Tuesday, September 07, 2004

1,000

AP is reporting that the US Military deathtoll in Iraq is now 1,000. Fourteen in the past two days, alone.

W. Wrong war, wrong leader. Just wrong.

The End of Laughter and Soft Lies

Via Atrios, we find Texans for Truth.

Check them out, give them a little turkee if you can. Their first project:

Texans for Truth, established by the 20,000-member Texas online activist group, DriveDemocracy.org, has produced a 0:30 second television advertisement, "AWOL." The ad features Robert Mintz, one of many who served in Alabama's 187th Air National Guard -- when Bush claims to have been there -- who have no memory of Bush on the base. In other words, Bush failed to fulfill his military duty while others were dying in Vietnam.

All the Children Are Insane

In today's New York Times, David Brooks tries to have us drink the neo-con Kool-Aid on the causes of terrorism. This consists of disparaging anyone who might try to look at root causes. Because, in the conservative mind, terrorists are evil. Not just the generic evil we use in everday speech, but the theologic eveil which springs from the dark recesses of the universe and has no cause which is explicable to the human mind.

Three years after Sept. 11, too many people have become experts at averting their eyes. If you look at the editorials and public pronouncements made in response to Beslan, you see that they glide over the perpetrators of this act and search for more conventional, more easily comprehensible targets for their rage.

The Boston Globe editorial, which was typical of the American journalistic response, made two quick references to the barbarity of the terrorists, but then quickly veered off with long passages condemning Putin and various Russian policy errors.

The Dutch foreign minister, Bernard Bot, speaking on behalf of the European Union, declared: "All countries in the world need to work together to prevent tragedies like this. But we also would like to know from the Russian authorities how this tragedy could have happened."
If we are not to look too deeply at why people - over the long run - can be driven to such despicable acts (and who would deny that they are other than that?), then what hope is there that future generations will ever be able to avoid the mistakes that we have made? What hope is there that our children and grandchildren will be able to live in a world where nobody is so desperate that they would join in such a cause?

This death cult has no reason and is beyond negotiation. This is what makes it so frightening. This is what causes so many to engage in a sort of mental diversion. They don't want to confront this horror. So they rush off in search of more comprehensible things to hate.
So David Brooks would have us believe that terrorism and terrorists just arise ab nihilo. Accepting that at face value would mean that there is no reason to understand - either the person, their cause or the roots of that cause. And that makes it so much easier to sell the kind of hatred and xenophobia and depersonalization which is the first necessary step to being able to kill another human being.

That is a sure recipe for future disaster.

The Killer Awoke Before Dawn

With one major ambush on Monday killing 7 US troops and another soldier killed today, the American death toll in Iraq reached 992.

Remember, this in a country where aWol says everything is under control. Where democracy is growing. Where many, many schools have been painted. Where US soldiers have been unable to patrol large swaths of the country since April. Where "major combat operations" ended.

You remember this, right?

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine

Seems that Dick Cheney's former and future employers just can't quite keep ahead of the impending troubles with their military contracts. Despite getting the work without a competitive bid, despite picking up a plum "Cost-Plus" type contract, despite getting lots of maneuver room because of their close ties to the VP, seems Halliburton can't quite get it right.

From this morning's WSJ (subscription):

The U.S. Army plans to move within months to break up the multibillion-dollar logistics contract that Halliburton Co. has to feed, house and look after U.S. troops in Iraq, and to put out the work for competitive bid.

The move, laid out in an internal Army memorandum, comes after more than a year in which Halliburton's work in Iraq under the contract has been plagued by accounting turmoil and accusations of overcharging. The contract, which the memo values at as much as $13 billion, has been used since early last year to provide massive support services for U.S. troops in Iraq and Kuwait, including housing, dining halls, transportation and laundry.
So what were the problems again?

Pentagon auditors said in a report last month that KBR hadn't provided satisfactory details to back up more than $1.8 billion of work in Iraq and Kuwait. The Army still is debating whether to begin withholding payment on 15% of all billings until KBR is able to resolve the accounting backlog.
Some of those "details" include charging the military for meals that were never served, charging something on the order of 5 times the market price for gasoline and assorted other discrepancies.

I wonder if this will have an effect on how much "deferred compensation" Cheney will get?

Monday, September 06, 2004

Summer's End


Almost as if it could make us forget the awful summer weather we've had, this past weekend was absolutely incredible; sunny and warm. A perfect weekend for barbecue, beer and friends.

I hope you all had a wonderful Labor Day Weekend as well.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

October Surprise?

From the ever well informed AMERICABlog, comes the first glimpse at the ace BushCo. may have up their collective sleeves.

The United States and its allies have moved closer to capturing Osama bin Laden in the last two months, a top U.S. counterterrorism official said in a television interview broadcast Saturday.

"If he has a watch, he should be looking at it because the clock is ticking. He will be caught," Joseph Cofer Black, the U.S. State Department coordinator for counterterrorism, told private Geo television network.
Suddenly he-who-cannot-be-named is important again? Did'nt aWol say he wasn't important any more? Wasn't the Never-Ending-War-on-Terror bigger than one man?

I hope you wouldn't put it past these guys to have Osama on ice somewhere, just waiting for the "opportune time" to parade him before the public.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Thank You, Sir, May I Have Another?

More "Compassionate Conservatism?"

A day after President Bush heralded his efforts to help the elderly cope with increased medical expenses, federal officials announced the largest premium increase in dollars in the Medicare program's history, raising the monthly expense by $11.60 to $78.20.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Clinton to Have By-Pass Surgery!

Bill Clinton was admitted to a New York City hospital today:

A Democratic Party official told Reuters that Clinton, who served two terms as president from 1993 to 2001, had checked into the hospital with chest pains. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, could not confirm that Clinton would undergo bypass surgery.

The severity of Clinton's coronary problem was discovered after tests at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, New York, ABC News reported. His coronary results were not favorable and he was found to have multiple lesions, it said.

CBS News said doctors found a blockage.

CNN quoted a source close to the former president as saying the surgery could take place as early as Saturday.

Young Republicans Love the War

As long as they don't have to fight it.

In more than a dozen interviews, Republicans in their teens and 20s offered a range of answers. Some have friends in the military in Iraq and are considering enlisting; others said they can better support the war by working politically in the United States; and still others said they think the military doesn't need them because the U.S. presence in Iraq is sufficient.


"Frankly, I want to be a politician. I'd like to survive to see that," said Vivian Lee, 17, a war supporter visiting the convention from Los Angeles.
I'm sure at least one or two of the nearly 1,000 dead American soldiers had plans they would have liked to survived to see, too, you little shit.

Some Speech is More Equal Than Others

Mayor Michael Bloomberg needs a serious refresher course in American History, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. While discussing protestors, specifically those who have confronted Republican delegates in the streets, he claims that while the Republicans' speech is protected by the First Amendment, the protestors speech makes them... well let's let the Mayor tell you what he thinks it makes them:

"It is true that a handful of people have tried to destroy our city by going up and yelling at visitors here because they don't agree with their views," Mr. Bloomberg said. "Think about what that says. This is America, New York, cradle of liberty, the city for free speech if there ever was one and some people think that we shouldn't allow people to express themselves. That's exactly what the terrorists did, if you think about it, on 9/11. Now this is not the same kind of terrorism but there's no question that these anarchists are afraid to let people speak out."
That's right, if you're a Republican, speaking out makes you an American. If your not it makes you a terrorist.

Trampling the First Amendment in New York

There is an interesting twist to the arrests of protesters in New York City during the RNC. It seems that the law requires arrestees to be processed and charged or released within 24 hours. Many had been held over 36 hours without any processing. During the same period, people arrested for other, minor infractions like shoplifting had been processed and released.

Why would the city hold the protesters so long (WSJ - subscription)?

According to Mr. Siegel, the teen's mother called Manhattan central booking to inquire about her son and was told that "all demonstrators would be held until President Bush left town." Mr. Bush makes his acceptance speech tonight at the Republican National Convention.
The judge in the case ordered the city to release 560 protesters.

Matter - Antimatter Reaction

In his acceptance speech, aWol said that his tax cuts had created a strong economy. Anyone who actually reads the newspapers could only shake their heads at this remark. But an article in that ever-so-Liberal Wall Street Journal set my thinking straight on the issue.

Seems the tax cuts are working exactly as BushCo. wanted them to:

The back-to-school shopping season got off to a sluggish start, as midprice department stores, discounters and specialty-apparel retailers rung up disappointing sales in August, reinforcing concerns that consumers are feeling the effects of a shaky and uneven economic recovery.

Upscale shoppers helped luxury department-store chains post hefty gains. Moderate- and lower-income shoppers continued to feel the bite of higher gas and grocery bills and lackluster job growth.
So while you and I are struggling to fit ever more expensive gas and groceries into a budget that grows only on the expense side while the income side stagnates or shrinks, just what are those folks who actually benefited from the tax cuts doing with all that extra money?

Upscale department stores posted strong gains. Neiman Marcus Group Inc., Dallas, said same-store sales jumped 15% for its Neiman Marcus Stores and Bergdorf Goodman units combined, citing strength in designer handbags. Same-store sales at Nordstrom Inc., of Seattle, rose 7.2%, on brisk demand for accessories.

No Program Left Unfunded

George W., the leader of the Party of Small Government, sure made a lot of promises to spend money last night. This is my continuing effort to unspin the Republican National Convention.

Of course W. mentioned his now widely criticized "No Child Left Behind" program, his now discounted drug discount program for seniors and, of course, his disastrous tax cuts. On top of that he pledged continued spending on the never-ending War on Terror, Social Security reform, broader job training and expanded access to health care. Don't think he forgot a bone for all his business backers either; tax cuts for corporations were thrown on the heap as well.

And - again - making his tax cuts permanent.

Nowhere in this litany of programs did he mention any way to pay for it all. Nowhere did he mention how he planned to pay down the incredible national debt he's managed to build. Nowhere did he provide any indication how he was going to finance the ever expanding quagmire in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One of his too often repeated phrases last night was "nothing will hold us back." Nothing it seems except being bogged down in interminable war and the ability to pay for your promises, George.

Fate?

From George Pataki's speech last night (if I remember it correctly):

"...fate gave us George W. Bush for President"


Fate, Apparently, Wears a Black Robe

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Our "Friends" in Pakistan

G.W. really knows how to pick our country's friends, no?

A new assessment of Iran's nuclear program by the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency says that, as early as 1995, Pakistan was providing Tehran with the designs for sophisticated centrifuges capable of making bomb-grade nuclear fuel. It also finds evidence that, as of the mid-August, Iran had assembled and tested the major components for 70 of the machines, which it showed to inspectors from the agency.
Are you safer now than you were four years ago?

This is Sure to Help Matters

There are no legitimate excuses for the use of suicide bombers to kill and maim civilians. It is a breach of every known law, agreement or treaty on the conduct of warfare.

That does not, however, excuse this:

Israeli forces blew up two large apartment blocks in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, making scores of Palestinians homeless after suicide bombers killed 16 people in Israel.

The army, carrying out its biggest Gaza incursion in weeks, said the operation in the Khan Younis refugee camp targeted twin five-storey buildings used by Palestinian militants for attacks on Israeli soldiers and settlers.
How can this possibly help the problem the Israelis and Palestinians are having? This could not even be considered something so stupid as "treating the symptoms rather than the cause." This is inflaming the cause and creating further symptoms. But with both sides led by doddering old fools, holding grudges and memories from decades ago, there seems little hope in the short-run for anything else.

Headlines for the Sane

Some might accuse us liberal bloggers of writing sensationalistic headlines and posts. But must of us would say we are just unspinning the spin. Eric Alterman seems to feel the same way and nails it with the following:

You can call me “liberal.” I am liberal. But the headlines I’ve written comport more closely with the view held by most of the civilized world. The opposite views—the ones around which our political circuses spin—are held only by a tiny minority of people. It is the world’s colossal misfortune to have this tiny minority at the helm of the world’s most powerful nation, despite their side having lost the last election by any reasonable measure.
I don't post about or refer to Alterman's Altercation often enough anymore. If you don't read him at least once a week, you really should.

More Anti-Spin

This is from MSNBC:

As speakers at the GOP convention trumpet Bush administration successes in the war on terrorism, an NBC News analysis of Islamic terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001, shows that attacks are on the rise worldwide - dramatically.

[snip]

Moreover, the level of sophistication is increasing. Terrorism experts point in particular to the attacks apparently carried out by Chechen rebels during that 10-day period. The rebels, whose top military commanders have been Arabs, are operating at a whole different level.

"You have bombs on board planes, bombs at a train station and now a hostage taking," said Roger Cressey, a former deputy National Security Council director of counterterrorism. "This is all coordinated. These things do not happen by accident, and in fact, United States officials are frantically trying to determine if they are a forerunner of an attack aimed at the U.S."
So in a twist on the classic campaign question, I have to ask you: "Are you safer now than you were four years ago?"

The Quantum Physics of the Vice President

What alternate universe is Dick Cheney living in? I know he's spent most of the past three years in a "secure, undisclosed location," but didn't he at least have cable? The spin he put on reality last night reminded me of the sub-atomic particle property called - appropriately enough - spin. It's a derived number related to a particle's angular momentum (both orbital and inherent), but that's a discussion for another post.

Here's part of what Tricky Dick had to say:

The vice president hailed President Bush as a "superb commander-in-chief" who has helped restore the economy and will lead the nation to victory in the war on terror. Mr. Bush "does not deal in empty threats and half measures," Mr. Cheney said in his prime-time speech to delegates and a nationwide television audience.
Let's try to nullify the spin on those two issues.

I assume that Crash-Cart Cheney was referring to a massive increase in the national debt, tax cuts for the rich, huge unfunded mandates to the states (NCLB), 1.1 million jobs lost and a sputtering recovery. Did I miss anything?

As for leading us all to "victory in the war on terror," I'm not even sure where to start. Cheney must have been referring to ignoring Afghanistan where the Taliban not only wasn't destroyed and bin Laden was never found, but they are still there and increasing their hold on the country - again. Or maybe it was the complete fabrication used to take us to war against a country that it turns out has absolutely nothing to do with the war on terror. Or maybe he was referring to the Korean peninsula where we are drawing down troops who are facing a potential enemy who actually does have nuclear weapons. Actually on this subject I could give examples for days. And really, you all know them already.

If Dick Cheney were a quantum particle - no small feat, given his increasing bulk in recent years (they must not have a treadmill in his hideout) - physicists would have to come up with a new way to measure spin.

Oh, and to return to something I said in a previous post, if Arnold and Laura and the twins were the lipstick, Dick was the pig.

UPDATE: In fact, I found a picture to support my last assertion.

Photo via AMERICABlog via Eschaton; photo editing is mine.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Feeling Safer?

A little more anti-spin for you today.

Everyone and their twin daughters has been telling us that aWol has made the world a safer place with his "War on Terror." Someone should read this article to him:

Iran has announced plans to turn tons of uranium into a substance that can be used to make nuclear weapons, the U.N. atomic watchdog agency said Wednesday in a report stoking concern about Tehran's nuclear agenda.

[snip]

Another diplomat, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that enough highly enriched uranium could be produced from the hexafluoride derived to make several explosive devices.
Makes you feel all warm inside, doesn't it?

The GOP Freak Show

A former body builder turned actor turned politician. Two temporarily sober frat girls turned campaign tarts. And the prototypical Stepford Wife and ex-Librarian turned ignorant science advisor on stem cells. Throw in a miscellaneous mix of morons and there you have it: day two of the Republican National Convention otherwise touted as the "People of Compassion Night."

Sure.

Schwarzenegger is compassionate about any woman with a great rack - as long as she doesn't complain about being groped. The Bush Twins are compassionate about their booze - just like daddy! And Laura - what the hell is she passionate or compassionate about? She's a walking advertisement for Prozac. And all of them are fronting for the most bigoted, homophobic party platform since the Reconstruction South.

Welcome to the new GOP; where they smile to your face while they pick your pocket, molest your daughter and play Pope to our modern Galileos.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Secret Service Destroys First Amendment at R.N.C.

Via Jesus' General, we learn that Secret Service Agents at the RNC were actively preventing the press from speaking with Michael Moore who was attending with press credentials from USAToday. Specifically, there is audio of Andrea Seabrook, from NPR being rousted from interviewing Moore in the press area:

[Andrea] Seabrook: Well, well I'm not...the Secret Service has blocked off that area. They're calling it a...a hazard because of the number of people who are a gathered around him. There aren't that many people, but the Secret Service won't let me around him anymore, so I think a the access to him might be cut off for a moment. We'll try to get back with him.

[snip]

Seabrook: Yes, I am in the middle of a...you might be able to hear the Secret Service yelling into my mic at the same time. There, there are a bunch of Secret Service that have surrounded Michael Moore's section. There are three or four reporters with him right now, but they are trying to kick all of the reporters and press photographers who are around him out of his area. The convention staff is also here. They're standing here telling us that we have to move from this are...they're obviously disturbed by the fact that Michael Moore is here and want as little public here as possible.
Un-F***ing-Believable. I wonder if there was any video of this... I wonder whether these guys were wearing brown shirts... I wonder when we are going to get our goddamn Constitution back from these MBSF?

Object of My Desire

I love my iMac - I've said that many times before. But, for a computer it's starting to get a bit long in the tooth (at 3 and half years old - and it was the previous year's model when I bought it). But Apple, as they so often do, has just broken through design and computing barriers with their newest iMac. And I want one!

Feast your eyes in this:



Other than the mouse and keyboard, that's it.

Don't mind my drooling...

WTF?

The BS about Kerry's wartime service - of which NONE of the Chickenhawks, including their Pretender-in-Chief, have any - has reached its illogical end with this (via Rising Hegemon):

Delegates to the Republican National Convention found a new way to take a jab at Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's Vietnam service record: by sporting adhesive bandages with small purple hearts on them.

Morton Blackwell, a prominent Virginia delegate, has been handing out the heart-covered bandages to delegates, who've worn them on their chins, cheeks, the backs of their hands and other places.
I have friends who were killed and others who were wounded in war; I find this disgusting and degrading. If I were to see someone with one of these bandages on, I would be hard pressed to keep myself from ripping it off in the most painful way possible and then bitch-slapping them.

Countering the Spin

This week, rather than cover what goes on inside the Republican National Convention, I want to continue something I started last week. I will try to highlight stories that counter the cyclonic spin put on world events by the Republicans.

Yesterday delegates in NYC heard how wonderfully aWol has prosecuted the War on Terror. Today we see this:

An Iraqi militant group said it had killed 12 Nepali hostages and showed pictures on an Islamist Web site on Tuesday of one of them being beheaded.

"We have carried out the sentence of God against 12 Nepalis who came from their country to fight the Muslims and to serve the Jews and the Christians...believing in Buddhah [sic] as their God," said the statement by the military committee of the Army of Ansar al-Sunna.
Can you imagine how things would be going were he not paying attention?

A Once Great Man Laid Low

It's sad to see John McCain prostitute himself (WSJ - subscription) in the service of George "Please Don't Send Me to War" Bush. I never would have voted for McCain had he won the Republican nomination, but I had - have - a deep respect for his service and for many of his views. But seeing him on the stage and hearing him encouraging others to vote for what is so obviously a failed administration - and knowing that he know it is as well - is just sad.

Sen. John McCain swept aside his differences with President Bush tonight and urged voters to re-elect him, heartily endorsing the Iraq and anti-terrorism policies of his 2000 rival for the White House.

[snip]

Mr. McCain said Mr. Bush has earned re-election because of his resolute actions since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 -- a key theme on the convention's opening night.
I'm not sure where the phrase got its start, but putting up John McCain (and all the other moderates that will speak) really is just "putting lipstick on the pig." Or in this case, the elephant. John McCain could do so much better.

Monday, August 30, 2004

A Manifesto for the Rest of Us

Via And Then... comes the manifesto of PRKA (People Reluctant to Kill for an Abstraction). I'm so sorry I missed this last week. A sample:

Last Thursday, my organization, People Reluctant To Kill for an Abstraction, orchestrated an overwhelming show of force around the globe.

At precisely 9 in the morning, working with focus and stealth, our entire membership succeeded in simultaneously beheading no one. At 10, Phase II began, during which our entire membership did not force a single man to suck another man's penis. Also, none of us blew himself/herself up in a crowded public place. No civilians were literally turned inside out via our powerful explosives. In addition, at 11, in Phase III, zero (0) planes were flown into buildings.
Please, read the rest. It is precisely what we need right now. Pass it on to your friends and families.

"I'm Givin' Her All She's Got..."

Alzheimers is slowly dimming another bright light. Not a political light, but rather one of those entertainers who will always make a true geek smile.

The five-day tribute, "Beam Me Up Scotty ... One Last Time," had been in the planning stages for more than a year before it was revealed, earlier this summer, that the 84-year-old [James] Doohan, who lives in Redmond, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Coming so soon after the death of the similarly afflicted former president, Ronald Reagan, the family's announcement added greater urgency — and no small degree of poignancy — to preparations.

Instead of going ahead with a purely festive "retirement party" for the beloved actor, Planet XPO elected to join forces with the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation to raise awareness of the disease. With the cooperation of Doohan's family, representatives of both groups quickly were able to refocus the event's theme, turning Saturday night's banquet into a benefit.

Doohan's final formal public appearance is expected tomorrow morning, when his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is unveiled, in front of the Hollywood Entertainment Museum.
Lieutenant Montgomery Scott has been a part of my life since I can remember. It appears that he will no longer remember the love of science or the love of engineering he inspired in so many children and adults. But those memories will remain, spread out like stars in the night, in the minds and imaginations of generations of Star Trek fans throughout the world.

Remember These Guys?

Afghanistan will hold its first national elections soon. Or at least that's how the Republicans, flogging aWol's foreign policy and War on Terror accomplishments, will tell the story. Here's some more things you won't hear in NYC this week from inside the convention:

In the past year, violence has escalated across Afghanistan despite the presence of NATO forces, including 18,000 U.S. troops. Taliban insurgents, remnants of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network and others have been waging hit-and-run attacks against military and civilian targets throughout the country.

Hundreds of Afghans have been killed, and humanitarian relief workers have halted operations in many rural areas.
Didn't we "defeat" the Taliban? Weren't we going to chase the remnants of al Qaeda to "the ends of the earth?"

Can we really afford Four More Years of such success?

Quagmire - Countering the Spin

We're likely to hear a lot this week about how well things are going in Iraq; about how great the Iraqis have it now that Saddam is gone. Here are a couple of things (WSJ - subscription) that you won't hear from any of the speakers at the Republican National Convention:

Iraqi National Guard troops are supposed to police their own hometowns and villages. But in many cases the soldiers refuse to arrest anyone for fear the insurgents will seek revenge against their families.

"I've seen insurgents put [remote-detonated roadside bombs] 100 meters from my Iraqi National Guard checkpoints," said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Fox, who oversees a company of about 90 Iraqi soldiers outside Fallujah. When Sgt. Fox asked the Iraqi soldiers why they didn't stop the insurgents, the soldiers replied that they were afraid their families would be targeted.

Two Iraqi National Guard units in al Anbar province, which encompasses Fallujah and Ramadi, were overrun earlier this month by insurgents who stormed their headquarters. The insurgents kidnapped the units' battalion commanders. The dead body of one of the commanders was found a few days later; the other man is still missing. The insurgents also took most of the two 800-soldier battalions' guns, helmets and body armor.

The police haven't performed well, either. Recently the Marines detained the police chief for the province, who is suspected of cooperating with the insurgents. His officers were guarding the provincial governor's home when it was attacked by insurgents and the governor's two sons were abducted. The police didn't fire a shot.
Just remember these incidents while you're listening to BushCo. tout its accomplishments in Iraq.

"Play Nice"

I've been very happy to see that so far, protesters in NYC have been very well behaved. While there have, of course, been some scattered arrests, so far protests have been enthusiastic, loud, very large and very peaceful. The major networks have not focused exclusively on the fringe and even the Wall Street Journal's coverage has been balanced.

Estimates for Sunday's protest vary, naturally. But even if you split the difference (between 120,000 and 400,000), it was the largest protest against a National Convention in history. Any protests against the Democrats pale in comparison. In fact, the protests are beginning to resemble - in size - those against the Viet Nam War.

Is it too much to hope that not only will the protesters continue to "play nice," but that their message gets through the spin?

Friday, August 27, 2004

Who's Poor?

As a follow-up to my post below about more people living in poverty, I wanted to find out just what poverty means to the government. So I Googled "federal poverty level" and followed the first link to the web site of the Health and Human Services Poverty Guidelines.

I had an idea of what I'd find for one data point. On some news show I'd seen that the Federal Poverty Line for a family of four is somewhere around $18,000 per year. That floored me. I'm trying to imagine my wife and I getting by on $18K per year and it boggles my mind. For comparison, here's the entire table:



Find your family size there, then imagine trying to get by on the amount shown. Think really hard about how different your life would be; how much more difficult. Some of you may actually fall into these guidelines.

Now ask yourself again: Are you better off than you were four years ago? Is the country better off now - forget (if you can) for the moment that we are wasting lives and money on a baseless war - if more families are living in poverty than were doing so four years ago?

Bush Created "Shadowy Groups"

As aWol makes vague motions about filing lawsuits or banning campaign ads from "shadowy" 527 groups, can we all please remember that he signed into law the legislation that created them? Secondly, why are they "shadowy?" The law very clearly lays out what they can do and what they can't in the election cycle. What's "shadowy" about that?

So the real questions to be asked are:

Did W not read the bill he signed into law?

If he did read the bill and felt that 527 groups were "shadowy," why did he sign it?

If he did read the bill and agreed with the provisions for 527 groups at the time, what has caused him to flip-flop now?

If he didn't read the bill and signed it anyway, doesn't that make him a fool who is now being hoisted by his own petard?

Just what is a petard and why would anyone get hoisted by it?
Just askin'...

How Are You Doing?

Are you better of now than you were four years ago?

The number of Americans living in poverty rose last year, as did the number of those without health insurance, according to government data that immediately stoked debate over President Bush's economic policies.
Seems like the answer is pretty evident, no? Well, not if you're G.W.:

Mr. Bush, speaking at a campaign rally in Las Cruces, N.M., didn't mention the Census Bureau data. He focused on the economy's resilience in the face of a rash of bad news in the past three years. He also defended the role of his tax cuts, while conceding that "we have more to do to make this economy stronger."
No, actually, you don't. We've had enough of what you've done to the economy. To borrow a phrase: "You're fired."

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Quagmire

Just a reminder of how well things are going in Iraq:

Any questions?

Bush is a Coward

Bush is afraid of a man in a wheelchair. He is afraid of a simple letter signed by nine Senators. More than anything in the world, he is afraid of the truth.

So afraid, in fact, that he had Senator Max Cleland, the Vietnam veteran who lost an arm and both legs in the war, met on the road well outside his Crawford, TX hiding place with a road block. He wouldn't show a disabled veteran the basic, Southern hospitality that demands at least a face-to-face meeting and a glass of iced tea. Instead, Max Cleland was met by the Secret Service at about the same distance from aWol's ranch as one of his infamous "Free Speech Zones." His letter was refused.

This is disgusting behavior, but I am not surprised. BushCo. has treated every soldier and veteran that gets in its way (Cleland, McCain, Kerry, Shinseki, etc.) in the same manner - and worse.

Bush is a coward.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Greatest Olympic Sport?

Need I say more?


Sorry, I just couldn't resist.

That This Could be the Final Word

A moving, yet cogent essay by Karen Spears Zacharias in this morning's New York Times, should - if the world were fair - be the final word in the Swift Boat Veterans' treachery.

Amid the confusing debate over John Kerry's Vietnam record, one thing is clear: war - particularly the trauma of war - corrodes memory.

[snip]

So, then, what about John Kerry and the Swift boat crew? Enough already. There are some things we'll never know. But there are also some things that are beyond dispute - even in the chaos of war. Mr. Kerry went. He served. Lucky for him, he got to come home and raise his daughters.
Read the rest; it will make you yearn (even more) for the end of this idiotic argument over facts that should not be in dispute.

Oh, Behave!

Let me add my voice, however small it may be, to those imploring anyone protesting the Republican National Convention next week to be on your best behavior. The RNC has already promised to link any violence or out of control events as being directly related to the Democratic Party, regardless of the truth.

The potential for things to really get out of hand is just too large. The security will be massive and the officers and agents are going to be on edge due to the usual terrorist warnings trumpeted in the run-up to any large event lately.

An interesting note about just how massive the security will be; just one part of the RNC security force is - of course - the NYPD. How big a part?

The backbone of security is being provided by the 37,000-member New York Police Department, which has a budget larger than all but 19 of the world's standing armies.

Not So Swift

It's bothered me that groups like the Swift Boat Veterans that have been attacking John Kerry can get away with what they do. Not from a legal standpoint but rather from an intellectual standpoint. How can they float these ads, full of information that is, at best, disingenuous - with much of it being outright contradicted by official records - and the public nods their heads as though they were making a valid point to be considered and the media regurgitates the claims in the form of "analysis" that is void of anything resembling the word?

The message is largely aimed at the Republican "base" but is also meant to place a nagging doubt in the undecideds. Yet the majority of these people are not idiots; they are literate - by a strict definition of the word. But therein lies the problem, I believe. And this problem is not strictly confined to conservatives or the shrinking pool of undecided voters; liberals and progressives of all kinds are guilty as well.

Somehow, over the past decade, the respectability of rigorous thought has declined to the point where even admitting that nuance can exist is cause for derision. From the right there has arisen the disdain for the "intelligentsia" of the left. They even adopted a Russian word in order to conflate knowledge with the still-not-dead fear of Communism. From the left - although with much less toxicity - a dismissal of all thought that seems tainted by reactionary conservatism or religion. From the masses an all sides comes a general distaste for the efforts of thought required to process the richness of information available today. The result seems to be an equivalence of opinions, regardless of how informed they may be, and an equivalence of information regardless of veracity.

This has lead to the encroachment of "on the one handedness" in our professional media and to a lack of critical thought by the majority of the public on important issues. Those who are experts in a field of discussion are derided as "nerds" or "wonks." Anyone who talks about and bases their decisions on the nuance and the shades of grey of a particular point will earn the epithet of "flip-flopper." While those who are unchanging regardless of how the world shifts beneath their feet are hailed as "steady leadership in times of change." If you learn from history you are too "sensitive" to be an effective leader. Somehow, our current president's incuriousness is seen as charming and likeable.

So this lack of critical thought in so much of the citizenry and its leadership makes it possible for the Swift Boat Veterans to toss out unfounded accusations and outright lies into the public discourse without worry that they will be exposed before they have done their surrogate dirty work. It allows Bush to conflate the Swift Boat group with progressive groups like MoveOn.Org despite the differences in their membership, methodology and the veracity of their claims. This aversion to intelligence and rationality allows those of baser instincts to poison our political discourse to their own advantage without fear that their misdeeds will be discovered, or that if they are discovered they know that no rational dissection of them need be feared. The lack of trust in experts allows the EPA and FDA to suppress scientific findings and bases for policy and replace them with religious dogma.

If America is fortunate enough that John Kerry wins in November - if the world is lucky enough - we can only hope that a new administration will restore our faith and confidence in rational thought and in those who engage in it. We can hope that a Kerry/Edwards administration will reverese the trend of filling government posts with scientific oversight with party flacks. If not, I can see a new Dark Ages descending on us all.

WSJ Off the Reservation?

It's only a small step, to be sure, but the editors at the Wall Street Journal actually criticized aWol this morning in an unsigned editorial (subscription).

President Bush didn't tell the full story on Monday when he denounced TV ads by such "527s" as the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. But not because he didn't agree to the Kerry campaign's demand that he repudiate the specific Swift Boat ads. Our gripe is that Mr. Bush assailed the very campaign-finance system that he helped create.

[snip]

In our view, this was among the worst moments of Mr. Bush's term. Having helped to midwife the current campaign-finance system, it ill behooves him to blame others for the way this world works.
These guys have been the staunchest of BushCo. apologists, what's going on here? While there have certainly been worse moments in this disasterous term, that the Journal would point this out in such stark terms is surprising.

Is this the beginning of the end?

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Rotten at the Top

The responsibility for the abuse at abu Ghraib lies at all levels of command, right to the very top.

Senior Pentagon military and civilian officials share part of the blame for creating conditions that led to the prisoner abuse scandal at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, an independent commission of U.S. defence experts has concluded.

The panel, appointed by U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and headed by former defence secretary James Schlesinger, was released on Tuesday.
Anyone who knows anything about the military knew this in their hearts, despite statements to the contrary from all involved and other commissions' results. Now the question is when will these senior officials be held accountable?

I'm hoping, but I'm not holding my breath.

GOP Will Lie

That headline is not an exaggeration. It's been covered in several places, most especially by Josh Marshall, but it bears repeating. From the New York Times' Adam Nagourney:

Mr. Bush's advisers said they were girding for the most extensive street demonstrations at any political convention since the Democrats nominated Hubert H. Humphrey in Chicago in 1968. But in contrast to that convention, which was severely undermined by televised displays of street rioting, Republicans said they would seek to turn any disruptions to their advantage, by portraying protests by even independent activists as Democratic-sanctioned displays of disrespect for a sitting president.
Since it does bear repeating, let me pull out the lie - you have the context above, there is nothing tricky going on here...

...Republicans said they would seek to turn any disruptions to their advantage, by portraying protests by even independent activists as Democratic-sanctioned displays of disrespect for a sitting president.
Republicans have admitted it - by accident, I'm sure - they will lie to the American public about what happens at the RNC in New York. Regardless of who does what, the Republican smear machine will tell Americans that they are supported by and in league with the Democrats.

They will lie to you. They've admitted it.

Let that sink in for a minute.

I Want My TVM

Just how ridiculous has our government's policies on Cuba become? Well... what's more ridiculous than ridiculous? Maybe this:

The Bush administration has successfully overcome Cuban jamming of U.S. government radio and television broadcasts through transmission from a military aircraft, the State Department said Monday.

Spokesman Adam Ereli said the transmissions of Miami-based Radio and TV Marti took place for several hours on Saturday from an aircraft flown by the Air National Guard.
Assuming that the Florida ANG used a specially modified C-130, the hourly cost of the operation was on the order of $50,000 (not unreasonable). And let's say that several hours means 6, just to make it a nice, round number. That would make 6 hours of radio and TV $300,000, not including the costs of producing the programming. If you throw in the support costs of aerial refueling the C-130, which means launching a KC-135 and couple of hours of flight time for that aircraft and crew, the cost could easily triple.

These crazy policies have continued years beyond any possibility that Cuba is a threat to the US, and yet we get statements like these:

"These broadcasts will give the Cuban people uncensored information about their country and the world, and will help bring about a rapid and peaceful transition to democracy," Mr. Ereli said.
Note the utter lack of irony in that statement...

A Stable and Democratic Iraq

I'm pretty sure that this is not what C-Plus Augustus had in mind when he said - on so many occasions - that Iraq was moving toward stability and democracy.

Assailants on Tuesday targeted the convoys of the interim government's ministers of environment and education in two separate bombings in Baghdad, officials said.

Neither of the ministers was hurt, but at least five people were reported dead.

Meanwhile in Najaf, plumes of black smoke rose above the embattled city after American warplanes bombed insurgent positions overnight and supporters of a radical cleric charged that shrapnel from a U.S. attack had hit parts of the Imam Ali Shrine. The military denied the claim.
Neither is this, or this. Probably not this either.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Florida GOP

If you had any doubts that recent incidents in Florida were purposeful attempts at suppressing the black vote, you can now put them to rest. In today's New York Times, Bob Herbert brings an interesting perspective to these activities which recently included the unprecedented act of having the Florida Highway Patrol "question" elderly, black get-out-the-vote volunteers about their activities.

So what's it really all about?

A Democrat can't win a statewide election in Florida without a high voter turnout - both at the polls and with absentee ballots - of African-Americans," said a man who is close to the Republican establishment in Florida but asked not to be identified. "It's no secret that the name of the game for Republicans is to restrain that turnout as much as possible. Black votes are Democratic votes, and there are a lot of them in Florida."
Read that again.

The next time that anyone from Florida's Republican party or from Jebbie's administration claims that these "interviews" are an innocent investigation or that the deeply and disturbingly flawed felon list was just a mistake, remember that quote, above. Then let them have it with both barrels.

BushCo. Jobs Program

Today's Wall Street Journal reveals, for the first time, how the Bush administration plans to create more jobs in a second term. It seems that BushCo. plans to scrap old-fashioned jobs creation programs in manufacturing and the service sector. In fact, their job program is tightly integrated with their environmental programs.

Follow along with me to see what I mean. Here's how Bush plays it in his stump speeches:

On the campaign trail, Mr. Bush tends to play up the state jobs data when they are favorable. In Florida on Aug. 10, for example, he said that because of his tax cuts, "Florida has added nearly 300,000 jobs since the end of 2001."

But last Monday, in Michigan, which has lost 142,000 jobs since the end of 2001 (108,000 before Friday's data were available) and whose 6.8% unemployment rate is well above the national average, Mr. Bush only cited nationwide job data and acknowledged, "I fully understand we face challenges in some of our manufacturing communities. In some parts of Michigan, the recovery has lagged."
Pretty standard campaign fare, no doubt. But when economic analysts look at the numbers a somewhat different perspective emerges, and you can begin to see why Bush doesn't want to regulate greenhouse gas emitting industries too heavily:

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Economy.com, a West Chester, Pa., firm specializing in state and local economic analysis, said Florida's job market likely will continue to do well while Ohio's and Michigan's will remain weak between now and Election Day. Florida, he said, is about to receive a $20 billion influx of insurance money and state and federal disaster aid as a result of Hurricane Charley. Meanwhile, "Ohio and Michigan are very dependent on the domestic auto industry, which is struggling to hold onto sales and jobs."
See? All we need to add more jobs and boost the economy are a few more hurricanes. And what better way to stir up a little bad weather than to add lots of heat energy into the atmosphere? Add a little more carbon monoxide, a little more low-level ozone, pump up the particulate count. You can already imagine the glee in the White House if the National Weather Service had to extend the hurricane season by a month or two.

But we really shouldn't be too surprised at this; Republicans have been thriving on bad news and disaster for a long time.

Four more years? Hell no!

Friday, August 20, 2004

Smell the Roses

Who's got time to smell the roses? Not me.

Work is busy as always, but my personal life... Let's just say that the only thing missing is a plague of locusts.

And by the way, what's that cloud on the horizon?

I hope to be back to some blogging by Monday. Have a great weekend, and if you drop by, leave a comment so I know I haven't been forgotten.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Journalism As Usual

An unsigned editorial in today's New York Times exposes all the bad actors, the funding and the disconnect from reality of the current Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attack on John Kerry's service record. The first two-thirds of the article is scathing in its exposure of the group.

The leader of the attack, John O'Neill, a Swift boat veteran and Texas lawyer, has been a detractor of Mr. Kerry for decades, ever since the Nixon White House recruited him to rebut Mr. Kerry's criticism of Vietnam policy. And the chief donor to the Swift boat broadside is a Texas businessman, Bob Perry, who is known for giving millions to the campaigns of President Bush and other Republicans.
After delivering such a blistering report of the group's leadership and methods, the editors then resort to the worst sort of flackery imaginable. I suppose they thought that they had to deliver some sort of "balance" to the editorial, but whatever the purpose they add the following:

Voters should also know that the group is one of the new "shadow party" efforts of supposedly independent ( but, in truth, transparently partisan) activist groups that have been set up to evade campaign laws and take advantage of nonprofits' tax breaks. One of the more prominent of these groups, the leftist MoveOn.org, is running ads attacking President Bush's Air National Guard service.
By conflating the two organizations without detailing the differences in the approach of the two groups and the fundamental differences in the veracity of their claims, The Grey Lady puts herself in league with the worst of the spinmeisters at FOX.

Bereuter Broadsides Bush

In an interesting turn of events and another blow against BushCo.'s misadventure in Iraq, Rep. Doug Bereuter, a senior Republican on the House International Relations Committee and vice chairman of the House Intelligence Committee sent a letter to his Nebraska constituents telling them that the war in Iraq was "a mistake" and "not justified." From the Lincoln Journal Star:

"Knowing now what I know about the reliance on the tenuous or insufficiently corroborated intelligence used to conclude that Saddam maintained a substantial WMD (weapons of mass destruction) arsenal, I believe that launching the pre-emptive military action was not justified."

As a result of the war, he said, "our country's reputation around the world has never been lower and our alliances are weakened."
Because of his outstanding reputation among Republicans and his usually low-key approach, Bereuter's missive has left his colleagues unable to do much but praise him while Republicans tried to distance themselves from the contents of the letter. From the WSJ (subscription):

"I was shocked by the letter," said Rep. Ray LaHood (R., Ill.), who has served on the House intelligence panel where Mr. Bereuter has been vice chairman. "I never heard Doug express these doubts, but he is one of the most serious legislators I've ever met. This is a double-barrel shotgun blast for the Democrats."

"He's a very serious guy and cares deeply about these issues. He's a credible witness," said former Nebraska Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey of Mr. Bereuter

[snip]

But Mr. Bereuter is well-respected in both parties and, however surprised they were by his essay, Republicans uniformly praised him as a serious figure on foreign-policy issues.
G.W., of course was having none of it:

The White House declined to comment on the letter, but campaigning in Wisconsin, President Bush said: "Knowing what I know today, I would have made the same decision. America and the world are safer because Saddam Hussein sits in a prison cell."

Don't Pass the Buck (Sergeant)

I suppose we shouldn't be surprised. Really, what do you expect when an organization investigates itself? From today's Wall Street Journal (subscription):

An Army investigation into the role that military-intelligence specialists played at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison will recommend that about two dozen soldiers be disciplined for alleged mistreatment of Iraqi detainees there last fall, but won't pass blame for the scandal to senior commanders, a Pentagon official said.
From outside the Army, these results, if left to stand on their own, will prove to be an embarrassment. There is nobody, with even the smallest amount of knowledge about military affairs, not to mention those of us who have served, who will believe that low-level soldiers and intelligence officers could have initiated and maintained such a pervasive culture of torture and abuse. Not to mention the "command climate" coming from the very highest echelons:

The scandal has proved an embarrassment for the Bush administration, especially after a number of memos leaked out showing that its lawyers spent more than a year seeking a legal definition of torture and debating the limits soldiers could go to when questioning prisoners of war.
Like every other misadventure BushCo. has dragged our country and our military into, they have absolutely failed to learn any lessons from this.

Meanwhile, conditions at the prison continue to fester. U.S. military police shot and killed two detainees and wounded five others during a brawl yesterday, Pentagon officials said. Several detainees attacked an inmate with rocks and tent poles in a fight that soon encompassed 200 people, and military guards responded with force.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

PC Survival

Every now and again I have to revel in the joy of owning an Apple Computer at the expense of my friends with WinTel machines. Sorry. I just can't help it. This article made me smile today:

The average unpatched Windows PC lasts less than 20 minutes on the Internet before it's compromised, according to data from the Internet Storm Center.

[snip]

In June 2003, the "survival time" of an unpatched PC was approximately 40 minutes. As of Wednesday, the average was less than half that: only 16 minutes.
Of course nobody with the least savvy would connect an unprotected machine to the web, right?

Maybe.

The under-20 minute period isn't long enough to pull down major updates, such as Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), acknowledged Joe Wilcox, an analyst with Jupiter Research, in an online posting.
I love my iMac.

Airport Insecurity

Turns out that not only is the TSA not making us much safer while we fly, they are stealing us all blind. From today's New York Times:

Last week four screeners for the Transportation Security Administration were arrested at Kennedy and La Guardia airports for stealing money, jewelry and other valuables from checked bags. The agents were caught in a sting operation after a torrent of complaints about luggage thefts. These arrests likely represent only a fraction of the abuses nationwide.

[snip]


In some ways, the thefts are not surprising. The transportation agency has done an abysmal job of managing its workforce. In June 2003, the agency admitted that it had failed to screen its own screeners and fired more than 1,200 employees after they failed criminal background checks or other internal investigations.

[snip]

President Bush said in 2002 that the law that created the T.S.A. "greatly enhanced the protections for America's passengers.'' But it takes more than long lines and delays at airport checkpoints to defeat terrorist threats. Is it wise to trust the T.S.A. to make air travel safe when it has a hard time protecting Americans from its own agents?

Missile Defense Boondoggle

Remind me again: which terrorist organizations have ballistic missiles?

Oh yeah; none of them.

"I think those who oppose this ballistic missile system don't understand the threats of the 21st century," the president told applauding workers at defense contractor Boeing Co. in Pennsylvania, a crucial state in President Bush's bid for re-election. "We say to those tyrants who believe they can blackmail America and the free world: 'You fire, we're going to shoot it down,'" President Bush said.
WSJ (subscription).
But really, what else could we do with that money? Ensure the security of ex-Soviet nuclear stockpiles and materials? Secure our ports? Make airports safer? Add security to train and subway systems? Ensure first responders can all talk on the same radio frequencies?

Lessons (Not) Learned II

Even though Bush's tepid embrace of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations for structural changes to our intelligence services seems to have been a sham. While he was out saying publicly that he'd sort of like to maybe eventually get around to implementing those changes, the members of the administration who would really do the work to get those changes made were not-so-quietly scuttling the whole works.

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

After the 9/11 Commission recommended major restructuring of U.S. intelligence-gathering, President Bush publicly embraced the plan's outlines. It turns out that his top advisers and key members of Congress haven't.

A month after the 9/11 Commission issued its report, the push for overhaul is being undercut, raising serious doubts about whether intelligence-gathering will change in more than a cosmetic way despite intense lobbying by commission members.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spent much of his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday explaining that Congress should be cautious about far-reaching changes to the current intelligence system. He and other top administration officials appear especially uncomfortable with the commission's main recommendation: creating the position of a national intelligence director with budget and personnel authority over Pentagon intelligence agencies that report largely to Mr. Rumsfeld.

"We need to remember that we are considering these important matters while we are waging a war. If we move unwisely and get it wrong, the penalty would be great," Mr. Rumsfeld warned the panel.

But it isn't just at the Pentagon that the 9/11 Commission's plan is running into determined opposition. Mr. Rumsfeld's call for restraint was echoed yesterday by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner of Virginia, a central figure in the overhaul debate. His committee has long been a fierce defender of the Pentagon's intelligence role and is loath to see that role curtailed. Mr. Warner, openly dubious about a national intelligence director, called for Congress to pass a small package of incremental changes instead.

"It's important we try to do what we can," Mr. Warner said. "But I'm of the opinion that we should not try to do the whole 9/11 [recommendations] in a single stroke."
Note how Rummy, Warner and the WSJ all frame the discussion in terms of "restraint" rather than facing up to the fact that they are actively working to ensure that these changes, which would move the power over intelligence decisions from the Pentagon; something the administration and its neocon power brokers have fought so hard to establish.

This is a blatant attempt by BushCo. to hide its true intentions with regard to the major recommendations of the 9/11 commission.

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...