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Tom Coburn is a Big Fat Jerk


Home of the Barking Moonbat


Saturday, December 18, 2004

Light at the end ...

Okay, so I accidentally flunked an entire class on their exit exams --- which will teach me to keep my grading keys more carefully organized.

Otherwise, I really am nearing the home stretch. It will take a lot of coffee, come morning --- I am so completely sick of grading, I could scream and throw things and drown myself in bad whiskey --- but I will actually meet the deadline of noon Monday.

I can't wait. It was 57 degrees today, and two fellows showed up to talk to me about helping fix the barn and fencing, and cleaning out the hollow down below. They're doing this in exchange for some old building materials here, which they'll use to put up a small building for their benefit turkey shoots, community meetings and trail rides.

Yes, that's right: benefit turkey shoots.

But that's beside the point.

I have some 20-30 naturalized dogwood growing in my hollow. There are beautiful towering hickories and oaks, and wild passionflower everywhere. How did I get so lucky to end up with a place so beautiful? There's even a family of beaver down there, thanks to my proximity to water.

But, years of neglect have left my hollow overgrown with the most evil of plants: multiflora roses and bull briar. And ground ivy everywhere. It will take a tractor to pull them out. Which I don't have.

I really can't wait.

In any case, long way around to say please do bear with me --- I know the sidebars remain unfinished. And I know I've carried on for weeks now about getting the time to write about the interrelationships between agribusiness and oil, about the culture of oil, the importance of sustainable agriculture, heirloom seeds, Growing Your Own --- I know I've been horribly neglectful about the lunacy of Tom Coburn and the horrific treatment this administration is inflicting on our soldiers (and for the sake of what?) --- but I really am finally seeng the light at the end of the tunnel.

Social Security ... Again

And once again, I urge everyone to bookmark Progressive Blog Digest. His roundups of all the pertinent news on the faux Social Security crisis are must-reads.

Today, it seems more people are jumping onthe issue, which is good news. But not enough.

Go. Read. Including the commentary. And remember to repeat, as often as possible:

There is no Social Security crisis --- there is a crisis of the general fund.

Or, as Chris Bowers puts it: Social Security is healthy and successful.

I am now back to grading --- wish me luck that I finish today. *sigh*

My Christmas Present to Myself

While everybody else is buying themselves new cars or vacation getaways to Paris or bottles of aged whiskey, I'm gifting myself with The Almond Portabella Mushroom Kit.

I'm already growing reishi and oyster mushrooms in the plant room. And someday, when I become more experienced in the art of mycotechnology, I'll establish patches outdoors.

For now, however, indoor mushroom farming will have to do. Not to diss it --- it's actually an interesting process. But I'm looking forward to the day when shitake are springing from the downed logs in the hollow and garden oysters are nestled throughout the blueberry patch out front.

An Unexpected Honor

During my morning stroll through the blogosphere --- and while posting a not-quite-awake rant against a Neocon sympathizer --- I noticed I am now on the blogroll at Majikthise.

This is an entirely unexpected honor. Majikthise is one of my favorite blogs. Thank you! This is truly an honor!

And now, in addition to getting the word out on the military and everything else, I have even more reason to finish grading.

Sign the Petition

From Rob's Blog and Fair Treatment for Our Soldiers: please sign the petition here.

"There is a petition available (click the title above) to encourage Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz to grant clemency to Maj. Kaus and CWO Birt. Please consider signing it; your email address can (and by default does) remain private.

The soldiers of the 656th Transportation Company, a National Guard unit from Springfield, Ohio, only did what they had to do to accomplish their mission. Faced with a lack of equipment, specifically trucks to carry their gear on a fueling mission, they took abandoned trucks and equipment (left behind by another Army unit that had moved deeper into Iraq) and used it to do their job. ...

For accomplishing their missions in an outstanding manner, many were decorated. When later a soldier reported the manner in which they obtained the trucks and parts, many of them were disciplined; two of them faced punishment so harsh that the ...

... felony convictions caused them to lose their civilian jobs, as well as their entire military careers, all pay and benefits, retirement, even the right to have a flag on their casket when the pass away.

And for what? Scrounging for the gear they needed to complete their missions. For dealing in the best way they could with a problem that has even been brought to the feet of the Secretary of Defense by soldiers on the ground in Iraq; the problem of an appalling lack of resources that endangers our soldiers in Iraq every day.

Major Catherine Kaus and Chief Warrant Officer Darrell Birt were dismissed from the Army National Guard with Dishonorable Discharges; both had to serve 6 months in confinement, lost all pay and allowances, all benefits, retirement, and even their civilian jobs. They tried to do the best by their troops, and did whatever was necessary to further their mission. They served with honor, bravery, and a fighting spirit long cherished in our armed forces. They were decorated for their service. Then callously thrown away like so much trash.

This petition�s purpose is to show the Army and our government that Americans support their troops; no matter their feelings about the Iraq war, injustice to our men and women in uniform is a matter that cannot stand unchallenged. They are asked to sacrifice far too much; their jobs, time away from home and family, missed birthdays and anniversaries, missed holidays. They are often gone when their children are born, when their kids graduate from high school or college, when their family members need them. Many never come home. They deserve better than the treatment Major Kaus, Chief Warrant Officer Birt, and the members of the 656th Transportation Company received."

Friday, December 17, 2004

More Social Security

Stirling Newberry at Kos offers some good explanation on what's happening with Social Security.

The Echo Chamber on Social Security

Go to Progressive Blog Digest and read ALL the latest links. Now.

I simply don't have time to say too much right now, because of grading. But you absolutely must keep up with this.

And remember to repeat as often as possible, especially to the lockstep Repubs:

There is no Social Security crisis --- there is only a crisis of the general fund.

UPDATE: There's a good discusiion over at Kos about Social Security and, in particular, this article by Krugman. Article in whole below.

Buying Into Failure


Published: December 17, 2004

As the Bush administration tries to persuade America to convert Social Security into a giant 401(k), we can learn a lot from other countries that have already gone down that road.

Information about other countries' experience with privatization isn't hard to find. For example, the Century Foundation, at www.tcf.org, provides a wide range of links.

Yet, aside from giving the Cato Institute and other organizations promoting Social Security privatization the space to present upbeat tales from Chile, the U.S. news media have provided their readers and viewers with little information about international experience. In particular, the public hasn't been let in on two open secrets:

Privatization dissipates a large fraction of workers' contributions on fees to investment companies.

It leaves many retirees in poverty.

Decades of conservative marketing have convinced Americans that government programs always create bloated bureaucracies, while the private sector is always lean and efficient. But when it comes to retirement security, the opposite is true. More than 99 percent of Social Security's revenues go toward benefits, and less than 1 percent for overhead. In Chile's system, management fees are around 20 times as high. And that's a typical number for privatized systems.

These fees cut sharply into the returns individuals can expect on their accounts. In Britain, which has had a privatized system since the days of Margaret Thatcher, alarm over the large fees charged by some investment companies eventually led government regulators to impose a "charge cap." Even so, fees continue to take a large bite out of British retirement savings.

A reasonable prediction for the real rate of return on personal accounts in the U.S. is 4 percent or less. If we introduce a system with British-level management fees, net returns to workers will be reduced by more than a quarter. Add in deep cuts in guaranteed benefits and a big increase in risk, and we're looking at a "reform" that hurts everyone except the investment industry.

Advocates insist that a privatized U.S. system can keep expenses much lower. It's true that costs will be low if investments are restricted to low-overhead index funds - that is, if government officials, not individuals, make the investment decisions. But if that's how the system works, the suggestions that workers will have control over their own money - two years ago, Cato renamed its Project on Social Security Privatization by replacing "privatization" with "choice" - are false advertising.

And if there are rules restricting workers to low-expense investments, investment industry lobbyists will try to get those rules overturned.

For the record, I don't think giving financial corporations a huge windfall is the main motive for privatization; it's mostly an ideological thing. But that windfall is a major reason Wall Street wants privatization, and everyone else should be very suspicious.

Then there's the issue of poverty among the elderly.

Privatizers who laud the Chilean system never mention that it has yet to deliver on its promise to reduce government spending. More than 20 years after the system was created, the government is still pouring in money. Why? Because, as a Federal Reserve study puts it, the Chilean government must "provide subsidies for workers failing to accumulate enough capital to provide a minimum pension." In other words, privatization would have condemned many retirees to dire poverty, and the government stepped back in to save them.

The same thing is happening in Britain. Its Pensions Commission warns that those who think Mrs. Thatcher's privatization solved the pension problem are living in a "fool's paradise." A lot of additional government spending will be required to avoid the return of widespread poverty among the elderly - a problem that Britain, like the U.S., thought it had solved.

Britain's experience is directly relevant to the Bush administration's plans. If current hints are an indication, the final plan will probably claim to save money in the future by reducing guaranteed Social Security benefits. These savings will be an illusion: 20 years from now, an American version of Britain's commission will warn that big additional government spending is needed to avert a looming surge in poverty among retirees.

So the Bush administration wants to scrap a retirement system that works, and can be made financially sound for generations to come with modest reforms. Instead, it wants to buy into failure, emulating systems that, when tried elsewhere, have neither saved money nor protected the elderly from poverty.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Peeking my head out from grading ...

... to note that, buried wthin one student's final exam was this:

George Bush is not as smart as the country seems to think.

Completely unrelated to anything else in the exam. Out of the blue. This sentence.

He he.

Sweet potatoes and grading

I just took a break from my grading marathon for lunch: sliced sweet potato stewed in homemade chicken stock with liberal gratings of ginger and a dab of butter and local sorghum.

Topping it off: home roasted coffee.

Last night, I made a thoroughly insane --- and tasty --- Thai soup with sweet potatoes, yellow onion, fresh lime and more of the chicken stock. You see, a year ago, I discovered Import Foods and, in particular, the amazing green curry paste they offer. Let me tell you, a 14 ounce container of this curry paste is a steal for only $2.99 --- it lasts forever because you only need a dab or two to get the best flavor ever. With this paste and some coconut milk, you can turn almost anything into a Thai treat.

At first, I used this curry to replicate traditional Thai recipes. Eventually, however, I discovered Thai sauces and curries are a perfect complement to Southern dishes --- especially sweet potatoes and sweet onions. It's been kitchen mayhem ever since.

And it makes the grading a bit easier. I'm proud to say I made it through about 16 of the essays last night, and am shooting for 20 today. Which means I could actually finish all my grading by tomorrow.

Whew. I love teaching. But I hate grading.

So continue bearing with me --- as soon as I'm done, I'll be setting up the new sidebars correctly and get back to my various rants about the state of the nation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

And, by the way --- movies

In response to a thoroughly inane comment on a blog with a name I refuse to utter (hint: it is inhabited by coopted academics busy slavishly appeasing the Radical Right by denouncing the Dems), I purchased Apocalypse Now Redux. In essence, the commentator asserted the shamefulness of Apocalyose ---- how dare Coppola question military might by portraying Our Soldiers as crazed druggies!

Obviously, subtlety and deeper meanings aen't fortes of the Right.

I also purchased Schindler's List, in response to Coburn protesting NBC's airing of the historically significant movie "Schindler's List". Coburn said in airing the movie NBC had taken television "to an all-time low, with full-frontal nudity, violence and profanity". He also said the broadcast should outrage parents and decent-minded individuals everywhere.

And finally, I purchased Amadeus because it elicits responses of "Not again!" and rolling eyes from a certain niece.

Any and all movie suggestions welcomed.

Grading ... again

And thankfully, for the last time until next year.

I'll be pretty scarce for a day or so --- but it's better than slapdash, I suppose --- although I'm certainly inclined to the slapdash and rather like it.

So bear with me --- I have some fifty essays, twenty stories and an unknown number of final exams to grade. I know the new categories on the sidebar are incomplete and the latest entries lack enlightened comment. But I have to grade and just get it over with.

In the meantime, read the latest critique of Beinart and discuss. I'll be watching over your shoulder.

"Apocalypse Not Yet"

John Kenneth Galbraith on our current economic situation.

So maybe things aren't so bad after all? Or is there a hidden warning?

Posted in its entireity below.

Apocalypse Not Yet
James K. Galbraith December 06, 2004

TomPaine.com asked noted economist James K. Galbraith to reflect on the falling dollar, the chiding from Beijing, and the response from Washington. We got what we asked for...and then some. Galbraith explains how we got here, assess the likelihood of different apocalyptic scenarios, and predicts Greenspan, the GOP and the Dems will all fumble. The reason? Salvation lies not in better macroeconomic management, but in generating a new industrial policy for America.

James K. Galbraith is Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Chair in government/business relations at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin, and senior scholar at the Levy Economics Institute.

Editors Note: A highly excerpted version of this article appeared in Newsday on Dec. 3, 2004.

With the euro touching $1.33 and the pound so high I couldn't bear to look at the rate, my thoughts on a flight home from across the pond turned painfully to the decay of the once-almighty dollar, and to the cries of fear emanating these days from Wall Street.

How We Got Here

The current jitters are no surprise; the few Keynesians left in the economics profession have long thought them overdue. Here are the most important reasons why this is so:

We have, over many years, worn down our trade position in the world economy, from overpowering supremacy 60 years ago, to the point where high employment in the United States generates current account deficits well over half a trillion dollars per year. We have become dependent for our living standard on the willingness of the rest of the world to accept dollar assets—stocks, bonds and cash—in return for real goods and services, the product of hard labor by people much poorer than ourselves in return for chits that require no effort to produce.

For decades, the Western World tolerated the "exorbitant privilege" of a dollar-reserve economy because the United States was the indispensable power, providing reliable security against communism and insurrection without intolerable violence or oppression, thus conditions under which many countries on this side of the Iron Curtain grew and prospered. Those rationales evaporated 15 years ago, and the "Global War on Terror" is not a persuasive replacement. Thus, what was once a grudging bargain with the world's stabilizing hegemon country is now widely seen as a lingering subsidy for a predator state.

In the late 1990s, the United States position was held up by the glamour of the information-technology boom, which brought capital flooding in from more precarious perches in Russia, Asia and other parts of the world. Then, as so often on other occasions in history, America was the wave of the future. But that too has turned to dust and ashes. While major gains from new technology were achieved, few now think that silicon chips are the solution to the world's economic problems, and Silicon Valley has receded to an investment backwater.

Since 1979, China, migrating slowly from the other side of the Iron Curtain, has become one of our largest trading partners, while the relative position of other Third World countries (more wedded to the free market and less effectively managed) has eroded. The concentration of our manufactures trade on China and Japan now means that those two countries now hold preposterous dollar reserves, and their actions substantially determine the dollar's value. However, the actions or potential actions of other players, including Russia, India and the European Central Bank, can also have important effects.

China and Japan are constrained in their behavior by creditor's risk. If they sell dollars aggressively, the value of the remainder of their portfolio plummets and they inflict large losses on themselves. This consideration prompts caution. But everything depends on what everyone else does. The rising unpredictability of U.S. policy—including foreign policy—doesn't help. If one major player gets wind that others may dump, then the urge to join in becomes hard to resist. This is exactly analogous to an old-fashioned stock panic or run on the bank.

Situation Unpredictable, If Not Perverse

The current account is strongly linked in a triangular relationship to the budget deficit and also, critically, to the savings-investment balance of American households, as readers of the invaluable strategic papers by Wynne Godley (see www.levy.org ) will know. In the present environment, with households on average near financial balance, the current account and the budget deficits are nearly equal. But this does not mean—as leading Democrats appear to believe—that reducing the budget deficit will save the dollar. A bank, hit by a panic, cannot save itself by cutting its advertising budget, raising its fees or firing its staff.

And once a rush gets going, jacking up interest rates won't stop it either. Small interest rate hikes do normally affect exchange rates, but only when no player has the kind of extreme market weight now enjoyed by China and Japan. When they do, reactions are unpredictable if not perverse. The Fed's moves earlier this year could well have been aimed, mainly, at deterring the Japanese and Chinese from dumping. Think of them as a petty bribe—a percent or so on a few trillion dollars. Or you might call it a reaction to blackmail, deemed expedient in view of the election. But the election is now past, and that game is up.

Now we hear rumors of Russia trading dollars for euro, of India diversifying its reserves, of China contemplating the same. The reaction on Wall Street has been a trifle unnerved. In comments relayed furiously across the Internet, Morgan Stanley economist Steven Roach apparently told clients to gird for an "economic Armageddon." The dike, once solid, starts to crack; none can say just where or when it will break. But the little Dutch boy, Alan Greenspan, went to Frankfurt a few days back and plainly stated that he did not have enough fingers.

Who Wins? Bush's Base

The most stunning aspect of these events has been the insouciance of the Bush administration. Neither the president, nor Secretary of the Treasury John Snow, nor anyone else has troubled even to emit the usual platitudes about the greenback—not, at least with the slightest conviction. It's almost as if they've figured it out. It's almost as if they realize the awful truth. Which is that the dollar's decline is mainly good for their friends, and bad mainly for those about whom they couldn't care less.

Yet that is the truth. The dollar's decline immediately boosts the stock market, for a simple reason. Multinationals have earnings in the United States and in Europe. When the dollar falls, U.S. earnings stay the same but the European earnings go up when measured in dollars. Oil prices in dollars will stay up—at least enough to prevent the price in euro from falling. This too helps U.S. oil company profits, measured in dollars. Meanwhile, China will keep its renminbi tied to the dollar, and prices of Chinese imports won't rise much, so Wal-Mart isn't badly hurt. The American consumer will get hit, but mainly on the oil price rather than on the rest of the consumption basket. Many will grumble, but few will recognize the political roots of their problem.

Since the U.S. owes its debts in dollars, the financial blow will fall first on China and Japan, in the form of a depreciation of their holdings. Tough luck. Latin American debtor countries will get hit on their exports, but helped on their debt service. Those (like Mexico) who export almost exclusively to the U.S. will get squeezed; others (like Argentina) who market to Europe but pay interest in dollars will be hurt less. An unequivocal loser is Europe, which has been hoping for an export-led fix to their own, largely self-inflicted, mass unemployment. The Europeans can forget about that.

If Bush's insouciance works, the dollar could decline smoothly for a while and then, simply, stop declining. U.S. exports might recover somewhat, helping manufacturing, though there's no chance exports and imports will balance. But even so, the dollar system could stay intact, so long as China and Japan remain willing to add new dollars to their depreciated hoard. Given that their interests lie in maintaining export activity and the jobs it creates, they may very well make that choice. Large-scale dollar purchases by the European Central Bank are also a remote possibility (the option has been mentioned on the periphery of the ECB). The problems would return later on, but meanwhile, such an action would prove that God really does look after children, small dogs and the United States.

Apocalypse Considered

What could up-end the apple cart? An unstoppable panic is probably not yet the largest risk. There are simply too many dollars in the theater of the world economy, too few exits and only a few elephantine players. The latter would soon be discouraged from selling by the soaring price of the available alternative assets, and the run would fizzle out. Thus the final dollar crisis will probably wait until a political crisis—say, someday with China—sets it off.

Some fear rising long-term interest rates—and a recession—simply on account of the sliding dollar and price inflation. But this also won't necessarily happen. For an inflation premium to be built into the long-term interest rate, there needs to be higher expected inflation on a continuing basis. Notwithstanding the cheap psychology of "rational expectations," beloved of economists, actual inflation can rise for a long time before expectations do. And the inflation adjustment, coming (let us say) primarily through a rising dollar oil price, could come and go rather quickly. It need not get built into a spiral of wages and prices. So far, despite the substantial dollar decline that has already occurred, long-term interest rates have hardly budged. They have generally risen no more, and in some cases less, than the short-term rates Greenspan started pushing up last spring.

A change in European policy—toward a high-growth, full employment Keynesianism—could bring a decisive shift in the world balance of economic power. Such a shift would create profits in Europe (where there presently are few), attracting capital. It would open up a European current account deficit, where there is presently a surplus. Soon the euro would not be a scarce currency any longer, and the reduction of the dollar's reserve status could truly get underway. Unfortunately for Europeans, European policymakers don't see—and won't seize—this opportunity. Frankly, they are too reactionary and too stupid. That's a tragedy for Europe, though in some ways it's undeserved good luck for the United States.

And the fourth possibility is that Alan Greenspan could change his mind, raise interest rates and inflict on us all a monumental "defense of the dollar." Morgan's Roach worries about this with some good reason; I've worried about it too. While sharply rising interest rates could cure both inflation and the weak dollar—as they did in the early 1980s—the resulting slump would be even more disastrous than it was then, because debt levels are higher now than they were. Just as the slump then destroyed Latin America and Africa, a new one could bring China, Japan, India and others into worldwide recession. There would be no easy way out.

A Strange New World

Such folly is possible, but now I don't expect it. I rather think Greenspan will take a pass on all the past decades of Federal Reserve myth-making. That means that he will actually sit on his hands while oil and some other import prices drive upward. Given the alternatives, it's probably the right course of action. But let no one say, afterward and with a straight face, that our Central Bank takes all that seriously the bunkum it spreads, about fighting inflation.

For this reason, we're more likely to enter a strange new world, where Republicans in office behave like 1970s Democrats on meth. In a stagflation economy, budget deficits are inevitable and there is no strategy that will end them. It's obvious that adding large near-term tax increases to the mix would merely slow growth further, while there isn't enough federal public non-defense spending left to cut. So the Republicans will make excuses, and let the deficits run on, and incur the scolding of the IMF and the OECD. If we're lucky. It's far from the worst thing the Republicans could do.

Sadly, the Democrats will respond as badly as possible, like 1930s Republicans on downers. In a touching devotion to dogma, they will call for fiscal discipline to close the budget deficit. This will undermine the case for relief to working families, for aid to state and local government, and the defense of Social Security benefits that they might otherwise make. Our jobless compatriots won't find this endearing. Faced with higher inflation, Democrats may demand to know why Greenspan has done nothing. Households struggling to manage their debts will not be greatly amused. Then Democrats will say that things were better under Clinton. That's thin gruel; in the 1930s you could have said the same of Coolidge.

What Should Be Done?

The reality is that budget deficits cannot be controlled until the trade problem is fixed. So what should be done? It's a long-term project, but it's not difficult to assemble the start of a real program. Oil companies are likely to earn high profits in the turbulence ahead. Let's tax them (and other windfalls), perhaps with a variable import fee. Let's plough the proceeds back to state and local governments, so they can maintain services and vital investments. Let's cut payroll taxes for now, to help working people cope. And let's start our next technology boom, focused on new energy and reduction in per-unit GDP consumption of oil. These would be useful beginnings on the home front.

The big action, however, must come on the international side. My supply-side friends pine for the gold standard, and they make a serious point. The experiment of worldwide floating exchange rates, inaugurated by global monetarists in 1971, has failed disastrously. The world was better off when we had fixed exchange rates. Indeed, in the most successful arena of global trade and finance we have fixed exchange rates right now, thanks to the unappreciated but sensible dollar-pegging of the Chinese. Fixing exchange rates in Europe (through the extreme measure of creating a single currency) also proved a boon for the poorer countries of Europe, eliminating speculative currency risk. Even though, overall, European policy remains terrible, unemployment has dropped sharply in Spain and Greece since the euro came in.

Global fixed exchange rates would help developing countries, by sharply curtailing the destabilizing role of private currency markets. They would therefore also help us, by creating stronger and more stable markets for our exports. But there is no simple return to global fixed exchange rates. It would be a terrible mistake to create a system that imposed deflationary pressure on us and through us on the world as a whole—the problem of the classical gold standard. To get where we need to go, we must also recreate a global financial network oriented toward the support of development and growth. When we have that, growth policies around the world will help rather than hurt each other. At that point, we could profitably put real effort into reintroducing full employment economics to Europe and Japan.

For such a policy to succeed, America must also change. Specifically, we must turn away from our present over-reliance on armed forces and private bankers, far away from the fantasy of self-serving dominance for which, the markets are clearly telling us, the world will not agree to pay. We need instead an industrial strategy based on technological leadership, collective security, and smart use of the world's resources. The financial counterpart must be a new source of liquidity for many developing countries, permitting them to step up their imports, and correspondingly our exports and employment. This will probably require a new network of regional regulatory agents, empowered to enforce capital control and to take responsibility for successful development strategies among their members.

No Viable Alternative

The point is not that any of this would be easy. Nor can it be done in the lifetime of this administration or of the political dominance that Bush now seeks to achieve. The point is, rather, that there is no viable alternative, so far as I know. Absent a fully articulated strategy, the attempt to pretend otherwise with a few slogans is an economic and also a political dead end.

Two steps are thus required. The first is thought, and the second, when the opportunity arises, will be action. The scope of action cannot be small, for the problem now exceeds six hundred billion dollars every year. But only by dealing with it, over time, can we hope to regain full employment without witnessing, sooner or later, the final run on the dollar.

How you can help

Major Kraus, one of the victims of the chickenhawks (see Rob's Blog or the earlier post here) has told us how we can help in a comment on Rob's Blog.

I've taken the liberty of reposting her suggestions below, all relevant addresses and sample letters/emails from Rob and Chris Woods.

Don't let the chickenhawks get away with this, people. Take action.

"I strongly argee everyone who feels this is wrong and feels that I deserve a discharge of honorable status please email


LTC Baggio is the legal advocate for LT. General Metz, who will be deciding my fate.

Thank you for your support.

Major Catherine Kaus"

"I found the correct version of his email address. It only took about 2 hours of researching.

Here it is, the original was close: Daniel.Baggio@vcmain.hq.c5.army.mil

and check out this link for more info:
Chris Woods"

"I also sent a letter to President Bush, Senator Tom Harkin, and Congressman Leonard Boswell. Thanks for pointing out that service at Congress.org, Rob, it is a very useful tool.
Chris Woods"

"I also sent that via Congress.org to Sen. Dan Inouye, Sen. Dan Akaka, Congressman Neil Abercrombie, and the President.

I'm still speechless that this could happen to people for serving their nation.
Robert Schumacher"

"Here's a letter I wrote (I copied it to you, Major). It bounced as well from the LTC, if anyone has an updated email address for him please send it along and I'll re-send.


I have seen the story of the 656th Transportation Company, Major Kaus, and Chief Warrant Officer Birt, and I cannot believe our nation would even consider a courts-martial for what they did. Given even the latest questions posed about the problems faced by units in Iraq and lack of proper equipment to the Secretary of Defense, it makes it even more unbelievable that personnel in combat would be punished for doing what was necessary to get their mission done. The stories of war in our history are filled with nearly identical instances in which soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen all had to scrounge, scavenge, and even "appropriate" whatever was necessary to do the job and win the battles. In the past we called these people heroes.

A personally inspiring historical figure for me is the late Rear Admiral Richard O'Kane, one of the most illustrious submarine commanders of the Second World War, who recalls in his own books "Wahoo" and "Clear The Bridge" the difficulties in obtaining equipment needed for his own subs and how resourceful supply officers and petty officers often had to scrounge for what they needed. It was no secret, really; and O'Kane and his men were often decorated for their resourcefulness and success against the enemy. O'Kane himself was awarded the Medal of Honor for his leadership.

I wonder what message we send now, that the reward for doing the really tough jobs, going in harms way lacking the proper equipment but doing so anyway out of a sense of loyalty, duty, and honor, and making the best of a bad situation is grounds for a Dishonorable Discharge and stripping career officers of the accomplishments of an entire lifetime.

I'm not a lawyer; I don't profess to know the in's and out's of the regulations that govern this. But in a situation like this, common sense, decency, and looking out for our soldiers in harm's way should be able to trump the rules of bureaucracy.

I sincerely hope the Army can find a way to allow these soldiers to retire with the honor they deserve, not slap them in the face for going above and beyond to serve their nation. I can assure you, just from what I read I'd want officers like Major Kaus and Chief Warrant Officer Birt as my leaders in battle, and they have my salute any day.
Robert Schumacher"

"Here is the text of an email I sent to LTC Baggio just a few minutes ago:

To whom it may concern:

I write to you today asking you to please give Major Catherine Kaus an honorable discharge.

She and Chief Warrant Officer Darrell Birt are fine soldiers, who risked their lives to deliver fuel to the front lines. They used abandoned Army equipment for this mission and should be applauded for their efforts to protect American troops.

As civilians, we see signs and stickers everywhere reminding us to support our troops. I support our troops. We should support our troops and pray for their safety, even if we disagree with the war. However, I do not think that by dishonorable discharging Maj. Kaus is supporting our troops. She did what she had to do to protect other soldiers and herself.

If Americans cannot be commended and honored for simple and basic acts of bravery, I do not know what this country has come to.


Christopher D. Woods
Chris Woods"

Radical Right Values, or What Happens When Chickenhawks Play War

Rob is reporting "Chief Warrant Officer Darrell Birt served 23 years (Marine Corps, Army, National Guard), and he (along with his CO, Major Cathy Kaus) have lost everything...their careers, their civilian jobs, their military pay, their retirements, even the right to have a flag draped over their casket or military honors at their burial. They risked their lives delivering fuel to the front lines, and took the abandoned Army equipment to use in completing their missions and protecting their troops."

This is an important story, people, one of THE most important --- maybe the most important. Not only are we witnessing the sheer insanity of Bush & Co, through their bizarre punishment of good soldiers just trying to do their job, we are seeing how completely and totally they have dehumanized anyone who's not on board with them and anyone who does not practice their values.

Commit torture and sado-masochistic rape? Huzzahs, applause from Rush and O'Reilly, and an outpouring and support from the fundies.

Be a good soldier, complete your missions and work to protect your troops, however? You lose everything.

I've reposted Rob's post below and the link to the original story he was responding to --- I strongly urge you, however, to go to his blog and read it for yourself.

Army Reservists Court-Martialed For Scrounging Equipment In Iraq

"Confinement, dishonorable discharge, loss of all pay and benefits, loss of retirement, and loss of their civilian jobs...for taking abandoned Army equipment for an Army mission that they were awarded the Bronze Star for.

Bloggers, if you read this, I implore you...blog the story for all you are worth. This is injustice in the extreme...Chief Warrant Officer Darrell Birt served 23 years (Marine Corps, Army, National Guard), and he (along with his CO, Major Cathy Kaus) have lost everything...their careers, their civilian jobs, their military pay, their retirements, even the right to have a flag draped over their casket or military honors at their burial. They risked their lives delivering fuel to the front lines, and took the abandoned Army equipment to use in completing their missions and protecting their troops.

To say I'm upset by this...is an understatement. The Army's treatment of these soldiers is CRIMINAL! People from radio show hosts to former military officers have made a hero out of the Marine who killed an unarmed Iraqi prisoner, but no one seems to give a damn about real heroes who were thrown out with the trash by their own service.

Make some noise, folks. Our troops who serve with honor deserve better...whether you agree with the war or not, these men and women, whose mission was to supply and support the troops on the front, are the real heroes. They did what they had to do to keep their people alive and do their mission, and this is the treatment they get from our Army brass (and, ultimately, the SecDef and President, who I'm sure are aware of this and do NOTHING.) While Rumsfeld makes his crass comments and essentially tells the troops to "lump it", these folks in the 656th Transportation Company did what they had to do to accomplish the mission; they deserve more than a slap in the face and a boot out the door.

Blog it...make the American people hear how the Army is treating it's citizen-soldiers."

How the Radical Right Honors Our Soldiers

Their true values --- what they are about:

Decorated Army officer accused of thefts seeks clemency
First the Army gave Chief Warrant Officer Darrell E. Birt a medal.

Then they handed the former Hempfield Township man six months behind bars.

Birt said the Bronze Star and prison sentence he received while serving in Iraq were his reward -- and punishment -- for plugging holes in a faulty supply network that even the military has painted as flawed.

"The supply system was broke," Birt said. "From the time we left Kuwait until the time we got into Iraq, it took two months to get the computer codes loaded for supply. So for two months, we couldn't get new supplies."

Short of vehicles and spare parts critical to his unit's ability to haul fuel to infantrymen and helicopter pilots, Birt said he and other high-ranking soldiers agreed to procure the needed equipment improperly.

They took tractor-trailers that belonged to other units, and they scavenged repair parts off abandoned vehicles.

Birt's Bronze Star citation commends the officer for demonstrating "initiative and courage" during the first four months of the war. His actions, according to the citation, "proved vital to successful combat operations in Iraq."

But the medal was authorized before a sergeant in Birt's unit reported the thefts, initiating an investigation that ended with the Army filing criminal charges against Birt and five others, including his company commander, Maj. Catherine Kaus.

Birt's 23-year military career was about to end: If found guilty, he said, he faced 80 years in prison.

Birt, 45, joined the U.S. Marines in 1978, a year after graduating from Hempfield Area High School. He served 12 years on active duty before leaving the Corps in 1990 to spend more time with his wife, Janet, also a Hempfield Area grad, and their son, Jacob, then 9 months old.

Birt enlisted in the Army Reserve before moving to Springfield, Ohio, with his wife and child. He took a civilian mechanic's job and was reassigned to the 656th Transportation Company, a fuel-support reserve unit based in Springfield.

Birt was called to war in January 2003, when he and the 656th were ordered to prepare to deploy to Iraq. Just two months later, the unit was at Camp New York, in Kuwait, awaiting the go-ahead to haul its initial load of 300,000 gallons of fuel to Tikrit, Iraq.

The 656th was eager to proceed, Birt said, but supply problems were immediately evident: For starters, he said, the unit was missing eight ring mounts needed to attach machine guns and grenade launchers to 10 of its 70 vehicles.

Then, just days before they were to make the "jump" into Iraq, higher-ups told the soldiers they would have to go without most of their tools, spare parts, machine guns, chemical protective gear, night-vision goggles, tents, computers and personal belongings.

The reason: None of the vehicles belonging to the unit were capable of towing shipping containers that held their gear.

"So you have a dilemma," Birt said, during a recent visit with his parents and in-laws in Hempfield Township.

"You have to make a choice," he said. "You either go forward without your stuff and not be able to support yourself, or you refuse to go until you get support. The third is to find something to move your stuff."

Birt said equipment the reservists needed was readily available at the camp. Trucks belonging to active duty units that had already pushed into Iraq sat idle, but the 656th lacked authorization to use them.

With the unit poised to move into Iraq, Birt said, he and the others took possession of four unclaimed vehicles and loaded them with their gear.

Birt said he wasn't entirely comfortable with his actions, but with orders in hand to enter the fight, he felt he had no other choice.

"I don't know how else we would have moved all those night-vision goggles and crew-served weapons," Birt said, referring to the machine guns. "It all belonged to the Army. As far as borrowing, we didn't like it, but we figured when we were done we would bring it back and drop it off."

The Army, in paperwork supporting criminal charges of conspiracy, larceny and destruction and abandonment of government property, laid out a far more incriminating scenario.

According to a stipulation-of-fact document introduced at Birt's court-martial, Birt admitted to conspiring with Kaus and other high-ranking members of his unit to acquire trucks and equipment by any means.

When another warrant officer told Kaus he knew where to obtain vehicles, Kaus, according to the document, allegedly replied, "Do what you've got to do to make it happen. I don't want to know about it."

According to the document, Birt took Kaus' comment "to mean that if he or anyone else at this meeting had to steal a vehicle/transportation to facilitate the move, then he should do it."

Kaus, who was court-martialed and sentenced to six to nine months in prison and dismissal from the Army, could not be reached for comment.

In all, according to a criminal charge sheet, Birt and the others stole two tractors, two trailers, a five-ton truck and a parts van. The soldiers kept some of the vehicles for nearly a year, despite repeated admonitions from a "nervous" Kaus to "get rid of these vehicles/equipment."

Most of the vehicles eventually were abandoned at military bases in Iraq and Kuwait. On some, bumper numbers used to identify the units owning the vehicles had been sanded off and repainted.

The frame of another -- stripped bare for its parts -- was buried.

Birt doesn't deny any wrongdoing.

"I did what they said," he said. "I'm not denying that. "But it wasn't for me to have my own truck. It was not for personal gain.

"It was to put us in the fight, to complete the mission at all costs."

On the advice of his military attorney, Capt. John A. Heath, Birt said he pleaded guilty to the charges. In exchange, he said, the maximum amount of time he faced in jail was reduced to 16 months.

"I didn't want to," Birt said. "But (the attorney) insinuated that they had a lot of evidence on me, and that they would convict me. At that point, it was damage control. It was, how best can I support my family?"

Birt said he also felt he stood little chance of proving his innocence at trial, because many of the soldiers he believed would testify on his behalf had been returned stateside.

Birt was sentenced to six months of confinement and forfeiture of all pay and allowances, including retirement benefits. He also was dismissed from the service.

When asked for comment on the case from the Army, Maj. Richard W. Spiegel, a public affairs officer, said he could speak only on behalf of the 13th Corps Support Command, a combat-support unit in Balad, Iraq. He pointed out that Birt entered a guilty plea at his court-martial and signed a document acknowledging he violated several provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The Army released Birt from a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., on Oct. 17. He had served portions of his sentence in Kuwait and in Mannheim, Germany, and was released one month early for good behavior.

His time served, he now is awaiting word from the Army on a request for clemency.

Birt said he feels clemency is warranted because his actions were a direct result of the Army's faulty supply channels. He helped to take the trucks, he said, only because he wanted to ensure that everyone in his unit had the weapons and tools they needed to survive.

A 500-page study of the war commissioned by the Army, "On Point: The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom," lends credence to Birt's assertions. The report, on several occasions, notes delays in delivery of equipment to soldiers in the field.

"More than enough parts reached the theater and were duly processed, but almost none reached the intended customers during the fighting," the report states. "Forward, the troops made do by cannibalizing broken-down equipment and towing what they could not repair."

If his clemency request is granted, Birt said, his career still will be over, but his retirement benefits will be reinstated.

If not, he said, "They won't bury me. I won't get a flag. I won't get VA benefits."

But the veterans benefits, Janet Birt said, aren't her husband's greatest loss.

"It's a shame, all the years he was in the service," she said. "That's the worst part. He gave up his life for the service."

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


The blog will be slow for a day or so --- not only am I painting the house and trying to finish grading, but I am going to do some changing around here.

In particular, I'm going to create a permanent set of links to stories concerning our military and a subsection where those stories will be permanently stored. All this is the inspiration of Rob Schumacher --- Rob is a current member of the military (Navy) and was involved in the early stages of Iraq, so he definitely has a personal stake in what's going on in the military.

But don't we all? And how shameful is it that we send these guys to war, then treat them like --- well, you'll see. Rob's been doing some serious rounding up and he knows where the goods are, believe me. And he knows his military, so boy can he talk about it in an intelligent way.

In the meantime, go do some reading over at Rob's Blog --- and at Progressive Blog Digest --- read both simultaneously today, in fact, as Nick has a great roundup on Abu Gonzalez, Allawi and more.

And wish me luck that I don't crash the blog again, like I did a week or so ago when I doodled with the template. :=D

Monday, December 13, 2004

But before I go ... Digby on "A Fighting Faith"

Way to go, Digby! Here's the link --- and I've taken the liberty of reposting it here, just for my own reference. Go read the comments however.

Digby Slices and Dices Beinart

On Hard and Soft

I’m ridiculously busy and I don’t have time to write much about the circular firing squad. Still, I’ll write a few words in passing on which I’ll elaborate later.

If, in order to be “hard” we must support irrationality and grievous error then we are doomed as a country. We are simply too big for that. We will not have many chances to make the kind of mistake we've made with Iraq without suffering serious consequences. It is the very definition of hard nosed, cold hearted realism to say that we should not squander our military resources during a national security crisis by fighting the wrong goddamned war. It is not “soft” to note that sexually torturing citizens whom we were ostensibly liberating and whose cooperation we needed was a lousy war plan. And it is nothing short of hawkish to point out that proving to the whole world that our vaunted intelligence services couldn’t find Baghdad on a fucking map made this country and all its allies less safe. We are the reality based community and facing up to facts is the single most important thing we can do to protect this country. Letting the faith based morons who planned this debacle of a response to 9/11 off the hook and holding their hands in solidarity not only looks weak, it is weak.

But, as usual ...

all of this braying about repositioning and purging obscures the fact that we aren’t dealing with a policy issue at all, are we? We are once again drowning in perceptions, in which the alleged Democratic tough guys are accusing the alleged Democratic sissies of fucking things up and losing elections because the American people won’t support a party that is “soft” on … anything. They are right in a way but they fail to see why this perception is so widely held, who is responsible and how to change it. Mainly this is because the ones making this accusation think they are hard when they are actually soft.

I agree that we need a change in strategy. But, we’ve hit a wall compromising or cooperating with this modern Republican Party on issues. They have left us no room on policy except total capitulation. Anybody who doesn’t see that is definitely soft. (In the head.) Politics is now beyond issues. For Democrats, it’s existential.

Do we want the public to understand that we’re “hard?” Do we need for people to take us seriously as tough guys who will keep the country safe from the “ism” of the moment? Of course. But does anyone believe that we can demonstrate our powerful rigid tumescence to the public with academic papers or scholarly op-ed’s or earnest senate speeches? This argument always implies that we are campaigning in a vacuum and fails to take into consideration the nature of the opposition. We could be Beinartian Hawks or Kucinichian doves or George Patton or Ulysses S. Grant and it would mean nothing as long as the opposition comes up with simple marketing slogans to position our candidates and our ideas as soft and we do not respond in kind.

Let’s talk about flipping and flopping for a moment. That phrase didn’t come out of nowhere, you know. “Flip-flop” was not some complicated concept in which people were persuaded by examples in his record that Kerry was unprincipled or indecisive. “Flip-flop” was an uncomplicated, symbolic slogan that stood for flaccid penis. Yes, it’s really that simple, folks. People may not have been consciously aware that the term flip-flop was meant to unman our war hero candidate, but it did so just the same. And it played off of 35 years of exactly the same kind of imagery from “with hair that long, hippie, you can’t tell if you’re a man or a woman,” to “he’s been botoxed.” This image doesn’t come from Michael Moore or indeed from any Democrat. It comes directly from the propaganda shop of the Republican party and it plays right into the lizard brains of certain white males and the women who inexplicably love them. It wouldn’t matter if Michael Moore joined the marines and MoveOn decided to merge with Club For Growth. The right has a tremendous investment in framing the left as too “soft” to keep the nation safe and they will continue to play that card no matter how tough we sound on terrorism. It is how they win.

But there is one surefire way to convince the American people that Democrats are “hard” enough to take on the enemies of the United States. And that would be for us to take on the goddamned Republicans. As long as we do not respond in kind to their in your face bully boy style of politics we will continue to look weak in the face of an existential threat --- because we ARE weak. We can look to history for Scoop Jackson lessons or Arthur Schlessinger lessons, but they are not relevant to the problem at hand. Our problem is that since 1968 the Republicans have waged a take-no-prisoner war against the Democratic party and they use that proxy war to prove to the American people that they are tough enough to protect the American people from threats, both internal and external, and the Democrats are not. (Indeed, to listen to their most skilled polemicists, Democrats are the threat.) And despite the fact that they are completely full of shit, it works quite well because they practice what they preach by fighting every last Democrat to a standstill and when they lose they get right back up and start fighting again with everything they have. People can see exactly what they are about. They demonstrate it. We, on the other hand, talk a lot.

The father of the modern Republican party (perhaps modern American politics) is not sunny Reagan, it’s darkling Nixon. Until we finally grasp the nature of the opposition we will continue to lose. It is the central problem we face.

One word of advice. When George Will backs your ideas you need to rethink your position. Prominent Republican mouthpieces do not have our best interests at heart. Ever.

Goth Girls and Pumpkin Pie Shampoo

A cryptic email from my older sister's youngest daughter leads me to believe she has finally emerged from the Goth Phase of her Alternative Girl Life --- something which pleases all of us, as it was getting pretty tiring seeing her draped in black from head to toe, and pale --- deathly pale --- a paleness especially striking, given the black eyes and hair that Mother Nature gave her (no doubt in anticipation of yet another Goth Girl flung sullenly across her small mountain of algebra homework and existential philosophy books).

The email in question stated quite simply "I like girlie things."


Now, the bunch of us aren't entirely unprepared for this shift from one stratospheric dimension to another --- my sister, after all, reported to me a week or so ago that The Family's Current Alternative Girl (as our family has a peculiar tendency to churn out Alterntive Girls and Geek Princesses, with nary a normie in the bunch) was wearing socks with a hint of pink in them.


In reaction to this email, however, I have suddenly found myself overwhelmed by the release of years of pent up frustration --- all those times I passed up the cute bunny slippers for the sedate and heavily worn volumes of depressed, anarchic, incomprehensible poetry that she so desired.

This Christmas, however, she will be getting grapefruit bath gel, pumpkin pie shampoo, bubblegum lip balm, and pink ... pink everything.

So excuse me while I put aside the blogging to celebrate the end of the Goth Phase in our latest Alternative Girl's Life.

Social Security Redux

Nick at Progressive Blog Digest has done it again --- his roundup of and commentary on the latest news on Social Security should be required reading for every voting American.

Pay particular attention to a couple of points at PBD and read the accompanying links:

"As we wade deeper into this social security mess, it's going to be important to pay attention to how much the media buys the Bush administration's fabulous new argument that borrowing a couple of trillion dollars isn't actually borrowing a trillion dollars."

"His tax cut and Social Security privatization are designed to bankrupt and delegitimize government."

Let me close by saying that, until the past couple of years, I was actually quite close to a conservative on military and budgetary concerns, although I've always been quite liberal in terms of social issues.

That whackjob in the White House and his total bungling of all things military and budgetary, however, have driven me right over the line and into blazing liberal on all issues.

Yoohoo! Bush voters! Taken a look lately at the fine mess you've gotten us into?????

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Academe

Earlier today, I threw out an ancient newspaper article my father had given me about the problems with academia --- in particular, how intellectuals were once an active, vital force which felt moved and able to protest when need be and even fought vigorously among themselves --- but how they have become lifeless, bound by the requirements of the university, including reviews, publish or perish, etc. Get along or get moving. That kind of thing.

Which is, sadly, true, at least in my experience. And which is why I quite willingly, happily and desperately bailed from academia a couple of years ago. Granted, it was a bit by accident --- I bought this place out here, which rendered me entirely incapable of the necessary commute :=D . But not really by accident. Not at all.

I have never felt so entirely stifled, beset upon and intellectually confined as I did in The Academe. Except on those miserable occasions when I've been forced to listen to anyone from the far right.

Which brings me to my current complaint ...

Now I love the hard sciences. And I love scientists. And my experiences in the sciences and with scientists have been overwhelmingly positive.

In fact, I am having to restrain myself from turning this into a I Heart Science Blogs blog.

But the social sciences? Gack. Talk about the pressures of conformity and the necessity of maintaining that aloof, distant, Post-Modernist gaze. Semiotics and whatnot. Reflexivity. Identity. Power relations and the political as the only driving forces of huMan.

In any case, this all came to the fore again this morning, when I went to read a certain blog which was once on my list of recommended blogs and which I felt certain might turn out to be a worthwhile pursuit. A bunch of academics, all soft science --- humanities, the ill-defined Gender Studies type, all that --- not my favorite subjects, but I thought this could very well turn out to be a Martha Moment, A Good Thing, for the debate between Right and Left.

I was wrong. They're thoroughly coopted by The Academe and unable to formulate a thought which might contradict the current reigning Conventional Wisdom. No, fear of tenure, Publish or Perish, all of it has worn them down into a bland mix bearing more similarity to cold, sticky oatmeal than Thoughtful Consideration and Open Debate.

Why can't the soft sciences really be like the sciences, that's what I'd like to know. Why can't they give up the New Agey feel-good stuff, the Post-Modernist Semiotic Reflexive Gaze From Above, the androgenous sexless emotionless myopic self-adulation, and just get down and dirty for once? Especially now when we need it so very badly.

So I read this morning and snarkily replied, then stomped back here in a fit of annoyance. Until I looked around --- the cowboy down the road riding a donkey out front --- a young deer hunter strolling back the other way to his home waving at me with his rifle --- my way too big dogs taking up the entire sofa ---- the cardinals who've wrecked the insulation on the roof of my front porch by nesting in it --- my home roasted coffee brewing --- and my ability to sit here and read whatever I want and think whatever I want and not be pressured to Think The Proper Post-Modernist Identity Politics Semiotic Reflexive Thoughts.

And I'm the lucky one, after all, perhaps. But what has been lost in the process? And why can they no longer --- why will they no longer --- do the rest of us any good? /end of rant

Fed Up?

Well, Progressive Blog Digest has done it again --- a very nice wrapup of the latest informative sources on the bogus Social Security crisis and some excellent commentary.

Really, you all need to bookmark PBD.

And now, for my own comments :=D --- which, much like the real live grown up drapes I've just put up for the purposes of energy efficiency, are oddly reminiscent of my mother ...

Cut up the credit cards, people --- start that savings account any way you can --- and buy seeds, preferably heirloom, and grow your own darned vegetables!

Bloggers given the boot by Democrats

This is front page news at Kos, so the blogosphere is already in arms about it. I say read the words of the bloggers who got the boot over at Due Diligence.

And sorry, people --- this is an example of why, even though my county is 75% registered Democrats, they no longer bother to even vote anymore. The Dems don't want anythoing to do with these old cowboys and Indians (except when elections rolls around) --- and they've just proven they don't want anyone who might threaten the corporate power structure of the party.

The Dems are out of luck unless they get back to their roots. Plain and simple.


Rubberneckers, take note. The chicken people have got their feathers in a ruffle again. Apparently, Poultry Connection has banned BigHogLeg over the issue of the use of diatemaceous earth as a chicken wormer --- but BigHogLeg is claiming here that he's been banned because he's a Black Cajun.

Now I like chickens, but I can't figure out why they're always fighting about wormers.