Friday, December 31, 2004

A few morsels to chew, before greeting 2005 and bracing myself for Bush's coronation. It's sure to be an inappropriately pompous and extravagant affair - costing, we're told, more than Bush is promising in aid to southeast Asia, and befitting the sweeping "mandate" claimed by a man who enters his term with the lowest approval rating of any incumbent president in 50 years.

  • As we close out this Year of the Moral Values Revolution, it seems only fitting to point out a few interesting discrepancies. First, the epidemic of indecency complaints to the FCC appears to have been generated entirely by one group, the Parents Television Council. Via Eric Alterman and CNN Money, Mediaweek recently analyzed the complaints:
    "In an appearance before Congress in February, when the controversy over Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl moment was at its height, Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell laid some startling statistics on U.S. senators.

    The number of indecency complaints had soared dramatically to more than 240,000 in the previous year, Powell said. The figure was up from roughly 14,000 in 2002, and from fewer than 350 in each of the two previous years. There was, Powell said, “a dramatic rise in public concern and outrage about what is being broadcast into their homes.”

    What Powell did not reveal—apparently because he was unaware—was the source of the complaints. According to a new FCC estimate obtained by Mediaweek, nearly all indecency complaints in 2003—99.8 percent—were filed by the Parents Television Council, an activist group.

    This year, the trend has continued, and perhaps intensified.

    Through early October, 99.9 percent of indecency complaints—aside from those concerning the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl halftime show broadcast on CBS— were brought by the PTC, according to the FCC analysis dated Oct. 1. (The agency last week estimated it had received 1,068,767 complaints about broadcast indecency so far this year; the Super Bowl broadcast accounted for over 540,000, according to commissioners’ statements.)

    The prominent role played by the PTC has raised concerns among critics of the FCC’s crackdown on indecency. “It means that really a tiny minority with a very focused political agenda is trying to censor American television and radio,” said Jonathan Rintels, president and executive director of the Center for Creative Voices in Media, an artists’ advocacy group."
  • And as if we needed further proof that the Republicans are all about "values" (as defined by symbolic posturing), and not ethics (ie, actual principles that shape behavior), the House is preparing to weaken their pesky ethics rules:
    Republican leaders are considering a change in House ethics rules that could make it harder to discipline lawmakers.

    The proposal being circulated among House Republicans would end a general rule against any behavior that might bring "discredit" on the chamber, according to House Republican and Democratic leadership aides.

    House members would be held to a narrower standard of behavior in keeping with the law, the House's rules and its ethics guidelines.

    Other proposed changes to the ethics committee's rules being circulated in a "Dear Colleague" letter from House Rules Chairman David Dreier, R-Calif., would let House members respond to any admonishment before a letter goes out from the committee, and would end an investigation if there is a tie vote.

    House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., plans to bring the proposal before a meeting of all House Republicans next week "and see what they think," said Hastert spokesman John Feehery.
  • Oh, and the Christian Right is apparently too busy mounting the Moral Values Revolution to direct web attention to the most heartbreakingly immeasurable human disaster in memory.

  • But you can find ways to help on Google. And let me add Lutheran World Relief's Wave of Giving campaign.

  • Great NYT editorial yesterday:
    December 30, 2004

    Are We Stingy? Yes President Bush finally roused himself yesterday from his vacation in Crawford, Tex., to telephone his sympathy to the leaders of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia, and to speak publicly about the devastation of Sunday's tsunamis in Asia. He also hurried to put as much distance as possible between himself and America's initial measly aid offer of $15 million, and he took issue with an earlier statement by the United Nations' emergency relief coordinator, Jan Egeland, who had called the overall aid efforts by rich Western nations "stingy."

    "The person who made that statement was very misguided and ill informed," the president said.

    We beg to differ. Mr. Egeland was right on target. We hope Secretary of State Colin Powell was privately embarrassed when, two days into a catastrophic disaster that hit 12 of the world's poorer countries and will cost billions of dollars to meliorate, he held a press conference to say that America, the world's richest nation, would contribute $15 million. That's less than half of what Republicans plan to spend on the Bush inaugural festivities.

    The American aid figure for the current disaster is now $35 million, and we applaud Mr. Bush's turnaround. But $35 million remains a miserly drop in the bucket, and is in keeping with the pitiful amount of the United States budget that we allocate for nonmilitary foreign aid.

    According to a poll, most Americans believe the United States spends 24 percent of its budget on aid to poor countries; it actually spends well under a quarter of 1 percent.

    Bush administration officials help create that perception gap. Fuming at the charge of stinginess, Mr. Powell pointed to disaster relief and said the United States "has given more aid in the last four years than any other nation or combination of nations in the world." But for development aid, America gave $16.2 billion in 2003; the European Union gave $37.1 billion. In 2002, those numbers were $13.2 billion for America, and $29.9 billion for Europe.

    Making things worse, we often pledge more money than we actually deliver. Victims of the earthquake in Bam, Iran, a year ago are still living in tents because aid, including ours, has not materialized in the amounts pledged. And back in 2002, Mr. Bush announced his Millennium Challenge account to give African countries development assistance of up to $5 billion a year, but the account has yet to disperse a single dollar.

    Mr. Bush said yesterday that the $35 million we've now pledged "is only the beginning" of the United States' recovery effort. Let's hope that is true, and that this time, our actions will match our promises.
  • After the president's press conference charade a couple weeks ago (aptly tagged by Chris Suellentrop the "don't ask, don't tell press conference") I mentioned how much fun it was to be governed by secret committees and rules. CJR's Campaign Desk blog, which keeps doing the work reporters will not, lists just a few examples in what I fondly regard as an ongoing Bush thriller, The Case of the Disappearing Democracy.
    As the Bush administration prepares to begin its second term, much has been written about the president's intolerance for dissent or even raised eyebrows among those closest to him. Less attention, however, has been paid to efforts by the White House to restrict access to vast amounts of information and to create an atmosphere in which secrecy is rewarded and criticism silenced.

    This is the type of story -- a gradual erosion instead of a single, headline-grabbing event -- that most in the press tend to overlook. Yet in the coverage of government, it may be the most significant event of all.
    Do read it.

  • About that climate warming that Bush says isn't happening...
    the permafrost is starting to melt. While you're at the BBC site, check out this very educational feature on a groaning planet.

  • AARP must be trying to salvage their image after the selling out on Medicare reform. Suddenly they're all for seniors, again, and planning to fight social security privatization.

  • Let me close 2004 with the unmatchable words of Molly Ivins: "Well, friends, the old ball is starting another orbit of the sun, giving us all a chance to do better this time. Let's not blow it, because we sure look like dogmeat after this one."
  • Tuesday, December 28, 2004

    Christmas Day - Fort Point

    Christmas Day - Fort Point
    Originally uploaded by mizm_sf.

    I have been decidely scroogey this Christmas. I never forget "the reason for the season," and that it has absolutely nothing to do with the trimmings and trappings and culinary excess and checking with relatives to see who bought what for the little ones and trying to out-decorate neighbors to show how much merrier we are... But even trying to dwell upon the birth of Christ has not helped this year. There is the slightest sense, I must confess, of -- oh, how shall we say this? -- futility? I know I'm not alone; I've talked to friends and acquaintances who feel the same, regardless of their religious affiliations or lack thereof. And I feel slightly guilty admitting it - especially when I just read this generous comment below. But there ya have it.

    We had a quiet, somewhat unconventional Christmas day. We joined friends for a walk and a picnic along the water's edge at Crissy Field, in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. (The gull above was part of the scenery.) They brought flowers for each of us to scatter in remembrance of special people who are no longer with us. It was actually a perfect way to spend this particular Christmas.

    Perhaps I'll perk up a bit by Epiphany...

  • But perhaps not. I simply cannot get my head around the number of people lost to the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. And tens of thousands more anticipated. Has there been a worse disaster? Father Jake has compiled some relief agencies to contact for cash donations. So has MSNBC.

  • The press seems to think the compassionate conservative should be showing a little more compassion in light of the disaster. But there's all that brush to be cleared!

  • Susan Sontag, 1933-2004

  • Not to get all political in the face of human tragedy, but let's face it: this administration is quite fascile at manipulating a distracted citizenry... So let's think for a moment about what the president has been telling us about Social Security. What happened the last time he manufactured a crisis and then manufactured evidence to support his assertions that a crisis was looming? Think back, oh, a year or so. Does this ring any bells? The Social Security misinformation campaign is in full swing, and would be almost laughably reminiscent of the war fraud tactics, if they weren't absolutely serious about it. They really do think we're idiots, don't they? Thankfully, some people are catching on.

  • Bush was planning to unleash his radical agenda during the first two years of his second term, after which he would be - in his own words -"quacking like a duck." Now that the magical potion has apparently worn off the 59 million who believed on November 2 that Bush was going to make them safe and wealthy (and would rid the nation of gays and lesbians), they're noticing that even more people are dying even more violently in Iraq. And that, come to think of it, they still aren't doing so well economically. So down come the approval ratings! But the good news, for the rest of us, is that those ratings will make it a little harder for Bush to ram that agenda through.

  • I've been mostly ignoring the maddeningly hawky Tom Friedman since 2003, but a friend pointed me to his column this week (thanks, B!). Here's a snippet:
    Well, this is my last column for 2004, so let's play a little "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me." I'll give you 10 news stories from the past few weeks and you tell me what they all have in common.

    1. The report that Colin Powell told President Bush a few weeks ago that we do not have enough troops in Iraq and that we don't control the terrain. 2. The report that the Pentagon's $10 billion-a-year effort to build an antimissile shield, and have a basic ground-based version in place by the end of this year, ran into difficulty two weeks ago when the first test in almost two years failed because the interceptor missile didn't take off. 3. The report that the Bush-Republican budget for 2005 contained a $100 million cut in federal funding to the National Science Foundation. 4. The report that at a time when young Americans are competing head to head with young Chinese, Indians and Eastern Europeans more than ever, the Bush team is trimming support for the Pell grant program, which helps poor and working-class young Americans get a higher education. (The change will save $300 million, while some 1.3 million students will receive smaller Pell grants.)

    5. The report this month that children in Asian countries once again surpassed U.S. fourth graders and eighth graders in the latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. (U.S. eighth graders did improve their scores from four years ago, but U.S. fourth graders remained stagnant.) A week earlier, the Program for International Student Assessment showed U.S. 15-year-olds scoring below average compared with those in other countries when asked to apply math skills to real-life tasks, the A.P. reported. 6. The report this month that the Bush administration has reduced America's contribution to global food aid programs intended to help the world's hungry feed themselves. (The Bush team said the cut was necessary to keep our deficit under control!) 7. The report that U.S. military spending this year is running at about $450 billion.

    Wait, wait, don't go way; there's more: 8. The report that Donald Rumsfeld was confronted by troops in Iraq about the fact that they did not have enough armor on their vehicles and were having to scrounge for makeshift armor to protect themselves. 9. The report that among President Bush's top priorities in his second term is to simplify the tax code and to make the sweeping tax cuts from his first term permanent. (The cost to the Treasury for doing so, the A.P. reported, would be over a trillion.) And finally: 10. The report that the U.S. dollar continued to hover near record lows against the euro.

    So what is the common denominator of all these news stories? Wait, wait, don't tell me. I want to tell you. The common denominator is a country with a totally contradictory and messed-up set of priorities.
    OK, this was short and grumpy, but I have to give up for the night. Our 1950ish gravity heater gave up its ghost (via a cracked chamber leaking carbon monoxide) and we have been without heat since November (the landlord is hoping for a cheaper replacement estimate). Those of you buried under 3 feet of snow and 6 inches of ice might not sympathize, but these old (1929) uninsulated San Francisco houses get mighty damp and nippy during the winter. It's 53 degrees inside, I'm wearing three layers of clothing, and typing in rubber gloves (the wooly kind being a little cumbersome
    for a keyboard). I can see my own breath. Refrain, if you can, from the "hot air" jokes.
  • Friday, December 24, 2004

    Christmas Eve. Everyone I've talked to around here says the same thing: they're just not "in the holiday spirit." And much as idiots like Bill O'Reilly (who takes Media Matters top honors as Misinformer Of The Year this year) want us to forget -- there is more than one holiday at this time of year. Doncha love George Bush's America? Where else could a hotheaded, loudmouthed, conservative blowhard quietly settle a sexual harassment lawsuit one month, and the very next be marketing himself as a righteous defender of persecuted Christians everywhere? Amazing. I guess Christmas really is the season of rebirth.

    Along these lines, do see Michael Lerner's Alternet column:
    There is a beautiful spiritual message underlying Christmas that has universal appeal: the hope that gets reborn in moments of despair, the light that gets re-lit in the darkest moments of the year, is beautifully symbolized by the story of a child born of a teenage homeless mother who had to give birth in a manger because no one would give her shelter, and escaping the cruelty of Roman imperial rule and its local surrogate Herod who already knew that such a child would grow up to challenge the entire imperialist system.

    To celebrate that vulnerable child as a symbol of hope that eventually the weak would triumph over the rule of the arrogant and powerful is a spiritual celebration with strong analogies to our Jewish Chanukah celebration which also celebrates the victory of the weak over the powerful. And many other spiritual traditions around the world have similar celebrations at this time of year.

    The loss of this message, its subversion into a frenetic orgy of consumption, rightly disturbs Christians and other people of faith.

    Yet this transformation is not a result of Jewish parents wanting to protect their children from being forced to sing Christmas carols in public school, or secularists sending Seasons Greeting cards. It derives, instead, from the power of the capitalist marketplace, operating through television, movies and marketers, to drum into everyone's mind the notion that the only way to be a decent human being at this time of year is to buy and buy more. Thus the altruistic instinct to give, which could take the form of giving of our time, our skills, and our loving energies to people we care about, gets transformed and subverted into a competitive frenzy of consumption.

    Not surprisingly, the Christian right is unwilling to challenge the capitalist marketplace – because their uncritical support for corporate power is precisely what they had to offer the right to become part of the conservative coalition. Their loyalty to conservative capitalist economics trumps for them their commitment to serving God. But for those of us who want to prevent a new surge of anti-Semitism and assaults on the first amendment, our most effective path is to acknowledge what is legitimate in the Christians' concern – and lead it into a powerful spiritual critique of the ethos of selfishness and materialism fostered by our economic arrangements. It's time for our liberal and progressive Christian leaders and neighbors to stand up against on behalf of Jews and on behalf of their own highest spiritual vision – and challenge the real Christmas thieves!
  • How exactly does it lift morale to receive a visit from the man most responsible for the deadly particularities of the mess they're in? (By the way, Rummy's feelings are hurt.)

  • I maintain running Notepad lists of bloggable links on two different computers that I use throughout the day, so I frequently fail to consolidate everything. I meant to post this the other day: Kos captured the essence of the war in Iraq in about a half dozen painfully concise paragraphs.

  • Bush said Jesus changed his heart. So apparently it was actually colder than this once?
    In one of the first signs of the effects of the ever tightening federal budget, in the past two months the Bush administration has reduced its contributions to global food aid programs aimed at helping millions of people climb out of poverty.
    (Kevin Drum lists a few other examples of Bush's compassionate conservatism.)

  • But lest we think Bush grinchlike... He is giving a generous gift to timber and mining interests by "making it easier for regional forest managers to decide whether to allow logging (and) drilling" on 191 million acres of national forests and grasslands. Merry Christmas!

  • In Ohio, the election fraud plot sickens... But Kerry will finally file papers in support of the recount effort.

    Well, I must say, this didn't make me feel much merrier. I'll try again tomorrow or Saturday.
  • Wednesday, December 22, 2004

    Brain... is... depleted. ...Must... reanimate...

    OK, the blog muscles are slightly atrophied. I changed jobs right before the end of the semester, and had to learn a new statistical analysis program (Stata, which is really pretty easy to pick up, but I'm a long time SAS user and continue to experience a bit of proactive interference in this transition), and work on my term paper and finals prep in the off hours. So I failed to keep up with news and extracurricular readings for what seems like a very long time. At present, I'm a little burned out on reading and thinking, but the neurons are beginning to fire more rapidly and I'm trawling the internet again.

  • An aside: since learning here that gives more money to Republicans than Democrats (I didn't see Amazon on the "shopping list" I received from many, many people and posted Monday) I will start linking to book titles via Powells or other non-Amazon sources. Amazon has a great deal of my money - although for the last two years I've purchased far more used books through them than new. Now we must part ways.

  • "The good times, and the heroic people, are all gone. Everyone knows this. Everyone always has." In her very lovely book For The Time Being, from whence came that quote, Annie Dillard rounded up (p. 60-62) some amusing quotations to demonstrate that, pretty much from the dawn of recorded history, thinkers and observers "thought the world was shot to hell." Every generation thinks it must be close to the last. So I check myself whenever I start to think, "has it ever been worse than this? Have people ever been more callous and self-centered? Has there ever been so much violence?" etc.

    But, criminy, have there ever been so many (forgive me, Lord) loons dominionists in and around so many positions of consequence, all at the same time? All acting as advisors to, or cabinet members of, or associates with, or taking credit for re-electing, the president of the United States? And all apparently certain that God needs their help in figuring out when to wrap things up? Really, Professor Dillard, has it ever been this crazy?

    And, um, is everyone in South Carolina in on this plan? I can't link to the Christian Exodus web site right now*, but I could earlier today (*Update: fixed the link!): is coordinating the move of thousands of Christians to South Carolina for the express purpose of re-establishing Godly, constitutional government. It is evident that the U.S. Constitution has been abandoned under our current federal system, and the efforts of Christian activism to restore our Godly republic have proven futile over the past three decades. The time has come for Christians to withdraw our consent from the current federal government and re-introduce the Christian principles once so predominant in America to a sovereign State like South Carolina.
  • New abuse allegations are making that "just a few bad apples" explanation considerably less plausible, wouldn't you say? Especially if the techniques were indeed authorized by the president... But Robo-Scott McClellan says that's not true, and by golly, his word's good enough for me.

  • Terrific new Molly Ivins column: "...Of all the problems that arise from having an administration that chooses not to believe in reality, the ones most likely to have irretrievably disastrous consequences are environmental. "

  • Halliburton was just about to take another PR hit -- since they are the contractors who were running far behind schedule on replacing the Mosul mess tent with a sturdier structure, but now we learn that it wasn't rockets or shells that killed the 22 - it was a suicide bomber.

  • Please read Arianna's column on the latest White House power grab (and then repeat after the president: " people will never choose to live in tyrrany.")
  • Tuesday, December 21, 2004

    More later, but you've just gotta see this... A view of the "religious right" from someone deep within, Baptist minister Chuck Baldwin (via The Revealer):
    "No one can honestly question my commitment to pro-life, pro-family, conservative causes. That being said, the Religious Right, as it now exists, scares me.

    For one reason, on the whole, the Religious Right has obviously and patently become little more than a propaganda machine for the Republican Party in general and for President G.W. Bush in particular.

    This is in spite of the fact that both Bush and the Republican Party in Washington, D.C., have routinely ignored and even trampled the very principles which the Religious Right claims to represent.

    Therefore, no longer does the Religious Right represent conservative, Christian values. Instead, they represent their own self-serving interests at the expense of those values.

    It also appears painfully obvious to me that in order to sit at the king's table, the Religious Right is willing to compromise any principle, no matter how sacred. As such, it has become a hollow movement. Sadly, the Religious Right is now a movement without a cause, except the cause of advancing the Republican Party."
    There's more...
    " spite of the fact that President Bush and the Republican Party in Washington, D.C., have repeatedly supported copious unchristian (not to mention unconstitutional) programs and policies, Christians act as if Bush and his fellow Republicans have ushered in the Millennial Kingdom.

    More than that, the Religious Right appears to believe that G.W. Bush is the anointed vicar of Christ. But instead of wearing the garb of a religious leader, he wears the shroud of a politico and a military commander-in-chief.

    As such, in the minds of the Religious Right, Bush's war in Iraq is a holy crusade. America is fast taking on the shape of the old Holy Roman Empire and President Bush is quickly morphing into a modern day Caesar.

    The willingness of the Religious Right to give President Bush king-like subservience is easily seen in the way they demonize anyone who dares to oppose him. This is very unnerving.

    Are we heading for a modern day religious inquisition, this one led not by the Catholic Church but by the Religious Right? Are we witnessing the type of marriage between Church and State that America's founders originally feared?

    I used to believe that liberals were paranoid for being fearful of conservative Christians gaining political power. Now, I share their trepidation."

    Monday, December 20, 2004

    Why do I do this to myself? And on a Monday morning no less. I listened to and half-watched the president's grudge conference this morning, and got angry all over again that 59 million of "my fellow Americans" think he's going to make them safer and richer (oh, yes, and more virtuous; I keep forgetting - it's easy to do - how much Bush and his merry band of war mongers, war criminals, and profiteers have to teach us about moral values). Why does the press bother with these? He yaps, he stammers, he gropes for words (today I heard only one reference to "hard work," but many things are "complex"), and he looks like he's waiting to have a tooth pulled. And for all of that, what do we learn?

    He gave a statement about the sure-footedness of the economy, and about the "progress" in Afghanistan and Iraq. He assured us that free people will never choose to live in tyrrany, but he also downplayed (as it sounded to me; you decide) the significance of the planned January elections in Iraq:
    "My point is, the elections in January are just the beginning of a process, and it's important for the American people to understand that. As the Iraqi people take these important steps on the path to democracy, the enemies of freedom know exactly what is at stake. They know that a democratic Iraq will be a decisive blow to their ambitions, because free people will never choose to live in tyranny.

    And so the terrorists will attempt to delay the elections, to intimidate people in their country, to disrupt the democratic process in any way they can. No one can predict every turn in the months ahead, and I certainly don't expect the process to be trouble-free. Yet, I am confident of the result, I'm confident the terrorists will fail, the elections will go forward, and Iraq will be a democracy that reflects the values and traditions of its people."
    Perhaps most amusingly, he derided reporters for trying to "make me play my cards" when they had the audacity to ask for a few concrete details about his plans for social security and budget cuts: "I will try to explain how without negotiating with myself. It's a very tricky way to get me to play my cards." I'm sure there's an extended gambling metaphor we can play with here... (I thought he used that expression several times, because it started ringing in my ears; however, I can't find all the instances in the transcript. [White House transcripts have been known to be tidied up, however.]) Gosh, isn't it thrilling to be governed in secret, by committees formed in secrecy, with secret members, and secret plans for social security and cuts to "entitlement" programs?! (Remember what Bush said about free people not choosing to live in tyrrany, and let's revisit it in a few years.)

    And the man who doesn't make mistakes (who only appoints people who do) isn't budging on Rumsfeld:
    Well, first of all, when I asked the Secretary to stay on as Secretary of Defense, I was very pleased when he said "yes." And I asked him to stay on because I understand the nature of the job of the Secretary of Defense, and I believe he's doing a really fine job.

    The Secretary of Defense is a complex job. It's complex in times of peace, and it's complex even more so in times of war. And the Secretary has managed this Department during two major battles in the war on terror -- Afghanistan and Iraq. And at the same time, he's working to transform our military so it functions better, it's lighter, it's ready to strike on a moment's notice. In other words, that the force structure meets the demands we face in the 21st century.

    Not only is he working to transform the nature of the forces, we're working to transform where our forces are based. As you know, we have recently worked with the South Korean government, for example, to replace manpower with equipment, to keep the Peninsula secure and the Far East secure, but at the same time, recognizing we have a different series of threats. And he's done a fine job, and I look forward to continuing to work with him.

    And I know the Secretary understands the Hill. He's been around in Washington a long period of time and he will continue to reach out to members of the Hill, explaining the decisions he's made. And I believe that in a new term, members of the Senate and the House will recognize what a good job he's doing.
    ...Here are a few of their ringing endorsements, so far.

  • A few days ago, Joshua Marshall had a smart post about the manufactured Social Security "Crisis" and how Democrats should fight the administration on this.

  • You've probably received this a few hundred times by now (I have), but just in case... Here's where Democrats might consider doing their last minute holiday shopping (I haven't found the original source; one copy I received says its from the DNC):
    WITH US:
    * Price Club/Costco donated $225K, of which 99% went to Democrats;
    * Rite Aid, $517K, 60% to Democrats;
    * Magla Products (Stanley tools, Mr. Clean), $22K, 100% to Democrats;
    * Warnaco (undergarments), $55K, 73% to Democrats;
    * Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, $153K, 99% to Democrats
    * Estee Lauder, $448K, 95% to Democrats
    * Guess? Inc., $145K, 98% to Democrats
    * Calvin Klein, $78K, 100% to Democrats
    * Liz Claiborne, Inc., $34K, 97% to Democrats
    * Levi Straus, $26K, 97% to Democrats
    * Olan Mills, $175K, 99% to Democrats
    * Gallo Winery, $337K, 95% to Democrats
    * Southern Wine & Spirits, $213K, 73% to Democrats
    * Joseph E. Seagrams & Sons (includes beverage business, plus considerable media interests), 2M+, 67% Democrats.
    * Sonic Corporation, $83K, 98% Democrats
    * Triarc Companies (Arby's, T.J. Cinnamon's, Pasta Connections), $112K, 96% Democrats
    * Hyatt Corporation, $187K, 80% to Democrats

    * WalMart, $467K, 97% to Republicans
    * K-Mart, $524K, 86% to Republicans
    * Home Depot, $298K, 89% to Republicans
    * Target, $226K, 70% to Republicans
    * Circuit City Stores, $261K, 95% to Republicans
    * 3M Co., $281K, 87% to Republicans
    * Hallmark Cards, $319K, 92% to Republicans
    * Amway, $391K, 100% Republicans
    * Kohler Co. (plumbing fixtures), $283K, 100% Republicans
    * B.F. Goodrich (tires), $215K, 97% to Republicans
    * Proctor & Gamble, $243K, 79% to Republicans
    * Coors, $174K, 92% to Republicans; (also Budweiser - sd)
    * Brown-Forman Corp. (Southern Comfort, Jack Daniels, Bushmills, Korbel wines, Lennox China, Dansk, Gorham Silver), $644, 80% to Republicans
    * Pilgrim's Pride Corp. (chicken), $366K, 100% Republican
    * Outback Steakhouse, $641K, 95% Republican
    * Tricon Global Restaurants (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell), $133K, 87% Republican
    * Brinker International (Maggiano's, Brinker Cafe, Chili's, On theBorder, Macaroni Grill, Crazymel's, Corner Baker, EatZis), $242K, 83% Republican
    * Waffle House, $279K, 100% Republican
    * McDonald's Corp., $197K, 86% Republican
    * Darden Restaurants (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Smokey Bones, Bahama Breeze), $121K, 89% Republican
    * Mariott International, $323K, 81% to Republicans
    * Holiday Inns, $38K, 71% to Republicans

    So head on over to Costco, buy yourself some Stanley tools and some Estee Lauder cologne, stop at Arby's for lunch, and then check into a Hyatt hotel where you can drown your sorrows over the election with a jug of Gallo wine!

  • Thanks to JC for forwarding this. The original source appears to be here, but someone has added the relevant links. Good work, whoever did that!
    1. 80% of all votes in America are counted by only two companies: Diebold and ES&S.
    Here and here

    2. There is no federal agency with regulatory authority or oversight of the U.S. voting machine industry.
    Here and here

    3. The vice-president of Diebold and the president of ES&S are brothers.
    Here and here

    4. The chairman and CEO of Diebold is a major Bush campaign organizer and donor who wrote in 2003 that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
    Here and here

    5. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel used to be chairman of ES&S. He became Senator based on votes counted by ES&S machines.
    Here and here

    6. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, long-connected with the Bush family, was recently caught lying about his ownership of ES&S by the Senate Ethics Committee.
    Here, here, and here

    7. Senator Chuck Hagel was on a short list of George W. Bush's vice-presidential candidates.
    Here and here

    8. ES&S is the largest voting machine manufacturer in the U.S. and counts almost 60% of all U.S. votes.
    Here and here

    9. Diebold's new touch screen voting machines have no paper trail of any votes. In other words, there is no way to verify that the data coming out of the machine is the same as what was legitimately put in by voters.
    Here and here

    10. Diebold also makes ATMs, checkout scanners, and ticket machines, all of which log each transaction and can generate a paper trail.
    Here and here

    11. Diebold is based in Ohio.

    12. Diebold employed 5 convicted felons as senior managers and developers to help write the central compiler computer code that counted 50% of the votes in 30 states.
    Here and here

    13. Jeff Dean, Diebold's Senior Vice-President and senior programmer on Diebold's central compiler code, was convicted of 23 counts of felony theft in the first degree.
    Here and here

    14. Diebold Senior Vice-President Jeff Dean was convicted of planting back doors in his software and using a "high degree of sophistication" to evade detection over a period of 2 years.
    Here and here

    15. None of the international election observers were allowed in the polls in Ohio.
    Here and here

    16. California banned the use of Diebold machines because the security was so bad. Despite Diebold's claims that the audit logs could not be hacked, a chimpanzee was able to do it! (See the movie here.)
    Here and here

    17. 30% of all U.S. votes are carried out on unverifiable touch screen voting machines with no paper trail.

    18. All -- not some -- but all the voting machine errors detected and reported in Florida went in favor of Bush or Republican candidates.
    Here, here, here, here, and here

    19. The governor of the state of Florida, Jeb Bush, is the President's brother.
    Here and here

    20. Serious voting anomalies in Florida -- again always favoring Bush -- have been mathematically demonstrated and experts are recommending further investigation.
    Here, here, here, here, here and here
    Urgent thoughts from Renee at Ohio Counts:
    SPECIAL NOTE: I urge everyone to stay focused on the 2004 election; it's not over until January 6th, 2005, when Congress meets. Generalized activities geared to long range election reform, 'anti- inaugurals' to blow off steam, or attacks on the Bush administration's politics, are a luxury; specific actions, geared towards getting a correct result in the 2004 election, are a necessity. I urge everyone who is not in Ohio to make it his or her first priority to come to Ohio to participate in protests, assist the recount, and/or assist the attorneys prosecuting litigations to contest the election and/or defend the recount. If you participate in activities in other states, I strongly urge you to focus the attention of the event towards the very provable Ohio election crimes. And if you possibly can, please contribute financially, and support the organizations that are doing important work on the ground in Ohio, such as C.A.S.E., the National Voting Rights Institute, the Free Press and its 501(c)(3) recommendations, Alliance for Democracy, and the Green Party Recount, and please give to
  • Another great column by David Sirota, who these days seems to be enunciating the most principled vision of Democratic direction. I'd like HIM to be the chair of the DNC!

  • I probably could have used this last Tuesday, and the president could use it every day (or at least -Lord, have mercy- on the days he subjects the rest of us to a press conference). But it also stirs sad memories of Flowers for Algernon... doesn't it?
  • Thursday, December 16, 2004

    Apparently, I am not sufficiently awed by Karl Rove. I fail to see how being willing to say and do anything to win an election makes a person a tactical genius. That seems like a strategy just about anyone could cook up, provided they lack any semblance of morality.

  • Speaking of Republican paragons of virtue and moral values, there's not much left to say about the Bernard Kerik implosion, but the inimitable James Wolcott found something:
    "I'm glad the press is having a dance party with this, because God knows the Democrats are frozen at the steering wheel. I just saw a segment on MSNBC (which has been all over the Kerik story today, bless Rick Kaplan's cyborg heart) pitting a Republican strategist against a Democratic one, and the Democratic spokesman--who goes by the name of Michael Brown--seemed to have washed down his weeny pills with warm Ovaltine. Instead of kicking Kerik and Giuliana between the uprights for three points, Brown fretted that vetting process for cabinet candidates was "going to far," and that we were in danger of discouraging people from public service. Oh no, we wouldn't want to discourage philandering, pocket-lining, deadbeat no-show bully-boys like Bernard Kerik from having the opportunity to muck around with our civil liberties in the name of "national security" and hold bigshot press conferences. I mean, if that sort of thing were to continue happening, people might start mistaking the Democrats for an opposition party and thinking that the press has an adversarial role to play, and we don't want that to happen, it might actually lead to signs of life in that mausoleum we call the nation's capital."
  • Did you see that, back when "we" invaded Iraq and - I believe it was Rummy who explained it at the time - had to secure the Iraqi oil ministry and fields instead of the hospitals and ancient treasures, we apparently weren't even doing that?

  • How can we make everyone in the country read Paul Krugman's exposure of the Social Security Crisis fraud? Especially now, while Bush is holding his Rich White Guys summit and telling scary stories about Social Security solvency...

  • Three good articles urging Democrats against "centrism" and back to economic populism: Rick Perlstein, David Sirota, and Arianna Huffington. All three articles also show why, as Arianna's says, we should care about the next DNC chair. Add Matt Taibbi to the their voices on that particular topic:
    "...unless something is done about it, this unelected bund of corporate pawns is once again going to end up writing the party platform and arranging things to make sure that no antiwar candidate is allowed to compete for votes in the primaries. It will push one of its own - probably Harold Ickes, or (Donna) Brazile - in next year's election for the chairman of the Democratic Party. And when that person wins, the tens of millions of Democrats who opposed the war will have to get used to people like Will Marshall referring to them as 'we' in front of roomfuls of reporters -- Marshall, who this year wrote, in Blueprint, an article entitled 'Stay and Win in Iraq' that offered the following view of the progress of the war: 'Coalition forces still face daily attacks but the body count tilts massively in their favor.' Uh-huh. And Michael Moore and Hollywood are the problem with the Democratic Party."

  • Wednesday, December 15, 2004

    At last I have emerged from my term paper-and-finals sequestration to discover that unpaid bills have bred and multiplied in my backpack, cars get ticketed when they aren't moved on certain week days, dogs don't stop pooping in their yard when no one's there to see them, and apparently there's a major holiday approaching. I'm beginning to understand the merits of viewing time as a circular dimension.

    Nonetheless, it marches linearly on! I've got tons of links and articles to wade through that friends have directed me to, or that I spotted and set aside, and I'll get to those later today and tomorrow. For now, I'd like to direct your attention to this really lovely, thoughtful piece by James Carroll.

    Friday, December 10, 2004

    Finals crunch!

    Check back after Tuesday, December 14, when I'll finally have a chance to post all kinds of things you've already read elsewhere by then...

    For now, I'm finally writing the term paper due Tuesday, and figuring out how to prepare for the final that I thought (until last night, when I reread my syllabus) was Friday the 17th, but which is - to my immense consternation - also on Tuesday. (Believe me, I was counting on those additional 72 hours.)

    Sunday, December 05, 2004

    I must repeat my apologies for not being able to post more regularly or coherently right now; I'm writing a term paper and preparing for a final and promise to be more reliable once those deadlines are past. In the meantime, thanks to friends like MR and JK and AC who keep passing interesting things to me.

    Now, about that sweeping mandate... Ohio's margin for Bush was even narrower than originally estimated, and NBC revised substantially downward its exit poll estimates of Hispanic support for Bush. Donkey Rising has more on both subjects.

    And 10-gallon hats off, once again, to the Lone Star Iconoclast, for continuing to prove that they have a deeper commitment to democracy than their native son.

    Nonetheless, the fictional "mandate" is the justification under which Bush plans to reverse three decades of environmental protections. How worried should we be? Read Bill Moyers' acceptance speech for his Global Environment Citizen Award, to see how worried he is. I nearly spat diet coke onto my laptop keyboard when I read his offhanded remark about an EPA study (co-sponsored by the American Chemistry Council) but it's the truth -- here are details:
    "...The study entitled CHEERS (Children’s Environmental Exposure Research Study) pays participants in Duval County, Florida, up to $970 and offers them a free camcorder, free VCR, as well as t-shirts, calendars, bibs, and a framed Certificate of Appreciation. Participants are asked to “maintain” their normal pesticide applications throughout their home for two years. The EPA will monitor developmental changes in babies, from birth to 3 years, who are exposed to pesticides in their home. The study looks at 60 children, with less than 10% representing a control group, which consists of children that have low pesticide exposure, rather than no exposure at all."
    (Does this remind anyone else of a certain infamously unethical and racist "natural experiment"?)

    Molly Ivins on torture:
    My question is: What are you going to do about this? It's your country, your money, your government. You own it, you run it, you are the board of directors. They are doing this in your name. The people we elect to public office do what you want them to. Perhaps you should get in touch with them.
    Naomi Klein has a searing, open letter to the Acting US Ambassador in London, here.

    Finally, in one of those uplifting examples of how very far the contemporary Lutheran church has come, the Pacifica Synod officially revoked their sanction of the Central City Lutheran Mission in San Bernardino, CA, because CCLM installed an openly lesbian pastor.
    An urban ministry that aids the poor and homeless had its official recognition removed by Lutheran church officials in a dispute over an associate pastor who is in a lesbian relationship.

    The decision by the Pacifica Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which oversees congregations in parts of Southern California, marks the most severe punishment of a Lutheran congregation over the issue of homosexual clergy in more than a decade.

    "We thought those days were over," Pastor David Kalke, who leads the Central City Lutheran Mission, told the Los Angeles Times for a Saturday story. "It appears conservatism has raised its ugly head here in Southern California, much to our surprise."

    Kalke said he intends to lead Central City as an independent Lutheran congregation.

    The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America allows gay clergy only if they are celibate. Thirteen other congregations that have installed openly gay and lesbian pastors have received milder punishments.

    Pacifica Synod Bishop Murray Finck said the Central City mission violated the church's constitution when it installed Pastor Jenny Mason in April because Mason is not on the church's official roster of recognized pastors. He said the Oct. 29 decision has nothing to do with Mason's sexual orientation but also said Mason is not on the roster because she is gay and not celibate.

    Discipline was once handled by the national church, but after a 1990 dispute with two San Francisco congregations that had installed openly gay clergy and were ultimately kicked out of the church, discipline became a matter that synods handled, said Greg Egertson, co-chairman of Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries in San Francisco.

    Since 1990, no congregations have been stripped of recognition for installing gay clergy. National church leaders are studying the issue ahead of an August meeting of the church's National Assembly.

    Egertson said the Pacifica Synod may be trying to send a message to the assembly.

    "It's out of step with what other synods are doing and it's very badly timed," he said.

    Mason previously served 10 years as an officially recognized Lutheran pastor and missionary in Chile, but the church learned of her long-term relationship with another woman and forced her to resign in 2001.

    "I don't know the good folks who live in Orange County," Mason said, "but that's where our synod office is and I have a feeling that's what moves decisions more than serving the poor and the oppressed in the inner city of San Bernardino."
    Here's the original LA Times version of the story. I love this logical nuance: "He (Pacifica Synod Bishop Murray Finck) said the Oct. 29 decision has nothing to do with Mason's sexual orientation but also said Mason is not on the roster because she is gay and not celibate." If you're in the giving mood, I'm sure CCLM would welcome donations to continue ministering to the community being punished by the Pacifica Synod.

    Wednesday, December 01, 2004

    The problem with blogging so sporadically (necessarily, these few weeks - I've had limited internet access, AND too much assigned reading) is that I know you've already encountered this stuff elsewhere... but I'm compelled to "share" it anyway.

    Support World AIDS Day
  • First of all, it's World Aids Day. Or it was before I finally got online. But we all know it takes more than a day of recognition and observance to have a prayer of getting a handle on things like this and this. It's nearly impossible hard to get one's head around the magnitude and scope of the crisis - present and future. For instance, what happens when this many children are orphaned? Last year I had the incredibly good fortune to visit northeastern Tanzania. My companions and I spoke with a nurse who told us the crisis was nowhere near peaking. She told us "the women ask us, 'how can I have AIDS when I have been faithful to my husband?' How do we tell them, 'your husband goes to the city and sleeps with other women and comes home and infects you'?" She told us that one nurse urged her patients to pack condoms in their husbands' suitcases when they left for the city, but the husbands would beat their wives for the implication. Yes, drug users, sex workers and their clients contribute to the crisis... but if women don't get some immediate practical options for protecting themselves, this will not stop until there's no one left to infect.

  • And speaking of unforgiveable losses of human lives, the US approached a record number of military casualties in Iraq last month...

  • As long as we're spreading democracy, why won't the US sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

  • Lots of liberal sites are all over this story, but there's very little in "mainstream" media. CBS and NBC are refusing to air this ad by the United Church of Christ, because it's "too controversial." CBS went so unbelievably, frighteningly, ridiculously far as to say their decision was due to "the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman..." So when will the Executive Branch be taking "Will and Grace" off the air?

  • Arianna Huffington provides an uplifting historical perspective on the fix we're in:
    "...In 1992, the Republican Party found itself in very much the same position as Democrats do today: out of power (with the opposition controlling the White House and both houses of Congress), lacking a compelling core message, and facing the prospect of becoming what any number of pundits at the time deemed — all together now — “a permanent minority party.”

    Indeed, reading the post-mortems of the 1992 election is like coming across the original template for the post-mortems of the 2004 election.

    If you take away the names, you would swear that the Republican quotes from back then were being delivered by the Democrats from right now.

    Take this Bill Bennett quote from November 1992 placing the blame for the Republican drubbing on “the lack of a clear, coherent, compelling core message.” Doesn’t it sound like any number of Democrats complaining about 2004?

    Or how about this ’92 analysis from John Ashcroft, then governor of Missouri, writing in the Washington Post: “The Republican Party needs to shake itself loose from top-down management, undergo a grassroots renewal and adopt a vigorous, positive agenda that flows from the priorities, views and values of citizens who involve themselves in that process. ...Our party needs to frame its priorities more in terms of what we’re for rather than what we are against.”

    These are precisely the sentiments now being echoed throughout Democratic circles.

    And then, just as now, a sense of long-term gloom and doom hovered over the losing side. “All that is clear about the GOP’s future,” forecast the Los Angeles Times in November ’92, “is that its comeback trail will be long and rigorous.”

    It turned out to be short and sweet. Just two years after being given their political last rites, Republicans rose from their deathbed and seized control of both chambers of Congress, picking up 52 seats in the House and nine in the Senate. The shift was so dramatic that President Clinton, in the wake of the GOP victory, felt the need to insist at a press conference that he was still “relevant.”

    This is but one example of how the political landscape can and does change overnight..."
    And she has some very practical strategic suggestions:
    For starters, they need to make sure that there is never another election held with electronic voting machines that don’t leave a paper trail, or voter suppression caused by long lines and not enough polling places in poor neighborhoods.

    Next, they should — to paraphrase Shakespeare — kill all the consultants (and, while they’re at it, do away with the bullheaded pollsters, too). The Party needs to find and develop campaign teams that can run winning races in the 21st century, not keep rehiring the same professional losers election after election. Shouldn’t there be an “eight strikes and you’re out” rule?

    Democrats also need to retool their party infrastructure. Conservatives have spent the better part of the last 30 years building a potent message machine — a network of think tanks, policy centers and media outlets — that spends more than $300 million a year to promote its agenda. Instead of sitting around complaining that the big, bad GOP has them overmatched, Democrats need to open their wallets and build their own well-funded message machine.

    A key part of this apparatus will inevitably be the Internet, which must now assume a central role in all Party efforts. One of the underreported achievements of the Kerry campaign was its startling success in Internet fund-raising, taking in over $82 million in online donations. This same combination of cyber-savvy and sophisticated marketing must be used to help Democrats spread their message and build citizen participation.

    To do this, Democrats have got to nationalize the 2006 Congressional races — just as Republicans did in ’94. They don’t necessarily need their own version of the Contract with America, but they do need to make their stands on the crucial political battles of the day — including taxes, the environment, the war in Iraq, Social Security and the Supreme Court — part of a larger narrative and not just a laundry list of policy positions and four-point plans.

    And, finally, Democrats need to forge ahead with nascent efforts to recruit, train and fund a better crop of candidates. As one film-director friend of mine put it: “It’s ultimately about casting; I’m tired of voting for some guy who isn’t right for the role but got the part anyway.”
    Ruy Teixeira also has a good historical analysis that makes mincemeat of the Bush Mandate.

  • One of the better barbs in the meeting of the Reverends on Meet the Press Sunday (someone referred to the exchange as a "food fight," but I can't find the link) came when Al Sharpton (yes, the one whose very presence puzzled me so) said to Richard Land, " Does your Bible have Esther and Ruth in it?" Dr. Land: "Sure. Of course." Rev. Sharpton: "I mean, do you have the whole Bible?" Dr. Land: "I do."

    It's the kind of question both Christian camps (progressive and conservative) ask of the other when they detect, shall we say, glossing over of texts that don't fit a particular worldview. (However, one camp - I'll let you figure it out - believes that the Bible is the inerrant word of God as dictated to the scribes and apostles and capably edited by King James' committee, where the other considers that perhaps the merest hint of an agenda or prejudice could have crept into the transcription process here and there.) And it seems particularly relevant to ask when, for instance, hundreds of references to loving and caring for one another are brushed aside in order to highlight a half dozen passages about homosexuality. Here, Sean Gonsalves tries to educate a bible thumper about some of the missing pages in his Bible...

    Back to the books, for now. I have a term paper deadline looming for a professor/advisor who just doesn't give me any credit for blogging...