Tuesday, August 17, 2004

More Voting Irregularities?

Via Island Dave, we learn that somebody is submitting change of address cards for registered voters meaning that when they show up to vote, they are not on the rolls at their local, correct, polling place. They are not removed from the rolls completely, and there are no ways to trace the origins of the change of address cards. Is this the perfect crime?

Are you registered to vote? Are you sure you're registered? I am currently pissed off. Let me tell you why. Today, around lunchtime, I went with my parents to the polls to vote in our primary election. When I got there, I found that I had somehow been removed from the books, and hence could not vote. Frustrated, I took the day off work and my mom took me down to the Election Board at 18th and Walnut. When we got there, we found that the reason I was not on the books is that SOMEONE had sent in an address change card for me. I live near 76th and Troost, but the voting database now had me down as living at 52nd and Locust - I've NEVER lived there, and have in fact lived at this address all of my life (well, except for the year in England, and even then this was my "permanent address"). It took about two hours, but the elections commission director straightened it out and I was finally able to vote. However, she told me why this has been happening, and it's very worrisome. Apparently there are groups out there who buy copies of the voter registration rolls, then send in new registrations for registered voters giving them a new address.
Even if you've gotten a voter registration card - as we do here in New York - you should call your local voter registration office and double check. Do NOT wait until the last minute, do NOT take the chance that you will not be able to vote in November. Do it NOW!

If you find any irregularities, contact the FEC and let them know about it.

Don't Believe Your Eyes

If you see a Bush "Town Hall Meeting" or rally on television, you could be forgiven for thinking that his support is strong wherever he goes. You would, however, be wrong.

President Bush's team exerts close control over admission to his campaign events. Dissenters and would-be hecklers are turned away, campaign officials say. On several occasions in recent weeks, Democrats who have gotten in have been ejected because they wore pro-Kerry T-shirts.

[snip]

Last month, some Democrats who signed up to hear Vice President Dick Cheney speak near Albuquerque, N.M., were refused tickets unless they signed a pledge to endorse Bush. The Bush campaign described the measure as a security step designed to avoid a disruption it contended had been planned.

[snip]

Bush's admission policy can leave the impression that the president has strong support wherever he goes.

Labor unions traditionally align with Democrats and have not been particularly friendly to Bush. So when Bush spoke at a Las Vegas union hall Thursday, the campaign used its usual ticket distribution policy to pack the hall with backers.

The crowd roared its approval throughout the speech. Some tickets were also given to union members. A few of them sat silently in the back rows.

Bush Wants You Dead

Unless you're a rich campaign contributor, that is...

From The Washington Post via John Aravosis' AMERICABlog:

Tuberculosis had sneaked up again, reappearing with alarming frequency across the United States. The government began writing rules to protect 5 million people whose jobs put them in special danger. Hospitals and homeless shelters, prisons and drug treatment centers -- all would be required to test their employees for TB, hand out breathing masks and quarantine those with the disease. These steps, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration predicted, could prevent 25,000 infections a year and 135 deaths.

By the time President Bush moved into the White House, the tuberculosis rules, first envisioned in 1993, were nearly complete. But the new administration did nothing on the issue for the next three years.

Then, on the last day of 2003, in an action so obscure it was not mentioned in any major newspaper in the country, the administration canceled the rules. Voluntary measures, federal officials said, were effective enough to make regulation unnecessary.
Of course if you're rich enough to be a Bush Ranger or Pioneer, you would never have to work in the kinds of places these rules are meant for.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Up to Their Old Tricks?

Bob Herbert, in today's New York Times wonders if the GOP is - once again - working, by nefarious means, to suppress the minority vote in Florida.

State police officers have gone into the homes of elderly black voters in Orlando and interrogated them as part of an odd "investigation" that has frightened many voters, intimidated elderly volunteers and thrown a chill over efforts to get out the black vote in November.

[snip]

The long and ugly tradition of suppressing the black vote is alive and thriving in the Sunshine State.

Lessons (Not) Learned

You'd think with the situation in Iraq - specifically in Najaf - rapidly approaching the point where it will, without doubt, spiral out of control, that BushCo. would get a clue about troop levels there.

If you thought that, though, you'd be wrong.

In what will be a "major" announcement about troop redeployments, many of which are of questionable value (not to mention that there are no bases with the maneuver room or facilities for many of the units they want to return to the US), Bush has no plans to increase troop levels in Iraq or Afghanistan.

President Bush's plan to call tens of thousands of U.S. troops home from Europe and Asia could gain him election-year applause from military families, but won't ease the strain on soldiers still battling violent factions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Supporting the troops or shameless, election year stunt? You decide.

All Along the Watchtower

I wonder if the Feds were watching with the same fervor in the run-up and during the Democratic Convention in Boston...

Law enforcement sources said that in recent weeks, federal agents have begun interviewing people in the New York City area they believe might know about any plots to cause mayhem at the convention, and have used surveillance against possible suspects.

The intelligence unit of the New York Police Department has been closely monitoring Web sites run by self-described anarchists. It also has sought to infiltrate protest groups with young, scruffy-looking officers posing as activists.

Charley - Postscript

As you've read everywhere, hurricane Charley threw forecasters and Florida residents a curve. Those who were in its path were hammered by Category IV winds and storm surge. The damage was considerable and there were an as yet unknown number of deaths.

Their tragedy turned out to be my family's luck. None of them were hurt - as the main poart of the storm moved inland well south of them - and the worst they had was some strong rain and winds.

Thanks to you all for your kind comments in my previous post. And my thoughts go out to those who were affected by Charley...

Friday, August 13, 2004

Charley

Hurricane Charley, expected to strengthen to Category III, with winds around 120 mph, is approaching my hometown in Florida. If the eye crosses the coast where it is currently forecast to do so, my hometown, Bradenton, will be just to the east of the eye. That is, in the path of the most destructive winds and storm driven surge - expected to be between 10 and 15 feet. Very little of the town is more than 15 feet above sea level and a very wide river, the Manatee, runs right through the middle of town; the perfect funnel for the storm surge to drive its way miles inland.



My father, who lives right on the river (within 10 feet) and my sister, who lives in St. Petersburg (directly in the landfall path) have been evacuated. My mother and other sister, who live further inland and away from the river have stocked up on water, food, batteries and candles. Landfall is expected at around 1:30 pm, today.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed...

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Lock Him Up and Throw Away the Keyes

I just heard the final 20 minutes of Alan Keyes on NPR's Fresh Air.

I am absolutely convinced, in a way that no written account could ever do, that the man is certifiably insane. He spouted lines and held positions that no sane person could ever espouse. He even repeated the assertion that his opponent's position on abortion (pro-choice) was the "slave holders' position." The man is an absolute loon.

Illinois, Barack Obama will - without a doubt - be your next Senator.

Free Speech Zone My Ass

Dahlia Lithwick, guest commenting at the New York Times today from Slate, nails it:


Enormous national events will inevitably be terror targets. So will the president. But before we single out the anarchists and the environmentalists and the puppet-guys for diminished constitutional protections - before we herd them into what are speech-free zones - we might question whether they represent the real danger. If we don't recognize the distinction between passionate political speech and terrorism now, it may be too late to protest later.
Indeed.


Has there ever been a more insidious breach of our rights than the so called Free Speech Zones?

IRONY ALERT!

Proof that Republicans are blind to irony:

President Bush pushed back Wednesday against Sen. John Kerry’s criticism of his handling of Iraq, saying, “I know what I’m doing when it comes to winning this war.”

Nothing Good Can Come of This

Regardless of how the latest assault on Najaf turns out, it is the beginning of the end. A final, ignominious end to BushCo.'s misadventure into preemptive warfare. A terrible, bloody end to a lethal distraction from the real war on terror.

Thousands of U.S. troops and Iraqi soldiers launched a major assault Thursday on militiamen loyal to a radical Shiite cleric in Najaf, with explosions and gunfire echoing around the holy city's revered Imam Ali shrine and its vast cemetery.
It's tempting to say, as so many did during the early years of the Viet Nam war, that there is no way this militia can win. And, in perhaps strictly military terms, that may be true - although even that is no sure thing. But like the battles in Viet Nam, the goal was not necessarily military victory. In fact the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong won fairly few battles outright.

And yet, they are still there and the mighty US military is not. The battles were lost, but the war was won.

No matter how the battle for Najaf actually ends, that we have to fight it at all is, I fear, a sure sign that we've lost the war.

Keep the Picture, Throw Out the Frame

Once again, progressives are letting conservatives frame the discussion around an important issue. By doing so they are losing the chance at making real reform in an important area of civil rights and in an area that caused no end of problems in the last presidential election. That issue? Voting rights; in particular re-enfranchising felons after their sentences are complete.

In this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription), Democrats show their continued hesitancy to take the initiative and frame this campaign issue:

Nevertheless, leading Democrats have approached the question of felons' voting rights gingerly. Their dilemma: While talking up the issue would reap votes and goodwill in some African-American communities, which are disproportionately affected by voting restrictions, it also could prompt Republican attacks.

"The Democrats are scared to death of being accused of being soft on crime," says Marc Mauer, assistant director of the Sentencing Project, a Washington group that works on prison issues. Nonetheless, he says, the voting-rights issue "seems like a golden opportunity for [Democrats] and they should jump on it."
Left unsaid in the article - this is still the Wall Street Journal - is that far from being soft on crime, this issue is about being strong on voting rights, strong on civil rights. Restoring the right to vote to felons who have completed their sentences does nothing to shorten or soften their terms in prison or on probation. What it does do is return some measure of a sense of belonging to their community to these ex-felons.

Nearly as bad as the idea that felons should be permanently disenfranchised is the way that lists of those ineligible to vote are maintained. Remember Florida?

Much of the controversy surrounding felons' voting rights involves purge lists. Problems with the lists have emerged most dramatically -- and repeatedly -- in Florida. The state, which bars felons from voting unless they win clemency through a personal appeal to the governor, first restricted felons' voting rights in 1868 by adopting a constitution that critics say discriminates against African-Americans. Today, one in three black men in Florida can't vote because of the restrictions.

Florida's purge list, and a host of other voting problems, became after the 2000 election, when George W. Bush won Florida by 537 votes. A lawsuit by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People questioned the validity of 90,000 names on the list. People who shared names or addresses with convicted felons ended up on list. And some former prisoners were included even though their voting rights had been restored.

This year's purge list, which the state was forced to release after being sued by the media, also had problems. More than 2,000 of the 48,000 names on the list were legitimate voters, activists say. Also, because of problems with the databases used, only a few dozen Hispanic felons were on the purge list, compared with many thousands of African-Americans. That ignited racial and political tensions because many Hispanics in Florida tend to vote Republican and African-Americans usually support Democrats. In mid-July, the state threw the list out.
The progressive ideas of redemption and rehabilitation have fallen completely from the national discourse because of this constant attack by conservatives on anyone who promotes them. And because progressives, Democrats, will not stand up to the attacks and frame the issue in any meaningful way.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Grandma Millie Gets Cheneyed - Again

Poor Grandma Millie. First it was Enron:

Employee 1: "All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?

Employee 2: "Yeah, Grandma Millie man.

Employee 1: "Yeah, now she wants her f-----g money back for all the power you've charged right up, jammed right up her a—for f-----g $250 a megawatt hour."
Now it's Arnold (WSJ - subscription):

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, signaling his energy views for the first time, endorsed a plan to restore an open-market energy structure by 2006, five years after "customer choice" was suspended due to a massive energy crisis and market meltdown.
Republicans and their corporate owners just cannot get enough of gorging themselves at the public energy trough. They are back again before Kenny-boy has even gone to trial.

I wonder what the citizens of California will have to say about this...

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

A World-wide Audience

I've noticed lately that my Site-Meter statistics show that I get visitors from around the world. Those coming from outside the Western Hemisphere are not numerous, but they are widespread.

I just found it interesting:



Hello, to my far-flung readers!

"The War on Terror" is NOT Working

If you had any doubt about that, you can lay it to rest.

From today's NYT:

A new portrait of Al Qaeda's inner workings is emerging from the cache of information seized last month in Pakistan, as investigators begin to identify a new generation of operatives who appear to be filling the vacuum created when leaders were killed or captured, senior intelligence officials said Monday.

[snip]

For the past several months, the president has claimed that much of Al Qaeda's leadership has been killed or captured; the new evidence suggests that the organization is regenerating and bringing in new blood.
Remind anyone who tells you differently that BushCo. promised that invading Iraq would make the world safer. Remind them that Bush will continue his failed international policies. Remind them that we are NOT safer.

Reality Bites

A letter to the editor in today's Wall Street Journal caught my interest this morning. It, perhaps, presages something fundamental happening in our society. There's no doubt that it's starting slowly, but with the economy continuing it's rather tepid and unsure "jobless recovery," there can be no doubt that this trend will continue. The question is whether it will contribute to society reaching a basic tipping point from the meanness of small-government conservatism to a more caring helpful-government progressivism.

Here's the complete letter - I think it speaks for itself:

Your article regarding layoffs among older executives and managers ("In the Lead: Older Executives Find Job Losses Often Mean Having to Retire Early," July 20) really hit home. I was 55 years old when I lost my job. After a one-year search and 14 interviews I landed a job at nearly the same salary but with better benefits with an institution, it turns out, that is an absolute joy to work for. But I am the exception. Many others who were terminated with me are still looking for full-time work three years later.

This experience and the recent wave of corporate corruption and executive greed have profoundly changed my attitudes. My previous obsessions with tax cuts, deregulation and smaller government have been replaced by concerns over maintaining Social Security and Medicare, providing medical care for the uninsured and efforts to curtail tax evasion by businesses and wealthy individuals. I guess reality got in the way of my good theories.

Kenneth Susinka
Elmhurst, Ill.

Class Warfare

The rich are not like you and me.

It sounds cliche, but in so many ways it's true. And there really is a class war going on in the world, but it's warfare against the middle and lower classes by the rich, not the other way around. If you have any doubts, consider the following:

In this morning's Wall Street Journal, they report that Kenny-boy Lay is "propos[ing] that his trial start on Sept. 14, with the evidence to be heard by a judge rather than a jury." Can you imagine that if any of us peons were charged with embezzling from our employers we'd be allowed to dicker for how, when and where our cases were adjudicated?

And last week, in Canada, an MP with 25 years of service in Vancouver, BC was given a one year suspended sentence and one year of probation with community service. His crime? From the sentence you might think it was perhaps too many parking tickets or failing to stop at an intersection. Actually, he was convicted of stealing a ring worth $64,500. Where would a young, homeless man be if he had stolen the same ring to feed his family or his addiction?

These are just the latest anecdotes in the continuing class war by the rich on the less fortunate. Their fortunes increase while our wages stagnate. Their taxes are cut while our after-school programs are closed. They go to the best medical specialists while we fight our HMOs for basic coverage.

Class warfare, indeed.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Clueless in Washington

Via AMERICABlog and the York Daily News, we learn that Tom Ridge is considering resigning as Secretary of Homeland Security should Bush be re-elected. The reason? Could it be the pressure of trying to protect the US without the power and budget promised by his boss? Nope (well, that might be part of it).

The reason? On his salary, $175,600 (with free medical insurance), he's worried he won't be able to afford to pay for college for his two children.

I wonder how long before Tommy becomes a Democrat?

Welcome to the real world.

Blogging Again

I think I'm back into a regular schedule again for a while. And I've got lots to catch up on; at home, at work and here at The Fulcrum.

Najaf is a mess.

Al Qaeda has thought about using tourist helicopters to attack targets in NYC (but how long ago?).

And the drumbeat against Iran continues apace in the White House.


It's good to be home...

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Born in The U.S.A.

Nearly everyone has - probably willfully - ignored the irony and the pain behind the title of that Bruce Springsteen song. And while I've never been a huge fan of his material, there are songs that I like. I do, however, appreciate Springsteen's stand on most political subjects.

In today's New York Times, Bruce has written an opinion piece that is well worth a read.

... Personally, for the last 25 years I have always stayed one step away from partisan politics. Instead, I have been partisan about a set of ideals: economic justice, civil rights, a humane foreign policy, freedom and a decent life for all of our citizens. This year, however, for many of us the stakes have risen too high to sit this election out.
Read the rest, it's a great piece of writing. I came away with a new respect for him, I think you might too.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I'm Back...

Is there anything more difficult than trying to dive right back into your daily work routine after being on vacation? Ugh.

Our vacation was great; a wonderful chance to see my family and roam around a little bit in my home town. The weather was just as I remembered it in July and August: hot and muggy with temperatures and relative humidity levels both in the 90's. Even though I haven't lived there in over 20 years, somehow that weather still feels very good to me... Of course now that I'm back in New York, the temperature tomorrow is only going to be in the mid- to upper-60's. Nice.

I was able to see only bits of the Democratic National Convention, but what I did see impressed me and gives me great hope for November - as do the poll numbers. I also didn't see a whole lot of national news, so it's going to take a while to catch up to what's going on.

I can tell you that while traveling yesterday, the increased alert levels had caused the TSA to be more thorough: I saw them double checking what appeared to be a five year old girl in security at JFK Airport in New York. She had to remove her little pink and black sandals for a second pass through screening, her backpack was thoroughly searched after it went through the X-Ray machine and her teddy bear was thoroughly squeezed and shaken. Her father, apparently not selected at random for further screening, watched with a look that was a mixture of amusement, impatience and disgust.

I felt so much safer.

Anyway... catching up at work is going to take some time and we may have to go to Canada tomorrow for family reasons (I won't bore you with the details), so once again, blogging my be light to non-existent for a few more days.

Thanks again to those of you who keep coming by, checking in on me and leaving comments. I hope you'll all forgive the lull in posting while I try to straighten out a thousand different things going on right now.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

From the Sunshine State

Thanks to everyone who's stopped by while I've been out and left comments. It's been a great visit with family and the weather has been wonderful - that is, if you like it hot and humid...

Anyway, for those of you who keep coming by, I thought I'd reward you with one of the photos I've taken while here. This is the view at sunset looking down the Manatee River towards Bradenton, my hometown.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

And Now A Word From Our Sponsor

No, I'm not going commercial. This morning, I'm headed to the airport to catch a flight to my home state of Florida for some well deserved vacation. It's been over two years since my last visit home and I've missed my family. I also have missed the heat and the smell of the salt air of Florida.

I'll have only ocassional access to a computer - and I'll be missing much of the Democratic Convention as well. So I hope that you all will watch carefully and report faithfully! Continue to check in on me now and again.

I'll be back home in New York on August 3. Have a great week!

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.