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

Friday, December 31, 2004

Promises, promises

"If we don't get it done now, we may never get it done," said Steve Moore, president of the Club for Growth, an anti-tax group. Citing former leaders of the Democratic Party, Moore said, "There's no more blaming Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt and Bill Clinton."

Why do I not believe this?

Electoral intimidation

Iraq continues to remain a tough battle, one we claim to be winning while claiming the insurgents are weakening and becoming more desperate. While we may not be intimated by the violence in Iraq, it seems the Iraqi people are:
Three militant groups warned Iraqis against voting in Jan. 30 elections, saying Thursday that people participating in the "dirty farce" risked attack. All 700 employees of the electoral commission in Mosul reportedly resigned after being threatened.

The insurgents also seem to be having an effect on economic growth in the area:
Remove the output in the Kurdish areas of Iraq, where the insurgency has not disrupted production, and the national growth figures would be dramatically lower, maintains David Phillips, a senior fellow in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations.

"Petty" business, trading in goods and services, has been revived, says Mr. Phillips, who was a State Department adviser to its Future of Iraq project before resigning in protest because of the administration's Iraq policy. But because of the uncertainties in Iraq, he wonders if foreign investors will pour in money.

Phillips sees unemployment in Iraq at around 50 percent, up to 80 percent if under-employment is included.

Official numbers put unemployment at about 25 percent.

"We are in need of creating jobs," admits Hilal Aboud al-Bayati, economic adviser to interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. He says the government is giving Iraqi contractors several smaller projects for roads, sewage, and water supply that should create more jobs.

The speed of growth is crucial. Economic progress is "too slow" to reduce unemployment enough to have much impact on the insurgency problem, says Michael O'Hanlon, an economist at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Outside the oil sector, "not much is being produced."

So the claim is that once the Iraqi people vote, which some of them are to afraid to do, that the insurgency will start to end, even though the enviroment they create causes economic conditions that seem to favor the development of more insurgents.

Tell me again how voting is going to fix these problems?

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Bad to worse

As if the tsunami, the starvation, the loss of loved ones, the loss of everything weren't bad enough, now the survivors have to worry about crocodiles as well?

Help out with what you can. A few suggestions? Okay. The Red Cross is good, too. Oxfam. Or Doctors Without Borders.

More here.

A Question

I don't want to engage in the whole "America is stingy or not" debate. I only hope that in the end we as a country give as much as we can and as much as is needed.

That aside, I want to ask the following. If the deeper we go into debt, the weaker the dollar becomes (in theory) and the weaker are economy may turn as a result of that, is it possible that we are actually a little handcuffed by our own spending?

Can anyone of the hordes deflected over here by the Kerry Spot of Pandagon help me out here? Are there actual dangers in the dollar if we donate large sums of money to aid foreign countries? I'm not suggesting we not do all we can, it's just something that popped into my head.

I thank you in advance for your wisdom.

Insurance not investment

Angry Bear:
As mentioned already, the basic solvency of Social Security (or solvency conditional on minor adjustments) is established, so I'd like to instead address the basic merit of the program. My argument centers on the fact that Social Security is really insurance. In fact, the phrase "Social Security" is typically used as shorthand for "Social Security Retirement Insurance."

What's so special about insurance?

I don't to give it all away. Click over and read it all.

Sears deals on DeLay

Prosecutors have agreed to drop an illegal campaign contribution charge against Sears, Roebuck and Co. in exchange for the company's cooperation with a state investigation of contributions to a Republican political action committee.

A Travis County judge signed off Thursday on the agreement that calls for Sears to enact additional internal policies and to adopt a plan to strengthen its policy against making such illegal contributions in any state.

Sears was accused of making a $25,000 donation to Texans for a Republican Majority during the 2002 legislative campaign. The use of corporate money for political purposes is illegal in Texas.

Arkansas says gay foster parents okay

An Arkansas County Circut court judge has overturned a state ban that said gays cannot become foster parents and foster children cannot be placed in any home with a gay member under its roof.
The ACLU had argued the regulation violates the equal-protection rights of gays. But the judge’s ruling did not turn on that argument.

Instead, [Pulaski County Circuit Judge Timothy] Fox noted that the Arkansas Legislature gave the state Child Welfare Agency Review board the power to "promote the health, safety and welfare of children" but the ban does not accomplish that. Rather, he said, the regulation seeks to regulate "public morality" - something the board was not given the authority to do.

"The testimony and evidence overwhelmingly showed that there was no rational relationship between the ... blanket exclusion" of gays "and the health, safety and welfare of the foster children," Fox wrote.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

On the Spot

I never expected a post of mine to be linked to on the Kerry Spot. Had I known it was coming, I would have been a little less dismissive in my inital post and a little more well thought. It's a blogging mistake that I will try not to make again. I guess I now have the opportunity to make some amends.

Here's the catch-up. Jim Geraghty at the Kerry Spot took issue with Dean's dismissal of Bush's "mandate victory" of 51% (actually 50.73% at last check, but whatever). I then took issue with Geraghty's take, and now he has taken issue with my response. Allow me to continue the chain.

First let me start with what I think are the less important points to get them out of the way. They can be argued to death with little or no agreement from either side. They were mostly a steam release for me, and I would rather discuss the larger point below.

Geraghty got me on point three by finding a Time magazine cover with the banner "Mandate for Change." I would say the nature of that "mandate" claim was Clinton's defeat of 12 years of Reagan/Bush run America. Another argument for another time, perhaps.

Point four: Bush and Kerry both won more votes than anyone in history due to a number of factors, including population growth, general agreement on both sides that this was an important election in our lifetime, and weak third party showings. To claim a mandate as a result of most votes ever seems to dismiss the role of these factors. What I mean to say is without them, Bush may not win the most votes of any President ever, which renders this point moot.

Point five: Even I can admit I make a weak point here, and I am disheartened by the Democrats poor showing in national races. However, I've read recently that Democrats made great gains when it comes to state and local offices (but I can't find the link now). One can only hope they will pan out in future national races. but who knows what the future holds.

Now to the main point.

Historical arguments like the one Geraghty makes to refute claims one and two have little impact on me. In my opinion, there are too many variables that affect the outcome of national elections to make me think that comparisons like the one Jim (can I call you Jim?) makes are valid.

That said, my main point in my first objection (and essentially overall) was that Bush's campaign was more of a "I will save you from John Kerry and terror" campaign then one of big ideas that he thought he could win on. If you look at the exit poll numbers, you will see more than a third of the country found terror and Iraq as the most important issue. Also big were that ubiquitous moral values category, and the economy.

The big things that Bush is pushing now with his "mandate," however, are privatization of Social Security and tax reform, and they clearly were not driving factors of Bush's re-election. So for Bush to claim he has a mandate to do what he now proposes is based on fallacy.

In fact, when you look at the poll results shortly after the election, you see that a majority of Americans support none of the proposals that Bush has been pushing. None. Bush's approval ratings have fallen since the election in most polls and now hovers under 50%. And a WSJ/NBC News poll shows that more than half of American's agree with me when it comes to the issue of Social Security privatization: Bush has no mandate.

All of that said, I guess the argument should not be if Bush has a mandate, but what exactly he has a mandate for. There are clear numbers that show that his "mandate" is for nothing that he is actually proposing to this point. And that is why I take issue with this whole "mandate" argument in the first place. I would ask only that Bush and his suppoters stop claiming a mandate for things that Bush didn't really win on.

I must give Mr. Geraghty props, at least so far, for his consistency when he says it will be tough for him to deny a mandate to any Democrat who wins with 51% of the vote. Hopefully, however, I've shown it's not the size of your mandate, but what you ran on to get it that matters.

*UPDATE* Jesse Taylor at Pandagon comes to my defense as well. I went to bed last night with a few things to add, but he manged to cover them and a whole lot more. To summarize:
Alas, if Geraghty argues what he appears to be arguing, then the term "mandate" is synonymous with "president", making not only the argument but the description itself meaningless. Mandates simply don't matter - there's no argument over whether or not a sitting president has one, and history shows us there's no point to having one in the first place.


Changing ethics

Who do you think should be in charge of the House ethics committee, a man who is described as "fiercely independent" or a guy who wrote a check to the Tom DeLay defense fund?

Guess who Dennis Hastert and his fellow ethically charged Republicans want.

It's all about values, people.

The days get shorter

The deadly Asian earthquake may have permanently accelerated the Earth's rotation, shortening days by a fraction of a second and caused the planet to wobble on its axis, U.S. scientists said Tuesday.

Richard Gross, a geophysicist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, theorized that a shift of mass toward the Earth's center during the quake Sunday caused the planet to spin 3 microseconds, or one millionth of a second, faster and to tilt about an inch on its axis.

When one huge tectonic plate beneath the Indian Ocean was forced below the edge of another "it had the effect of making the Earth more compact and spinning faster," Gross said.

29 killed in Iraq

Every day, another sad story:
In the latest attack targeting Iraqi security forces, police in Baghdad say insurgents lured police to a house in the west of the capital and then set off hundreds of kilograms of explosives as they entered the home. Seven policemen and 22 civilians were killed in the blast, which shook the city late Tuesday.

Police at the Ghazaliyah station in west Baghdad say they received an anonymous phone call late Tuesday from a man who said he knew the location of a possible foreign fighter hideout.

A senior police officer at the station, who declined to be identified, tells VOA that he was suspicious of the call and tried to persuade his lieutenant not to raid the house until the police could collect more information.

The police officer says the lieutenant would not listen to him and left the station with nearly a dozen policemen. The officer says the men were immediately ambushed as they entered the house. He describes the raid as a huge, tragic mistake.

Iraqi woman stands outside houses destroyed in west Baghdad blast, Wednesday
The U.S. military says it believes more than 800 kilograms of explosives were used in the attack. The blast also leveled six neighboring homes, trapping residents underneath mounds of rubble.

"Moral values" voters upset with GOP

Apparently voting GOP won't get you into Heaven:
I am not satisfied with my options. I clearly can’t support the Democratic Party – it long ago abandoned its moral authority when it aligned itself with the culture of death. While the GOP may have a platform that claims to respect life, the party’s leaders are demonstrating that those are nothing but meaningless words to exploit our votes. Yet, I am not distressed, for I know where my citizenship is. And, I know Who will not disappoint me.

But I also know I shall be far more discerning in casting future votes. I know that compromise is the mother’s milk of politics. However, when compromise undermines biblical teachings, it isn’t noble or even clever; it’s sin.

Let the split begin.

It's a mighty big tent

But it's going to get a little smaller in Colorado:
El Paso County’s GOP chairman has asked 13 party officials to resign because they publicly supported a write-in candidate over Republican Douglas Bruce in the November election.

The officials, who include Colorado Springs City Councilmen Jerry Heimlicher and Tom Gallagher and well-known activists Jan Doran and Mary Ellen McNally, have until Dec. 30 to give up their posts voluntarily. If they do not, the party will begin hearings to consider removing them from party positions. Most hold precinct committee jobs.

This rare action comes after a fractious primary for the District 2 El Paso County Commission seat between Bruce and City Councilwoman Margaret Radford. After Bruce won, Republican Bob Null said he would run as a write-in candidate and received support from a number of officials.

Party by-laws state committee members and other officials can be removed for “public support for any candidate opposing the Republican nominee in a general election.” County GOP chairman Lee Gilbert said that because their names were listed in ads run by Null, it is clear they broke the rules.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Helping those in need

Every time I click on a news source, the death toll as a result of the massive earthquake seems to jump higher and higher. (52k at last click).

Here's a list of places accepting donations, provided by the SF Gate. I'm partial to the Red Cross, myself.

Iraqi update

Meanwhile, the war in Iraq continues. Insurgents killed fifteen and injured fifty in a failed assassination attempt. Attacks on Iraqi policemen continue as well, killing eighteen in separate incidents.

The head of the largest Sunni Faction has said enough is enough and has decided to withdraw from the upcoming elections:
Mohsin Abdul Hameed, the party's chairman and a member of the interim national assembly, said party officials decided they couldn't participate in a process that would leave out thousands of voters because of violence in predominantly Sunni cities.

"Election officials continue to refuse to listen to reason and postpone the elections," Abdul Hameed said. "They insist elections will be held on time even though the security situation of Iraq is going from bad to worse."

What's that I've been hearing about how the best picture is gathered by listening to those in Iraq?

Monday, December 27, 2004

I have a mandate for this post.

From the Kerry Spot, taking issue with Howard Dean's categorization that 51% is not a mandate:
Oh, where to begin? That no candidate has gotten that high a percentage since 1988?

K, great, but so what? I guess Bush should be proud of his ability to unite the nation against John Kerry on a scale not seen since 1988. But this point is akin to saying that Freddy v. Jason was the best Freddy movie in years because he hadn't appeared in a slasher flick since 1994. While technically it's true, both the movie and Bush's mandate arguments are both weak and full of crap.

That one who never came close to his party's nomination ought not to scoff? That the good doctor has yet to win a race, even a Democratic primary, outside Vermont?

Okay, if I guy who actually ran in a primary has no place to comment on a "mandate" because he never won, then where does Jim Geraghty get off claiming he knows more since, as far as I know, Geraghty has yet to even run for President in the first place?

That if 51 percent isn't a mandate, then no Democrat since Lyndon Johnson has had a mandate?

I'm not sure where there are arguments that any Democrat since Johnson has had a mandate at this point.

That Bush's 59.1 million votes was the highest total for a presidential candidate in American history? That Bush was the first president since Franklin Roosevelt in 1936 to win re-election while adding to his party's majorities in the House and Senate?

That more people voted against Bush that any other President in history? That due to some Constitutionally questionable shenanigans in Texas the Republicans won House seats?

Had Bush run on an actual agenda other than Kerry will get us all killed, you may take the time to argue that he has some sort of "mandate" for his agenda. Since he did not, can we please stop wasting time thinking he does? Thanks.

Oh, one more thing. If a Democrat wins the White House with 51% of the vote, does that mean Republicans and those at the National Review like Geraghty will fall in line with that Democratic President's view that he has a mandate? Just checking.

*UPDATE* Hey Kerry Spot readers. My response to the post that brought you here is up over here. Enjoy.

The truth about blogging

After taking the last few days off, I was worried it would be had to get back into the swing of things. Thanks, Glenn Reynolds, with providing the softball to swing at as he talks about Hugh Hewitt's new book:
Best quote: "Blogs are built on speed and trust, and the MSM is very slow and very distrusted."

First one has to wonder what kind of revenue share Glenn gets from Hugh, as there are at least four or five references to his book in the last two days. But this quote is particularly telling when you recall Hugh's hatchet job on John Kerry's stance on gay marriage, for example.

The whole speed and trust thing may be what blogs are built on according to Hugh, which shows what little value he and Glenn put in what is perhaps the most important factor of all: truth. As pointed out by Jon Stewart, however, facts and truth are often at odds with the right.

There are any number of stories that get credited as being true and never get corrected. Mr. Reynolds is one quick to cast stories into his own distorted view of the world, and, to his credit, sometimes posts retractions when the truth comes out. But of course, the damage is done: the meme he pushes forward spreads like wildfire, and the squirt gun he provides to douse it does nothing to stop the damage he creates (see the latest WMD found! story).

The point is, blogs aren't the "news" of the future, but they may well become the op-ed page of tomorrow. They may move at a faster pace then the news does, but they often have to wait for the news to report something before they discuss it.

Pandagon unknowingly (or do they?) answers one of Glenn's other points. I'll leave it to them to take care of it.

Sunday, December 26, 2004


What else can be said about the devestation in Asia?

Hopes and prayers to all affected.

Republican rewards

One of the best indicators of superior returns on U.S. stocks during President Bush's first term was contributions to Republican candidates.

The 50 companies that most favored Republicans with their political donations delivered an average 44 percent return on investment over the past four years, while the Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell 4.1 percent, assuming dividends were reinvested.

The companies, including railroad Union Pacific Corp., insurer Cigna Corp. and communications equipment maker Harris Corp., push an agenda that in many areas parallels Bush's: pared-down regulations, favorable tax codes and a curb on lawsuits. advertisement

"This is stunning proof of how the biggest political donors don't just buy access, they buy corporate profits," said Kevin Phillips, 64, a political adviser to former President Nixon and author of the 1969 book The Emerging Republican Majority, which predicted the party would come to dominate presidential politics. "It just gives other companies further incentives for comparable donations."

I guess that's one way to look at it. The other would be that Bush has these companies bottom lines in mind when he pushes policy, and not the people who elected him.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Arnold's gift to California's workers

The Schwarzenegger administration today released a sweeping set of regulations aimed at revising how doctors evaluate permanent injuries to workers and how much compensation they are paid.

The new regulations are a key element of the landmark reform of the state's compensation system approved by the Legislature last spring and aimed at cutting billions from the rates employers pay for insurance.

The new proposal calls for the use of guidelines developed by the American Medical Association for measuring permanent disabilities. The administration also wants to employ a new formula for translating the degree of injury into dollars paid in compensation.

Union officials and worker advocates said the new regulations will result in cutting benefits for workers. Critics also complain the public only has a few days to comment on the plan before they could be adopted.

"Gov. (Arnold) Schwarzenegger is making these cuts at a time when most people will not be paying attention," said Art Pulaski, executive secretary treasurer of the California Labor Federation. "Injured workers deserve better than a weekend attack like this. If the governor is going make drastic cuts in their payments, he should at least give them a chance to respond."

Friday, December 24, 2004

It's the Christmas rush, and I'm not sure when I'll be back, but it probably will be soon.

Enjoy the holidays.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

It's about time

Earlier I linked to an Instapundit post saying that Bush would take a lot of flak for trying to halve the deficit. If he's trying to do it this way, then it's well deserved flak:
College students in virtually every state will be required to shoulder more of the cost of their education under new federal rules that govern most of the nation's financial aid.

Because of the changes, which take effect next fall and are expected to save the government $300 million in the 2005-6 academic year, at least 1.3 million students will receive smaller Pell Grants, the nation's primary scholarship for those of low income, according to two analyses of the new rules.

In addition, 89,000 students or so who would otherwise be getting some Pell Grant money will get none, the analyses found.

"Season's greetings from Uncle Sam," said Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, which conducted one of the analyses and represents about 1,800 colleges and universities. "Your student aid stocking is going to be a little thinner next year."

Talk Left points to another decision deserving flak:
How is Bush going to deal with the deficit? By cutting food aid to the world's poor--breaking our prior agreements and leaving 5 to 7 million people in dire straits.

There's more there. Compassionate conservatism just in time for the holidays!

As I said before, "Fiscal solvency, good. Fiscal solvency on the backs of the working class, not good." Now you can add fiscal solvency on the backs of the worlds poor, disgraceful.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

ACLU okays Bible

Does the ACLU really hate Christians and the Bible? Of course not.

School officials in Neosho, Missouri decided to remove the Bible from an accelerated reading course program because they were afraid they would offend someone. It was entirely the choice of the school, and the decision will be reviewed come January.

Here's what the ACLU had to say:
...The American Civil Liberties Union believes the Bible is an appropriate educational tool, as long as schools do not provide incentives or compel students to read it, said Dick Kurtenbach, executive director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri.

Kurtenbach said he didn't know enough about the Neosho case to discuss it specifically, but he said Bibles should be made available for student use in school libraries.

Clearly the ACLU has an image problem in America, which is a shame. When I hear people talking bad about the organization, it's handy to have stories like this and the street preacher in Vegas stories to pass along to help prove they look out every American and their rights. If anyone has anymore instances, I'd love to hear them.

It's offical, Gregoire by ten

Washington Democrat Christine Gregoire beat Dino Rossi in the governor's race by 10 votes, unofficial results show, overturning a lead that would have made Rossi the first Republican leader of the state in two decades.

The results of a statewide hand recount of ballots show that Gregoire gained 609 new votes and Rossi picked up 557, enough to tip the election in the Democrat's favor, according to King County and results compiled by the Secretary of State. The last machine ballot count found Rossi had won by 42 votes.

``This is closest race in our nation's history,'' said Kirsten Brost, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Party in Washington. ``We were able to go back and correct mistakes that had previously been made.''

That's not all the Democrat side won, either:
Christine Gregoire, who had lost to Republican Dino Rossi in the first two machine recounts, could potentially extend her lead after the state's Supreme Court decided on Wednesday to add more than 700 votes to the final tally.

King County, the largest county that includes Seattle and is a Democratic stronghold, discovered more than 700 ballots that had yet to be counted more than a month after the Nov. 2 election.

Republicans argued in court this week that those ballots were not valid and should not be included in the final tally.

"From day one, this has been about counting every legitimate ballot," Gregoire said in a statement, "The court's unanimous decision is not a boost for me or for Dino Rossi -- it is a victory for the voters."

Soylent investing

Just because I run a campaign with a vague promise to feed the hungry doesn't mean that once I become elected my proposal to grind up the very destitute and feed them to others has a "mandate."

You can (as Bush did) make all sorts of vague promises on goals you want to accomplish. People may, in fact, support those goals. However, that doesn't mean people support the specific proposals and impacts of your plan to obtain those goals.

In other words:
Gene Sperling, who was President Bill Clinton's economic adviser, said: "All the president has shown is that you can vaguely talk about a free-lunch privatization proposal and not have that be decisively detrimental to your electoral outcome. There's a big difference between that and having a mandate to carve up Social Security by cutting guaranteed benefits and adding significant market risk."

Does that make sense?

Probably only to those in the real world.

Clarence Thomas sets a precedent

The talk of Harry Reid as a racist for disagreeing with Clarence Thomas has thankfully died down, no doubt to be ratcheted back up when Bush nominates him for Chief Justice.

One of James Taranto's main arguments against Reid was there was no evidence that Thomas had "poorly written" opinions. A week too late, I stumble across this site, which list some of Thomas' sole opinions and the shifts they may cause if they became reality:
Stare decisis is one of the most well established principles in the law. Simply put, it means that courts will not overturn established precedent without an extraordinary reason to do so. It is also a doctrine not held sacred by all nine Justices. In Justice Antonin Scalia's words, Justice Thomas "doesn't believe in stare decisis, period."

Because Justice Thomas does not feel bound by precedent, his opinions often call for substantial shifts in the law.

There's plenty more there, as they examine a number of his decisions. Interesting reading all around.

Democrats declare Washington victory

The head of the state Democratic Party said late Tuesday that recount results from King County give Democrat Christine Gregoire an eight-vote victory in the closest governor's race in state history.

Neither King County nor the Republican party could confirm the hand recount results on Tuesday night. But if the Democrats' analysis is correct, it's a stunning reversal in the gubernatorial race, which has been hotly contested ever since election day.

Republican Dino Rossi won the first count by 261 votes and won a machine recount by 42 votes, out of 2.9 million ballots cast. The hand recount did not include the 700-plus ballots cast in heavily Democratic King County that could widen any Gregoire lead if the state Supreme Court allows them to be counted.

"We're confident Christine Gregoire has been elected the governor of the state of Washington," Democratic Chairman Paul Berendt said. "I believe Dino Rossi should concede."

This victory would not include the votes wrongly thrown out that were discovered after the initial recount. Official results from King County will be released tomorrow, and if the Democrat's claims are true, we can expect lawsuits aplenty from the right.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


Oh yeah, private investing of Social Security is good because investment firms have their customers best interests at heart:
Opening a new front in the state's attack on investment industry practices, California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer sued brokerage firm Edward Jones & Co. on Monday, claiming it had defrauded investors by failing to properly disclose sales arrangements with a handful of favored mutual fund companies.


The suit focuses on the long-standing brokerage practice of selling so-called shelf space to fund companies: Over the last decade, many brokerages have offered to place certain funds on "recommended" or "preferred" lists in return for cash payments or other compensation beyond standard sales commissions.

Jones has preferred-sales agreements with seven mutual fund companies. The arrangements meant that Jones brokers were prodded to sell funds of the preferred firms even if those funds weren't necessarily the best choices for individual customers, Lockyer said.

If investment groups really had retirees best intrests at heart, then I could see an argument being made. But they don't. And that is one of the many problems with Bush's plan.

120,000 Buckeyes can't be wrong

Or can they?
Ohio's unemployment rate climbed in November.

The state says the rate in November was 6-point-5 percent, up from a revised rate of 6-point-4 percent in October.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services says the labor market changed little in the last month with a slight decrease in the number of people working and a small increase in the number of people unemployed.

Overall, the state lost 25-hundred jobs last month.


via Atrios (my bold):
The two-page e-mail that references an Executive Order states that the President directly authorized interrogation techniques including sleep deprivation, stress positions, the use of military dogs, and "sensory deprivation through the use of hoods, etc."

Stress positions:
An interrogation technique that suffocated an Iraqi general had previously rendered another person unconscious, according to court documents filed Monday.

Three months ago, the Army charged Lewis E. Welshofer Jr. and Jeff L. Williams, Sgt. 1st Class William J. Sommer and Spec. Jerry L. Loper with murder and dereliction of duty in the death of Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush.

Mowhoush was placed in a sleeping bag and tied with an electrical cord in what the Army referred to as stress positions during a Nov. 26, 2003, interrogation at the Qaim detention facility northwest of Baghdad, according to the charges and other documents.

Shouldn't their defense consist solely of the President has great powers at a time of war (see item 6), and they were only doing what he told us to do?

False security from the right

The truth is that Social Security is an untenable, unsustainable program which, even at its best, fails to meet the most basic test of any retirement program: the recipients of Social Security are entirely dependent on the whim of the State. Congress can, at any moment, cut off all Social Security funding, and no one recognizes any property right in any "equity" built up by decades of contribution to the fraudulent Social Security "trust fund," which does not contain any assets.

The Social Security program is, in essence, a fraud which never could have been adopted but for the widespread belief that each person who contributes money into the system has an "account" with his money in it. It would be best if it were phased out of existence as quickly as possible. Given the political realities, anyone under the age of 50 should be agitating to bail out of the sinking ship and obtain the right to save money, rather than relying on the whims of the political process.

As we've seen in numerous places, SS is not a "untenable, unsustainable program." (More here, here and here. *UPDATE* Here, too!) And to argue that Congress could pull it at anytime is to argue with the lowest form of fear available, akin I would think, to the draft argument made by some on the left during the Presidential campaign. To kill SS would be a suicide pact for any member of Congress, which is why I almost relish the coming debate. If Democrats can be heard loudly and clearly, the GOP is about to run over itself with the bus of government.

One of the things to remember about Social Security was that it was developed to help all retirees, not just those that could afford it. The system was intended to make sure that you didn't have to step over piles of elder too poor to afford housing and food while you strolled to the store or the next football game. These retirement accounts still do nothing to secure anyone's future (as the current system does).

The talk about not being able to pass down your retirement? Well, technically it's not true, because the money that isn't paid out remains in the fund. So eventually that money is passed down.

Another thing I've said before, no one who gets extra money in their check is going to save it. They will spend it as quickly as they can, either to get out of debt or find themselves a way to get into more of it. While the elite at Powerline seem to have all their ducks in a row, millions of Americans do not, and we should not punish them by pulling the SS rug out from under them in the middle of their lives.

Everyone has a "right" to be part of the "ownership society" and own a personal retirement account, by the way. It's called savings and investments. Nothing is stopping you, and if your investments don't pan out, then it must be nice to know there is still hope for your retirement.

I've got both savings and investment, and have already worked enough to be eligible for Social Security. Which makes me feel that when retirement hits, I'll be able to afford all my pills and the heat I need during the winter. It makes me feel, what's the word?

Oh yeah, Secure.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Devil in the details

Glenn Reynolds:
BUSH GOT A LOT OF FLAK FOR THE DEFICIT: Now he'll get more for trying to cut it. In fact, it's already started. I hope he succeeds, though his ambitions seem rather modest to me.

Uh, Glenn, the flak won't be that Bush wants to cut the deficit, the flak comes from the fact that Bush wants to continue to push his tax cuts for the rich while cutting programs designed to aid those less fortunate and needy.

Fiscal solvency, good. Fiscal solvency on the backs of the working class, not good.

Hope you can see the difference.

Party of one

With Democrats vowing to unite against Bush's policies they disagree with, and Republicans vowing to do battle against the President on issues they feel he has strayed from conservative values on, who is left to support his mandated agenda?

Just curious.

I'm George Bush, and I approve this beating

L.A. Times:
FBI agents are increasingly complaining about what they consider abusive physical and mental torture by military officials against prisoners held in Iraq and Cuba, including lighted cigarettes stuck in detainees' ears and Arab captives being humiliated with Israeli flags wrapped around them, according to new documents released today.

The FBI records are the latest set of documents obtained by the ACLU in its lawsuit against the federal government and include instances in which bureau officials were disgusted that military interrogators pretended to be FBI agents and used the scheme as a "ruse" to glean intelligence information from prisoners.

In addition, the FBI complained that military interrogators have gone far beyond the restrictions of the Geneva Conventions prohibiting torture and have followed an apparently new executive order from President Bush that permits the use of dogs and other techniques to harass prisoners.

"We know what's permissible for FBI agents but are less sure what is permissible for military interrogators," the FBI's "on-scene commander-Baghdad" complained to his bureau colleagues last May, well after the abuse scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison had become public.

You've probably already been, but Atrios has more.

Rummy questions

Remember that National Guardsman who asked Donald Rumsfeld about armored Humvees? The question that led to an explosion of Republicans to call for Donald's job?

A story came out a few days later that said a newspaper reporter had fed him the question, which should somehow diminish it's impact according to some on the right. Well, as you can imagine, that story is a lie:
In his first public account of last week’s controversy, Spc. Thomas Wilson says that he came up with the now famous armor question for Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld on his own, without the help of oft-criticized reporter Edward Lee Pitts. And he adds, "If this is my 15 minutes of fame, I hope it saves a life."

The account appears in next week’s edition of Time magazine.

Wilson, who serves with Tennessee’s 278th Regiment in the National Guard, tells Time that he befriended Pitts, an embed for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, at California's Fort Irwin, where his unit trained. Later, in Kuwait, after Pitts learned that only soldiers could ask questions at the upcoming town hall meeting with Rumsfeld in Kuwait, he urged Wilson to come up with some "intelligent questions."

After his convoy arrived at Camp Arijan in Kuwait, Wilson found hundreds of fully armored vehicles promised to another unit months down the road. Wilson says he asked if the 278th could use them in the meantime, and was told no. That inspired his question about the shortage of armor, which he showed to Pitts.

The reporter, far from being the protagonist, suggested that he find “a less brash way of asking the question," but Wilson “told him no, that I wanted to make my point very clear."

Wilson says he also came up with three alternate questions on his own.

The Time account continues: “As for Rumsfeld's brusque response -- that even a fully armored vehicle ‘can be blown up’ -- Wilson says, ‘Personally, I didn't like that answer.’”

Throw those stones

What's a little torture of innocent foreigners in the war on terror, anyway, right?
A military review has determined a second prisoner held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is wrongly classified as an enemy combatant, and he will be released to his home country soon, a Pentagon official said Monday.

Navy Secretary Gordon England refused to provide the man's name or nationality, and the circumstances of his original capture were not immediately available. The State Department has been notified of the decision and will make arrangements to return him home.

It's so much easier to assume everyone is guilty and punish them rather than take the time to prove it through legitimate means. Can't people in America see that those prisoners in Guantanamo are out to destroy the very foundation of our country, and because of that we need to destroy the foundation of our country to stop them?

Bush insults allies, heartens enemies

William Kristol:
John Kerry has decided to pursue a scorched-earth strategy in this campaign. He is prepared to insult allies, hearten enemies, and denigrate efforts to succeed in Iraq. His behavior is deeply irresponsible...

Glenn Reynolds:
That doesn't make it any less disgraceful to be going around uttering comments that might as well be designed to undermine America's alliances, of course. This sort of stuff is appalling

President Bush, Sept 22nd:
You cannot expect the Iraqi people to stand up and do the hard work of democracy if you're pessimistic about their ability to govern themselves. You cannot expect our troops to continue to do the hard work if they hear mixed messages from Washington, D.C.

President Bush, Dec 20, 2004:
Now, I would call the results mixed, in terms of standing up Iraqi units who are willing to fight. There have been some cases where when the heat got on, they left the battlefield. That's unacceptable. Iraq will never secure itself if they have troops that when the heat gets on, they leave the battlefield. I fully understand that.


The bombers are having an effect. You know, these people are targeting innocent Iraqis. They're trying to shake the will of the Iraqi people and, frankly, trying to shake the will of the American people.

And car bombs that destroy young children or car bombs that indiscriminately bomb in religious sites are effective propaganda tools.

Heck of a message to send, isn't it? Suicide bombers are having an effect and intimidating people, our President says. The suicide bombers are effective, he says, giving aid and comfort to our enemies.

And the Iraqi soldiers? Cowards. They run from the middle of a battle that we thrust them into. Iraqi troops will flee the battlefield before they fight.

Disgraceful, indeed. Right, Glenn?

Civil discourse this!

Current Governor of Virginia Mark Warner, who has been discussed as both a Senate candidate in 2006 and a Presidential nominee for 2008, decided to reach out across party lines and call for a return to civility in party politics. In his speech, he said no one was to blame for the situation, and that people could, "for example, disagree about the war in Iraq or about our nation's foreign policy without questioning each other's patriotism or love of country."

His calls were answered on the Republican side with more bitterness, hatred, and attacks:
...In an interview Sunday with The Virginian-Pilot, a state Republican leader mocked Warner's attempt to stake the political center.

"Mark Warner is just another high-tax, liberal Democrat hoping to mask his legacy by spouting perceived centrist rhetoric," said Shawn M. Smith, the executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia. "Mark Warner ran for governor promising unequivocally not to raise taxes, but he jumped at the first chance he had to ram through a massive tax increase."

Smith said: "If Mark Warner truly wants to change the lack of civil discourse within his own party, he needs to demand that the national Democrats abandon their steady rhetoric of pessimism and hate."

Nice huh? And unfortunately, exactly what we can continue to expect from the GOP for years to come.

Non-reality based reality continues

This is a magazine that named Bush "Person of the Year," and Powerline "Blog of the Year," but Time magazine is still part of a liberal media that is out to suppress Bush and his followers.

Somehow, I doubt I'm the only one not buying it.

Christmas is on the march

Sorry for the light posting, but there is a time for xmas shopping, and that time is now. And yesterday. Hopefully not tomorrow. Be back later tonight. Call it an open thread, if anyone want to leave a message.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Republican to the extreme

First Christie Todd Whitman, and now Arnold Schwarenegger warns the Republican party of lurching to far to the right.

California deficit gets pumped up

Arnold the savior:
The Schwarzenegger administration said Friday that the state's budget deficit for the coming fiscal year has grown to $8.1 billion, more than $1 billion higher than previously forecast, in part because assumptions made in the current year are not coming to fruition.

Arnold's Director of Finance seems to suggest that cutting funding to the schools and healthcare to the poor is the best way to solve this problem.

I was thinking Arnold could hold a fundraiser to help bridge the financial gap.

40 dead in Iraq

Car bombings hit the Iraqi Shiite Muslim holy cities of Karbala and Najaf Sunday, causing an estimated 40 casualties.

The Najaf bombing occurred just yards from the Imam Ali shrine when a suicide bomber drove a car into a funeral procession, killing at least 30 people, broadcast sources reported.

Officials said the Karbala attack near the city's bus station killed at least 10 people and injured 37.

Also Sunday, three mortar grenades slammed into a well-known mosque in Baghdad, injuring four of its guards and damaging the structure.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Spite the children

A school in Oklahoma decided was told by their lawyers that they should remove a nativity scene from the school ground, provoking a community outrage. Parents decided to take it out on their children(via Political Wire):
Dismayed that a Nativity, or depiction of Christ's birth in a manger, was ordered cut by the superintendent, some voters in this growing, southwest Oklahoma City suburb retaliated by helping block passage of the bonds. Those bonds included money for a new elementary school that would ease crowding.

It was the first time in at least a decade that voters didn't rubber stamp the district's bond proposals – and yet another sign that America's so-called values voters are flexing electoral muscle against what they view as an excess of political correctness.

"There were people who went and voted who normally wouldn't," said Shelly Marino, whose third-grader attends the elementary school that staged the production. "They felt it was a way to get the school board's attention."

The best way to teach the school a lesson would be to force your kids to attend class in an overcrowded system and diminish their level of education. Remember that in your community.

Doom is at hand

When I read this:
Overall economic growth should be a healthy 3.5 percent next year and 3.4 percent in 2006. Those estimates are up from last year's forecast, which put growth rates at 3.4 percent in 2005 and 3.3 percent in 2006.

"The economy is in very solid shape," said N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers.

I thought to myself, "That's good news for Social Security." Then I saw this at Ygelesias:
When Bushies talk about the budget they say: "Mr. Mankiw said the official estimates assumed that productivity would continue to grow rapidly." But if productivity continues to grow rapidly, even the pseudo-crisis in Social Security won't materialize -- the program will be very healthy and successful indeed.

Unless productivity growth between now and the year 200X is extremely low (which the SSA does not project) then starting in the year 200X+1 the SSA will, unless it changes its methodology, find itself changing its "intermediate" projection to one that's considerably more optimistic about the future growth potential of the US economy. This will eliminate the projected pseudo-crisis and with it the rationale for privatization. Thus the desire to do it in a hurry before we reach the new peak and the projections get recalculated.

I'm not surprised we would see this kind of misdirection from the group that repeatedly tried to link Al Qaeda and 9/11 in the minds of the people to rush us off to war. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that Saddam Hussein is responsible for the coming false crisis and that we must act now in order to defend the country from islamofacism. Those who do not support the President's plan will be traitors to America.

Oil flow stopped in North Iraq

Not good:
Saboteurs blew up Iraq's northern export pipeline for the second week in a row on Saturday, halting oil flows to Turkey's Ceyhan port, oil officials said.

A bomb that exploded overnight blew off a section of the twin pipeline near the oil center of Baiji, they said.

The pipeline runs from the Kirkuk oil fields to the IT-1A storage tanks near Baiji, where oil accumulates before it is pumped further north to Ceyhan.

Storage tanks at IT-1A were full before the attack, but technical problems have been hampering pumping to Ceyhan, one official said.

Heaven Help Us

Folks, can we get one thing clear? Wishing people a "Happy Holidays" this time of year is not about destroying Christ and his followers. Instead, it is about tolerance and understanding that not everyone feels the same way that you do. If you are going to celebrate Christmas and follow the holiday tradition that goes all the way back to the 1830's, that's fine. But it's not about forcing that idea on someone else.

Imagine, Christians, if a movement arose that all stores should only wish people a "Merry Kwanza." A majority of the country feels that way in this hypothesis, and they decided that they don't care about what you "secularist Christians" feel. Would it upset you at all? Would it make you feel a little unfairly persecuted? If not, then keep on doing what you are doing, because Jesus himself couldn't teach you about understanding and respect for your fellow man.

Of course, if you know someone is Christian, wish them a Merry Christmas. There's nothing wrong with that. But if you can't be sure, a Happy Holidays is not going to make the baby Jesus cry. More than likely your respect for your fellow man will make the little guy smile.

In the meantime, thank goodness for people like this that wrote to their local papers in response to the church mounted campaign:
"What happened to the land that my parents, Eastern European immigrants, adopted as their beloved country — a country of fairness and tolerance?" wrote Harriet Lasher.

An Episcopal priest wrote to compare the campaign to the Nazi policy requiring Jews to identify themselves with yellow stars.

Judah Segal, executive director of the Raleigh-Cary Jewish Federation, said he was not disturbed by the advertisement, and hoped it was intended to "remind Christians that there is an essence to the holiday," not to shut out others.

"We really respect and admire people who want to have religious content in their own holiday," he said.

*UPDATE* From Dynamist Blog:
Why criticize merchants for including all their customers in wishes for a happy holiday season? The holidays do, after all, stretch from Thanksgiving to New Year's, both nonsectarian holidays. "Happy Holidays" includes Christmas, for those who celebrate it. But it also includes holidays we all share, as well as some others only a minority observe.

When you extend these greetings, are you wishing people happiness? Or affirming your Christianity? Do you want people who don't celebrate Christmas to be happy (or merry)? Or do you want to make them at least mildly uncomfortable? The answers will determine what you say.

It is important to keep it in perspective. Someone telling you Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas should not diminish the way you celebrate the birth of Christ. In fact, it should not be about what you say at all, but that, it seems is a different post altogether.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Separation anxiety

It's time for that final step that will make us one united Christian nation:
Christian conservatives frustrated by court rulings that have found a school voucher program unconstitutional may have hit upon a possible solution: changing the constitution.

Sen. Daniel Webster, a former House speaker and now the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday he is exploring the possibility of a citizens initiative to repeal the 136-year-old wording that separates church and state in Florida.

Christian schools for everyone!

Where else are we going to get that Christian health care system I've been reading about?

*UPDATE* By the way, for those who claim that denying vouchers will keep their kids from getting a better education:
A federal Education Department analysis of test scores from 2003 shows that children in charter schools generally did not perform as well on exams as those in regular public schools. The analysis, released Wednesday, largely confirms an earlier report on the same statistics by the American Federation of Teachers.

The department, analyzing the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress test for fourth graders, found charter students scoring significantly lower than regular public school students in math, even when the results are broken down for low-income children and those in cities.

In reading, the report said, over all there was no statistically significant difference between students in charters and in regular public schools. However, when students in special education were excluded, charter students scored significantly lower than those in regular public schools.

So I guess Democrats can now argue against charter schools because they fail to provide a good education?

Take two communion wafers and call me in the morning

Oh boy:
The conservative vision of ideal government, which few locals question and which the Republicans have made part of their low-tax mantra, sees government as a kind of infrastructure guarantor only, even when the conversation turns to America's admittedly troubled health care system.

"I don't think the government owes people health care," says youth pastor and newly elected public high school board member Chad Vegas. "If we were doing things ideally in this country, it would be churches' responsibility to provide health care, using Christian doctors."

What's scary to me is not that Chad Vegas has these views and no doubt preaches them to his followers, but that someone with a view like this can get elected to a public school board. Imagine if he introduced something like this into the local civics class.

And I have no idea how "ideally" churches would be able to provide health care for the nation without some sort of grant that would end up decimating the idea of separation of church and state. On the plus side, I'm sure that Hindus, Muslims, and Jews would love the idea of church sponsored "Christian" doctors. It's about time we brought back the faith healers into the spotlight, anyway.

False praise for Cesar

Donald Luskin praises Cesar Conda for an article on Social Security:
To be sure, many Democrats will reflexively charge that price indexing will "cut" benefits for seniors. However, President Bush has explicitly pledged to protect benefits for both today’s retirees and near-retirees.

Uh, guys, that's one of the reasons Democrats have such a hard time swallowing Bush's plan in the first place. You can't promise not to make cuts in future benefits and then work on a proposal to do just that. It's called a "false promise," and while Americans like Luskin don't seem to mind those from the President, there was about 60 million of us who do mind.

That promise not to cut future benefits? Campaigning, pure and simple. The cut is big talk now, and we shall see if they really try and push for this poison pill.

Secondly, only in Washington would slowing the rate of increase in overall benefits from eighteen-fold to eight-fold be considered a "cut."

Imagine you let me borrow 1000 dollars from you, and I told you that I would pay it back at 18% interest. About halfway through the deal, I suddenly decided to give you only 8%. When you complain I say it's not that big of a drop and besides, money promised in the future doesn't really exist. That's the kind of argument the Bush administration seems prepared to give.

I know it's not a perfect analogy. In this case you'd probably find someone to break a finger or two to even things out. I'm not sure if that kind of physical retribution will be a part of Bush's plan, but I highly doubt it.

Kevin Drum presents a less semantic argument against the dropping of the rate increase:
Still, the subject is on the table, and it's worth unpacking the specific benefit cut that appears to be everyone's favorite right now: indexing future benefit increases to prices instead of wages. When I first got interested in Social Security many years ago, this initially struck me as a reasonable idea, but it's the kind of thing that looks worse and worse the closer you look at it. So, since we're all going to be hearing a lot more about this over the next few months, it's worth understanding what it means.

The inflation rate that most of us are familiar with is the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, which measures the increase in prices over time. But that's not the only way to measure inflation, and the method used by Social Security is to index benefits according to wage inflation, the average increase in wages over time.

The difference is simple but profound. Think about it this way: what if there were no price inflation at all. Would wages go up anyway?

Answer: sure they would. This is because the economy grows in real terms, and as the economy grows we all get paid more and our standard of living goes up. The whole point of having a growing economy is that it allows everyone to earn more money in real terms and live better lives.

The CPI doesn't take this into account. If your benefits go up only as fast as the CPI, your standard of living is frozen forever no matter how strong the economy is. Consider this: in the past 50 years, thanks to the growth of the American economy, wages have grown about twice as fast as prices and the average Social Security payment has grown to about $900. If we had adopted a price-linked model in 1954, the average payment today would be a meager $450.

Now, back to Luskin's praise:
Finally, the politics of Social Security have dramatically changed: Today’s young workers would gladly give up all of their future Social Security benefits for the chance to invest part of their payroll taxes in an account that they would own and control.

Um, I'm a young worker. And looking over what I've written, you can tell that this statement isn't true. And while Paul Krugman may not be as young as I am, he seems to have some things to say on the issue, too:
Information about other countries' experience with privatization isn't hard to find. For example, the Century Foundation, at, provides a wide range of links.

Yet, aside from giving the Cato Institute and other organizations promoting Social Security privatization the space to present upbeat tales from Chile, the U.S. news media have provided their readers and viewers with little information about international experience. In particular, the public hasn't been let in on two open secrets:

Privatization dissipates a large fraction of workers' contributions on fees to investment companies.

It leaves many retirees in poverty.

Clearly this will be a battle in both the Senate and the House, one that Bush may ultimately spend the bulk of his "capital" on. If Democrats can argue out in front of this issue, it would seem that Bush's investment will be a failure. But a handful of bloggers and Paul Krugman cannot bear the load on their own.

Oh, Bill

Why does he do this to himself (my bold)?
There is no question that Whoopi Goldberg's foolish comments at a John Kerry fundraiser hurt Kerry--who had no idea how to handle the situation. Chevy Chase should have learned from that. Even he has to know that calling the president of the United States an "F" is not going to be accepted by most Americans.

Now you don't see this kind of thing on the Right. You don't see prominent conservatives cursing out Democratic members of Congress, for example. Now I know talk radio can get rough but nothing like what these Hollywood nitwits are throwing out there.

Could he have purposely picked a worse example?
During their exchange, [Sen Pat] Leahy noted that Republicans had accused Democrats of being anti-Catholic because they are opposed to some of President Bush’s anti-abortion judges, the aides said.

[Prominent conservative and Vice President Dick] Cheney then responded, “f--- off” or “f--- you,” two aides said, both speaking on condition of anonymity.

Leahy, D-Vt., confirmed that the confrontation took place but would not provide details.

Here's Orrin Hatch:
But several GOP senators, including the committee chairman, Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), called on the Bush administration to give Congress the documents and warned that they might support a subpoena at some point, just not now.

Hatch said he asked Attorney General John D. Ashcroft and White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales to turn over the 23 memos -- some of which suggested legal justification for abuse of prisoners -- and believed they would do so.

He described the Democrats' subpoena request as a "dumb-ass thing to do."

And why in the world do we have to excuse right wing talk radio? Is it because when I say Chevy Chase, you instantly think "strong representative of liberal values," but when I say Rush Limbaugh, you think "fiercely independent and upholder of strong morals?"


Thursday, December 16, 2004

Simon Says

Roger Simon in a piece a few days ago, discussing the imminent collapse of the Democratic party:
A swing of three million votes is gigantic in our society where party allegiances are formed in childhood and reinforced by an omnipresent media. We can see the primitiveness of these allegiances in the remaining popularity of Howard Dean, a man who a very few years ago presented himself as a pro-gun centrist, jumping around like a re-upped version of Jerry Rubin to appeal to a segment of the Democratic Party that hasn't changed one view about anything in thirty-five years. But... and here's the crux... these people are not that exceptional. Few of us change our views over a lifetime.

Yet, three million did.

Which of course, is a bunch of crap. Turnout was the key, and the GOP managed to turn out more voters that the Democrats did. Looking at the exit polling, the trade off of Bush to Kerry voters and Gore to Bush voters is almost even. So while a group did change their mind to vote for Bush, an almost equal number changed their mind and voted for Kerry.

Here's the numbers after some quick and hopefully correct math. 37% of voters who chose Gore in 2000 came out to vote again this year, which based on Dave Leip's page would account for 45 million votes. Bush won 10% of those, or 4.5 million. 43% of voters who chose Bush in 2000 came out again, totaling 52.5 million votes, and Kerry managed to win 9% of those. That equals 4.7 million votes.

In other words, more votes actually switched their allegance to John Kerry than chose to jump from Gore to Bush. While Simon's assertion is technically correct, albeit a low estimate, perhaps he could spend some time lamenting the Bush voters that changed their mind and supported a Democratic candidate for President.

But I doubt he'll want to change his views.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


The new Republican state chairman in Arkansas is under investigation for voter intimidation :
Prosecutors in Conway are to review a complaint that state Senator Gilbert Baker of Conway, the new Republican state chairman, intimidated a black voter during the November election.

Baker says he expected negative attacks when he took the job.

Democratic chairman Ron Oliver sent a news release Thursday about the intimidation complaint.

The Democratic Party says Rebecca Bird of Conway, a teacher at the University of Central Arkansas, served as a Democratic poll watcher and filed a complaint with the Faulkner County prosecutor's office.

*UPDATE* In an effort to be fair, the Faulkner County prosecuter says the charges appear to be unfounded.

Better late than never

Washington Post:
The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold hearings on the Iraq war when the new Congress convenes next month, including an examination of criticism that the Defense Department failed to prepare for the insurgency and went into action with a shortage of armor for trucks and Humvees, the panel's ranking Democrat, Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), said yesterday.

Levin, speaking from Belgium in a conference call with reporters, was returning with Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), the committee's chairman, from a round of talks in Baghdad with U.S. military leaders, and criticized the administration's "poor planning and rosy scenarios" it relied on before the invasion.

The will of the people must be usurped

Sure enough, Washington Republicans have filed to block close to 600 votes that were wrongly discarded in the state's election:
Republican Party lawyers will contest King County Auditor Dean Logan's attempt to include as many as 595 ballots in the hand recount now under way, adding any votes on them to the final totals.

They're gravely concerned that those votes will heavily favor Democrat Christine Gregoire and ultimately help snatch victory from Republican Dino Rossi, who has emerged as the winner in two prior vote counts.

He won the Nov. 2 election by 261 votes and held a 42-vote lead after a mandated machine recount. By Tuesday he had gained 64 votes in the hand recount.

Al Gore's mother passes away

Warmest thoughts and deepest sympathy to Al Gore and his family:
Pauline Gore, whose son Al became vice president and nearly captured the presidency and whose husband served a lengthy and distinguished career in Congress, died Wednesday. She was 92.

She had been weakened in recent years by strokes and a heart attack, and died in at her home in Carthage.

Missile envy

Feeling safer?
The first test in nearly two years of a multi-billion-dollar US anti-missile shield failed yesterday when the interceptor missile shut down on its launch pad in the central Pacific.

About 16 minutes earlier, a target missile carrying a mock warhead had been launched from Kodiak Island in Alaska, the Pentagon's Missile Defence Agency said.
The aborted mission appeared likely to set back plans for activation of the bulwark against ballistic missiles.

I'm not sure why America at this point would expect any of Bush's promises to come true (this was supposed to be up and running by the end of this year, rain or shine). The only thing we do know is that they always cost the country lots of money.


About time:
Complaining that Republicans have failed to oversee how billions of dollars of taxpayer money is being spent, Senate Democrats said Monday that they would begin holding oversight hearings of their own, even though they are in the minority and have no subpoena power to compel the testimony of government officials.

"The Congressional watchdog remains fast asleep, and we intend to wake it up," Senator Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, who is chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee, said at a news briefing.

Mr. Dorgan was joined, via videoconference, by Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the new Democratic leader, who has repeatedly said that he would "rather dance than fight" with Republicans. Mr. Reid said that the hearings, to be run by the policy committee, would be "set up as fairly as possible," with Democrats offering Republicans a chance to participate and call witnesses.

"We're going to try to be as fair as they have not been to us," Mr. Reid said. Mr. Dorgan added, "And if the Republicans decide to hold their own oversight hearings, there will be no need for this project."

Bush sets another record

Denver Post:
America's trade deficit swelled to an all-time high of $55.5 billion in October as imports - including those from China - surged to the loftiest levels on record, the Commerce Department reported today. Skyrocketing crude-oil prices also contributed to the yawning trade gap.

The latest snapshot of trade activity showed the country's trade imbalance widening by a sizable 8.9 percent in October from the previous month - despite the fact that U.S. exports registered their best month on record.

The growth in imports, however, dwarfed the pace of exports in October, producing another bloated trade gap. The trade deficit was much bigger than the $52.4 billion imbalance economists were forecasting.

Imports of goods and services climbed to a record high of $153.5 billion in October, representing a 3.4 percent increase from September.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Lieberman turns down Bush

Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman has twice in recent days said "no" when approached about the possibility of a major job in the second Bush administration, CNN has learned.

The Cabinet vacancy at the Department of Homeland Security was the subject of the latest overture, according to congressional and other government sources. Those sources said the earlier overture was to see whether Lieberman might be interested in becoming the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

White House officials declined comment, saying they do not discuss personnel matters.

No matter how you feel about ol' Joe, you have to admit that turning down a position of power like that in order to remain in the minority in the Senate shows some strong party loyalty. Is he thinking ahead to 2008?

Find the disgrace

From the folks at Reason's Hit and Run (via Instapundit), Dec 8 2004, in response to Rummy's answers to a soldier who had told him soldiers in Iraq were scrounging through trash heaps to uparmor their vehicles. Many felt is was a disgrace that the Bush administration started a war they weren't prepared for and unnecessarily put the troops at risk because of it:
Finally, was it a disgrace or outrage that American tankers in Normandy had to cut up German steel obstacles to make hedge-cutting teeth for their tanks? No, it was an inspired response to the insanity of war. Rummy being nuts has very little to do with this sad and eternal fact.

Reported in the Seattle Post Intelligencer Dec 13th, where we learn that apparently it is a disgrace:
At a time when some U.S. troops in Iraq are complaining they have to scrounge for equipment, six Ohio-based reservists were court-martialed for taking Army vehicles abandoned in Kuwait by other units so they could carry out their own unit's mission to Iraq.

The soldiers say they needed the vehicles, and parts stripped from one, to deliver fuel to Iraq, but their former battalion commander said Sunday the troops should at least have returned the vehicles to their original units.

Members of the 656th Transportation Company based in Springfield, west of Columbus, said they needed the equipment to deliver fuel that was needed by U.S. forces in Iraq for everything from helicopters to tanks.

The reservists took two tractor-trailers and stripped parts from a five-ton truck that had been abandoned in Kuwait by other units that had already moved into Iraq, one of the reservists, Darrell Birt of Columbus, told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Birt, a former chief warrant officer, and the others were charged with theft, destruction of Army property and conspiracy to cover up their crimes. Birt said he and two others pleaded guilty and the other three were convicted. All received six-month sentences.

"Nobody ever reported these trucks stolen. The deal was, when you are moving, if it was going to take more than 30 minutes to fix it, you left it," said Birt, who was released in November. "I'm a Christian man and I can't ignore what we did, but it was justified to get us in the fight and to sustain the fight."

Blinded by a plank

The folks at Redstate, in the midst of celebrating a ruling in Washington today that keeps all ballots previously rejected by voting machines out of the recount process, decide to lay some groundwork in the battle over the 561 votes that were wrongly rejected:
Because the 561 uncounted ballots were not counted prior to official certification, there may be away around those. In fact, integrity in the process should call those ballots into question. The fact that a month after the election and several weeks after the certification 561 ballots mysteriously showed up in one of the most Democrat leaning counties should give the Court pause for concern.

Grammatical errors aside, what is it about Republicans and their fear of democracy? Integrity in the process should make sure that every vote is counted, and people do not lose their voice because of human or machine error.

Of course, those ballots did not "mysteriously show up," either. They were legitimately cast votes that were rejected initially because the voter's signatures were not properly checked. Nothing strange about that.

What is strange is that Republicans are ouraged when a Democrat legally challenges the outcome of an election, but remain silent as one of their own continues his quest to overturn the will of the people of Texas. Since his election day loss to Democrat Hubert Vo, (which a recount confirmed), Republican Talmadge Heflin has been shouting his conspiracy theories in hopes of usurping the people and allowing his GOP friends in the legislature to put him back into office. Two other Republican's have also challenged their election losses in the same manner.

Where is the Republican outrage at their actions? Where are Redstaters questioning the integrity of these results? I'm eager to hear them.

GOP retribution in Tennessee

Tennessee's GOP has decided to punish state Senators who do not fall into lock-step with the party:
The GOP's governing body said it would work to beat any incumbent Republican lawmaker who does not vote for a fellow party member as speaker of the Senate. The Senate speaker also carries the title "lieutenant governor."

"I think average Republicans would be shocked and disappointed if Republican legislators did not elect a Republican speaker," said Layne Provine of Collierville, who proposed the punitive resolution to the GOP state executive committee on Saturday.

The power struggle is the result of Wilder's desire to remain lieutenant governor even after Republicans gained control of the state Senate in last month's election. Republicans now hold a 17-16 edge, and state Sen. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said he expects to challenge Wilder for the position.

But two Republican senators who are loyal to Wilder said they are standing strong.

"This does not affect my decision," said Sen. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, who is up for re-election in two years. "I prayed about it and I feel like it's the right decision. Any pressure or heat I get, I think I can withstand."

Apparently the GOP in Tennessee feels that the people do not want Senators who think for themselves and support what they think is best for the state, but rather the people are looking for automatons instead.

Already the Senate majority is looking into ways to draw power away from the speaker position.

I'm intrigued about Burchett's moral values and prayers leading him in one direction while the Republican party tells him to go in another. I wonder how the "conservative Christian" voters feel about that one.


It just gets better:
Bush administration lawyers who vetted former New York City police Commissioner Bernard Kerik before President Bush named him to head the Homeland Security Department knew he had a “colorful past” but concluded that his long record of public service would outweigh questions about his conduct, a senior U.S. official told NBC News on Monday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the lawyers were aware that Kerik had been questioned in a civil lawsuit involving questions about an alleged extramarital affair with a corrections employee; the failure to properly report financial gifts on disclosure forms; and an arrest warrant issued after he failed to pay condo fees.

“The lawyers looked at all these issues,” said the official. "We believed they were not disqualifying."

So it's not that Kerik wasn't vetted properly, it's that a number of Bush's yes-men, eager to please, didn't want to speak up and torpedo their man's choice for head of DHS.

Or maybe they felt after watching Bush winning another election that this would be another case of image beating reality.

La Shawn Barber at Blogs for Bush tries to turn the deaf ear to the story, presenting this laughable line(you can find it yourself, there's no need to promote that sort of thing):
Since George Bush's re-election, the pressure to be mistake-free is off.

Any number of punchlines are yours for the writing.

I would rather point out that the whole Clinton-Lewinsky thing should have been no biggie in La Shawn's eyes. After all, since Clinton was re-elected, there was no pressure to be mistake free, right?

Monday, December 13, 2004

Gregoire pulls ahead

The importance of counting every vote:
The election director in Seattle's King County said Monday that hundreds of absentee ballots were mistakenly rejected in the heavily Democratic stronghold — enough to swing the close governor's race to Democrat Christine Gregoire.

A statewide hand recount is under way across Washington state after Republican Dino Rossi came out ahead of Gregoire by just 42 votes out of 2.9 million cast.

King County Elections Director Dean Logan said he will ask the county Canvass Board on Wednesday to amend the results of the Nov. 2 election in his county. Agreement is likely; Logan has a seat on the three-person board, and one of the other members is a Democrat.

Logan said election workers mistakenly rejected 561 absentee ballots because they thought signatures on the ballots did not match original voter registration records.

However, he said that the signatures simply were not on file in the county's computerized voter registration system and that original registration records should have been checked.

"We need to correct the error and count those votes," Logan said in a statement.

To think Democracy might have failed the residents of Washington had this hand recount not taken place. No conspiracy theories, no calls of cheating by this side or that. Just an honest recount that turned up wrongly rejected ballots.

Republicans should now admit that democracy works and congratulate the new Governor of Washington, Christine Gregoire.

Fiscally insecure

So the next big battle looming is Social Security. As I've said before, any sort of private investment plan should be called the destruction of Social Security, because there is no security involved with it. You fail, you lose. That's it.

Bush has begun to push that Social Security is doomed to failure. Kevin Drum helpfully points out that people have been saying that for years, and that since a doomsday prediction in 1994, Social Security's lifespan has actually lengthened by three years. If that's a doomed system, it seems to be doing pretty well to me.

Of course, it is not like more money cannot be diverted from other portions of the budget to flow into Social Security to make up for any shortfall. After all, the government often takes money out of the Social Security fund to pay for other things. Turnabout is fair play, right?

One of the latest ideas floated for public consumption is a cut in future retirement benefits by up to six percent. Bush and co. seem to think that because these are mere projections we are talking about, that these cuts aren't actually taking place. That, of course would dismantle the whole argument for "fixing" Social Security, because these are only projected shortfalls we are talking about, they do not actually exist yet.

Keep in mind that Social Security will never actually "go broke" as long as people are working in America (which may be a stretch to imagine in Bush's America). Current payouts are funded by current workers. Certainly payouts would decrease substantially, but there would still be payouts nonetheless.

Now what is to be done? Digby argues that Democrats should savage Bush for what he has proposed using the same doom, gloom, and fear that was used on Bill and Hillary's healthcare plan which, ironically, may have solved some of this problem in the first place.

People need to be convinced there are sensible solutions to this problem, and that Bush is in a rush to establish a legacy for himself. His plan is doomed to failure even more than the current system because it essentially solves nothing. I'm not sure how taking money out of the Social Security system will "save it," because private investment accounts have nothing to do with making your future secure. It's a crapshoot with loaded dice, and there is no way to safely predict if you will earn anything from them. Think back to all the people who lost money in the last stock market bust. Now imagine they had invested their retirement there. Who's left to take care of them now?

You can argue if you want, that the government should not be in the business of securing our financial futures. That, in essence, becomes what this debate is about. But the people I know and work with have never once said to me, "I wish taxes weren't so high so I could save more money for my retirement." Instead, it's talk of credit card debt and new boats, about mortgage payments and new dirt bikes.

Personally, I've gone to the American Academy of Actuaries site and played the Social Security game. There you can make choices on what you would do in order to "save" the system without worry of backlash from your fat cat constituents.

I can't get the site to work now, but if I remember correctly, raising the taxable income number showed a surprising amount of benefit. Those who make close to 100,000 a year could probably afford a little more investment in their future on top of the money they can already afford to save. And by lowering the rate at which Social Security payouts are increased, I think I saved it completely.

And I never asked anyone to gamble with their future in the stock market, either.

*WHOOPS* I forgot to point out this:
After years of trying the deregulation of public pension funds and after substantial financial losses, despite what Republicans’ friend British Prime Minster Maggie Thatcher promised in the 1980’s, the British are going back to what worked.

The British government is now urging people back into the government system.

What's that about those who don't learn from the past? Too bad we have a man who seems to have been innoculated to curiosity in the White House.

Scandal, corruption, and lies

While doing a little researching, I came across this article, lovingly entitled "Get Out of U.N. and Start Over." The site even has a poll about the media coverage and the whole "scandal," with almost 30% thinking this is a case of Democrats defending the indefensible.

Choice bit from the article
Senator Coleman has called on Annan to resign on the grounds that, at the minimum, Annan turned a blind eye toward what was going on or, at the maximum, the corruption may be much worse. The Bush administration has backed Annan weakly, probably because it thinks Annan has been helpful in signing up resources for the Iraqi elections scheduled for late January.

Yeah, anyone who turns a blind eye...
The CIA's top weapons inspector in Iraq said Saddam carried out much of that trade with proceeds from illegal oil sales to Syria, one of three Iraqi neighbors that bought oil from Baghdad in defiance of the United Nations.

Trade with Syria, Jordan and Turkey was the biggest source of illicit funds for Saddam, more so than the much-maligned U.N. oil-for-food program, according to investigations of Saddam's finances.

Though considered smuggling, most of the trade took place with the knowledge — and sometimes the tacit consent — of the United States and other nations.

With Republican-led congressional committees investigating allegations of oil-for-food corruption, some Democrats are pressing for answers about why the United States did little to stop the smuggling.

Go ahead, Norm.

More Iraqi violence

This must have been filed late. Because we already took control of Fallujah, right?
American warplanes pounded Fallujah with missiles Sunday as insurgents fought running battles with coalition forces in the volatile western Iraqi city. The U.S. military said two troops died in separate incidents.

Meanwhile, a large swath of Iraq lost electricity Sunday after a fire erupted in a major power plant north of Baghdad. Prime Minister Ayad Allawi called the fire an accident, but accused guerrillas of hurting Iraqis with attacks on infrastructure. The capital went dark at about 4 p.m. and power was still out at 7 p.m. The only lights came from the Green Zone and a few other places that have their own generators.

And then today:
An al-Qaida-linked suicide bomber blew up his vehicle Monday near cars waiting to enter the Green Zone, home to the U.S. Embassy and Iraq (news - web sites)'s interim government, killing 13 Iraqis on the anniversary of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s capture.

As insurgents continued to step up attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces ahead of next month's elections, the country's interim president said Washington was wrong for dismantling Iraq's security forces, including its 350,000-strong army, after last year's invasion.

Nice to see that