Get Your Blog Up

“This administration is populated by people who’ve spent their careers bashing government. They’re not just small-government conservatives—they’re Grover Norquist, strangle-it-in-the-bathtub conservatives. It’s a cognitive disconnect for them to be able to do something well in an arena that they have so derided and reviled all these years.”

Senator Hillary Clinton

Monday, May 31, 2004

"These people were shooting at Americans"

Remember that line to justify the Iraqi prisoner abuse? Try to use it to justify this:
The Army is investigating reports of assaults against Iraqi civilians and thefts of their money and jewelry by U.S. troops during patrols, raids and house searches, defense officials said on Monday.

The probe by the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation Division, or CID, suggests that a major scandal over abuse of Iraqi prisoners by Americans goes beyond detention centers into the homes and streets of the troubled country.

Its too bad that when we give these guys a government, we don't give them a Bill of Rights as well.

Virginia is for Kerry lovers

Nice T-shirt idea for the campaign, eh?

John Kerry's campaign has decided to put Virginia in play. Well, try to put it in play.
Democrat John Kerry will spend roughly $17 million on campaign advertising in June and television commercials will air in Republican-leaning Virginia, as well as on channels targeting blacks and Hispanics.

The presumptive Democratic nominee will be the only presidential candidate on the air in Virginia, making a foray into a state that President Bush solidly won in 2000.

Now I can't help but think of the Democrat's glee when Bush announced that he was going to sump money into California. And the reasons are eeriely similar. Virginia has a Democratic governor, California's claims Republican. More conservative areas of California have seen madcap population growth, just as the DC areas of Virginia have, more typically a democratic stronghold.

The real reason, of course is money. By forcing a campaign to spend in a state they saw as uncontested, it draws funds away from the key battleground states. It was a strategy that the Gore campaign wanted to try in 2000, but ran into a lack of funding.

The difference between the two is Bush has actually bitten. The Kerry campaign shrugged it's shoulders at the Bush pronoucement, saying if the race got closer in California, they may start ads in the last few week. However the Bush campaign has bought ads in traditional strong hold Colorado, and had until recently been buying time in Louisiana as well.

The Kerry's and their supporters will put on the more aggressive face, however:

Kerry advisers think Virginia has become more of a northern state because of population shifts in the late 1990s and early 2000s and that Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, can do well along the coast, which has a heavy military presence.

[Virginia's governor Mark] Warner agreed that the landscape is ripe for a Democratic presidential win, saying parts of rural Virginia are still feeling the sting of the economic downturn.

Warner said in an interview Thursday that the campaign's early investment in his state "demonstrates that this is going to be a national effort and that the South has the potential to be very competitive."

Too be successful, of course, Kerry needs to see results, and not just in the head to head competition. Positive ads need to see the public's view of Kerry become more positive. In the meaantime, I would try and schedule an appearance in at least a couple of these states again, touting that he cares enough to bring his message to the voters while Bush fights more for his political life than the people.If this doesn't happen within the next few weeks, then there is no reason to continue to draw from those battle field states. And if that doesn't work, then you have to back out. It's a risky gamble, to be sure, but so is four more years of Bush.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Maybe the Supreme Court can settle this

Some division on who should be president of Iraq could be a blow to the June 30th turnover date.
The US governor of Iraq, Paul Bremer, and the UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, insisted the job should go to Adnan Pachachi, an 81-year-old former foreign minister. But the Iraqi governing council demanded that the largely ceremonial post should go to Sheikh Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawar, an Arab businessman in his 40s who has criticised the US-led occupation and who is the council's president.

The row threatens to delay the appointment of a new interim government. A ceremony scheduled for today appeared last night to have been postponed.

Apparently the Iraqi governing council(IGC) feels that Adnan has too close ties to the US and will act more like a puppet than anything else, a view put forth by Dr Mahmoud Othman, a leading council member
"It's like being in a dictatorship again. Adnan follows the Americans around like a puppy. If the Americans told Adnan that yoghurt was black, he would go along with it."

Ghazi however, has been quite vocal about the American influence on Iraq since the war.
In a recent television interview, he blamed America for Iraq's problems. "They occupied the country, disbanded the security agencies and for 10 months left Iraq's borders open for anyone to come in without a visa or passport."

Now this is a post that is largely ceremonial and that the US has said they have little interest in disputing. Yet this delay, as mentioned, could bring that promised transfer of power to a halt. And now if there is failure, the president can say "Look, it's not our fault. We wanted this other guy. The failure in Iraq has nothing to do with us anymore."

Perhaps even more damaging to the future of Iraqi-American relations is this view:
Last night senior Iraqi politicians admitted that despite Mr Brahimi's promise to bring in "non-political" faces and technocrats, the new Iraqi government looked suspiciously like the old one.

Oh, that one we helped in the early 80's, right? And it is nice to see some things never change:
National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 114 of November 26, 1983, "U.S. Policy toward the Iran-Iraq War," delineating U.S. priorities: the ability to project military force in the Persian Gulf and to protect oil supplies, without reference to chemical weapons or human rights concerns.

Who forgot to delete this?

Time magazine seems to have found a link between Cheney and those Halliburton contracts after all, despite the vehenment protests of Cheney to the contrary.
Vice President Dick Cheney was a guest on NBC's Meet the Press last September when host Tim Russert brought up Halliburton. Citing the company's role in rebuilding Iraq as well as Cheney's prior service as Halliburton's CEO, Russert asked, "Were you involved in any way in the awarding of those contracts?" Cheney's reply: "Of course not, Tim ... And as Vice President, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the [Army] Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the Federal Government."

Cheney's relationship with Halliburton has been nothing but trouble since he left the company in 2000. Both he and the company say they have no ongoing connections. But TIME has obtained an internal Pentagon e-mail sent by an Army Corps of Engineers official—whose name was blacked out by the Pentagon—that raises questions about Cheney's arm's-length policy toward his old employer. Dated March 5, 2003, the e-mail says "action" on a multibillion-dollar Halliburton contract was "coordinated" with Cheney's office. The e-mail says Douglas Feith, a high-ranking Pentagon hawk, got the "authority to execute RIO," or Restore Iraqi Oil, from his boss, who is Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. RIO is one of several large contracts the U.S. awarded to Halliburton last year.

The e-mail says Feith approved arrangements for the contract "contingent on informing WH [White House] tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w VP's [Vice President's] office." Three days later, the Army Corps of Engineers gave Halliburton the contract, without seeking other bids. TIME located the e-mail among documents provided by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group.

Where'd we put that mercury, again?

Awesome, just awesome...
Under prodding from environmental groups, the Environmental Protection Agency is taking another look at a handful of U.S. chemical plants that cannot account for as much as 65 tons of mercury they may be releasing into the environment each year.

"Why should I care?" you may ask? Here's why:
Mercury is a powerful airborne neurotoxin that can penetrate the food chain and damage the brains and nervous systems of children and fetuses.

And somehow, chlorine manufacturers cannot account for 65 tons of the stuff. This is on top of the 48 tons of mercury that coal burning power plants emit each year, all of which is supposedly safe. So safe in fact, the EPA issued a report in February. What'd it say?

A new government analysis nearly doubled the estimate of the number of newborn children at risk for health problems because of unsafe mercury levels in their blood. Environmental Protection Agency scientists said yesterday that new research had shown that 630,000 U.S. newborns had unsafe levels of mercury in their blood in 1999-2000.

But again, perfectly safe. This unaccounted 65 tons, claims the chlorine industry (sorry to switch tracks again), is all deposits in the pipes. Just like at HoltraChem in Bangor Maine:
State officials concluded that mercury not only permeated the plant, but had seeped into a river. They began a huge cleanup that has lasted years and cost millions of dollars.

"There's certainly mercury in the groundwater . . . [and] in the soil," said Stacy Ladner of Maine's Department of Environmental Protection.

Despite an extensive cleanup, state officials have not recovered more than 33 tons of mercury that was unaccounted for in the plant's operation, even after draining the pipes.

Prompting the action, eighteen letters from Senators to EPA administrator Mike Leavitt. This guy's on our side, right? Well, maybe not. Leavitt used to be a governor of Utah,and his record is as spotless as his state's enviromental records:
He has staunchly supported the infamous "Legacy Highway," a highly controversial project that threatens wetlands along the Great Salt Lake. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Legacy Highway Project, because the planner's failed to consider less harmful alternatives and for ignoring obvious harmful impacts on Utah's environment and wildlife.

In the most recent EPA report on Clean Water Act enforcement for major sources, Utah tied for last place with Ohio and Tennessee for performance in six key environmental indicators.

According to the 2001 EPA Toxic Release Inventory, Utah has the second highest volume of toxic chemical releases in the nation.
Under Governor Leavitt, water quality monitoring in Utah is well behind the national average for testing streams and rivers for water quality. The vast majority of Utah waters are not even monitored, according to EPA's most recent state water quality report.

Frequently the federal EPA had to step in to enforce rules that Leavitt failed to. Leavitt also made numerous attempts to leave the public out of key decisions, such as mining protected lands and paving national parks, going so far as to threaten a lawsuit against the US government.
"Governor Leavitt has consistently acted to open Utah’s most spectacular wild public lands to development, especially oil and gas," said [Earthjustice Denver attorney Jim] Angell. "He’s also consistently acted on behalf of offroad vehicle interests which have degraded thousands of square miles of Utah’s once pristine wild lands. Finally, he’s consistently acted to degrade Utah’s environment out of the public eye with a heavy emphasis on secret dealings that exclude public participation."

Read about these cases more in depth here.

If only I'd been here sooner, we could have started a petition or a letter writing campaign. Now, all we can do is express our concerns and urge him to take stronger actions in the future, which hopefully will last him just six more months. Until then, write to:

Mike Leavitt c/o
Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460

Or call him at (202) 272-0167. Of course, he'll prolly be out a federal cleanup site helping out, but it's worth a shot.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

A president for the people, chosen by... who?

Josh Marshall has been struggling to understand how and why Iyad Allawi has been chosen to be the interim head of Iraq, mainly becuase the news has painted such an odd picture. Hopfully by the time I get home from work tonight he'll have it sorted out. Until then, go check out the trail so far.

Left on the dial

Fred Barnes at The Daily Standard decided to weigh in on the recent report from the Pew Research Center regarding the state of the news media today.
Now, the new study by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found the national media to be 34 percent liberal and 7 percent conservative.

Over 40-plus years, the only thing that's changed in the media's politics is that many national journalists have now cleverly decided to call themselves moderates. But their actual views haven't changed, the Pew survey showed. Their political beliefs are close to those of self-identified liberals and nowhere near those of conservatives.

Now, I'm new to all this, but I thought the best thing to do would be to head on over to the Pew Research Center and read the report. Here are the references I find to a moderates point of view in the media:
Roughly two-thirds of liberal journalists (68%) express that view, compared with 28% who say coverage has been fair and 3% who believe the press has been too critical of the administration.

Self-described moderates offer a mixed judgment of the Bush coverage ­ about the same percentages say it has not been critical enough (44%) and fair (43%). But most conservatives (53%) think the press has been too critical of the administration, compared with 30% who view it as fair and 17% who think it has been too critical.

So it seems that these "so called moderates" seem to fall firmly in the middle of the conservative and the liberals in the newsroom, rather than "nowhere near" as Fred Barnes claims.

Maybe here:
Roughly two-thirds of self-described conservatives (68%) could identify a specific news organization that is especially liberal, and the same number (68%) could name a news organization that is "especially conservative." But moderates and liberals could identify conservative news organizations far more often than liberal ones. Roughly three-quarters of liberals (74%) and a majority of moderates (56%) say they couldn't think of any news organization that is especially liberal.

So to put these numbers in the same terms, 68% of conservative, 44% of moderates, and 26% of liberals could identify an especially liberal media outlet. The moderates fall where you would expect, right in the middle.

Researchers asked also if it was necessary to believe in God to be moral. Moderates(12%) hit right in between liberals(3%) and conservatives(26%) Only the issue of accepting homosexuality do moderates (84%) lean closer to liberals(95%) than conservatives (49%), but still are situated in a middle ground. Where Fred Barnes makes this assertion from is beyond me and the Pew Reasearch Poll, as far as I can tell.

What else have you got?
Does this affect coverage? Is there really liberal bias? The answers are, of course, yes and yes. It couldn't be any other way. Think for a moment if the numbers were reversed and conservatives had outnumbered liberals in the media for the past four decades. Would President Bush be getting kinder coverage? For sure,
and I'll bet any liberal would agree with that. Would President Reagan have been treated with less hostility if the national press was conservative-dominated? Yes, again. And I could go on.

How about these instances, from an era oddly left out of Barnes research:
From the Hess Report on Campaign Coverage on the Nightly News(9/11/00):
Last month, however, the Center for Media and Public Affairs reported that Bush had received more favorable coverage than Gore throughout the 2000 campaign.

Darned liberal media.
From the Center for Media and Public Affairs(CMPA)(10/18/00):
Since [September] a majority of Gore’s horse race assessments have been negative, while a majority (59%) of comments on Bush’s prospects have been positive

Also the CMPA (10/30/00):
The two major party candidates have received almost the same amounts of on-air speaking time this fall - 23 minutes for Gore and 22 minutes for Bush. In addition, Joe Lieberman has spoken for a total of 2 minutes, Dick Cheney 1.5 minutes and Ralph Nader 1 minute.

CMPA again (02/09/04):
From Jan. 1 through the New Hampshire primary in 2000... only 42 percent of the evaluations of Al Gore and Bill Bradley were positive.

Or maybe this report from will help:
If presidential elections are a battle for control of message through the media, George W. Bush has had the better of it on the question of character than Albert Gore Jr., according to a new study of media coverage leading up to the Republican convention.

Darned liberal media, supporting George W. Bush and not Fred Barnes.

Barnes continues:
The Pew poll also found that 55 percent of national journalists believe that Bush should be treated more critically by the press than he has been. They think he's gotten off too easy, despite empirical evidence of media Bush bashing. The Center for Media and Public Affairs has examined the coverage of Bush by the broadcast network evening news shows and found only two periods of favorable coverage: in the weeks after September 11 and during the actual war in Iraq. This year, roughly 75 percent of the stories about the Democratic presidential candidates were positive. For Bush, they've been 60-plus percent negative.

This figure would mean that 55% of the media have been treating Bush better than they think he should be. This means that, despite their leanings, they have been giving Bush the longer end of the stick. The Center for Media and Public Affairs examines only the three major news networks, leaving out conservative leaning cable outlets such as FoxNews, and more conservative oriented newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times or even the Weekly Standard, which employs Mr. Barnes. Also ignored would be talk radio. To say Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have been overly critical of the president would be like saying that the prision abuses in Iraq were just frat boys pranks and kids letting off steam.

Apparently it's the minorities fault:
... the effort to hire more minorities and women has had the effect of making the media more liberal. Both these groups tend to have liberal politics, and this is accentuated by the fact that many of the women recruited into journalism are young and single, precisely those with the most liberal views.

I know, that was a cheap jab. Let's just move on:
Those who still doubt the press needs fresh, preferably conservative, blood, should consider these numbers: In 1999, 12 percent of journalists said fairness and balance were a big problem for the media. Now, in the Pew survey, only 5 percent say so--this, after further proof of liberal dominance and noisy debates about liberal bias.

Two points here. Journalist were asked what the top problem facing journalism was. They could not pick more than one answer, or else it would not be their top concern. Overall quality of coverage did indeed drop from 44% in 1999 to 41% in 2004 (Fairness and Balance is a subcategory). Why? Because more in the media are concerned with business and finance then they were in 1999. And what number jumped the most from the previous year? Lack of resources/cutbacks. People are concerned with losing their jobs! It's the Bush eceonmy in action!

Back to the 41% who chose overall quality of coverage. These 41% could choose then from five subchoices, one more than last year. Can you see why numbers would tend to drop? There is a whole other choice! And anyone who chose from the othr main categories was not offered fairness and balance as a choice. See the chart here.

Aside from all that, it seems Mr. Barnes is saying that conservatives would be more concerned with fairness and balance then their liberal counterparts, a claim that seems rather spurious. The goal should be to teach the media to report without slants, rather than encourage the hiring of more conservative slanted reporters. It is common knowledge that the media tends to be harder onan incumbent president than his challenger. And we are still, believe it or not, in the early stages of the election. Already the media has run with Kerry's criticism of Vietnam and his protests in his return. They have given the RNC line about how Kerry waffles and flip-flops while portraying Bush as a man who stands his ground. They have even let Tom Ridge and CNN's Kelli Arena hint that Al Qaeda would prefer a Kerry victory.

Whichever side loses, they will blame the media. Perhaps Mr. Barnes mantra should be think for yourself, do your own research, and start your own blog. Just like me.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Take it to the streets, brother!

So I read the opinion piece in the Boston Hearald, and I reacted much the same way. But I don't have the time before work to write about, so I'll let Pandagon take it on.


The left hand did what?

Also from the Houston Chronicle (I like the non subscription sites here), the Department of Homeland Security apparently had limited intelligence on this:
The Homeland Security Department was surprised by the announcement Wednesday by Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller that a terrorist attack was increasingly likely in coming months, officials said.

Officials said the Homeland Security Department knew in advance about the news conference but expected it to focus on seven suspects with ties to al-Qaida who were wanted for arrest or questioning. Department officials were caught off guard when Ashcroft went further and warned that al-Qaida "is ready to attack the United States."

I realize this is a serious matter. Right Mr. Ridge?
Earlier on Wednesday, Ridge spoke on morning television shows and appeared to downplay the threat that Ashcroft would later trumpet, officials said. He told ABC's Good Morning America that the threats are "not the most disturbing that I have personally seen during the past couple of years."

Is there some sort of breakdown here?
Lawmakers who oversee the Homeland Security Department said the events Wednesday appeared to undermine the effort to unify the federal government's response to terrorism threats.

"The reason that Congress created the Department of Homeland Security is that we need to merge the various parts of government responsible for pieces of the war on terrorism into one coordinated effort," said Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., chairman of the homeland security committee.

Cox said it was regrettable that Ridge did not appear with Ashcroft and Mueller "because their separate public appearances conveyed the impression that the broad and close interagency consultation we expect ... may not have taken place in this case."

May not have? Sounds like an understatement to me.

The War on... the Enviroment?

I'm a little tired after a twelve hour work day. So I'll make some of this quicker than I probably should. I knew this would be a problem when I started this thing, however, and I know I will come up with a better solution soon enough. For now...

The Houston Chronicle reports that in order to save money at military bases, orders were sent to "stop spending money on many environmental protection activities"
After reporters questioned the Pentagon on Thursday about the order, which was contained in an internal e-mail, Army officials said they had found the money necessary to keep environmental programs on track.

I think this guy puts it best:
"It was indicative of a mind-set that environmental protection, even in the United States, is a discretionary activity," said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the Washington-based watchdog group that provided the initial e-mail to reporters. "Protecting America's land, air and water is not a secondary mission that should be shirked when budgets get tight," Ruch said.

Lovers of clean air and water can't breath a full sigh of relief just yet:
The orders imposing and rescinding the cutback of environmental programs came as Congress is considering Pentagon requests that its operations receive exemptions from the Clean Air Act and two toxic-waste laws.

Since President Bush took office, Pentagon officials have repeatedly sought exemptions from environmental laws that they say have curtailed their ability to train personnel for the challenges of war. So far, Congress has granted the military exemptions from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.

I was all amped to make a joke about the army destroying the last of the American symbol the bald eagle, but a new study says the bald eagle may be removed from endangered species list by the end of the year. Guess I'll have to pick one of these animals instead.

Rep. John D. Dingell of Michigan reminds us of another shortfall to the plan:
The top Democrat on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, said the memo shows that the Bush administration is hiding the "full truth about the war's cost."


Thursday, May 27, 2004

The President's Birthday is a month away...

...and what better way to get that bill passed through Congress then a little swag!

Of course, it's not really Bush's list, but a little humor before another twelve hour day at work. My favorites include Adolescent Drug & Alcohol Abuse: How to Spot It, Stop It, and Get Help for Your Family and Choices and Consequences: What to Do When a Teenager Uses Alcohol/Drugs (for his girls) and Is Our Children Learning? : The Case Against George W. Bush a book "about my edjication inishatives"

And not to be left out, Dick Cheney need the romance restored to his life.
(Thanks, Museum of Hoaxes)

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The changing of the guard (but we take the prisoners with us)

A new plan now has us turning over the Abu Ghraib prison over to the Iraqi security forces by sometime in August. Note that doesn't mean we lose control of the prisoners. Its amazing how fast we want to disassociate ourselves from this thing:
The U.S. military plans to vacate Abu Ghraib prison by August, handing over operation of the facility to Iraqi security forces and transferring the remaining detainees 300 miles to the southeast, prison authorities said Wednesday.

In an interview at the prison, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, deputy commander of U.S. military detainee operations in Iraq, said the military had already relinquished the cell blocks at Abu Ghraib, where American soldiers were photographed abusing Iraqi prisoners late last year. The last of the security detainees -- civilians accused of attacks on U.S. forces -- being held by the U.S. military were moved last week from the cell blocks to tent camps on the grounds of the 280-acre Abu Ghraib compound, 20 miles west of Baghdad.

The plans outlined by Miller made clear that the United States will maintain a large detention facility in Iraq after June 30 to deal with what it deems to be security threats. It was not clear, however, what authority the U.S. military will have to detain and operate a facility in Iraq when it is no longer the occupying power in the country.

Miller said 980 prisoners will be released from Abu Ghraib in the next two weeks as military officials attempt to reduce the prison population to 1,500 by June 30, when occupation authorities are to turn over limited authority to an interim Iraqi government. More than 1,700 prisoners have been released in the last 30 days.

Now wait, I'm confused. If these are people who are guilty of attacks on U.S. forces, then why we would release 980 more of them? And this on top of the 1,700 we have already freed? Especially odd in light of this statement:
"We don't put them in Abu Ghraib to detain them for a period of time or to detain them until proven innocent," Kimmit said. "They are deemed to be a security threat by a judge through multiple sources. It's that simple. If they were innocent, they wouldn't be at Abu Ghraib."

Well at least before they released these guys, they gave up good information once we covered them in feces and posed them as sexual action figures, right?

Apparently not:
The questioning of hundreds of Iraqi prisoners last fall in the newly established interrogation center at Abu Ghraib prison yielded very little valuable intelligence, according to civilian and military officials.

The interrogation center was set up in September to obtain better information about an insurgency in Iraq that was killing American soldiers almost every day by last fall. The insurgency was better organized and more vigorous than the United States had expected, prompting concern among generals and Pentagon officials who were unhappy with the flow of intelligence to combat units and to higher headquarters.

But civilian and military intelligence officials, as well as top commanders with access to intelligence reports, now say they learned little about the insurgency from questioning inmates at the prison. Most of the prisoners held in the special cellblock that became the setting for the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib apparently were not linked to the insurgency, they said.

All of the prisoners sent to Abu Ghraib had already been questioned by the troops who captured them for urgent information about roadside bombs, imminent attacks and the like.

The officials could not say whether the harsh interrogation methods used at Abu Ghraib were counterproductive. But they said few if any prisoners there had been able to shed light on questions to which Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top American commander for the Middle East, and his deputies had assigned highest priority, including the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein and the nature of the insurgency's leadership.

"Most of our useful intelligence came from battlefield interrogations, and at the battalion, brigade and division-level interrogation facilities," said a senior military intelligence officer who served in Iraq. Once prisoners were sent on to Abu Ghraib, the officer said, "we got very little feedback."

I wonder how disappointed that will make Rummy when it hits his desk? Back to the drawing board, I guess.

If anyone wanders over here...

...then you should prolly go here, too. What is it, you ask? Petition. What for, you ask? This.
We must act now to ensure that our voting systems produce accurate and verifiable results. Some states are planning to use machines that will not allow voters to verify their choices. This means that any flaws in the machine or software will never be caught -- and no recount will be possible.

And the head of the largest e-voting machine company -- who is a major contributor to George Bush and has promised to deliver Ohio to him -- asks that we just trust him.

Today we call on Congress and the states to require any electronic voting machine used in this election to produce a paper trail -- one that allows voters to verify their choices and officials to conduct recounts.

So go. Sign the petition. Do it. Now.(Thanks for the link, Change For America)

The G.O.P Response to Gore

From No need to go there yourself. It's all here:
RNC Communications Director Jim Dyke issued the following statement today in response to a speech by former Vice President Al Gore attacking President Bush.

“Al Gore served as Vice President of this country for eight years. During that time, Osama Bin Laden declared war on the United States five times and terrorists killed US citizens on at least four different occasions including the first bombing of the World Trade Center, the attacks on Khobar Towers, our embassies in East Africa, and the USS Cole.”

“Al Gore’s attacks on the President today demonstrate that he either does not understand the threat of global terror, or he has amnesia.”

I think he understands it all to well. From the speech (see link below):
There was then, there is now and there would have been regardless of what Bush did, a threat of terrorism that we would have to deal with. But instead of making it better, he has made it infinitely worse. We are less safe because of his policies. He has created more anger and righteous indignation against us as Americans than any leader of our country in the 228 years of our existence as a nation -- because of his attitude of contempt for any person, institution or nation who disagrees with him.

He has exposed Americans abroad and Americans in every U.S. town and city to a greater danger of attack by terrorists because of his arrogance, willfulness, and bungling at stirring up hornet's nests that pose no threat whatsoever to us. And by then insulting the religion and culture and tradition of people in other countries. And by pursuing policies that have resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent men, women and children, all of it done in our name.

I guess its a start

Love you, Reuters:
Democratic White House challenger John Kerry accused President Bush on Wednesday of being more interested in election-year photo opportunities than providing funds to defend against another Sept. 11-type attack.

"We deserve a president of the United States who doesn't make homeland security a photo opportunity and the rhetoric of a campaign," Kerry told a rainy-day rally of a couple thousand people in the port of Seattle.

The only thing that confuses me is this would be John Kerrry using homeland security as a photo opporunity. But I guess anytime you speak, you fall prey to that attack. This is a little better:
"We deserve a president who makes America safer," Kerry declared, drawing sustained applause and cheers.

"We should not be opening firehouses in Baghdad and shutting them in the United States of America," Kerry said.

He complained that Bush, who has repeatedly cut taxes to the delight of fellow conservatives, had failed to provide states and localities the money they needed to do their job.

"We deserve a president who puts American taxpayer dollars where the need is, not just where the ideology wants it to go," Kerry said.

There IS some fight in this dog. Hopefully he can bear his teeth a little more often.

This guy seems to agree with me on some level

Ever wonder what would have happen if a more eloquent man had become president?(Thanks, Atrios)

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The intellegence of might

Mark Dayton puts a different spin on our troops stay in Iraq. From the Duluth News Tribune:

"Our decision is, do we get out of Iraq in months or do we want to stay in Iraq for years?" Dayton said. "Right now the Bush administration's intention appears to be geared for years... but what if our staying longer will make things worse, for the Iraqis and for us? The world doesn't think we are weak. They don't question our will. They are wondering if we are wise. Getting out of Iraq in months, instead of years, is wise," he said.

I think that we can begin to judge the Bush doctrine of preemption as a bit of a failure. We cannot put the invasion of Afghanistan in this mix. It was our retaliation against the WTC bombings. We had to destroy someone, and unfortunately for the people of Afgahnistan, we chose them to bear the brunt of our force. This continues even today. Granted we have helped build schools, and improve roadways, but there is still widespread violence as warlords battle each other for territory and control of the now abundent opium poppy trade. This violence even now threatens the elections that are scheduled to occur.

We hardly talk about Afghanistan anymore. We forget that around fifteen thousand of our troops are still there, trying to root out Taliban members, and ultimately Osama Bin Laden. Mark Schneider of the International Crisis Group, a research foundation, says security in Afghanistan "affects everything from elections to reconstruction. ... This is not a post-conflict situation; an unrelenting battle continues in Afghanistan."

Jon Stewart on The Daily Show often asks his politcal minded guest how indebted to freedom we would feel if France had removed Britain from the colocnies, set up our government, and remained on the soil as our policemen. I have a feeling in this modren world, we would resent them and wish for their swift exit as well. Perhaps what we should have done is gotten the people more involved in their own revolution. Encouraged their revolt and supported them along the way. Maybe if we had incited the excitement of freedom rather than doing all the work, the people of Afghanistan and especially Iraq would fell more connected to what we are trying to accomplish.

Instead, the longer we seem to remain in Iraq, the more irate they become. And the more opposition to the war slips here in America as well. Leaving now is not a matter of weakness. We demostrated by the actual war phases in Afghanistan and Iraqi how strong this country can be. We toppled two regimes in a matter of months, and we have been left with the unenviable task of putting two countries on their feet at once. With limited help from the world, and limited help from those we are there to aid. We can, by military force, impose our will upon anyone.

No one in the world views us as weakened nation. The open dialogue about prison abuse scandals and the eventually withdrawl of our troops do not make us weak, and deep down the American people know this. While we have put our worst foot forward, we continue to take action to make things better and account for those misteps. Through an open media, we kepp the pressure on those who would sweep this under the rug and forget about it.

The real issue that will soon face America in the world view (and I know the conservative view is to wonder why we care about the world) is how smart are we to stay in this country that doesn't want us there anymore? How wise are we to put our troops in the line of fire for people who are anxious to have us leave?

And even when we do leave the soil in Iraq, who here honestly thinks the insurgents won't take credit for it anyway? Are we seriously thinking that once our troops withdrawl, flowers and sunshine will be the rule of the day, and assassinations and car bombings will just cease to exist? These issues will not be resolved as we hand over power to any number of Iraqi led militias of presidents.

But now we are caught in a two front battle in the war on terror. One is the battle of premption, and with that the challenge to rebuild these nations that we in part brought down. Lest we forget, our funding of Osama and Sadaam when we needed them helped bring to them to the level of power they attained. Without us, there is no regimes to overthrow. No challenge to America and its way of life.

But due to our past actions, and now these reckless wars of President Bush, we are forced once again into a situation that in the past has met with a poor success rate.

The other is the battle right here on our soil, a battle that we seem to be gearing up for again this summer. I hope this is a peaceful summer. I, too sat in horror on September 11th. But September 12th was such a day of hope, of new horizons and new ideas. The world was with us, and with the world we could have more easily changed things for today. Now it seems the only difference is a color alert scheme and massive troop deployments. And God forbid they do succeed this summer, then how much furthur in the war on terror are we really?

Start the letter writing campaign now

Something tells me my world would be filled with a little less laughter if Al Franken ran for the Senate. But I guess I could make do.
By the end of next year, Franken said he expects to decide whether to move from New York City to his native Minnesota to take on Republican Sen. Norm Coleman in 2008. If he runs, he would seek to reclaim the seat of his hero and friend, the late Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone.

"When Paul said something, whether you agreed with it or not, you knew where he stood," Franken said. "And that's a great thing. I kinda like the idea of my running because I think I'm in a position to do that, and it might be for having have been a comedian. You know, I feel like I can say what I want to say."

Franken, interviewed outside a New York skyscraper that hosts his new liberal radio talk show, said his decision will depend partly on the fate of his new show and whether a stronger candidate emerges.

"But I don't see anyone necessarily in line," said Franken, adding that the odds are nearly even that he'll run. (To be precise, he said the odds are 48.5 percent to 48 percent, the same margin that separated Al Gore and George Bush in 2000.)

An Iraqi response to the President's speech

And more specifically, the intention to destroy the Abu Ghraib. My first thought was to wonder how it would help to destory one prison while building another. It's still a prison, right? Seems the Iraqis don't get it either:
Although some members of Iraq's governing council have called for the jail to be knocked down, interim Interior Minister Samir al-Sumaidy says instead he wanted it to be more open to inspection, after the publication of photographs revealed the abuse and humiliation of inmates by US guards.

"While I can understand the wish to abolish Abu Ghraib, to remove the memory and the stain on the reputation of those who perpetrated the criminal acts against its prisoners, I personally don't think a building itself has a meaning, positive or negative," Mr Sumaidy said.

"The building is not guilty. The building has nothing to do with the crimes. If it was turned into a museum or monument so people do not forget the crimes committed by Saddam Hussein, that would be a better idea."

And these messages I think, was directed toward Rush Limbaugh and Weekly Standard online editor Jonathan V. Last.
Mahmud Othman, a Kurd sitting on the US-installed governing council says he wanted the prison to be turned into a museum to the crimes that took place there under former president Saddam Hussein's regime and US guards.
Human rights activists also echoed concerns that demolishing the building ignored the wider picture.

"The most important thing is not to destroy Abu Ghraib, but to implement the Geneva Conventions, so what happened at Abu Ghraib does not happen at another prison," Hamza al-Kafi from the Iraqi Association of Human Rights said.

"I think announcing it will be demolished is a purely symbolic decision so people forget what happened as quickly as possible."

Alaa Mekki from the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni political group, says "it's not only about knocking down the walls. The maltreatment and illegal practices have to end".

Are we safer now then we were four years ago?

The whole premise of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is to make the world and especially the United States safe from terror. How are we doing so far? Not to well, it seems. From the Independent:
The US and British occupation of Iraq has accelerated recruitment to the ranks of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and made the world a less safe place, according to a leading London-based think-tank.

The assessment, by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), states that the occupation has become "a potent global recruitment pretext" for al-Qa'ida, which now has more than 18,000 militants ready to strike Western targets.

Now before any of you say, "That's great, but what's your solution," I must say it is not my job to come up with a solution. And this does not mean I think we should have avoided war altogether, either. That is an entirely different subject. It is simply a statement reported by the IISS. Do with it what you will.

Now this, on the other hand, I can say I would not have done.
Beginning with the decision of Paul Bremer, the US head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), to dissolve the Iraqi army - leaving a security vacuum - it criticises the occupation tactics of American troops who stayed in large fortified bases and only emerged in heavily armed patrols.

The report adds that later swoops, which led to mass arrests, and aggressive house searches "perversely inspired insurgent violence".

The report also highlights the shortcomings of US policy after the toppling of Saddam. It says: "The lawlessness and looting that greeted the liberation of Baghdad on 9 April 2003 was replaced by widespread criminality, violence and instability. A year later, US troops and newly constituted Iraqi forces faced an insurgency that had become a solid obstacle to rebuilding the country and moving it towards democracy and stability."

Unable to cope with the situation, the US is now acquiescing to the formation of new private militias similar to the one patrolling Fallujah, says the IISS.

Place the blame where you will.

The campaign trail

Well, after a resoundingly flat speech on Iraq, why not head to enemy territory to talk healthcare? That's just what President Bush did, choosing to visit a college in Youngstown rather than causing another factory or healthcare clinic to close.

How bad are things in Ohio? While the rest of the country has seen unemployment begin to fall, Ohio lost another 225,000 jobs in April, the rate up to 5.8 percent from 5.7 percent. Healthcare costs have risen close to 14%, with income growth somewhere around 3%. Of course, John Kerry would be willing to help with these figures, and a few more.(thank Kos for the link)

What did the president have to say? From the Houston Chronicle:
Making the 17th trip of his presidency to the state, Bush told a crowd of health care professionals that it is important to achieve his five-year goal of opening or expanding 1,200 health centers to serve more than 6 million people. The Youngstown Community Health Clinic treats mostly uninsured patients in this blue-collar city hit hard by job losses.

"This is part of the safety net, a wise expenditure of taxpayers' money," the president said. "We're trying to get up to serving 16 million people." The president said the health centers are cost-efficient alternatives to unnecessary visits to hospital emergency rooms.

With some experience in the health care field, I can say that poor uninsured people will still go to the ER for treatment. The 911 system are happy to give them a ride, and most people haven't realized that the ambulance service is mostly privatized. At least, that is, until they get their bill.

That aside, perhaps the reason for all these "unecessary visits" has been pegged. It is the veterans fault:
Kerry has hammered Bush on health care for military veterans in Ohio in recent days because the Veterans Affairs Department is planning to close a hospital in the state under a major restructuring that will close three hospitals, build two new ones, upgrade some facilities and build 156 community-based outpatient clinics across the country by 2012.

John Kerry's people respond furthur,(via Bloomberg):
``What he is doing with community health care centers, while marginally helpful, is not even close to covering the ever- deepening, broadening gap in health-care coverage,'' Representative Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from the Cleveland area, said on a conference call arranged by the Kerry campaign.

Bush's plans to change health care coverage might bring benefits to 2 million people, while Department of Health and Human Services statistics show 4 million more Americans lack insurance now than when Bush took over, said Chris Jennings, a former health policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, told reporters on the Kerry campaign call.

``We can do better, we must do better, and under a new administration, I believe we can,'' Jennings said.

And how has Kerry's message echoed in this area? Well, he's up in the polls. But the darned liberal media puts its ugly opinion into why. From Reuters:
In this Democratic bastion, voters have plenty of doubts and misgivings about John Kerry but agree wholeheartedly on what they like about him -- he's not President Bush.

Bush's Democratic challenger for the White House might be a blue-blood Ivy Leaguer who voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement, a hugely unpopular pact in the economically decimated Mahoning Valley, but most will forgive him if he reclaims the White House for Democrats.

"The enthusiasm may not be there for Kerry, but there is a great enthusiasm for getting rid of Bush, and that is going to send Kerry to the White House," said Jim Graham, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112 in nearby Lordstown.

If you are from Ohio and want to get involved, or want to stay informed by a Democractic delegate to the sate try Jerry Springer's blog. Yes, that Jerry Springer.

Reactions from the Press...

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
"Did this [speech] prepare the American people for the fact that Iraqis might make different choices, that Iraq could devolve into a civil war, that what we're doing there is much less popular in Iraq than the president implies, and did he look at the downside rather than the upside?" said Anthony Cordesman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "The answer is no."

How about former secretary of state Madeleine Albright:

“He laid out five points (on the future of Iraq) but they raised as many questions as he provided ideas about,” Albright told CNN.

Albright said Bush did little to assure the public that Iraqis would support the new government, or how to improve security, rebuild the country, bring in additional foreign troops, or hold elections.

“There are many, many questions and I don’t think there was anything particularly new.

“It was a little bit more organized than the ideas that we’ve heard before.”

Andrew Sullivan gives it a B+, in general likes the message, but unimpressed with the messenger:
He seemed exhausted, which is hardly surprising. But he also seemed defensive. He doesn't want to concede errors, because, in this polarized climate, the opposition will seize on them for their own narrow purposes. But he should trust the public and dwell more on the inevitable setbacks and failures of warfare. He should not be afraid to tell us when we have suffered losses. He should not be wary of conceding that he and everyone else under-estimated the strength and tenacity of the insurgency. He still seems brittle to me in his accounts of what has transpired. It makes optimism less credible and hope more elusive.

John Podhoretz of the New York Post seems to disagree:
The president sounded stalwart and engaged, aware of all the moving parts and gear-shifts that will be necessary in the coming months.

The Washington Post gives us this take:
Bush did not provide the midcourse correction that even some Republicans had called for in the face of increasingly macabre violence in recent weeks -- from the assassination of the president of Iraq's Governing Council and controversy over dozens killed by U.S. warplanes at a purported wedding party to the grisly beheading of an American civilian.

Nor did Bush try to answer some of the looming questions that have triggered growing skepticism and anxiety at home and abroad about the final U.S. costs, the final length of stay for U.S. troops, or what the terms will be for a final U.S. exit from Iraq. After promising "concrete steps," the White House basically repackaged stalled U.S. policy as a five-step plan.

And finally from the New York Times op/ed page:
If President Bush had been talking a year ago, after the fall of Baghdad, his speech at the Army War College last night might have sounded like a plan for moving forward. He was able to point to a new United Nations resolution being developed in consultation with American allies, not imposed in defiance of them, and to a timetable for moving Iraq toward elected self-government. He talked in general terms of expanding international involvement and stabilizing Iraq. But Mr. Bush was not starting fresh. He spoke after nearly 14 months of policy failures, none of them acknowledged by the president, which have left Iraq increasingly violent and drained Washington's credibility with the Iraqi people and the international community. They have been waiting for Mr. Bush to make a clean break with those policies. He did not do that last night. The speech reflected the fact that Mr. Bush has been backtracking lately, but he did not come close to charting the new course he needs to take. His "five steps" toward Iraqi independence were merely a recitation of the tasks ahead.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Maybe he can address this tonight, too?

The speech. Four hours to the speech. Maybe I'm too excited about the whole thing. After months of soundbites and campaign stumps, I really want to hear prepared remarks by this guy directed to me. And Iraq.
A recent opinion poll showed only seven percent of Iraqis still view U.S. troops as liberators. More than 40 percent said they would feel safer if U.S. forces left now.

"They will give us a president like Yasser Arafat, a president in name but with no power," said Hussein Ibrahim, 22, a Baghdad university student.

"After a year's experience, people know where power lies," said Iraq analyst Mustafa Alani. "If the new 'sovereign' entity does not have the authority to protect its citizens from U.S. arrest, it will have no credibility in the eyes of Iraqis."

And while they get a both a president and a prime minister, the troops stay. Indefinitely.
But the draft U.N. Security Council resolution, which asks for backing of a U.S.-led multinational force, has no date for the withdrawal of foreign troops. It is also silent on the future of U.S. prisons, Iraqi control over its own forces and a transitional constitution adopted in March.

So imagine we win the Revolutionary War, and the French decide they are going to keep their forces on our soil until they think we are ready to go it alone. Not only that, but they have permission to "take all measures" if things get out of control. How happy would we have been?

Someone help me understand.

Look, I don't want to call anyone names here. There are just somethings that seem not to make sense. From Reuters:
President Bush will seek to convince skeptical Americans that he has a plan to bring stability to Iraq in a prime-time speech on Monday night as he tries to reverse the damaging fallout over Iraqi prisoner abuses.

Bush was not expected to announce any major change in course during his speech, nor give a firm date for a U.S. troop withdrawal.

Right, the whole stay the course thing. Maybe I'll just play a record of the last few press appearances. Obviously, I'm a skeptic, but if the rest of the country agrees with it, then it will help boost their resolve.
Sixty-one percent of Americans now disapprove of the way Bush is handling the situation in Iraq, while just 34 percent approve, according to the (latest CBS) poll.

Oh. So six out of ten people don't like the way things are being handle, so to get their support you tell them it's going to be business as usual? I'm not sure thats going to go over well. Of course, since the only places showing the speech are the cable news networks, the average American will be probably be talking about who ate what on Fear Factor rather than any of this.

Still, I must give props to the President for even trying such a thing. And if he is going to succeed in Iraq and in November, he has to do something to ease both our fears and theirs.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Even "The Swan" is more important then the President

As some people know by now (but no one at dinner last night did), the President speaks Monday night to convince us that all that's going on in Iraqi will eventually turn out to be good for America.
"The president looks forward on Monday evening to discussing with the American people and with a global audience a clear strategy on how we need to move forward," Duffy said.

Well, Fear Factor and Swan fans can breath a sigh of relief, as the four major networks give this one a pass. I guess the real suprise in all of this from a conservative viewpoint is that even Fox said no to the thing, leaving it up instead to their affiliates. I'm not sure this will silence the "liberal media bias" folk, though. I guess we'll have to see.

For those interested in hearing the speech, tentivately entitled "Iraqi is not more important than sweeps week," MSNBC, FOXNews, and I'm sure CNN will be showing it in its entirety.

Dubba trouble for Kerry?

One is apolotical. The other opposes one of the cornerstones of her father's reelection campaign:
Asked once whether she was a Republican, Barbara is said to have made a face, rolled her eyes and replied: "I really wouldn't label myself that." On a visit to Paris, Jenna let slip that she was against the bombing of Afghanistan.

So why not get them to take time out of their busy drinking schedule and get them to campaign for ole pops! I love the headline, too. Wacky Australians.
Ann Gerhart, author of The Perfect Wife, a new biography of Mrs Bush, said Republicans would be keen to have the twins on board. "The Sex and the City vote is really unrepresented," she said. "Single young women are the least likely group to vote for their father. They'd really like to have a pair of attractive hip twins to speak up for him."

Guess the Olsen twins were unavailable.

And I wonder which one will pose in the see through dress...