Valuation provided by Mingle2
The Written Peace: Open Forum of July 30, 2007
Okay, fine. So I do encourage frolic and detour; but readers don't have to take up the challenge with such gusto, for Heaven's sake.
A few minor technical matters are on the agenda. First, if you have applied to be a Registered Commenter here at The Dark Wraith Forums but haven't heard back from me, it's because your e-mail server has blackholed my domain. Check your junk mail folder. My message to you is probably in there somewhere. In fact, I've sent some of you multiple messages through several different domain accounts, but I know for a fact you're not seeing them. Our old friend Weaseldog submitted the registration form over and over again, and he finally got downright fussy (in a mild-manner, most civil way) because I wasn't answering him. I finally had to post a comment on his own blog telling him he was registered.
Now, if you've submitted the registration form, but haven't heard from me and cannot find my reply in your junk mail folder, just try to log in under the username and password you put in the registration form. In most cases, I have verified the integrity of the submission from your application, so I went ahead and entered you as a member. Only twice have I caught apps that had a high Troll Probability ("TP"): TPs tend to use a combination of identity protection schemes that sets off red flags that get brighter as more of the elements are evident.
It seems like a balancing act for end users, doesn't it? Most privacy-minded people would prefer some level of protection from the prying eyes of this appallingly nosy government (at all of its snooping levels), but that means being cut off from certain pleasures of the online experience. Worse, while some Websites have legitimate reasons for blocking or diminishing access to those protecting their identity, other site masters do so because they want to force Web visitors to reveal private information for entirely inappropriate, commercial and other reasons.
Here's the deal. If you're trying to protect yourself from the government finding out what you're doing online, forget it. That's right: get that idea out of your mind right now. Unless you're extraordinarily tech-sophisticated and have heavy-duty hardware and software, you're not going to hide from the United States government if it wants to know what you're doing on the Internet. For one, simple thing, your ISP is going to roll on you; it's doing so on a regular, routine basis; it's not going to tell you–it's not going to even hint to you–that it's doing so; and there's not a thing you can do to stop it. Not a thing.
Now, as far as bloggers are concerned, I'm not going to even try anymore to explain what's going on because I'll end up sounding like a far-fetch conspiracy theorist, and I'll have to take a harsh swipe at FireFox and the abominable God of W3C, which will earn me even more grief.
Enough of the ranting.
Wait a minute. I didn't even get to the Bush Administration before I stopped ranting. I suppose there's plenty of time for that later. Then again, maybe not.
Just a few more technical matters. For one, I'll have to shut down the old message board as of 11:59 p.m. EDT on August 8, 2007; it's been completely overrun by spam and what look like hidden attempts (failed attempts, I should think) by bots to embed some undesirable stuff. Moreover, the bandwidth and server space that will be freed up affords me the room I need to open a video blog of my lectures, which I had to take down from YouTube because of a handful of Leftists who were getting ugly. I should also gain the server space to open a small shopping site, which will be completely separate from and independent of The Dark Wraith Forums. With any luck at all, the online store will be something other than one of my usual, get-bankrupt-quick schemes, but only time will tell. The way my entrepreneurial skills have going for the past six or seven years, I'll probably have yet another business flop on my hands no matter what it is I sell. (And, no, I won't sell naughty pictures, so knock it off there in the back row, fellas... although I had seriously, but briefly, entertained the idea of retailing non-phthalate marital assistance devices and other so-called "green" merchandise of that nature. Fortunately, my better judgment kicked in regarding criminal and civil liability risk exposures.)
Where the heck was I?
Oh, yes: this is the opus to the latest in our continuing series of Open Forum threads here at The Dark Wraith Forums. Say anything you like... within reason, of course. Remember, civility is a good thing. Even if you don't like President Bush, you should cabin your remarks in such a way that you clearly show your loyalty to both him and his Prime Minister, Dick Cheney. Furthermore (and I know all reasonable people will agree with me on this) disparaging remarks about the American-Iraqi War serves no purpose other than to give aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States, chief among them being al-Qa'ida in Iraq, al-Qa'ida in Mesopotamia, al-Qa'ida in Pakistan, al-Qa'ida in Iran, al-Qa'ida in Afghanistan, al-Qa'ida in America, al-Qa'ida in Yer Bedroom, al-Qa'ida in Yer Face, al-Qa'ida in the Refrigerator, al-Qa'ida in Yer Dreams, and al-Qa'ida Mentioned No Less Than 95 Times in One Speech by the Bonehead-in-Chief.
Other than that, say what you have to say. The night is young, the coffee is fresh, and we might send out for Chinese, later. Wor Su Pooch with a side of melamine and ethylene glycol sounds pretty tasty. Or maybe we'll just cook up some good old American hot dogs with chili sauce containing botulism so fierce that some of the cans on the shelf are actually exploding. Saves having to find a can opener.
For some reason, I'm losing my appetite.
Anyway, post your comments and party on, soldiers of cyberspace.
The Dark Wraith turns up the dance floor lights.
Courage by the Bottle
Yes, this fine picture would look good on the bedroom wall of any little boy or girl who aspires one day to reach for the Heavens, fearless of heart and three sheets to the wind.
The Dark Wraith does advise that people in airplanes give the space shuttles a wide berth.
History of the Future
The very idea that more than a tiny minority of generally rational citizens would contemplate a real chance of the suspension of elections is indicative of just how profoundly the Right-wing Republicans in their many guises have eroded confidence in the rule of law. Indeed, the very term "rule of law" is revealed as being insubstantial when the laws, themselves, have been reworked to cynically, and with greater and greater openness, favor the wealthy, the hateful, and the belligerent.
In comments on the cross-post at Pam's House Blend of my article, "Right-Wing Judge Dismisses Suit by Spy Exposed by Bush Administration," contributor Stephanie wrote as follows:
"Assuming an administration has no intentions of surrendering the office, what are the chances they would be successful? Would the general populace be accepting of such a situation? Even with an "external" provocation, would there be acceptance beyond the very short term?My response, edited and expanded, to that comment is intended to challenge those who oppose this Administration and see, as I and others now do, the gravity of the peril now facing the Republic.
"9/11 was very shocking to the American psyche: if 2001 had been an election year, would the suspension of elections have been accepted? No matter how horrible another attack would be, nothing is as shocking as the first time. After 7 years of a secure homeland and the growing cynicism about GWOT, would the shock of an another incident be enough for a majority to completely dispense with democracy?
Even if a majority was accepting, there would no doubt still be widespread active dissent; how would that dissent be controlled? And what about international political and economic sanctions that would no doubt be imposed by extremely concerned other democratic countries?
If this is their intent, I wonder if they have planned the aftermath any better than they did... after the "regime change" they engineered in Iraq? Or do they expect that Americans will greet the riot squads with flowers and candy?
With no intention whatsoever to respond in what might seem at first blush a cynical matter, the "People" as a body capable of dispensing collective will on the timely executors of the laws of the Republic are entirely irrelevant in this matter. This Presidentindeed, this entire Administration in its dizzying array of agencies, departments, and personnelhas already put on wanton display a raw, daring gauntlet for any who would pose to stop the progressive engine of repressive laws and radically antiquated judicial interpretation of the Constitution.
Over the course of the past nearly seven years, Mr. Bushor, more accurately, those who animate Right-wing will through the vessel he provideshas shaped an entirely facile federal judiciary, which is now creating a new body of law by separating statutory and common law into that which is useful to the agenda of the Right and that other which is irrelevant by judges' simple, casual refusal to recognize, much less enforce, it. Judge Bates, the jurist who swept aside the complaint by Valerie Plame, simply declared in utterly sweeping terms that his court is jurisdictionally forum non conveniens by the argumentive fiat of "separation of powers." Directly consequential is that Ms. Plame, wronged as she wasboth individually and as an agent of the United States Constitutionhas no right of redress. Should this determination be upheld at appellate, it will mean that the President and all of those who serve him are above the law.
Much more importantly, though, is this: because the decision of a court creates law, it establishes a rule of law containing an exemption from laws for the President and his agents. In other words, within the rule of law as it is now evolving in this country is immunity from prosecution for a class of individuals by virtue of their public station. At a longer time frame, as more Right-wing judges affirm this principle, it takes on a life of its own, providing clear ratio decidendi (underlying reason and principle) for other courts to rule similarly.
In street-level, practical terms, all the way from the U.S. Marshals Service to the offices of the United States Attorneys, federal law enforcement instrumentalities answer to the Executive Branch. Congress, and even judges ruling contrary to the mounting precedents, have no independent power to either physically or in his activities arrest a criminal President.
Mr. Bush is free to commit such acts as he deems necessary to protect himself, his position, and the office he holds; and when it comes right down to the licklog, no lawful power exists that can stop him. None.
In truth, this is not at all a matter of the President being "above the law": the federal judiciary is specifically constructing a new direction arguably, a new bodyof common law through recent decisions. Adding to this emergent body of common, the last several Congresses have enacted legislation (i.e., the Military Commissions Act and the Patriot Acts) providing statutory basis for extraordinary powers vested in the Executive Branch; and the President, himself, through such vehicles as signing statements and Executive Orders, has further set forth the foundation for the veil of legality for what Mr. Bush is now doing.
That, unfortunately, is the reality of the situation right now: George W. Bush may do whatever he wishes, and the Congress cannot stop him, the federal judiciaryemanating as it does from the United States Supreme Courtwill not stop him, and such law enforcement instrumentalities that could exercise an arrest warrant upon him cannot if he orders them not to do so because they would then be in breach of their duty to him. (And in this regard, duty to the Constitution is entirely vague, as it always has been, requiring the concession of those who are sworn to uphold it to act to that end without so much as a hint in statutory law that such a choice would not be punished by courts already demonstrating fealty to the Administration's positions and activities.)
That leaves two potential, countervailing forces: the armed forces and the common mob. While the former would have restive, potentially troublesome brigades that would chafe at the prospect of accepting orders to martial law, discipline would be restored in due time, and the authority of the commander-in-chief would prevail, hopes by some to the contrary notwithstanding.
As for the mob, even if it were to become significant in numbers, tactics, and will, historical examples are not particularly encouraging. To that point, I invite interested readers to review my article, "The Ancient Future," for an exemplary primer on the likely outcome of rebellion.
Now, does all of what I've written above mean hope is lost?
Certainly not; but I strongly encourage those deeply concerned about the near future of this Republic to consider, in their bleakest scenarios, the challenge I have set forth on previous occasions: Given all that you have found in this world for which to live, for what, if anything, are you willing to be vilified, beaten, imprisoned, and perhaps even killed?
Before anyone raises a hand or stabs a fist into the air, think carefully. Are you really, really ready to stop Krystalnacht? Can you contemplate being in a running gun battle through the alleys of the Warsaw Ghetto? Can you honestly say you could watch your own face pouring across television screens as a known, villainous enemy of the Soviet Republic? Could you hide on a hill and watch the men of a small village in Guatemala forced to dig their own graves and then get shot so they fall into them? Could you stand in a collapsing phalanx of unarmed protesters at Tiananmen Square getting machine gunned like so many cattle?
Would you be ready at some as-yet ill-defined point to stop the mealy-mouthed rhetoric about "working within the system" so you can get down with the idea of being an honest-to-God enemy of the State? (Who knows?you might already be a winner on that score just by virtue of what you're doing right this very minute on the Internet.)
Could youI mean reallyeven believe it if the horror show you claim is happening at the behest and hand of this Administration manifestly became the living, breathing, incontrovertibly visible Reality TV of the United States of America?
Wouldn't it be better just to watch some television, maybe catch a movie and have dinner with friends?
Wouldn't it be more fun to have a round of tee-hee-hee-aren't-we-naughty, joyless, empty sex and listen to some mind-dulling music thumping away your consciousness?
Wouldn't it be nicer to stay indoors and have Me-Time with a good book and some computer games?
Wouldn't it be the best thing to simply let it go?
The future story of a nation might very well one day hinge upon the honest answers millions upon millions of people whisper, then cry or roar, to questions like those.
Unfortunately, I already know the answers.
The Dark Wraith has spoken.
Prime Minister of the United States of America
"[The] memorandum signed by Gonzales... showed that the Office of the Vice President had been granted parallel privileges with the Executive Office of the President on communicating directly with the Justice Department's staff on criminal and civil matters.Because of the Attorney General's self-admitted, broad lack of recall, many day-to-day events might "trouble" him, but that 2006 memorandum should be considerably more than just bothersome to others.
"'What - on earth - business does the Office of the Vice President have in the internal workings of the Department of Justice with respect to criminal investigations, civil investigations, and ongoing matters?' the Senator asked.
Gonzales was stumped, 'As a general matter, I would say that's a good question.'
Whitehouse then pointed out that in the same memo, the Chief of Staff and Counsel of the Vice President were also explicitly granted the same authority.
"'On its face - I must say - sitting here, I'm troubled by this,' Gonzales added."
A recognition of "parallel" authority is a legal basisone emanating from the Department of Justice, itselffor Mr. Cheney's recent claim that privileges of the Office of the President are also held by the Office of the Vice President separately from the authority the latter derives from the former. Mr. Cheney's office had suggested that it need not comply with certain laws affecting the Office of the President because the Vice President serves legislative roles not available to the President, himself. His spokespeople later stopped using that argument in defending Cheney's refusal to comply with the regulation in question, but they did not repudiate it, nor did they even suggest that they had previously erred in advancing it.
Although roundly derided, ridiculed, and condemned for arguing that the Office of the Vice President is essentially a branch of government separate from the Executive Branch, the May 2006 memorandum signed by the Attorney General of the United States most decidedly establishes written evidence that the President, through a legally binding directive signed by his subordinate, the head of the Department of Justice, recognizes the Vice President, at least with respect to law enforcement matters, as his co-equal. Because this is contrary to statutory law, common law, and constitutional guidance regarding the status of the Vice President, at this point it stands as a de facto Executive directive establishing a new capacity—essentially, a new portfolio—for the Vice President.
In other words, Cheney was not incorrect in asserting that his Office had a privilege not extant within the boundaries of the Vice Presidency in its historical, traditional form.
If there exist similar written directives by other agents of the President recognizing co-equality of the Office of the Vice President with the Office of the President, the legal basis of Mr. Cheney’s claim further strengthens as a matter of administrative law; and it would be unlikely that a Congress could successfully challenge or otherwise prohibit this arrangement because a sitting President would immediately invoke a "separation of powers" argument with regard to an attempt by the Congress or the federal courts to defeat an organizational choice entirely within the Executive Branch, despite the fact that such structuring of authority had the practical effect of creating a branch separate from the Presidency, itself.
This is neither a moot nor theoretical matter: it is quite possible that a new structure of the Executive Branch has been created, one somewhat similar to what exists in some countries in Europe and other parts of the world, where Presidents (or monarchs) and Prime Ministers coexist, the former often times being weaker and more ceremonial, at least in day-to-day affairs of governance. In some such governmentsand, here, the details from country to country vary rather considerablythe Prime Minister carries a broad slate of authorities that are compactly devolved, either by the Prime Minister or by the President, as "portfolios" to ministerial offices, which may hold varying degrees of import and rank and in their collective authority serve as what is usually called a "Cabinet," in so doing separating the aggregation of their portfolios from the originating issuer of them, whether it was the President or the Prime Minister.
This model is frequently used by corporations wherein the by-laws establish a board-level office called "president," as well as other positions ("treasurer," "secretary," etc.), and then establish a separate, senior-level slate of managerial positions headed by a "chief executive officer," hired by and accountable to, yet still separate from, the board of directors. This structuring fulfills the corporate ideal of separating the shareholders (the owners of the corporation), as represented by the board of directors they elect, from the management of the corporation, carried out as it should be by the CEO and subordinates.
In American municipal governance, a variation on the general model has become quite popular in modern times, too. Many U.S. cities have a "mayor" with substantive and/or ceremonial duties, as well as a "city manager," who carries out day-to-day duties and who often is a key participant in strategic planning.
This seems to be the general structure, in all but nomenclature, of the relationship between Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush, but most observers had operated under the assumption that this was almost exclusively an informal arrangement based upon the intellectual and emotional dominance Mr. Cheney exercises over his putative superior. The May 2006 memorandum is clear indication that, although the power Mr. Cheney wields might very well have originated from a position of psychological power, it is now a matter of documentary administrative law; and despite what might be consternation on the part of some in Congress, this new sub-structure within the government of the United States will stand for the duration of this Administration.
And because it has proven successful to the President in his duty to administer the Executive Branch and, more recently, in his efforts to thwart the probative and investigatory efforts by the Congress, it might very well become the norm for subsequent holders of the Office of the President.
The Dark Wraith has thus offered an interpretation of the current state of the White House with which most American citizens will be uncomfortable and will, as a result, reject out of hand as being the reality of the situation.
In Honor of the New American Century
Bear in mind that expressions of deep discontent with the Bush Administration are unacceptable to the leader of the United States Senate Democrats: On Sunday, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) renewed his call for a vote of censure against the President, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) responded that the Senate has more pressing matters (presumably most of which involve the Democrats showing off their ability to get nothing done to which Mr. Bush doesn't give his blessing).
So, if a completely useless, unenforceable gesture that serves as nothing more than a slap on Mr. Bush's wrist is out of the question to the political party so aptly represented by a stupid animal sometimes mistaken for an ass, that means impeachment, trial, and conviction of the President and Vice President don't exist even as possibilities in this universe.
In other words, we're on our own against Mr. Bush, his self-made laws, and his unaccountable law enforcement apparatus.
The Dark Wraith therefore urges utmost caution by persons seeking to further destabilize what this Administration's lies, corruption, mendacity, and incompetence have already thoroughly and magnificently destabilized.
Right-Wing Judge Dismisses Suit by Spy Exposed by Bush Administration
The highly controversial judge has been a favorite of powerful Right-wing judges. Former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist appointed him to serve on the U.S. Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management, and current U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts last year appointed him as a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Judge Bates has demonstrated extraordinary willingness to allow the Bush Administration to act in secrecy and without repercussions. Among his previous controversial decisions, Bates ruled that Congress had no standing to sue Vice President Richard V. Cheney in the matter of Cheney's refusal to turn over the names of participants in a White House energy task force. For that and other decisions, Judge Bates has been strongly criticized for his transparent use of non-standard interpretation of the purpose and application of procedural law concerning standing of plaintiffs to advance a 'separation of powers' rationale for throwing out cases filed against the Bush Administration. In dismissing the lawsuit filed by Plame, he has once again used technical grounds to shield the White House and its personnel from facing consequences for their actions. The arc of these decisions is constructing a significant basis in common law for the so-called "unitary executive" doctrine by which a President of the United States is freed from oversight and punishment by Congress and the judiciary so that he or she may have wide, extra-legal latitude in decision-making and actions.
Judge Bates is listed as being on the "Judicial Faculty" of Pepperdine University, whose president is former Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, best known for spending tens of millions of dollars of public money at the behest of congressional Republicans trying to find grounds to impeach then-President Bill Clinton. Starr was ultimately able to get an indictment against Clinton because the President had lied to a grand jury about being fellated by an intern. Rendering further evidence of his deep connections to Right-wing legal activism in the United States, Judge Bates served as Deputy Independent Counsel during the Whitewater investigation, another attempt in the 1990s by Republicans to damage or prematurely end the Clinton Presidency.
With the growing body of his decisions from the bench to protect Bush Administration officials from civil punishment for wrong-doing that harmed the national security of the country, and after having previously made his mark on the legal landscape aiding fellow Republicans trying to wreck a Democratic President of the United States, Judge John Bates has now clearly found a President and White House staff worthy of being held above the law.
Update, July 20, 2007, 9:40 EDT: Attorneys for Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson have stated that they will appeal the dismissal of the case by Judge Bates.
Individual Campaign Contributions to Date by Party and Candidate
None of the graphs presented here include campaign contributions from sources other than individuals; but even at that, because money raised by a candidate and overall fundraising strength by his or her party are highly reliable predictors of election success, it is quite apparent that any of the leading Democratic Presidential candidates is in a commanding position to defeat whichever candidate eventually emerges from the lackluster Republican pack. In plain terms, the GOP candidate, regardless of who it is, will march into the general election next year with a purse full of coins to do media battle against a Democratic nominee who will be waiting with the bludgeon of a war chest full of gold.
While a number of interesting talking points can be drawn from the graphs, one curious if subtle feature is that individual contributions to Republican candidates are considerably more focused on the front-runners, while individual giving is slightly more evenly distributed to the Democrats. Although arguments could be offered exactly to the contrary, conventional wisdom holds that this may, if the trend persists, lead for the Republicans to two or three powerful candidates going deep into the primary season, possibly draining resources from one another in a protracted, high-profile fight that could theoretically spill even onto the floor of the GOP national convention next year.
On the other hand, the more even distribution of money among the Democrats could allow several candidates with no hope of winning to remain in the contest long enough to force their more powerful counterparts to face tough issues they might otherwise try to avoid. Nevertheless, the swollen coffers of both Clinton and Obama, along with the persistence and still respectable fundraising ability of Edwards, ensure that the Democratic Presidential nomination will not be a slam-dunk for Clinton or for Obama.
All of the above having been noted as rough and summary analysis, the graphics do speak volumes on their own. Readers are encouraged to make their own assessments of the implications for a race to the White House that is already looking more and more more like a slaughter waiting to happen rather than a Presidential election waiting to be held.
The Dark Wraith finds no small irony in how Republican President George W. Bush has turned his party and its still-groveling politicians from what was once an unstoppable fundraising machine into the party bankrupt not just of ideas, but also of the money it used to raise to hide that embarrassing truth.
Exit as Stage Prop
The all-nighter is a public relations stunt by the Democrats stung by growing voter dissatisfaction with their inabilityor, less charitably, unwillingnessto change the course of the nation in either its international affairs or its domestic trajectory. The Tuesday all-nighter is a golden, well-staged, carefully planned setup to force Republicans into a show so constituents can see that something is being done, and that something is being done by the hard-working opposition party as it tries just about anything to get past the virtually impenetrable obstacle of an obstinate President and his loyal allies.
Here's the reality: this spectacle, produced by Sen. Harry Reid and his merry band of followers, will materially change nothing whatsoever, either about the course of the American-Iraqi War or about how the Democrats in Congress and the Bush Administration are going to get their respective wishes granted, all while Iraq, itself, continues to disintegrate, taking a good chunk of the Middle East around it into the maelstrom of political instability, sectarian mini-wars, massive refugee movements, homegrown and imported violence, and finallyfor the home team's consumptiona direct military confrontation between the United States and Iran that at least some powerful Democrats, as well as Republicans, already know is virtually inevitable.
Oh, yes, American soldiers will be continuing to die in our favorite, home-away-from-home, God-forsaken Mesopotamian Hell-hole while the political theater currently running in the Capitol Building plays itself out for the C-Span crowd and the Sunday talking heads circuit.
More solemnly than even that, American soldiers (and a whole lot more Iraqis) will still be dying next week, next month, and for the foreseeable future. The Democrats cannot stop this. All they can do is make sure the show they're putting on gets better, lest people start looking for the real exit from the theater instead of the phony prop the Democrats use for their grand and repeated entries to the stage of battle with a President who is more than their match.
Is the above an unduly, unfairly harsh assessment? Count the bodies of dead American soldiers between now and the end of the year; then ask, "How many fewer would there have been if the Democrats had begun impeachment proceedings against George W. Bush and Richard V. Cheney on Tuesday, July 17, 2007?"
Of course, one might argue that timing is everything in politics.
To the next dead American soldier, though, timing means nothing.
The Dark Wraith has spoken.
Ripping CNN.com a New One in 500 Characters
Protesting the unfairness of Mr. Moore's detailed criticism, the CNN.com defensiveness has this declaration in the preamble to its supposedly point-by-point ramble: "We have zero vested interest in shading the numbers to tell a certain story," a claim rather amazing on its face, given the corporation's complete dependence on advertising dollars from other corporations that know how to use the power of that money to shape news, and given CNN's long-standing dependence upon the Bush Administration's discriminating willingness to grant or deny access to the halls of administrative power in Washington.
But the kicker comes in the sixth paragraph, where we learn, "CNN has always prided itself on balanced reporting of claims made by special-interest groups."
At the bottom of the article, CNN.com offered a feedback link, which takes the reader to a screen where, along with survey-type features, a person can write a comment, restricted to no more than 500 characters; that is apparently, in the judgment of CNN.com, sufficient latitude for anyone to have a well-formed, substantive say.
I used my 500 characters to the end of getting a few broad points across, and I herewith share with the public that which I just finished roaring at CNN.com:
While I am not a fan of Michael Moore when he holds Cuba up as a positive socio-political model for anything, I am just amazed by the disingenuousness in your claim that, "CNN has always prided itself on balanced reporting of claims made by special-interest groups."
The very use of the term 'special interest groups' serves no purpose other than to degrade and demean those who have strongly opposed the Bush Administration in its systematic prevarications that led to the American-Iraqi War, a war for which CNN served as nothing other than a propaganda outlet for the neo-conservatives, as Michael Moore pointed out in blistering terms to Wolf Blitzer last week.
And by the way, were those 'special interest groups' that pointed out how CNN.com was publishing photos handily provided by the Department of Defense of North Korean 'nuclear facilities' that were the same photographs DoD had also claimed were Iranian nuclear facilities?
Perhaps I am a 'special interest group'; but you are just shills.
The Dark Wraith has thus spoken not Truth to Power, but instead, Hell-Fire and Damnation to Propagandists.
Special Blog Poll: Impeachment Scenarios
The Economics of Wreckage, Part Two
Sustained, robust economic growth is a key goal of modern policymakers both in Washington and in state capitols. Recent articles have highlighted, somewhat to the consternation of President Bush's critics, what has apparently been surprisingly strong growth during much of his Presidency. Right-wing explanations master George Will, writing in a June 10, 2007, op-ed piece for the Washington Post, crowed about "65 months... of uninterrupted growth," among other breath-taking economic performance numbers. Over a much longer term than Mr. Will described, given his interest in focusing attention on his favored politician, the real (that is, inflation-adjusted) economy of the United States has grown with barely a pause, as can be seen in the simple graphic below, drawn from real GDP data provided by the St. Louis Federal Reserve.
But that remarkable run of sustained economic expansion strikes many as profoundly contrary to the course their own economic circumstances have taken over the past several decades. Writing at Debswebwith a cross-post of her article at Big Brass Blogblogger Debra tore into Mr. Will:
Oh George, please stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes. In the eighties I made more money than I do now and I had benefits. In the nineties I made minimum wage while studying for my Masters and was able to live on it. Not very well but I could survive and still go to the movies. Now I have said Masters and make more than minimum wage but I can't pay all my bills and I certainly can't attend the movies because the price of the ticket is ridiculously high. I can honestly say that the only thing that has increased in the last 25 years is my level of debt and my inability to pay it off. It isn't that I'm still paying for a meal that I ate in 1989, I'm paying for the schooling that was supposed to improve my ability to earn money but is instead an anchor pulling me to the bottom of the debt sea.Indeed, Debra hit squarely on one of several curious features of the economic wonder of the past two-and-a-half decades: while the economy has grown with only modest and rare recessionary downturns, the living standards of millions and millions of American households have eroded, and they have done so noticeably, certainly to the occupants of those households, who know very well that they were living better earlier in their lives, and they were doing so without incurring a mounting pile of debt.
The graphic below, drawn from Household Debt Service and Financial Obligations Ratios data provided by the Federal Reserve Board, shows the legacy of rising monthly total debt service obligation under which Americans have been laboring in the modern era.
The sense among so many of losing economic ground is given quantitative evidence in the graphic below, derived from average annual hourly earnings data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and consumer price indices offered by the Minnesota Federal Reserve. It shows that, while "nominal" hourly wagesthe wages workers see, with no correction for inflationhave risen steadily for a very long time, real wages (wages corrected for the purchasing power erosion of inflation) have been pretty much stagnant.
The two visual depictions above, taken together, go a long way toward explaining the feeling among many Americans that their shared economic situation has been deteriorating: purchasing power has gone nowhere, but the percentage of that stagnant purchasing power committed to paying fixed bills every month has gone up and up.
The graphic below depicts more strikingly, if a bit more complexly, the difference in changes in real and nominal wages that have been going on. It shows not the levels of real and nominal wages, but how those real and nominal wages have changed as percentages from one year to the next over the past several decades.
Note in particular in the graphic above how the year-to-year percentage changes in real average hourly wages have pretty much canceled each other out over a long period of time, meandering with a seeming aimlessness around the zero-percent axis.
How could it be that the labor force propelling an economy to ever-greater real value would not share in that expanding pool of value? Is this evidence of the Marxist description of the controllers of capital systematically expropriating the fruits of labor from those who render it; or is it perhaps some late-20th Century plot whereby the government has participated in an alliance with the wealthy to ensure a more and more unequal distribution of income to the end of destroying the ability of average citizens to live their lives independent of some over-arching government entity providing all their needs for them?
Such possibilities must be left to those more attuned to the nuances of conspiracy theories and all the many forms and supposed proofs thereof. Practically speaking, the explanation is somewhat simpler, although perhaps no less troubling; but a few background terms and concepts must first be set forth.
"Factors of production" are the things needed to turn raw materials into final products. At least for pedagogic purposes, there are five: land, labor, human capital, physical capital, and entrepreneurial skill.
Land is the physical platform on which production occurs. Although extraordinary counter-examples might exist, virtually all production needs at least some land. It could be a lot, as in acres and acres on which are located horizontal assembly line factories; or it could be just enough on which to put a computer and a Webmaster to publish a backwater blog about economics.
Labor is brute human force, the kind of animal energy that simply moves physical objects. Often, the word "labor" is used broadly to encompass another factor listed above, human capital; but technically speaking, the two are different.
Human capital is the transformed, refined, developed, educated result of labor resulting from its natural (and, to some extent, entirely unconscious) tendency for improvement. Labor is always on the move to becoming human capital, whether it be through on-the-job learning, through personal trial-and-error development, or through education in school. Certainly, however, in most expositions the word "labor" includes the improved production factor technically defined as "human capital," and there's nothing wrong with that blurring of the distinction unless it becomes an unintended veil that hides an erosion of compensation to workers when their productivity is improving through their transformation of labor skills into human capital skills.
Physical capital is buildings, equipment, machinery, computers, telecommunications equipment, and all the other inanimate objects that are used in production.
Entrepreneurial skill is the factor of production characteristic of market economies or sub-economies. It is the factor of production that willingly (or perhaps unknowingly) bears risk for an expected reward by bringing together the other factors of production and combining them in such a way that some output is created.
So much for the factors of production. The next set of principles and definitions has to do with the paper used as a store of value, a medium of exchange, and a unit of account, as those features were set forth in Part 1 of "A Brief Story of Money" published here at The Dark Wraith Forums.
With respect to the matter of inflation and money, a rock-solid principle of economics is that inflation will necessarily result when the growth rate of the money supply exceeds the real growth rate of the economy. Inflation is not "caused" by money-grubbing merchants "jacking up their prices"; inflation is not caused by soul-depleted capitalists extracting larger and larger profits at the expense of consumers and workers; inflation is not caused by greedy unions demanding and then getting huge wage increases; and inflation is not caused by raising the minimum wage.
Not one of those things can cause inflation, which is defined as an increase in the aggregate (the "overall") price level. Any sector of the economy that tries to extract higher prices, be they for final goods or as rewards to one productive factor or another, can do so only to the pricing detriment of some other sector, unless too much money has been put into the system thereby allowing one sector to draw higher prices without others having to reduce their prices.
It is just about as simple as that. It might look very much like a price or wage increase has "caused" inflation, but that's only because the increase allowed the already over-printed money to express its presence through the aggregate price level. The rule, then, is straight-forward: when the growth rate of the money supply exceeds the real (physical) growth rate of the economy, in the long run, inflation will result. Part 2 of the series, "A Brief Story of Money" explained exactly how over-printing of money becomes inflation and provided a simple formula called the "equation of exchange" that mathematically captures the relationship among the critical factors, which are the size of the standing money supply, its velocity (how many times the money supply "turns over" per period in an economy), the aggregate price level, and the real output level of an economy.
Having stated the long-run consequence of over-printing money, it is crucial to point out that, in the short run, a money growth "overhang" can cause a punch of real economic stimulus, as was demonstrated in the aforementioned second part of "A Brief Story of Money." One necessary condition for this surge in real output to occur is that at least one factor of productionand it has to be a major factorhas to be incapable of capturing its share of the inflationary price spiral being caused by the money overhang. Such a factor unable to move its reward upward would be forced to create more real output to earn enough to pay the higher prices of everything else.
Guess what factor of production has historically borne this burden.
That's right: labor. As long as the growth of wages and salaries lags behind the inflation rate for everything else, workers have to work harder (more hours and at greater and greater productivity) to be able to maintain their established consumption patterns.
A persistent myth among the more well-informed students of economics has to do with the role of so-called "neo-Keynesian" economists of the last half of the 20th Century. John Maynard Keynes, the magnificent architect of the economics that inspired Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, knew very well that wages were "sticky." This is a persistent phenomenon because of the nature of labor retention by the businesses that hire workers. No worker's wage is adjusted on a day-by-day basis, and virtually no worker can instantly shift employment to capture a better wage if his or her present employer refuses to adjust wages to prevailing price conditions and labor demand. In plain terms, workers are stuck, at least in the short term, in the jobs they're in; as such, they are stuck with the pay they've already negotiated until such time as they can either renegotiate through a normal contract renewal or through expending time and money in search of a better compensation package, if one even exists.
Neo-Keynesians, among the most notable of them such luminaries as John Kenneth Galbraith, envisioned a partnership of government and industry (perhaps what Eisenhower warned about as the infamous "military-industrial complex") that could keep a huge economy like that of the United States growing at an aggressive rate through fiscal policy intervention that might of necessity have periodic shots of overproduction of money. Notwithstanding Dr. Galbraith's claim that large unions would provide one aspect of a countervailing force against industrial economic and political power, this model simply cannot use over-production of money in its inventory of macroeconomic stimulators if unions were persistently powerful enough to keep wages rising in lock-step with other prices. Powerful, effective unions (in particular, the industrial ones) pose a show-stopping threat to the success of monetary economic stimulus because they have the potential to force wages to move at nearly the same growth rate, in nearly the same time frame as other prices (both final and factor), thereby absorbing for labor a "fair share" of the excess money being printed. Such a situation would wreck the way the over-printing of money could lead to actual, real growth of the economy, since it is only if wages and salaries are "sticky" that labor is forced to work more and harder to handle the price shocks pushing everything people buy upward.
The graphic below shows the nominal effect in terms of year-over-year percentage changes in the nominal average hourly wage rate and the associated percentage changes in real GDP.
Upon careful inspection, the key feature reveals itself: nominal wage changes slide during the booms in real economic expansion, and then those nominal wage changes begin to capture better increases just in time for the Federal Reserve to clamp down on the money supply, throwing the economy into a downturn with layoffs and unemployment, thereby suppressing the nascent upsurge in nominal wages. In other words, when the American economy is in a growth phase, that's the most likely time the wages people are getting (their nominal, or "apparent" wages) are unable to capture their share of the growth. It's only when the booms are petering out that wages begin to get "unstuck," and by then, purchasing power erosion has already permanently corroded real living standards, thus pushing upon the workers in their consumption mode the incentive to draw higher debt loads to compensate.
Neo-Keynesians are not now, nor have they ever been, fools: they know very well, as do others, that Keynesian-style government intervention would have no real effect were the vast majority of well-paid workers to keep wages moving in rigid lock-step with other prices.
The same goes for the politics of the minimum wage, which cannot be raised very frequently, and certainly not one-for-one with true inflation, if over-production of money is to cause real economic growth. Minimum wage workers, like their better-paid union and middle-class white-collar brethren, must face an aggregate (overall) price level that is going up faster than their wages are, since "losing ground to inflation" will force them to work more hours and induce them to increase productivity in an effort to move to a higher wage bracket.
Were the minimum wage to rise in lock-stepsay, month by month or even quarter by quarterwith the government-published consumer price index, the lowest-paid workers in this country would not have to work more hours and with greater productivity as other prices were rising because of the over-printing of money. Timely indexing of the minimum wage would defeat the whole purpose of government macroeconomic intervention, which in its correct design is to the purpose of generating real economic growth.
It is one of the great and continuing follies of business shills to claim that raising the minimum wage is "inflationary." In fact, the only thing that can cause inflation is printing money at a rate in excess of the real growth rate of the economy; all that happens if the minimum wage is raised is that the previous over-printing of greenbacks gets expressed fully throughout the matrix of productive factors instead of being restricted to only those under the direct control, and to the direct benefit, of business interests and the wealthy who can impose willful price rises through market power. This same rule applies to union wages, too: no inflation that was not already pending in the economy arises because of a new bargaining agreement that gives members a wage increase somewhere near the rate of inflation. In fact, no inflation not already seething below the surface would be "created" even if there were some extra compensation, because that component could very well be nothing more than a proactive payment for the expectation that prices will rise faster because wages are about to reflect labor's share of excessive growth of the money supply.
To claim that raising the statutory minimum or any other wage is "inflationary" is getting cause and effect exactly reversed. The inflation is already there; and to the extent that labor does not or cannot capture its share of the erosion of purchasing power with better pay, the economy experiences less inflation, but that's only because it is wages and salaries not moving upward quickly enough that keeps inflation from rising at the rate it otherwise would, given the rate at which money is being printed excessively.
As it is, wages and salaries really have been successfully and systematically suppressed over a long period of time, at least on average. This is arguably the principal reason the U.S. economy has grown so robustly in the post-World War II era.
The final graph, below, of this article shows the year-over-year percentage change in real GDP and real average hourly wages. It is remarkable for several reasons, one long-term, and one quite recent.
Note first in the graphic above how, over the course of the past two decades or so, changes in real average hourly wages have moved in general synchrony with changes in real GDP; but almost always, the wage movements came after the associated GDP movements. The changes in real wages are, in effect, an echo of the changes in real GDP. That's the "unsticking" of the wages, as labor finally gets a piece of the action after at least some of the other factors of production have gotten their respective shares. Notice also in this same regard that the percentage changes in real wages go more deeply into negative territory (that means actual losses in real purchasing power) and never go more positive than the correlated real GDP rise on the upsides. That's why the economy can grow in real terms, yet leave people feeling further and further behind, relatively speaking.
And finally, in the graph above there is a short-term phenomenon that should be noted. It happened in the last half-decade or so. The relationship between the two lines is starkly different from what it was before. Notice how the echo of real wages from real GDP is completely gone. In fact, if anything, real wages have become an inverse echo of real GDP during the presidency of George W. Bush!
But the President and his Republican allies in Congress have certainly been nothing if not hard-core neo-Keynesians. Wildly large federal deficits year over year to spend on massive wars and other gargantuan pork; huge tax cuts; and a Federal Reserve Board that, by its own admission, was "accommodative" until mid-2004 and perhaps remained so long after claiming to rein in its overproduction of money. Those are purely Keynesian and neo-Keynesian macroeconomic policy prescriptions for government intervention to make an economy grow.
So what happened to the neo-Keynesian real wage echo effect? It's gone; or, at the very least, it's occurring far later than it had in the past. Either way, the corrosive effect that was always part of the lag between real economic growth and wages has become stronger because that lag has become longer. Why the echo has become either inverted or more perilously delayed will be explained in a subsequent installment of this series.
The Dark Wraith will now allow some time for readers to absorb what has just been presented.
"...liberal elite," my BACKside.
The Dark Wraith will have to think for a while about the implications.
Sixth Circuit Court Orders Dismissal of Domestic Spying Lawsuit against NSA
Writing for the majority, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Alice Batchelder, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, stated, "The plaintiffs have no evidence... that the NSA has actually intercepted (or will actually intercept) any of their conversations." While remaining curiously silent on the fact that, because the spying program was secret, the records of who was targeted cannot be accessed by those who suspect that they were subjected to judicially unsanctioned surveillance, Bachelder sharply criticized District Judge Diggs' original ruling from the facts, and even at one point scorned the plaintiff group, itself, by using the term "thinly veiled ruse" to describe a claim by the ACLU that the warrantless spying by the Bush Administration was an infringement on the right of free speech enshrined in the First Amendment.
Bachelder was joined, but on far narrower grounds, by U.S. Circuit Court Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, appointed by the current President, George W. Bush.
Writing in dissent, U.S. Circuit Judge Ronald Lee Gilman cited multiple court precedents in which plaintiffs were found to have standing despite defects in capacity to show personal effect of the alleged acts against them.
Although the ACLU could file a petition for grant of writ of certiorari, thus seeking release from the Circuit Court for appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, it is unlikely that the high court would hear the case solely on its own merits since the Bush Administration claims its warrantless domestic spying program is not in operation at the present time. However, more than three dozen other cases have been brought together before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. If that decision is contrary to the one just issued by the Sixth Circuit Court, the existence of conflicting precedents might compel review by the Supreme Court in order to set uniform, mandatory precedent for the entire country.
Commutation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's Sentence: Republican Presidential Candidates' Reactions
U.S. Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS)
"[Libby was convicted] on a crime that didn’t exist."
Rudolph Guiliani, former Republican Mayor of New York City
"After evaluating the facts, the president came to a reasonable decision and I believe the decision was correct."
Mike Huckabee, former Republican Governor of Arkansas
"The President acted compassionately towards Mr. Libby, his wife, and children, while showing respect for the judicial process."
U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
No official statement as of the date of publication of this article. Previously said, "He's going through an appeal process. We've got to see what happens here."
U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R-TX)
No official statement as of the date of publication of this article. Previously said, "[Libby] was instrumental in the misinformation that led the Congress and the people to support a war that we didn't need to be in."
Mitt Romney, former Republican Governor of Massachussetts
"[U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald] went after somebody even when he knew no crime had been committed... Given that fact, isn't it reasonable for a commutation of a portion of the sentence to be made?"
U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO)
No direct, official statement as of the date of publication of this article, but has previously conflated the Libby matter with broadbased conservative interest in a pardon for two convicted Border Agents: "I hope the president will consider providing the same relief to these [Border Agents convicted of felonies and sentenced to more than 10 years] and their families that he did yesterday to Mr. Libby."
Fred Thompson, former U.S. Senator (R-TN) and star of "Law and Order"
"While for a long time I have urged a pardon for Scooter, I respect the president's decision. This will allow a good American, who has done a lot for his country, to resume his life."
Tommy Thompson, former Republican Governor of Wisconsin
No official statement. Previously said, "Bill Clinton committed perjury at a grand jury, lost his law license. Scooter Libby got 30 months. To me, [Libby's sentence] is not fair at all."
Further statements clarifying position may be forthcoming as candidates more fully assess public reaction to the commutation by President Bush of the prison sentence of Mr. Libby.