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

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Frist National Savings and Loan

Bill Frist will be leading the fight for Bush in the Senate to privatetize Social Scurity. You know, for private investing and such:
After big losses in the stock market, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's campaign committee is short of money to cover a bank loan that was due in August, records show.

The committee's most recent filing shows a little more than $10,000 was paid on the $360,000 loan from U.S. Bank.

Records show Frist's committee had losses in the stock market totaling more than $524,000 since November 2000. After paying other expenses, the committee had $312,807 in its accounts as of Sept. 30, according to records reviewed by the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Still sound like a good idea, Senator?

Tolerance is "too controversial"

CBS and NBC have rejected an ad that tells the world the United Church of Christ, much like Jesus, will not turn anyone away.

CBS apparently is still afraid of the Bush administration.

Oddly enough, for all the controversy, it's been accepted by ABC Family and the Hallmark channel.

You should go see the commercial that some networks don't want you to see for yourself.

Farewell from the Ridge

It's so hard to say goodbye:
Ridge is the first secretary of the department, which was created in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It folded 22 agencies with 180,000 employees into one organization, charged with developing and coordinating a national strategy to protect against terrorist threats or attacks in the United States.

Perhaps his highest-profile move was to oversee the creation of the color-coded threat-warning system. During his time as adviser and secretary, the national threat level was raised from yellow (elevated) to orange (high) and back six times. It is currently at yellow.

Ridge has won praise for tackling what was widely regarded as an exceedingly difficult job. But many outside observers say the department is falling short of delivering what it should and could.

Some outside analysts also felt that Ridge lost a number of important battles and said they were hoping his replacement would be able to get more money and therefore more clout for the department.

He won praise for taking on a tough job, and little else. Shouldn't be too hard for his replacement to meet such a high bar.

Things aren't looking up

Two things were supposed to help speed our troops withdrawal from Iraq. One was the money that would come from the oil fields that would help speed rebuilding and win the people to our side. The other was the training of Iraqis to take over security in the country. So how are we doing?

First, the oil:
Between August and October, Iraq lost $7 billion dollars in potential revenues due to sabotage against the country's oil infrastructure, according to Assem Jihad, spokesman of the Oil Ministry.

An estimated 20 oil wells and pipelines were bombed or set ablaze this month in northern Iraq alone, according to an official of the Northern Company. Iraq has oilfields in the north around Kirkuk and in the south near Basra.

Iraq's security crisis and its long, porous land borders left the country's petroleum industry with no effective protection against saboteurs - either Saddam loyalists or tribesmen competing for jobs with the British security firm Erinys International, which has a contract to secure oil wells and pipelines.

Did that say "security crisis?" What about all the troops we had trained, the ones Bush bragged about during the debates? How are the Iraqi security forces doing?
Iraqi police and national guard forces, whose performance is crucial to securing January elections, are foundering in the face of coordinated efforts to kill and intimidate them and their families, say American officials in the provinces facing the most violent insurgency.

For months, Iraqi recruits for both forces have been the victims of assassinations and car bombs aimed at lines of applicants as well as police stations. On Monday morning, a suicide bomber rammed a car into a group of police officers waiting to collect their salaries west of Ramadi, killing 12 people, Interior Ministry officials said.

While Bush administration officials say that the training is progressing and that there have been instances in which the Iraqis have proved tactically useful and fought bravely, local American commanders and security officials say both Iraqi forces are riddled with problems.

In the most violent provinces, they say, the Iraqis are so intimidated that many are reluctant to show up and do not tell their families where they work; they have yet to receive adequate training or weapons, present a danger to American troops they fight alongside, and are unreliable because of corruption, desertion or infiltration.

Given the weak performance of Iraqi forces, any major withdrawal of American troops for at least a decade would invite chaos, a senior Interior Ministry official, whose name could not be used, said in an interview last week.

So in spite of best hope that the Iraqi elections will bring a sudden halt to the violence, we are looking at another ten years with forces in Iraq.

At least we aren't bogged down or anything.

How do we sell the Middle East?

One of the worst things that the President did in response to 9/11 was to convince Americans that the reason we got attacked was because Al Qaeda and the like hated our freedom. Not only did it cut off any sort of soul searching necessary for America to do, but it kept the public satiated and unwilling to learn more.

I'm not trying to scapegoat America here by any means. We did not fly our own planes into our own buildings. But I think that by examining our Middle Eastern policies we may be able to learn more about how to prevent another attack in the future. I'm not saying we roll over to their every demand. But learning more about our policies not only allows us to alter any that may be out of date, but also learn to repackage and sell them better to those that fight against us.

All of this leads me to a report that came out the day before Thanksgiving, a report the White House choose to bury under turkey and holiday shopping:
Late on the Wednesday afternoon before the Thanksgiving holiday, the US Defense Department released a report by the Defense Science Board that is highly critical of the administration's efforts in the war on terror and in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

'Muslims do not hate our freedom, but rather they hate our policies [the report says]. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing, support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states. Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.'

There is plenty more both in the article and in the report as well. Keep in mind this a part of our own government suggesting that we examine our past and use it to determine our course for the future, something that Bush seems less and less likely to do as the war continues.

Violence begats violence, and November is right up there with the bloodiest months of the occupation. The Republican party managed to sell their message to the American people this cycle better than anyone else. Imagine if they used that message machine to change the image of America in the Middle East.

Better yet, read this from Tom Friedman:
Wars are fought for political ends. Soldiers can only do so much. And the last mile in every war is about claiming the political fruits. The bad guys in Iraq can lose every mile on every road, but if they beat America on the last mile - because they are able to intimidate better than America is able to coordinate, protect, inform, invest and motivate - they will win and America will lose.

Couldn't stop the fear

One of my friends has told me that I shouldn't get to upset when someone of the right says something wrong. But sometimes I just cannot help it. Take, for instance this statement by Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave, and the chair of the Republican caucus in the Virginia House of Delegates:
One thing I heard during the campaign was that Republicans were trying to use fear to motivate voters. I didn't hear that personally, but I suppose the argument has to do with the president saying that he supports traditional marriage, for example. But even that wasn't that big an issue, at least in terms of the Bush-Cheney campaign.

Didn't hear it personally, Steve? Let me refresh your memory:
"It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States," Cheney told about 350 supporters at a town-hall meeting in this Iowa city.

Note that Steve then makes a disconnect to traditional marriage as a fear tactic. Then he says even that wasn't a big issue. I seem to recall a certain President spending days fighting for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that bars gays from getting married. That would make it a big issue.

What scares me most is not that people like Steve make statements like this, but that they actually believe them. Steve didn't hear the fear tactic because he didn't think Cheney's statement was one of fear, but of truth, and that it wsn't out of line to suggest at all.

Those that voted for Bush really felt that their man, the man who ignored all warnings leading up to Sept. 11th, the man who has proclaimed repeatedly that it is a matter of when and not if we get struck again, the man who is willing to watch a reform bill to better protect America with bipartisan support languish because he doesn't want to goad GOP leadership in the House into an uncomfortable decision, their man was the only one who could stop another attack on America. And to proclaim as much makes perfect sense as well.

There's was a fanatical devotion to a man who, despite a failure during his tenure, was the man to keep them safe. That, ultimately, was what got Bush elected again. Fear of terror and incumbancy. None of this moral values crap. They sold their man as the savior to their fears, and didn't care how immoral they had to be to do it.

Sadly, 51% of Americans who voted didn't seem to care.

Wal-Mart workers try to unionize once again

I wish them the best of luck:
In a move that has been unsuccessful elsewhere in the United States, 17 workers at a Wal-Mart Tire & Lube Express have taken the first step to unionize at the world's largest retailer.

The National Labor Relations Board planned a hearing Thursday to consider the workers' request to be represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7.

"Wal-Mart workers don't have to be second-class citizens," said Ernest Duran Jr., president of the union, which also represents more than 17,000 grocery workers at King Soopers, Safeway and Albertsons stores.

US faces record casualties in Nov

This is a record that none of us wanted to see broken:
At least 135 U.S. troops died in November. That is the same number as last April, when the insurgence flared in Fallujah and elsewhere in the so-called Sunni Triangle where U.S. forces and their Iraqi allies lost a large measure of control.

On Nov. 8, U.S. forces launched an offensive to retake Fallujah, and they have engaged in tough fighting in other cities since then. More than 50 U.S. troops have been killed in Fallujah since then, although the Pentagon has not provided a casualty count for Fallujah for more than a week.

So with a week worth of casualties still to report, I think it is safe to say that November was the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Iraq.

And while on the subject of casualties in Iraq, I stumbled across a blog call Pub Sociology. It's owner had a piece in the Washington Post on Monday. Take note:
...improved body armor, field medical procedures and medevac capabilities are allowing wounded soldiers to survive injuries that would have killed them in earlier wars. In World War II there were 1.7 wounded for every fatality, and 2.6 in Vietnam; in Iraq the ratio of wounded to killed is 7.6. This means that if our wounded today had the same chances of survival as their fathers did in Vietnam, we would probably now have more than 3,500 deaths in the Iraq war.

Moreover, we fought those wars with much larger militaries than we currently field. The United States had 12 million active-duty personnel at the end of World War II and 3.5 million at the height of the Vietnam War, compared with just 1.4 million today. Adjusted for the size of the armed forces, the average daily number of killed and wounded was 4.8 times as many in World War II than in Iraq, but it was only 0.25 times greater in Vietnam -- or one-fourth more.

These figures suggest that our forces in Iraq face a far more serious threat than the public, the media and the political establishment typically acknowledge or understand. Man for man, a soldier or Marine in Iraq faces a mission nearly as difficult as that in Vietnam a generation earlier. This is in spite of the fact that his contemporary enemies do not field heavy armored vehicles or aircraft and do not enjoy the support and patronage of a superpower such as the Soviet Union. Our better-prepared troops are taking casualties at a real rate not tremendously lower than their predecessors in World War II, a bloodier, costlier, longer war that was fought on three continents and across three oceans and one that relied heavily on face-to-face combat rather than precision-guided munitions.

The focus on how "light" casualties have been so far rather than on what those casualties signify serves to rationalize the continued conduct of the war and prevents us as a nation from confronting the realities of conditions in Iraq. Even more troubling, daily casualties have almost tripled since before the first attack on Fallujah in April. Conditions are getting worse, not improving. To be sure, American forces are winning the body count. That the insurgency is nonetheless growing more effective in the face of heavier losses makes it difficult to imagine an exit strategy that any reasonable person would recognize as a "victory."

Saving scouts

In the Washington Times article about how destructive the ACLU is to the boy scouts is tucked this nugget:
About 400 of the Boy Scouts' 121,000 units had some affiliation with the military, so the organization is cooperating with the Defense Department to ensure all units come into compliance, Boy Scouts of America spokesman Bob Bork said.

He said that as a practical matter, the changes merely involve paperwork to ensure any military personnel involved with Boy Scout troops do so outside their official capacity.

So the destruction of the Boy Scouts will be caused by forcing military personnel to "clock out" before they deal with the troops, and this will affect less than 4% of the Boy Scout troops nationwide?

Thank goodness the GOP Congress will waste time working on correcting this issue.

Florida Democrats regroup

This sounds promising, anyway, and could be the first step to a clearer message:
"We're always on the defensive, and we've got to go on the offense," said Sen. Ron Klein, D-Delray Beach. "We have no choice now but to go on the attack."

In only a decade, Democrats have given up to Republicans control of the Governor's mansion, the Legislature, an overwhelming majority of the state's congressional seats, and all the state Cabinet posts.

Last month's elections didn't improve Democrats' standing. Republicans expanded their control of the state House by three seats, now outnumbering Democrats 84-36 in the House and 26-14 in the Senate.

``We Democrats have to get the public to identify with what we stand for, as soon as we figure out what that is," said Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat. "The problem now is that we are seen as a conglomerate of a little issue here and a little issue there."

Several legislators said Democrats should quickly develop a populist message that can be easily captured on a bumper sticker.

"Our message now is way outdated ... It speaks to some people but not to enough of them," said Sen. Rod Smith, a Gainesville Democrat.

There certainly needs to be a Democratic revolution in one of the key swing states that can put the next Democratic candidate up over the electoral vote threshold, and if we've hit rock bottom in Florida, then it is as good a place as any to start the turnaround. They need to get it done in a little less than two years as well, or else we may lose Graham's Senate seat down there.

My only question is if other states are having the same gatherings to figure out how to expand the Democratic message. If not, what are they waiting for?

Taxpayers to pay for Janklow's mistake

What happens when a U.S. Representative speeds through a stop sign and kills a man? We the taxpayers foot the bill:
Former U.S. Rep. Bill Janklow will not have to pay any money out of his own pocket for an accident that killed a Hardwick, Minn., man.

The lawyer representing Randy Scott's family said Tuesday that he will let stand a federal judge's ruling that Janklow was on duty Aug. 16, 2003, when he sped through a stop sign near Trent.

That means federal taxpayers, not Janklow, would pay any monetary awards from a wrongful death lawsuit because Janklow is covered by the Federal Tort Claims Act, which protects federal employees from negligence claims when they're on duty.

I'm glad to hear Janklow will not have to take any personal responsibility for his actions, and that he can instead force us to pay for his mistakes. It is, after all, the Republican way.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Tax dollar priorities

Did anyone know that we are building a highway across Antarctica?

Abuse? Never heard of it

New York Times:
The International Committee of the Red Cross has charged in confidential reports to the United States government that the American military has intentionally used psychological and sometimes physical coercion "tantamount to torture" on prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The finding that the handling of prisoners detained and interrogated at Guantánamo amounted to torture came after a visit by a Red Cross inspection team that spent most of last June in Guantánamo.

The team of humanitarian workers, which included experienced medical personnel, also asserted that some doctors and other medical workers at Guantánamo were participating in planning for interrogations, in what the report called "a flagrant violation of medical ethics."

Doctors and medical personnel conveyed information about prisoners' mental health and vulnerabilities to interrogators, the report said, sometimes directly, but usually through a group called the Behavioral Science Consultation Team, or B.S.C.T. The team, known informally as Biscuit, is composed of psychologists and psychological workers who advise the interrogators, the report said.

The United States government, which received the report in July, sharply rejected its charges, administration and military officials said.

That's it then. The Red Cross investigates and returns with its concerns, warning the Bush administration that human rights violations may be taking place, and the Bush administration dismisses it outright and calls the Red Cross liars.

How do you reason with a group like that? How do you prove anything to them? And how do you in turn convince his followers about the reality that they seem to have chosen to ignore? I wish I had some answers.

Intolerance is not a family value

I just read the transcripts of Meet the Press this weekend, which features this much talked about quote from Jerry Falwell:
MR. RUSSERT: On "Desperate Housewives," Newsweek says that the creator of "Desperate Housewives" is a conservative, gay Republican.

DR. FALWELL: Well, the fact that he's a gay Republican means he should join the Democratic Party.

From It Affects You:
Hear that, Ken Mehlman? Hear that, Matt Drudge? Hear that, every other gay Republican out there? Notice there's no flexibility here. No willingness to accept or even consider other views. No room for discussion, acceptance or understanding. If you're gay - or likely even someone who believes in gay rights - there is simply no room for you at this Republican table.

In fact, Falwell comes off as quite intolerant all around, at one point calling his fellow men of the cloth pro-Hitler:
REV. WALLIS: Jerry, there are millions and millions of Christians who want the nation to know that you don't speak for them...

REV. SHARPTON: That's right.

REV. WALLIS: ...that Jesus, our Jesus isn't pro-rich, pro-war and only pro-American. We don't find that Jesus anywhere in the Bible.

DR. FALWELL: I don't believe that either. But I was also against Adolf Hitler, and if you had been...

REV. WALLIS: Well, most of us were.

DR. FALWELL: If you had been the president in World War II, we'd all be speaking German now.

Later, Falwell refers to Al Sharpton as "anti-American" because he disagrees with his views on Ronald Reagan. Nice, huh?

It's people like the Rev Falwell who give religion a bad name, and in turn make some on the hard left less tolerant of religion. I know there are religious leaders out there who actual believe and teach a moral way of life and do not rely on name calling and hatred to shepard their flock. Sometimes it's hard to remember that in the face of Jerry Falwell.

I'm taking my ball and going home

What stands in the way of the 9/11 commission reforms? Pride: the last minute, two powerful House chairmen - James Sensenbrenner of Judiciary and Duncan Hunter of Armed Services - balked, the former insisting on drastic and unrelated measures against unlawful immigrants and the latter reflecting claims by the civilian Pentagon and the military that the new system would obscure battlefield intelligence, although specific language in the bill addressed just that.

Rather than risk the small partisan embarrassment of passing the reforms without a majority of Republican members, Hastert scrapped the whole thing.

The president says he was pushing hard for enactment, but was he? Bush has wobbled all around on the matter from the first, initially opposing the 9/11 commission, then seemingly indifferent to its recommendations, only later embracing them and then without obvious enthusiasm.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was for a spell in open opposition - the Pentagon controls 80 percent of intelligence spending and doesn't want to let go - and at the end did or did not work to undermine the compromise behind the scenes, depending upon just whose paranoia you choose to credit.

Bush's own support is doubted in some quarters as more for show than for keeps, and indeed Rumsfeld has said that the late opposition from the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff - a rare open dissent from the commander-in-chief's professed position - was expressed with the prior knowledge of the White House. Was Bush's endorsement done with a wink?

It gets better:
Defying President Bush, two influential Republican House chairmen - who led opposition dooming legislation based on the Sept. 11 commission's recommendations - said they won't change their minds without Senate concessions.

"It'll be tougher now because the well got even more poisoned by the senators and their supporters thoroughly criticizing Duncan Hunter and myself by name on the talking head shows yesterday," Rep. James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Monday.

So the reforms that a majority of members of the House and the 9/11 commission agree would help prevent another major terrorist attack are held up because the GOP is to proud to let a bill pass that doesn't involve a majority of Republicans. Further, the two men who are most responsible for the hold up are going to dig in even harder because someone told the American people that they were responsible for holding up reform to prevent another major terrorist attack. Who's living in a pre 9/11 world now, fellows?

And these guys are in charge for at least two more years?

Mandate says, "Uphold Roe v. Wade"

A majority of Americans say President Bush's next choice for an opening on the Supreme Court should be willing to uphold the landmark court decision protecting abortion rights, an Associated Press poll found.

The poll found that 59 percent say Bush should choose a nominee who would uphold the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. About three in 10, 31 percent, said they want a nominee who would overturn the decision, according to the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs.

Kool-Aid drinkers need not apply

The President, flush with economic success, has decided it is not his policies that need rethinking, but rather his economic team that needs retooling:
Republican officials said Bush's economic team has been weaker than his national security advisers, and that the president believes he needs aides who can relate better to Congress and the markets. A more skilled team is essential, the aides said, because of the complex and politically challenging agenda of overhauling Social Security to add private investment accounts and simplifying the tax code.

Surprisingly, Bush has decided that loyalists would actually do more damage to his attempts at economic reforms and has looked to outsiders for help.
Administration officials would not spell out all the reasons for the changes, but one clue came from the roiling frustration expressed by a senior Republican congressional aide who is eager to help Bush but has found his legislative operation clumsy over the past four years.

"They need people who have not been drinking the Kool-Aid and are going to come up here and say breathlessly, 'This is what the president wants to do, and isn't it great?' " the aide said. "They need someone like a former senator or former member or former governor who can come up here and say, 'This is going to be hard. There's going to be blood on the floor, but it's going to be worth it.' "

Good luck with that.

Zarqawi relocates to Mosul

So we went into Fallujah to destroy the base of the terrorists there. Who would have thought they'd move on to another city?
Iraq's most feared terror group claimed responsibility Sunday for slaughtering members of the Iraqi security forces in Mosul, where dozens of bodies have been found. The claim raises fears the terror group has expanded to the north after the loss of its purported base in Fallujah.

Meanwhile, insurgents attacked U.S. and Iraqi targets in Baghdad and in Sunni Arab areas.


Although the claims were not verifiable, they raised fears that Zarqawi's organization had spread to Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, 225 miles north of Baghdad. At least 43 suspected insurgents have been arrested as part of an ongoing operation to re-establish control of Mosul, a military statement said.

Zarqawi's group, formerly known as Monotheism and Holy War, was believed to have its headquarters in Fallujah, the Sunni Arab insurgent bastion 40 miles west of Baghdad, before U.S. and Iraqi forces overran the city this month

Gay marriage stands in Massachusetts

A victory for now:
The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to the only state that allows gay marriages, declining to hear an appeal aimed at overturning the Massachusetts law that prompted a national debate on the legality and morality of same-sex unions.

The decision ended the legal fight over a 4-3 Massachusetts high court ruling last November giving gay couples the right to marry. But both sides say the U.S. Supreme Court's unwillingness to intervene means there will be more fights in courts and legislatures around the country.

Look for this issue to find its way onto the ballot next year in Massachusetts.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Shameless fishing

As I pass the six month anniversary of the blog, I was wondering to myself if I had anyone who had found me and regularly came to visit.

So I thought I'd ask. Is there anyone that comes here that does so regularly, meaning once a day, week, month, etc.

Drop me a comment and let me know. Thanks.

Letters to the editor

I was thinking about tacking this on to either the post on Hostettler or Hastert, but I think it deserves a spot all its own.

I encourage people to write to the local papers in both of these guy's districts in order to make sure the public knows exactly how these guys feel. Hostettler doesn't believe in the power of the Constitution and the balance of power. He is hungry for control and would overthrow the court system if he could on order to further his agenda. Like it or not, all Americans may need court protection from overzealous lawmakers, be they Democrats or Republicans. Hostettler seems to think you shouldn't have it.

Hastert on the other hand feels that a majority in out democracy is not the way to govern anymore. He wants your voice not to matter unless he and all of his friends agree with it. He doesn't care how you feel about the government unless he feels that way, too. Imagine you are a voter in Hastert's district and you happen to disagree with him on an issue. He's in power folks. He doesn't care what you think anymore. There is no protection for the little people in Dennis Hastert's world. Bipartisanship is a prop for campaigns.

These are quick talking points off the top of my head. Feel free to add your own. But once they come, bring them on strong. Contact local representatives in your area. Notify local media, and send a copy of the letter to the papers and others in these guy's districts as well. Get people talking about these guys and their failure to uphold America values and American democracy.

Then, when election time comes, we can actually use these issues against them. People will need a simple phrase to remember the arrogance that these two man posses and the disregard they have for the public at large. "Hostettler wanted to dismantle the court system." "Hastert thinks you voice is less important than his." Even if they survive the controversy, they won't be as strong as they were before it.

For a guy like Hostettler who barely eeks out a victory, this sort of thing could be trouble. Hastert has more room to wiggle, but bringing him down would be a solid coup for Democrats in 2006. But the fight starts now.

Hostettler toward the court

In history classes twenty years from now, they will be discussing how our federal court system used to function:
"When the courts make unconstitutional decisions, we should not enforce them. Federal courts have no army or navy... The court can opine, decide, talk about, sing, whatever it wants to do. We're not saying they can't do that. At the end of the day, we're saying the court can't enforce its opinions."

-Republican Rep. John Hostettler of Indiana

It might be a good time to remind John that Congress has no army to enforce the laws that they pass either. If people get arrested or come into conflict with the law, and those "armyless" courts decide not to do anything about it, then you, John, are little more than a paper pusher in a big old building.

Hostettler has never seemed like a strong candidate in southwestern Indiana, winning reelection in his last three cycles but always garnering just over half the vote, often to opponents who aren't that well known. This year he managed 53% against a man who had just moved to the area and was a scout for the Boston Celtics prior. Bush's coattails probably helped drag Hostettler through again.

I'm sure the 8th district of Indiana would love to know that their man thinks that they have no legal recourse against the law. I wish I knew people who lived in the area still who could write some letters. I'm not sure how the papers there feel about e-mail from out of towners, but you can contact one of the bigger ones, the Evanville Courier and Press, by email, A couple hundred ought to get them on the case.

Dennis the menace

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Nov. 3rd, 2004:
I pledge to work with those Democrats who want to work with me to get good things done for the American people.

Washington Post Nov. 27, 2004:
In scuttling major intelligence legislation that he, the president and most lawmakers supported, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert last week enunciated a policy in which Congress will pass bills only if most House Republicans back them, regardless of how many Democrats favor them.

Hastert's position, which is drawing fire from Democrats and some outside groups, is the latest step in a decade-long process of limiting Democrats' influence and running the House virtually as a one-party institution. Republicans earlier barred House Democrats from helping to draft major bills such as the 2003 Medicare revision and this year's intelligence package. Hastert (R-Ill.) now says such bills will reach the House floor, after negotiations with the Senate, only if "the majority of the majority" supports them.

That didn't take long for him, did it? I have a feeling they would make this an actual House rule if they thought they could get away with it.

So the call for bipartisanship last 24 days. I'm impressed it made it that long.

There are 231 Republican representatives in the House, meaning that unless 116 of them agree on something, Hastert will not let a bill come to the floor (I assume that means that Kerry's health care plan will die quickly if it clears the Senate). That would mean if there was a bill that all Democrats agreed on, they would need 316 votes to get it to the floor for debate, almost 100 more than they would need to pass it were the Republicans and Hastert not drunk with power.

Republicans must think that they will never lose their majority in the House, and it is that kind of thinking that will eventually lead to their downfall. It's not about democracy anymore, folks. It's about imposing the Republican agenda on us all.

There's little hope at this point that Democrats are going to be able to change or influence the direction of this country for the next two years. Anything that goes wrong is now clearly the fault of the Republicans. And Democrats need to make sure that every one knows it.

We would hear non stop on news networks if the Democrats were in power and proposed something like this, and I hope the DNC is drinking honey tea to warm up their and begin shouting from the hills on Monday.

I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I miss the days of Newt.

Deep impact

Another consequence of the abortion provision tucked away in the government spending bill from the Tenneseean:
In Middle Tennessee, access to abortions is not expected to be affected because clinics that provide them believe in the procedure and are not expected to change their policies.

However, opponents and proponents of the clause say some women here and throughout the country could lose insurance coverage for the procedure.

The provision allows hospitals, doctors, clinics and insurance companies to refuse to provide or pay for abortions, abortion counseling and referrals without losing federal, state or local tax dollars. ''Conscience protection'' measures were already provided to Roman Catholic doctors.


[Mark Huffman, vice president of education and training for Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee] said the impact of the new law in this region could be felt if hospitals and insurance companies opt not to provide or cover abortions. That could prevent some doctors from performing them in the hospital, and preclude some women from obtaining them because their health plans won't cover it.

He said more doctors and pharmacists in the area could also refuse to provide emergency contraception, or high-dose hormone pills that prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of intercourse.

''The impact of this wide, sweeping clause will really depend on how health-care providers respond to it,'' Huffman said. ''But it could lead to a situation where a woman looking for accurate information on abortion will be forced to play Russian roulette, depending on which health provider she goes to.''

Looking out for grandma

Well put:
In reality, privatization's a giant canard that rests on three bogus presumptions: Individuals have some innate idea how to invest their own money; Wall Street has its clients' interests and not its partners' concerns at heart; and self-directed investing would somehow "fix" the Medicare and Social Security spending gaps because the market always rises faster than the costs of these programs.

The stock market and investment brokers simply don't care if your grandmother can afford her prescription medication. Instead, they will be concerned with payments on their new car and home while making a sizeable political contribution to those that helped him acquire his new financial windfall.

What I don't understand is why, if you buy the argument that the market is such a safe and solvent place for Americans to put their retirement money, why doesn't the government just agree to guarantee current payment schedules for those that opt for investment? Workers get a certain amount to invest in the markets. If they manage to earn more than the government does with its Social Security fund, that particular person would not get any Social Security money when payment time comes. Bush and co. would have nothing to lose because in their eyes everyone is going to earn more money toward their future than the government could.

If Bush really feels this is the answer, he should put the money where his mouth is. It's not like the government puts away all the money in a lock box or anything, and he has already spent us into billions of dollars of new debt with no remorse.

What's he got to lose?

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Elections, Allawi style

So let me see if I have the current Iraqi election scenario straight. 20 percent of the country, the Sunnis, have asked the government to delay the elections because of security concerns. This group lives in the "Sunni Triangle" area, the region of the country most embattled by the insurgency, and there is little sign of peace on the horizon:
...the [native Iraqi] police have performed poorly in the Sunni Muslim areas in central and northwestern Iraq, where much of the current violence is concentrated. As a dramatic case in point, the police force in Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, collapsed earlier this month. A wave of attacks on police stations and other government buildings prompted 3,200 of the city's 4,000 police officers to abandon their jobs.

Insurgents have waged a ferocious campaign of intimidation against the police. While attacks on U.S. and other foreign troops have increased 24 percent since the handover of power in late June, attacks on Iraqi security forces have risen 50 percent, according to the U.S. military command here.

60% of the population in Iraq is composed of the Shiites. Their region of the country is less war torn, and therefore there is less concern about violence disrupting January elections. Perhaps the most famous Shiite is the country's current leader, Illad Allawi. He stands to gain (and so do his people) from suppression or all out boycott of the Sunni vote. He is also backed by the U.S. government, which has been selling America the idea that free Iraqi elections are the first step toward American troop withdraw at a time when the American public is growing increasing weary of our stay there.

So guess what the current leader who represents a majority of the country and is backed by the U.S. military thinks about the Sunni's request to postpone the election:
...the spokesman for interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite, said the government was sticking by the Jan. 30 date after receiving assurances from the Iraqi Electoral Commission that an election could take place even in Sunni areas wracked by the insurgency.

"The Iraqi government is determined ... to hold elections on time," spokesman Thair al-Naqeeb said. "The Iraqi government, led by the prime minister, is calling on all spectra of the Iraqi people to participate in the elections and to contribute in the elections to build a strong democratic country."

Why would any one be surprised by that?

Friday, November 26, 2004

Minority qualifications

Let me see if I have this right. Liberals and Democrats are upset about the nomination of Gonzales and Rice because they are jealous they didn't think to nominate them first? This in turn makes Democrats so upset that they are actually going to take the time to question their credentials when they come up for confirmation? Those mean spirited Democrats, can't they see that Alberto and Condi are qualified because they are minorities?
Give President Bush credit for breaking barriers that his Democratic predecessor never got around to breaking.

Just don't try telling that to white liberals who are thrilled with the idea of minorities doing well - as long as they can claim credit. If they can't, or if the minorities happen to be conservative, things can get messy.

The American people are about to get a sense of just how messy now that Mr. Bush has nominated Alberto Gonzales to head the Justice Department and Condoleezza Rice to run the State Department.

It's going to "get messy" because one nominee arguably lied under oath to the 9/11 commission while the other argued that the Geneva conventions were "quaint" and "outdated" among other things.

Besides, isn't always the Republicans that say we should look at a person's qualifications and not the color of their skin? So isn't it a bit disingenuous to argue this way?

Look, if Bush had two minority nominees that didn't have all this baggage, there probably wouldn't be as much of a problem. And odds are they are going to be confirmed anyway. These two nominees, however, have shown some poor judgment when it comes to defending the law and the land of America. That is not a quality you reward with a promotion, no matter what race of ethnicity you happen to fall under.

Endagered act

Another campaign issue we heard alot about and therefore would expect to see quick, decisive action on is the gutting of the Endagered Species Act:
Emboldened by their increased majority, House and Senate Republicans said they are optimistic that they can enact major changes to the Endangered Species Act, a goal that has eluded the GOP for more than a decade.

"I see this as one of the best opportunities we've had to achieve some common-sense reform, especially with the new makeup in the Senate," said Brian Kennedy, a spokesman for House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, R-Calif. "But we're not kidding ourselves that it's going to be easy."

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, chairman of the subcommittee with oversight of the endangered-species law, have also said reform is a top priority for the 109th Congress.

With all the other problems facing the nation (health care, the economy, terrorism, the war...), Republicans think that this is a top priority. Thank goodness these guys are in charge.

The impact of video games on culture

Sales of violent video games have lead to increased violence in our culture, but sales of Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball have not lead to increased playing of xtreme beach volleyball. Why is this?

Selective history

Over at Powerline, they are friends with one of the lawyers from the Alliance Defense Fund in regards to the so called banning of the Constitution in California:
Liberals must get over their denial that the Founders of this country were devout Christians.

Except, of course, they weren't.

And no, this does not mean that that all references to religion should be removed from our schools. But religious preferences should. Escape from persecution was one of the reasons Europeans came to America. It should not be a reason for Americans to feel the need to flee public schools.

More Republican self destruction

I must say I am a little confused at the idea of crippling your fellow Republican's ability to bring in federal money for state projects simply because they wrote you a letter asking for more Amtrak funding. It would seem that the opposition could then paint you as an ineffective representative and cause you to lose the seat and a part of your majority, especially if he is from a blue state.

Of course, the election is still two years away, but I can't imagine it's going to help.

DemfromCT thinks it's a sign the GOP is already having problems holding on to their fraying majority.

Iraqi Update

Denmark Extends Iraq Mission by Six Months

November has been Second-Deadliest Month for US Troops in Iraq

Sunni Politicians Urge Iraq Election Delay
Leading Sunni Muslim politicians Thursday urged postponement of the Jan. 30 national elections, and a senior official said the government had agreed to meet outside the country with Saddam Hussein supporters to try to convince them to abandon the insurgency.


Sunni politician Adnan Pachachi, a former foreign minister and a member of the Iraqi National Council, said delaying the ballot by three months or more would enable political leaders to convince Sunni clerics and others to abandon their boycott call.

"I think that it will not be in the interest of anyone to let large segments of the Iraqi population be completely left out of the political process," Pachachi, leader of the Independent Democrats party, told The Associated Press.

Seven other Sunni parties also demanded a delay in the election, saying they want guarantees that they won't be marginalized in any new government expected to be dominated by rival Shiites.

Al-Qaida Aim: Renew Afghan Fight

Four Killed in Baghdad's Green Zone

New York Times celebrates anti-gay movement

It sickens me that the New York Times would print an article comparing one of the leaders of the anti-gay movement to revolutionary war hero Paul Revere. I'm not sure why you would link a man whose sole purpose in life seems to be denying rights to a group of citizens to another who rode in the face of danger in an effort to ensure the freedom of men from oppression.

It's that kind of attitude that leads to stupid things like this:
By the account of the civil liberties union, the student, Brad Mathewson, a 16-year-old junior, was sent to the principal's office at Webb City High School (Missouri) on Oct. 20 for wearing a T-shirt that he said came from the Gay-Straight Alliance at a school he previously attended, in Fayetteville, Ark. The shirt bore a pink triangle and the words "Make a Difference!"

Mr. Mathewson, the A.C.L.U. said, was told to turn the shirt inside out or go home and change.

When I was a kid, I had a t-shirt from St. Judes Medical Center. It, too told others to "Make a Difference!" however I was never asked to remove or change my shirt. I guess I lived in more tolerant times.

Anyone with contact info for the New York Times? I'll try and post it later when I get back.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Moral values revisited

Are you still one of those people who believe that moral values were the reason that Democrats lost the election? When will you learn?
"Moral values" voters were not the key to understanding President's Bush's election victory, according to an analysis by University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs.

Jacobs argues that changes in the partisan makeup of the electorate and the difficulty of defeating an incumbent president during an economic recovery were more critical than the moral-values factor.

Jacobs points out the huge splits between the candidates on moral values and terrorism (for Bush) and the economy and Iraq (for Kerry) make it dangerous to point to one of them as the deciding factor. He also points to Minnesota as an example of a place where more voters claimed moral values than in the nation ut still went Blue for John Kerry. Finally, he notes that the majority view on issues like abortion and gay marriage are in line with liberal ideals, hinting that instead that Democrats need to do a better job of sharing their views with the voters.

Jacobs also presents some good news for Dems:
Despite all the evidence of growing Republican strength, Jacobs found indicators of possible better days for Democrats:

• The Democratic base is unified. Kerry got the support of 89 percent of self-identified Democrats. The fear that candidates to his left, such as Ralph Nader, would bleed Kerry's support didn't materialize.

• Kerry won among moderates and independents. More voters (45 percent) described themselves as moderate than either conservative (34) or liberal (21). Kerry carried the majority of self-described moderates 54 to 45 percent . Among independents, Kerry won by just one percentage point nationally. But in the key swing states of Florida and Ohio, Kerry won the independent vote by margins of 16 and 19 percentage points.

• Kerry won a majority of late-deciding voters. The 11 percent of the electorate who said they made up their minds in the final week broke 52 to 46 percent for Kerry.

• The environment issue might be headed into Democrat-friendly territory. Support for Bush's Iraq policies dropped sharply. Concern over the cost and availability of health care is rising. Of those who said they were very concerned about health care, 58 percent voted for Kerry.

Jacobs full anaylsis can be read here, and I myself will read it when I get to a faster computer with a faster connection. Feel free to offer your own analysis as well.

Praying for guidance

You can draw your own conclusions from this one.

Secretary of Insignifigence

Parapharsing Bruce Walker in Men's News Daily:
Joe Lieberman should take any job Bush offers, no matter how insignificant not because he is qualified or will do the best job, but rather because it will make Bush look like a unifer while improving his chances of overcoming any sort of filibuster presented by Joe's party. It will in turn, help us win the war on terror.

Make sense to you?

Rich property owners thankful for Georgian Republicans

The GOP in Georgia is attempting to overthrow the progressive taxation on property with a regressive sales tax in order to pay for public schools:
The Keen-Richardson proposal could mean a huge financial break for property owners. An average of 55 percent of local property tax bills go to the schools. In 2003, the Revenue Department says property taxes collected statewide for school maintenance and bonds totaled $4.6 billion.

In Fulton County, eliminating the school tax would reduce the property taxes on a $200,000 house by about $1,500. A 3 percent increase in sales tax for a family making $100,000 a year would represent an average increase of about $1,500.

The state sales tax now is 4 percent, but local taxes vary. In Atlanta, the total is 8 percent.

State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta, said a 3 percent sales tax increase would be devastating for poor, the elderly and people living on fixed incomes.

Yes, I'm all for encouraging property ownership, but I'm not sure this is going to do it. Those who are saving money in an effort to purchase a home will now see their attempts to save further limited by higher taxes. Those already in a house who can afford it now will pay even less in taxes.

The example in the article compared a 200k household with a 100k earning family. No imagine the homestead is worth 500k, or 2 million dollars. Imagine how much they will save on the backs of those less fortunate.

One more quick thought. Those in the country generally own their own land and typically vote Republican, right? City folk who live in apartments will be the ones who see the biggest increase in their taxes (as they currently pay no property tax), and they tend to be more Democratic.

Iraqi bait and switch

How much do you want to bet that some bloggers, quoting from this article that insurgents had information on how to make anthrax will claim it proves once and for all that Saddam had WMDs, even though he hasn't been in power for a while now.

If anything, it would suggest that Allawi has an undisclosed WMD program in his country, and unless he declares an end to it, we should sanction him and then use military force to overthrow him. Right? Who's with me?

Anyway, I'm glad to see this stuff is no longer in the hands of the insurgents.

Happy Thanksgiving

Safe travels to those still on the road, and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Just don't eat too much:
Using brain scans after tracking weight gain in women over nearly a quarter century, researchers made a disturbing finding: As the body gets larger, the brain gets smaller.

The study and other reports appearing today in the journal Neurology are the latest in a growing amount of research suggesting that traditional heart disease risk factors such as obesity and diabetes can increase the odds that a person will develop dementia.

In one study, a Medical College of Wisconsin researcher and scientists in Sweden found that being overweight or obese throughout adulthood increased the risk of brain atrophy.

The researchers followed 290 Swedish women over a period of 24 years and did scans of their brains at the end of that period - when they were between the ages of 70 and 84.

Those who were overweight at various points throughout the study were significantly more likely to have a loss of brain tissue in the temporal lobe, a part of the brain involved in several cognitive functions, including language, comprehension and memory.

I've been waiting for a reason to use this story. I give thanks for the opportunity to do so.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Banning a lie

I've been sitting looking at this article about the so called "banning of the Declaration of Independence at a California school and wondering what the full story was. If it is true, then it is in horribly bad form. But I can't imagine that a school district, especially one in the Bay area would risk such a fight over something as silly as this.

And it is silly, or appears to be on the face of it. But this is exactly the kind of thing that the conservative Christians manage to overblow and turn to their advantage. Soon we will hear about the liberal judges who cause the Declaration to be banned, but not about Conservative judges who caused women to die because they denied them abortion rights. Their noise machine is just better.

I saw this story around midday, and it has taken this long for me to find the response to the surprisingly one sided article listed above. Here's a peak at the truth:
...the teacher was forcing his students to listen to and read "Christian Nation" propaganda. The school asked him to stop. The teacher is suing the school with the help of a right-wing "Christian Law" organization, the Alliance Defense Fund. (Also see this.)

The school did not "ban the Declaration of Independence" -- that is just a lie. This story is like when you hear that a man was "arrested for praying" and you find out he was kneeling in the middle of a busy intersection at rush hour and refused to move.

More at See the Forest, who also points to Digby, who supplies this for all of those "we are a Christian nation" idealists:
The 1796 treaty with Tripoli, negotiations begun under Washington and signed by Adams states:
[As] the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion

It just makes me sad that things have come to this. I have no problem with religion and it's practice, but I do have a problem when it become intrusive on other people's lives (especially children), and them is used as a wedge issue based on an outright lie (Which I always thought was a sin. What do us blue staters know, though?).

*UPDATE* More on the secular history of America, not that it matters. I say that because the lie has already been spread and the frame is already built. Liberals hate religion. The counter to this is not a factual based refutation, but rather that Conservatives hate religious freedom and tolerance. They want to tell you exactly what G-d means and how you should worship him. They want to tell you which church to attend and at what time. And if you don't follow their rules, then you are not a true Christian.

If there is one thing people hate, it's being told what to do by the government.

*UPDATE, TOO* Surprisingly (so far), some on the right look at the story with the samr wonder and doubt I did early on. For example, the guys from Power Line:
As a lawyer, however, I should note that most allegations asserted in pleadings are untrue. So news reports based on what someone has stated in a legal complaint should always be taken with a huge grain of salt. Still, the Trunk has been saying for a while that it is only a matter of time until the Constitution is held to be unconstitutional. The Declaration will presumably bite the dust first.

Just when you think you can characterize a group...
Granted, there are plenty of people out there ranting and raving without giving this story much thought, but I must extend a certain amount of respect to those that haven't jumped the gun. No matter how much they idolize Hugh Hewitt.

Iraqi roundup

'Wartime Needs' Extending Tours of Army Officers

Medics Testify to Fallujah's Horrors

U.S. Fails to Explain Policies to Muslim World, Panel Says
A harshly critical report by a Pentagon advisory panel says the United States is failing in its efforts to explain the nation's diplomatic and military actions to the Muslim world, but it warns that no public relations plan or information operation can defend America from flawed policies.

The Defense Science Board report, which has not been released to the public, says the nation's institutions charged with "strategic communication" are broken, and calls for a comprehensive reorganization of government public affairs, public diplomacy and information efforts.

"America's negative image in world opinion and diminished ability to persuade are consequences of factors other than the failure to implement communications strategies," says the 102-page report, completed in September. "Interests collide. Leadership counts. Policies matter. Mistakes dismay our friends and provide enemies with unintentional assistance. Strategic communication is not the problem, but it is a problem."

GOP owes their master

The top-giving corporate political action committees didn't hedge their bets in the fall elections despite the narrow division between the GOP and Democrats in Congress. They favored Republican candidates 10-to-1.

Of 268 corporate PACs that donated $100,000 or more to presidential and congressional candidates from January 2003 through the middle of last month, 245 gave the majority of their contributions to GOP hopefuls, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Political Money Line campaign finance tracking service.

MyDD has more.

The mess in Texas

Democracy in action, deep in the heart of Texas:
Two Republicans defeated Nov. 2 will submit paperwork today asking the GOP-majority Texas House to throw out official vote tallies and name them winners of their respective races or force new elections, advisers predicted Tuesday.

A third defeated candidate, Republican Rep. Ken Mercer of San Antonio, will decide by today whether to join the others in contesting his 498-vote loss to Democratic challenger David Leibowitz, his campaign manager said.

A recount already has been scheduled for next week for Rep. Talmadge Heflin, R-Houston, who fell by 32 votes to Houston businessman Hubert Vo.

Heflin, scheduled to hold a news conference today, has identified "hundreds" of instances in which ineligible voters cast ballots, but he will withdraw his contest from House consideration if he prevails over Vo in the recount, spokesman Craig Murphy said.

So in Texas, if you lose an election, you can ask the House of Representatives to name you the winner anyway and subvert the will of the people? And the men doing this think that is a perfectly good idea, to paint Republicans in Texas as sore losers who dislike Democracy?

I'm all for vote recounts. Justified investigations seem okay as well. But to ask a partisan legislature to decide the fate of an election seems like bad form. Burnt Orange has more:
It's true, you can't take the politics out of politics, but asking for election challenges is a sure fire way to make the 79th Texas Legislature just as polarized and miserable as the 78th. And even if they do win, they get... a new election. When George W. Bush is not on the ballot. In districts where they apparently already lost and which are (in sum) getting more Democratic (particularly District 149). Surely they just want to hand us a big issue to lash them with for two more years?

And remember, control of the House is not resting on these challenges. It's the difference between the Republicans having a lot of power in Austin and having... a lot of power in Austin. The law of diminishing marginal returns applies in politics.

Finally, if the Republicans want to indulge in silly, paranoid theories about election thievery, then why don't they just go ahead and challenge Ohio or Florida's electoral votes when the new Congress meets in January? We're cool with that. After all, if the election was corrupt in Alief, it could be corrupt anywhere!

Unemployment rate up in Ohio again

Four more years:
The unemployment rate is going up in Ohio. The new numbers are out and Ohio had more people out of work in October than any other state.

The number of people out of work went up from 354,000 in September to 373,000 in October. The news of more people being out of work has some shop employees worried.

I'm not an economic expert, but I would think fewer jobs would lead to fewer dollars in the state economy, which would led to less holiday spending, which would lead to less of a need for holiday workers, which would bring us to the begining of this sentence once again.

I seriously hope things can get better in the state of Ohio soon. Seriously.

Education is for the week weak

America's youth please take note; this is the reason you need to vote, because things they do in Washington really do affect you:
About 1.2 million college students receiving federal aid could be forced to cover a greater share of their tuition costs under new guidelines tucked into this year's omnibus spending bill, now awaiting President Bush's signature.

The proposed change came as Congress decided to freeze the maximum Pell Grant — the largest federal grant program in the nation — at $4,050 for the third consecutive year.

The new guidelines allow the Department of Education to revise the calculation for federal college aid in a way that would reduce the average allocation for the need-based grants by about $300 for about 1 million students, said Brian Fitzgerald, staff director for the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, which advises Congress.

In addition, he said, nearly 90,000 students now receiving Pell Grants would be cut off.

Although the change would have varying effects depending on a student's family income and size, it would probably have the greatest effect on families earning $30,000 to $40,000, Fitzgerald said.

I'm just glad all the money saved went to more sensible things:
Alaska Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens claimed credit for channeling money to the state's salmon industry, including the money to research use of salmon as a base for baby food. "The goal is to increase the market for salmon by encouraging the production of more 'value-added' salmon products," his office said.

Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican who serves on the Appropriations Committee, won dozens of special items for his state, enough to fill 20 news releases.

The targeted spending was so prolific that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had no problem filling a half-hour floor speech with examples before the Senate vote on the measure, such as a plan for $1 million for the Wild American Shrimp Initiative.

*UPDATE* Over at, they too are decrying massive pork barrel spending perhaps not realizing that it is their folk in charge there and their folk again who want to rush through spending bills before anyone has a chance to read them. One comment had this gem of an idea:
Cap spending. It's the problem. That's the answer
Well, clearly that's not the answer, because things such as student loans get cut in order to make room for the Wild American Shrimp Initiative. Maybe allowing the Congress time to find what's in the spending bills would be a helpful first step.

Maybe, though, this is one issue that can bring the left and right together. Both sides seem to have proponents that say spending is out of hand. Democrats should lead the fight against the out of control Republican Congress and cast liberals as the party of smaller government. They've been in control the last four years, and it's gotten us bigger deficits and larger spending. Clearly they are not the answer.

Reading is fundamental

If you are going to make something the law of the land, it would make sense that you give everyone involved time to read through it. Republicans, however, seem to balk at this idea, causing the Democrats to once again take a common sense stand:
Democrats said Tuesday they will block quick congressional withdrawal of a provision that would give more lawmakers access to income tax returns because majority Republicans won't first promise to stop rushing bills through Congress.

Members of both parties say they object to the tax provision, calling it an infringement of taxpayers' privacy. But it has been caught up in a larger fight over Congress' habit of passing massive bills with lightning speed, giving lawmakers little time to learn precisely what they are voting on.

"This extraordinary invasion of privacy did not have the majority support of either chamber," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in announcing her plans to block House passage today. "It was a 'Saturday night massacre' on Americans' privacy made possible only by the Republicans' willingness to abuse the rules of the people's House."

As of now, I can only think of one reason to try and sneak provisions through Congress, and that would be to attach clauses to bills that have no business being there and hope that no one finds them, or when they do it's too late to deal with them. That would hint that the majority party wants to do more of this kind of thing in the future, no?

I hope this is another positive sign that the Democrats aren't simply going to roll over and play dead again for the next couple of Congressional sessions. Maybe they've learned that abject passivity isn't going to win them elections, so it is time to stand up and fight. One can only hope.

Apparently ignoring AIDS will not make it go away.

God forbid the Bush admninstration teach anyone about condom use:
The annual AIDS update reported that an estimated 39.4 million people are now infected with the HIV virus, up from 36.6 million in 2002. More than 3 million people have died of the disease this year.

In sub-Saharan Africa, which has the highest infection rate in the world, the number of infected people appears to have stabilized at 25.4 million, or 7.4 percent of the population.


For biological reasons, women are more likely than men to contract HIV during sex. In many parts of the world, women are less educated and more vulnerable to being coerced into unprotected sex.


Female infections also are on the rise in the United States, disproportionately affecting blacks and Hispanics. These groups also have the poorest survival rates, probably because they seek treatment late or have inferior health care, Stanecki said.

No really, that's part of their arguement. God forbids it*.

*Please note that some of the language used in this link I do not agree with. I will present it however and leave you to draw your own conclusions based upon it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Diversity through unification

A week or two ago, we all fretted over the idea that Bush had ordered a massive purge of the CIA to create an agency that was more in line with his world view and goals. The effort, as noted by Josh Marshall, would create a more homogeneous group and rewarded those who got so much wrong leading up to the war in Iraq.

Imagine the spit take when I came across this little gem:
Bush ordered the CIA to bolster its ability to combat weapons of mass destruction through analysis that "routinely considers, and presents to national security policy-makers, diverse views."

So by creating a group that has a more unified mind, he expects them to come up with more diverse views.

I can hear the debates now.

CIA agent 1: Iran has 80 tons of enriched uranium.

CIA agent 2: I say 40.

Porter Goss: Let's compromise and call it 60. Thanks for the diverse views, folks.

Seriously, I support the President on this one. Diverse views are clearly important so all angles can be debated. I'm just not sure how it gets done by removing those with such diverse views.

Discounting accounting

What's the best way to hide the cost of turning social security into social insecurity? Ignore it:
President Bush isn't likely to include costs for overhauling Social Security in the 2006 budget he presents to Congress in February, which some supporters say could hurt the White House drive to pass bipartisan legislation next year.


Democrats opposing a Social Security overhaul and the White House's business allies have urged the White House to include costs in the new budget. Leaving it out, Democrats say, would mislead people by omitting the potential changes' effect on the budget.

Well, that would be the point, wouldn't it? Silly realist Democrats.

I admit it. I am out of touch with America

How important ws it to keep the newly passed restrictions on overtime in place? So important, the President threatened to use his first veto ever to stop them from being overturned.

Yes, the Senate wants free access to examine your tax records, but doesn't think people who previously earned OT protection should be able to keep it.

These are the people fighting for us. Nice choice, America.

I'm stocking up on animal crackers

Armaggedon is coming:
Stephen Roach, the chief economist at investment banking giant Morgan Stanley, has a public reputation for being bearish.

But you should hear what he's saying in private.

Roach met select groups of fund managers downtown last week, including a group at Fidelity.

His prediction: America has no better than a 10 percent chance of avoiding economic ``armageddon.''

Press were not allowed into the meetings. But the Herald has obtained a copy of Roach's presentation. A stunned source who was at one meeting said, ``it struck me how extreme he was - much more, it seemed to me, than in public.''

Roach sees a 30 percent chance of a slump soon and a 60 percent chance that ``we'll muddle through for a while and delay the eventual armageddon.''

The chance we'll get through OK: one in 10. Maybe.

In a nutshell, Roach's argument is that America's record trade deficit means the dollar will keep falling. To keep foreigners buying T-bills and prevent a resulting rise in inflation, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan will be forced to raise interest rates further and faster than he wants.

The result: U.S. consumers, who are in debt up to their eyeballs, will get pounded.

As if on cue:
The U.S. dollar slid to yet another new low Tuesday against the euro which edged close to $1.31 after a weekend meeting of the world's top finance officials failed to send any signal that governments were preparing action to stop the dollar's slide.

The European currency rose to a new peak of $1.3093 in afternoon trading, breaking the previous record of $1.3074, set Thursday.

The dollar also was lower against the Japanese yen, falling to 102.93 yen compared with 103.15 yen late Monday. It has been trading at four-and-a-half year lows against the yen.

Iraq update

In all fairness, yesterday's update was fairly bleak. Maybe I should post some good news, too.
Global Summit Unites on Iraq Poll:
An international conference on the future of Iraq ended today with the G8 nations and the Arab League uniting in support of the Iraqi elections scheduled for January 30.

Meanwhile, Iraq Falls Short on Vote Security:
Iraqi officials and American commanders plan to rely on Iraqi security forces to protect 9,000 polling places during the coming elections, but there are far fewer trained security officers than Iraqi officials estimate are needed. Moreover, many have performed poorly in the Sunni Arab areas where the worst violence is expected.

Iraqi and American officials believe it is important to deploy Iraqi forces, rather than have American troops police the polls, to ensure the credibility of the vote. But American commanders say that only 145,000 Iraqi security personnel will be trained and ready by election day, now scheduled for Jan. 30, far short of the 270,000 that Iraqi officials say are needed.

Jordan weighs in:
The Jordanian foreign minister, Hani Mulki, said: "What's sacred in the democratic process is the full participation of all segments of the population. If the date comes and it was suitable and a good day for elections, that's fine.

"But the dates are not sacred. The process is the only sacred thing."

Shortly after, US Starts New Offensive South of Baghdad

Countdown to elections: 69 days.


Rememember when Republicans swept to victory in 1994 and declared themselves our moral superiors? And remember how they were going to dismantle government programs like the NEA and the Department of Energy? Those were the days, weren't they?

Too bad it's all over now.

Slanted playing fields

Another reason it is important to win, especially for Democrats:
In races where the incumbent won by less than 60% or more (in other words, races where it wasn't a blowout), the challengers on average raised $894,000 less than the incumbent. This gap has widened considerably since 2002 and 2000 when the spread was $608,000 and $554,000, respectively. (Data provided by the Campaign Finance Institute)

Democratic challengers appear to be doing worse. In the same set of races, the incumbent Republican outspent the Democrat challenger by more than $1 million dollars in 2004. In contrast, Republican challengers were “only” outspent by Democratic incumbents by roughly $712,000. (The Democratic disadvantage was roughly $496,000 in 2002 and only $387,000 in 2000.)

I think some of the Republican advantage comes from the fact that they seem to be on TV all the time selling themselves and their ideas at large. They have created more national figures than the Democrats have been able to, especially in those that run for office. Obviously party leadership would have to do more to sheppard local and state figures into national prominence. I'm not sure what else would help.

Anyone with ideas on this one?


Charleston Gazette (WV) editorial:
HUNDREDS of miners and retirees who spent much of their lives working at Cannelton operations in eastern Kanawha County — some of them injured on the job — have been stripped of their employment, pensions and medical insurance, thanks to a successful ploy by coal moguls.

The West Virginia complex formerly was owned by the Addington Brothers of Kentucky, who grew wealthy from their 42 mines stretching from Appalachia to the Rocky Mountains. Altogether, 5,000 employees and retirees, plus many more dependents and survivors, relied on them.

In 2002, the Addingtons filed bankruptcy, then reorganized as Horizon Natural Resources, then filed bankruptcy again. In the second case, a federal bankruptcy judge ruled Aug. 31 that their union contracts are void — thus freeing the owners to sell their mines without passing along million-dollar pension and medical obligations.

When the decision was announced, according to United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts, coal company lawyers “began laughing and high-fiving each other, knowing full well that the ruling meant that thousands of Horizon retirees and active coal miners, many suffering from chronic, high-cost medical problems like black lung disease, soon would be without promised health-care benefits and job rights.


In the 2004 election, three of the Kentucky Addingtons gave maximum $1,000 gifts to many West Virginia Republican candidates such as Kanawha County’s Vic Sprouse, Ann Calvert, Rusty Webb and others. Massey President Don Blankenship — who pocketed $17.6 million by selling some of his Massey stock a couple of weeks ago — donated $3.5 million to defeat state Supreme Court Justice Warren McGraw, and also gave to other races.

Let's just let the lobbyists vote for President

I can only read the first few paragraphs of Romesh Ponnuru's latest at the National Review (because I don't want to give them any money), but it seems to be about how conservatives can actually become the true majority in the country.

Yes, it's true. Hard core conservatives are not in the majority, and Romesh wants to fix that. While I think this is a horrible idea, I can't really agrue his points because, again, I don't want to give conservatives any more of my money than I have to (taxes. What are you gonna do?). But his style is dazzling from the get go:
[Conservatives] are an extremely large minority, and one that the public prefers, slightly but decisively, to their rivals.

Yes, they won just barely, but that bare majority is conclusive about what they want, and that is why they should hi-jack the ship and steer it in a direction that, by Romesh's own admission, a majority of Americans do not want to go in just to prove they are capable stewards.

Here's another free gem:
Changing the balance of power among interest groups is important.

You see, it's not about putting the power back in the hands of the people if conservatives are to win out in the end, but rather to get it into the power of more conservative leading lobbying groups.

The public? Who cares! They have no power and influence in Washington, and conservatives, Romesh seems ready to argue, shouldn't give it to them.

I only wish I could read more of his wisdom for free. I'm certainly not going to pay for more of it. At least not financially.

She's no angel

Lynne Cheney tops National Christmas Tree:
Lynne Cheney and her three granddaughters rode 40 feet into the sky Tuesday to top the National Christmas Tree, kicking off the White House holiday season.

I bet those kids will get tired of hearing "Papa" Cheney stories. And how are they going to feed them up there?

Monday, November 22, 2004

Mandate? Not so much

A new New York Times/CBS News poll focuses on what America wants from Bush's so-called "mandate." Surprisingly, Americans want nothing that the President claims they do, which further begs the question, 'Why in the world did they vote for him?'
At a time when the White House has portrayed Mr. Bush's 3.5-million-vote victory as a mandate, the poll found that Americans are at best ambivalent about Mr. Bush's plans to reshape Social Security, rewrite the tax code, cut taxes and appoint conservative judges to the bench. There is continuing disapproval of Mr. Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, with a plurality now saying it was a mistake to invade in the first place.

One of Bush's big pushes is to make his tax cuts permanent, yet 67% of the people who gave him his "mandate" would rather Bush keep their money and use it to reduce the deficit. Only 26% of the country seems to back the idea of changing our current progressive tax system into a flat tax system, and 62% think those with more money should pay more taxes.

Privatization of Social Security is another big Bush idea, but less than half the country would like to see it occur. The President also continues to promote his gay marriage amendment, but 56% of his "mandate" say the issue is not important enough to warrant a change to the Constitution.

Less than half of America thinks Bush will competently handle the economic problems the country faces. 51% think that Bush will not be able to protect their social security benefits, and 66% think big corporations have too much influence on the President. And while 51% approve of the job Bush has done, 54% say that he is leading the country in the wrong direction. Only 44% approve of his foreign policy handling, 42% approve of his handling of the economy, and 40% approve of the way he is handling Iraq.

Not very stirring numbers, and most certainly not a mandate.

Then why did Kerry lose the election? His approval rating stands at an abysmal 40%. In a word, "ouch."

The more I've read about the morals hype and debate lately, the more I lean toward discounting it as a bunch of hooey. Why did Kerry lose the election? Because the Republicans out muscled the Democrats on the ground on election day while managing to catch the Democrats with their guard down coming out of the primary season. Republicans defined Kerry too quickly once he was the defacto nominee to allow Kerry the chance to define himself. The Swift Boaters hamstrung any chance Kerry had to pull away, and dirty tricks and Republican lies were the pillow that slowly smothered the Kerry campaign to death.

Do I think, then, that it is a waste of time to redefine the message of the Democrats? No. One of the reasons Republicans do well is they have created a "brand" of sorts, a framework that allows them to pop any candidate in the middle of and get an instant recognition of sorts of what he stands for. Do a majority of Oklahomans favor killing abortion doctors and think teen lesbianism is a big problem facing the nation? I doubt it. But Oklahomans do know what Coburn stands for as a Republican, and that is enough for most of their voters. Democrats have no such marketing power.

Things like Oliver Willis' Brand Democrat should help close this gap. Ideas like this should not only help get the Democratic message out, but also show the country that Democrats are proud of what they've accomplished and what they represent. I'm cautiously optimistic about the impact things like this may have come 2006 and 2008.

If taste and ability were enough to sell a product, you wouldn't see Coke and Comet advertised on TV all the time, would you?

[In fairness, I feel obligated to point out that the Dem/Rep/Ind numbers in the NY Times/CBS News poll skew slightly Democratic, and of those who voted this election, the split was 42 Bush/42 Kerry, with 5% declining to answer, 7% of the sample saying that they did not vote (which would heavily oversample actual voters, no?), and 3% of those polled unable to recall whom they voted for or failing to answer.]

*Welcome Change For America folk. Please take a minute to look around and tell this fledgling blogger what you think of things. Input makes us feel better. Thanks.

*UPDATE* Heh. Willis this morning:
Only then does the party's role become integral to the success. Once you've got a bedrock set of "what is a Democrat" ideas successfully out there, its time to throw in a candidate who can put the philosophy into reality. This is not just a presidential candidate. A political movement goes nowhere without a candidate, but a candidate is not a political movement. The idea is, if you can plug in an articulate person that is able to tell you that they are a Democrat, you're halfway to the endzone already. What their job is now is to tell you what their personal take is on being a Democrat, and pound the ball into the end zone. They are part of the greater narrative tale.

That's what I was trying to get at above last night. We need a narrative that helps define Democrats as strong, well thought leaders, a narrative that the Republicans have somehow managed to deny us. Carter was a weak foreign policy leader. Clinton is a sinner.

Like it or not, I bet those are the first things that come to mind for a lot of people when those names are mentioned. And that shouldn't be the case. Clinton especially managed great things while in office, but is remembered for his faults because of massive Republicans assaults that went parried, but not counterthrusted at best.

I think this is where you and I come in as Democrats. When we hear disparaging words about someone, we need to step up and defend them. Don't just call Clinton's impeachment a partisan witchhunt that was largely unfounded, but talk about the FMLA which allows parents to be with infirmed and dying children. Reagan's a great president? He ran up massive debt and illegally sold arms to "terrorist."

Since the leadership seems unable to do this on their own, it seems that it must start at a personal level. Talk to friends and family. Keep it clean and nonconfrontational. But frame the debate, for example, "I can't believe Republicans think it's okay for suspected felons to be in leadership rolls."

Perhaps I'm just not able to make my point clear enough, or perhaps I'm just spinning my wheels on a well traveled road. But if enough Democrats are despondent that the leadership doesn't seem to "get it," then it's time for us to take action ourselves.

Kerry fights on

But is anyone listening? Maybe if he came out in person rather than just issue a press release:
As part of this year's recently passed $388 billion spending package, the Republican majority eliminated all funding and increased fees for the largest source of small business loans in the country: the Small Business Administration's 7(a) loan program.

"Republican leaders in Congress have rubber-stamped a proposal by President Bush that makes it even harder for small businesses to borrow money in America. That is simply wrong," said Sen. John Kerry, Ranking Democrat on the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. "Once again, they're putting the costs of lending on the backs of small businesses -- the backbone of our economy and the very enterprises we're supposed to be helping."

John, I understand what you are doing, and it is important. But if you want to be a more vocal leader in the Senate, you need to be more vocal. You need to come out and speak to the cameras. Talk to the public. You still have the pull of the campaign behind you, albeit slightly diminished. But a press release and nothing else will help you fade into history as the guy who lost to George Bush in 2004.