Saturday, June 07, 2003

Suu Kyi Watch

David Adesnik of Oxblog has begun a quest to make the blogosphere acutely aware of the plight of Aung San Suu Kyi. A Burmese fighter for democracy in the mold of King and Mandela, Suu Kyi has been unstoppable and also unfortunately ineffectual in trying to overthrow the military Junta in power since 1988. A Nobel Peace Prize winner, Suu Kyi and her political organization the National League of Democracy (NLD) have so far been unable to extend representation to her people. Elections held in 1990 gave the NLD 80% of the popular vote but the results were denied by the military government. US involvement has been minimal and sanctions have been proposed, but they would probably only harm the people of Burma and not the government, as their support comes from the flourishing illegal drug economy.

Recently, Suu Kyi's house arrest was ended and the government had begun talking with her in hopes of including the NLD in a political solution. Apparently, the Junta didn't care for the conversations..........her motorcade was ambushed, many in her entourage were beaten, some to death, and she was taken away. While the outcry for her release continues, Wretchard at Belmont club suspects that Suu Kyi may already be dead.

David has called for a military solution, and while I'm not sure whether that's best, I'm proud to add my blog to the list of those demanding the release of Suu Kyi and a more positive solution to the illegitimate and repressive government in Burma.

Friday, June 06, 2003

And you thought the Israelis have it bad.........

Ok, just for once, let's consider how difficult it will be for the Palestinian PM Mahmoud Abbas to deliver on his part of the 'road map to peace'. Today, almost simultaneously, the useless idiot Arafat spit on the Summit in Jordan, claiming that Sharon had "not yet offered anything tangible", basically undercutting his own PM. Well, f**k him. He's been actively marginalized and rendered irrelevant by Bush, but refuses to go away. We could hope that nobody's listening anymore, but the truth is many Palestinians still consider this foolish old murderous man with the endless 3-day beard their leader.

On top of this, the report from Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin is another repudiation of the commitments made by Abbas in Aqaba, stating that negotiation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority has been cancelled and that "armed struggle will continue" with also a chilling promise for a clear reaction to the summit "very soon".

While Sharon may have the political problems of the Right wing in the Knesset and the uprooting problems of West Bank settlers to deal with, The Palestinians are faced with this. Can Abbas and the PA ever move legitimately forward in a sincere peace process with these nuts buzzing around? I don't know, but he'll need all the leadership and bravery he can get...........Let's wish him luck.

EPA - why bother?

here's a peeve of mine - the EPA. A political untouchable, the Environmental Protection Agency has assessed itself and found itself considerably lacking in its ability to enforce pollution laws. In regards to the Clean Water Act, the internal EPA report found that 25% of all water treatment plants and industrial plants are grossly in violation of the act, while receiving little in punishments. The average fine, when a violation is recorded, is $6,000.

While fines are useful, they do little to prevent further violations of the law. While it's a tiring job and without much fanfare, I wish the EPA would devote more of its resources to this issue and less to big headline cases like the arguably unneccessary cleanup of the Hudson river by GE. A little more compliance in the Clean Water Act by present scofflaws would have much greater impact on the environment.

Tax Cut redux

Republicans in the senate found the outcry too great, so they voted to include the lowest income families in the child credit increases of the latest Bush tax cut plan. By a vote of 96-2, they approved a measure to increase the tax cut costs by another $9 billion dollars, on top of the 'planned' costs of about $350 billion dollars. Those costs will monumentally increase if tax cuts are not 'sunsetted' after their prescribed run.

First interesting point to note : The 2 senators who voted against the bill. They are both from Oklahoma and supported their nay votes with the same argument. Like the conservative talking heads in the media and on the internet, they claimed that tax relief should only be available to those that pay taxes, while many in the lowest income bracket, once they received their child care credit checks, could possibly have their entire tax liability absolved and even make money. I may disagree and think that an economic stimulus package should include everyone. It is provable the if consumer spending is the goal, then you NEED to have the poorest in the nation participate if you want the program to be successful. However, it is a tax cut we're talking about and not a welfare program, which could be essentially the outcome of this credit increase program. So why was this vote so lopsided? Why didn't more conservative senators find that argument more compelling and vote against the proposal? I wonder about a program that has its basis almost entirely wrapped in a shroud of politics. If this discussion was truly about principle and the belief in tax cuts as economic stimulus, more senators would have voted with the Oklahomans.

Even so, this capitulation from Republican senators hardly makes this bill a sure thing. The scuttlebutt on Capitol Hill has it that the House of Representatives will not be so quick to 'roll over' on this expansion of this program, and will look to tack on additional tax cuts, increasing the costs to close to $100 Billion dollars. At that price, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to get the bill reapproved in the Senate. Of course, 'compassionate' majority leader DeLay (whip in hand, searching still for those Texas Democrats that Josh Marshall keeps writing about) had this to say:

"We think we've already done a child tax credit in a meaningful way, so this notion that we are not taking care of the working poor families of this country [is] completely false."

What an ass.........

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Raines and Boyd are out at the New York Times. This was inevitable, necessary and healthy for the grey old lady, to help reestablish integrity at "the paper of record".

Martha, my dear

In an shameful act, Martha Stewart was indicted by the federal Attorney General's office in New York for counts of securities fraud. Fraud indeed. Out of all the huge scandals involving public losses of hundreds of millions of dollars to come out of the disgraces of Enron, Tyco, GE and more, the Feds found the cheapest lightning rod they could in the 61 year old 'party maker' entertainer. Martha will be prosecuted for selling shares of Imclone after receiving a phone call from a friend, telling her prematurely that the drug keeping Imclone afloat was not going to be approved by the FDA. This saved Martha about $40,000 dollars, which, while not peanuts, is not significant to a woman who at the time was worth close to $1 Billion dollars.

Sure, she shouldn't have done it. She should know better, yes. But this is simply just small potatoes. When are the Feds going to get serious and throw into jail some real crooks like Ken Lay and Bernie Ebbers? Martha is easy pickins, because she's universally hated (like Leona Helmsley - many parallells there) and because she was never politically connected. Corporate executives are big campaign contributors for a reason, it certainly 'helps' when the going gets rough. Martha eschewed all politics, refusing to even register a political opinion on anything.

Nah, I don't like her either - never did. But what they're doing to her is a sham, designed to deflect criticism over the lack of convictions the Justice department has so far developed from the rampant thieving that took place in the late 90's and broke the back of thousands of investors.......In settling for Martha's scalp, they ought to be ashamed..........

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

No big deal

Latest Gallup poll is a very, very interesting piece of polling. It tried to gauge the level of concern of the American public toward the lack of evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. 67% to 31% of those polled voted that the Bush administration did not deliberately mislead the American public about WMD's. Also in a related question in that poll 62% believe that the information used to argue the decision for war was inaccurate - and half that group thought the Bush administration believed and trusted in that intelligence fully.

Gallup puts more meat on the bone by analyzing from these numbers that Americans are 'sanguine' about the issue of WMD's and faulty intelligence. If a majority of Americans don't believe that the White House was looking to 'mislead' the public, then their concerns must not be that great. Gallup further supports this thesis by noting another trend; that the percentage is increasing of Americans who believe that finding WMD's are not necessary to justify the war with Iraq.

I don't read the numbers quite that way. The majority vote is more an indication that most Americans are willing to believe the best of their administration and not immediately accuse it of falsely 'hyping' or fabricating rationales for war. However, even accounting for the natural (?) rush to judgment that some more rabid Democrats might make, 31% of respondents agreed with the statement that the administration purposely misled them. That's a large percentage of the population willing to accuse the White House and company of some very strong stuff.

So, while Gallup makes this poll read as a Bush positive, I'm not at all sure.....................what do you think?

More new Blogs

I've reentered the new blog showcase over at the truth laid bear, where I came in a tie for 6th last week. Not bad, but let's see what happens this week. Part of the process requires me to choose 3 new blogs that I like, and it wasn't all that hard this week..........although there's a lot of chaff among that wheat. But these 3 are first rate:

Random act of Kindness
Whiskey Bar

Billmon over at Whiskey Bar has a big lead this week. His post is a compilation of many of the positively uttered guarantees of WMD and imminent danger from the Saddam regime, pre-war. It's an impressive amount of work. The other 2 blogs I recommend I don't necessarily agree with, particularily in the case of 'Random act', but that hardly matters as their arguments are well framed and their voices are clear. Good show.

Now, how 'bout a little love for me ?? Here is the post I've entered this week on my impressions of "The Clinton Wars" by Sidney Blumenthal. C'mon bloggers, link me up!!

Update: Have to include a link for Page Three Megan's a good 'un.......

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Dumb and dumber

Here are 2 consecutive articles from the International Herald Tribune (NYT/WaPo). This one, citing statistics that anti-Americanism has increased in the wake of the war with Iraq and this one, reporting that most Muslims believe that the Palestinian question would be easier to resolve if Israel didn't exist.

Lessee, we chose a unilateral path for our own security where our traditional allies didn't agree with us and succeeded spectacularily........that should inspire some love, huh?

And the Arabs want to wipe Israel off the map? Hmmmm..........that's original.

Let's come back when someone files a NEWS report

Can't wait a day

Despite my desire to post only bi-daily on the Tax cut, this caught my eye from, the blogsite of Clinton-'outer' Lucianne Goldberg. Obviously a conservative hang-out, but in response to this admittedly biased opinion column (the article title was "Tax Cuts Stiff Poor"), the commentary thread included such 'compassionate conservative' comments as:

DNC talking points!!! Get your DNC talking points!!! and,

Ask me if I care. and,

sorry, but those aren't talking points. They might qualify as whining points, but they're not talking points. and,

It's hard to believe this moron gets paid for writing such drivel.

Of course, conservative pundits endlessly complain that they are wrongly characterized as mean, bullying and uncaring of the less fortunate..........and I don't want to lump together commenting trollers with the intellectual right wing, but nobody on the right seems to get very uncomfortable with this kind of cruel, smug attitude. Very ugly.

Not much new to post today. So, go here and take the emode ultimate IQ test. Lots of fun, at least for someone like me. Yes, I took it, and NO, I'm not telling. Good or bad, would you?

then, take some more useless but fun tests here. Make sure to give them a fake name and email address or you'll be in spam central!!

Monday, June 02, 2003

Missing discussions

Trolling the blogosphere, I'm distressed that so little discussion surrounds the latest Bush tax cut. I suppose the attention span of any story is continually shorter in our media frenzied world, but this issue will, in my opinion, determine the entire spectrum of domestic politics (and economic health) for the next 10 years. Considering it's scope, I have determined to write something about it every two days, hopefully to inspire other writers with more intelligence and a wider audience than me to devote the attention it deserves.

Quick point for today: If the tax cuts were designed to inspire spending by consumers, increasing economic activity and jobs, why did the congress suddenly remove the $400 child allowance from the lowest income families in the country? God knows that they will spend it, they spend more than 100% of their salaries now. Warren Buffett states that the tax cut will put $140 million extra dollars in his pocket -- how much of that is he going to spend? Both he and George Soros have publicly questioned the wisdom of this tax cut. By including the lowest income families in child credits, it would have upped the costs for this tax cut by $3.5 billion, which, Republicans say, would have put them over their 'defined limit' of $350 billion dollars. Are you kidding me? Who reasonably argues that the extra 1% for the poorest taxpayers is going to break the camel's back claimed $350 billion dollar limit is nonsense anyway. In the end, this tax cut will cost closer to $1 trillion dollars. This is a bill so incredibly unfair to the poor and ultimately so damaging to our economy, I wonder where the discussions are. C'mon bloggers.........make your mark. This issue is just too important.

If the idea of some anarchists protesting the G8 conference is to attract attention to their cause ----- IT'S WORKING!

Sunday, June 01, 2003

It's begun. Reports starting to flood in questioning CIA intelligence on Iraqi WMD's. Here, here and here. Good. I had thought this was going to be glossed over, hence my previous posts. It won't be, it seems.

Next round of questions will sound like shades of Watergate and Nixon: "What did Bush know and when did he know it?" I'm not sure if this can brew into a scandal of that ferocity, but the implications of the charges are serious indeed.
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