Category: "culture/news"

Force Quit

Rumsfeld Resignation Summarized as a Mac OS X Screenshot:

via Boing Boing and Digg

Election Day

The polls will be opening up in just over 12 hours. I hope everyone remembers to vote tomorrow. I want to specifically mention the Missouri race for US Senate. Very often it feels like one vote doesn't make much difference, but this is turning into a very close race. It's the closest of all the Senate races this year and it may end up deciding which party controls the Senate for the next two years. That means that your vote in this race is very important. And not just in the sense that every vote in every race is important.

Part of what makes Missouri politics so interesting is that we have a healthy population of independent voters. If anyone is still not sure about this race, allow me to make one final plea. Even if you don't feel strongly about either candidate, you can probably agree that we could use some more Congressional oversight in Washington. The Constitution gives Congress the very important duty of checking the power of the executive branch. When they fail at that task the nation can begin down a very dark path. I could throw out some scary words here, but there's no need. I'm sure you understand that a balance of power can be a very good thing. If only for this reason, I hope you'll consider voting for Claire McCaskill. There are lots of other reasons that I think she'll be a good Senator, but I thought that one might appeal to independent voters in particular.

And don't feel bad about Jim Talent being out of work. I'm sure that he'll get offered a high-paying job with his old lobbying firm, Arent-Fox, or with one of the oil or pharmaceutical companies that he's been so supportive of.

Sorry, I couldn't resist that one. Happy democracy, everyone.

3 Steps to Better Democracy

Elections have been on my mind a lot lately, especially ways to improve them. Here are three reforms that could go a long way toward making our Democracy work better.

1. Instant-Runoff Voting - Builds consensus and gives third party candidates a better chance.

2. National Popular Vote Interstate Compact - Makes the popular vote count in Presidential elections instead of the Electoral College (but without amending the Constitution).

3. Clean Elections - Government-funded campaigns for candidates who say no to private donations.

There are pros and cons for each of these, but I think they would all be improvements over what we have now.

Talent for Deception

Nonpartisan political watchdog site, has released a report saying that several of Jim Talent's ads are "misleading" and "deceive voters."

In four separate TV spots Republican Sen. Jim Talent of Missouri falsely attributes several unflattering quotes about his opponent to the Kansas City Star. Our examination reveals that the quotes actually come from rival Claire McCaskill's political opponents and critics, not from the Star's reporters or editors.

The Star has demanded that Talent correct or withdraw the ads.

Iraq's Oil

When people started saying that the war in Iraq was about oil, I always thought they were paranoid or stupid. After all, it's not as though the US were just going to march in and seize the oil like some colonial-era invaders. I'm still not sure what I think, but there were two articles published on that do as well a job of explaining the conflicts of interest as I have ever seen.

Bush's Petro-Cartel Almost Has Iraq's Oil
Bush's Petro-Cartel Almost Has Iraq's Oil (Part Two)

I really encourage you to read at least the first article. It explains some of the history and what is going to happen to Iraq's oil. I've tried to list the main points of the article.

1. Iraq has a lot of oil.
2. That oil is easy to get to and cheap to process.
3. Because of sanctions, Iraqi oil hasn't been on the market as much as it could be.
4. Oil companies want to get into Iraq and get a share of the profits by providing Iraq with oil services and buying and selling that oil.
5. The oil companies lobbied hard for regime change throughout the 90s, hoping to get more access to Iraq under a more West-friendly government.
6. In 2000, they got two of their own elected to the top two jobs in America.
7. Two weeks after taking office, Cheney held secret meetings with top oil executives while he was drafting the administrations energy policy.
8. The Bush White House had plans was determined to attack Iraq even before they began building a case.
9. As part of debt relief for Iraq, the US and British big four oil companies are negotiating production service agreements (PSAs) for the extraction of Iraq's oil. Under these agreements, the Iraqis technically retain ownership of the oil reserves, but the terms are lucrative for the oil companies and give them much more control than is normal.

The article gives sources and details for these points and greatly expands on number 9. Part two goes into even greater detail and examines Jim Baker's "eye-popping conflict of interest" in his involvement. I would like to hear your thoughts after reading the article. To me, it seems like some pretty damning evidence. I wonder when we'll start to hear more about this in the news.

Peaceableness Toward Enemies

The most alarming sign of the state of our society now is that our leaders have the courage to sacrifice the lives of young people in war but have not the courage to tell us that we must be less greedy and less wasteful.
--Wendell Berry, "Peaceableness Toward Enemies: Some Notes on the Gulf War, 1991

My friend Heath introduced me to Wendell Berry and for the most part I really like him. He occasionally comes across as a cranky old Luddite, but a lot of his ideas are very hard to disagree with. This essay, written after the Persian Gulf War has some observations that are still relevant today.

Where Exxon gives

Exxon Mobil DonationsBig oil companies had record profits this year while working people found it tougher than ever to afford prices at the pump. We all know that big corporations spend money in Washington to make sure that they'll continue to post big profits. This chart is for anyone who has ever said, "Democrats and Republicans both get that money." Here you have it in stark red and blue. The GOP got between 76% and 91% percent of the money that Exxon donated over the last 14 years. And before you say, "Of course they give to the party that controls Congress, just take a look at the chart again. Even when the Democrats controlled Congress, the Republicans were getting more money from oil companies.

Here are the details for donations from Exxon Mobil, BP and Chevron. I won't spoil the surprise by telling you which party gets most of the money from these companies. Check it out yourself.

Why would these oil companies want Republicans to control our government? What are they getting for this investment?

Bush used Christians

I first heard about this from Kyle, but it's worth repeating. There's a book coming out this week that is written by a conservative Christian who worked in the White House office for faith-based initiatives. He says that the Bush administration doesn't really believe in these causes, only used them for political points and privately referred to Christian leaders as 'nuts.' I know a lot of people have voted for Republican candidates because they think they belong to the party with the better moral values, but I believe it's becoming clear that the Republican moral high ground is just a political invention.

If you still think that you'll vote for the GOP this fall because it's the Christian thing to do, then here's a challenge for you. You make a list of verses where Jesus talks favorably about limiting gay rights, protecting the property of the rich, invading countries on false pretenses and covering up for pedophiles to consolidate power, and I'll make a list of times Jesus talks about taking care of the sick and poor, working for peace and respecting people you don't agree with. We'll compare our lists and see who is doing God's work in American politics.

This is the part of the discussion where my dad generally says, "You think the Democrats don't have problems, too?" I'm not saying they're perfect. God knows they've got their shortcomings, but at this point I would take them over party that's currently in power in a heartbeat.

There are some very important elections coming up in November, and the Senate seat in Missouri is one of the most important in the country. If you vote for Jim Talent, I hope you can do so with a sincere belief that he and his President (they agree 96% of the time) are really working in Washington with your best interests at heart. I hope that you're not a cheap vote that they won by paying lip-service to conservative values.

Contrary to what you may have heard, voting for Claire McCaskill will not lead to mandatory gay marriage and abortions for everyone. If the Democrats take control of Congress, I don't think we'll find the US surrendering to al Qaeda or millions of clones of Richard Simmons roaming the countryside.

Talent on lobbying

I couldn't find anything on Jim Talent's site about lobby reform, so I emailed to ask about it. Here's the reply:

Dear Mr. Ferguson:

Thank you for contacting me to voice your concerns
regarding lobbying and ethics reform. I appreciate the time you
have taken to share your views with me, and I welcome the
opportunity to respond.

I am pleased to report that with my support the Senate
overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan Legislative Transparency
and Accountability Act of 2006, on March 29, 2006. It is the first
lobbying reform bill considered by Congress in over a decade. The
legislation was strongly supported by Republicans and Democrats
alike, passing by a vote of 90-8.

Among its many provisions, the bill will enhance public
disclosure of lobbyist activities and campaign contributions, ban
gifts and meals from registered lobbyists to Senators and staff, and
require enhanced scrutiny and Ethics Committee pre-approval for
privately funded travel. There were some provisions that I
supported that were not included in the final bill, but I think the
Senate has taken a big step forward toward changing the system.

Again, thank you for contacting me. If you would like to
continue this discussion, please don't hesitate to call or write.

If you would like to contact me via e-mail, please visit


Senator Jim Talent

I was glad to hear Talent respond to this issue. Unfortunately, when this bill went to the House it was weakened even further. The Washington Post called the house version diluted snake oil peddled as bold reform. I haven't been able to learn what became of this legislation. Did they go into conference? Did it ever get signed into law?

Senate debate

We spent Thursday through Saturday at the Missouri Press Association convention. On Friday morning the MPA hosted a debate for the candidates running for Missouri State Auditor and for the US Senate. C-Span will be airing the senate debate next week. I took the opportunity to ask a question of the candidates. I'll try to post video of that when I can. The debate confirmed my original inclination that we really need Claire McCaskill to win this race.

Jim Talent is a former lobbyist who took money from convicted felon Jack Abramoff (and later returned it) and Tom DeLay, the K Street Project founder, former House Majority Leader and suspected money launderer. Talent has yet to return the money from DeLay. Despite his efforts to distance himself from the President, Talent votes as Bush wants him to 94% of the time.

Claire McCaskill, on the other hand, plans to use her experience as State Auditor to crack down on government waste, no-bid contracts, special interest influence and deficit spending. You can read her positions on her web site. McCaskill has plans for lobbying reform and a raise in the federal minimum wage.

McCaskill and Talent will appear on Meet the Press for a debate on Sunday morning, October 8. If you're a Missouri citizen then do your homework on the candidates' websites and watch the debate, then be sure to vote in this important election in November. I'll try to have some more information here between now and then.

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