Monday, July 26, 2004

Bush: FDA is Inerrant

BushCo. is after the trial lawyer bugabear in a whole new way. Not content to merely smear all trial lawyers - but most especially John Edwards - with the "ambulance chaser" epithet, they are now petitioning courts to block some lawsuits.

From today's New York Times:

The Bush administration has been going to court to block lawsuits by consumers who say they have been injured by prescription drugs and medical devices.

The administration contends that consumers cannot recover damages for such injuries if the products have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. In court papers, the Justice Department acknowledges that this position reflects a "change in governmental policy," and it has persuaded some judges to accept its arguments, most recently scoring a victory in the federal appeals court in Philadelphia.

Allowing consumers to sue manufacturers would "undermine public health" and interfere with federal regulation of drugs and devices, by encouraging "lay judges and juries to second-guess" experts at the F.D.A., the government said in siding with the maker of a heart pump sued by the widow of a Pennsylvania man. Moreover, it said, if such lawsuits succeed, some good products may be removed from the market, depriving patients of beneficial treatments.
Apparently, Bush's inability to remember any mistake he's ever made is contagious. According to this novel legal theory, the FDA not only can't remember any mistakes it's ever made, they are incapable of making a mistake.

Welcome to a brave new world. "Government by the corporation, for the corporation, of the corporation."

Go to Hell, Zell

It's all been said before, but let me say it for the first time on The Fulcrum: Zell Miller is a disgrace to the Democratic Party. Can someone please just register this guy as a Rethuglican and get it over with?

I don't post entire articles often, but I think that Miller's opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription) is instructive and indicative of just how far afield this man's gone. Note all of the rhetorical contortions Miller goes through to justify his appearance at the GOP Convention; see if you can spot all the instances of hypocrisy, find all the outright lies.

If you're from Georgia, call this guy's office. Let him know he's no longer welcome.

See Y'all in New York

By ZELL MILLER
July 26, 2004

Twelve years ago, I delivered one of the keynote addresses on the first night at the Democratic National Convention in New York. It was a stinging rebuke of the administration of George H.W. Bush and a ringing endorsement of Bill Clinton. This summer I'll again be speaking in New York, but it will be to the Republican Convention that renominates George W. Bush.

Many have asked how I could have come so far in just over a decade. Frankly, I don't think I've changed much at all. At 72, I don't feel much need to change my opinions. Instead, the reason I'm not attending the Democratic Convention in Boston is that I barely recognize my party anymore. Most of its leaders -- including our nominee, John Kerry -- don't hold the same beliefs that have motivated my career in public service.

In 1992, I spoke of the opportunity and hope that allowed me, the son of a single mother growing up in the North Georgia mountains, to become my state's governor. And I attributed much of my success to the great Democratic presidents of years gone by -- FDR (a hallowed man in my home), Truman and JFK. The link these men shared was a commitment to helping Americans born into any condition rise to achieve whatever goal they set for themselves.

I spoke of Americans who were "tired of paying more in taxes and getting less in services." I excoriated Republicans who "dealt in cynicism and skepticism." I accused them of "master[ing] the art of division and diversion." And I praised Bill Clinton as a moderate Democrat "who has the courage to tell some of those liberals who think welfare should continue forever, and some of those conservatives who think there should be no welfare at all, that they're both wrong."

Bill Clinton did deliver on welfare reform, after a lot of prodding from the Republicans who took hold of Congress in 1995. But much of the rest of the promise I saw in his candidacy withered during his two terms in office.

Today, it's the Democratic Party that has mastered the art of division and diversion. To run for president as a Democrat these days you have to go from interest group to interest group, cap in hand, asking for the support of liberal kingmakers. Mr. Kerry's no different. After Hollywood elites profaned the president, he didn't have the courage to put them in their place. Instead, he validated their remarks, claiming that they represent "the heart and soul of America."

No longer the Party of Hope, today's Democratic Party has become Mr. Kerry's many mansions of cynicism and skepticism. As our economy continues to get better and businesses add jobs, Mr. Kerry's going around America trying to convince people that the roof is about to cave in. He talks about "the misery index" and the Depression. What does he know about either?

And when it comes to taxes and services, you'd be pressed to find anyone more opposed to the interests of middle-class Americans than John Kerry. Except maybe John Edwards. Both voted against tax relief for married couples, tax relief for families with children, and tax relief for small businesses. Now Mr. Kerry wants to raise taxes on hundreds of thousands of small-business owners and millions of individuals. He claims to be for working people, but I don't understand how small businesses can create jobs if they've got to send more money to Washington instead of keeping it to hire workers.

Worst of all, Sens. Kerry and Edwards have not kept faith with the men and women who are fighting the war on terror -- most of whom come from small towns and middle-class families all over America. While Mr. Bush has stood by our troops every step of the way, Messrs. Kerry and Edwards voted to send our troops to war and then voted against the money to give them supplies and equipment -- not to mention better benefits for their families. And recently Mr. Kerry even said he's proud of that vote. Proud to abandon our troops when they're out in the field? I can hear Harry Truman cussing from his grave.

I still believe in hope and opportunity and, when it comes right down to it, Mr. Bush is the man who represents hope and opportunity. Hope for a safer world. And opportunity for Americans to work hard, keep more of the money they earn, and send their kids to good schools. All the speeches we hear this week won't be able to hide the truth of what today's Democratic Party has become: an enclave of elites paying lip service to middle-class values. Americans looking for a president who understands their struggles and their dreams should tune in next month, when we celebrate the leadership of George W. Bush.

A Fire in My Belly

I finally got to see Fahrenheit 9/11 this weekend. It was everything that everyone has said: maddening, funny, sad, enlightening. Lots of things stuck in my head about afterwards, some of which I might blog about later. But on the ride home afterwards, talking to my wife, I had an insight into something else.

I said to her that while there were few things in the movie that I hadn't known, most of the facts and assertions I had heard before. But it was exactly those things - subjects that perhaps most other Americans haven't been paying attention to - that keep me blogging. All the subjects that are regularly covered here and on other liberal/progressive blogs were covered in the Moore's documentary. And it was a relief to see them, in concrete form; to know that they really happened, and to see the faces and know they are not just the product of a brain fevered by a visceral hatred of the current White House squatter.

Sure there were things in F9/11 that were shown out of context, yes there were things said or shown with a slant. But there were facts there, facts that just weren't covered anywhere else but the blogosphere - and now Fahrenheit 9/11. Facts that should make a difference in how people feel about BushCo. That I hope make a difference...

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Molasses in January

After claiming, prior to the release of the final 9/11 Commission report, that they likely wouldn't have time to act on the report's findings until after the first of the year, the Republican leadership of Congress has "flip-flopped." Sensing that their constituents would not look kindly on them recessing for summer vacations while the country remained - or seemed to remain - vulnerable to another attack, they decided on reconvening for a rare August session.

"If the Congress and the president delay unnecessarily, and it's difficult again for me to say exactly when they should act,'' Mr. Kean said, "but if it seems that they are delaying, I think they are going to be held responsible by the American people, especially if the experts are right and there is another terrorist attack."
So perhaps, just maybe, we may see some substantive changes and improvements in the defense of our country.

To show just how important this is to him, Bush was, again, AWOL:

Mr. Bush, who began a weeklong vacation on Friday at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., ordered his chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., to lead an administrationwide review of the recommendations and to report to him "as quickly as possible," a spokeswoman said.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Friday Bloggered

I've got a half-day meeting this morning and then I'll be on the golf course this afternoon (I know, it's a tough work day). So blogging will be basically non-existent today. So have a great weekend, I hope to get a couple of posts up over the weekend.

In the mean time, how come I've had so many visitors over the past three days, yet hardly any comments? Leave your thoughts in the comments!!

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Bill Mahr on Larry King

Mahr was, as usual, brilliant.

What stuck with me most? "There are those following the compass and those reading the chicken entrails. I'm with the compass people."

Damn straight.

"Fanatics Unconstrained by Democratic Politics"

From former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich's website, via AMERICABlog, comes the most frightening article I've read in... well, maybe ever.

Musings about a second Bush term typically assume another four years of the same right-wing policies we've had to date. But it'd likely be far worse. So far, the Bush administration has had to govern with the expectation of facing American voters again in 2004. But suppose George W. Bush wins a second term. The constraint of a re-election contest will be gone. Knowing that voters can no longer turn them out, and that this will be their last shot at remaking America, the radical conservatives will be unleashed.
That's just the opening paragraph; the rest is worse. Much worse. If you think your vote doesn't count, if you're not planning on voting this year, or if you think that Nader deserves your vote regardless of who's supporting him or if it ensures that BushCo. gets another term, read this.

Then think again. Really hard.

WARNING: Don't read this in the dark or just before you go to bed.

Bush Receives Final 9/11 Report

Washington D.C. - President Bush accepted a substantially edited copy of the 9/11 Commission's report in a Rose Garden Ceremony this morning from the Commission's co-chairs, Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton. The report, resized from the original 8.5" x 11" size to the proportions of a small paperback, was rewritten, consolidated and summarized for the President. The 700+ page document was reduced to approximately 7 pages of text and, reportedly, 10 pages of photographs and illustrations.

Said Hamilton, "We know the president doesn't read and that he usually only glances at his Presidential Daily Briefs, so we thought we'd make it easy for him." Kean agreed, noting "We think the pictures will really help drive home our points. We borrowed several illustrations from Dr. Seuss because of their simplicity and directness." A White House source, who asked not to be named, also said that even a couple of illustrations from "My Pet Goat" made the cut. "We knew he was familiar with the story and so the illustrations wouldn't be too intimidating," said the source.

Walking back into the White House, President Bush was asked if he'd actually read the full report. Looking momentarily confused, Bush quickly recovered and, holding the Readers Digest version aloft, said "I'll have Condi and Dick summarize this for me in the morning." He disappeared inside before any further questions could be asked.

Texas: "It's Like a Whole Other Country"

That would be a third world country.

Of the four state high school health textbooks under consideration in Texas this summer, one says teenagers should “get plenty of rest” if they want to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. It also suggests students can help prevent pregnancies by respecting themselves. The book avoids any discussion of condoms.

[snip]

"Texas has the nation’s highest teen birth rate among girls age 15 to 17, and nearly half of all new sexually transmitted disease infections occur among people age 15 to 24,” Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the Texas Freedom Network told the Dallas Morning News.

Bush: "War Preznit"

Bush is destroying the military.

From The Washington Post via MSNBC:

The U.S. military has spent most of the $65 billion that Congress approved for fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and is scrambling to find $12.3 billion more from within the Defense Department to finance the wars through the end of the fiscal year, federal investigators said yesterday.

[snip]

The strain is beginning to add up, the GAO said. The hard-hit Army faces a $5.3 billion shortfall in funds supporting deployed forces, a $2 billion budget deficit for the refurbishing of equipment used in Iraq and a $753 million deficit in its logistics contract. The Army also needs $800 million more to cover equipment maintenance costs and $650 million to pay contractors guarding garrisons.

The Air Force has decreased flying hours for pilots, eliminated some training, slowed civilian hiring and curtailed "lower priority requirements such as travel, supplies and equipment," the report said.
From this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription):

Despite public claims that recruiting is on track, senior military officials involved in U.S. Army recruiting say that the service is cutting deeply into its delayed-entry pool of recruits, which likely will create a shortfall later this year.

[snip]

Already, the strains of those deployments are showing. Last month, Army officials announced that thousands of active-duty soldiers who are nearing the end of their volunteer service could be forced to serve an entire 12-month tour overseas if their units are tapped for duty in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"We are facing a serious manpower crunch," said a senior defense official.
War President my ass.

Distraction and Deceit

BushCo. have become masters of misdirection. If some event threatens to spot the administration in a bad light you can be certain that The Department of Homeland Security or the FBI will issue some vague, nonspecific warning about possible terrorist attacks. Or perhaps they will leak the name of a CIA operative to a certain opinion writer. It seems there is no depth to which they will not sink in order to keep the public from seeing them as they really are, from seeing the man behind the curtain.

With the release of the final report from the 9/11 Commission today, they are already at their game:

By the time the 9/11 commission releases its final report today, President Bush will be well into a day of White House events designed to bolster his image as a defender of the homeland.

In the Oval Office this morning, Mr. Bush will sign a law giving police officers added authority to pack weapons while off duty. By midafternoon, Mr. Bush will have beaten a trail to a police training academy in Illinois, where he plans to deliver a speech on domestic security. The theatrics underscore the lengths to which the White House will go to protect what have been Mr. Bush's biggest political assets: his launching of the war on terrorism and his image of resoluteness. But the need to go to such lengths also suggests that the Bush team worries that the president's edge on national-security issues may be eroding.
But in this instance, their actions, far from looking like the underhanded distraction of an administration in the full flush of power, are looking rather "desperate," to borrow one of their favorite words. Rather than manufacturing a threat, or hyping an existing, low-level threat, aWol is left to talk to small groups of First Responders in some out of the way police academy. There are reasons they should be desperate:

The tightness of the race and diminished backing for Mr. Bush's handling of the war on terror underscore the danger the commission's final report poses for Mr. Bush, particularly if voters conclude the administration was negligent in handling the terror threat. Mr. Bush's leadership in the war on terror "is the underpinning of Bush's support right now," says Frank Luntz, a pollster who has worked with top Republicans in past elections. "If that underpinning comes apart, then so does his support."


NOTE: Speaking of distractions, don't forget the reports that BushCo. have pressured Pakistan to produce - "Dead or Alive" - a major al Qaeda figure during the first three days of next week's Democratic National Convention.

A Dangerous Man

John Edwards is a very dangerous man.

If you saw him last night on Larry King, you may know what I'm talking about. Unlike the current VP, who is truly a dangerous man - dangerous to our society, to our civil rights, to our place in the world - John Edwards is a warm, sincere, knowledgeable man. Unlike Dick "Go F*** Yourself" Cheney, Edwards is a real person with a sharp intellect and a quick wit who nevertheless is charming and disarming.

That's what makes him so dangerous.

Not to you and I. Not to our democratic processes. Not to our international standing. No, John Edwards is dangerous to the quickly declining chances of this administration to be re-elected to a second term.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Draft Proposal

B.J., over at StoutDemBlog found a great proposal at The Nation for overcoming our military manpower shortfall.

The bill, explicitly requiring people who have never been in combat to serve in the wars they start, would affect thousands of neoconservatives in Washington and New York. It was strongly opposed by the Bush Administration on the grounds that it would leave most of the Administration's upper-level positions vacant, including the presidency and vice-presidency, but it was left unattended on President Bush's desk and he inadvertently signed it after deciding it looked too long and too hard to read first.
What a great idea; I only wish I'd thought of it.

Oh, Sandy

Probably inadvertently, John Kerry has shown one of the key differences between himself and Bush; and likely a key difference between a Kerry administration and the current mal-administration. While the overblown Republican hysteria (not to mention the curious timing of this) over Sandy Berger's possible security lapse spills over onto the talking heads' teleprompters, Berger decided to step down as an informal advisor to John Kerry. Kerry praised Berger's service, but thought it best that he step down until all questions have been answered.

In a statement, Sen. Kerry described Mr. Berger as a friend who "has tirelessly served this nation with honor and distinction. I respect his decision to step aside as an adviser to the campaign until this matter is resolved objectively and fairly."
Contrast that with how Bush has reacted to any suggestions that any of his minions might have done wrong, that one or more of them ought to step down, or that perhaps some of them should be investigated. Bush refuses to admit that any mistakes have been made and then goes on to praise whoever is being questioned as "the best ____ ever and we are lucky to have him."

Humility vs. hubris. Deference vs. domination. "Go finish the investigation" vs. "Go f*** yourself."

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

"That's One Small Step for [a] Man..."



"...One Giant Leap for Mankind." Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969, The Moon.

It doesn't seem like 35 years have gone by since that summer evening when the world held its breath and waited to hear the fate of two men on humanity's greatest adventure.

And yet it seems forever.

We all dreamed, the children of the 60s, of the continued exploration of near-earth space and the planets. We were excited and motivated by the pictures and the grainy video of our heroes in space. There was talk of a manned mission to Mars even before Armstrong and Aldrin bounced around the dusty plains of Mare Tranquilitatus. Six further missions landed on the moon, a dramatic self-rescue was formulated during Apollo 13 and space stations were launched. The science fiction writers were correct, we were a space faring species!

And then reality intruded.

Turns out that once we beat the Soviets to the Moon, interest waned. Mostly interest waned in Congress and the White House. Other priorities called for our attention and our tax dollars. Viet Nam raged. Protests against the war flared all over the country. Budgets were slashed. The final two Apollo spacecraft were sent to museums instead of into space.

Thirty-five years later, we couldn't get to the Moon if we wanted to. At least not in less than 10 years. We can barely keep the International Space Station in orbit. And the supposed successor to Apollo, the Space Shuttle hasn't flown in years.

Where are the dreamers today? Bush makes grand promises in a bid to stir the electorate, but fails to fund NASA to even its reduced levels of previous years. The Hubble Telescope sends back pictures from nearly the birth of the Universe and Cassini-Huygens enthralls us with incredible pictures of the rings of Saturn. But where are the humans, where are we, in this exploration of our tiny corner of the universe?

I thought I would one day be able to bounce around on the Moon like Armstrong and Aldrin. I was sure that I'd watch astronauts descend from the mechanical descendent of the primitive LEM onto the surface of Mars. Pictures are interesting and scientifically valuable, but real people on real adventures are what stoke our imaginations and our dreams.

Have our dreams become so pedestrian that these things are no longer possible?

No Room at the Inn

At least not if your politics don't line up with the owners. Just ask Linda Ronstadt.

Singer Linda Ronstadt was thrown out of the Aladdin casino in Las Vegas on the weekend after dedicating a song ("Desperado") to liberal film maker Michael Moore and his movie "Fahrenheit 9/11," a casino spokeswoman said on Monday.

[snip]

"Ms. Ronstadt was hired to entertain the guests of the Aladdin, not to espouse political views," the casino said.
Now this is just stupid. Really. Had she dedicated a song to Chimpy McAWOL, say "Life in the Fast Lane" or "Cocaine," do you think they would have kicked her out?

Well, maybe for the latter, but that's a whole different story.

UPDATE: Seems all is not what the owner claims. Via Scooter, we see that TBogg has the real story... Thanks once again to our completely lazy SCLM for doing the oh-so-difficult work of finding out the truth.

Two Americas, Two Recoveries

They say that genius is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in
mind at the same time; but sometimes I'm not sure if the Wall Street Journal is genius or just schizophrenic. An article in today's edition (subscription) basically lays out, in detail, talking points for John Edwards' "Two Americas" speech, especially in how it relates to the current so-called recovery.

A few examples:

Joshua Berry and Ricky Williams, both Houstonians, have seen two very different economic recoveries.

Mr. Berry, an entrepreneur, has profited handsomely from the stock market, in the real-estate boom and by selling a business. Mr. Williams, an airline baggage handler, has been waiting since 2001 for a pay raise.

[snip]

Hotel revenue was up 11% in the first five months of 2004 at luxury and upscale chains, but up just 3% at economy chains, according to Smith Travel Research, a market-research firm. At the five-star Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Colo., $600-a-night lakeside suites are sold out every day through mid-October.

At high-end Bulgari stores, meanwhile, consumers are gobbling up $5,000 Astrale gold and diamond "cocktail" rings made for the right hand, a spokeswoman says. The Italian company's U.S. revenue was up 22% in the first quarter. Neiman Marcus Group Inc., flourishing on sales of pricey items like $500 Manolo Blahnik shoes, had a 13.5% year-over-year sales rise at stores open at least a year.

By contrast, such "same store" sales at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., retailer for the masses, were up just 2.2% in June. Wal-Mart believes higher gasoline costs are pinching its customers. At Payless ShoeSource Inc., which sells items like $10.99 pumps, June same-store sales were 1% below a year earlier.

A similar pattern shows up in cars. Luxury brands like BMW, Cadillac and Lexus saw double-digit U.S. sales increases in June from a year earlier. Sales of lower-tier brands such as Dodge, Pontiac and Mercury either declined or grew in the low single digits.
The rich get richer and the middle class and poor are running just as fast as they can to stay in the same place. Most everyone who reads my blog will recognize something of their own lives in this account; I don't think there are too many millionaires that read The Fulcrum (although if there are would you forward a couple hundred grand to me? Thanks.).

The Journal, most notably on its staunchly pro-Republican, pro-Bush Editorial Pages, continues to tout the recovery, to promote the Bush tax cuts and the push to make them permanent. The reporters out on the street, who can see what's really happening in America are telling a different story.

Monday, July 19, 2004

I, Government

I was thinking about a post decrying the blatant rip-off of Isaac Asimov's classic I, Robot now in theaters. But that's been done. However, thinking about why the movie is such a disservice to Asimov left me wondering...

One of the key concepts in Asimov's original anthology of short stories was the introduction of The Three Laws of Robotics. These laws were hard-coded into the positronic brains of robots and ensured that humans could remain safe from their own creations. It was an ingenious way to set aside the classic "Frankenstein" thesis of all previous robot stories and open the way for more interesting and illuminating storytelling.

The three laws are:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
What would happen if, with some slight rewriting, these laws were to be amended to our Constitution and applied to politicians of all parties at all levels of government? An interesting question, no? I thought so. Here is my attempt (and accompanying commentary in italics) at developing the Three Laws of Politics (with apologies to my hero, Isaac Asimov):

1. A politician may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human to come to harm. I would interpret harm to mean physical or psychological or developmental harm. So that international aid, education and universal health care debates would have entirely different articles of debate.

2. A politician must obey desires expressed to them by citizens, regardless of political affiliation, except where such desires would conflict with the First Law. No longer would some political doors remain closed because of a citizens political party. No longer would the majority - or a vocal and well funded minority - be able to impose its bigoted or uneducated will on the rest of the citizenry.

3. A politician must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. I see this as addressing not only the political existence of the candidate, but of the politician's actions concerning the continued existence of the country. This would force consideration of the cost in lives of not only our own citizens but of the rest of the world.
You'll notice that the laws did not require a lot of changes to be applicable. The only corollary would be that under no circumstances will any group of people or any incorporation of people or businesses be considered a citizen nor accrue the rights and privileges of citizenship. Additionally, leaving "human being" in the first law while replacing it with "citizen" in the second was done intentionally to cover just such contingencies as international aid.

Could such an amendment ever make it into consideration, much less committee? Never. Modern politicians - of all political stripes - are too much creatures of self-interest rather than public interest. Would the money wielders ever allow the demotion of the corporation to merely businesses? Never. They have ascended to the halls of power where they not only feed at the public trough, but have bought the power to ensure that the trough always remains full.

Can they stop us from dreaming? What do you think?

Minnesota GOP - The 'O' Stands for Orwellian

If you haven't been reading AMERICABlog, you should be. John Aravosis is a writer and political consultant in Washington, D.C. and has - apparently - some great sources. In a recent post he discloses some rather disturbing tactics employed by the Minn. GOP to gather information on the political beliefs of citizens.

The [Minnesota] state Republican Party has developed a Web site that allows its activists to tap into a database of voters whose political allegiances and concerns it would like to know. But it is not just any group of voters -- they are the activists' neighbors.

The project, dubbed WebVoter, gives GOP activists the names and addresses of 25 people who live, in most cases, within a couple of blocks from them. The party has asked 60,000 supporters from across the state to figure out what issues animate their neighbors and where they stand in the political spectrum, and report that information back to the party -- with or, possibly, without their neighbors' permission.
Disturbing? Yes. Scary? Most definitely. Make sure to read the rest in the Washington Post.

Iraq Boondoggle, Part XXIV

More bad news for BushCo. in the information that continues to come from the 9/11 Commission. I think the opening paragraph from the story in this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription) says it all:  
The anticipated disclosure by the 9/11 Commission of contacts between Iran and al Qaeda before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks could ratchet up pressure on the White House to explain its subsequent emphasis on a threat from Iraq despite apparently far greater evidence of Iran's terrorist dealings.
The effects of the first wave of information from the Commission have been long-lasting, but not devastating. This revelation should have a larger impact; if people are still listening. This one bit of information shows that Iraq was not the right target and, in fact, despite the involvement of Iran shows that Afghanistan was - and remains - the "central front in the war on terror."
 
Here's more:  
People familiar with the report, expected to be released Thursday, say it will detail evidence that Iran instructed its border guards in late 2000 to allow al Qaeda operatives to pass freely from Afghanistan into Iran, and back, and that at least eight of the Sept. 11 hijackers passed through Iran from late 2000 through February 2001. At least some were allowed to pass without having their passports stamped, allowing them to conceal trips to training camps in Afghanistan.

The eight to 10 hijackers who crossed through are said to have been among the so-called muscle hijackers whose job was to overcome resistance by flight crews and passengers during the hijackings.

The panel's findings are also said to note that Iranian officials contacted al Qaeda leaders after the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole and proposed a collaboration on terrorist attacks. But Osama bin Laden spurned the offer because of fear of a backlash by supporters in Saudi Arabia. The commission information is based on reports of statements by al Qaeda detainees during interrogations, and numerous electronic intercepts by the National Security Agency.
The report will say, however, that there isn't any evidence that Iran knew in advance of the Sept. 11 plot. Details of the commission's findings on Iran and al Qaeda were reported earlier on Time magazine's Web site.

Although President Bush some time ago labeled Iran a member of the "axis of evil" along with pre-war Iraq, the administration's main focus consistently was on a military response to Iraq. Both Mr. Bush and Vice President Cheney cited alleged evidence of al Qaeda contacts with Iraq to justify the war.
To me the fact that this kind of information is making it into the final, bi-partisan report indicates that the culpability of BushCo. can only be greater than indicated, not less. How much of the supporting evidence is redacted remains to be seen, but to those paying attention the conclusion is obvious: Bush and his covey of neocon knuckleheads knowingly sacrificed our capability to deal with al Qaeda to pursue a preconceived war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. This boondoggle left us all vulnerable to continued attacks from al Qaeda and provided added impetus for recruiting of terrorists and incited further hatred against us throughout the Muslim world.

Friday, July 16, 2004

And Now For Something Completely Different

Via Scooter comes The Cat With Hands.
 
A very distrubing movie that is very, very good.

BushCo. Transparency

You'll never see that headline anywhere; but I thought it might grab your attention.
 
It's the same sort of transparency we've seen in Cheney's energy commission and the Dynamic Duo's "meeting" with the 9/11 Commission. Their disdain for accountability and transparency seems to have no bounds:
 
The Bush administration is withholding information from U.N.-sanctioned auditors examining more than $1 billion in contracts awarded to Halliburton Co. and other companies in Iraq without competitive bidding, the head of the international auditing board said Thursday.
I suppose this kind of reticence is not so surprising from BushCo., but the sheer scope of misdeeds uncovered boggle the mind.
 
The audit, which covers May 2003 to December 2003, asserts that the coalition's management of Iraq's oil was plagued by "inadequate" bookkeeping and accounting systems, high turnover among coalition finance officials and a disregard for procedures designed to ensure competitive bidding for contracts. KPMG is planning to produce a second audit that covers the coalition's management of the program through June 2004.
 
[snip]
 
KPMG outlined a series of other shortcomings, including the coalition's failure to install meters on Iraq's Persian Gulf export loading platforms, making it impossible to determine how much oil Iraq was exporting. KPMG said that it was unable to verify independently the value of crude oil Iraq bartered for Syrian electricity.
If there were any justice in the world anymore, Bush, Cheney and a boat-load of their evil minions would be doing the perp-walk on CNN right now.

Kerry Resolve

In an interesting move yesterday, John Kerry laid out some guidelines on when he would feel it appropriate to bring our troops home from Iraq. The guidelines themselves - basically we broke it now we need to fix it, were not the interesting part.  From this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription):
 
Mr. Kerry's remarks, two weeks before he accepts the nomination of a Democratic Party with deep misgivings about the war, indicate the Massachusetts senator isn't preparing to spell out a timetable for rapid withdrawal of the roughly 140,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq. To the contrary, he suggested that Mr. Bush was more likely to do so, saying "I've heard [it] said by many people" that the White House might be gearing up to withdraw troops before the November election.
I've heard all sorts of rumors about things that BushCo. might do to ensure their re-election; everything from dumping Dick "F*** Yourself" Cheney to a "July Surprise" capture or killing of bin Laden. But this is one I hadn't heard of. Despite all their promises to the Iraqis and, indeed, to Americans not to "cut and run," I have to say that upon hearing it, I really did think it would not be beyond them. Apparently so did Kerry:
 
"I'm prepared for any political move" on Iraq, Mr. Kerry said. "I'd put nothing past them."
 
[snip]
 
"I don't trust this administration's definition of where they're going or what they're going to do," he said. "They've already shifted everything. They shifted the reason for the war. They're capable of shifting anything."

Thursday, July 15, 2004

”Who's the bigger fool? The fool or the fool who follows him?”

Thank you, Obi Wan Kenobi.

If you haven't been making sure to watch for the occasional columns of Barbara Ehrenreich in the New York Times, you really should. Today, she's brilliant in a piece titled "All Together Now." Her thesis is that our government and many of us have been the perpetrators and the victims of groupthink.

This is a surprise? Groupthink has become as American as apple pie and prisoner abuse; in fact, it's hard to find any thinking these days that doesn't qualify for the prefix "group." Our standardized-test-driven schools reward the right answer, not the unsettling question. Our corporate culture prides itself on individualism, but it's the "team player" with the fixed smile who gets to be employee of the month. In our political culture, the most crushing rebuke is to call someone "out of step with the American people." Zip your lips, is the universal message, and get with the program.
It's about time someone with a national podium made judicious use of irony and snark. It is long past due and well deserved. We all know - at some level - the danger of groupthink, especially when it invades the halls of power and those who advise the powerful.

Ehrenreich, however, is right to remind us:

This nation was not founded by habitual groupthinkers. But it stands a fair chance of being destroyed by them.

Florida - Again?

In the recount debacle of 2000, I was ashamed to admit that I'm a Florida native. Once again, my home staters are making me nervous. Today's New York Times has an interesting - and scary - story on problems that continue to plague their voting systems. Seems the roll of felons to be purged was only the beginning:

Three years after Gov. Jeb Bush announced a new voting system that he called "a model for the rest of the nation," Florida is grappling with some of the same problems that threw the 2000 presidential election into chaos, as well as new ones that critics say could cause even more confusion this November.
The pResident's brother, Jeb, has had four years to clean up this mess. A mess that nearly threw the entire country into a Constitutional crisis. Despite all this time and several millions of dollars spent in the effort, it appears that not only have they not fixed what was wrong, the things they've done - like electronic voting machines - have only made it worse.

A recent analysis by The Sun-Sentinel found that touch-screen machines in South Florida failed to record votes eight times more often than optical-scan machines in the March presidential primary.

Why Health Care Reform Fails

If you've ever wondered why all efforts at true health care reform fails, you need only look as far as the next quarterly report of earnings from one of the big HMO/Insurance companies. Results for UnitedHealth Group were in this morning's Wall Street Journal:

– UnitedHealth Group Inc. Thursday said its net income rose 36% in the second quarter, and raised its forecast for full-year earnings.

[snip]

"We expect strong results from our businesses in the second half of this year," said UnitedHealth Chairman and CEO William W. McGuire, M.D.
All of the other HMO/Insurance companies are doing just as well and as in many businesses that are thriving, the bigger ones are buying up the smaller ones in an attempt to "rationalize" supply and demand. These same companies regularly make the list of top contributors to politicians - especially those with a strong business bent or those on key committees that could affect the health care industry.

Now that a completely Republican controlled government has finished raising the status of the corporation above that of individuals, there is no way that true health care reform can ever pass through Congress. Unless of course we can vote back a little balance into the equation - and then continue to let all of our lawmakers know that universal access to health care is important to us all.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Sometimes You Have to Relax

The news is exasperating - no matter where you get it from. Work is exhausting (sometimes) - no matter what you do. The world keeps spinning - no matter how much you might want it to stop.

So every now and again, you need to stop, take some deep breaths and enjoy what is beautiful in the world. This past weekend, I took an hour and drove up to the shore of Lake Ontario - just a short 10 minute ride - and took some photos. Below is one of my favorites. If you stare at it long enough and imagine you can hear the small ripples splashing up on the rocks; if you imagine that you can hear the seagulls squawking overhead; if you can imagine the slight evening on-shore breeze hopefully you'll relax a little, too.

Enjoy!

Ooh - That's Gonna Leave a Mark...

John Kerry's campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, opens a seriously large can of 'whup-ass' on Bush's campaign manager.

From Kerry's DBunker via Atrios:

July 13, 2004
Ken Mehlman
Campaign Manager
BUSH-CHENEY '04, Inc.


Dear Ken:

Over the past several months, allies of the President have questioned John Kerry’s patriotism while your staff has criticized his service in Vietnam. Republicans and their allies have gone so far as to launch attacks against his wife and your campaign has run $80 million in negative ads that have been called baseless, misleading and unfair by several independent observers.
Go read the rest. This is what we've been waiting for! She hammers Bush-Cheney on the issues and the obfuscations, then closes with some of the best, most sublime snark ever seen.

You still here? Go!!

Bush's EPA Sabotaging NASA?

Okay, not really, but it makes you wonder.

NASA's $785 million Aura mission to study Earth's atmosphere was stranded on its California launch pad again today, the third launch date this week missed because of technical problems.

[snip]

The bus-sized Aura, built for NASA by Northrop Grumman Corp., is designed to monitor the health of the depleted layer of ozone gases in the stratosphere that protect Earth from solar radiation. It will also track pollutants in the atmosphere to see where they travel and how they interact, NASA said.

McCain Slaps Down Bush

The headline might be a little bit of hyperbole, but not by much. Seems fellow Republican John McCain doesn't agree with the Sock Puppet-in-Chief that gay marriage is an apocalyptic threat to American life. And he had the nerve to say so in public!

"The constitutional amendment we're debating today strikes me as antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans," McCain said. "It usurps from the states a fundamental authority they have always possessed and imposes a federal remedy for a problem that most states do not believe confronts them."
McCain then provided a little bit of a history and civics lesson to BushCo., which has been greatly in need of such for a long time:

"The founders wisely made certain that the Constitution is difficult to amend and, as a practical political matter, can't be done without overwhelming public approval. And thank God for that," he said.
As an aside; I really think that the Dems can take advantage of this failed attempt at amending the Constitution. It would be so easy to portray the Rethugs as close-minded and mean spirited in the only attempt in history to restrict the rights of Americans through the Constitution. It just doesn't get any uglier than that.

The Tax Man Cometh

It still amazes me that the news in the Wall Street Journal is so good while the editorial pages remain completely out of touch.

In today's edition, they report that, in large part because of BushCo.'s tax cuts, property taxes are on the rise all over the country. In fact, they are rising so fast in some areas that there have been so-called "voter revolts," where voters have forced the passage of caps and restrictions on further increases. John Kerry has labeled this phenomenon the "Middle Class Squeeze."

In many parts of the country in recent years, strapped local governments have imposed big increases in property-tax rates, as well as in home assessments, to fill budget shortfalls. In response, voters have organized efforts to repeal or slow property-tax boosts in states from Virginia to Oregon, in some cases with the support of frustrated local officials.

[snip]

For many homeowners, the increases have eaten into benefits they gained from President Bush's cuts in federal income taxes. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Economy.com Inc., a research firm in West Chester, Pa., estimates that nearly a fifth of the income-tax benefit Americans are receiving from federal tax cuts this year is going to pay for higher property taxes. Mr. Zandi says he expects property taxes to continue rising "very rapidly."
On the editorial pages of the Journal, though, you can still find paeans to the Shrub's tax cuts for the rich with no mention of the "Squeeze." Regardless of the Journal, I know that this is indeed happening. Just last week I got a letter from the Tax Assessor's Office: my assessment - and therefore my taxes - were going up this year.

I'm feeling the "Squeeze!"

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Garanimals Threat System



Yet another "no kidding" moment from our fearless leaders in Congress:

The federal government's color-coded threat system is too vague and confusing to help many local and state law enforcement officials prepare for possible terrorist attacks, Congressional investigators said Monday in a report that prompted leading members of Congress to call for an overhaul.
Well we all knew that! Hell, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI can't even come to an agreement about when there's really a new threat and what it means. But this has to be the - unintentionally - funniest sentence in this article in the NYT:

"I'm afraid if we don't make improvements in the system," Mr. Turner said, "the public's going to lose trust and confidence in that system and won't pay any attention to it anymore."
"Going to lose trust?" "Won't pay any attention...anymore?" Please. When was the last time they even changed the color when announcing a new threat? In fact, when was the last time anyone really paid any attention to this system?

Where are we now, anyway? Are we at Threat Level Bert or Ernie?

UPDATE: Corrected "Garanimals" name and added graphics.

The Afghan Crystal Ball

If Bush wants to be judged on his accomplishments, let's take a look at what ought to be his primary concern: the real central front in the War on Terror. Afghanistan. I think that current events there not only provide a clear indication of BushCo.'s abilities, but also are a peek into the future of Iraq.

From this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription):

Afghanistan plans to hold its first democratic election in a few months. But in this highland village, a jumble of mud forts set amid terraced orchards and fields of ripe wheat, no one has registered to vote.

Arapat, a farmer with the gilded skullcap and jet-black beard of a Pashtun tribesman, explained that some 60 Taliban insurgents had been to Shelem Kele just three days earlier. "We are all afraid. All the countryside here is under the control of the Taliban," whispered Mr. Arapat, who like many Afghans uses only one name.

Minutes later, the valley echoed with explosions as U.S. Army helicopters lobbed missiles into a mountainside. The same week, a Taliban unit operating just a few miles away executed 16 Afghans found to carry voter-registration cards.
While claiming that "Americans are safer" at every chance, Bush is ignoring the very country, the very militant group - the Taliban - that harbored bin Laden and helped train his followers. This is the aftermath of a war that was justified; imagine how little attention the aftermath of a bogus war based on bogus intelligence is getting. Iraq will become Afghanistan in a year - only worse.

Forest Catch-22

Proving that they haven't forgotten about the "plunder" part of "pillage and plunder:"

The Bush administration, shelving a Clinton-era decision that put 58.5 million acres of national forests off-limits to development, announced a new rule Monday that will allow the nation's governors to help decide whether roadless areas in their own states should be opened to logging or other commercial activity.
This decision ensured that at least parts of remaining primal forests would be protected from development. Without roads, there can be no logging or development. BushCo., who never met an environmental rule that they couldn't hate, of course, had to remove this one impediment to industry. And in a final bit of irony and - for the trees - ignominy - if governors want to protect the forests, they have to ask. Ask whom?

Under the new rule, governors who want to protect pristine areas will have to petition the Forest Service to keep them off-limits to development. The Forest Service will make the final decision about what areas would remain roadless.
That's the same Forest Service who decided to drop the old protection rules. I wonder who they'll side with?

UPDATE: Edited for clarity and added the last bit of snark.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Them

A graphic accompanying a news item on a local news program this evening caught my eye. The story was about - what else - terrorism and the New York Lieutenant Governor being in Rochester to talk about a "tough new anti-terrorism law." Unfortunately the graphic wasn't reproduced on their web site with the story.

It consisted of the word "TERRORISM" in large, capital type in front of a pair of eyes set in an ominously dark face peeking out from amongst the white folds of what could only be a vaguely "Arab" headdress.

I'm not sure what to say about the easy assumption that such a graphic should include such a person. But I think it says something very sad about where our newly begun endless War on Terror. Readers?

The Terrorists Have Won

We might as well bring our soldiers home; pack up their rifles and artillery pieces, send back the ships and aircraft. Lock the borders. And will the last democrat (small 'd') out please turn off the lights?

U.S. counterterrorism officials are looking at an emergency proposal on the legal steps needed to postpone the presidential election in case of such an attack, Newsweek reported on Sunday.
It's been on all the news sites, newspapers, and TV news shows. But it's reported in the same tone of voice as Brittney's latest marriage instead of with the outrage it deserves.

Elections were held through out the Civil War without disruption. Not a single election was delayed or cancelled during either of the two World Wars. And yet Emperor Shrubby feels that just the threat of a terrorist attack is reason to plan on how to completely subborn our entire democracy so that he can ensure his re-election.

I'm not sure what the constitutional requirements are in such a situation; I'm not even sure there are any provisions for such a case. My guess is that aWol will have one of his White House lawyers draw up a "non-binding" legal opinion that states in case of a terrorist attack, the pResident can have himself crowned as Caesar.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Bush Broke the Army

Or "Robbing Peter to Pay Paul."

From this morning's NYT:

In what some military experts see as another sign of how the Army's commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan have strained it, the service for the first time will soon begin aggressively recruiting thousands of sailors and airmen who are otherwise scheduled to leave the Navy and Air Force because of cutbacks.

Bush is a Traitor

Bush has pressured Pakistan to kill or capture bin Laden or other High Value Targets (HVT) during the first three days of the Democratic National Convention.

There hasn't been this pressure until now? So it's been okay that bin Laden and his lieutenants have been traipsing around free so long as Bush gets to steal the spotlight during the Democratic Convention? If that is not treasonous behavior, I can't imagine what would qualify.

Pushing Musharraf to go after Al Qaeda in the tribal areas may be a good idea despite the risks. But, if that is the case, it was a good idea in 2002 and 2003. Why the switch now? Top Pakistanis think they know: This year, the president's reelection is at stake.
Details originating with an article in The New Republic here and more here and here.

Bush Was AWOL

In case you thought that this subject had disappeared down the memory hole, think again. Seems that there were some very interesting and some very specific - um - "glitches" that caused several months of Bush's military records to be destroyed while they were trying to back up some outdated micro-fiches.

The destroyed records cover three months of a period in 1972 and 1973 when Mr. Bush's claims of service in Alabama are in question.
Amazing! Just those three months were destroyed!

My service records - all 10 years of them - fit on two micro-fiche films. I wonder how just a couple of months of records were destroyed in the middle of a much smaller set? How is that possible?

And why wasn't this amazing, almost miraculous, destruction mentioned when "all" of Bush's records were released before?

Link to Daily Kos via Atrios.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

PWB

The newest acronym in the growing lexicon of bigoted harassment driven by the politicized fear and loathing created by 9/11 and the never-ending War on Terror: PWB is Photographing While Brown.

Read this.

It's long; several good sized pages - with photographs. But it is worth your time.

You will be outraged.

Thanks to Scooter for the link.

Sleight of Hand?

John Kerry finally picks a VP and before the polls can show the usual "bounce," Tom Ridge is on the tube - again - warning - again - of credible, but - again - unspecified threats of terrorist attacks in the US. These attacks, he claims, without providing proof, are intended to disrupt our "democratic processes." In an interesting and frightening twist on the situation, he states that the two upcoming conventions are to be designated as "national security events."

So, is this yet another instance of politically timed terror alerts or the real thing? Who can say any longer; Ridge - again - refused to raise the Terrorist Alert Level. And just what is a "national security event?" What will that mean for people who want to attend the conventions? Most importantly, what will that mean for those who want to protest one or the other convention - especially the Republican Convention in NYC? Instead of across the street or around the block, does this mean that the "free speech zones" will be in the next state?

By doing only what has so far been announced, doesn't that indicate that the terrorists have already affected our democratic processes?

About Damn Time!



Oh, and Kenny-boy, the cuffs look really good on you. But I hear the latest fashion craze for psychopathic, ex-robber baron CEOs are shackles and stripes. I'm really looking forward to you parading those down the runway on your next perp-walk.

Great Barrier (Reef)

I wonder what connection the Australian Prime Minister or Defense Minister has to Hughes Space Systems or Boeing? Are there subcontractors to the aerospace industry in Australia that have contributed to their election campaigns?

What else would explain this:

Australia and the United States have signed a pact to develop a controversial missile defense shield. President Bush made the project a priority after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in 2001. But critics have questioned its cost, viability, and Australia's need for such a system.

Australia's government says it need a way to protect its shores from ballistic missiles, even though at the moment the remote continent faces no threat from long-range weapons.
But then the lack of need - or, for that matter, the lack of proven technology - hasn't stopped BushCo. from pursuing this chimera either.

With militaries stretched thin already, school budgets going unfunded around the country and AIDS apparently spiraling out of control in so much of the world, is this really the best use of resources right now? Given the lack of need and the complete failure of current technology in every test, other than those rigged to provide a success, can there be any other purpose behind this tragic program other than to repay those who've been so generous with their share holders' money to conservative governments?

Sovereignty and Insurgency

BushCo. predicted that calm would return to the Fertile Crescent once the Iraqi people were responsible for their own governance. Like every single prediction they've ever made, this one never came true.

To me, this means one of two things. Either they were tragically wrong, witness the continuing violence, or the Iraqis really don't have sovereignty yet. Hmmmm... Your thoughts?

UPDATE: Added links to some of the latest stories.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Mommas Don't Let Your Babies...

Grow Up to be Conservatives.

From the Orange County Weekly, via Hairy Fish Nuts. Such a nice young man:

Like all incoming high school seniors, Tim Bueler has big plans after graduation. The 17-year-old student at Rancho Cotate High School near San Francisco is acclaimed in conservative circles for starting the High School Conservative Clubs of America, an organization that is just what its name states. But instead of taking the next logical step and entering politics, Bueler plans to do what so many conservatives merely dream about: kill Muslims.

A Winning Combination?

Everyone and their brother will analyze this to death - and because of my crazy weekend, that went right through Tuesday (and which I may blog about later...), I'm way behind. But I do think that Edwards was the right choice for Kerry who's got the political chops but lacks the easy charm and grace that Edwards brings to the ticket. Yes, the Rethugs will try to paint him as too young (!?), too inexperienced, and, that Republican bug-bear, a trial lawyer.

I will say one thing, in the upcoming VP Debates, Edwards will easily reveal Cheney to be the nasty, up-tight, political back-stabber that he is.

Monday, July 05, 2004

"Changing America, Just Not For The Better"

An interesting Maureen Dowd piece in this morning's New York Times. I'm not always a fan of MoDo - she tends to be a little too non-discriminating when it comes to her scorn. But this morning, I think she really made some great points.

Their disgust with the 60's spurs oxymoronic - and moronic - behavior, as anti-big-government types conjure up audacious social engineering schemes to turn back the clock.

The day after his re-election to the House in 1994, the future speaker, Newt Gingrich, jubilantly told me he intended to bury any remnants of the "Great Society, counterculture, McGovernik" legacy represented by the morally lax Clintons and return America to a more black-and-white view of right and wrong.

[snip]

W., who had tuned out during the 60's, preferring frat parties to war moratoriums and civil rights marches, and George Jones to "psychedelic" Beatles albums, was on board with his regents' retro concerns, like Star Wars and Saddam, and outdated cold-war assumptions, like the idea that terrorists could thrive only if sponsored by a state.
And finally, this:

The president did end up changing America's image in the world. Just not for the better.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Land of the Free

And so we are; "The Land of the Free." Despite all the difficulties we've found ourselves in these past several years, we remain free. Certainly freer than any other society in recorded history.

Unfortunately, I would argue that we are not as free as we were 3 years ago. Yet - we remain free to change ourselves, to change our government if we are displeased with its performance.

I hope that all of you who drop by my little corner of the world, to read what could only be written in a truly free society, have a great holiday weekend. I hope, too, that you will take a few moments from family and friends, from the barbecue and from the frosty beverages to remember just what it is that we are celebrating, and why it's worth the celebration.

Happy Fourth of July. Happy Independence Day!

Friday, July 02, 2004

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together



The situation in Iraq almost seems like something out of a very bad A-Team episode (isn't that sort of redundant?). From the NYT this afternoon:

This morning, about 3,000 Shiites rallied here calling for the execution of Mr. Hussein, according to the Agence France-Presse news agency. And in the Sunni stronghold of Samarra, north of here, hundreds [of Sunnis] demonstrated against what some marchers called the "ridiculous" trial of Mr. Hussein, and pledged support for the ex-president, the news agency reported.
And of course there's the security situation, so much improved since the Iraqification began.

In the heart of the capital this morning, insurgents in a bus used a homemade launcher to fire rockets next to a mosque in Firdos Square, where in April 2003 a towering statue of Mr. Hussein was pulled down by American troops as they took the city. One of the launchings misfired and destroyed the bus, according to Iraqi police and private security officials.

[snip]

At the same time, explosions also struck outside the Baghdad Hotel, hundreds of feet north of the square. The police said that rockets had been fired at the building, which is popular with foreigners. Police officials said three security guards were injured.
Where's Murdoch when you really need him?

Moore Support

More from the NYT's top opinion writers on the service to country performed by Michael Moore and F9/11. Paul Krugman writes:

"Fahrenheit 9/11" is a tendentious, flawed movie, but it tells essential truths about leaders who exploited a national tragedy for political gain, and the ordinary Americans who paid the price.
Make sure to read the whole thing.

NEWS ALERT: Irony Not Dead!

The headline: Bush Marks 40th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

The irony: "The work of equality is not done, because the evil of bigotry is not finally defeated," Mr. Bush said.

This from the man elected after his brother's goons purged the voter rolls of minorities, attempted to keep minorities from the polls and staged a fake riot to stop a vote recount. This from the man who wholeheartedly supports a constitutional amendment to make an entire group of citizens second-class. This from a man whose party has a rather less than convincing record on hate-crimes laws, equal education and equal rights for women and minorities.

According to the article in the NYT, aWol was able to say the above with a straight face. Amazing.

Who Are You Calling "Elite?"

Barbara Ehrenreich punctures the Rights favorite epithet in yesterday's New York Times. She uses the wingers' - ah - "distaste" for Michael Moore to illustrate just how they have, once again, succeeded in framing the discussion in ways that benefit them.

Beyond that, the idea of a liberal elite nourishes the right's perpetual delusion that it is a tiny band of patriots bravely battling an evil power structure. Note how richly the E-word embellishes the screeds of Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly and their co-ideologues, as in books subtitled "Rescuing American from the Media Elite," "How Elites from Hollywood, Politics and the U.N. Are Subverting America," and so on. Republican right-wingers may control the White House, both houses of Congress and a good chunk of the Supreme Court, but they still enjoy portraying themselves as Davids up against a cosmopolitan-swilling, corgi-owning Goliath.
I'm not sure who stole the idea from whom, but you'll recognize this same technique in the religious rights' appeals that believers are being overrun by hordes of agnostics, atheists and wiccans. The fact that Americans profess to be more religious now than at any time in history seems not to penetrate their propaganda organs, nor does it really matter; it provides them with a rallying cry and a chance to raise more money.

So who really comprises the "elite" in this country?

It's true that there are plenty of working-class people - though far from a majority - who will vote for Bush and the white-tie crowd that he has affectionately referred to as his "base." But it would be redundant to speak of a "conservative elite" when the ranks of our corporate rulers are packed tight with the kind of Republicans who routinely avoid the humiliating discomforts of first class for travel by private jet.
Thanks to Island Dave at Current Events Monitor - new to my blogroll - for pointing to this editorial.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Drumbeat for War?

Perhaps I was too quick to celebrate in my last post. Today's Wall Street Journal Opinion Pages, ever the mouthpiece for BushCo. has an interesting, unsigned editorial on actions and statements by Iranian officials. Read the following carefully - I've copied the entire editorial - something I wouldn't normally do, because it is so frightening (all emphasis is mine):

What's Iran Up To?

That's what U.S. authorities wondered as they expelled two security guards at the Iranian mission to the United Nations last weekend, after the mission was warned repeatedly against permitting its employees to videotape the Statue of Liberty, the subway, bridges and other New York landmarks.

For a dismaying answer, consider the statement made two weeks ago in Tehran by one Hassan Abassi, head of the Revolutionary Guards' Center for Doctrinaire Affairs of National Security Outside Iran's Borders. (Quite the job description.) "We will map 29 sensitive sites in the United States and give the information to all international terror organizations," the New York Sun quotes Mr. Abassi as saying.

In a June 17 report, Memri -- the Middle East Media Research Institute -- reports a nearly identical statement by Mr. Abassi about compiling a target list of "29 sensitive sites." And also: "We have a strategy drawn up for the destruction of Anglo-Saxon civilization."

That strategy would certainly explain its all-out sprint to develop nuclear weapons, which Iran could possess in about a year unless the West acts to stop it. Also relevant is Tehran's recent announcement that it has allocated $1 billion to resume developing long-range missile systems that can reach targets in Europe and the U.S. Then there's the 9/11 Commission's disclosure last month of Iran-al Qaeda links.

All of which suggests that maybe it's time for U.S. policy to more forcefully and directly support democrats in Iran who want to liberate their country from this terror-sponsoring regime.
Here we go again...

Death of a Doctrine?

I heard an interesting commentary on NPR the other day by Daniel Schorr. It seemed to wrap up all the bad things that have happened since BushCo. began espousing his doctrine of Pre-emptive Warfare. Schorr enumerated all of the disasters and missteps we've come to know so well; no WMD, no "imminent" threat, insufficient troops, poor planning, estranged allies, prisoner abuse and increased terrorism.

And then he made a connection that I hadn't really thought of before. And it may be the one unassailably good thing to come from this mal-administration. The mess made by the first application of the doctrine of pre-emption has almost certainly guaranteed that it can never be used again.

BushCo. and his neo-conservative knuckleheads pulled a fast one on many of us under cover of 9/11. But the absolute mess created by this misadventure has awakened the public and the press; creating suspicion and cynicism about their ultimate aims and the means to get there. It won't be so easy to convince Congress or the American people to let loose the reigns on Executive Power again.

It's not too early - I believe - to toast the death of the Bush Doctrine.

Salud!

Wall Crawlin' Web Slinger Wows 'Em

I saw Spiderman 2 last night and I'm still all spun up and wrung out.



You can read the professional reviews (here and here, for example), but I just have one thing to say: Wow.

Sam Raimi and his cast have spun a wonderful movie that explores the agonies and the angst of the super-hero/alter-ego split like never before. The latest installment of the likely trio of movies about the Wall Crawler has heart to go along with its action. The effects are incredible but serve the story rather than the other way around. With all the exposition taken care of in the first movie, the characters are fully fleshed out and the chemistry between Tobey McGuire and Kirsten Dunst is better than ever.

If you're a fan of the comic books, you'll absolutely love how true to the characters the movie has remained - including the latest villain, "Doc Ock." You'll also continue to be amazed at how the effects team was able to capture the moves and static poses we all know so well from the comics. If you're new to the stories the characters are more three dimensional than you'd expect from a comic book. But Stan Lee wrote them with more depth than super-heroes, supporting characters and villains ever had.

I highly recommend this movie; as an homage to the Web Slinger it is perfect; as a summer movie it is highly satisfying and, incredibly, as a sequel it's better than the original.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

If

Amazing that one of the most powerful words in the English language has only two letters.

If the proper planning had been done for nation building in Iraq we might not be stuck in what is surely a quagmire. If the proper number of troops had been committed to the war and post-war effort security would likely not be a problem for Iraqis and foreigners working to rebuild. If neoconservative ideology were not the driving factor in BushCo. actions, we might not have started an unprovoked war. And of course, if Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush and the SCOTUS had done their jobs, there might not be a Bush administration right now.

Today's if: If it had been the Bush Plan instead of the Marshall Plan Germany would still be a third-world backwater struggling to emerge from post-World War II destruction.

From today's NYT:

In the initial months of the American occupation, the hard-earned lessons of earlier nation-building campaigns by the United States and the United Nations in places like Bosnia, Afghanistan and East Timor were ignored by Pentagon planners, who tried to rush ahead with showcase infrastructure projects before securing public safety and a sense of participation, critics say.
If only Bush and his neocon wingnuts had learned the lessons of history, perhaps things might be a little better for us all.

Excuse Me, Your Geek is Showing...

Tonight my daughter and I are going to see Spider Man 2. All the reviews I've heard or read have said that this is going to be even better than the first, which would be incredible. The trailers and commercials have been mind-blowing.

I'm so psyched!



*AHEM* Back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Another Reason Bush Must Go

As if you really needed another reason...

Via Atrios, I found an interesting post on Better Angels. Basically, Biblio, the blogger there, lays out the evidence that far-right wingnuts are teaming up with our old friends in the Christian Right to push for BushCo.'s next excellent adventure. Not satisfied with the mess he's made in the Middle East, these whack-jobs have their eyes on a bigger prize. Here's the headline:

Christians and Neocons Join Forces to Drag Us Into War with North Korea
Go read the whole thing. And when you stop shaking, resolve to get as many friends as you can to the voting booth this November.

Read 'em and Weep

I've said often that the Wall Street Journal is schizophrenic. The news is covered wonderfully in its pages, while the OPED section corrals the most reactionary and conservative bits into one place. I slog through it every day to gain some perspective on current conservative thought. Sometimes painful, sometimes hilarious; the letters provide me with plenty of opportunity to laugh out loud or to shake my head.

Today's edition contained a letter (subscription) that after I first read it made me think that I must have mis-read it. But no, this was really the first paragraph:

Daniel Henninger's June 28 column Wonderland "Evil Or Just Politics?" seeks to examine the spectrum of plausible excuses for the inexcusable. Whether it is supporting senseless abortion, beheadings or terrorism perpetuated by people who claim their behavior rooted in a fanatical and limited belief in God, it can only be summed up by one word. Evil.
Did you catch it? Did it make you do a double take?

In reverse order, the writer conflated the following items: terrorism, beheadings and abortion.

In that short paragraph, this person summarily places anyone who's had to make the difficult, personal, medical decision to have an abortion (and truthfully, anyone who has thought about it or approves of it) in the same moral category with terrorists and fundamentalist thugs. And make no mistake about it, these people would make the punishment for all three the same if they could.

The final two sentences of the letter illustrate the absolute break with reality faced by the writer and his like minded cohort:

President Bush and Prime Minister Blair understand this important history regarding humanity and are providing a marvelous example of authentic leadership to a cynical world desperately in need of it. The overall policies that the U.S. are engaged in from abortion to Iraq under the leadership of President Bush seem to be a set of responsible, coherent, strategic policies consistent with a nation that champions human rights while seeking the defeat of global terrorism.

Monday, June 28, 2004

God of the Sky, Ruler of the Titans

While we scurry about on our little speck of rock, pretending to be about important matters, a small, robotic explorer is approaching the most beautiful, sublime planet in our solar system. Cassini/Huygens will fire its engines and insert itself into Saturn orbit on July 1. As it approaches it sends back data that amaze and surprise and photos that boggle the mind.

Dictionaries in Short Supply?

Can someone please give the talking heads at ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN, MSNBC a dictionary?

They all keep saying that Iraq was given sovereignty this morning. And yet no such thing happened. It's true that Paul Bremmer gave a letter to al Yawer saying so. It's true that Bremmer then left Iraq with all the alacrity of a rat from a sinking ship. But we all know that what the new Iraqi government has been left with is nothing like sovereignty;

n. government free from external control.
via WordNet.
But just for fun, wouldn't it be great if they actually tried to act as though they did? What would happen if al Yawer ordered all American military personnel out? What would happen if he sent his security forces - if any of them are working these days - to claim true custody of Saddam Hussein?

Farce might be too mild a word.

Skulking Away in the Night

The security situation in Iraq is in such great shape that Paul Bremmer had to hand over "sovereignty" to the new Iraqi government two days early and then skulk away in the night.

We've done such a wonderful job there, haven't we? Makes you proud to have BushCo. in the White House.