Thursday, September 30, 2004

"You Can be Certain and be Wrong"

First, I have to say that John Kerry did well tonight, but not great. There were moments when he fumbled a moment for an answer, where he repeated himself. At the very beginning, there were a few moments when you could tell that he still needed to "warm up." He also hit a few out of the park. The headline for this post came from one of those. More on those tomorrow.

I do wonder where the "great debater" George W. was tonight. I believe that was the worst performance by an incumbent president in a debate. Ever. While he attempted to stay on message, he delivered his "canned" lines at the wrong time and too often. He stumbled for words, he hemmed and hawed and worst of all, he forgot - or just didn't care - that the camera was on him during Kerry's responses. The faces and fidgets the camera caught were not flattering.

I'll let the big blogs and the news sites dissect the speech particulars. But from an overall impression, I can't imagine any way that tonight's performance could be spun as anything other than a disaster for the President. CNN - and I'm sure FOX - are busy trying to turn the whole thing into a "close debate." But they will fail.


Worst debate performance by a sitting president - EVER.

Legalized Torture?

If House Republicans have their way, the US will join an unsavory list of countries that - in one way or another - conduct or condone torture. Obsidian Wings, via Scrutiny Hooligans brings us news of Section 3032 and 3033 of H.R. 10, the 9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act of 2004. Brought to you by the vile Denny Hastert, of course.

The provision would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue new regulations to exclude from the protection of the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, any suspected terrorist - thereby allowing them to be deported or transferred to a country that may engage in torture. The provision would put the burden of proof on the person being deported or rendered to establish "by clear and convincing evidence that he or she would be tortured," would bar the courts from having jurisdiction to review the Secretary's regulations, and would free the Secretary to deport or remove terrorist suspects to any country in the world at will - even countries other than the person's home country or the country in which they were born. The provision would also apply retroactively.
There is so much that is not just wrong, not just unconstitutional, but downright inhumane about the proposal that I don't even know where to begin. But we can all start by writing our Representatives and letting them know that we don't want to be a member of that club.

Rock the Vote

MSNBC/MSGOP has a poll up, you know what to do!

Click the image to go to the poll.

A Small Sample of Voters

If you wonder how people can vote against their interests year after year, or if you wonder how politicians can make completely bogus statements without fear of being called on them, you're not alone. Especially in this election year, when the stakes are so high for all of us, individually and collectively as a nation, the logical person would think that voters would make themselves smarter.

The logical person would think so. They would, however, be wrong.

  • On the morning drive-time radio show my wife likes to listen to, the female in the duo is a Republican and likes to make herself sound well informed - as you'd like to be if you were spouting off every morning on the radio. This morning however, after being informed that about 1 in 4 viewers of the Presidential debates change their minds afterwards, she said "do you think 1 in 4 people watch the debates?" She had absolutely no idea that her concept of the statistics involved were completely wrong.

  • Two of my co-workers were speaking, one of whom is a rare Democrat in the office. She was speaking with the other person about recent events in the news and he replied that he didn't watch the news. My Democratic friend, incredulous, asked if he intended to vote and he replied, "of course." But he was nonplussed when asked how he could vote if he knew nothing about the issues. When pressed, he admitted that he was going to vote Republican because, "I've always voted that way and my family votes Republican."
This is, admittedly, a small sample. But it is representative of the intellectual laziness of many people. This is what we are up against. How do you get people interested in the process and the issues when they are too lazy to educate themselves in the basics?

I know I'm preaching to the choir, here. But rather than pound my head on my desk - as I've been doing way too often lately - I thought I'd rant a little.

Do you have similar stories? Leave them in the comments.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Important Republican Endoresement for Kerry

Rising Hegemon has the whole article from the Union Leader, and you should go read it.

Guess which life-long Republican and president's son said the following:

Sen. Kerry, in whom I am willing to place my trust, has demonstrated that he is courageous, sober, competent, and concerned with fighting the dangers associated with the widening socio-economic gap in this country. I will vote for him enthusiastically.

I celebrate, along with other Americans, the diversity of opinion in this country. But let it be based on careful thought. I urge everyone, Republicans and Democrats alike, to avoid voting for a ticket merely because it carries the label of the party of one’s parents or of our own ingrained habits.

Faith Based Missile Defense

Despite repeatedly failing any test more rigorous than a set-up, despite not having any goals against which it can be judged ready to deploy, despite physicists insisting that with current technology it is most likely to fail between 80% and 90% of the time, Americans are getting a missile defense system.

But what the administration had hoped would be a triumphant achievement is clouded by doubts, even within the Pentagon, about whether a system that is on its way to costing more than $100 billion will work. Several key components have fallen years behind schedule and will not be available until later. Flight tests, plagued by delays, have yet to advance beyond elementary, highly scripted events.

The paucity of realistic test data has caused the Pentagon's chief weapons evaluator to conclude that he cannot offer a confident judgment about the system's viability. He estimated its likely effectiveness to be as low as 20 percent.
But like warnings on Global Warming and mercury pollution, BushCo. has ignored the scientists and pushed on. Apparently they think that as long as they believe the system will work - or maybe they are praying that it works - that all will be well. Besides the science, the administration continues to ignore the fact that there just isn't a credible missile threat to the US today or that the most likely threat remains in areas that they have continued to ignore: border and port security.

"A system is being deployed that doesn't have any credible capability," said retired Gen. Eugene Habiger, who headed the U.S. Strategic Command in the mid-1990s. "I cannot recall any military system being deployed in such a manner."


"We're in this hugely expensive race to build something, but we don't know how much it'll cost in the end or what it'll do," said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a member of the Armed Services Committee.

An audit by the Government Accountability Office, released in April, cited an absence of reliable, complete baseline estimates of system performance and cost. Without this information, the GAO said, policymakers in the Pentagon and Congress "do not have a full understanding" of the system's overall cost and actual capabilities. The audit concluded that the system being fielded this year remains "largely unproven."
Knowing all this, you'd assume that Democrats in Congress would fight for a more rational policy, right?

Guess again:

Democratic lawmakers opposed to Bush's program concede the debate has shifted. It is no longer an ideological battle, centered on arms control concerns, over whether to deploy at all. Now, they say, it is a more practical argument over how much to build and how fast.

"The debate is now about whether or not we continue to press ahead at the full speed we're going, with record amounts of money being spent, despite the fact that there's been no realistic testing," said Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.
Once again, they've ceded the fight to Republicans and are now just wrangling over details.

There's an old joke that goes something like this:

A rich man, seeing a very beautiful young woman in a bar asks if she'd have sex with him for a million dollars. Intrigued, the woman thinks and then answers, "yes." The rich man then asks if she'd have sex with him for five dollars. Insulted, the woman replies, "what do you think I am?"

The man, chuckling to himself says, "we've already established that, now we're just haggling over the price."

The Schools Are Open...

Yes, George, the schools are open in Iraq - when there hasn't been a car bomb nearby. But what are they teaching in those schools? What are the students learning?

Under Saddam, Beytool's school was only allowed to teach the strict, state-approved curriculum. But now, it's a private school and they are free to teach whatever they like. And in a sign of the changing times here, the focus is now overwhelmingly on Islamic education. Instead of teaching the alphabet, the goal in Beytool's class is to memorize 28 basic verses from the Koran, and learn how to wash before prayers.

The school's director says: "the most important thing for a child to know is religion."

At universities too, religious hard-liners are taking hold — at Baghdad's Mustansiriya, self-appointed morality police now guard the campus gate. They recently sent a grad student away because she was wearing pants.
Because the country is so anarchic, the government has tenuous control - at best - over what's going on in schools. BushCo. and their puppet in Baghdad are ensuring that the next generation of poorly educated, non-working, hopeless terrorist recruits are being inculcated in fundamentalist, radical Islam.

"What we risk having 10 or 15 years down the line is an absence of lawyers, an absence of technicians, doctors, engineers who are able to push the country forward," says Middle East analyst Turi Munthe.
You can thank them on November 2.

Even Worse Than We Think?

Bush says it's just a handful of insurgents causing all the problems in Iraq. US puppet Ayad Allawi says they are pouring in over the borders but that there are only a few pockets of resistance. Which one is correct? Perhaps neither.

It may be worse than either of them is willing to admit:

During the past 30 days, more than 2,300 attacks have been directed against civilians and military targets in Iraq, in a pattern that sprawls over nearly every major population center outside the Kurdish north, according to comprehensive data compiled by a private security company with access to military intelligence reports and its own network of Iraqi informants.

The sweeping geographical reach of the attacks, from Nineveh and Salahuddin provinces in the northwest to Babylon and Diyala in the center and Basra in the south, a more widespread resistance than the isolated pockets of insurgency described by Iraqi government officials.
I know that comparing our current quagmire with the one in Southeast Asia is very unpopular among those on the right, but tell me, don't these words sound eerily familiar?

But most of all, military officers argue that despite the rise in bloody attacks over the past 30 days, the insurgents have yet to win a single battle.

"We have had zero tactical losses; we have lost no battles," said a senior U.S. military officer.

"We are at a very critical time," he added. "The only way we can lose this battle is if the American people decide we don't want to fight anymore."

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Global Recession

I haven't seen this in any of the US news outlets - at least not put this baldly. Here's The Times:

Oil prices to 'cause global recession'

Purnomo Yusgiantoro, the president of Opec, the Organisation of Oil Producing Countries, today admitted that the cartel was powerless to halt spiralling oil costs, as the price per barrel broke through the $50 mark in New York overnight and in Asian deals earlier today.

The Indonesia official, reacting to the latest record oil prices, warned that constantly rising oil prices could bring about a global economic recession.

"Right now, Opec cannot do anything and the high oil price can cause a recession," he was reported as saying by AFP in Jakarta.

Assault Weapons, Anyone?

It's been a while since any trolls have been by, but this is sure to bring them on.

Detroit police searched Tuesday for a man who opened fire in a Detroit home day-care center, critically wounding three people, including a 3-year-old child, officials said.

Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings told reporters that the man was wearing a black jacket and black pants and was carrying a steel blue, automatic gun.
Now, it's true we don't know where this guy got this weapon. But if there were sensible controls and licensing of weapons (including for re-sale by private owners) and a ban - a real ban - on weapons that are assault weapons rather than guns that have "certain characteristics" of assault weapons, then it would be much harder for things like this to happen.

Another Bush Accomplishment

On Bush's watch we've been witness to so many unprecedented accomplishments: the 9/11 attacks, screwing up the aftermath in Afghanistan, the launch of our first-ever preemptive war, screwing up the aftermath in Iraq, and now this:

North Korea said yesterday that it has added to its small arsenal of nuclear weapons, saying all of the uranium from 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods had been weaponized.

If the assertion by the reclusive and unpredictable neo-Stalinist regime is accurate, Pyongyang may have sufficient fissile material for an additional six to eight nuclear bombs.
If true, this is very likely to spark a nuclear arms race in the Pacific Rim; think South Korea, Japan, perhaps Indonesia. Add to this the fact that Iran is likely continuing to attempt to build nuclear weapons (if they haven't already done so).

Meanwhile, Bush continues to fiddle in Iraq while the world burns around him. It's time to bundle him off to a padded cell and let the adults take over now.

Are You Safer Now?

Who knows? Certainly not the Feds. The Wall Street Journal this morning says that the FBI has hundreds of thousands of hours of intercepted communications - recorded since 9/11 - that it has not translated. Despite an influx of money.

In addition, the audit by Glenn A. Fine, the agency's inspector general, found that more than one-third of al Qaeda intercepts authorized by a secret federal court were not reviewed with 12 hours of collection as required by FBI Director Robert Mueller.


This backlog existed even though the FBI's language services funding had increased from $21.5 million in fiscal 2001 to about $70 million in fiscal 2004. The number of linguists has risen from 883 to 1,214 over that period.
Think anyone will be fired over this? No, neither do I.

Monday, September 27, 2004

More Thoughts on a Draft

Rummy has asked the military why the Army and the Marine Corps have different deployment lengths in Iraq; 12 months versus 7. And there is some thought that the Army may try to move to a 6 month rotation of combat troops. But what will that do to our ability to maintain the required combat and logistical strengths?

Senior Army personnel officers, as well as top Army Reserve and National Guard officials, say the Army's ability to recruit and retain soldiers will steadily erode unless combat tours are shortened, to some length between six and nine months, roughly equivalent to the seven-month tours that are the norm in the Marine Corps.

But other Army officials responsible for combat operations and war planning have significant concerns that the Army - at its current size and as now configured - cannot meet projected requirements for Iraq and Afghanistan unless active duty and reserve troops spend 12 months on the ground in those combat zones.
So, either we can meet recruiting and strength levels or we can meet the military needs in Iraq, but not both? Where does that leave us?

One factor, which senior Army officers disclosed last week, is how to preserve the ability to maintain the current level of American troops in Iraq at least through 2007, if longer tours of duty end up discouraging recruitment and re-enlistment.

"Our all-volunteer force is the issue here," one Army officer said. "The volunteer forces and their families - when will they draw the line? That's the question uppermost on our mind."
So if the "all-volunteer force is the issue," what's the solution? I'll leave it to the reader as an exercise.

Niccolo's Got Nothing on Karl

If, after the Swift Boat Liars controversy, you're wondering just how bad it might get between now and November, Josh Marshall gives us a little hint.

The Alabama races in particular haven't gotten that much national press attention in the past. And one of the most lizardly passages in the article describes how Rove launched a whispering campaign against one Democratic opponent suggesting that the candidate -- a sitting Alabama state Supreme Court Justice, who had long worked on child welfare issues -- was in fact a pedophile ...
Josh then goes on to quote a new article in the The Atlantic Monthly about how Rove was able to smear the good name of Alabama Supreme Court Justice Kennedy. It's classic Rove and gives a very clear and frightening picture of what's in store for us in October.

All this from a guy who was never able to graduate from High School. I imagine him as the not-too-bright but cunning bully on campus who keeps a coterie of "friends" who are there out of fear. Some things never change.

Democracy on the March

As democracy continues its march across Iraq, Colin Powell and Gen. John Abizaid had some pretty negative things to say about it. Perhaps Karl Rove needs to sit these two down in the back room for a little "re-education."

Secretary of State Colin Powell sees the situation in Iraq "getting worse" as planned elections approach, and the top U.S. military commander for Iraq says he expects more violence ahead.


Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. troops in the Middle East, warned that voting may not be possible in parts of Iraq where the violence is too intense.

The Law of Unintended Consequences

BushCo.'s misadventure in Iraq is having quite a few unintended consequences. Iran is poking Bush in the eye over its atomic programs, Afghanistan is basically under Taliban rule again, our key allies are more estranged than ever and over a thousand American soldiers are dead. But none of this seems to affect Bush's ratings on national security or foreign policy.


In news that's likely to have consequences that fall beyond soldiers and their families, the Wall Street Journal brings us this news:

Stocks were likely to tumble at the start of trading Monday morning, as investors returned to Wall Street to find crude-oil futures nudging toward $50 a barrel.

About two hours before the start of trading, futures-market activity on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index indicated that the Dow Jones Industrial Average was likely to fall by about 20 points.

Crude-oil prices hovered near an all-time high of $49.40 Monday morning as supply fears in Iraq and other key producers roiled electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Violence in Iraq and Saudi Arabia put the market on edge, and OPEC's president said the cartel's recent decision to boost production by a million barrels a day from November has failed to have any "psychological impact on the market."
This kind of run-up in oil prices - and its attendant rise in gas and energy prices - combined with huge losses in the value of stock and retirement portfolios could finally cause the disinterested masses to finally notice what a mess they've created.

Late Summer

Summer was not much of a summer here in upstate New York; it was damp and rather cool. But the end of summer and the beginning of autumn has been incredible. Warm, dry and beautiful. In celebration I bring you sunflowers:

Friday, September 24, 2004

T.S.A. - Totally Screwed-up Agency

I just found this via Wayward Winds - maybe most of you have seen this already - and it's very disturbing:

For the past month, Kathryn Harrington has stared down the possibility of a criminal trial, a $10,000 fine and the stigma of being deemed a security risk at Tampa International Airport.

The reason? She had a bookmark with her as she passed through airport security screening.
It was one of those leather bookmarks that is weighted on each end to help hold open a paperback book while you read it. Ms. Harrington had apparently carried it through several airports' security screenings and had never had a problem with it. But in Tampa, FL she was arrested and taken away in hand-cuffs.

That these small minded bureaucrats arrested this woman - rather than tell her she couldn't take it on board - is bad enough. But the reason they could act this way is even more disturbing:

According to the TSA's official prohibited items list, anyone who brings any banned item to a screening checkpoint, even accidentally, may be criminally or civilly prosecuted. Even items that are not specifically listed, but could be considered dangerous, are illegal.
So if you make a mistake and bring something you shouldn't they don't just take it from you and offer to mail it back anymore? They can arrest you? And even if you read up on the list - is it posted on-line somewhere? - and you bring something that's not on the list but that some bozo rent-a-cop with a new badge thinks might be dangerous, they can still arrest you?


Jeff Danziger

If you haven't seen his cartoon today on Slate or in your local paper, go now.


More Draft Hints?

On the front page of the Army Times' web site today is this headline:

Myers: Call-ups expected after election

That particular story is blocked except to subscribers, but it lends further credence that the military manning levels are currently inadequate for the current OPTEMPO. The Guard is nearly tapped out and will likely be unable to meet their recruiting goals. The Reserve and Ready Reserve have already had multiple, targeted call-ups. So where do the services get the people they need?

And notice, because Army Times is not "mainstream," perhaps Gen. Myers didn't feel the need to filter out that part about not doing it until "after [the] election."

Anyone out there with a subscription to Army Times want to let us know what this article has to say?

BushCo. Hints at Draft?

Somewhere this morning I read that the National Guard, for the first time since 1994, will miss its recruiting goals by around 5,000. At the same time we see the following in the WSJ:

Pentagon plans call for a temporary increase in U.S. troop levels in Iraq early next year that would coincide with elections there in January and could be used to bolster the newly elected Iraqi government.

The personnel surge, part of a long-planned force rotation, will occur from January to April as new units rotate into the country and those finishing their tours prepare to return home. An Army official said as many as three additional Army brigades -- about 15,000 troops -- could be in Iraq around the time of the elections and thereafter. Plans call for the U.S. to return to the current level of 138,000 troops by the end of April.
Three brigades basically comprise the majority of a Division and the Army just doesn't have Divisions it can toss around like a spare chess piece. And you can't just add 15,000 troops to a combat area and expect the current logistical and personnel system to keep working - they need more of those folks, too.

So, while having all these soldiers in Iraq at the same time will be "relatively easy," because they just hold up part of a rotation of troops home, what happens to those soldiers when they rejoin their units in the States or in Europe? Will they come right back to Iraq when their units come back in a year or so? What about their time with family? What about their time to train and re-equip to be ready to go back into the meat grinder? What about resting?

No, there's only one way to keep troop levels high enough to keep up this OPTEMPO (Operational Tempo), and it's spelled D R A F T.

Unintentional Irony?

On the front page of today's Wall Street Journal on-line:

That occasional "popping" sound you hear is a Republican's head finally exploding from the cognitive dissonance.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Bush's Whole World Consists of Iraq

How else to explain this:

Standing beside Iraq's interim leader, President Bush contended Thursday that insurgents could "plot and plan attacks elsewhere, in America and other free nations," if the United States pulled out.
There's nowhere else in the whole world for terrorists to "plot and plan?" Does he think that just because American HMMWVs are rolling through the Green Zone that al Zarqawi is huddled, shaking in some dank cellar in Najaf, afraid to "plot and plan?"

...And The Poor Get Poorer

Republican should just make their party motto "Fuck the Poor."

Oh, wait... it already is.

Congressional negotiators beat back efforts yesterday to expand and preserve tax refunds for poor families, even as they added $13 billion in corporate tax breaks to a package of middle-class tax cuts that could come to a vote in the Senate today.
Thanks to BlondeSense for the heads-up on this.

Democracy on the March in Afghanistan, Too

If you thought that our attempts at exporting democracy were a shambles only in Iraq, think again. Via AMERICAblog (are you reading them yet?) we find that the US is attempting to force candidates other than Hamid Karzai out of the race.

That's real democracy, no? From the LA Times:

Mohammed Mohaqiq says he was getting ready to make his run for the Afghan presidency when U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad dropped by his campaign office and proposed a deal.

Mohaqiq was still determined to run for president — though, he said, the U.S. ambassador wouldn't give up trying to elbow him out of the race.
"He left, and then called my most loyal men, and the most educated people in my party or campaign, to the presidential palace and told them to make me — or request me — to resign the nomination. And he told my men to ask me what I need in return."

Striking Matches in a Powderkeg

BushCo. makes another attempt at sparking Armageddon and invoking the rapture. What else could explain this latest stupid, tone deaf move in the Middle East?

Iran has said it will react "most severely" to any Israeli action against its nuclear facilities, issuing the warning after Israel said the United States was selling it 500 bunker buster bombs.

Israeli military officials said Tuesday that the Jewish state will receive nearly 5,000 smart bombs, including the 500 one-ton bombs that can destroy two-yard-thick (two-meter-thick) concrete walls.

The Rich Get Richer...

I've posted before about how BushCo.'s tax cuts have preferentially benefited the already well off - see here. Today's Wall Street Journal brings further proof that while the vast majority of Americans are still worried about keeping their jobs, their homes and maybe buying some back-to-school clothes, the rich have a different concern: what to do with that spare $100,000:

Luxury German car maker Porsche AG Wednesday said sales and earnings rose in fiscal 2004, as gains from the Cayenne sports utility vehicle more than offset heavy declines in the core 911 and Boxster sports cars.
It must be nice...

Financing Health Care

Actually the story in today's Wall Street Journal made no mention of health care. But it was the first thing that came to mind when I read it.

Eighty-two of the country's largest profitable corporations paid no federal income tax for at least one year of the Bush administration's first three years, a study found.

The study by Citizens for Tax Justice, a liberal-leaning think tank in Washington, and the affiliated Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, examined 275 Fortune 500 corporations with total cumulative profits of $1.1 trillion in 2001, 2002 and 2003. One-third paid no federal income taxes in at least one of those years, and many received refunds of taxes paid in prior years.
It's easy to see why 1) the federal deficit is rising out of control and 2) the middle class is being squeezed for every penny. Also of interest, since I'm very aware of what tax bracket I pay in was this:

The think tank's 1988 survey of large corporations found the overall effective tax rate was 26.5%; a survey of companies in 1996-98 found the rate dropped to 21.7%. The latest survey showed the effective rate fell to 17.2% in 2001-03.
Talk about tax relief! I'd love to be in the 17% bracket!

Now just imagine that the IRS got serious about ensuring that corporations paid their taxes, about closing loop holes. Imagine that Congress had the gonadal fortitude to pass legislation ensuring they paid taxes on foreign profits. Imagine what could be done with that money. It wouldn't fund universal health care, but it would make a serious dent in the bill. It could provide room to give the poor and the middle class a serious respite from rising effective tax rates.


But don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Democracy is on the March

If this is democracy, it's no wonder BushCo. has no qualms about destroying our civil rights:

Clashes also erupted after sunset Wednesday in the central city of Samarra, where U.S. forces had earlier claimed success against militants waging a 17-month insurgency, police said.

A Request To My Readers

I rarely ask anything of my few readers other than to leave a comment now and then, but I received a request to blog about something that intersects with several of my interests. I got an e-mail from International Planned Parenthood, an organization I make sure my United Way donations go to, about the unavailability of abortion for women in the armed services. Here's their pitch, and a link to a petition, I hope you'll consider signing it.

Did you know that the military won't cover the cost of abortion, even if the servicewoman has been raped? But the military does cover the cost of cosmetic surgery, including breast implants, nose jobs, and liposuction!

A ban on military abortions forces soldiers who become pregnant while serving overseas to seek abortions at private clinics and to pay for the procedure themselves, making it difficult and costly to end a pregnancy. Worse yet, the ban leaves women serving in countries where abortion is illegal - like Iraq and Afghanistan - nowhere to turn, effectively depriving them of freedom of choice.

Click here to sign a petition asking your members of Congress to lift the ban.
Thank you.

Distract, Dissemble, Deflect

The three Ds of the Republican election playbook.

Well I'm not buying them. I haven't touched on the CBS-Memo thing and I wasn't going to. But I will make this one exception. Rude Pundit - he is rude, but he is smart - has only one post on the subject. Like myself, he wasn't going to bother; the whole thing's a distraction, a chance to dissemble or deflect the questions entirely. Go read his whole post, but let me quote this:

Bottom line on this sideshow: Would those who say that Dan Rather should not be trusted, now that he seems to have used forged memos in a portion of a single report, ever say the same thing about George Bush when he led us to war based on "misleading" information about WMDs, including, well, forged documents? Howzabout a trade? We won't trust Rather anymore if you don't trust Bush. Deal? No? Then go fuck yourself with your memos.
Damn straight.

An Invisible Minority

I don't look like a "minority." In fact, other than being a very Anglo looking third generation Hispanic-American (I don't speak much Spanish, I have no accent, I'm not very dark skinned and I have green eyes), I look very much like a "white" male. This past weekend, however, I found out that I am, indeed, a true minority.

I live in the very small town of Marion, NY about 25 miles outside of Rochester. My wife and I found a wonderful home that sits on top of a ridge overlooking a beautiful valley full of trees, a small stream and lots of deer, foxes, woodchucks and hawks. It's a little bit of paradise that we retreat to at the end of a long day at work.

The "minority" part? Despite being in one of the "bluest" of states, I found out that I'm one of "maybe two" Democrats in the entire town. In fact, talking with a local Democratic Assemblyman, I found out that I'm one of very few Democrats in the whole county.

Damn. It's a good thing there are so many Democrats in New York City...

Petty, Vindictive Bastards

Not content to merely trample protesters' First Amendment rights during the RNC, New York City law enforcement agencies, likely goaded on by Republican Mayor Bloomberg (whose strings were probably being pulled by the national Republican machinery) also felt it necessary to confiscate protesters' bicycles. Over 300 of them. Some of them were of innocent bystanders. Some of them were apparently legally chained up and not in use.

The matter of the seized bicycles has been a little-noticed footnote to the ongoing legal disputes over mass arrests during the demonstrations, with complaints that innocent people were swept up in them and many were detained for long periods in violation of court orders.


To retrieve a bicycle, the owner must present the property voucher, given at the time of arrest, at the district attorney's office and obtain a release form to show to the property clerk in Brooklyn. Bicycles played a significant role during the Republicans' visit. On Aug. 27, the Friday before the convention, about 5,000 bicyclists shouting "No more Bush!" hurtled past Madison Square Garden. Later that night, more than 250 of them were arrested after a protest ride that ended in the East Village. Many of the arrests were made outside St. Mark's-in-the-Bowery Church on Second Avenue, and most were on charges of disorderly conduct or obstructing traffic. Many bicyclists said they were arrested even though they had broken no traffic laws.

The Day the Movies Changed

Do you remember 1977?

For me, 1977 was the year that the movies changed. And today, I am reliving a small piece of that excitement.

The original Star Wars Trilogy will arrive on my doorstep today and I'll begin the journey back to when I was 16, waiting to see a new movie that was supposedly like nothing we'd ever seen before. And it was. And movies have never been the same. (Truthfully, neither have I!)

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Bush Breaches Your Privacy

If you flew on an American aircarrier in June of this year, you may want to call the airline:

The Transportation Security Administration proposed an order that would compel 77 airlines to provide names, addresses and other information collected through carriers' reservation systems for domestic travel during the month.

All passenger records will be compared with a newly concentrated security watch list, compiled by federal law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies.
This "security watch list" is probably the same one that caused the diversion of a flight today because Cat Stevens was on board.

I kid you not.

Bush Killed Jack Hensley

Does Bush awake at night, the sweat dripping from his forehead, a scream dying in his throat, dreaming of the blood on his hands? Or does he sleep the sleep of the arrogant?

A posting on an Islamic Web site claimed Tuesday that an al-Qaida-linked group has slain a second American hostage in Iraq and threatened to kill a third hostage.

The claim that Jack Hensley, a civilian contractor, had been killed could not be verified immediately.

Bush is a Fabulist

Fabulist. He lies, but he may (or may not) believe his own lies. So says Richard Cohen in today's Washington Post. And I agree:

Who'd like to be the last man to die for that? I'm looking for a show of hands. But more than that, I'm looking for someone to raise questions that go to the heart of this matter of life and death. In this sense, Iraq is fast becoming Vietnam -- only the stakes are higher. (Vietnam had no oil.) It is also Vietnam in the way the presidential campaign is handling it. Once again the GOP is playing the odious patriotism card to silence dissent. As for Bush, he talks about Iraq with the same loopy unreality as he does his National Guard service. He's a fabulist.
And in the same vein, Tony Auth's editorial cartoon in the Post puts it all into perspective. Fabulist, indeed.

Bush Still Lying About Iraq

While this quote, from the New York Times, is from Condoleeza Rice, you can be sure that nothing passes her lips that hasn't been vetted by Bush and his brain, Karl Rove.

She [Rice] said ``there's no evidence'' that Iraq is falling into a state of civil war and said things are better than three months ago even though the Iraqi people ``are facing a very tough and daring insurgency.''
And the same can be said of Colin Powell (how low the once great general has fallen):

Secretary of State Colin Powell, interviewed Tuesday on ABC's ``Good Morning America,'' called the situation ``a difficult struggle'' but said ``to say we can't deal with it, this sort of attitude that we're on the verge of defeat is absolutely wrong.''
What f***ing universe are these two living in? Cause it's not the same universe where this is happening:

Deadline looms for American, British captives in Iraq
American contractor beheaded in Iraq
Iraq bombs cause civilian deaths
Iraq: busload of corpses discovered
Camp Pendleton Marine killed in Iraq
Ex-Michigan man killed by homemade explosive in Iraq
Senior Sunni clerics assassinated in Iraq
Had enough?

Bush Allows Iran to Build Nukes

By bogging down the majority of our military power in Iraq (and to a much lesser extent Afghanistan), and linking so much of our policy in the remainder of the Middle East to Israel, Bush has ensured that we do not have the means to enforce demands that Iran discontinue its nuclear program.

Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, told reporters in Vienna Iran had begun converting 37 tonnes of raw uranium into material which is fuel for nuclear centrifuges -- the machines that enrich uranium.

One nuclear expert has said that, if enriched, that would be enough material for five nuclear weapons.
Are you safer now than you were four years ago?

Bush Killed Eugene Armstrong

Just as surely as if he'd grasped the knife in his own hands and sawed through Armstrong's neck; George W. Bush killed Eugene Armstrong.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Where Are All the Bill Moyers?

Via Altercation, I found this wonderful speech given by Bill Moyers on the duties and the state of modern journalism.

Ed Wasserman, among others, has looked closely at the impact on journalism of this growing conglomeration of ownership. He recently wrote: "You would think that having a mightier media would strengthen their ability to assert their independence, to chart their own course, to behave in an adversarial way toward the state." Instead "they fold in a stiff breeze" - as Viacom, one of the richest media companies in the history of thought, did when it “couldn’t even go ahead and run a dim-witted movie” on Ronald Reagan because the current president’s political arm objected to anything that would interfere with the ludicrous drive to canonize Reagan and put him on Mount Rushmore. Wasserman acknowledges, as I do, that there is some world-class journalism being done all over the country today, but he went on to speak of "a palpable sense of decline, of rot, of a loss of spine, determination, gutlessness" that pervades our craft. Journalism and the news business, he concludes, aren’t playing well together. Media owners have businesses to run, and "these media-owning corporations have enormous interests of their own that impinge on an ever-widening swath of public policy" - hugely important things, ranging from campaign finance reform (who ends up with those millions of dollars spent on advertising?) to broadcast deregulation and antitrust policy, to virtually everything related to the Internet, intellectual property, globalization and free trade, even to minimum wage, affirmative action and environmental policy. "This doesn’t mean media shill mindlessly for their owners, any more than their reporters are stealth operatives for pet causes," but it does mean that in this era, when its broader and broader economic entanglements make media more dependent on state largesse, "the news business finds itself at war with journalism."
It's incredible. It's important.

Read it.


Quagmire Update

Could this be the first shot in a Iraqi civil war?

Gunmen killed a Sunni Muslim cleric as he entered a mosque in Baghdad to perform noon prayers Monday, the second slaying of a cleric from the influential Association of Muslim Scholars in as many days, the group said.

No Blonde Jokes, Please

If you haven't found BlondeSense yet, you're missing a true gem of the blogosphere. Three women with some serious political commentary, humor and snark, they also throw in a little feminist commentary, posts on everyday life and some damn fine Photoshop work.

BlondeSense, Patricia and Jaye will keep you informed, entertained and coming back. Go check them out. It's an every day read for me.

Louisiana Burnishes its Image

Although you could hardly expect anything else, Louisiana voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to their state constitution banning gay marriage.

With 95% of precincts reporting, the amendment won approval with 79% of the vote and support for it was evident statewide. Only in New Orleans, home to a politically strong gay community, did the race appear to be close, and even there the amendment was passing by a small margin.

"It's gratifying to see the people of Louisiana had an opportunity, as distinguished from judges, having the final say on the issue of whether traditional marriage will continue to be the fundamental institution in our state," said Darrell White, a retired state judge and consultant for Louisiana Family Forum, which pushed hard for the amendment.
Like most of these amendments, the gay community and civil rights activists will challenge the amendment on procedural and constitutional grounds. But the damage has been done; Louisiana has confirmed outsiders' impression of the state as backwards and bigoted.

The Shifting Sands

It seems that BushCo. has decided that Iraq being the central front in the War on Terror is not working out so good. So, as they often have, they are working to lower expectations so that almost regardless of the outcome, they can tout it as a success. Witness this bit from this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription):

President Bush is moving to control the Iraq debate with a weeklong effort that signals U.S. resolve to see through that country's chaotic experiment in democracy while tapping the power of incumbency for his re-election campaign.
Two things of note; 'experiment' connotes that the Iraqis are conducting this on their own. Seems to me that it's more our experiment in preemptive war. Also, 'chaotic experiment' makes it seem as though perhaps the Iraqis just aren't cleaning up after themselves in the lab.

Somehow chaotic experiment doesn't capture the horror and bloodshed of over a thousand dead American soldiers, thousands of injured soldiers, tens of thousands of dead Iraqis and a country that is slipping closer and closer to civil war. It's an experiment, alright. One that's in the process of blowing up in Bush's face.

But the effort continues of lowering expectations. One gets the feeling that by the time November 2 rolls around, if Iraq hasn't torn itself to pieces in civil war, Bush will consider it a "key victory in the War on Terror."

The End of the Weekend

It was a beautiful, late summer weekend. The mornings were cool, the days were warm. And the evenings...

Friday, September 17, 2004


Will any of the crap from Iraq stick to Bush? Despite clear evidence that he - at best - misled us into this quagmire, his poll numbers on Iraq remain well above 50%. From this morning's Wall Street Journal:

Drafts of a report from the top U.S. inspector in Iraq conclude there were no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, but say there were signs that fallen Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had dormant programs he hoped to revive at a later time, according to people familiar with the findings.
Of course this was only rationalization number 1 of many...

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Feel the Outrage - Again

You must watch this.

If you've forgotten the outrage of Florida in 2000, if you've lost the passion to kick Bush's ass back to Crawford, if you have doubts about whether your vote counts... then click on the link above.

Thanks to John at AMERICAblog for the link.

Follow the Light, MoDo

Maureen Dowd in today's NYT:

Here's how bad off the Democrats are: They're cowering behind closed doors, whispering that if it should ever turn out that Republicans are behind this, it would be so exquisitely Machiavellian, so beyond what Democrats are capable of, they should just fold and concede the election now - before the Republicans have to go to the trouble of stealing it again.


In this vast left-wing conspiracy theory, Mr. Rove takes real evidence on W.'s shirking and transfers it to documents doomed to be exposed as phony (thereby undermining the real goods), then funnels it through third parties to Dan Rather, Bush 41's nemesis on Iran-contra. A perfect bank shot.
It's an idea that's been floating around the blogosphere for a while now, but MoDo gives it a national stage. And although presented in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner, there's no doubt that she considers the possibility to be very real.

The upshot?

The administration has been so dazzling in misleading the public with audacious, mendacious malarkey that the Democrats fear the Bushies are capable of any level of deceit.
The much deserved paranoia we bloggers have been feeling for so long is finally getting the national airing it deserves. However, I'd say that paranoia is the wrong word. What's the correct word when your worst fears are not baseless?


There are only a few days remaining to register to vote in the upcoming elections. You can bitch and moan all you like about what BushCo. have done to our economy, our military and our country, but if you don't vote it doesn't mean a damned thing.

In fact, if you don't vote, you have absolutely no right to complain at all.

From AMERICAblog: did you know that 8 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were registered to vote in the US?

Do you want an al Qaeda member's vote to go uncontested?



Meanwhile... Back in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, the country that should be the central front in the War on Terror - you know, where the Taliban and Osama and al Qaeda are located - things are not a whole lot better than in Iraq.

A rocket slammed into the ground near where Afghan President Hamid Karzai's helicopter was approaching to land in an eastern city Thursday, forcing him to return to Kabul, officials said.

Karzai was headed to the city of Gardez, 60 miles south of Kabul, for a school-opening ceremony, aboard a U.S. military helicopter. Presidential spokesman Jawed Ludin said the rocket came down in a village about a mile from Gardez, while U.S. military spokesman Maj. Mark McCann said it hit 300 yards from the landing zone.
Although... now that I really look at that news report... I'm not sure that USA Today uses that font. Hmmmm...

Good Morning Viet Nam Iraq!

FUBAR: adj. acronym: F***ed Up Beyond All Repair. Military slang; likely originated during the Korean or Viet Nam conflicts.
On the ride to work this morning, there was a brief discussion on the situation in Iraq on Morning Edition. I didn't catch who the speaker was, but he offered two scenarios for the future of Iraq: The first - and the best we could hope for - was continued violence and unrest for the foreseeable future. The second - and worst - was that the violence would spiral completely out of control into civil war. This Middle East expert didn't offer any sunnier prospects. He obviously hasn't drunk the neocon Kool-Aid yet.

Then there's this from the Wall Street Journal, this morning:

Gunmen kidnapped two Americans and one Briton in the Iraqi capital, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said Thursday.

The three were seized from their house in Baghdad's al-Mansour neighborhood at dawn Thursday, said ministry spokesman Col. Adnan Abdel-Rahman. He didn't give their identities or say who they worked for. Col. Abdel-Rahman had earlier said the three were all British nationals.


Separately, a car bomb exploded Wednesday in a town south of Baghdad, killing two people and injuring 10, said Col. Abdel-Rahman. The car was targeting a National Guard checkpoint in Suwayrah, about 40 miles (60 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Col. Abdel-Rahman said. One national guardsman was among the dead, he said. No further details were available.


Also Wednesday, three beheaded bodies were found on a road north of Baghdad, authorities said.
No... no quagmire here, move along, nothing to see. Look, over there, Jessica Simpson is playing Daisy Duke!

UPDATE: More on the first story in today's NYT.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

A Question of Health Care

Can anyone out there give me a logically and humanely defensible reason why Americans should not have universal health care?


Republican Senators a Little Slow on the Uptake

The headline on this NYT article made me laugh out loud:

Senators See Budget Shift on Iraq as Sign of Trouble
A "sign of trouble?" Just a sign? You'd think that perhaps when the military death toll reached 1,000 they'd have realized that something was wrong. Or maybe the first time BushCo. came back to Congress for an additional $20 billion. Maybe all the car bombings and IEDs should have been a sign.

Where the hell have these idiots been for the past year?

Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said today that the Bush administration's request to divert more than $3 billion from reconstruction work in Iraq to security measures was a sign that the American campaign in Iraq is in serious trouble.


Mr. Hagel went on to say that the request for reprogramming the money "does not add up, in my opinion, to a pretty picture, to a picture that shows that we're winning. But it does add up to this, an acknowledgment that we are in deep trouble."
Do they not watch TV in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee? Are they not allowed to read newspapers? Just because their president doesn't read anything - including Presidential Daily Briefs - doesn't mean they can't.

Who voted for these clowns?

If a Tree Falls in the Woods...

If John Kerry writes an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal laying out his economic plan for his presidency will anyone read it?

Kerry's article is relatively short and lays out a pretty stark choice for WSJ readers; readers who are nominally supposed to care about the economic fundamentals of our country. They can either accept the continuation of Bush's policies which have reaped a staggering deficit with no end in sight, or they can take a chance on Kerry bringing financial sanity back to fiscal policy.

Forty-three months into his presidency, George Bush's main explanation for this dismal economic record is an assortment of blame and excuses. Yet what President Bush cannot explain is how the last 11 presidents before him -- Democrats and Republicans -- faced wars, recessions and international crises, and yet only he has presided over lost jobs, declining real exports, and the swing from a $5.6 trillion surplus to trillions of dollars of deficits.


With the right choices on the economy, America can do better. American businesses and workers are the most resilient, productive and innovative in the world. And they deserve policies that are better for our economy. My economic plan will do the following: (1) Create good jobs, (2) cut middle-class taxes and health-care costs, (3) restore America's competitive edge, and (4) cut the deficit and restore economic confidence.
But like the tree falling in the woods with no one there to hear it, WSJ subscribers have to read this piece without prejudice in order for it to "make a sound." I hope that those who must work with facts and numbers every day have the clarity of vision to see truth across the aisle.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

A Safe Bet

On CNN this afternoon:

The founder of the group Texans for Truth said Tuesday that he is offering $50,000 to anyone who can prove President Bush fulfilled his service requirements, including required duties and drills, in the Alabama Air National Guard in 1972.
I'm betting they'll never have to pay.

W is for Waffle

Lets put the whole "Kerry is a flip-flopper" thing to bed - again. John over at AMERICAblog excerpted this AP report on Bush's "reversals" over the past four years. Just print this out and keep it in your pocket. The next time you're with some Rethug, spouting the party line just take it out and have them read it.

If he is a flip-flopper, Kerry has company.

In 2000, Bush argued against new military entanglements and nation building. He's done both in Iraq.

He opposed a Homeland Security Department, then embraced it.

He opposed creation of an independent Sept. 11 commission, then supported it. He first refused to speak to its members, then agreed only if Vice President Dick Cheney came with him.

Bush argued for free trade, then imposed three-year tariffs on steel imports in 2002, only to withdraw them after 21 months.

Last month, he said he doubted the war on terror could be won, then reversed himself to say it could and would.

A week after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Bush said he wanted Osama bin Laden "dead or alive." But he told reporters six months later, "I truly am not that concerned about him." He did not mention bin Laden in his hour-long convention acceptance speech.

"I'm a war president," Bush told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Feb. 8. But in a July 20 speech in Iowa, he said: "Nobody wants to be the war president. I want to be the peace president."

Bush keeps revising his Iraq war rationale: The need to seize Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction until none were found; liberating the Iraqi people from a brutal dictator; fighting terrorists in Iraq not at home; spreading democracy throughout the Middle East. Now it's a safer America and a safer world.

"No matter how many times Senator Kerry flip-flops, we were right to make America safer by removing Saddam Hussein from power," he said last week in Missouri.

Bush has changed his positions on new Clean Air Act restrictions, protecting the Social Security surplus, tobacco subsidies, the level of assistance to help combat AIDs in Africa, campaign finance overhaul and whether to negotiate with North Korean officials....

Thanks to commenter Hephaestion at AMERICAblog for the title of this post!

Quagmire Update

Remember all the links that were found between al Qaeda and Saddam? Remember how so many of the 9/11 hijackers were from Iraq? Remember how vital it was to invade Iraq so that we could interdict the terrorists in their training camps? Remember how the world stood beside us as we began the bombardment of Baghdad?

Me neither.

Yet we've lost over 1,000 fine young American soldiers and killed somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000 Iraqis - only some of whom could be classified as "insurgents." And every day the situation gets worse; closer and closer to where not even the most jaded (or conservative) among us can object to using the term "quagmire."

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

A car bomb exploded near a police station in the Iraqi capital early Tuesday, as dozens were applying to join the force, killing at least 47 people and wounding nearly 114, officials said.

Separately in Baqouba, gunmen in two cars opened fire on a van carrying policemen home from work, killing 11 officers and a civilian, police and hospital officials said.

Also Tuesday, saboteurs blew up a junction where multiple oil pipelines cross the Tigris River in northern Iraq, setting off a chain reaction in electricity generating systems that left the entire country without power, officials said.
UPDATE:See also here and here.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Sixteen Miles on the Erie Canal

I remember reading about the Erie Canal growing up, but sometimes I forget how lucky I am to live so near such an important piece of history. The canal winds its way through several of the towns near us and it always provides beautiful or interesting scenery regardless of the season.

This photo was taken just outside the town of Macedon, NY looking more or less East from the lock at Macedon. This was an incredible, late summer day - as you can see.

Enjoy; a little bit of history, from me to you!


That's the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. We were in Buffalo today so that my wife could get her "permanent" Permanent Resident Card. Permanent in quotation marks because you really have to renew them every ten years. It was the usual government office. Nobody working too fast, but they were all very nice and it actually went really well.

So... I'm afraid to ask, because I haven't even had time to look at the news today, what did I miss?

More later, I hope!

Sunday, September 12, 2004

North Korea Gone Nuclear?

Go check out AMERICAblog, and follow the links there. Is it possible that on Thursday the DPRK had its first nuclear weapons test? There were some reports of a mushroom cloud, but everyone from the Chinese to our own government is saying that it definitely was not a nuclear test.

Thursday was the 56th Anniversary of the founding of the DPRK; and the North Koreans are known to stage important events for such dates.

Is BushCo. downplaying this because it doesn't fit his "safer now" campaign theme? Will we only find out the truth when countries downwind start reporting high levels of radiation? Why do we have to be so distrustful of this administration?

This is very, very worrisome.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Three Years On

Where have we come in three years? How far have we traveled from that brilliant September morning? When I woke up this morning, I showered and headed for the golf course. It seemed to be just another beautiful late summer Saturday.

But on NPR they were talking about that other September morning. Nobody on the golf course talked about it. Almost as if it would somehow be wrong to speak of such horror while enjoying such a great day. On the way home the radio was still tuned to NPR and they were talking to survivors of the Pentagon attack.

Last night, on CNN, someone said something about the world being completely different after September 11, 2001. But the world only seems different if you really think about it. If you go through life without really remembering that specific day, if you squint your eyes just a little, that day almost disappears. And then you see the homemade memorial to the firefighters that appears on the same street corner every year now.

It's maddening to know that the mastermind behind the horror is still at large. And I've written a hundred times about how the current resident of the White House is culpable for his remaining free. And it would be wonderful if every so often on the evening news they could talk about the impending trial of Osama bin Laden. But they can't. And they don't.

More importantly, I think, is the journey we've all made since that day. Each journey has been different. Each has ended in a different way at a different place. Some of us have wound up staring down a sunlit fairway trying to figure out which club to pull from the bag. Others of us have ended up in a blisteringly hot desert, too far from home, staring down a sunlit street trying to figure out which weapon to grab.

I don't have a neat way to tie up this post. Mostly because I don't think we've come to a point where it's possible to tie up all we feel and think and remember about September 11 in a neat way. Thoughts spin off in a thousand different ways... splintering and shattering like glass. Maybe someday we'll be able to talk about that day like we talk about Pearl Harbor, like a day in history. Strange that three years could still be too close.

I hope you remembered today. I hope you found a little peace in your thoughts.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Dick Steps on His Cheney - Again

If I understand his clarification of his earlier remarks about Kerry correctly, BushCo. have screwed up the War on Terror so badly that it doesn't matter who gets elected.

Vice President Dick Cheney sought to "clean up" a controversy over comments he made this week, saying that the country must brace for a potential terrorist attack no matter who is elected president.
As I look at it again, I can't see anything wrong with my analysis.

"I did not say if Kerry is elected, we will be hit by a terrorist attack," Cheney told the newspaper. "Whoever is elected president has to anticipate more attacks.
Nope, nothing wrong at all...

Another Reminder of Bush's Failure in "The War on Terror"

Bush won't say his name, despite promising almost three years ago that we'd "smoke him out of his hole" and get him "dead or alive." But, through his number two, Osama bin Laden continues to poke his finger in America's eye, taunting us and enthusing his followers.

For the second year in a row, al-Qaida released a video tape rallying its supporters near the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, and experts were investigating if the images of the terror network's No. 2 leader were new or not.


"The defeat of America in Iraq and Afghanistan has become a matter of time, with God's help," al-Zawahri said on the tape. "The Americans in both countries are between two fires, if they continue they bleed to death and if they withdraw they lose everything."

House Works Overtime

Perhaps a little something (WSJ - subscription) for workers to smile about.

The House voted to bar the Bush administration from enforcing new wage rules that make it easier for employers to deny overtime pay to white-collar and administrative workers.

The White House has threatened to veto the prohibition to keep the rules in effect. But in a rare victory to organized labor, 22 Republicans broke ranks on the 223-193 vote, despite strong pressure from their party leadership.
The Senate seems to support a similar move in what could be an important defeat to Big-Business-BushCo. A key quote came in discussions yesterday from Rep. Robert Andrews, an New Jersey Democrat:

"Overtime is not a gift from America's employers. It is the right of American workers."

One Year of The Fulcrum

In the shadow of the second anniversary of 9/11, I was feeling frustrated about where BushCo. was taking our country. I was feeling anxious about whether we might be attacked again, whether I would be called up from my Reserve status for the neo-con nightmare in the Middle East. I had been reading several blogs for years, but something about the nexus of frustration and anxiety and anger of last year drove me to create my own blog.

The last year has passed quickly, but not without pain, not without more frustration and and anxiety. Afghanistan has been quickly forgotten, Iraq is, by any definition, a quagmire, terrorism has spread and grown in response to our misbegotten foreign policies and adventures. There were personal crises to deal with as well. But through it all, the catharsis of researching and writing this blog have helped.

Thank you to everyone who's stopped by here in the past year. I hope that the past 12 months of posts have provided my few steady readers - and the occasional passerby - with some new information and a bit of humor or irony now and again. Mostly, I hope that I've managed to bring a slightly different take on events, that I have, indeed, been "tilting the world a little more to the left."

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Another Bush Flip-Flop

New York Times headline:

Bush Now Backs Budget Powers in New Spy Post
The money paragraph:

President Bush said on Wednesday that he wanted to give a new national intelligence director "full budgetary authority," a sharp shift from an earlier position and an acquiescence to a major recommendation of the Sept. 11 commission.

Opening an Eastern Front?

I trust Vladimir Putin as much as I trust George W. Bush. Perhaps less. That's why the thought of the Russians opening a second front on the War on Terror is so frightening. Especially given the way this paragraph from a story in the Toronto Star is worded:

It offered a $10 million (U.S.) reward for help in hunting two separatist Chechen rebels, and a top Russian general said the military will strike "terrorist bases in any region of the world" — but would refrain from using nuclear weapons.
I know that it is currently unfashionable to consider root causes of terrorism, but I have to wonder if the Russians have learned anything from our blundering about in the Middle East. And honestly, do we really need another country lumbering about the world with their outsized military trampling anyone they consider to be terrorists or terrorist supporters or anyone even contemplating terrorist related program activities?

And consider this; our military is the best trained, best equipped and - honestly - the most compassionate army in the world (in general); and we had abu Ghraib. Imagine the Russian Army, which brutalizes its own soldiers, holding prisoners in some out of the way break-away province of the Balkans or the Trans-Caucasus or elsewhere. Consider the damage that our best-in-the-world smart weapons have done to the civilian population in Iraq and Afghanistan, now imagine the less than high-tech weapons, poorly maintained by abused conscripts of the Russian Army and Air Force being unleashed in the confines of a city.

Bush's doctrine of "pre-emptive warfare" is loose upon the earth. Imagine the horror.

Well... Duh!

I'm not sure if the editor who wrote the headline for this article in the Wall Street Journal (subscription) was being funny or ironic or if the idea had just occurred to him for the first time. Here's the headline:

Demand for Oil Could One Day Outstrip Supply
Here's what prompted what, in the military, we used to call a BFO: a Blinding Flash of the Obvious.

A respected oil-forecasting group predicted that the energy industry may be unable to produce enough oil to meet projected demand by the end of the next decade, in a study that lends support to a small chorus of analysts who warn that a peak in petroleum output is looming in the years ahead.

In a presentation yesterday, analysts from Washington-based PFC Energy warned that the world won't be able to produce more than 100 million barrels of oil a day, only some 20% more than current output of about 82 million barrels a day, and well below demand projections for the end of the next decade.

"Even production of 100 million barrels a day can only be sustained for a few years," said Roger Diwan, a PFC analyst. "Every year since the 1970s, we have been consuming much more oil than we have been discovering."
Now where have we been hearing that? Um... give me a few minutes...

Combine this "revelation" with oil companies revising their reserves downward in recent years and you get a real, live petroleum shortage. Not in a hundred years, not in fifty. Maybe in as little as 10 years. The result? Well, at first, just rising prices. But with so much of the world economy dependent on petroleum by-products, pricing will only do so much to curb consumption.

I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out what comes next. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Bush Should Have Been Court Martialed

Seems the feces is finally hitting the electric air movement device over Bush's so-called military service.

AMERICAblog has plenty on the story. And you should really read the Washington Post's story, too. But just look around at any of the news outlets. They are finally starting to get it.

Here are just the things that we know about that could have resulted in a court martial being convened.

  1. Disobeying a direct order.

  2. Failure to get a flight physical.

  3. Being suspended from flight duty.

  4. Adversely affecting unit readiness.

  5. Failure to attend required drill dates.

  6. Failure to attend Guard duties in Alabama.

  7. Failure to join a National Guard unit in Massachusetts.
Of course, in lieu of a court martial, his commander and the National Guard could have also discharged aWol from the Guard and transferred his commission to the Active Component. He might have even met a couple of the 150 guys he jumped over to get his cushy slot in the TANG. I'm sure they would have had a few words to say to young W.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Halt, Who Goes There?

I checked out my Site Meter stats this evening, and what do I see? Instead of my average 75 hits, I've had 220!!

Whoever all those new visitors are, I wish you'd take a moment to leave a comment and let me know who you are.

Regardless: Hello! Stop by again soon.

"Poisoned Patriotism"

Read this great Newsweek piece by Christopher Dickey. He explores, via a book by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., the way that patriotism has been hijacked by flag-wavers and jingoists. Picking up Schlesinger's book would probably be a great idea, too; "War and the American Presidency."

But a couple of quotes from the article really caught my eye. Some I had seen, others not. Check them out:

Most disturbing of all, I’ve come across a lot of men and women who’ve grown afraid of their fellow Americans. It’s as if their patriotism has been poisoned. They say they feel their flag has been appropriated by narrow-minded zealots. Their hopes are being crushed by cynical politicians. Their sons and daughters are being sent to die in wars that seem to have no end, and anyone who questions those politicians or those wars is being branded a traitor.

Christopher Dickey
From the Article

"You don't 'prevent' anything by war except peace."

President Harry S Truman

"Our country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right."

Carl Schurz
Nineteenth-century immigre

...the United States should stand for freedom and independence wherever her flag is unfurled, but "she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy." By launching foreign wars of interest and intrigue, [he] predicted, the fundamental underpinnings of American policy would change "from liberty to force." America "might become the dictatress of the world: she would no longer be the ruler of her own spirit." Foreign adventures and foreign threats are, as often as not, pretexts for curtailing the freedoms Americans believe they should be fighting for.

John Quincy Adams

Dick - Go Cheney Yourself

It's official, I guess... At least to "Crashcart" Dick: Democrats are terrorist enablers. In remarks that have been roundly criticized, the VP, yesterday, claimed that if Americans vote for Kerry/Edwards in November, they'd be responsible for future attacks on the US.

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday warned Americans about voting for Democratic Sen. John Kerry, saying that if the nation makes the wrong choice on Election Day it faces the threat of another terrorist attack.
Dick should return to his secure, undisclosed location. And Cheney himself.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004


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,, 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.


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.