Saturday, July 31, 2004

Another sign of the changing times? The Findlay Courier, formerly known (until the very early 80's) as the Findlay Republican Courier, has a columnist named Alicia Kelso who writes things like this:
Questioning government is real patriotism

Yeah, yeah, I've heard it all before. The name-calling that comes with being a tad bit against the grain, that is.

"Naive" and "loony left" are my favorites. And "young" when contextually used to mean "stupid" and "ignorant."

Yawn. Sticks and stones may break my bones ...

When the words do hurt me, however, is when I'm called "unpatriotic." Or, by extension, "anti-American."

It's happened very few times in my life. Ironically, however, it happened when I thought I was being quite the poster child for patriotism -- flexing my rights and basking in my freedoms.

When I marched in protest of the invasion of Iraq a year and a half ago, a formidable group on the sidelines accused me of such nationalistic abandonment. Never mind that I donned red, white and blue, carried a flag and made the decision to march in the first place because of the ambiguous pretenses behind the invasion.

The events that have taken place since that day -- most notably the almost 1,000 American casualties, the fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction, no "collaborative, operational" relationship between Iraq and Sept. 11, and murky exit strategies -- have eased the burden of guilt such name-calling inevitably created.

I wouldn't even be surprised if some of the perpetrators themselves have since begun questioning the war's purpose. And if they stand by their convictions, then hopefully they'll at least agree with me on one thing -- the very ability I had to march while actively questioning my government and their very ability to openly, publicly disagree with me -- is exactly what makes this country great and, consequently, what fuels my patriotism.

I'm aware that in some countries I (especially as a female) wouldn't be able to speak or act with such political fervor. I'm also aware that in some countries, similar dissent is greeted by extreme, unfathomable punishments. Like beheadings.

I've watched a beheading twice on the big screen within the past two weeks. A brief, yet incredibly profound scene of one taking place in Saudi Arabia is spliced smack dab in the middle of Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Although the specific scene is presented amidst a tirade of rhetoric accusing our president of being a cozy oil-hungry bedfellow with the Saudis, the vision made me appreciate living here an exponential amount. Even if I entertained the possibility of truth behind such rhetoric.

That's why I was confused when my patriotism was once again called into question -- by a single person -- as I exited the theater. By seeing the movie, and especially spending money to do so, I was void of American sentiment, according to him.

Do I agree with all of Moore's accusations? No. Was my vote solidified before I saw the film? Probably. Is it fair? I'm not sure it ever promised to be, as its marketing has been marinated with the director's disposition since day one.

Is it powerful? You bet. Emotional? Deeply. Important? As the first documentary to top the $100 million mark, it's popular culture significance cannot be doubted.

No matter. The fierce division spawned by the film is based on whether or not it's necessary.

Because Moore can make it and because we can watch it, yes.

Across the political spectrum throughout history, the actions of commanders-in-chief have been put under the microscope and criticized. Plenty on the right have done it -- from Limbaugh to O'Reilly -- reaching an audience far larger than those who will ever see "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Why the criticism? Because they not only can do it, but they care enough to do it. That's love.

At a historically significant time, when politics are evenly split, yet ideals are increasingly polarized, it is absolutely necessary to protest, dissent -- to question.

It's such questioning that keeps this country in check, that reiterates its people's optimism. Because we can question, we can perpetually believe there is something better and work toward it accordingly.

Disagree? Show off your best patriotic side and counter my vote.

It will speak volumes louder than name-calling.
And that's not a fluke. Go to the Opinion section of the web site (it's set up oddly, so I can't point you directly there) and check out the titles of some of her other columns.

I harbor no illusions. This part of Ohio is still "Bush Country." But dissenters are starting to speak up, and that's very encouraging to me!

Friday, July 30, 2004

My letter to the editor will probably never see the light of day in these parts, so I'm posting it below, as promised:
I'm in town for only a few days to visit family, but I couldn't let Mr. Ken Jenkins' letter ("Dems will need to re-package") of 7/29 go uncorrected. He used a number of "talking points" that come straight from the RNC (try this at home: "google" some of the his facts, verbatim, and see how many "hits" you get), many of which have gone completely unexamined and unchallenged by the "partisan press." So yes, let's look at some facts, because if we drill down a little, we'll see that Mr. Jenkins' facts are far less persuasive.

"In 2003, Kerry voted with extreme left-wing Kennedy 93 percent of the time." Without some context, this is, I'm sure, bone-chilling to the average conservative voter. But I looked at Project Votesmart, where you can examine congressional voting records. On a number of those votes, Kerry did indeed vote with Kennedy, and also with Republican colleagues! For just a couple of examples: he joined Kennedy, and Republicans John McCain and Olympia Snowe, in voting against the fiscally irresponsible tax cuts of 2003. And he joined Kennedy, along with numerous other Republicans and Democrats, to pass the Supplemental Fiscal Support Package for Afghanistan and Iraq, and for the Defense Authorization bill.

"Kerry Voted At Least 350 Times for Higher Taxes." Mr. Jenkins wrote that in capitals, so it must be a doozy in his book. The "fact" is cleverly written to sound like Kerry voted to increase taxes 350 times, when in fact, fully 283 of those votes were for keeping taxes the same, instead of voting for an irresponsible tax reduction that could not be paid for.

"Kerry voted for the biggest tax increase in American history under President Clinton." Well, that's just plain wrong. The biggest tax increase in American history was Roosevelt's in 1942. Even Ronald Reagan's Tax Equity Act of 1982 created a larger tax increase.

"Kerry has voted against balanced budget amendments..." Well, I have to hand you that one: if we had a balanced budget amendment in place, then President Bush would not have been able to hand us the record-setting 450 billion dollar deficit budget he created this year. That record-setting deficit budget, by the way, does not include most costs for the ongoing war in Iraq (but it's probably difficult for the budget office to project how much Halliburton will overcharge the Pentagon in a fiscal year).

Mr. Jenkins also gives us one example of a Kerry "flip-flop." Let's look at a few of Bush's:

* He opposed creation of a Department of Homeland Security until the day FBI whisteblower Colleen Rowley was scheduled to give her damning testimony of FBI failures to Congress, when he suddenly announced - to great fanfare - that he was creating said department.

* In Sept 2000 he told us he wanted Osama bin Laden "dead or alive;" in March 2002, trying to justify his war on Iraq, he announced about bin Laden: "I don't know where he is...I am truly not concerned about him." (How many devastating bombings has bin Laden orchestrated since then, by the way?)

* In 2000 Bush supported mandatory caps on carbon dioxide emissions. In 2003, facing an irritated base, in opposed them.

* In May 2002 Bush opposed creation of the 9/11 Commission. In Sept 2002, facing increased public criticism, he announced that he was in favor of it.

* In Jan 2004 Bush refused an outside investigation into WMD intelligence failures. In Feb, facing increased public criticism, he created one by executive order.

Now, to me, those are the worse kinds of flip-flops: the kind born of political expediency. But how about a few more facts? Fact: Bush took a budget surplus and turned it into a 450 billion dollar deficit and still insists on permanent tax cuts. Fact: Bush is on track to be the first president since Hoover to have a net job loss in his term. Fact: one spring job report showed that the fastest growing job segment was (ready for this, small government advocates?) THE GOVERMENT. Fact: George Bush sent our service men and women to war in Iraq, and then asked Congress to cut their wages, reduce the budgets of army base schools, and cut benefits to veterans. Fact: Terrorism INCREASED this year.

Yes, let's do consider the facts.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Greetings from the battleground state of Ohio. If it brings you any cheer, I've had conversations with two diehard Republican voters who have decided to either vote Kerry or sit out this election.

But I'm staying up late tonight to write a rebuttal to this letter-full-of-RNC-talking points, the longest letter printed in today's Courier:

During the DNC convention the Democrats have a big job ahead of them, repackaging John Kerry, again. It's quite a dilemma, when you consider all the flop flops he has had. Instead of buying into the hype and partisan press, let's decide for ourselves who John Kerry is. The best way to know a person is by looking at what a person has done. Here are some facts about John Kerry, not my opinioin, but facts to help one form an opinion.

In 2003, Kerry voted with extreme left wing Kennedy 93 percent of the time.

Kerry claims he is for fiscal responsibility, but here is his record.

Kerry Has Voted At Least 350 Times For Higher Taxes.

Kerry voted for the biggest tax increase in American history under President Clinton.

Kerry voted against President Bush's historic 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.

Kerry has voted against balanced budget amendments at least five times.

Kerry has voted against major tax relief at least 29 times.

Kerry has said he is personally against abortion. Really? Kerry voted at least six times against banning partial-birth abortions. Kerry has voted at least three times against requiring parental consent/ notification for minor's (sic) abortion. Kerry voted to allow federal funding of abortions and to provide abortion counseling in federally-funded clinics. So he may be personally against it, but not man enough to stand up against it.

On flip flopping, here is one example:

In the first Democratic debate, Kerry strongly supported the president's action in Iraq. Kerry said: "George, I said at the time I would have preferred if we had given diplomacy a greater opportunity, but I think it was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein, and when the president made the decision, I supported him, and I support the fact that we did disarm him."

Kerry later claimed he voted "to threaten" use of force in Iraq. "I voted to threaten the use of force to make Saddam Hussein comply with the resolutions of the United Nations," Kerry said. Later when asked by Chris Matthews if he was anti war, Kerry said, "I am - yes." Does he know what he really thinks?

Ken Jenkins, Findlay
So I'm up tonight, googling Mr. Jenkins' talking points, and writing my response. It probably won't get printed in the Courier when it's done, so I'll post it here, too. I hope to have it done by tomorrow afternoon.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

With apologies for the skimpy content this week, here's something to chew on until I catch up...

First, here's an entertaining summary of Dick Cheney's impressive "accomplishments" to date...

Second, if you read nothing else today, please read Paul Krugman:
It's election night, and early returns suggest trouble for the incumbent. Then, mysteriously, the vote count stops and observers from the challenger's campaign see employees of a voting-machine company, one wearing a badge that identifies him as a county official, typing instructions at computers with access to the vote-tabulating software.

When the count resumes, the incumbent pulls ahead. The challenger demands an investigation. But there are no ballots to recount, and election officials allied with the incumbent refuse to release data that could shed light on whether there was tampering with the electronic records.

This isn't a paranoid fantasy. It's a true account of a recent election in Riverside County, Calif., reported by Andrew Gumbel of the British newspaper The Independent. Mr. Gumbel's full-length report, printed in Los Angeles City Beat, makes hair-raising reading not just because it reinforces concerns about touch-screen voting, but also because it shows how easily officials can stonewall after a suspect election.

Some states, worried about the potential for abuse with voting machines that leave no paper trail, have banned their use this November. But Florida, which may well decide the presidential race, is not among those states, and last month state officials rejected a request to allow independent audits of the machines' integrity. A spokesman for Gov. Jeb Bush accused those seeking audits of trying to "undermine voters' confidence," and declared, "The governor has every confidence in the Department of State and the Division of Elections."


This year, Florida again hired a private company - Accenture, which recently got a homeland security contract worth up to $10 billion - to prepare a felon list. Remembering 2000, journalists sought copies. State officials stonewalled, but a judge eventually ordered the list released.

The Miami Herald quickly discovered that 2,100 citizens who had been granted clemency, restoring their voting rights, were nonetheless on the banned-voter list. Then The Sarasota Herald-Tribune discovered that only 61 of more than 47,000 supposed felons were Hispanic. So the list would have wrongly disenfranchised many legitimate African-American voters, while wrongly enfranchising many Hispanic felons. It escaped nobody's attention that in Florida, Hispanic voters tend to support Republicans.


Let's not be coy. Jeb Bush says he won't allow an independent examination of voting machines because he has "every confidence" in his handpicked election officials. Yet those officials have a history of slipshod performance on other matters related to voting and somehow their errors always end up favoring Republicans. Why should anyone trust their verdict on the integrity of voting machines, when another convenient mistake could deliver a Republican victory in a high-stakes national election?

This shouldn't be a partisan issue. Think about what a tainted election would do to America's sense of itself, and its role in the world. In the face of official stonewalling, doubters probably wouldn't be able to prove one way or the other whether the vote count was distorted - but if the result looked suspicious, most of the world and many Americans would believe the worst. I'll write soon about what can be done in the few weeks that remain, but here's a first step: if Governor Bush cares at all about the future of the nation, as well as his family's political fortunes, he will allow that independent audit.
Here is the Andrew Gumbel story Krugman mentions.

I'll be finishing What's the Matter with Kansas? on the plane today. More later!

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Latest GOP "Block the Vote!" efforts --
A Michigan state representative says the GOP needs to "suppress the Detroit vote" in order to win. The Detroit vote happens to be 83% black and largely Democratic. Meanwhile, Ohio has begun purging its voter rolls. Is anyone supervising? And Jeb is at it again, this time eliminating the form that ex-felons use to request reinstatement of voting rights so that they have to call Florida's Office of Executive Clemency to request a hearing. (See here, too. Thanks, C.) He must be very handsomely rewarded for his tireless and creative efforts.

Living on Pennies --
I should have been linking to this series all along, but now all six installments are available. The Los Angeles Times has been running a very important and moving series on the brutal basics of daily life in Africa, "Living on Pennies." Hurry up and read it while it's free. Here are the six segments:
Part 1, Eking out an income
Part 2, Staving off hunger
Part 3, Settling for castoff clothes
Part 4, Living in 100 square feet
Part 5, Locked out of school
Part 6, Surviving AIDS

The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party --
Wasn't that Senator Paul Wellstone's classic line, originally? We've been reading quite a bit in recent weeks (of course I haven't been saving the links; feel free to post examples in the Comments section if you have!) about the relative quiet from the left wing of the Democratic party, which is being attributed to the unprecedented unity of purpose binding us all this year: removing Bush from his appointed office. Perhaps we're learning something. Among the observations EJ Dionne Jr. makes in his book Stand Up, Fight Back: Republican Toughs, Democratic Wimps, and the Politics of Revenge (which, alas, is a little heavy on the observations and light on remedies, and is - in any case - not the fire-breathing call to arms its title suggests) is that "because Republicans are so certain about whom and what they represent, they are better able to compromise when necessary..." Democrats have finally found something they can all agree on - the need to compromise this year. But where does the party go after (we pray) Kerry and Edwards are safely in office? One of the messages that seems to be coming from writers like Thomas Frank is that the Democratic party lost its soul during the last 30 years -- trying to counter conservatives on all the wrong terms. THEIR terms. For some reason, Democrats got embarrassed about being the party that agitates for fair wages and safe working conditions, that protects the environment, that cares for the disadvantaged... I wonder if we can get that party back? (Body and Soul misses it, too.) Mark Green lays out his vision for revival here (the final pages of Dionne's book describe a similar vision "progressive patriotism").

Why-oh-why-oh --
For a week, beginning Tuesday, I'll be visiting family in northwest Ohio. Posts will be sporadic, but inevitable, since I can't stop myself from looking at the infuriating Findlay Courier when I'm there and will probably need to vent. Findlay, for those who don't know, is the home district of the ethically challenged Rep. Mike Oxley.

It's dahlia season at the Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park... Posted by Hello

Friday, July 23, 2004

Bush's missing National Guard payroll records have miraculously been found!
Like records released earlier by the White House, the newly released computerized payroll records show no indication Bush drilled with the Alabama unit during July, August and September of 1972. Pay records covering all of 1972, released previously, also indicated no guard service for Bush during those three months.
But, further on in this WaPo story, we're told these records "do not give any new information toward determining whether Bush kept his National Guard commitments during 1972, when he transferred to the Alabama National Guard unit so he could work on the U.S. Senate campaign of a family friend." Hmm. For months, various folks have been saying that the payroll records would prove whether or not Bush served, which is what made their absence all the more suspicious. Now we have the payroll records, indicating that, indeed, Bush was not paid during the months in question. How is that not informative? What am I missing?
Bear with me! I've got stuff to post here, but I'm swamped at work and at home this week. More later today.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

How the other half thinks? --
The Village Voice's Rick Perlstein spends some time with Bush's True Believers and shows us how deep it goes. No, I don't think all of "the other half" feel the way these Believers do. I suspect that some of them know Bush is a contrivance, but as long as he's making them money, they'll sing as loud as anyone. Still, I am mystified that Bush carries as many as he does. I'm hoping What's the Matter With Kansas? will clear this up for me.

Army rations to include pee soup? --
No, that's not a typo.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Berger Brouhaha --
Interesting item from Josh Marshall re: Berger's illegal retention of copies of secure documents and notes he used for testimony to the 9/11 commission. Seems the FBI has known about it for MONTHS, and the news was just conveniently leaked this week.

A lot of people fear that Ohio will be the Florida of 2004 --
and here's another reason to be worried.

The Incredible Shrinking Paycheck --
I missed this item Sunday. While the prez is out touting the booming economy (ie, the economy that regained a small fraction of the jobs he lost so far), the NYT gives a snippet of real life (via Ruy Teixeira): real wages are not keeping up with inflation. And it's pretty much an employer's market; that NYT story mentions 600-700 people showing up to apply for 70-80 restaurant jobs. Where's the incentive to provide competitive wages?

Kinda funny -- Except that I can't get the refrain out of my head.
Good to know they're focusing on the important stuff. The flag-burning amendment flares up again, and a close vote is expected.
Went to hear Bill Press tout his new book, Bush Must Go at Stacey's Books during lunchtime. If "undecideds" read the book, it will be a good thing, but there's nothing there I haven't already digested. For the talk, Press emphasized three of the book's 10 reasons "Bush must go": (1) he has reversed environmental progress by at least 30 years, (2) he has presided over the ruination of the economy, taking it from "A-OK to I.O.U." as Press puts it, and (3) he led the nation to war on false premises. Audience questions were about what you'd expect from "the choir," but there was a very large turnout. Apparently misery really does love company. I didn't buy Press's book, but I did buy a discounted copy of What's the Matter with Kansas? and will report on that soon!
Terrific new column by Paul Krugman (I wonder if he knows he borrowed "The Arabian Candidate" from a chapter in Craig Unger's book?:

July 20, 2004
The Arabian Candidate

In the original version of "The Manchurian Candidate," Senator John Iselin, whom Chinese agents are plotting to put in the White House, is a right-wing demagogue modeled on Senator Joseph McCarthy. As Roger Ebert wrote, the plan is to "use anticommunist hysteria as a cover for a communist takeover."

The movie doesn't say what Iselin would have done if the plot had succeeded. Presumably, however, he wouldn't have openly turned traitor. Instead, he would have used his position to undermine national security, while posing as America's staunchest defender against communist evil.

So let's imagine an update - not the remake with Denzel Washington, which I haven't seen, but my own version. This time the enemies would be Islamic fanatics, who install as their puppet president a demagogue who poses as the nation's defender against terrorist evildoers.

The Arabian candidate wouldn't openly help terrorists. Instead, he would serve their cause while pretending to be their enemy.

After an attack, he would strike back at the terrorist base, a necessary action to preserve his image of toughness, but botch the follow-up, allowing the terrorist leaders to escape. Once the public's attention shifted, he would systematically squander the military victory: committing too few soldiers, reneging on promises of economic aid. Soon, warlords would once again rule most of the country, the heroin trade would be booming, and terrorist allies would make a comeback.

Meanwhile, he would lead America into a war against a country that posed no imminent threat. He would insinuate, without saying anything literally false, that it was somehow responsible for the terrorist attack. This unnecessary war would alienate our allies and tie down a large part of our military. At the same time, the Arabian candidate would neglect the pursuit of those who attacked us, and do nothing about regimes that really shelter anti-American terrorists and really are building nuclear weapons.

Again, he would take care to squander a military victory. The Arabian candidate and his co-conspirators would block all planning for the war's aftermath; they would arrange for our army to allow looters to destroy much of the country's infrastructure. Then they would disband the defeated regime's army, turning hundreds of thousands of trained soldiers into disgruntled potential insurgents.

After this it would be easy to sabotage the occupied country's reconstruction, simply by failing to spend aid funds or rein in cronyism and corruption. Power outages, overflowing sewage and unemployment would swell the ranks of our enemies.

Who knows? The Arabian candidate might even be able to deprive America of the moral high ground, no mean trick when our enemies are mass murderers, by creating a climate in which U.S. guards torture, humiliate and starve prisoners, most of them innocent or guilty of only petty crimes.

At home, the Arabian candidate would leave the nation vulnerable, doing almost nothing to secure ports, chemical plants and other potential targets. He would stonewall investigations into why the initial terrorist attack succeeded. And by repeatedly issuing vague terror warnings obviously timed to drown out unfavorable political news, his officials would ensure public indifference if and when a real threat is announced.

Last but not least, by blatantly exploiting the terrorist threat for personal political gain, he would undermine the nation's unity in the face of its enemies, sowing suspicion about the government's motives.

O.K., end of conceit. President Bush isn't actually an Al Qaeda mole, with Dick Cheney his controller. Mr. Bush's "war on terror" has, however, played with eerie perfection into Osama bin Laden's hands - while Mr. Bush's supporters, impressed by his tough talk, see him as America's champion against the evildoers.

Last week, Republican officials in Kentucky applauded bumper stickers distributed at G.O.P. offices that read, "Kerry is bin Laden's man/Bush is mine." Administration officials haven't gone that far, but when Tom Ridge offered a specifics-free warning about a terrorist attack timed to "disrupt our democratic process," many people thought he was implying that Al Qaeda wants George Bush to lose. In reality, all infidels probably look alike to the terrorists, but if they do have a preference, nothing in Mr. Bush's record would make them unhappy at the prospect of four more years.

Monday, July 19, 2004

We* were right --
He IS an idiot. (*those of us who voted "no" on the recall!)

Welcome to Dodge --
An editorial from the NY Times, worth saving you the registration effort:
July 19, 2004
The Right to Bare Arms

The latte grande at the Starbucks in Tysons Corner, Va., must have seemed extra steamy last month when two college students bellied up to the bar packing pistols on their hips, as casually as if they wore cellphones. Someone called the police, who confiscated the handguns and charged the students. But wait: the Catch-22 in Virginia's enfeebled gun control laws has kicked in.

Sure there's a state law against carrying loaded firearms in public. But the lethal fine print defines "firearm" as a 20-round-plus assault rifle. So smaller weapons, like the .22-caliber and 9-millimeter pistols the students flaunted in their holsters, are legal and no permit is required. The pistols were returned, thereby contributing to a celebratory mood among the state's gun enthusiasts. Now they're strutting their Second Amendment stuff among Main Street shoppers and restaurant diners in Washington's booming Virginia suburbs.

There was what seemed a self-fantasized posse of six this month at a table in a Champps restaurant, their weapons prominent as pepper mills. The same false alarm ensued, with a police patrol backing off in the face of citizens' exercising their rights, according to The Washington Post. And how about the couple walking their dogs on busy Market Street in Reston? They carried pistols on their hips, plus extra ammunition clips, as if the area were a set from "The Wild Bunch" and not one of the most crime-free places in Virginia.

The flaunting ritual is a tribute to "open carry" gun laws on the books in a score of states. Outcries from the unarmed public usually go unheeded. In Utah, university administrators worried over students' wearing guns in dormitories were overruled by the legislature, which defended gun rights — even to the point of packing in class.

You'd think Virginia citizens concerned about weapons in public would be able to seek comfort in the primacy of local controls. Alexandria, for instance, has barred open carrying. But that was before the very latest Catch-22 in Virginia law: effective this month, state law bars any locality from enacting gun regulations. Gotcha.
And a terrific editorial on the assault weapons ban, from Howard Metzenbaum, in today's WaPo:
America Wants the Assault Weapons Ban
By Howard M. Metzenbaum
Monday, July 19, 2004; Page A17

A decade ago I was privileged to lead a fight with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on what for me has become a deeply personal issue: the federal ban on assault weapons. These killing machines had no place on our streets in 1994 and they have no place now. Yet as the days pass, it is becoming clear that many members of Congress are content to skip through the summer months doing nothing while awaiting this fall's greatest prize -- not the elections, but the sunset of the assault weapons ban.

Ten years after that great victory we are facing the extinction of an important public safety law that was an unusual piece of bipartisan lawmaking. In 1994 I had the support of two men whom I would rarely call my allies, Republican icons Ronald Reagan and Rudy Giuliani. As a result, Congress was able to put public safety ahead of special-interest politics.

What's going on these days, by contrast, is typical political doublespeak. The president speaks publicly in support of the assault weapons ban but refuses to lobby actively for it. The House majority leader, Tom DeLay of Texas, says the president never told him personally that he wants the assault weapons ban renewed, so DeLay isn't going to pass it.

There you have it. The president says he supports the assault weapons ban but refuses to lift a finger for it. And the powerful House majority leader -- who does not support the ban -- is pretending that all it would take to pass it is a word from the president.

This is a tragic development for many reasons, not the least of which is that the public wants this legislation. A new study, "Unconventional Wisdom," by the Consumer Federation of America and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, found that a substantial majority of likely voters in 10 states support renewing and strengthening the federal assault weapons ban, as do most gun owners and National Rifle Association supporters. The survey found that:

• Voters in Midwestern states supported renewing the assault weapons ban slightly more than those in Southwestern states. Midwestern states (Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Missouri) averaged 72 percent support for renewal. Southwestern states (Arizona and New Mexico) averaged 67 percent. In Florida, 81 percent of likely voters support renewing the ban.

• Rural states, traditionally seen as very conservative on gun issues, strongly favored renewing the ban. Sixty-eight percent of voters in South Dakota and West Virginia support renewal.

• Majorities of gun owners in all but two states favored renewing the ban. Even in those two states, Missouri and Ohio, only slightly less than 50 percent of gun owners and NRA supporters favored renewing the ban.

• In nine of 10 states surveyed, union households supported renewing the ban by at least 60 percent. In Pennsylvania, 80 percent of union households supported renewing the ban and 73 percent supported strengthening it.

• At least 60 percent of current and former military members and military families supported renewing the ban in all states surveyed. In Wisconsin, more than three-fourths (77 percent) of current and former military members and military families support renewing the ban.

In March the Senate passed a renewed ban as an amendment to a gun industry immunity bill, which was the NRA's top legislative priority. President Bush issued a statement of administration policy calling the assault weapons ban amendment "unacceptable." The amendment passed on a bipartisan vote, 52 to 47, but the underlying bill was defeated. It was a stunning loss for the gun lobby. The NRA opposes even a straight renewal of the ban. It maintains that most Americans don't want the ban renewed, let alone strengthened, and that Congress should let the ban expire. Not true.

The gun industry is licking its chops waiting for the ban to expire. In an upcoming report from the Consumer Federation of America, "Back in Business," one assault weapon manufacturer's sales and marketing director told us, "When the AWB sunsets, which I fully expect it to do, we will be manufacturing pre-ban style weapons and shipping them to the general public through distribution systems and dealers the very next day without doubt... We look forward to Sept. 14th with great enthusiasm."

After 19 years in the Senate, I understand differences of opinions, ideologies and constituencies. What I cannot understand is why congressional leaders and the administration think that the American public won't notice that the ban expired. We'll notice, and they'll be sorry.

The writer, a former Democratic senator from Ohio, is chairman of the Consumer Federation of America.
What's the matter with Democrats? --
I've been interested in reading Thomas Frank's new book, "What's the Matter With Kansas?" ever since I read an excerpt, "Lie Down for America: How the Republican Party Sows Ruin on the Great Plains," in Harper's (it's online here, thanks to some very industrious person who encourages us to buy the book and/or magazine [to help atone for his/her copyright infringement?]). Frank gives a synopis of his thesis in today's LA Times, in which he argues that Democrats went astray when its new centrists decided to try to match the Republican emphasis on wooing the affluent, appearing less hostile to business, and abandoning the working class. The corporate Democrats of today distinguish themselves from Republicans on hugely divisive cultural issues. What's not to hate? Here's a smidgeon of the editorial to chew on:
So maybe Kansas, instead of being a laughingstock, is in the vanguard. Maybe what has happened there points the way in which all our public policy debates are heading. Maybe someday soon the political choices of Americans everywhere will be whittled down to the two factions of the Republican Party.

Sociologists often warn against letting the nation's distribution of wealth become too polarized, as it clearly has in the last few decades. A society that turns its back on equality, the professors insist, inevitably meets with a terrible comeuppance. But those sociologists are thinking of an old world in which class anger was a phenomenon of the left. They weren't reckoning with Kansas, with the world we are becoming.

Behold the political alignment that Kansas is pioneering for us all. The state watches impotently as its culture, beamed in from the coasts, becomes coarser and more offensive by the year. Kansas aches for revenge. Kansas gloats when celebrities say stupid things; it cheers when movie stars go to jail. And when two female pop stars exchange a lascivious kiss on national TV, Kansas goes haywire. Kansas screams for the heads of the liberal elite. Kansas runs to the polling place. And Kansas cuts those pop stars' taxes.

God speaks through the president --
Via the Political Wire, a column by Jack Brubaker:
LANCASTER COUNTY, PA - President Bush met privately with a group of Old Order Amish during his visit to Lancaster County last Friday. He discussed their farms and their hats and his religion.He asked them to vote for him in November... [skipping several paragraphs] At the end of the session, Bush reportedly told the group, "I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn’t do my job."

Four More Wars! --
Next stop on the Axis of Evil, Iran.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Another Friday afternoon grab-bag (this is how I compile things when I'm too braindead to think of snappy taglines):

(1) So was the whole marriage amendment theater indeed a "fumble", or did it turn out exactly the way the Republicans wanted it to?  Thomas Frank:

Failure on the cultural front serves to magnify the outrage felt by conservative true believers; it mobilizes the base. Failure sharpens the distinctions between conservatives and liberals. Failure allows for endless grandstanding without any real-world consequences that might upset more moderate Republicans or the party's all-important corporate wing. You might even say that grand and garish defeat — especially if accompanied by the ridicule of the sophisticated — is the culture warrior's very object.

The issue is all-important; the issue is incapable of being won. Only when the battle is defined this way can it achieve the desired results, have its magical polarizing effect. Only with a proposed constitutional amendment could the legalistic, cavilling Democrats be counted on to vote "no," and only with an offensive so blunt and so sweeping could the universal hostility of the press be secured.

Losing is prima facie evidence that the basic conservative claim is true: that the country is run by liberals; that the world is unfair; that the majority is persecuted by a sinister elite. And that therefore you, my red-state friend, had better get out there and vote as if your civilization depended on it.
(2) Every time I make a comment about the gravely injured state of democracy in the US under the current administration, I get at least one -- ok, only one, and you know who you are -- comment about my paranoid hyperbole. So let me point you to this important essay by TNR's Jonathan Chait, in which he demonstrates how "This administration is, in fact, the least democratic in the modern history of the presidency."

(3) According to this CS Monitor story:
...paved parts of the continental United States have grown to cover a total area nearly as large as Ohio and slightly larger than the nation's herbaceous wetlands. The smothering effect of these impermeable surfaces alters watersheds by increasing runoff, reduces the number and diversity of species among fish and aquatic insects, and degrades wetlands, according to Christopher Eldridge and fellow mapmakers at the NOAA National Geophysical Data Center in Boulder, Colo.
(Here is the consumption map referred to in the article.)  Now, by all means, let's clear some more land.  Coincidentally, hungry west coast pelicans, apparently driven eastward (to Phoenix?!) in their search for food, are crash-landing on some of that pavement, fooled by the shimmery mirages that rise from it.

(4) Cheney scenarios, yesterday and today.

(5) Proving that no conflict of interest is beneath contempt, the committee "investigating" DeLay's ethics issues includes 4 members who received contributions from DeLay's PAC.

(6) Barbara Ehrenreich on groupthink:
Groupthink has become as American as apple pie and prisoner abuse; in fact, it's hard to find any thinking these days that doesn't qualify for the prefix "group." Our standardized-test-driven schools reward the right answer, not the unsettling question. Our corporate culture prides itself on individualism, but it's the "team player" with the fixed smile who gets to be employee of the month. In our political culture, the most crushing rebuke is to call someone "out of step with the American people." Zip your lips, is the universal message, and get with the program.
(7) Via Eschaton, Florida Rep. Corrine Brown was censured for calling the 2000 "election" a "coup d'etat," and she didn't use any swear words at all... I guess the House has much stricter rules on decorum than the Senate.
More later, but go see today's "Bad Reporter."  SFGate changes the strip on Monday, and until Don Asmussen comes out with a book, you won't be able to find this one again.  (Hmm.  Blogger changed my default font*.  Do we like it this way?) (*Update: maybe they only changed it on the template, because it looks the same here.) 

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

What is WRONG with these people?! --
The amendment failed, so now maybe Congress can finish more important business? And can someone get Santorum the help he so desperately needs?
"I would argue that the future of our country hangs in the balance because the future of marriage hangs in the balance," said Sen. Rick Santorum, a leader in the fight to approve the measure. "Isn't that the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?"
This could explain a lot --
The earth's magnetic field might be flipping.

Black holes hiccup? --
Stephen Hawking has changed his mind about black holes; according to his new calculations, some stuff eventually gets back out. Now what are we going to do with all our "black hole" metaphors?

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Jim Wallis, Executive Director of Sojourners and President of Call to Renewal, has a thoughtful editorial in today's Boston Globe. Here's just a smidgeon of it:
MANY OF US feel that our faith has been stolen, and it's time to take it back. A misrepresentation of Christianity has taken place. Many people around the world now think Christian faith stands for political commitments that are almost the opposite of its true meaning. How did the faith of Jesus come to be known as pro-rich, pro-war, and pro-American? What has happened? How do we get back to a historic, biblical, and genuinely evangelical faith rescued from its contemporary distortions?

That rescue operation is crucial today in the face of a social crisis that cries out for prophetic religion. The problem is clear in the political arena, where strident voices claim to represent Christians when they clearly don't speak for most of us. We hear politicians who love to say how religious they are but fail to apply the values of faith to their leadership and policies.

When we take back our faith, we will discover that faith challenges the powers that be to do justice for the poor instead of preaching a "prosperity gospel" and supporting politicians who further enrich the wealthy. We will remember that faith hates violence and tries to reduce it and exerts a fundamental presumption against war instead of justifying it in God's name. We will see that faith creates community from racial, class, and gender divisions, prefers international community over nationalist religion and that "God bless America" is found nowhere in the Bible. And we will be reminded that faith regards matters such as the sacredness of life and family bonds as so important that they should never be used as ideological symbols or mere political pawns in partisan warfare.

Single female box turtle desires mostly-hairless anthropoid. Likes slow walks, big salads, chocolate-covered peanut clusters with caramel centers. Send picture. Let's give 'em something to talk about! Posted by Hello
I was still grappling with Sen. John Cornyn's (TX) mystifying concern (quoted at the end of this article) that his children would have to grow up in a world where humans marry box turtles if Congress can't pass an amendment banning gay marriage, so I was relieved when I stumbled across a very sensible proposal by Jay Bookman. He suggests a Federal Animals, Relationships and Marriage* (FARM) amendment to outlaw interspecies marriages. Fear of bestiality, as he notes, looms at the bottom of many of these "slippery slope" arguments against gay marriage. (We'll leave, for the moment, the underlying scala natura implied here, which places gay couples somewhere between humans and animals on said "slippery slope.") Here's the Bookman plan in all its ingenuity:
"What's next?" Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz said, when asked his opinion about gay marriage. "Marrying an animal?"

It's fascinating how often that happens. Time and time again, when opponents of gay marriage and gay unions are asked to explain their position, their real underlying concern turns out to be a rather odd fear of bestiality.

That same obsession seems to have afflicted Timothy Dailey, a stern opponent of gay marriage and a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, a national conservative group. In an FRC brochure titled "The Slippery Slope of Same-Sex Marriage," Dailey brings up an obscure case that came to light five years ago about a deluded soul in Missouri named Mark. It seems that Mark fell in love with his pony, named Pixel, and in 1993 actually "married" her in a private ceremony.

"She's gorgeous. She's sweet. She's loving," Mark was quoted as saying in unbridled affection. "I'm very proud of her. ... Deep down, way down, I'd love to have children with her."

For Dailey, this was a call to arms. Like Smoltz, he worries that if gay marriage or gay unions are allowed, there also would be nothing in the law to stop couples such as Mark and Pixel from also getting hitched, so to speak, and joining together in eternal wedded bliss.

"Once marriage is no longer confined to a man and a woman," Dailey warned, "it is impossible to exclude virtually any relationship between two or more partners of either sex — even nonhuman 'partners.' "

Imagine, if you will, the possible implications of such a thing. For example, it could mean that animals who enter this country illegally might be able to marry U.S. citizens and then demand the right to vote, for goodness sakes.

To avert such calamities, Dailey and others are pushing for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, thus removing any possibility that individual states could decide for themselves to sanction bestiality or gay unions. The proposed amendment is scheduled to be debated and voted on this week in the U.S. Senate, and it's expected to be a bitter and divisive fight.

So I have a proposal: If the real, underlying issue in this debate is the fear that human beings will someday be allowed to marry animals — if Smoltz, Dailey and others are honestly and truly worried by that prospect — then let's address that issue head on. Let's pass a Federal Animals, Relationships and Marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution that outlaws all interspecies marriages, period.

The FARM act would have two other important advantages over the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment. First, this is a deeply divided nation, and the last thing we need is something to get us even angrier at one another. What we need instead is something that will unite us, a cause that all of us can rally behind. And surely all Americans — with the notable exception of one very lonely guy out in Missouri — can get behind the FARM act and thus protect human-to-human marriage from this dire threat.

By championing the FARM act, President Bush finally could make good on his promise to be a uniter, not a divider. And John Kerry could use the amendment to demonstrate yet again that there are some issues too important to compromise on. As far as I know, he is now and always has been opposed to human-animal sex, even during the '60s.

Second, and more important, my proposal would address a glaring loophole that Dailey, Smoltz and other courageous crusaders against bestiality have apparently overlooked.

Pixel, you see, is a female pony, which means that technically speaking, she and Mark in Missouri have actually enjoyed a stable, heterosexual relationship. A ban on same-sex marriage would do nothing to prevent them joining in holy matrimony. Only the FARM act can save the republic from that travesty.
*Update: goofy typo corrected.
Millions of marriages and families in danger --
as "Bush heads for defeat on gay marriage measure." An outrageously cynical ploy by Republican leadership, designed to force key Democrats to take "liberal" positions on the amendment to ban gay marriages, appears to be blowing up in their mean little faces. Let this be an omen, please (remember Bush Sr's late-term push for a flag-burning amendment?). Of course, as far as Bush's extremist base goes, he wins simply by pushing the issue.
The Pulitzer-winning Toledo Blade (whodathunk those four words would ever appear together, in that order, in one sentence?) has a decent, pretty even-handed series on religion, "culture" and politics running running this week: part 1, part 2, and part 3. As a former northwest Ohioan, I check in on the Blade every once in awhile, but I would have missed this series if not for the favorable mention at CJR Campaign Desk.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Pay very close attention --
Awhile back I linked to an item about postponing elections in the event of a terrorist attack. Perhaps Soaries was truly concerned that his fears were not being taken seriously. Or perhaps it was a scheduled "float," coming a week before the increasingly mockable bimonthly Terror Alert, with its ominous warning that this attack would be planned to disrupt US elections. Whatever the case, the idea is being explored more seriously, now.
(The BBC's version here.) I'm not feeling as "level-headed" about this as Matthew Yglesias. Mainly because this administration and its strongmen on the hill have demonstrated that they will stop at nothing to achieve the "electoral" results they desire - whether by tampering with elections, bribing members of Congress, or hijacking legislative procedure. Count on citizen watchdogs? A frightened American public failed to recognize or protest the obvious dangers of the PATRIOT ACT. I hope we're all paying very close attention as this "doomsday scenario" is defined.

Speaking of influencing elections --
Doonesbury yesterday.

Mind the gap --
That is, the gaping chasm between "values" and "ethics" - at least as practiced by the White House and certain senior leaders of the GOP. I was going to refer you to this story on DeLay's looming legal issues. But Daily Kos has that story and more.

Conservatives are unhappy --
According to this, Mr. Bush has some unhappy conservatives to pander to. Better toss them something tasty.

Hussein refused inspections? --
Bush is on the warpath again, so to speak, restating his most treasured-but-thoroughly debunked reasons for attacking Iraq. According to this WaPo summary of his speech, Bush again asserted that Hussein refused weapons inspections. Maybe he hasn't seen this government web site detailing inspections? Maybe he's not familiar with Hans Blix? Anyway, after I read that story this morning, I saw that Eschaton has done some fact-checking. Apparently Bush didn't say that today -- but he did on many other occasions.

And about that report --
Via Josh Marshall, a searchable version of the intelligence report, at least the parts that weren't redacted.

Forget South Beach... Posted by Hello

(That's my new bumpersticker! OK, it's not on my car, yet, but it's in the mail. Order yours here.)

Friday, July 09, 2004

Booga booga! --
More "chatter" indicating non-specific threats of large-scale actions at undetermined locations and times, apparently aiming to "disrupt elections" in order to effect an as yet unspecified outcome. This was the announcement yesterday which you've now seen all over the place today. Despite the breathless urgency of the announcement, the meaningless color-coded terror alert system remains at "yellow."

It was all the CIA's fault --
The Senate has completed Phase I of its investigation into the intelligence failures leading up to the Iraq War, and concluded that it's all the CIA's fault. Conveniently, the "second phase" of the report, which will deal with how administration officials used the intelligence (should we really keep calling it "intelligence"?), does not begin until after the elections.

"You win some, and some get stolen --"
-- Rep. C.L. "Butch" Otter, R-Idaho, co-sponsor of Bernie Sanders' Patriot Act Amendment that would have restricted the FBI's ability to spy on your library activities without a subpoena, and which failed to pass. Doubly demonstrating their animosity for democratic institutions, the House GOP leaders once again held a vote open past its scheduled time in order to arm-twist enough colleagues to win.

Oops - lost those records!
And darn it, they would have been just the ones needed to prove what George Bush was doing during the disputed months of his Guard service! What rotten luck! Oh well. Guess we'll just have to take his word for it. (You knew it was coming.)

Kenny and Me --
Via Working for Change, a touching collection of the love letters between Bush and Ken Lay...

Never mind your scientific credentials; did you vote for George Bush? --
The Union of Concerned Scientists issues another report detailing the Flat Earth Society takeover of the White House.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Another not-so-subtle nod to his base --
Bush declines an invitation to speak to the NAACP.

No, please, KEEP CHENEY! --
The White House Press Release Corps dutifully led their stories today with Bush's "terse" dig at Edward's (probably a carefully rehearsed delivery to a carefully planted question). He said that the difference between Edwards and Cheney is that Cheney "can be president." (My first response was, "and that's what scares us!" and my second was, "then again, he already is.") Here's a WaPo round-up of speculation about Cheney's political future. Excerpt:
Officially, administration officials say there is no chance that Vice President Cheney will leave the campaign. But the "Dump Cheney" rumors continue to swirl in the press, fueled by a steady infusion of feeble poll results, poor reviews from the campaign trail, Cheney's own foul mouth, persistent Halliburton scandals and his continued and unsupported insistence on dtrong links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

And then there was this weekend's revelation that the doctor who has repeatedly sssured us all that Cheney is fit to serve was allegedly illegally using narcotics. (Don't forget that the "Dump Cheney" conspiracy theorists predict that it all begins with an announcement that Cheney's heart problems have suddenly gotten much worse.)
The fury with which Rove&Co have unleashed attacks on Edwards' is probably the most delightful measure of their terror. While the news media's unblinking regurgitation of Rove's talking points spikes my blood pressure, deep down, it also gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling to see the White House so worried.

Classy --
You must see this great photograph of you-know-who stalking off the podium after refusing to answer questions about "Kenny Boy" Lay.

Score one for conspriracy theorists? --
All those cockamamie, paranoid theories you picked up on blogs and in emails in recent months, suggesting that the White House would make a concerted effort to land Bin Laden before the election? Not so cockamamie according to this story in The New Republic. Here's an excerpt:
This spring, the administration significantly increased its pressure on Pakistan to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman Al Zawahiri, or the Taliban's Mullah Mohammed Omar, all of whom are believed to be hiding in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan. A succession of high-level American officials--from outgoing CIA Director George Tenet to Secretary of State Colin Powell to Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca to State Department counterterrorism chief Cofer Black to a top CIA South Asia official--have visited Pakistan in recent months to urge General Pervez Musharraf's government to do more in the war on terrorism. In April, Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, publicly chided the Pakistanis for providing a "sanctuary" for Al Qaeda and Taliban forces crossing the Afghan border. "The problem has not been solved and needs to be solved, the sooner the better," he said.

This public pressure would be appropriate, even laudable, had it not been accompanied by an unseemly private insistence that the Pakistanis deliver these high-value targets (HVTs) before Americans go to the polls in November. The Bush administration denies it has geared the war on terrorism to the electoral calendar. "Our attitude and actions have been the same since September 11 in terms of getting high-value targets off the street, and that doesn't change because of an election," says National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack. But The New Republic has learned that Pakistani security officials have been told they must produce HVTs by the election. According to one source in Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), "The Pakistani government is really desperate and wants to flush out bin Laden and his associates after the latest pressures from the U.S. administration to deliver before the [upcoming] U.S. elections." Introducing target dates for Al Qaeda captures is a new twist in U.S.-Pakistani counterterrorism relations--according to a recently departed intelligence official, "no timetable[s]" were discussed in 2002 or 2003--but the November election is apparently bringing a new deadline pressure to the hunt. Another official, this one from the Pakistani Interior Ministry, which is responsible for internal security, explains, "The Musharraf government has a history of rescuing the Bush administration. They now want Musharraf to bail them out when they are facing hard times in the coming elections." (These sources insisted on remaining anonymous. Under Pakistan's Official Secrets Act, an official leaking information to the press can be imprisoned for up to ten years.)

A third source, an official who works under ISI's director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed tnr that the Pakistanis "have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs before [the] election is [an] absolute must." What's more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: "The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington." Says McCormack: "I'm aware of no such comment." But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July"--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
And before I get that requisite email asking what I would expect from a leftie rag like TNR, let me ask you, have you read it recently?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Oh, Kenny Boy --
Indicted. Now what about the thugs on the tapes? (I wonder if King George will conveniently forget Kenny's name, too?)

And speaking of King George --
I guess Beinhart (yes, I linked here yesterday, too) and Ehrenreich have the same muse. Or there's an echo in here.

Is this for real? --
This story didn't get much attention yesterday (or maybe I stopped surfing too early?). Is it for real? Maybe it's those fun guys from "Psy Ops"?

Some big brave hunter/fisher person --
killed Shopper just days after he was released from rehab at the Marine Mammal Center. (These folks do wonderful work, by the way. Throw them a few bucks if you can.)
Whaddya gonna do about it, chumps? --
Tommy Thompson's committee finds that, yes, Medicare Czar Scully did deliberately withhold information from Congress, and yes, he did threaten to fire actuary Richard Foster if Foster told anyone the true costs of the Medicare Bill, but it's all OK, because there are no laws saying he can't do that:
"But neither the threat nor the withholding of information violated any criminal law, the report said. It accepted the Justice Department's view that Mr. Scully had "the final authority to determine the flow of information to Congress.'' Moreover, it said, the actuary "had no authority to disclose information independently to Congress.''"

"But Representative Pete Stark of California, the senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, said, "It sounds as though the Bush administration examined itself and found it did nothing wrong.''"
(See this story, too.)

(I know Eric Alterman thinks he has written The Book On Bush, but let's face it: when all is said and done, we're going to need a deluxe multi-volume set to document the unethical, immoral and criminal activities of this "Christian" administration. Which reminds me, how are those non-competitive Iraq reconstruction contracts coming along?)

This is rich --
George Bush, appointed to his office after one term as a ceremonial governor and a decade or so of bankrupting businesses, is criticizing Edwards' lack of experience to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. (And the press obligingly continues to ignore the irony.)

Revolting --
Sadly,No! links to two horrifying stories (not from the US press, of course) about the abuse of Iraqi children being detained by coalition troops, here and here. Of course, we had a little inkling of things to come back in May.

Bringing Democracy to Iraq --
Well, that and martial law.

Which nonstory would that be? --
The 9/11 Commission stands by their earlier assertion that there was no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and Al Qaeda. But lest we think that challenges the integrity of Mr. Cheney, his delusional spokesman Kevin Kellims says the report puts to rest a "nonstory":
"We are pleased with today's statement from the 9/11 commission, which puts to rest a nonstory," he said. "As we have said all along, the administration provided the commission with unprecedented access to sensitive information so they could perform their mission. The vice president criticized some press coverage of the draft staff report. He did not criticize the commission's work."
Red herrings notwithstanding, Cheney is still on the trail, talking up the "connection."

Paging Dr. Lysencko --
Howard Dean, MD, has some warnings about Bush's science policies.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

It's Edwards --
Thank God.

The fall guys --
Fixing to make sure the CIA is entirely to blame for the administration's zeal:
"In hindsight, the Senate panel and many other intelligence officials now agree that there was little effort within the American intelligence community before the war to question the basic assumption that Mr. Hussein was still seeking to produce illicit weapons. Evidence that fit that assumption was embraced; evidence to the contrary was ignored or seen as part of a clever Iraqi disinformation campaign."
News to me --
Blair thinks Washington is softening on the Kyoto Protocol? From WaPo:
"Blair also suggested the U.S. position was softening on the Kyoto protocol, and that Washington now accepted the scientific arguments. 'I do not think we should give up on the dialogue with the United States,' the prime minister said. 'I think they accept the science. The question is what do you do about it? That is in itself a significant change that we need to build upon.' " (He also admits we might never find the Weapons of Mass Deception Destruction.)
I wasn't invited --
But bloggers will cover both conventions.

We knew it looked staged --
And it was!

King George II --
What to do.

Economy --
Boom or bust?

Days to Regime Change --
Click here when you need a lift.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Love thy neighbor.

Even if they've been running a Shop Vac in their backyard for at least two hours. My ears are ringing, and another neighbor's dog is yowling endless protest. I can't figure out what could take over two hours to vacuum. The lawn? Days like this, I thank heaven for the (now 25 year old) WalkMan... (lordie, I'm old)

Anyway, I'm still technically on holiday schedule. So I'll just say I hope this is true, that Cpl Hassoun is still alive.

And I'll also point you to this nifty feature of the New York Times: they're posting the first chapters of numerous newish books. A way to "try before you buy," or to study - as I like to - how writers start their books!

Friday, July 02, 2004

Baxter Posted by Hello

Took a vacation day today to take this guy to his vet appointment (this picture is several months old; his right eye has been undergoing glaucoma treatments recently), and to catch the fabulous Art Deco exhibit at the Palace of Fine Arts. Then I did some cooking for a meeting tonight. So I've only barely scanned the headlines, but I find this rather notable: Yesterday a judge ruled that Florida must make public its list of suspected felons - those who would be ineligible to vote, under Florida state law. The list contains over 47,000 names. As of today, the Miami Herald has already found over 2100 names that should not be on that list because their voting rights were already restored!

Time to order my REDEFEAT BUSH! bumpersticker.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

A friend spotted this delightful letter to the NYT editor, re: Kristof's column yesterday:
To the Editor:

Nicholas D. Kristof asks liberals to raise the tone of public discourse by not calling President Bush a liar.

In the president's defense, Mr. Kristof notes that because Mr. Bush has a sufficiently difficult time speaking English, it may at times be difficult to know exactly what he means to say.

Mr. Kristof then makes a distinction between lying and being "overzealous and self-deluded" because Mr. Bush "surrounded himself with like-minded ideologues" who themselves cannot distinguish fact from fantasy.

Is this meant to make me feel better about the man who is supposed to be running the country?

Houston, June 30, 2004

From the "You're not as clean as you think" department --

I love it when conservatives talk this way --
From Bruce Bartlett's NYT editorial today:
By contrast, Mr. Clinton's Republican successor has caused the surplus to evaporate, raised total federal spending by 1.6 percent of G.D.P., established a new entitlement program for prescription drugs and adopted the most protectionist trade policy since Herbert Hoover.

While President Bush has done other things that conservatives view more favorably, like cutting taxes, there is no getting around the reality that Mr. Clinton was better in many respects.
But I also like Brad Delong's response:
...can we please please please please please please PLEASE!! stop talking about Bush's "tax cuts." There are no tax cuts. There's a tax shift--current taxpayers pay less, and future taxpayers pay more. Only by pretending that nobody has to service and amortize the growing federal debt can you talk about Bush's "tax cuts." They aren't there, any more than a $5,000 increase in your VISA limit is an increase in your income.
Dude, where's my First Amendment? --
From today's WaPo:
Churchgoers Get Direction From Bush Campaign

By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 1, 2004; Page A06

The Bush-Cheney reelection campaign has sent a detailed plan of action to religious volunteers across the country asking them to turn over church directories to the campaign, distribute issue guides in their churches and persuade their pastors to hold voter registration drives.

Campaign officials said the instructions are part of an accelerating effort to mobilize President Bush's base of religious supporters. They said the suggested activities are intended to help churchgoers rally support for Bush without violating tax rules that prohibit churches from engaging in partisan activity.

"We strongly believe that our religious outreach program is well within the framework of the law," said Terry Holt, spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign.

But tax experts said the campaign is walking a fine line between permissible activity by individual congregants and impermissible activity by congregations. Supporters of Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, charged that the Bush-Cheney campaign is luring churches into risking their tax status.

"I think it is sinful of them to encourage pastors and churches to engage in partisan political activity and run the risk of losing their tax-exempt status," said Steve Rosenthal, chief executive officer of America Coming Together, a group working to defeat Bush.

The instruction sheet circulated by the Bush-Cheney campaign to religious volunteers lists 22 "duties" to be performed by specific dates. By July 31, for example, volunteers are to "send your Church Directory to your State Bush-Cheney '04 Headquarters or give [it] to a BC04 Field Rep" and "Talk to your Pastor about holding a Citizenship Sunday and Voter Registration Drive."

By Aug. 15, they are to "talk to your Church's seniors or 20-30 something group about Bush/Cheney '04" and "recruit 5 more people in your church to volunteer for the Bush Cheney campaign."

By Sept. 17, they are to host at least two campaign-related potluck dinners with church members, and in October they are to "finish calling all Pro-Bush members of your church," "finish distributing Voter Guides in your church" and place notices on church bulletin boards or in Sunday programs "about all Christian citizens needing to vote."

The document was provided to The Washington Post by a Democrat. A spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service, Frank Keith, said, "It would be inappropriate for the IRS, based on a limited set of facts and circumstances, to render a judgment about whether the activities in this document would or would not endanger a church's tax-exempt status."

He pointed out, however, that the IRS on June 10 sent a strongly worded letter to both the Republican and Democratic national committees, reminding them that tax-exempt charitable groups "are prohibited from directly or indirectly participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office."

That warning came one week after The Post and other news media reported on a Bush-Cheney campaign e-mail that sought to identify 1,600 "friendly congregations" in Pennsylvania where Bush supporters "might gather on a regular basis."

The IRS letter noted that religious organizations are allowed to sponsor debates, distribute voter guides and conduct voter registration drives. But if those efforts show "a preference for or against a certain candidate or party . . . it becomes a prohibited activity," the letter said.

Milton Cerny, a tax specialist in the Washington office of the law firm Caplin & Drysdale who formerly administered tax-exempt groups for the IRS, said there is nothing in the campaign instructions "that on its face clearly would violate" the law.

"But these activities, if conducted in concert with the church or church leadership, certainly could be construed by the IRS as the church engaging in partisan electioneering," he said. "The devil is in the details."

Rosemary E. Fei, a tax specialist at the San Francisco law firm of Silk, Adler & Colvin, said the campaign checklist "feels dangerous to me" not just because of what is in it, but because of what is not.

"There's no mention whatsoever that churches should be careful to remain nonpartisan," she said.

Holt suggested such warnings are unnecessary. "Why would we warn one citizen about the boundaries of their political discussion with another citizen?" he said. [© 2004 The Washington Post Company]
Don't like the results? Re-schedule the election --
I only skimmed this item yesterday, but it crept back into my thoughts during the night. DeForest Soaries, a Republican Bush appointee to the Election Assistance Commission, wants guidelines for canceling or rescheduling elections in the event of a terrorist attack on the US. He says:
"Look at the possibilities. If the federal government were to cancel an election or suspend an election, it has tremendous political implications. If the federal government chose not to suspend an election it has political implications... Who makes the call, under what circumstances is the call made, what are the constitutional implications?...I think we have to err on the side of transparency to protect the voting rights of the country."
Indeed. But the whole developmental PROCESS needs to be transparent, not just the final regulations. We are governed by a regime that has shown complete disdain for democratic principles, beginning with the installation of an unelected president, who governs by executive order when Congress won't cooperate, under unprecedented secrecy and with far-reaching restrictions on civil liberties, including unconstitutional detentions. Do we really want to give this regime the power to cancel and reschedule elections, as they see fit?

Your Healthy Forests Initiative at work for you --
Bush wants more logging.