Monday, June 05, 2006

Instahoglets 5th June 06

"Scotty, we need snarky punchposts in 5 seconds!" "But Cap'n, the engines willna tak it! They're held taegether wi bogies and string! Och, maybe if I push this big red button here...oh look! Whaddaye know!"

  • Once upon a time, horrified by the barbarities of war and a Holocaust, the United States was one of the pioneer nations behind the Geneva Conventions. Now, those same noble tenets have become inconvenient to a national leadership which feels international law is something it alone should dictate. I never ever thought I would write these words and I am deeply upset by them - the U.S. military plans to drop all reference to the Article Three section of the Geneva Convention that explicitly bans "humiliating and degrading treatment."

    Look what they have made of us in the name of making us safe. This is the way the dreams of the Founders end, not with a bang but with a whimper.

  • The American Bar Association is to investigate whether President Bush has exceeded his constitutional authority in reserving the right to ignore more than 750 laws that have been enacted since he took office. A bi-partisan task force of legal heavy-hitters will report to the 400,000 ABA members on whether Bush's signing statements raise serious constitutional concerns. Personally, I think that the ABA feeling the need to take such a step pretty much answers that question, but what would I know?

  • It's ironic but one of the places most likely to be badly affected by global warming is Bushland down here in Texas - so it's also the place most likely to stay in denial until it is too late, ensuring the effects are worse than they could have been. The UN reports that desert cities like...oh...say San Antonio!...may be living on borrowed time as water tables drop and supplies become undrinkable. San Antonio is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation (and already the 9th largest) and can only exist as a city because of the massive Edwards Aquifer. I've yet to see anything here discussing what happens if the aquifer disappears.

  • The US military is now involved in at least three separate investigations into its own soldiers' conduct in Iraq that may illegally have led to the deaths of Iraqi civilians. It is widely expected that more incidents will be uncovered. Many are pointing to a culture of dehumanization - calling the locals "haji" just as once they were called "gooks" - and an inability and unwillingness to distinguish between civilians and combatants that as three years have passed has been transformed, for some, into something more deliberate.

  • Robert Reich, the 22nd Secretary of Labor, tackles the "Super-Rich Estate Tax". Great stuff:

    This coming week, Senate Republicans are putting up for a vote repeal of the estate tax (which Republicans have renamed the "death" tax in order to fool Americans into thinking most have to pay it when they die). Right now, the tax only hits families with more than $4 million to give to their heirs. That's the richest one-half of one percent of American families -- only about 1,200 families altogether. Families can leave their children up to $4 million without any tax at all. But because this small group of families has so large a fortune, repeal would cost the U.S. Treasury $1 trillion in its first ten years. That's about equivalent to what's needed to save Social Security over the next 75 years. Put another way, the yearly loss to the Treasury is almost exactly equal to the amount the U.S. spends each year on homeland security. If the super-wealthy won't pay, the middle class will have to pay more taxes to make up the difference. Or the national debt will expand, and we'll all be paying more interest on the resulting borrowing (mostly from wealthy Americans, along with China and Japan).

  • Just in case Reich doesn't convince you that, to Bush and friends, the "us" they talk about doesn't include's Barbara Ehrenreich with a guided tour of class in America. Don't be mistaken. Bush and pals want this to be a nation of classes.

    a lot of graduates are simply not going to find jobs appropriate to their credentials. They're going to be wait staff. They're going to be call-center operators. Their twenties could be spent like that. I recently got Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute to do some research on this. It's still tentative, but he found that 17% of people in jobs that do not require college degrees have them. Those are very often people in their twenties who can't get professional-type employment, or people in their fifties who have been through one too many lay-off and are no longer employable because they're quote too old.
    ...what I'm emphasizing is the lack of difference, that the security the professional-managerial class thought it had is gone. The safest part of that class, when I was writing in the eighties, seemed to be the professionals and managers with corporate positions. Then something happened in the nineties. Companies began to look at even those people as expenses to be eliminated rather than assets to be nurtured.

  • Regular reader Kat tells me that when MoveOn.Org changed it's domain name to one without a hyphen a rightwing website took over the old domain and simply redirected to it's homepage. That's an amazing level of incompetence for an organisation that supposedly is tech-savvy and understands the netroots. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised though. John Walsh has a long piece at Counterpunch which strongly suggests that MoveOn is just another non-transparent way for the same old elite to control the way the progressive netroots keep getting fleeced by the Democrats.

  • Rumors are doing the rounds that Tony Blur would like a state funeral for Maggie Thatcher when she finally shuffles off to the Hell that spawned her. Proof positive that Tony suffered a stroke about a decade ago and surfaced from the coma believing he was Maggie's love child by Ronald Reagan. The man is certifiably bonkers.
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