Bush’s Moon/Mars Plan is Dead

It’s been a while now since Obama’s NASA budget came out, but it’s pretty clear that manned spaceflight has been put on the back burner. This means that Bush’s Moon/Mars plan is probably dead.

Of course, I said that a long time ago, here and here.

Headline in 2030: “Republicans Killed the Planet!”

Kevin Drum is writing about the frightening ways in which recent climate change research shows that things are going bad much more quickly than our most pessimistic models forecast:

It would be nice to think that perhaps our current climate models are too pessimistic; or even that they’re right but maybe we’ll end up at the low end of the predicted warming ranges; or at worst that the models are right and we’ll end up right at the center. But that just doesn’t seem to be the case. What it really looks like is that our current models aren’t pessimistic enough and that the growth in greenhouse gas emissions is exceeding even the modelers’ highest estimates. We are fast approaching a point of no return that will likely kill hundreds of millions of people, destroy much of the world’s food supply, and spark resource wars that make Rwanda look like a mild family quarrel.

I read this and immediately wondered what difference it might have made if we as a nation had gotten serious about climate change in, oh, I dunno, about 2001 or so, within the first year of President Gore’s first term. What if we had a chance back then to turn things around, an opportunity that is now long gone because of five moronic judges, members of what was, until Bush vs. Gore, the most respected institution in our US governmental system?

Will we someday look back and declare that Republican partisanship killed the planet?

Obama Deploys the Shiv When He Needs To

Details of the summit at the White House on Thursday with Bush, McCain, Obama and Senate and House leaders continue to trickle out. For me, a key point from the Washington Post’s illuminating article on the topic is this:

Pelosi said Obama would speak for the Democrats. Though later he would pepper Paulson with questions, according to a Republican in the room, his initial point was brief: “We’ve got to get something done.”

Bush turned to McCain, who joked, “The longer I am around here, the more I respect seniority.” McCain then turned to Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to speak first.

Boehner was blunt. The plan Paulson laid out would not win the support of the vast majority of House Republicans. It had been improved on the edges, with an oversight board and caps on the compensation of participating executives. But it had to be changed at the core. He did not mention the insurance alternative, but Democrats did. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, pressed Boehner hard, asking him if he really intended to scrap the deal and start again.

No, Boehner replied, he just wanted his members to have a voice. Obama then jumped in to turn the question on his rival: “What do you think of the [insurance] plan, John?” he asked repeatedly. McCain did not answer.

One Republican in the room said it was clear that the Democrats came into the meeting with a “game plan” aimed at forcing McCain to choose between the administration and House Republicans. “They had taken McCain’s request for a meeting and trumped it,” said this source.

This sounds to me as though Obama is a political genius, either because he was well-advised by Pelosi and Reid, or because he knew the right thing to do, but either way, he stuck to McCain and showed him up. That’s impolite, but it’s hard-ball politics, and I’m glad to see that behind closed doors, Obama is not averse to being impolite.

And there was no way he believed it wouldn’t get out, so he’s also sending a message to potential political opponents: you’re not dealing with a timid novice here, but with someone who knows how to capitalize on a political opportunity to skewer his political opponents.

Kudos to Obama!

The Bush Document Dump

So far as I understand it, the White House is giving reporters access to the documents from Bush’s military records but not letting them have copies. According to the LA Times today, the White House is showing reporters copies of medical records while distributing copies of other (presumably less sensitive) documents. Unfortunately, I cannot trust the LA Times, based on the way they reported Thursday this week about how Bush listed his arrest record in his Guard application.

The part that concerns me reported is in an LA Times article from Feb. 13th. It says (call this item 1):

On the form, Bush was asked: “Have you ever been arrested, indicted or convicted for any violation of civil or military law including minor traffic violations? (If YES, explain stating nature of offense, date, name and place of the court and disposition of the case.)”

And then the article goes on to list various infractions:

According to McClellan’s unaltered copy, Bush responded: “Misdemeanor, New Haven, Connecticut, December 1966, charge dismissed.

“Two speeding tickets, July ‘64 and August ‘64, $10 fine, Houston traffic court.

“Two collisions, July ‘62 and August ‘62, $25 fine, Houston traffic court.”

Now, that all seems just fine and dandy.

Except Kevin Drum points to the full graphic of the redacted document (cited in a blog entry of his from Feb. 13th), and that document says at the bottom quite clearly in the non-redacted section (call this item 2):

Have you ever been detained, held, arrested, indicted or summoned into court as a defendant in a criminal proceeding, or convicted, fined or imprisoned or placed on probation, or have you ever been ordered to deposit bail or collateral for the violation of any law, police regulation or ordinance (excluding minor traffic violations for which a fine or forfeiture of $25 or less was imposed [Italics in original])? Include all court martials while in military service [blacked out] If “YES” list the date, the nature of the offense of violation, the name and location of the court or place of hearing, and the penalty imposted or other disposition of each case.

Item 1, in the LA Times, says “including minor traffic violations” while Item 2, in the actual document the newspaper is presumably reporting about, says “exluding minor traffic violations for which a fine or forfeiture of $25 or less was imposed.”

That’s a direct contradiction between the LA Times report and the actual wording on the document.

Of more concern, though, is that if the instructions say to exclude minor traffic violations, why would Bush have included two such violations that did not exceed the $25 fine listed in the instructions?

How can we trust that the LA Times is correctly reporting what is on the original document when they reverse the meaning of the one part of the document that we are able to confirm?

And given that two of the three items reported to be on the document should never have been included, according to the instructions on the document, how can we trust that what the LA Times reports about the document is correct, and not just as innacurate as its characterization of what was included/excluded?

OK, that’s step 1. Step 2 is:

Given that it’s demonstrably the case that the press is able to look at these documents and then write articles that report precisely the opposite of what those documents say (“include” vs. “exclude”), how can we trust that reporters who see this new batch of documents in the White House are going to correctly report what’s in those documents?

ABC News has already concluded that there’s nothing there, as Terry Moran on ABC Nightly News on Thursday and Friday cast the dental exam and the payroll records as proof of Bush’s service in Alabama (treating “Bush was proven to be in Alabama during the period” and “Bush was on base in Alabama during the period” as though it means “Bush served his duty in Alabama during the period”).

I don’t trust the media to report accurately on these documents.

Therefore, all the documents need to be released to the public, not just to the White House press corp, or we haven’t gained anything at all in terms of completeness.

Last of all, how can we know that the documents released through the White House are all the documents in the files? Doesn’t the full disclosure Bush promised in the Russert interview require that Bush authorize free access to the documents directly, rather than as provided by the White House? How else could the public ever know that all the records have been made available?

The Power of the Media

Salon’s War Room has a listing today that refers to a Philadelphia Inquirer article on the subject of Bush’s “falling stature as commander-in-chief,” and the degree to which voters have shifted to the point where they even trust the lackluster John Kerry more than Bush (marginally, at least) on handling national security.

I can’t help but think “what took you so long?” for one, but then I ask “what has caused the change?” And I can only conclude that the public has shifted away from Bush only when the media has begun concentrating attention on opponents of Bush, as exemplified by the candidates in the Democratic nomination race.

But it’s not like there has been much of anything new raised by the candidates covered in the campaign coverage, to be honest. It’s just that the message of Bush’s failure as president is getting out to the public because the media is now reporting on positions other than just those the Bush administration approves, that is, the positions of people who believe the Bush administration to be an ongoing catastrophe for our country.

In the recent past, an opposition point of view was nowhere to be found in the major media outlets, but now, just because the national media are covering the Democratic candidates, the opposition message is getting play on nearly every newscast. And, shock of shocks, public opinion on Bush has shifted drastically away from the heights it climbed to after the capture of Saddam in December.

It takes so little, it seems to me, to make a huge difference, even in the face of hugely positive events for the administration. And it all comes down to the judgment of the news media about what is worthy of coverage and what is not.

For me, this is a terribly sobering thought, as such easy gains are far too easy to lose.

But more sobering still is the thought that this irresponsible pack of incompetent journalists who populate our national media have so much power to shape the course of public opinion.

Special Interests, Kerry, Dean and Bush

WNYC radio’s morning talk show, hosted by the superb Brian Lehrer, had as a guest today the author of the book, “The Buying of the President 2004″, Charles Lewis. The book examines the money behind all the Presidential campaigns through the first half of 2003. There’s an update to those figures on PublicIntegrity.org’s website that gives the figures through the end of the 3rd quarter. I did a bit of analysis of the numbers for the top 10 contributors as a percentage of total donations, and using data from OpenSecrets.org for examining PAC contributions as a percentage of total contributions. The results of both comparisons are found here in this little chart:

  PublicIntegrity.org OpenSecrets.org
  Total Raised Top 10 Total % Jan. 31st Total PAC $ PAC %
Bush/Cheney 85,211,717 4,556,870 5.35% 131,774,275 2,071,704 1.57%
Kerry 20,043,633 1,385,707 6.91% 28,209,341 73,784 0.26%
Edwards 14,512,399 2,852,175 19.65% 14,453,092 0 0.00%
Gephardt 13,666,916 2,359,080 17.26% 16,607,735 414,451 2.50%
Dean 25,385,268 235,575 0.93% 41,264,772 22,965 0.06%
Lieberman 11,779,354 762,396 6.47% 13,823,407 211,070 1.53%
Kucinich 3,401,710 408,384 12.01% 6,227,898 16,000 0.26%
Braun 341,669 351,364 102.84% 492,284 30,273 6.15%
Sharpton 283,714 141,900 50.02% 433,142 3,200 0.74%
Clark 3,491,108 45,700 1.31% 13,699,256 37,700 0.28%
TOTALS: 178,117,488 13,099,151 7.35% 266,985,202 2,881,147 1.08%
MEAN: 6,407,278 609,718 9.52% 9,923,329 10,602 0.11%

In regard to special interest money, there is simply no comparison between Kerry and Dean. Dean really does have an argument here, in that his top 10 donors are an order of magnitude smaller in comparison to Kerry. Of course, it’s not really fair to compare the small candidates who haven’t raised much, and Clark’s numbers don’t really mean anything as he hadn’t actually started his campaign during the period covered there.

But between Kerry and Dean, there’s a pretty clear difference.

And between Kerry and Bush, there’s no difference.

That is the point Dean has been making, and it’s a good one.

The right-hand part of the table, from OpenSecrets.org, shows PAC money related to the whole. Overall, in all cases, these are relatively small percentages, but this is because the numbers for individual contributions are not directly comparable. PACs can’t donate more than $5K. Corporations can’t, either. How, then were the previous numbers arrived at? Well, what the PublicIntegrity.org survey does is look at the employers of individual donors, because most companies coordinate donations by their employees to particular candidates. This is how the numbers for the top 10 donors could be so much higher than the numbers for the PACs, because those top 10 numbers represent aggregation of multiple donations from individuals who work for those organizations.

So, it’s important to realize that the numbers for individual contributions, while in the high 90th percentile of the total, actually can hide large contributions from organizations.

Notice that the PAC numbers for Bush/Cheney are only a bit less than 1/3 of the percentage of contributions from the top 10 contributors. That means that PAC money is still a significant amount.

And the story for Dean is still that he is an order of magnitude below Kerry (though Kerry is also an order of magnitude lower than Bush/Cheney). Interestingly, Edwards has reported receiving no PAC money at all (according to his website, he does not accept money from either lobbyists of PACs), but he’s also the viable candidate with the highest percentage of his total contributions coming from his top 10 donors.

The point is that there really are significant differences here, seen within the political system these candidates are working within. One can complain about the political system itself, but I don’t know that it’s fair to condemn all of them for the rules imposed upon them. Given that it’s quite clear that there’s a wide range of approaches to raising money within that political system, the fact that everyone accepts money from so-called special interests does not mean that the special interests control the actions of the candidates to the same degree.

Indeed, there are clearly very large differences between the candidates in exactly how beholden they are to organizations that donate large amounts of money.

And that was Howard Dean’s point about Kerry — he’s vulnerable to charges of the same kind of corruption by money that we see in the Bush administration.

Dean is Angry Even When He’s Smiling!

ABC’s The Note is about the only media outlet I’ve seen that seems to get that Dean’s shouting on Monday night was done with a huge grin, with excitement, with joy. It occurs to me that if Dean had been a surprise 3rd-place finisher (i.e., he’d been trailing Kerry, Edwards and Gephardt in the polls), this would have been seen as a hugely positive speech.

While I question the wisdom of Dean’s choosing to speak in this fashion to a national audience, if you put it in that different context, the whole myth of “Dean’s anger” shows up as the threadbare, braindead media trope that it truly is. The media should be ashamed — they’ve killed the candidate who is responsible for changing the terms of the debate for all the candidates. If the Democratic nominee wins in November, even if it’s not Dean, it will be Dean who is responsible for having turned all the mainstream candidates from fearful, afraid-of-Bush campaigns into fired-up organizations that understand they have to go after Bush on every single issue.

If Bush is turned out of office, it’s because of Howard Dean.

Bush the Liar

Bush’s space initiative is a huge fabrication of lies, since it can’t possibly be done for the amount budgeted. The facts are considered by Gregg Easterbrook, absolutely destroying the slim credibility of Bush’s Moon/Mars space plan, on the simple basis of cost alone. And, of course, the first casualty of the redirection of $12 billion of NASA’s budget, is the Hubble Space Telescope.

George Bush’s “Kennedy Moment”

I hear on Mike Malloy’s Friday night program (MikeMalloy.net, with archives at WhiteRoseSociety.org) that some in the media are calling George Bush’s space initiative a “Kennedy moment.”

What will really happen is, of course, that the whole proposal will be abandoned after the election (should he, unfortunately, win), and never funded, just as was the case with “No Child Left Behind.” If it isn’t, it’s because, as Malloy suggests, the real agenda is military: to create the first military outpost on the moon.

Have I mentioned lately how much I hate these people in the Bush administration (or the “Bush crime family,” as Malloy likes to call them)?