more than ten minutes of the speech but I have read the speech twice. I can only shake my head at what passes for presidential material in a Washington thoroughly controlled by a Republican party that some of my more conservative but rational relatives are no longer able to recognize.

Think Progress, as I mentioned in the last post, did a good job of catching the many inconsistencies, contradictions, inaccuracies and hypocritical statements made in Bush's speech. What I have said so far is not hyperbole though I wish it were. I'm at a loss at how to say what needs to be said more thoughtfully.

I haven't a single doubt that much of Bush's speech was checked by Karl Rove, even to the extent that various lines were probably tested on focus groups, with particular attention to how the comments played to 'the base,' as Bush's strongest right wing supporters are called. (And how are the history books, particularly those written in other languages, going to handle Republicans referring to their most ardent supporters as 'the base' at the same time the name of the terrorist organization that Bush is fighting is called al Qaida, or 'the base' in Arabic?; this is by any definition a strange era.)

I have no idea how large Bush's base is, exactly. I have heard numbers ranging from 25% to 40% which means a minority of voters have managed to control the nation's agenda with the help of meek Republican moderates and traditional conservatives who have largely abandoned their principles except when it is politically useful to remember them. Yes, I know, sometimes a few Republicans allow their consciences to be tweaked and some of the worst nonsense has been turned aside. But this has not been a good era for either party. And I'm mystified how exactly this era should be defined.

If I could properly understand Bush's speech, it might be easier for me to understand where we are and where we're going. I'll mention just three things in Bush's speech that staggered me. First, who in the world are these isolationists Bush is talking about? A certain part of Bush's speech created an imaginary isolationist that I suppose was intended as a kind of straw man. And what is Bush? Is he claiming to be an internationalist? Does an internationalist set a record by an American president for breaking treaties? Can one really be the leader of the free world by trying to defend torture? Can one even claim to be an internationalist while showing a profound disinterest in listening to other nations? What exactly are the claims that Bush can make while showing a profound level of incompetence in the conduct of war and diplomacy?

Bush talked about the spread of democracy but his examples have many problems. He mentioned that Egypt has held multi-party elections. Yes, that's true in a limited sense. Just how limited became obvious when, shortly after the election, Egypt's President Muburak arrested and threw in jail the man who came in second! This is democracy according to Bush?

The third thing I'll mention that staggered me is when Bush railed against human cloning, human-animal hybrids and other dangerous research. I know Bush is fond of using fear as a political tool but borrowing a scene from a bad movie seemed even below his usual form.

I could add many more examples and it still wouldn't clarify the Bush record and agenda. I hope the United States has the resilience to weather another three years of Bush. I said earlier that I don't know how to define this era. Sometimes, I worry that it's the summer of 1929 and the optimism of the White House has no connection to what is to come. I hope, perhaps more than I should, that this era is no different than 1986 when the S&L crisis was beginning to unfold and Iran/Contra was beginning to play out, and the consequences, though serious, were largely absorbed within a few years; I suspect many people in the mainstream press make this assumption (not a comforting thought). But there's a number of signs I don't like. I'll mention one. To save themselves from our recklessness, a number of countries and international investors keep buying our bonds as our deficit spins out of control. There may come a point when the self-interest of those investing in our bonds may eventually clash with the self-interest of the United States and we will find ourselves greatly weakened and in trouble.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the military and economic power of the United States is not unlimited. We can absorb only so much ideological recklessness and incompetence.