Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Pharmacists: Just Do Your Job!

This is getting tiresome:

A pharmacist refused to fill a North Richland Hills woman's prescription for birth-control pills this week, but the woman hopes her experience will provoke an examination of pharmacists' power over patient care.

Julee Lacey, 32, a first-grade teacher and mother of two, ran out of birth-control pills Sunday night and went to her local CVS pharmacy for a last-minute refill. The new pharmacist at the branch told her, "I'm sorry, but I personally do not believe in birth control, so I will not fill your prescription," Mrs. Lacey recalled.

Her husband and the assistant manager could not persuade the pharmacist to change her mind.

When pressed, the pharmacist added that birth-control pills "cause cancer."

"I think my doctor should make these decisions," Mrs. Lacey said. "If they're going to decide not to do birth-control pills, where are they going to draw the line?"
If pharmacists don't want to do the job they're hired to do, then quit. Find another job. Become another damn preacher - it's not like we don't have enough of them already.

Just get out of the pharmacy.

If this pharmacist is not fired, then CVS has a lot to answer for.

I Can't Break the Law, I AM the Law!

Further evidence that Rethugs think the rules just don't apply to them (from the Wall Street Journal):

The Treasury tapped civil servants to calculate the cost of Sen. John Kerry's tax plan and then posted the analysis on the Treasury Web site. A federal law bars career government officials from working on political campaigns.
Seems pretty clear (and this from the WSJ, no less!) that federal law prohibits exactly what was done here. And could you ever guess who "asked" for this analysis?

House Majority Leader Tom Delay of Texas requested the estimates, said Stuart Roi, a DeLay spokesman, because several Democratic budget proposals had provisions similar to the Kerry tax plan. Mr. DeLay then distributed the analysis widely, including to the Republican National Committee. "The Democrats are all one and the same" on tax repeal, Mr. Roi said. "They don't attempt to make a distinction."
No, I wasn't surprised to see Tommy DeLay's name associated with this latest outrage either.

How hard is it to understand that the law is the law for everyone?

Can We Say the 'Q' Word Yet?

There will be no announcement from the Rose Garden at the White House, no press gaggle by Scotty McClellan, John Ashcroft won't cover Justice's breasts. But I think it really is official now.

Iraq is a QUAGMIRE.

Sure, you and I knew it months ago. But BushCo. have proven themselves to be slow on the uptake. Hell, they still think they're going to find WMD in Iraq.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Next!

So David Kay leaves Iraq saying there are no WMD to be found - despite months of BushCo. insistence to the contrary. I knew pretty much that was how it was going to end. So I kind of stopped paying attention to the "search for WMD." Scott Ritter said there weren't any, Hans Blix said there weren't any and David Kay said there weren't any. So that's the end of the story right?

Wrong.

Being the monomaniacs they are, BushCo. has decided that they haven't wasted enough tax payer money on their fantasy search for Iraqi WMD. I found this at Swissinfo.org:

The U.S. search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq will continue, but the focus now includes whether
Saddam Hussein intended to develop such weapons, the chief U.S. arms hunter says.

"Ultimately what we want is a comprehensive picture, not just simply answering questions -- were there weapons, were there not
weapons?" Charles Duelfer told reporters after a closed-door briefing to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"The hunt will go on until we're able to draw a firm and confident picture of what the programs were and where the regime was headed with
respect to them. But we're looking at it from soup to nuts -- from the weapons end to the planning end and to the intentions end," he said.
Yes, he said "soup to nuts." I'm not sure about the soup, but I know where you can find a whole friggin' White House full of nuts.

Also, we've gone from huge stockpiles of WMD that were imminent dangers to our security to known caches of WMD hidden around Baghdad to WMD that were hidden under rose bushes in some guy's back yard to "weapons related program activities." In a new low for expectations we get the latest lowered goal post for the search:

"...we're looking for the decisions by the regime to sustain a capability..."
There you have it, the latest reason why nearly 600 coalition soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Call it "weapons related program sustaining capability activities."

Call the new search a boondoggle.

No Protests in Crawford

This is appalling.

If you think that the "Free Speech Zones" that Shrubby establishes wherever he goes - that are miles away from his actual location so that he never has to see or hear a dissenting opinion - are disgusting, you haven't seen the worst of it.

Via Quick Sauce who found it at The Progressive:

If you're ever thinking about going down to Crawford, Texas, to protest against Bush, beware.


The police do not take kindly to demonstrators there--or legal observers, for that matter.


And even if you're just wearing an anti-Bush button, you could get arrested.


That's the message a local jury sent last month.
The entire article reads like an historical account from the ex-Soviet Union or from Germany, circa 1939. That is not hyperbole, it's not being shrill, it's not an overblown statement. You really have to go read the entire thing.


There is no other word for it - appalling.

Yes there is: Unconstitutional.

UPDATE: Edited to correct Quick Sauce's nom de blog.

Rice to Testify?

KSBW out of Monterey, CA is reporting that the White House will allow Condi Rice to testify before the 9/11 Commission after all. In public and under oath.

Interesting. Sometimes public pressure does work...

I'm sure this will develop further. It will be worth watching.

Is this what it sounds like when the other shoe drops?

UPDATE: Edited the last sentence for better readability.

Blogabout

I have to admit that my schedule and all the things going on in the news has kept me from my weekly blogabout. It's not a great excuse, but there it is. So... let me try to get back into bringing you the best of the Liberal Coalition and a little bit else!

First The Liberal Coalition:

NTodd, over at Dohiyi Mir, has a great new digital SLR! Go see the first of what is likely to be plenty of beautiful photos. And while you're there, scroll up one entry and read Rummy's latest work of poetry!

The Fantastic Four who write Corrente have written so many posts lately that it's hard to keep up, even with an RSS feed! It also makes it hard to pick just one post to send you to read... Take your pick of any of the (literally) hundreds written in the past week. These guys are on fire!

Although I've considered myself to be an atheist for quite a while, I'm always interested to see how other peoples' faith - or faithlessness - develops over time and what events transpire to change it. Amy, at BlogAmY explores her faith and that of some of her family in a couple of great posts.

Bark Bark Woof Woof may be one of the oddest blog titles you'll run across, but don't let that put you off. Mustang Bobby writes some of the best social commentary you'll find. So good, in fact, that he just passed 10,000 total hits since he started blogging just five short months ago. Drop by and help him on his way to the next 10,000!

Steve Gilliard takes on angry, fat guys who think that American Women Suck. Steve's right on with his analysis, I think. You'll find yourself shaking your head and then laughing - and then you'll be thinking about it all day.

Protecting Karl Rove may seem an odd concern for a Liberal blogger, but rest assured, Andante has her reasons! Go check out Collective Sigh and see why Uncle Karl should get Secret Service protection (or not!).

Snakes, as far as I know, and Snake Goddesses, in particular, don't do polls. Or so I thought. Echidne of the Snakes, however has taken a liking to dissecting polls. Check out her take on a CNN/USA Today poll of likely voters; seems that there might be some very interesting people in those polls. Go see what I mean.

I failed to note when New World Blogger joined the ranks of the Liberal Coalition. It was a serious oversight on my part. HLVictoria brings a new perspective to blogging and to Liberal politics. I highly recommend NWB - in fact, if you have the time, check out the archives and the photoblog as well. The latest NWB post concerns education funding and the IMF. As you can imagine, those usually hurt most by IMF requirements are those who most need additional educational funding, but... Go check it out, please.
And finally, Something Different:

I ran across Points of Information via the TTLB Ecosystem. This Canadian blog is run in a manner of a Parliament, with ten members on both sides - or may be all sides is more like it - of the political spectrum. It's an interesting idea, with posts generally being in the form of parliamentary discourse. Check it out.

Preposterous Universe is a wonderful mix of politics and science, specifically physics. It seems an odd mix - and it is - but Sean makes it work. Discussion ranges from the latest BushCo. gaffe to string theory to the role of ego in science. Go read it, your mind needs expanding!

I have to admit that the name drew me in: Kamikaze Kumquat. How could you not follow a link to a blog with that name? Lisa had commented on some of my posts so I followed the link to her blog - as I do with all new commenters here. What I found was lots of fun. Lisa's tag line? "Sometimes a blog is just random insanity and a squirrel." Exactly!
And so ends today's Blogabout. I promise to be more diligent in the future about doing these.

Really I will.

Honest.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Rice Pudding

What a sticky mess, our dear Condi's gotten herself into.

She'd just love to be placed under oath, in public, before the 9/11 commission - really - if it weren't that no other sitting National Security Advisor had ever done the same. So, instead of spilling her guts before one of the most important bodies ever created by Congress, she is forced to go before the talking heads and slander Richard Clarke.

"Nothing would be better, from my point of view, than to be able to testify," Ms. Rice said yesterday in an interview on CBS's "60 Minutes." "But there's an important principle involved." She added that her private comments to the commission would be the same as what she would say in public. In response to Mr. Clarke's public apology to Sept. 11 victims' families last week, she said that she would like to meet with the families to answer questions.
The regret just oozes from every pore in her pinched, angry face.

Even our friends in the SCLM are starting to go with the meme that Rice's recalcitrance is starting to hurt BushCo. And every measured, intelligent, factual statement by Mr. Clarke only serves to contrast the shrill whining of administration attempts at rebuttal and the unprofessionalism of their gross character assassination. His calls to release all data from his work on terrorism prior to 9/11 seem well reasoned and calm compared to the shrieking of Condi and others for the release of limited, carefully selected (and selective) parts of the record.

Mr. Clarke said he "would welcome" the declassification of his testimony before a congressional committee looking into events around Sept. 11, and hopes the White House will release even more documents that he claims will bolster his credibility and his charges.

In addition to his testimony, Mr. Clarke called on the administration to release Ms. Rice's testimony; all pre-Sept. 11 e-mails between Mr. Clarke and Ms. Rice; a Jan. 25, 2001 antiterrorism memo sent by him to Ms. Rice; and a Sept. 4 national-security directive that he says embraces his memo's recommendations. The two latter documents, he said, show the administration "wasted months when we could have had some action" in ratcheting up the war on terrorism.

Word of the Day

I subscribe to the "A. Word. A. Day." Newsletter (AWAD) which send me a new word every day. I'm not sure if it was just coincidence or not, but thoday's word really struck a chord. I think this is one that should come into wide-spread use:

bushwa (BUSH-wa) n., (also bushwah)

Nonsense; bull.
It's somehow so evocative of recent events. You could have so much fun with this word:

Everything Bush has said about Iraq is so much bushwa!

When Karl Rove opens Bush's mouth, nothing come out except more bushwa.


Go ahead, give it a try!

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Weather Prevents Blogging

I hope that everyone who comes by today is having as nice a day as we are here in upstate New York. For the first time in - I can't even remember how long - it's sunny and (relatively) warm! So I've spent most of today outside; raking, trimming shrubbery and trees, and fertilizing the grass and just generally enjoying being outside.

The only reason I'm inside to write this is that I'm on a break and thought I'd see what's going on in the b'sphere.

Have a great Sunday - I hope your weekend was wonderful!

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Friday, March 26, 2004

Frist, Hastert - Blowhards

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says that Richard Clarke may have lied while briefing Congress in the past. Odd that this didn't become an issue before Clarke's 9/11 commission testimony but after his book was published, no?

But the real kicker here is House Speaker Denny Hastert. When you read the following quote, I want you to think about Dick Cheney's refusal to give up information on who his energy panel talked to when forming public energy policy; I want you to think about Shrubby refusing to testify publicly and under oath to the 9/11 panel. Think about Condi Rice refusing to speak under oath to that same panel while still blabbing to every news camera that stands still long enough.

"We need to lean forward in making as much information available to the public as possible,'' Hastert, a Republican who represents Chicago-area suburbs and farms, said in a written statement."
Let me repeat that:

"We need to lean forward in making as much information available to the public as possible,''


Is there another word for this beside unmitigated gall?

What an ass.

Return to Friday Dog Blogging

I haven't been very successful in making sure that every Friday is Dog Blogging day on The Fulcrum, but - hey - I'm not getting paid for this!



Here's Baylea protecting all of her favorite toys while also laying in her favorite bed. Yes, she has many more than just one toy and she has two beds; one in our bedroom and one in the living room for when we are watching TV. When I die, I want to come back as a dog in my house. Forget about that, I'd just like to live as well as my wife's dog does...

Homo Arachnidae

Providing a short break from serious blogging is the news out today that Spider-Man 2 will debut on June 30.

I grew up reading about Spidey's adventures in Marvel comics and watching the Saturday morning cartoon. I still know the words to the cartoon's theme song. I drew Spider-Man and all of his villains; I'm pretty sure there was at least one Halloween growing up when I dressed up as Spidey. Needless to say, I was thrilled to find out that a live-action Spider-Man was going to be released in 2002. The movie did not disappoint- neither me nor the public; it did over $400 million in the US.

The next installment brings back the primary cast of Tobey McGuire and Kirsten Dunst and Sam Raimi will direct again. All three are said to have signed up for a third episode as well.

And the villain this time?

All three [actors and director] appeared at a screening of the trailer for "Spider-Man 2" as well as a lengthy action scene in which Spider-Man has a showdown on a train with the film's villain, Dr. Octopus.

Theater owners cheered wildly after seeing the clip and several said later that the film will be the biggest hit of the year.
Pass the popcorn!

International Insecurity

It's not that BushCo. were ever all that interested in happenings around the world - except in Iraq - at the best of times. But while being bombarded from all sides by former administration members turned critics and the 9/11 commission, I have to wonder how much attention anyone at the White House (or The Pentagon for that matter, what with all the distractions they are dealing with right now) is paying to Taiwan and China.

Seems that a long-simmering cross-straights fracas is heating up in the wake of contentious and close elections. China is making some rather frightening remarks and nobody in Shrubby's administration has said a word about it. From Reuters:

China, in its strongest statement yet on the political crisis convulsing Taiwan since its controversial election, warned on Friday it would not stand idly by if the situation on the island spirals out of control.

"We will not sit by watching should the post-election situation in Taiwan get out of control, leading to social turmoil, endangering the lives and property of our flesh-and-blood brothers and affecting stability across the Taiwan strait," Beijing's policy-making Taiwan Affairs Office said in a statement.
Reading "official remarks" out of China is an art more than a science, but seemingly subtle statements can carry rather ominous meanings. "Not sit[ting] idly by" sounds perilously close to "we will intervene" to me in Beijing-speak. It's no secret that mainland-China has been looking for a good excuse to "reunite" China for years, yet there was not wide-spread reporting on who might be behind the "assassination attempt" on the current and re-elected President Chen Shui-bian. It would seem to have been the perfect "Sarajevo incident" regardless of the outcome for China to use to step in to "help" out their "flesh-and-blood brothers."

Shortly after the vote, Beijing condemned Chen for holding the island's first referendum in tandem with the presidential vote, but said only that it was closely monitoring post-election developments. On Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry stressed that no matter who won, Taiwan belonged to China.
The repercussions, should China intervene in Taiwan, are immense. Distracted by other matters and a quagmire in the Middle East, would BushCo. honor our military commitments to Taiwan? If we did, where would the troops come from. If we refuse to draw down troops from Iraq to help Taiwan, would we send in units too small to be of real help? Would China use non-conventional weapons if the US were to "interfere?" What then? Would BushCo., ever eager to try out the latest and greatest weapons systems, retaliate? With what type weapons?

The potential for this situation to spiral out of control is high. The amount of attention being paid to it by the current squatters in the White House is miniscule as judged by public remarks and the amount of energy being spent on launching ad hominem attacks on Richard Clarke.

Feeling warm and fuzzy yet?

Homeland Insecurity

BushCo. have stated - numerous times - how committed they are to "homeland security." And they flog that commitment everywhere they go; they've attempted to use that commitment as a cudgel during the 9/11 hearings and all the extra-curricular press conferences on the periphery of those hearings as well.

Gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling, doesn't it?

According to the arch-liberal Wall Street Journal, you shouldn't feel too secure:

The year-old Department of Homeland Security is declaring a hiring freeze at two of its front-line units because of a potential $1.2 billion budget shortfall.

[snip]

The Homeland Security department, headed by former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, was created last March by shifting personnel from 22 agencies. However, the budgets from the agencies' 15 pay systems weren't moved until last October, the start of the 2004 fiscal year. The 15 pay systems have been cut down to three that speak different languages, use different budgeting principles and budget codes, a senior department official said.

[snip]

Although other Homeland Security officials said the discussions have also included the possibility of furloughs, Mr. Murphy said Mr. Hutchinson didn't talk about furloughs at all.

The worst border problems in the country at the moment are in Arizona. Robert C. Bonner, the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, last month described the border security situation in Arizona, as a "complete mess."
Officials aren't even sure if the budget shortfall is real - the computer systems are so fouled up that there is a possibility that there is no budget shortfall.

But nobody's sure.

Still feeling all warm and fuzzy?

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Fundamentalists Stymie AIDS Prevention

If you read the headline to this post and immediately though of a bunch of Southern Baptist bible-thumpers protesting AIDS prevention education you could be forgiven. We've all read about just such occurrences in the US.

But no, in yet more proof that fundamentalists of all types are cut from the same, tattered, soiled cloth, I'm talking about Islamic fundies in Indonesia. Despite the World Health Organization designating Indonesia as more of a potential AIDS hotspot than either China or Thailand, the mullahs are censoring any attempts at frank discussions of preventive measures - most especially condom use.

It's the same story(Wall Street Journal - subscription) you'd likely hear from our friends the Southern Baptists:

But when leaders of some of this country's Islamic fundamentalist groups hear about her tactics, they react with outrage. By urging people to protect themselves with condoms, they say, Ms. Arifin is promoting sinful behavior.

"This is not how to solve the root of this problem," says Neno Warisman, a popular singer of Muslim songs and former television star. A candidate for Parliament from the Prosperous Justice Party, which campaigns for Islamic causes, she says efforts to stop the disease's spread should focus instead on improving people's morality.
Sound familiar? There's more:

For two years Family Health International, a U.S. group that runs health-care projects in developing countries, has struggled to get a hard-hitting AIDS campaign onto Indonesian national TV. When a commercial depicting men patronizing prostitutes was broadcast briefly in 2002, the Indonesian Mujahiddin Council, an organization of fundamentalist Muslin clerics, sent a letter to TV stations claiming the advertisement could provoke the wrath of Allah. The stations immediately pulled the ad, even though Indonesian censors and the Health Ministry earlier had cleared it.
Even the description of the spineless media sounds familiar. And in case you think I'm stretching the comparison, even the Wall Street Journal makes the explicit comparison:

The resistance the Indonesian activists now face comes amid similar clashes elsewhere in the world. Over the past 20 years, blunt messages from AIDS-prevention campaigns have drawn fire from religious and socially conservative groups. In the U.S., some AIDS activists have complained of problems getting public-service announcements broadcast, because TV-station managers feared upsetting their audience.
Yet more proof of why religion has no place in the development of public policy. Can you see the path to theocracy that BushCo and his base supporters in the Religious-Whacko-Right want to lead us down?

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Gay Marriage IS a Civil Rights Issue

Not that most of us on the left needed a reminder - but many others did. Now they have it, writ very large.

Via Lambert at Corrente: Coretta Scott King

The widow of Martin Luther King Jr. called gay marriage a civil rights issue, denouncing a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban it.

Constitutional amendments should be used to expand freedom, not restrict it, Coretta Scott King said Tuesday.

It's a Blog Eat Blog World

Many of you may know Steve Bates - The Yellow Doggerel Democrat - as a wonderfully astute poli-blogger; and that he is. But he used the word "doggerel" for a reason: the man can also write doggerel with the best of them.

If you'd like to see a little of yourself in one of his verses, go check out his latest. Just a snippet (hope you don't mind, Steve):

Not paying my bills,
Or wiping up spills,
Forget about walking the dog;
Not cooking my breakfast,
Or writing that check fast:
I've got to be posting my blog!

Up is Down; Part CMMVX

First, the money quotes:

[A] report, issued Tuesday by the trustees who monitor the fiscal health of Medicare and Social Security, concluded that the fund that pays hospital bills in the health insurance program will run out of money by 2019, seven years sooner than they predicted a year ago.

The report says that the new law is a significant factor, because it will steer more money to private health plans and increase payments for health care in rural areas.
That, from the trustees' report to Congress. Seems pretty clear-cut, no? But in the Republican down-is-up world, that report is actually nothing to worry about. Think I'm kidding?

One of the GOP authors of the Medicare law swiftly defended it Tuesday. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., said the trustees' report "validates the reasons Republicans had in reforming Medicare and enacting a prescription drug benefit last year. The overall future health of Medicare depends on these reforms and our future action."
Whaaaa...?

Go read the rest of the story at The Oregonian.

Pledge of Allegiance

I hope that the Supremes agree to hear the Pledge case - despite the fact that the complainants may lack standing. Or rather I should say that I hope they find a way to allow legal standing despite some controversy. And I hope, in what can be the only truly constitutionally sound finding, that they disallow the words "under god."

I think a reporter in today's San Francisco Chronicle got the reasons exactly right:

As a legal matter, the required outcome is plain: A principled application of constitutional law calls for the words to be stricken. As a political matter, however, the case is more complex: It pairs patriotism with religious faith, matters that inflame passions when they arise in isolation and are downright incendiary when they coalesce. But it is precisely because the pledge pairs religion and politics that the phrase must be removed.
We see every day the results of religion and patriotism being paired so closely: read any news report from the Middle East. The non-establishment clause has provided a wall between church and state that has served us well. Even though those who practice minority religions have historically been denigrated by the Judeo-Christian majority, they have not been persecuted as they might have been in other countries with lesser protections.

Something that is never reported in the stories about this case is that the words were not added to the original pledge until 1954 in the wave of political hysteria over "godless communism." There can be no reliance on preserving the original here. I hope the SCOTUS agrees to hear this case, I hope they rule by the constitution; then this can all go away and they can concentrate on more important things - like whether Nino "the Duck Hunter" Scalia should recuse himself from an upcoming hearing of the case of a close friend...

Wal*Mart Hasn't Disappeared

Even though politics is heating up and the news from NASA about Mars is exciting, I haven't forgotten to keep my eye on the nemesis of retailing. Wal*Mart recently headed the Forbes' List of the top 500 companies by revenue, driven in large part by the lackluster economy forcing people to do more and more of their shopping at the discounter. Such notoriety and its continued desire to expand has forced the company to break with its past and become a serious contender in the money game that is Washington lobbying. (All quotes below from today's Wall Street Journal.)

In Washington, Wal-Mart has five lobbyists on its payroll, and a bench of hired guns led by Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., one of Capitol Hill's best-known lawyer-lobbyists. The company's political action committee was the biggest corporate donor to federal parties and candidates in 2003, with more than $1 million in contributions -- up from $182,000 during the 1997-98 election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission disclosure reports. Wal-Mart's PAC ranks as the second-largest in Washington, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that tracks political giving.
Unlike most other lobbyists, who typically spread their money around pretty evenly between the two parties, Wal*Mart is focused on those who are most business friendly - read that as anti-labor and free trade.

Unlike most corporations, which contribute to both parties in rough proportion to Congress's partisan split, about 85% of Wal-Mart's checks go to Republicans. And recently Mr. Allen was named a "Pioneer" by the Bush campaign, meaning he has raised at least $100,000 by getting friends and colleagues to make contributions of up to $2,000 each.

The partisan giving is a nod to Wal-Mart's hostile relationship with organized labor and its dependence on free-trade agreements. Wal-Mart defends its lopsided support, saying it's supporting pro-business candidates.
I've written previously about Wal*Marts distaste for organized labor and their famously unfair labor practices, wages and dismal benefits packages. But of course none of that has made an impact on the retail - yet. And they are determined to get into other services - and wreck those sectors like they've nearly wrecked retailing and are in the process of doing to the grocery sector (they are nominally the cause of the recent California grocery strikes). Their latest attempt to get into banking was scuttled when "[s]mall bankers pleaded with Congress to spare them the fate of mom-and-pop hardware and variety stores, which, they said, were strangled by Wal-Mart. "

Don't think that top management is taking that defeat as a sign to slow down. Instead, they've decided to step up their lobbying efforts. The graph to the left shows the rapid increase in Wal*Mart's spending in Washington.

And with the spending of all that money, comes power where it counts - in the halls of Congress:

"Congressional allies rushed to offer advice, including Trent Lott, then Senate majority leader. Mr. Lott arrived in Bentonville in late 1999 with a simple message, according to a congressman who attended the meeting: Increase your profile and open your wallet.

So Wal-Mart executives set out to beef up their political action committee -- an account made up of voluntary employee contributions that executives use to make political donations. (Federal law prohibits direct corporate contributions to party committees and candidates.) At an August 2000 meeting attended by thousands of Wal-Mart managers, buckets were passed around for donations, as well as forms authorizing automatic paycheck deductions for the PAC."
With their newfound political power, Wal*Mart is poised to continue their expansion both inside and outside the US; they've recently won concessions from the Chinese government to open up to 35 stores there, despite a trade treaty with the US that retailers will be limited to 30 outlets. But of course like all businesses, there is only one thing in sight for Wal*Mart executives, profits. And damn everything and everyone, including - or perhaps especially - American workers. A phrase from a sentence early in the article, I think, sums it all up so neatly:

"...set out to transform itself from a company without a Washington presence to one that could bend public policy to suit its business needs."


I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to ponder the real purpose of "public policy."

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Blue Mars? Green Mars?

NASA will be making a "major" announcement about another Rover Opportunity finding at 2:00pm EST. They are being very tight-lipped. The last announcement was about the finding of evidence for water in the "blueberries" found all over the landing site.

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe will be making opening remarks - something he does not typically do for scientific findings, including the water evidence. I had thought this might mean that some evidence was found of fossilized life, but one of the scientists presenting is a sedimentologist and the announcement panel - so far - does not include a biologist.

Very interesting.

UPDATE: Seems that Opportunity is sitting on an ancient beach! From Space.com:

We think Opportunity is now parked on what was once the shoreline of a salty sea on Mars," Cornell University's Steve Squyres, principal science investigator for the Mars rover mission, said in a statement provided to SPACE.com prior to a press conference today.

The rocks would be excellent preservers of biological signs, if life ever existed on Mars, Squyres said. That makes Meridiani Planum a prime target for future missions that would search for evidence of past biology.
It's not fossils, but it's wonderful news!

Wow.

9-11 Panel Showing Some Cojones?

From the Boston Herald:

The ten-member panel had invited National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to testify. She declined, with the White House citing concerns about separation of powers.

One panel member says that's not a good enough excuse.

Another mentioned the book written by former anti-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke, who accuses the Bush administration of downplaying the al-Qaida threat before 9/11.

Former Democratic Congressman Timothy Roemer also noted that Rice has been featured in the media disputing Clarke's claims. He suggests the debate shouldn't be played out in the media, but before the panel.
The panel members should put in some face-time on the networks and cable talking-heads shows and pound this into the public's perception: BushCo. is STONEWALLING.

Homophobic Bigots

Defense of Marriage Coalition... yes, still a raving band of homophobic bigots.

Monday, March 22, 2004

2004: A Bush Odyssey

There are plenty of other places to get the hard news about everything that's happened over the past couple of days and weeks. I've covered some things here - until I got so busy today. But the title of this post suggests that something more is happening now. Something that bodes ill for our country - in many ways - but, perhaps, something good as well.

If you remember the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey," you'll remember that each major turn of events in the evolution of humans was presaged by the perfect alignment of the moon, planets and that mysterious obelisk. In 2004 I think that a series of events are coming together; a series of very ominous events, strange events. The turning point, I think, was Bush's AWOL story gaining a little traction in the mainstream press; spurred on by lots of activity in the blogosphere. Then came the Madrid bombing. Yesterday (their time) was the Israeli assassination of the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassim. All this week, but especially today was Richard Clarke's book on how BushCo. totally bungled national security after 9-11 by monomaniacally concentrating on Iraq to the dangerous exclusion of al Qaeda.

These four events could plausibly be the beginning of the end for Bush and his neo-con cabal of puppetmasters.

The AWOL stories and the Madrid bombing have been dissected ad nauseum. But they are arrows to the heart of Bush's personal credibility and his abilities in foreign affairs. The Israeli assassination of Yassim, whether done with advanced US knowledge or not, widens the scope of potential terrorists operating against us; not exactly a stellar endorsement for his prowess in the war on terror. The Clarke story is potentially the story that brings down Bush's government.

That's no hyperbole. Bush has built his entire first term on his supposed heroic response to 9-11 and he's trying - on the backs of dead firefighters - to cinch his reelection on the same basis. Clarke, having worked for both Clinton and Bush, I think has a cachet that someone who only worked for the previous administration could never have. Some of the stories coming out of his book - at least the ones I've heard on the news - are stories that I would never have believed had they come from a blog. And yet, in retrospect, they fit so well with what we've learned about Bush and his minions since 2000. The speed and viciousness of the administration's response indicates that Clarke clearly hit a nerve.

Like the alignment of the planets in 2001 presaged a major change in human history, this alignment of events in 2004 could foreshadow the fall of the Bush empire.

My hope is that they don't also foretell of terrible events in our near future. If BushCo. bungles the events of the next couple of months as badly as they have the last couple of years, we could be in for some very bad times...

Busy, Busy, Busy...

It's going to be one of those weeks. I just have a ton of stuff to do at work and at home so you can expect pretty light blogging for a while. I'll make an effort to post when I can.

If you really have to have all the best in liberal blogging, though just browse through my blogrolls to the left. You'll find plenty to keep you busy. In fact, the folks over at Corrente have been posting so often I can hardly keep up!

Leave me a comment, though, I still like knowing that somebody's stopped by!

Friday, March 19, 2004

Bush AWOL in Hunt for OBL

As if once were not enough, Commander-in-Thief Codpiece is AWOL again. An article from an Iowa news station has this to say:

U-S officials say they're offering low-profile help to Pakistani forces hunting militants by the border with Afghanistan.

[snip]

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice tells Fox News the offensive "is a Pakistani fight."
Wasn't the hunt for Osama supposed to be the number one priority for BushCo after 9/11? Weren't these the bastards that were actually responsible for 9/11 as opposed to Hussein, who was a convenient distraction?

So for the most wanted man in the whole world, Bush decides to take a "hands-off" approach?

WTF?

Yee Free, No BCD

Remember James Yee? He was the Muslim Army chaplain charged with possession of classified documents when going on leave from Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba last year. The Army has dropped all of the major charges against CPT Yee and is returning him to his base at Ft. Lewis, WA.

Citing national security concerns, the Army on Friday dropped all charges against a Muslim chaplain accused of mishandling classified documents at Guantanamo Bay (search), which houses suspected terrorists.

[snip]

In dismissing the charges, Mac. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller (search), commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, which operates the detention center, cited "national security concerns that would arise from the release of the evidence" if the case proceeded.
So what's left? Adultery and possession of pornography on a government computer. These charges will likely be handled by Article 15 proceedings at Ft. Lewis. Such marks on his official records mean that CPT Yee's career is essentially over.

There are procedures in military law that account for the use of classified materials and all member of a court martial either have security clearances or can be granted temporary clearances so the excuse of national security problems rings hollow. Courts Martial are typically closed hearings, so I wonder at the worry. It all seems a cover for military embarrassment.

NOTE: BCD is shorthand for Bad Conduct Discharge - actually it's more the result of Article 15 procedures than a court martial, but I used it for the power of the rhyme. Other military slang has it as "Big Chicken Dinner."

Homophobic Bigots

I haven't mentioned today that The Defense of Marriage folks are still a bunch of homophobic bigots. That was an oversight on my part and I can assure you that - after checking their website again today - that they remain, without doubt, a most foul assemblage of homophobic bigots.

I apologize for the oversight. I now return you to our regularly scheduled blogging.

J.J. Jackson

God, I'm getting old...

John ‘J.J.’ Jackson, who in the 1980s helped usher in the music video era as one of the first MTV on-air personalities, has died. He was 62.

Jackson, a longtime radio station disc jockey, died of an apparent heart attack Wednesday while driving home from dinner in Los Angeles, friends and radio industry colleagues said Thursday.
I remember watching MTV when it was still great: all music videos, all the time. And JJ was one of my favorites - well, after Martha Quinn (petite, cute brunette) and Nina Blackwood (wild blonde hair and that raspy voice...).

BushCo. Suffers From Mercury Poisoning

On Wednesday I posted the following:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Mike Leavitt is trying to mitigate political damage from revelations that EPA scientists were muzzled as utility lobbyists and White House appointees wrote a new regulation for toxic mercury emitted by coal-fired power plants.

[snip]

Utility industry lobbyists wrote key portions of the rule that would regulate pollution created by their clients, according to EPA staffers who claimed they were ordered not to conduct the normal scientific review of the proposal.
Today, without mentioning any of the earlier stories about the EPA and, apparently, without any irony at all, MSGOP has this story:

Worried that mercury in fish poses a hazard to youngsters — while still trying to stress the health benefits of seafood — the government issued new guidelines Friday for eating fish.

Women who are pregnant, nursing or may become pregnant, and young children should not eat certain kinds of fish that tend to be high in mercury, said Lester Crawford, acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.
Yet another reason - among so goddamn many - that these morons have got to go.

EU Appoints "Anti-Terror Czar" Looks for First Country to Invade

The EU did appoint an anti-terror czar, but unlike our fearless leader, the EU will likely not invade a country that has nothing to do with terror. Although at this point it is too early to say for sure.

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Eight days after the Madrid train bombings, European Union justice and interior ministers on Friday were set to approve an ``anti-terror czar'' to coordinate the EU's fight against terrorism.

At emergency talks, the ministers reviewed a lengthy ``action plan'' that calls for a pan-EU database of terrorist's criminal records and across-the-board closer cooperation against terrorism.
Note the explicit nod to "cooperation" and the complete lack of a specific state against whom immediate action must be taken (despite the fact that terrorists have proven to be a rather stateless group).

<sarcasm>I'm sure that whomever is tapped to fill this position can count on unwavering support from BushCo.</sarcasm>

365

Anniversaries are supposed to be happy events; a time to celebrate a birth, a marriage, a first kiss... So when someone on ABC news this morning said that today was the "one year anniversary" of the US invasion of Iraq, it struck a dissonant chord.

In Memoriam

Had the Iraq war been a response to a direct threat to the US and resulted in the defeat and liberation of a people and we had gone home triumphant as part of a world-wide coalition, then perhaps we could call this an anniversary. But at a time when we have started a war against a country that was no direct - or even indirect - threat to our own, we have alienated our allies and we are bogged down in a vicious guerilla war long after our Commander in Chief declared it to be at an end; this is no time for celebrating.

To call this an anniversary while, on average, more than a soldier a day is being killed by insurgents, is obscene. When these same insurgents are making sure, by killing civilians - Iraqi and foreign - to put the lie to the statement that the Iraqis are better off now than while Hussein was still in power; that is no time to celebrate. We have a long way to go to clean up the mess that our stuffed flightsuit has made in the Middle East.

Perhaps it's best to call today The One Year Memorial.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Sly Visitor

No, I haven't been visited by anyone else hiding behind a nipr.mil domain name. But this visitor was as sly as a fox, because... well...



This gorgeous red fox followed a roaming cat nearly into our neighbor's backyard and then, maybe tiring of stalking the cat, loped down the hill as I ran to get my camera. As I set up for the shot - he was about 100 meters away - the fox put it's front paws up on a small mound of earth and turned to face me, sillhouetted against the morning sun.

Just beautiful!

Coalition of the Suddenly Not-So-Willing

Spain's Zapatero says their troops are coming out of Iraq. Now Poland's President Aleksander Kwasniewski says that he may withdraw Polish troops months sooner than originally planned. Why?

Poland (AP) Poland, which has about 2,400 troops in Iraq and was a strong supporter of the U.S.-led invasion, was ''misled'' about the threat from Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, its president said Thursday.

[snip]

''But naturally I also feel uncomfortable due to the fact that we were misled with the information on weapons of mass destruction,'' he said, according to a transcript released by the presidential press office.
Drip...drip...drip...

What Century is This?

Via Atrios, in yesterday's Mercury News:

The county that was the site of the Scopes "Monkey Trial" over the teaching of evolution is asking lawmakers to amend state law so the county can charge homosexuals with crimes against nature.

The Rhea County commissioners approved the request 8-0 Tuesday.

Commissioner J.C. Fugate, who introduced the measure, also asked the county attorney to find a way to enact an ordinance banning homosexuals from living in the county.

"We need to keep them out of here," Fugate said.
Yes sir, a fine, upstanding southern, f***ing Yahoo, Mr. Fugate. He would be right at home with those homophobic bigots in the Defense of Marriage Coalition.

I could feign outrage, but - as I've already said, that meter is pegged at the moment. I could say that I can't believe anyone would say such things here in the Twenty-first Century, but I've lived in the South.

It seems all I can do is shake my head...

The Incredible Denseness of Bigotry

An editorial in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription) by Shelby Steele once again shows the incredible mental gymnastics conservatives will go through to be bigots without accepting the title. Steele's thesis is that while gays and supporters of same-sex marriage (SSM) want to frame this issue as a matter of civil rights, the reality is that this is just a "bait and switch" by those damnably clever homos.

So, dressing gay marriage in a suit of civil rights has become the standard way of selling it to the broader public. Here is an extremely awkward issue having to do with the compatibility of homosexuality and the institution of marriage. But once this issue is buttoned into a suit of civil rights, neither homosexuality nor marriage need be discussed. Suddenly only equity and fairness matter. And this turns gay marriage into an ersatz civil rights struggle so that dissenters are seen as Neanderthals standing in the schoolhouse door, fighting off equality itself. Yet all this civil rights camouflage is, finally, a bait-and-switch: When you agree to support fairness, you end up supporting gay marriage.
It seems that Steele has almost talked himself into believing. But have no fear, he recovers his senses and slips easily back into the comfortable, easy soft bigotry of those who know they are right - just because they know.

But gay marriage is simply not a civil rights issue. It is not a struggle for freedom. It is a struggle of already free people for complete social acceptance and the sense of normalcy that follows thereof -- a struggle for the eradication of the homosexual stigma. Marriage is a goal because, once open to gays, it would establish the fundamental innocuousness of homosexuality itself. Marriage can say like nothing else that sexual orientation is an utterly neutral human characteristic, like eye-color. Thus, it can go far in diffusing the homosexual stigma.
But it seems that besides his comfortable, easychair bigotry, Shelby Steele has a problem with history, with placing events in their appropriate order on the timeline. He starts by stating that geneticists have found that race - as we speak of it - is basically a social construct based on physical features that are dictated by an extremely small part of our genome. In other words, we are more alike than we are different. No problem; that's all very true. But then he transposes that knowledge, only recently gained, into the era of civil rights. Ascribing motivation to those who fought that noble battle based on scientific knowledge that wouldn't be discovered for another forty years.

The civil rights movement argued that it was precisely the utter innocuousness of racial difference that made segregation an injustice. Racism was evil because it projected a profound difference where there was none -- white supremacy, black inferiority -- for the sole purpose of exploiting blacks.
If I remember my history, the arguments for civil rights did not rest on a genetic understanding of how shallow the differences are between the races. Rather they rested on the fundamental argument that regardless of our differences, we are all human beings and deserve the respect and yes, the fairness, of an equal application of the rights and privileges of the law. As an African-American scholar he should be better acquainted with this part of history than to make such an error.

Today, gays and the supporters of SSM make precisely that argument; we are all human beings, we all have the right to be treated equally and fairly under the laws of our wonderful country. Gay rights supporters, women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and all the other minorities who look to the laws of this country for fairness and equality want, Shelby Steele's accusations of a "bait-and-switch" notwithstanding, not special rights, but equal rights.

NOTE: The DMC are still a bunch of homophobic bigots.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Homophobic Bigots

My attempt at initiating a Google Bomb:

The Defense of Marriage Coalition has inserted itself into the same-sex marriage issue wherever it arises. And always on the side of bigotry and hatred. Today, a second Oregon county has decided to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, believing that not doing so violates the State's constitution. The county has yet to issue the first license and already the DMC is sticking its priggy nose into things:

"We would call it using the sacred institution of marriage as a political tool," said Tim Nashif, spokesman for the Defense of Marriage Coalition, [homophobic bigots] which is suing Multnomah County and has submitted a proposed ballot initiative to ban gay marriage. "They're not making decisions just for Benton County, they are making it for the entire state."
Which brings me to my Google Bomb. From now on, in any post I write on SSM, I will use the term "homophobic bigots" and will link it to the DMC web site. I hope you'll join me in endeavor.

It's the little things that can make the difference.

Especially against folks like these homophobic bigots.

BushCo. Environmentalism

Just add that to the list of oxymorons that have been created about this maladministration.

Just days after it was revealed that a key actuary had been threatened with firing if he revealed the true cost of the Rethugs' Medicare bill, comes the latest outrage. Outrageous, yes. Surprising no. When you read the following paragraphs from this morning's Salt Lake Tribune, think about Dick Cheney's energy task force:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Mike Leavitt is trying to mitigate political damage from revelations that EPA scientists were muzzled as utility lobbyists and White House appointees wrote a new regulation for toxic mercury emitted by coal-fired power plants.

[snip]

Utility industry lobbyists wrote key portions of the rule that would regulate pollution created by their clients, according to EPA staffers who claimed they were ordered not to conduct the normal scientific review of the proposal.
Mercury is a known and dangerous neurotoxin with especially deleterious effects on children and developing fetuses. You would think that even the most callous and profit driven of corporate lobbyists would not really want such a poison wafting into the air that their own families have to breathe. Apparently, you'd be wrong.

BushCo. and it's allies in business do not care about their children or yours. They care only about advancing their own industries, their own profits, their own salaries. It is not a stretch to say that they would sell their own children in exchange for their masters' ability to pollute without restrictions. It's not a stretch because in effect, it's exactly what they are doing; but it's much more insidious than that. Mercury stays in the environment for a long time, bioaccumulating further and further up the food chain. Think for a moment who happens to be (for now) at the top of that food chain.

These greedy bastards are not just endangering children alive today or just the next generation. No. Their avarice threatens the health of generations of our families.

Leavitt has come under pressure to change the rules and has requested that the EPA re-evaluate them. However;

"It's no wonder Gov. Leavitt is uncomfortable with this mercury rule because he's realized the agency didn't have any analysis to support what they proposed," said Hawkins, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council Air and Climate Center. "The question is whether he will be personally motivated to correct it and whether the administration will let him."
UPDATE: Added links for the actuary story and Cheney's energy task force story.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Smoke and Mirrors

Just go read Krugman today.

Polls suggest that a reputation for being tough on terror is just about the only remaining political strength George Bush has. Yet this reputation is based on image, not reality.
Brilliant.

Interesting Visitors

Greetings to whomever visited me through the domain nipr.mil.

An interesting domain:

"Nipr.mil is not a single domain a but a hush-hush web proxy that acts as a gateway for hundreds of U.S. military domains in order to hide their identities. It was established by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) in response to a memorandum (CM-5 1099, INFOCOM) issued in March 1999 by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling for "actions to be taken to increase the readiness posture for Information Warfare." "Uncontrolled Internet connections," the document says, "pose a significant and unacceptable threat to all Department of Defense information systems and operations."
I especially find the last sentence to be incredibly interesting considering such things as The First Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, it appears to be a type of firewall, behind which military computers can connect to the web without fear of being identified and/or hacked.

Maybe it's just that innocent; protecting military computers. That sentence above, still bothers me, though.

No! Really?

Where have we heard this before?

The former Iraqi exile group that gave the Bush administration exaggerated and fabricated intelligence on Iraq also fed much of the same information to newspapers, news agencies and magazines in the United States, Britain and Australia.
I'm sure I read something like that somewhere...

This article in the San Jose Mercury News is packed with damning statements like the above (all emphasis is mine):

A June 26, 2002, letter from the Iraqi National Congress to the Senate Appropriations Committee listed 108 articles based on information provided by the Iraqi National Congress's Information Collection Program, a U.S.-funded effort to collect intelligence in Iraq.

The Information Collection Program was financed out of the at least $18 million that the U.S. Congress approved for the Iraqi National Congress, led by Ahmed Chalabi, now a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, from 1999 to 2003. The group remains on the Pentagon's payroll.

The assertions in the articles reinforced President Bush's claims that Saddam Hussein should be ousted because he was in league with Osama bin Laden, was developing nuclear weapons and was hiding biological and chemical weapons.

Feeding the information to the news media, as well as to selected administration officials and members of Congress, helped foster an impression that there were multiple sources of intelligence on Iraq's illicit weapons programs and links to bin Laden.

In fact, many of the allegations came from the same half-dozen defectors, were not confirmed by other intelligence and were hotly disputed by intelligence professionals at the CIA, the Defense Department and the State Department.

Nevertheless, U.S. officials and others who supported a pre-emptive invasion quoted the allegations in statements and interviews without running afoul of restrictions on classified information or doubts about the defectors' reliability.
Damn. And the article doesn't stop there.

The Iraqi National Congress letter said it fed information to Arab and Western news media and to two officials in the offices of Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the leading invasion advocates.

The articles made numerous assertions that so far have not been substantiated 11 months after Baghdad fell,...
The article goes on to list some of these claims, all of which have been debunked in various places and eventually by facts on the ground. And if those claims look familiar it's because they should.

According to the letter, publications in which the articles appeared included the New York Times, the Washington Post, Vanity Fair, the Atlantic Monthly, the Times of London, the Sunday Times of London, the Sunday Age of Melbourne, Australia, and two Knight Ridder newspapers, the Kansas City Star and the Philadelphia Daily News. The Associated Press and others news services also wrote stories.
This is perhaps one of the most successful propaganda campaigns ever conducted inside the United States against its own citizens:

Other U.S. and international news media picked up some of the articles. By mid-January 2002, polls showed that a solid majority of Americans favored military force to oust Saddam.

If I Didn't Laugh...

Not that it was unexpected. After reading various accounts of why Spaniards voted out Aznar's Popular Party, after hearing wingers say that Sunday's vote was an al Qaeda victory, I was ready for just about anything. So the following paragraph in an Editorial in today's Wall Street Journal(subscription) was not a surprise:

The war in Iraq and Afghanistan is about taking the battle to the terrorists so that we have fewer attacks on our airlines and railways at home. In Iraq especially, Spanish soldiers are helping drain the terror swamp by building a democracy at its Middle East source. To his own and his country's great credit, Mr. Aznar was far-sighted enough to see that if this effort succeeds the entire world will benefit. The emotional wave that elected Mr. Zapatero will soon fade, but the wisdom about terrorism that motivated Mr. Aznar will remain.
As the defender of all things Republican, I suppose I cannot fault the Journal for printing such drivel. Repeat the lie until it is the truth; "Iraq is a central battle in the never ending war on terror." But what is scarier, although no less expected, are these two paragraphs:

The temptation will be to over-interpret all of this as a sign of general anti-terror fatigue in the West. Certainly the terrorists will see it that way, helped along by Socialist leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. In a radio interview yesterday, Mr. Zapatero declared that the 1,300 Spanish soldiers serving in Iraq will now "obviously" be called home. "The war in Iraq was a disaster, the occupation is a disaster," he said.

So the terrorists will conclude that, with an investment of only a dozen backpack bombs, they were able to rout a major power. They are sure to try the same thing elsewhere in Europe, and almost certainly between now and the November elections in the U.S. We doubt that an America that has already endured 9/11 would react as the Spanish have, but now is the time for President Bush to begin preparing the public for the worst.
It seems that reading the Wall Street Journal has become like reading Izvestia or Pravda used to be in the former U.S.S.R. We must look through editorials and stories carefully reading for vague - or not so vague - hints about the intents of "The Party." According to the Journal, "now is the time" for us to be "preparing...for the worst." Are we to read that as prediction? As warning? As policy? As bluster?

Such an attack, either in the US, or - more likely - as a friend said to me this morning, a massive, coordinated attack on troops in Iraq and/or Afghanistan would potentially be seen as helping BushCo. But the arguments have been made more cogently elsewhere that just the opposite would entail. I'm not sure. But I really don't want to find out.

I told my friend this morning that what I really wish I could do is to crawl in a hole somewhere and come out just in time to pull the lever in November.

But really, if I didn't laugh about it I swear I'd cry...

Monday, March 15, 2004

My Outrage Meter is Officially Pegged

There are lots of things going on right now that ought to cause any of us to feel outrage - and what I call my "outrage meter," just how mad these things make me registers different amounts for different things. Lately, as I stated in my last post, it's been pretty close to maxed out. Pegged.

Sometimes though, it's the seemingly small things that totally piss you off. Maybe the larger outrages are just too big to process; I can't integrate them into my everyday experiences. So they make you mad, but you can just go on living and feeling vaguely upset. But the little things are those that fit into your world, you know exactly how they would affect you, making them all the worse.

Now combine all the biggest outrages and then throw in one of those comparatively small ones on top. That's the combination that makes you think your head's going to explode.

So, we have soldiers dying in Iraq in a war we should never have started. Many of these soldiers are from the Guard and Reserves, ripped out of their lives amid thoughts of "two weekends a month and one week a year" and money for college. They don't get fed very well because the company in charge of feeding them is ripping off the government run, in part, by a former CEO of the company they are part of.

The least the government could do is ensure that they get paid on time.

You know, so their families can pay bills. And eat.

The least they could do.

But no.

Shit.

A New Oxymoron?

I ran across a job description in a news story this morning I'd never seen before: "news media ethicists." One of these mythical beasts was interviewed for a story about the "pre-packaged" propaganda pieces that BushCo. have been delivering to news media on Medicare. The story, which most of you have heard about by now, is that the Department of Health and Human Services created these "information pieces" to be given to news outlets and they would be played as hard news about Medicare. What was discovered is that not only were the pieces scripted by HHS, but the supposed reporters heard on the videos are just actors and that even the lead-in to the stories were scripted by HHS.

Federal law prohibits the use of federal money for "publicity or propaganda purposes" not authorized by Congress. In the past, the General Accounting Office has found that federal agencies violated this restriction when they disseminated editorials and newspaper articles written by the government or its contractors without identifying the source.
That BushCo. would use such nefarious means to push their controversial Medicare reforms is not all that surprising, given the garbage they've pushed on every subject from Iraqi WMDs to Climate Change. Or maybe it's just that my outrage meter has been pegged for so long this kind of thing just doesn't register all that much anymore.

Whatever. I did find interesting, however, the name of the media company that created these and other Medicare material for Tommy Thompson's folks: Home Front Communications.

Interesting choice of names, no? I wonder who these folks might be connected to? I wonder, if I find out, will it register on my outrage meter?

Somehow I really doubt it.

Where can we find more of these "news media ethicists?" Can we send one to each of the major networks and news papers? Maybe then we could retire the terms "So Called Liberal Media (SCLM)" and "Media Whores (MW)."

Unless of course "news media ethicists" refer to beasts as mythical and magical as unicorns.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

The Dover Test

I wanted to come home to a little quiet on the news scene. It seems that's an impossible wish.

Something that caught my eye right away was a story with the headline: "Families of slain troops join antiwar protest outside Dover air base." This has been a sore spot with journalists, democrats and some military members since the beginning of the never-ending "war on terror." Now it seems that family members have finally had enough.

"...about 600 demonstrators Sunday who marched to the gates of the base to protest the war and complain about restricted access to installations, like Dover, where the bodies of those killed in Iraq are returned.

The protest attracted various groups opposed to the war: veterans, pacifists and church groups that bused in from Philadelphia, Baltimore and other northeastern cities. But it was the military families - who traveled from around the country - who were the centerpiece of a 3.5-mile march from a local meeting house to the massive military base.

Forbidden from entering the complex, the marchers crammed themselves on a sliver of lawn at a busy intersection outside the base and listened as some members of Military Families Speak Out read the names of the more than 560 troops who have been killed since the war began last March.
I haven't had any doubt, and many in the blogosphere have agreed with my assessment, that BushCo. could never survive "The Dover Test," the non-stop parade of flag draped bodies being returned, under the full and unblinking glare of free media coverage. Yes, yes, I know the policy has been in effect since the Clinton years (before that as well?); but it was never enforced until our current preznit decided that such scrutiny would ill serve him.

"Bush lies and who dies?" said Fernando Suarez del Solar of San Diego. "My son, Jesus Suarez del Solar Navarro, March 27."

"I'm very disillusioned with the American government," del Solar said before the march. "For it to get involved in an illegal war and to play with the emotions of the American people with 9-11 (Sept. 11, 2001) for politics is wrong."

Several family members said it's also wrong for the Pentagon to prevent people from witnessing the return of the remains of soldiers killed in Iraq to American soil.
There is no such thing as a "bloodless war," no matter the high-tech methods involved. Even if those high-tech methods include trying to hide our soldiers as they return to be buried in Arlington and other military and civilian cemeteries around the country.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Canada Bound

We're off again to Canada this weekend. This time we're traveling around the other end of Lake Erie towards Toronto. It's early Saturday morning - I haven't even had any coffee yet - and I'll be back Sunday evening.

So everyone behave yourselves, read some of this past weeks entries, visit some of the great folks in my blogrolls, oh, and take care of the troll that appears to have infested my last post for me.

Thanks.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Memories...

Republicans are all in a tizzy over John Kerry's remarks the other day. But Josh Marshall, at TPM, reminded me of some past remarks by a certain flightsuit wearing, White House squatter. So let's compare their "intemperate" remarks:

Kerry: "...the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen...''

WhistleAss: "There's Adam Clymer, major-league assh--e from the New York Times."

The Disturbing Story of Melissa Rowland

I heard just a couple seconds of a story on this morning's news as I was leaving for work; a story about a woman charged for the death of one of a set of twins. I thought nothing more of it until I visited Jeanne at Body & Soul. It appears that this story is illustrative of the fears of all of us who are pro-choice about the incremental erosion of women's reproductive rights. It is also a story that seems to be further evidence of the sheer disregard for the poor, especially those poor who are mentally unstable and unable to obtain appropriate care.

As always, Jeanne brings a compassionate eye to this story, please go read more about Melissa Rowland.

Gavin Newsom

I was saddened, but not surprised, that California's Supreme Court ruled that San Francisco must stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. I knew that something like this would happen; nonetheless, it's wonderful that over 4,100 couples were able to have their unions acknowledged - however fleetingly it turns out to be.

What pleasantly surprised me was Gavin Newsom's appearance this morning on Good Morning America on ABC. Mr. Newsom, looking very much like a very young lawyer was incredibly well spoken and seemed to have a great passion about this issue. Most importantly, he articulated the best constitutional and legal defense of same-sex marriage I've ever heard.

This guy has a political future, I think. A very bright future. John Kerry - and every other politician who cares about this civil rights issue - should be calling Mr. Newsom and writing down some talking points.

As an alternative, I found this at Cafepress:

Letters... They Get Letters

Have you ever gotten a political mailing from a politician or party you've never contacted or voted for or registered for? Sure, we all have. Okay, I never have, but apparently, Mustang Bobby, of Bark, Bark, Woof,Woof has. And from none other than George W ("Flightsuit") Bush's campaign chairman Marc (That's French for Mark) Racicot.

I guess it was a nice letter, asking for support (and more money!), and just to - you know - say thanks in advance, they enclosed a picture of Chimpy-boy and his favorite "Lump." Not one to let such a wonderful gesture go unacknowledged, Bobby wrote back to Racicot.

Dear Mr. Racicot:

I received your letter and the enclosed picture of George W. Bush and his wife Laura today. I must tell you that I was very surprised. I don’t know how you could have gotten my address since I have never in my life sent a contribution to him. I’m guessing you got my name off the Miami-Dade County voter rolls, and if that’s the case, I’m even more surprised because I’m a registered Democrat.
You can read the rest of the letter at Dear Marc Racicot. Go on, you'll get a good chuckle!

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Brothers in Arms

Has anyone stepped up to claim the $10,000 reward and say that they saw "The Texas Souffle" in his supposed Alabama Air National Guard unit?

Just askin'.

Apologies to all who've done this before...

Speaking Truth to Power

Like it wouldn't have happened anyway, but an off-hand remark by John Kerry, referring to Republicans, has the Rethuglican spin machine at full tilt. GOP spin-meisters are already saying that Kerry is running a negative campaign and smearing his record and his remarks while deriding Kerry's appraisal of their methods as a "smear campaign."

The "offending remarks:"

"...the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen...''
There is no doubt that taken at face value, this is a base truth. And yet, anyone with an (R-Somewhere) after their name, and anyone associated with the GOP are in a dither over this. It's as though someone has finally said that the king has no clothes.

Kerry's campaign manager's response to all of this? Basically it was "bring it on!"

I couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The Snake Goddess Has a Bird in Her Throat...

If you haven't been following Echidne of The Snakes' Rara Avis series, you should acquaint yourself with it by reading her latest post: "Rara Avis VI: George and the Girls."

It's bothered me for a long time why women - more than 50% of the US population - would vote for someone who would work to keep them second-class citizens. By all rights, a progressive woman should have no problem being elected to any office in the land. And yet, with Shrubby-boy as a prime example, we see that there is indeed a problem getting a woman elected to any office, much less to the presidency.

Echidne lays out, with plenty of details and links, the sins of King George in the arena of caring for and championing the rights of women everywhere. Regardless of your sex, reading through her post and the links in it should make you angry. Take that anger and translate it into action. Make sure you vote in November and when you go, make sure to take at least one friend.

Oh Please, Oh Please...

All this week on the Wall Street Journal's web site there's been an article by Alan Murray. The title is what inspired the title of this post: "Bush Needs to Show Clear, Firm Support For Outsourcing" (subscription required).

Democrats - and anyone else hoping to rid ourselves of the worst president in history - can only hope that BushCo. takes Mr. Murray's advice. Please, oh please run with that idea; I hope Karl Rove gets Shrubby to dance to the outsourcing tune between now and November. Nothing could get him booted out of the White House faster than telling Americans that it's good that they are losing their jobs and being forced into low-wage service sector jobs.

Here's Murray:

That's cold comfort, of course, to the poor fellow in Cincinnati who suddenly finds himself out of work. But let's give Americans a choice. Would they prefer a European-style society, which puts roadblocks in the way of companies that wish to fire workers, and as a result, has fewer new companies wanting to hire? Some Americans might be willing to accept less prosperity and opportunity in return for more stability and security. The majority, I'd wager, wouldn't.
He really thinks that the majority of workers would rather be in perpetual fear of the next layoff cycle? Really? He'd be willing to bet his boy's next term in office on that?

Murray's right that this is a subject that's not going to disappear, but he's absolutely wrong to say that any president should come out in favor of allowing outsourcing to continue uncontrolled and unabated. There needn't be any drastic methods used that might get us in trouble with our trading partners, just some reasonable strings attached to the already embarrassing corporate welfare handed out so freely. All tax cuts, abatements, deferrals or other considerations given to companies should be contingent on their hiring of American workers. If you outsource, you lose the benefits.

That is a winning policy. It's also a policy that Bush, so entangled with business, could never condone.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

The Farmer Plants Some Bad Seed

If you've had it right up to your eyeballs with the SCLM whores at CNN (and every other news outlet), you're in good company.

The Farmer, over at Corrente, has posted one of the best rants in recorded blog history. Here's just a taste:

...I'm extremely unattracted to DC Beltway dinner party gasbag whistle pigs like Mathews and Fund who can't seem to keep their own jawbones tied down long enough to absorb an answer [to] their own inquiries and instead rattle off nervous reactionary babble like jumpy jabbering teenage soda-pop junkies. Both Fund and Mathews bug me to no end and remind me of every single annoying hitchhiker who has ever been deservedly slaughtered and buried under a mile marker sign this side of Stateline.

And no, I have never buried a hitchhiker in the desert on the outskirts of the Calico Ghost Town! No! It was all Digby's idea - go bother Digby if you want to dig up any of your stupid plucked up relatives! Why do you think he's called Dig-by? (Yes- its a joke - so just relax you creepy justice dept. weenies)
Take out a little aggravation on our friends in the news bid'ness, vicariously, by reading the rest of CNN ~ America's Company Store Media-Whore.

Halliburton - Again

While the big news in the Wall Street Journal about Halliburton (subscription) is its liquidity problems stemming from several problems, the most immediate issue is the feeding of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last night, on NPR, I heard that "Event Source," a Halliburton contractor hasn't been paid by Halliburton since November. Their cash flow problems are so severe that company spokesmen said that Even Source could be forced to feed troops sandwiches and other "lighter fare" instead of hot meals while waiting for Halliburton to pay up on over $30 million.

This is just further insult to the men and women in the Middle East who are already doing without the proper equipment and protective armor for their vehicles and themselves. Now they may be forced to give up the one comfort that brings a little bit of home to them; a hot meal.

In furthering the interests of his ex- and current employee, Dick Cheney, through the administration's contracting policies have resulted in direct, negative consequences to the military.

Monday, March 08, 2004

A New Way to Pay Taxes

I'm going to start paying my taxes the BushCo. way.

Tomorrow I'll mail off a new W-4 telling the government to stop withholding any money from my paychecks. All year long I'll enjoy my higher wages and next February, when I usually get around to doing my taxes, I'll fill out a 1040 saying I paid all of my taxes. In fact, I'll fill it out claiming that I'm actually owed a refund. About $3,000 should do it. That'll nicely pay for a little vacation my wife and I have wanted to take. No problem.

By now you're probably thinking I'm out of my nut. And normally you'd be correct. However, after coming across the following I think you might see I'm on to something.

Here's John Kerry, on Sunday, roundly criticizing the preznit for stonewalling the 9/11 Commission:

"Why is this administration stonewalling and resisting the investigation into what happened and why we had the greatest security failure in the history of our country?"
In reply, a BushCo. spokesperson had the following to say:

A spokesman for Mr. Bush's campaign, Scott Stanzel, said in response, "President Bush and his administration have provided extraordinary cooperation and unprecedented access" to the commission.
You see, in Bush Land, just saying it makes it so. Regardless that the commission, which has the final say on who cooperated and who didn't, has said they need more time and more access, Stanzel says they cooperated. Therefore, they did. I say I paid my taxes, therefore I did.

I only with I had discovered this before!

Damned Activist Judges

Just when you thought that there'd be nothing but bad news as far as the blogging eye could see. Sure it's a small point of victory, but an important one.

In the continuing battle between John Ashcroft's Justice Department and women, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that Planned Parenthood does not have to turn over patients' medical records to Justice. Ashcroft's boys were on a fishing expedition through medical records of women's health care facilities after passage of the intrusive and potentially unconstitutional ban on a late-term abortion procedure. The law is especially dangerous because it contains specific language stating that the procedure is never necessary to protect the health of the woman. From this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription):

Ruling that abortion records contain information that "women would not want to share," a federal judge said that the Planned Parenthood Federation of America doesn't have to force affiliates to turn over patient files to the government.
BushCo continue their pursuit of making our government intrusive into the most private areas of our lives all while promising to shrink government and to keep big government out of our lives.

It makes as little sense as the rest of their policies.

Thankfully we have those pesky, activist judges that keep slapping down these overreaching zealots.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Have a Good Weekend

We're off to Canada this weekend; so no blogging until Sunday night at the earliest.

If you just have to get your fill of some great blog writing, you couldn't do better than any of the folks in the Liberal Coalition.

Hope everyone has a great weekend (and that BushCo keep their collective mitts off of anything dangerous).

How Can They Sleep at Night?

Compassionate Conservatism Part XXXIV:

How compassionate is it to erect barriers to entry between poor children and a successful child health care program?

From Bob Herbert's column today in the NYT:

I wrote a column back in January about the tens of thousands of youngsters from low-income families who were eligible for a children's health insurance program in Florida but, instead of being allowed into the program, were diverted by state officials to a long waiting list.

Even children with serious health problems were put on the list. Conni Wells, director of the Florida Institute for Family Involvement, which advises families on health matters, told me at the time, "We've had families tell us they've put off buying groceries so they can afford to take their child to the doctor."

The program is called KidCare. It's Florida's version of the nationally popular and successful Children's Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, which covers families with incomes too low to pay for private health insurance but not low enough to qualify for Medicaid.
So the Republican controlled House and Senate of Florida decided to "reform" Kid Care. They've agreed to cover some portion of the current waiting list, perhaps as many as 90,000 of the over 100,000. But - and there's always a but with these folks - here's the "reform" part: in the future, the state will be prohibited from keeping a waiting list, and there will only be two thirty-day enrollment periods per year which the state is not required by law to actually hold.

Herbert perfectly and concisely sums this all up: "This is mean-spirited stuff. We are finding new and ingenious ways in this country to wreak havoc on low-income people."

If you had any doubts about what "Compassionate Conservatism" really means, you shouldn't any more.

States Outsourcing Jobs, Too

This really shocked me. Hard to believe, I know. But it did.

Via MSNBC and The Charlotte Observer:

Truth be told, NBC’s call to the Georgia food stamp office was answered in India — as in the country of some 9,000 miles away.

[snip]

Private companies do the most outsourcing, but the Charlotte Observer newspaper found 40 state governments send jobs overseas too.
Our tax dollars may be helping to send jobs offshore when they should be helping our local communities. This is... an outrage. I can't think of another word that does this justice.

I can't find any reference to this article on the Observer website so I don't know if there was a list of states doing this. I did find this related article.

The Sheer, Unadulterated Gall...

From MSNBC:

Attorney General John Ashcroft has been hospitalized with a severe case of gallstone pancreatitis, his chief spokesman said Friday.
I wouldn't wish this on anyone - not even Ashcroft. My mother had her gall bladder removed after several years of trouble from it and my father-in-law has had his out and still has troubles. I could not, however, pass up the headline.

Sorry.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Pot, Meet Kettle...

This is just wonderfully and wickedly ironic.

Bennett Ramberg, a State Department official from the Bush 41 administration, in today's Wall Street Journal makes an interesting suggestion. Iraq, he says with no trace of ironic recognition, should write into its constitution a "no war" article. Carefully read the following quotes (no link - subscription required) and see if it doesn't tickle your irony bone just a bit:

Japan's denunciation of war in Article Nine emerged in 1947. Its origins remain obscure. ...[snip]... Whatever the origins, the provision marks a bold repudiation of war as an acceptable instrument of statecraft: "Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling disputes.

"In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized."

Germany's May 1949 constitution or "Basic Law," as it was called, proved more muted. Still, it upheld the "no war" principle. Under Article 26, "Activities tending and undertaken with the intent to disturb peaceful relations between nations, especially to prepare for aggressive war, are unconstitutional."

Bold emphasis added for the irony impaired.
I really think that these dour, pessimistic, rich, isolated, old men have lost their sense of humor, of propriety and of irony. I can hardly read this stuff without at least smirking - some of it makes me laugh out loud. And yet they pass this off as serious recommendations.

Not that it wouldn't be great to have such provisions in a constitution, but it would be nice if we could point to our own constitution as an example...

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Red Mars - Green Mars - Blue Mars

NASA announced yesterday that Mars was once a wet planet. Based on observations of the soil, rocks and terrain around the rover Opportunity, scientists, even former skeptics are saying that there is no doubt. Where there is water (and where it is available to certain chemical processes and in the presence of the appropriate molecules), life is likely to have arisen.

Now we wait. Will there be gross signs, observable by the instruments on Opportunity, of life? Or will we have to send further exploratory vehicles able to do more robust experiments and longer traverses of the Martian terrain? Such a finding would be the biggest news ever in history...

QUESTION: Anyone familiar with the progression in the title of this post?

Town Mayor Arrested Over Gay Marriages

New Paltz, NY hasn't gotten quite the attention that San Francisco has, not least because of its size. But the mayor of this small New York town on the Hudson, not far from NYC, has been "solemnizing" same-sex marriages without issuing the couples licenses. The basic legal issues are somewhat different in this case, but the broader issues, of course, remain the same. Here's a bit from this morning's Wall Street Journal:

Mr. West performed wedding ceremonies for 25 gay couples on Friday, making him the second mayor in the country to perform same-sex marriages. More than 3,400 couples have been married in San Francisco.

Mr. West has insisted his actions were legal.

Mr. Williams said he believed Mr. West was served with a summons by New Paltz police that would require him to report to town court. He said the charges do not judge whether gay marriage is legal in New York, only that the weddings were performed without a marriage license.

[snip]

State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said he will decide this week whether New York law allows gay marriage.
I keep waiting for the damn to break on this. If a small but critical mass of mayors and county clerks pick up this bit of civil disobedience it's just possible that the process will gain enough momentum to become the de-facto norm. Then, with thousands of married same-sex couples all around the country, the genie will be much harder to stuff back into the bottle.

Small Town Voting

In the last Presidential election, my polling place was in a large suburban area. I had to stand in line to get to one of four or five tables, separated by sections of the alphabet, to check my registration. Then I moved to another line in front of a bank of voting machines - still the lumbering, curtained, mechanical beasts. By the time I made my way to a machine, cast my vote, double checked it and made my way outside, about 30 minutes or so had passed.

Last summer, my wife and I moved to a very small town, Marion, NY (map) and I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I made my way to the small elementary school in the village center. There were no signs, either outside or inside the school pointing the way towards the polling station. So I made my way - it's amazing how even a school I've never set foot in can evoke such strong memories - and eventually found my way to the auditorium.

I stuck my head inside the door and what I saw made me smile.

There was one table, staffed by three "little old ladies," of the kind you could only find in a small town; anyone would have loved to have had any one of them as a grandmother. Next to the table, where they checked my registration, marveled over my registration card (which is apparently new, they had only seen one other), and chatted with me was a lone voting machine. There were no other voters there as it was already close to 8:00 pm so I was in and out in just a few minutes. (Dr. Dean got my vote.) The late hour and the fact that I was voting Democratic in a small, rural town that is likely 80% Republican probably accounted for the lack of other voters. It was, nonetheless, one of those wonderfully ordinary events that never fails to strike me as very inspiring.

The local news this morning stated that about 20% of registered Democrats had voted in last nights Primary and that John Kerry easily carried the state as he did in all the other "Super Tuesday" states save Vermont. I contrasted that sorry statistic with how voting makes me feel and I could only shake my head.

I also realized that it will be John Kerry on whom all our hopes and desires will be pinned come November. I hope we are all ready for the onslaught from the Republican spin machine aided by $100 million and a complacent media. We have a big fight ahead of us - we're going to need a lot more than 20% of Democrats voting in November.