What Fresh Hell Is This?

December 30, 2004

R.I.P Susan Sontag

We were sad to hear about the recent death of Susan Sontag. In her honor, here's something that got her into a lot of trouble. It was written a few days after 911 and published in The New Yorker. The fact that she was right is somehow missed to those who called her a traitor.

The disconnect between last Tuesday's monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public.

Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a "cowardly" attack on "civilization" or "liberty" or "humanity" or "the free world" but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq? And if the word "cowardly" is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others.

In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were not cowards. Our leaders are bent on convincing us that everything is O.K. America is not afraid. Our spirit is unbroken, although this was a day that will live in infamy and America is now at war.

But everything is not O.K. And this was not Pearl Harbor.

We have a robotic President who assures us that America still stands tall. A wide spectrum of public figures, in and out of office, who are strongly opposed to the policies being pursued abroad by this Administration apparently feel free to say nothing more than that they stand united behind President Bush.

A lot of thinking needs to be done, and perhaps is being done in Washington and elsewhere, about the ineptitude of American intelligence and counter-intelligence, about options available to American foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, and about what constitutes a smart program of military defense. But the public is not being asked to bear much of the burden of reality.

The unanimously applauded, self-congratulatory bromides of a Soviet Party Congress seemed contemptible. The unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric spouted by American officials and media commentators in recent days seems, well, unworthy of a mature democracy.

Those in public office have let us know that they consider their task to be a manipulative one: confidence-building and grief management. Politics, the politics of a democracy—which entails disagreement, which promotes candor—has been replaced by psychotherapy. Let's by all means grieve together.

But let's not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen.

"Our country is strong," we are told again and again. I for one don't find this entirely consoling.

Who doubts that America is strong? But that's not all America has to be.


New Look

Yep, the blog has a new look.

Hope you like it.

December 29, 2004

Bush Vs. 100,000 Dead

Well, Bush finally came out today and made a real statement regarding the now 100,000 some reportedly killed by the massive and historic tsunami. It only took three days and a great deal of criticism for him to take a break from "clearing brush" and acknowledge what everyone else in the world has been talking about for some 72 hours (shades of his initial response to 9/11...or did it just take them that long to coach him on how to pronounce "tsunami?").

Now, what about the other 100,000 dead?

That would be the estimated number of civilians killed in Iraq.

Oh...I forgot..."we don't do body counts" (or acknowledged in any way those that we kill).

Acts of God only need apply -- no manmade catastrophes, please.

December 28, 2004

Schedule of Inaugural Events

And speaking of the inauguration, here's an hilarious blog from Jesus' General:
http://patriotboy.blogspot.com/2004/12/inauguration-day-schedule.html

Inauguration Day Schedule

My work as a GOP Team Leader has finally paid off. Halliburton's hired me to distribute tuna sandwiches during the event. Three cents a sandwich may not add up to a lot of money, but I get to be at the center of a great event. They even gave me a copy of the schedule.

Schedule of Inaugural Events

9:00 A. M. - Catholic League president William Donohue delivers the invocation, asking the Lord to smite the anal-sex loving Jews in Hollywood.

9:30 - Donald Rumsfeld uses an AT4 Light Anti-Armor Weapon to destroy a tank, thus proving his contention that armoring Humvees is not all that important. The families of any attendees killed during this demonstration will receive a thank you letter personally stamped with Sec. Rumsfeld's signature by an E-4 in the Pentagon's mail office.

10:00 - Alberto Gonzalez does an interpretive dance based on his torture memos.

10:30 - Secretary of State nominee Condoleeza Rice pays tribute to her husband by reading an original poem called, "I Guess They Weren't Kidding When They Said that Bin Laden was determined to attack inside the U.S."

10:45 - Zell Miller issues dueling challenges to anyone in the audience who he deems to be giving him "homosexual looks."

Noon - The effectiveness of the use of Clean Coal Technology to make mercury not only safer but tastier is demonstrated when mercury-tainted tuna sandwiches are served to attendees. Although this lunch is free, the fine folks at Hallibuton, the official caterer of the inaugural ceremonies, will assess each attendee $675.72 in handling fees.

12:30 - Cheney Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby, betrays the names of every covert agent in the CIA and thus preempts their spouses from weakening our national resolve by embarrassing the Administration.

1:00 - Singer Toby Keith salutes Our Leader by singing a medley of songs as he takes his annual bath.

1:15 - Sen. Bill Frist explains Social Security reform by dissecting a cat.

2:30 - EPA Director and HHS Nominee Mike Leavitt pays tribute to Our Leader's "Healthy Forest" and "Clear Skies" initiatives by presiding over the chopping down and burning of every tree in the national mall.

3:00 - Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney speaks about family values. He'll also proudly announce that his daughter, Mary, is engaged to Ken Mehlman.

3:30 - House Majority Leader Tom Delay leads the audience in a loyalty oath to Our Leader.

3:35 - Rush Limbaugh leads the audience in the loyalty oath again, but this time the name "Tom DeLay" is not substituted for "George W. Bush."

3:40 - Former First Lady Barbara Bush leads the audience in the oath yet once again. This time the name "George W. Bush" replaces the words "my hillbilly heroin dealer."

3:45 - Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar introduces Our Leader and then waits patiently while the President finishes reading My Pet Goat.

4:07 - Depending on the quality of his newly purchased 278 billion dollar Halliburton "No-Bulge" Personal Communications System, our Leader gives an address that either touts his agenda for the next four years or is the play by play broadcast for the Redskins game. He ends his speech with a rare pre-session recess appointment naming Bernard Kerik to the Washinton DC Court of Appeals. Our Leader sites Kerik's commitment to family values as the reason for the appointment. Members of the Gambino, Genovese, Luchese, Columbo, and Bonnano families are brought onto the stage to express their grattitude.

4:30 - Our Leader is sworn into the office by Judge Bernard Kerik.


Getting Our Priorities Straight



While it is true that most of the $40 million bill for the inauguration will come from private donations (the corps. do need to coronate their king), the as yet undetermined cost of the huge security operation for the first post-9/11 inauguration will be picked up by the tax payer.

For more details click HERE.

Late Cat Blogging Plus:
The Christmas Edition


"Is that all there is?"



"That's the last time someone tries
to break into MY house."



Christmas Eve Aftermath: I need a dishwasher!



As usual, the dolls made out like bandits.



And, since this IS a political blog,
guess which one of these is the
card that I sent out this year...

December 27, 2004

Pssst...Our Marching Orders Are In

Apparently it's time for Lefties like me to switch gears and stop our War on Christmas to conduct a new battle:

The War on Easter

Begins today. Discuss strategies.
-Atrios 9:21 AM


In a similiar vein, The Right has demanded that the company that makes Peeps come out with more religiously inspired versions of that dastardly secular candy.


Here's their proposal for the new Marshmallow Jesus Peep®:


(Marshmallow Jesus Peep® and Marshmallow Cross Peep® sold separately.)

Intelligent Design?

I have a possibly inappropriate question.

Given that "Intelligent Design" is all the rage these days, what does it say that in this intricately "designed" universe, it is possible for a set of tectonic plates deep in the ocean to shift and create a tsunami that kills (at last count) 22,000 people?

If it was indeed "designed," the world is either not so well designed or it's designed to do exactly what it does - kill thousands of human beings in the blink of an eye.

December 24, 2004

Close To Home

Well, you could consider this another lazy post (reprinting someone else's writing). And, I could say in my defense that I will have 10 people here tonight for a sit-down dinner (traditional Italian seven fishes Christmas Eve extravaganza) and that would be true, but I do think that the following would be worth posting here for anyone who might not want to wade through the numerous diaries at Daily KOS, in any case.

It seems especially appropriate for today as this is the season when many families gather together and this is a post from a son to his father. As someone who used to have many long arguments with my own father over another failed occupation (Vietnam), you could say it hit close to home.

An Open Letter to My Dad
by DudeUrSistersHOT

Thu Dec 23rd, 2004 at 11:54:01 PST

When George Bush was pushing the need for a war with Iraq in fall of 2002, you believed everything he said. You thought he was a kick-ass guy and you were with him all the way. I wasn't much into politics at the time, but something about the lead up to the war just made me call bullshit.

Whenever I tried to debate it with you, it seemed as if I was the one denying the facts and being a relentless partisan. You seemed like the reasonable one, saying Saddam gassed his people, had Weapons of Mass Destruction, and worked with al Qaeda. The U.N. didn't matter to you. They represented the world, and as we all know, the U.S. is its own world now.

The day before the bombing started, there was an eerie silence in my school. Everyone was scared of a terrorist attack, because of course Saddam was a terrorist. I was with you the night the bombing campaign started, watching Fox News, because all the other networks were part of the liberal media. Fox News broadcast the live pictures of bombs exploding in Baghdad. I remember you were excited, because we were finally attacking. You loved it.

You went to bed that night, happy that we were finally in Iraq. It wasn't a big deal to you, because you had no problem falling asleep. You weren't the one with bombs falling outside your window, and who cares about the people who did, they're camel jockeys anyway, and they should be turned into glass. Nuke `em, because they aren't us. I knew the war was wrong, but you could outdebate me any day. I was 13.

When it became increasingly clear that Saddam had no WMDs, that was OK with you. He was an evil dictator, and worked on 9/11.

When the 9/11 Commission released its final report, proving there were no connections between Saddam and Al Qaeda, that was still OK. Saddam gassed his own people. Freedom was on the march.

When Abu Ghraib broke, it was a good thing. They deserved it.

When the Duelfer report broke, showing Saddam as no longer being a significant threat, and showing there were no WMDs, it was still okay. He gassed his own people, for god's sake!

When the lack of troops became an increasing problem, and they called up 50-year olds, well, they shouldn't have signed up if they didn't want to fight. Tell that to their grandchildren, will ya?

When Al Qaqaa broke, it wasn't Bush's fault, it was the military's.

After all of this, after all of these things happened, you still supported the war. Your new talking point was that Saddam killed people and put them in mass graves. I told you more people had been killed as a result of the invasion than had been found in mass graves. I showed you the evidence. I showed you how all the graves were from before the Gulf War. You were out of talking points. You no longer had any evidence that would justify the war. And yet you still supported it, "because we were already there".

You surprise me, because you aren't stupid or ignorant. You're a hardcore partisan Republican, but you believe in stem cell research, you're pro-choice, you believe in separation of church and state, and you have the same problems with the idea of there being a God as I do.

So your new talking point became that the evil George Tenet, appointed by Clinton, was behind the war. So the War in Iraq became Clinton's fault, in your mind. Two days later, Bush gave Tenet the Presidential Medal of Freedom. So much for that talking point.

I thought that was it for you, especially after the news of the Rumsfeld-armor debacle. You ignored all my e-mails about that subject. But nope, you wouldn't let me down. So you said that the WMDs were moved to Syria or Iran. When I asked you for evidence, you ignored my e-mail once again. Now I've pointed out that it was highly unlikely that Iraq would give its weapons to a country that it was at war with merely fifteen years ago. You didn't respond.

You said that the war should have been done differently, but it still should have been done. You told me that every nation that has ever gone to war has made mistakes. But the fact is, every nation that made the kind of mistakes we did is long gone. They're lines in history books. That's all that's left of them.

Now, two years after the start of a war that seems to have no end, I've outdebated you on every aspect of this war. You can no longer justify it, but if it happened all over again, you say you would support it.

My question to you is, what will it take for you to lose support for the war? When I'm drafted in three years, and I'm fighting over there, will your support wane? When the war drives the economy to bankruptcy, to the point where I'll be fighting there with no body armor, will your support dwindle? When the helicopters come to the American embassy and pull us off the rooftops, will you blame the Democrats, or will you blame the liberal media for the loss of the war? I hope that some day before this happens you will be able to admit it was wrong, but I fear that you and many like you will be unable to do so.





December 23, 2004

Kerry to Enter Ohio Recount Fray

Kerry to Enter Ohio Recount Fray
By William Rivers Pitt


t r u t h o u t Report

Thursday 23 December 2004


2004 Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry will file today, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, papers in support of the Green Party/Libertarian Party recount effort. Specifically, Kerry will be filing a request for expedited discovery regarding Triad Systems voting machines, as well as a motion for a preservation order to protect any and all discovery and preserve any evidence on this matter.

Triad Systems has come under scrutiny recently after Sherole Eaton, deputy director of elections for Hocking County, swore out an affidavit in which she described her witnessing the tampering of electronic voting equipment by a Triad representative. Rep. John Conyers, the ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee, has requested an investigation into this matter by the FBI and the Hocking County prosecutor.

Truthout will have more on this specific Triad allegation later in the day.

Previously, the Green Party and Libertarian Party have not fared well in their efforts to get emergency orders regarding this matter in Ohio. In order to pass muster with a judge, the individual or group requesting an emergency order for such a recount must show both irreperable harm as well as a substantial chance for success on the merits. While Green and Libertarian representatives could theoretically be able to show irreparable harm, they could not establish a substantial chance for success on the merits, because no recount would deliver Ohio to either party.

Kerry's entry into this recount effort changes the math on this matter dramatically. He can likewise show irreparable harm, and unlike the Green and Libertarian candidates, he can also prove a substantial chance for success on the merits because he lost the Ohio vote by a statistical whisker.

It should be noted that Kerry's filing of these requests does not indicate his complete entry into the recount process, but does clearly indicate that he is moving decisively in that direction. His previous stance on the matter was based simply on his desire to defend the right to have a recount in the first place. The evidence of election tampering in Ohio, specifically surrounding Triad, has motivated him to actively join the fight. The Democratic Party is also quietly putting financial resources into the Ohio recount effort.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of all this, from the activist point of view, has been the effectiveness of the telephone calls and letters to Kerry. The activist push to get him involved had a very significant effect on his decision to enter this effort. Likewise, calls to other Senators in order to convince them to join House members in challenging the election have likewise had significant effect. If such an effort continues, the activists involved will very likely see the desired result unfold.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books - 'War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know' and 'The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.'
-------

Prophetic

You probably have heard this rant before.

It's from a popular Oscar-winning movie that came out a few years ago.

It bears replaying now. (Though that part about the National Guard needs to be updated.)

(If you have trouble playing it, right-click on the link and choose "Save Target As." This will allow you to save the file to your desktop. Then open it from there.)

December 22, 2004

Of Frames and Memes and Slogans, etc.

There's always much food for thought to be found at Daily KOS -- an abundance of riches, as it were. This particular 'diary' ("Learning from Scott McClellan's briefing on bombings in Iraq") caught my attention...maybe because it's something that I was hammering on at the latest Democracy for America meetup...maybe because the writer also has a marketing background.

The topic is how to sell the Democrats to "The People."

I'm repeating the comments that I made on Daily KOS to the above mentioned diary here because I believe that they can stand on their own:

People Learn From Repetition

It's very simple. At the most basic level people learn from repetition.

A mother says says, "Say 'Moma, Moma'" to a baby a thousand times before the baby repeats it. Later, we sing the alphabet song many times before we learn to read. We then practice writing the alphabet over and over again.

Advertisers know that a message must be repeated many times before we remember their product.

Advertisers also know that a catchy jingle or memorable image speeds up the process.

We all know that we sometimes get a song stuck in our heads that we may not even like.

Certain images are so powerful that they become iconic. The napalmed, naked child in Vietnam became shorthand for the immorality of that war.

The phrase "flip-flop" became iconic for the Republican charge that Kerry had no moral center and could not be trusted. It dovetailed with their flip side of the coin that Bush was someone who you "knew where he stood."

Clinton, who could be an eloquent speaker, stuck with, "It's the economy, stupid." (Short, sweet, and to the point.)

Kerry jumped around with a new phrase each week: The Real Deal; Believe in America; A Stronger America. None of these phrases said anything specific. The American public said that they did not know what Kerry stood for.

The vast majority of American voters pay far less attention to politics than we do here. We are competing for their attention with everything else in their lives; and they give far more priority to everything else in their lives.

There is nothing immoral in giving the American voter a succinct memorable message (if that message is true).

Democrats must learn to frame their message and tell a story to the voter. Then we have to stay on message and BEAT IT TO DEATH.

It is that simple.

Coming up with a good message is not that simple. The Republicans are eons ahead of us on this. They have years of think tanks and talk radio on their side. They have a more black & white world view that more naturally shapes their message.

What do Democrats stand for?

It cannot be a check list of issues. It must be something as simple as LL's "freedom" meme.

Or it can be a "justice" meme, as in:

Economic Justice
Social Justice
Ecological Justice
Global Justice

The point being, it must be easily understandable, positive and memorable.

I'm fine with 'freedom' or 'justice' or 'liberty' (...for all -- pun intended).


December 21, 2004

Breaking News? Not Hardly!

Today WTAE's "Channel 4 Action News at Noon" reported as breaking news that Pittsburgh's own Mayor Murphy will not be running for a fourth term.

Well, DUH!

OK, OK, the actual news was that he made an official statement that he wouldn't be running as he signed the city's budget.

Murphy stated that the reason that he is not running for reelection is "purely personal." According to WTAE, Murphy said that his decision was not based on polls or whether or not he could win.

Yeah, right.

I mean, after all, we're talking about a Democratic mayor in a heavily Democratic city who got boos at the mention of his name at a Democratic rally for Kerry. We're talking about a guy who inspired callers to local talk radio to call for his recall during the whole California recall mess. Murphy may actually be the least popular person in all of Pittsburgh!

Local Democrats were lining up around the block for the job months ago as everyone knew that Murphy didn't have a snowball's chance in Hell of keeping the office.

Word is, however, that many have reputedly backed off (like City Council President Gene Ricciardi) because PA Governor Rendell is backing Bob O'Conner (who almost beat Murphy in 2001).

Murphy won by less than 700 votes last time around.

The estimated "price tag" for this race is one million bucks.

Does that rule out a progressive like City Council member Bill Peduto? We certainly hope not (and we hear that his people are pushing him to run).

Let the race begin! (officially now)

BLOG: Word of the Year
(Based on online lookups)

Publisher: 'Blog' No. 1 word of the year
Tuesday, November 30, 2004 Posted: 4:39 PM EST (2139 GMT)


BOSTON, Massachusetts (Reuters) -- A four-letter term that came to symbolize the difference between old and new media during this year's presidential campaign tops U.S. dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster's list of the 10 words of the year.

According to the article:

"Americans called up blogs in droves for information and laughs ahead of the November 2 presidential election.

Freed from the constraints that govern traditional print and broadcast news organizations, blogs spread gossip while also serving as an outlet for people increasingly disenchanted with mainstream media.

Blog clout
It was mainly on blogs that readers first encountered speculation that U.S. President George W. Bush wore a listening device during his first debate against Democrat John Kerry. The White House, forced to respond, called it a laughable, left-wing conspiracy theory.

Bloggers also were among the first to cast doubt on a CBS television news report that challenged Bush's military service.

CBS later admitted it had been duped into using questionable documents for the report. Last week CBS anchor Dan Rather said he would step down in March, although the network said the move was unconnected to the scandal.

A Merriam-Webster spokesman said it was not possible to say how many times blog had been looked up on its Web sites but that from July onward, the word received tens of thousands of hits per month.

Blog will be a new entry in the 2005 version of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition." (more here)

And, what were the other words in this year's top ten? Check them all out:

1. Blog noun [short for Weblog] (1999) : a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer

2. incumbent
3. electoral
4. insurgent
5. hurricane (who had to look this one up?!)
6. cicada
7. peloton ("the main body of riders in a bicycle race," and no, I had no idea what this was)
8. partisan
9. sovereignty
10. defenestration

December 20, 2004

No Room at the Inn

Apparently Bill Clinton clashes with Christmas:

As seen here, it's been reported that the current occupants of the White House found it necessary to take down President William Jefferson Clinton's portrait from the wall to make room for Christmas decorations.

They did not find it necessary to remove the portraits of Bush 41 and Reagan.

That would be Fornicators: 0; Baby Jesus: 1

Hooray for the Christian Jihad!

By Any Means Necessary

Apparently this government thinks that it is so crucial to deny gays their civil rights that it is willing to deny straights their rights too:

Social Security Rejects Marriage Papers
By Associated Press
December 19, 2004, 7:40 PM EST

NEW PALTZ, N.Y. -- The Social Security Administration is rejecting marriage documents issued for heterosexual couples in four communities that performed weddings for gay couples earlier this year.

The agency is rejecting all marriage certificates issued in New Paltz, N.Y., after Feb. 27, when the town's mayor began marrying gay couples, according to town officials.

Certificates issued during the brief periods when Asbury Park, N.J., Multnomah County, Ore., and Sandoval County, N.M., recognized gay marriages are also being rejected.

Susie Kilpatrick, 30, of New Paltz, said the local Social Security office told her that no marriage documents issued after Feb. 27 could be used to establish identity because of the gay marriages that took place there earlier this year. About 125 heterosexual couples have been married since then.

Kilpatrick said her marriage certificate was rejected when she went to get a new card earlier this month so she could take her husband's name.

"What concerns me is that the certificate is the only way to prove that we're married," she told The New York Times for Sunday editions. "If something happens to us, or some other couple from New Paltz, we can't prove we're married. We would not be able to draw benefits."

The agency did not respond to repeated requests from the Times for comment. A call from The Associated Press for comment on Sunday was not immediately returned.

The agency posts rules on its Web site spelling out which documents can be used to obtain Social Security cards.

Full article here:
http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/wire/sns-ap-gay-marriage-social-security,0,5144475.story?coll=sns-ap-nationworld-headlines

Relevant SS web page here:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0100203200
(Scroll down to subsection G.2.)

RM 00203.200 Evidence of Identity for an SSN Card

G. PROCEDURE-QUESTIONABLE MARRIAGE DOCUMENTS
Marriage documents exist for jurisdictions where the legality of such documents is still unresolved at the state level. The following outlines special procedure when handling questionable marriage documents issued by certain jurisdictions.

1. Marriage Documents Issued by San Francisco City and County

From February 12, 2004 through March 11, 2004, San Francisco City and County issued marriage certificates to same-sex couples and locally modified the marriage license applications and marriage certificates.
Due to the unresolved legal status of these locally modified same-sex marriage documents, do not accept same-sex marriage documents issued by San Francisco City and County during the specified time period.The locally modified form, which is in the form of a marriage document labeled “License and Certificate of Marriage”, refers to members of the same-sex couple as “1st Applicant” and “2nd Applicant.” Do not accept marriage documents issued by San Francisco City and County with the terminology “1st Applicant” and “2nd Applicant.”
NOTE: Marriage documents with “Groom” and “Bride”, and “Husband” and “Wife” that are issued to opposite-sex couples are acceptable documents for purposes of establishing evidence of identity as long as the document meets the criteria described in RM 00203.200 E.

2. Marriage Documents Issued by Other Jurisdictions

Do not accept any marriage documents as evidence of identity issued by the following jurisdictions during the respective timeframes, as follows:
Sandoval County, New Mexico, on 02/20/04;
New Paltz, New York, on or after 02/27/04;
Multnomah County, Oregon, on 03/03/04 through 04/20/04;
Asbury Park, New Jersey, on 03/08/04 through 03/10/04.
NOTE: Marriage records refer to marriages that are certified/recorded by the custodian of the record. Marriage documents refer to the means by which a marriage record is documented (i.e., marriage certificates and souvenir certificates are considered marriage documents.). Always follow the criteria in RM 00203.200 E.1 to determine if the identity document is acceptable evidence of identity.
Follow RM 00203.210A. for other types of documentation that are acceptable to support a name change.



December 17, 2004

A Fable

A Minister, a CEO and a Politician were at the pub having a drink. The Minister looked at the CEO and said, "You must keep them poor."

The CEO replied, "That's easy enough, but what if they find out it's me that's keeping them poor?"

The Minister pointed to the Politician and said, "That is why you must keep them afraid. So they won't question the reasons for their poverty."

The Politician said, "I can do that, but what if the figure out that there's nothing to be afraid of?"
The Minister replied, "Leave that to me. I will keep them stupid."

(with thanks to a contributor at Daily KOS)

December 16, 2004

House of Idiocy / House of Irony

Quotes from our Moron in Chief from yesterday's photo op with Berlusconi at the White House:

Idiotic
"There's a trade deficit. That's easy to resolve; people can buy more United States products if they're worried about the trade deficit."

Ironic
"And we will continue to make it clear to both Syria and Iran that -- as will other nations in our coalition, including our friend, the Italians, that meddling in the internal affairs of Iraq is not in their interest."

December 15, 2004

Democracy Dead in Ohio

With apologies to Neil Young:

New Lyrics to "Ohio" by Maria

Diebold machines and Bush is coming,
We're finally on our own.
This November I hear the drumming,
Democracy dead in Ohio.

Gotta get down to it
Voter suppression cutting us down
Should have been fixed long ago.
What if you saw the exit polls
Before CNN changed them
How can you run when you know?

Gotta get down to it
Voters waiting in lines for hours
Should have been fixed long ago.
What if the software was rigged
And you vote Kerry and it comes up Bush
How can you run when you know?

Diebold machines and Bush is coming,
We're finally on our own.
This November I hear the drumming,
Democracy dead in Ohio.

December 14, 2004

Election News!

Yes, it is December, but if you think Election 2004 is old news, you're simply not paying attention (or reading the Daily Kos blog).

Even if you do regularly read Daily Kos, there's so much there, it's easy to miss a story or two. With that in mind, here's some stories that you NEED to read:

Republicans Threaten Violence in Washington State!
by msaroff
Tue Dec 14th, 2004 at 08:35:03 PST

A quote from from Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance regarding 561 votes found in King County:

Republicans are now "absolutely convinced that King County is trying to steal this election," said Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance.

"There are Republicans urging us to organize mass protests, to take to the streets," Vance said. "At some point people's patience just runs out." More HERE

BREAKING: Witness Says Voting Company Tampered With Machines
by sixmoreweeks
Mon Dec 13th, 2004 at 19:31:58 PST

Witness says voting company tampered with machines after vote and tried to plant false information into Ohio recount. More HERE

Clint Curtis' "show stopper" testimony causes "gasps" at hearing
by Spiral Stairs
Mon Dec 13th, 2004 at 15:04:16 PST

In an apparent surprise, Clint Curtis testified today before the House Judiciary Committee Democrats. What happened? This happened:
Testimony Described as 'Show Stopper'!
'Stunner', 'Jaws Dropped'!
Audible 'Gasps' heard in chamber room!

The software programmer, whose sworn affidavit was first reported by The BRAD BLOG, named Republican U.S. Congressman Tom Feeney (a Republican member of the Judiciary Committee!) as having asked him to create "vote-rigging" software when he was a Florida Congressman prior to 2000 elections! More HERE


And, this from www.freepress.org

Startling new revelations highlight rare Congressional hearings on Ohio vote
by Bob Fitrakis, Steve Rosenfeld and Harvey Wasserman
December 13, 2004

Startling new revelations about Ohio's presidential vote have been uncovered as Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee join Rev. Jesse Jackson in Columbus, the state capital, on Monday, Dec. 13, to hold a rare field hearing into election malfeasance and manipulation in the 2004 vote. The Congressional delegation will include Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, and others.

Taken together, the revelations show Republicans – in state and county government, and in the Ohio Republican Party – were determined to undermine and suppress Democratic turnout by a wide variety of methods.

The revelations were included in affidavits gathered for an election challenge lawsuit filed Monday at the Ohio Supreme Court. Ohio's Republican Electoral College representatives are also to meet at noon, Monday, at the State House, even though the presidential recount, requested by the Green and Libertarian Parties, is only beginning the same day.

On Sunday, John Kerry spoke with Rev. Jesse Jackson and urged him to take an more active role in investigating the irregularities and ensuring a fair and impartial recount. Kerry said there were three areas of inquiry that should be addressed: 92,000 ballots that recorded no vote for president; qualifying and counting provisional ballots; and supported an independent analysis of the software and set-up of the optical scan voting machines.

What follows are excerpts from some of the affidavits for the election challenge.

More Here

Some of that 'more' includes:

- In Warren County, where election officers declared a homeland security emergency on Election Day, and barred reporters and others from watching the vote count.

- In Franklin County, election director, Matt Damschroder, misinformed a federal court on Election Day when he testified the county had no additional voting machines (actually 81 voting machines were being held back).

- Also in Franklin County, a worker at the Holiday Inn observed a team of 25 people who called themselves the "Texas Strike Force" using payphones to make intimidating calls to likely voters, targeting people recently in the prison system (their hotel bill was paid for by the Ohio Republican Party).

- Again in Warren County, Democrats were being targeted and forced to use provisional ballots, even if they had proper identification.

- And in a half-dozen precincts in Franklin County, people who were not inside polling places by 7:30 PM were told to leave - even if they had waited in line for hours.


December 11, 2004

Democracy In Action



I was watching "NewsNight with Aaron Brown" last night and he was showing a video of protests in Iraq's Sunni Triangle over the upcoming election. The voice-over by CNN Correspondent, Karl Penhaul said, "The message on the banner is plain. The faithful citizens of Burutz outrightly reject elections under the occupation. Friday prayers have just ended and several hundred Sunni men, maybe 1,000, join the anti-election protest. A cleric is joining in even though new laws mean they could be arrested if authorities suspect he's stoking anti U.S. sentiment."

Hmm...and we are going to bring to democracy to this land? To a land where the law says that you can be arrested for protesting against the other side?

Good luck with that.

The next segment was about former NYC police commissioner Bernard Kerik withdrawing his name from consideration for the job of secretary of homeland security. Kerik's expected appointment was supposed to be a feather in the cap of Rudy Giuliani since Kerik was Giuliani's guy. I know Giuliani is supposed to be a saint since 9/11 (and I give him all due credit for his actions that day and in the days right after when he filled the role that our at-the-time AWOL President could not), but I lived in NYC for 15 years and am well aware of Giuliani's full record.

It's hard to forget the numerous instances of unarmed black men killed or brutalized by NYPD under the Giuliani administration, including the best-known cases of the shooting of Amadou Diallo and the assault of Abner Louima. While most non-New Yorkers have heard of those cases, many may not be aware that while Mayor Dinkins was in office, there was a rally by police that turned into a police riot where they burned Dinkins in effigy and an African American female elected official was assaulted by the police. Then-candidate Giuliani was right there with the rest of the rioters. Nice to know that you can get arrested for a nonviolent protest in Iraq, but police 'protesters' can assault women on the streets of NYC and get away with it. I mean did you really think one of them would arrest one of their brothers?

And speaking of democracy and elections, it's been all over the local news that Pro Football Hall of Famer and Steelers legend Lynn Swann is considering a bid for PA Governor against Ed Rendell. Certainly one can assume that Republicans in this state might consider Swann a good candidate to carry out a divide-and-conquer strategy against the expected votes of African Americans who overwhelmingly go for Democrats like Rendell. But, how well will Swann play in Pennsyltucky? Pennsyltucky (also know as "The T") has nothing on the Red States when it comes to rednecks.

Perhaps a Swann candidacy might be expected to pick up some Western PA Yinzer Stillerz Fan votes as well. That can only mean one thing: the Dems will need to run Franco instead of Rendell.

Now that would be an election any Yinzer Stillerz Fan could wave a towel for!

December 10, 2004

Friday Cat Blogging


Believe me, you have no idea how rare it is to see these two within
two inches of each other without the fur flying!


December 9, 2004

CIA Officer Says Agency Urged False Reporting on Iraqi Arms

Lawsuit marks the first public instance in which a CIA employee has charged directly that agency officials pressured him to produce intelligence to support the administration's prewar position that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were a grave and gathering threat, and to suppress information that ran counter to that view.

Link to full article:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A49647-2004Dec8.html?sub=AR

December 8, 2004

...And, speaking of torture...

Whitewashing torture?

A veteran sergeant who told his commanding officers that he witnessed his colleagues torturing Iraqi detainees was strapped to a gurney and flown out of Iraq -- even though there was nothing wrong with him.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By David DeBatto

Dec. 8, 2004 | On June 15, 2003, Sgt. Frank "Greg" Ford, a counterintelligence agent in the California National Guard's 223rd Military Intelligence (M.I.) Battalion stationed in Samarra, Iraq, told his commanding officer, Capt. Victor Artiga, that he had witnessed five incidents of torture and abuse of Iraqi detainees at his base, and requested a formal investigation. Thirty-six hours later, Ford, a 49-year-old with over 30 years of military service in the Coast Guard, Army and Navy, was ordered by U.S. Army medical personnel to lie down on a gurney, was then strapped down, loaded onto a military plane and medevac'd to a military medical center outside the country.

Although no "medevac" order appears to have been written, in violation of Army policy, Ford was clearly shipped out because of a diagnosis that he was suffering from combat stress. After Ford raised the torture allegations, Artiga immediately said Ford was "delusional" and ordered a psychiatric examination.

Full story at www.salon.com

I LOVE A (fake) MAN IN A (fake) UNIFORM!

Perhaps some of the money for armor for our troops was diverted to create a snazzy new fake military jacket for Bush:



Ooops! Our bad! On closer inspection, we think that the embroidered insignia may be the new Department of Justice emblem designed specifically for incoming Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Gonzales wrote the controversial February 2002 memo in which Bush claimed the right to waive anti-torture law and international treaties providing protections to prisoners of war. That position drew fire from human rights groups, which said it helped led to the type of abuses uncovered in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Here's a close-up of the new DOJ symbol -- you be the judge:

Hillbilly Armor

When Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld addressed troops in Kuwait who were scheduled to deploy to Iraq, he got an earful.

Army Spc. Thomas Wilson of the 278th Regimental Combat Team that is comprised mainly of citizen soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard, asked Rumsfeld in a question-and-answer session why vehicle armor is still in short supply, nearly two years after the start of the war that ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers there.

"We do not have proper armored vehicles to carry with us north," Wilson said after asking again.

Mr. Rumsfeld seemed taken aback by the question and a murmur began spreading through the ranks before he silenced them. "Now settle down, settle down," he said. "Hell, I'm an old man, it's early in the morning and I'm gathering my thoughts here."

"You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time," Mr. Rumsfeld finally said.

Another soldier complained that active-duty Army units sometimes get priority over the National Guard and Reserve units for the best equipment in Iraq. Rumsfeld tried to deny that allegation but said there's no way to prove that there's no discrimination. (No one mentioned the fact that the Government has to pay out more benefits when a 'regular army' soldier gets killed vs. someone from the National Guard or Reserves.)

FYI: The troops refer to the pieces of rusty scrap metal and bulletproof glass that they are forced to scrounge for and bolt on to their trucks for protection against roadside bombs in Iraq as "hillbilly armor."

Full story can be found:
http://aolsvc.news.aol.com and www.nytimes.com

Quick Note

I'm having some major problems with my PC involving Norton Anti-virus, IE, my registry -- you name it. As I spend most of my 'off time' now talking to half the tech support workers in New Delhi, I have had little time to post here. Hopefully these problems are on the verge of a resolution...or I may need to reinstall Windows XP. If the former is true, I should be back to posting regularly soon, if the latter is true, err, umm, pray for me? (says the atheist - lol)

December 3, 2004

Friday Cat Blogging

Election Update

December 3, 2004 ALERT ARCHIVES
Conyers, and Other House Judiciary Democrats ask Blackwell to Explain Alleged Ohio Election Irregularities

A BUZZFLASH NEWS ALERT

A Press Release from Congressman John Conyers, Jr., Fourteenth District, Michigan, Ranking Member of Committee on the Judiciary, and Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus

* * *

In response to information obtained as part of the House Judiciary Committee Democratic staff's ongoing investigation of election irregularities in the 2004 election, Congressman John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee along with Representatives Jerrold Nadler, Melvin Watt, Sheila Jackson Lee, Maxine Waters, William Delahunt, Robert Wexler, Tammy Baldwin, Anthony Weiner and Linda Sanchez, wrote to Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell requesting that he respond to reports of election irregularities in the state of Ohio.

The Members wrote to Blackwell:

"Collectively, we are concerned that these complaints constitute a troubled portrait of a one-two punch that may well have altered and suppressed votes, particularly minority and Democratic votes. First, it appears there were substantial irregularities in vote tallies. It is unclear whether these apparent errors were the result of machine malfunctions or fraud.

Second, it appears that a series of actions of government and non-government officials may have worked to frustrate minority voters. Consistent and widespread reports indicate a lack of voting machines in urban, minority and Democratic areas, and a surplus of such machines in Republican, white and rural areas. As a result, minority voters were discouraged from voting by lines that were in excess of eight hours long. Many of these voters were also apparently victims of a campaign of deception, where flyers and calls would direct them to the wrong polling place. Once at that polling place, after waiting for hours in line, many of these voters were provided provisional ballots after learning they were at the wrong location. These ballots were not counted in many jurisdictions because of a directive issued by some election officials, such as yourself.

We're sure you agree with us that regardless of the outcome of the election, it is imperative that we examine any and all factors that may have led to voting irregularities and any failure of votes to be properly counted."

Among other questions, the Members asked Blackwell to respond to the following:

* Why did Warren County officials exclude members of the press from observing vote counting on election night, claiming an FBI agent had warned of a terrorist threat that was a "10" on a scale of one to ten, but the FBI has no knowledge of such a warning?

* Why did precincts in Perry County apparently record more votes than voters?

* Why did Butler County and a number of other counties record more votes for an underfunded Democratic candidate for State Supreme Court than were recorded for the Democratic Presidential candidate?

* Why did historically Democratic precincts in Cleveland record up to twenty-two times more votes for the Constitution Party Presidential candidate than all third-party candidates combined received in the 2000 election?

* Why did voters in Mahong County report that when they attempted to record a vote for John Kerry their vote was displayed as being cast for George W. Bush?

* Why did there appear to be a shortage of voting machines in traditionally Democratic precincts on election day, causing up to ten hour delays for voters, while there was an apparent surplus of voting machines in traditionally Republican precincts?

A BUZZFLASH NEWS ALERT

December 2, 2004

Melissa Hart and the "Delay Rule"

For those of you how haven't been following this story (and there may be one or two of you out there!), House Republican Tom "The Hammer" Delay may be indicted soon over some fraudulent fundraising schemes (what's that you say? A REPUBLICAN involved in FRAUD? Say it ain't so!).

Trouble is the House had a rule that said that if any committee head were to be indicted, he/she would have to relinquish that job until the indictment is ironed out.

Bad news for Delay, right? One of the most powerful House members might have to step aside for a while because of an indictment. He raises a lot of money for other House Members, you know. So this must be bad news for the Republicans in the House, right?

Not so fast, my friend. Not so fast. Wonder what the "moral values" party did when faced with this dilemma?

They changed the rule.

Check out this site. It lists all of the House Republicans and how they voted on the so-called "Delay Rule." It also lists how much money that person received from Tom Delay's political action committee, ARMPAC.

Of the three Pennsylvania Republicans who have publically stated how they voted, two voted in favor of changing the rule and one voted against.

But here's the interesting part: Todd Russell Platts, Representative from the 19th District, voted against changing the rule. By the way, he's recieved NO money from ARMPAC. And our own lovely Melissa Hart? She voted to change the rule. By the way, she's received $15,000 from Delay's ARMPAC.

Ah, what a difference a pile of money makes, huh?

December 1, 2004

Smear Boat Vets STILL At It!

Unbelievably, the Smear Boat Vets for Lies are STILL smearing John Kerry -- CLUE: you won, you can stop now.

Steve Gardner, the ONE crew member that actually served on the same boat with Kerry who is a member of the Smear Boat Vets for Lies appeared on "Hannity & Colmes" last night. He claimed that he was fired from his job because he spoke out against John Kerry. It came out in the course of his interview that two other people had been laid off on the same day and that he had just finished a project for the company that he worked for (Hmm...a high tech company laying off folks after a big project? Unheard of!).

While on the program, Colmes grew some cojones and asked Gardner outright if he was claiming that the other nine crew members were liars and he got Gardner to say, "Yes, all the other people on the boat are lying." Sheesh!

Ironic Moments:
- Gardner whining that he's been, "ridiculed, smeared and called a liar." Gee Steve, how does it feel to be on the receiving end? Not too good, huh?

- Gardner also claimed that he was threatened by fellow vet John Hurley (who denies the allegations). He said Hurley told him, "If you're not with us; you're against us." Hmm...that has a familiar ring to it...


SIDE NOTE: Gardner was a call-in guest on Pittsburgh's own "Honsberger Live" show this morning. I was able to call in and challenge him on some of the above stuff before I was cut off.


November 23, 2004

PLEASE TAKE HEED!!!! New CDC Virus Warning -- TAKE HEED NOW!

The Center for Disease Control has issued a warning about a new virulent strain of sexually transmitted disease. This disease is contracted through dangerous and high risk behavior. The disease is called Gonorrhea lecthim (pronounced "gonna re-elect him").

Many victims have contracted it after having been screwed for the past 4 years, and in spite of having taken measures to protect themselves from this especially virulent disease.

Cognitive sequellae of individuals infected with Gonorrhea lecthim include, but are not limited to: Anti-social personality disorder traits; delusions of grandeur with a distinct messianic flavor; chronic mangling of the English language; extreme cognitive dissonance; inability to incorporate new information; pronounced xenophobia; inability to accept responsibility for actions; exceptional cowardice masked by acts of misplaced bravado; ignorance of geography and history; tendencies toward creating evangelical theocracies; and a strong propensity for categorical, all-or nothing behavior.

(Thanks to Mike at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WPAforKerry/message/980 )

Dick's Dick, W's Fly and other Purely Puerile Stuff

Life in these here United States got you down? Still depressed/enraged by the election? Well, me too! So get your mind out of the ballot box and into the gutter for a purely puerile blog entry. Here's some stuff guaranteed to make you laugh...or make you run looking for a bottle of bleach to burn your eyes out. Note: The following are all real, un-Photoshop'd photos/screen captures.

MSNBC Makes a Boo-Boo:

More here: http://www.wonkette.com/politics/patriotism/is-that-an-insurgency-in-your-pants-025697.php


Hey, Is He Checking Out Her Butt?



We All Wish W Would Just ZIP IT UP:

More here: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/041121/481/edb11411211850


No wonder he has heart problems
-- all that blood is being used elsewhere:


More here: http://www.milwaukeemagazine.com/122004/pressroom.html

BREAKING NEWS: REPUBLICAN CHALLENGES PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION BASED ON EXIT POLLS

(No, unfortunately it's not the US Presidential Election that's being challenged.)

http://www.gregpalast.com

REPUBLICAN CHALLENGES PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION BASED ON EXIT POLLS

Tuesday, November 23, 2004
from the New York Times

An international election observer mission - from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Parliament, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Europe - released a preliminary report on Monday declaring that the election did not meet democratic standards.

The observers' findings were seconded by Republican Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Citing the disturbing fact that official results diverged sharply from a range of surveys of voters at polling places, Lugar said, "A concerted and forceful program of election-day fraud and abuse was enacted with either the leadership or cooperation of governmental authorities."

Other prominent Western observers were unsparing in their criticism of the state's conduct of the election.

"Fundamental flaws in Ukraine's presidential election process subverted its legitimacy," the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, sponsored by the Democratic Party in the United States, declared in its preliminary report. The institute, cited "systematic intimidation, overt manipulation and blatant fraud" that were "designed to achieve a specific outcome irrespective of the will of the people."

-- New York Times

From GregPalast.com: This reporter was unable to reach Senator Lugar regarding the inconsistency of official election results and exit polls in the USA; the intimidation of minority voters in Florida and Ohio; nor the failure to count two million ballots cast, half by African-American voters, in America's first post-democratic election held earlier this month.

Eastern bloc observers noted that balloting in Ohio, New Mexico and Florida did not meet Ukrainian standards, but applauded America's attempt to restore democratic institutions after the overthrow of elected government in 2000.

November 22, 2004

Jesus' Beatitudes Get A GOP Makeover

From http://www.bettybowers.com:

Dear Fellow Member of America's Own Taliban:

Tired of the pinko, pacifistic ramblings of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount? Well, goodness me, aren't we all?

That is why I have given our Savior's alarmingly liberal litany a timely Republican overhaul. The Democrat-approving Beatitudes are now the Republican-reproving Bettytudes. Glory!

After 2,000 years of blithely ignoring them -- finally -- Christians can proudly recite the new, improved Sermon on the Amount (I have wisely added new verses that redress Jesus' failure to remind followers of America's multibillion-dollar Christianity, Inc. industry that God only gives credit for tithes after adjusting for the rate of inflation). Be the first at your Thanksgiving table to impress your socially conservative guests with the Bettytudes!

LIBERAL BEATITUDES

CONSERVATIVE BEATITUDES

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Blessed are those who pour spirits: for theirs is the ringtone of Jenna's Blackberry

Blessed are the meek: for they shall posses the land

Blessed are the sheiks: for they can pilot without learning to land

Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted

Cursed are those who mourn civilian casualties; for they shall be confronted on "The O'Reilly Factor"

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill

Blessed are they that use hunger and thirst instead of justice, for they shall have their coerced confession
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy Blessed are the preemptively wrathful, for they shall obtain British mercenaries
Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God Blessed are the Diebold machines of the heartland, for they shall see God perform His "loaves and fish" multiplication miracle during vote tabulation
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God Blessed are the warmongers: for they shall be called "re-elected"
Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven Blessed are they that persecute those who suffer for the Department of Justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Guantanamo Bay

November 19, 2004

Late Friday Cat Blogging

Guest cats Mokie and Janie make a late Friday night appearance:

Bushonomics

What happens when you combine huge tax cuts for the wealthy with huge increases in military spending due to a policy of preemptive war? Shit like this:

U.S. debt ceiling set to rise
House votes to raise limit by $800B to $8.2 trillion; White House says Bush will sign.

November 19, 2004: 6:18 AM EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The House of Representatives has approved a measure to raise the nation's debt ceiling by $800 billion.

The bill narrowly passed late Thursday by a vote of 208-204, and a statement issued by President Bush's press secretary said Bush intends to sign the bill into law Monday.

"The President commends the Congress for passing the debt limit increase," the statement said. "Passage of this legislation was important to protect the full faith and credit of the United States."

The Bush administration asked Congress to raise the U.S. debt ceiling to $8.2 trillion, up from the current $7.4 trillion. The Senate approved the measure Wednesday, 52-44, largely along party lines.
More here:
http://money.cnn.com/2004/11/19/news/economy/debt_limit.reut/

*****

Dollar Dump Accelerates
by LondonYank
Fri Nov 19th, 2004 at 04:42:29 PST

A full page of comment and analysis in the Financial Times this morning on the accelerating flight from the US dollar.

The US currency came under renewed selling pressure the moment it became clear George W. Bush had been re-elected president. In the two and a half weeks since then, the alue of the dollar has fallen 2.5 percent against the euro and 1.9 percent against the yen. The falls represent an acceleration of the dollar's steady decline since 2002. Since the start of that year, the greenback has fallen 32 percent against the euro and 21 percent against the yen. . . .

Darek Halpenny, currency analyst at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, points to a "very grim" outlook for the dollar in the near term. "With the foreign exchange market now focused entirely on the problem of the US budget deficit and current account deficits, there is a real risk that dollar selling becomes a crisis of confidence," he says. . . .

There is a fear in the currency markets that the dollar's decline, which has been gradual and orderly so far, will turn into a rout.
More here:
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/11/19/42424/784

*****

Debt crisis much worse than admitted! Comptroller General: You owe Uncle Sam $330,000.
by DC Pol Sci
Fri Nov 19th, 2004 at 15:25:16 PST

David Walker, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the Government Accountability Office:
Question: When you talked about the overall debt, you broke it down; could you give me that figure again, please?
Answer: If you consider the total debt outstanding in the United States, it's about $7.4 trillion. If on top of that, you add the difference between promised benefits and funded benefits under the current structure for Social Security, Medicare, Veterans' health and a variety of other issues, the current accumulated unfunded burden in today's dollars is over $40 trillion, which is about 18 times the entire budget, about three and a half times the economy. We are in a deep hole. First, we have to stop digging, and then, we've got to figure out how we're going to reconcile the gap.
Question: You gave a figure per worker.Answer: Per worker?Question: You gave a figure.
Answer: I'm sorry; $330,000 per full-time worker, $140,000 per American, even the newest newborn.
More here:
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/11/19/182516/23


But, you ask, how does Bush's economic policies really affect me? Just look at what he plans to do now:

Bush Plans Tax Code Overhaul
Changes Would Favor Investment, Growth

By Jonathan Weisman and Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 18, 2004; Page E01

But before the tax panel is even named, administration officials have begun dialing back expectations that they will move to scrap the current graduated income tax for another system.

Instead the administration plans to push major amendments that would shield interest, dividends and capitals gains from taxation, expand tax breaks for business investment and take other steps intended to simplify the system and encourage economic growth, according to several people who are advising the White House or are familiar with the deliberations.

The changes are meant to be revenue-neutral. To pay for them, the administration is considering eliminating the deduction of state and local taxes on federal income tax returns and scrapping the business tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance, the advisers said.
More here:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A58554-2004Nov17.html

Now, ask yourself if your employer can keep your health insurance plan at its current level if he does not receive a tax deduction.

And, you didn't really need that state and local tax deduction on your federal return, did you now?

November 18, 2004

Been There, Done That

Washington Monthly had an excellent blog entry comparing the buildup to attacking Iran vs. what looks like a buildup to attacking Iraq:

GROUNDHOG DAY?....You know, I'm more than willing to believe that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a very bad thing indeed. But take a look at what's been going on just in the past few weeks:

  • The Israelis have made it clear that they believe Iran is fast becoming an
    imminent threat that justifies preemptive attack.
  • There's a multinational effort underway to persuade Iran to stop enriching
    uranium.
  • The Europeans think they've reached a solid agreement, but the United
    States remains skeptical.
  • An exile group is loudly claiming that the Iranians are lying and
    there's a secret enrichment facility the Europeans don't know about.
  • Liberal hawk Kenneth Pollack has a big new book out telling us how
    dangerous Iran is.?

I can't be the only one to think I've seen this script before, can I? Is real life turning into Groundhog Day?

—Kevin Drum

You can read Kevin Drum's post (with all the links included in the entry and the comments from readers) here:
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2004_11/005176.php


Apparently Kevin is not the only one experiences deja vu.

A friend sent me the following screenshot of what was on AOL this morning:



Notice any problems?

This is my screenshot of the same story later this morning (different PC and different version of AOL):



Iran...Iraq...who can tell them apart?

November 16, 2004

The Beginnings of the Typically Problematic Second Term

Clinton's second term had Monica, Reagan had Iran-Contra and Nixon had Watergate. Bush is now setting himself up for a typically problematic second term by surrounding himself with even more Yes Men. As bad as Ashcroft was, he was a bit of a maverick in terms of having his own (weird) agenda and Powell was pretty much the only moderate in Bush World.

Now, Ashcroft and Powell are being replaced with Gonzales and Rice -- two people who are extremely close to the President.

Bush will find nothing more in these two but his own reflection.

There will no doubt now be a purge of moderates/liberals at the Department of State as there is ongoing at the CIA.

God Help Us All.

November 15, 2004

Colin Out -- Condi In

As reported EVERYWHERE today, Colin Powell turned in his resignation as Secretary of State. I have just heard on Air America and MSNBC that current National security adviser Condoleezza Rice has accepted the post.

More later...

November 13, 2004

Shameless Self-Promotion

It seems that some folks think it's a good idea to use their so-called political blogs to hawk products they have for sale. How shamelessly self-promoting!

By the way, were you aware that I have a CafePress shop of my own? Tons of lovely designs! Many high quality products -- including Christmas ornaments!

Click on any of the design links below:



Or just go to:

http://www.cafepress.com/newretro

to see the entire line of designs and products.

More "insight" from the Trib

One of today's editorials from The Trib begins this way:

In the aftermath of one of the most punishing Election Day defeats in recent memory, some Democratic Party honchos are vowing big changes to woo moderates along with rural voters in the South.

Elsewhere:
Party officials and strategists tell The New York Times that Sen. John Kerry's crushing defeat leaves Sen. Hillary Clinton as the party's most powerful elected official and brightest prospect in 2008.
Ignoring the frantic rightwing-nut rants about Senator Clinton, note how they characterize the recent election results. To them, Kerry's defeat was "one of the most punishing" and "crushing." I don't deny that alot of us on the left feel crushed by the election results, but I don't think the editorialists at the Trib were psychoanalyzing us.

No, they're spinning the myth that Bush won big. Mandate big.

Now, let's take a look at the facts.

Bush's margin of victory of 3.6 million votes was the smallest in three decades. Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford by 1.7 million votes or about 2.1% of the votes cast. In contrast, Bush's 3.6 million votes was only about 3.1% of the total votes cast.

Bush's margin in the electoral votes (34) is the third smallest this century. It's only abut 6.3% of the total number of electoral votes. In 1916, Woodrow Wilson defeated Charles E. Hughes by 23 electoral votes (4.3% of the total number of electoral votes). And in 2000, the difference in electoral votes (after the Supreme Court stopped the vote count in Florida) was a scant 5 (or .9% of the total number of electoral votes).

Emotionally crushing, yes. But a "punishing defeat"?

Hardly.

Leave it to The Trib to spin and spin and spin and spin.

November 11, 2004

ABC AWOL ON PVT RYAN

More than 20 ABC television affiliates will pre-empt the network's Veterans Day broadcast of Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" because they fear the film's violence and profanity leave them vulnerable to hefty fines from the Federal Communications Commission, according to a published report.

This includes Pittsburgh ABC affiliate WTAE...even though the movie was shown on broadcast TV in 2001.

So why not show it now?

Perhaps "everything has changed" after Janet's breast.

Perhaps we just don't want impressionable young people seeing the actual violence of war. I mean how are you going to recruit them for Bush's next war after that?




November 9, 2004

How to tell if you are living in a Red or Blue State

From: Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian

Blue States: Home of good schools
Red States: Homeskooled good

Blue States: Want a big tent for their Party.
Red States: Wears a big tent to her party.

Blue States: Favor electric cars
Red States: Favor electric chairs

Blue States: Concerned about ballooning deficits' effect on capital markets turning gains into thin air
Red States: Concerned about whether it's demons that make balloons float in thin air

Blue States: Dream of making enough money to kite and swim with Czechs in Biarritz
Red States: Dream of kiting enough checks to swim in Schlitz

Blue States: Favor institutionalized health care for the poor
Red States: Favor institutionalizing the poor

Blue States: After the 9/11 attacks, put coffins in the ground
Red States: After the 9/11 attacks, put magnetic flags on the car

Blue States: Forget that God did not give Adam a Steve
Red States: Forget that not only did God give Abraham three wives, He gave Solomon 300 concubines

Blue States: Enormous cities that serve as the engines of human progress
Red States: Enormous Hummers that serve as the engines for Arab oil

Blue States: Provide the "tax" part of "tax and spend"
Red States: Provide the "spend on a new 8-lane highway to link a Wal-Mart to the Olive Garden" part of "tax and spend"

Blue States: Believe we're all brothers and sisters under the skin.
Red States: Don't mind if we're brothers and sisters under the sheets.

Blue States: Fighting to clean up skid row
Red States: Fighting to clean up skid marks

Blue States: Concerned about global warming
Red States: Don't like to travel and are too fat to fit in an airline seat anyway, so glad to hear that the tropics are coming to Texas. Yee-haw!

Blue States: Follow Jesus, but doesn't believe in Him
Red States: Believe in Jesus, but doesn't follow Him

Blue States: Want to repeal the Patriot Act
Red States: Want to repeal the Emancipation Proclamation

Blue States: Looking for a method to weaken China every day
Red States: Sold everyday china for a weekend of meth

Blue States: Favor drafting annoying laws on assault rifles
Red States: Assault annoying in-laws with rifles after being drafted

Blue States: Want the right for everyone to worship as they choose
Red States: Want the right to choose everyone's worship

Blue States: Women wrestling with the right to choose
Red States: Choose women's wrestling

Blue States: Want a rational energy policy
Red States: Want policy of energetic irrationalism

Blue States: Used benefits to assist victims on account of attacks
Red States: Used attacks to benefit Toby Keith's bank account

Blue States: Watched friends in New York die in foxy attacks on America
Red States: Attack New York on Fox for not being friends of America

Blue States: Believe God loves us and gave everyone free will to be different
Red States: Believe God willed us to freely hate everyone different

Blue States: Believe absence makes the heart grow fonder
Red States: Believe abstinence saves the tart from plunder

Blue States: Believe in Mr. Darwin's theory of "Evolution"
Red States: Believe in Mr. Jesus' "Talking Snake" theory

Blue States: Slave to pay inheritance taxes
Red States: Inherited slaves

Blue States: Buy art
Red States: Collect Beanie Babies

ASHCROFT RESIGNS

Fox news just reported that Ashcroft has resigned. No real details yet.

Bush Mandate

Well, it was obviously time for a new Google Bomb. Go to http://www.google.com/ and type in the search terms:

Bush mandate

The first result you'll find is for the following:




Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy...unless the guy was Rick Santorum. Of course, Lil Ricky does have his own Google Bomb.

November 8, 2004

For The Record

As I've mentioned before, I was a volunteer for PA Victory '04. On election day, I worked as a poll checker/watcher. There were two training sessions for this duty. The first explained that poll checkers would receive cards containing the names of all the Democratic sporadic voters in a precinct.

"Sporadic" meaning folks who do not vote in 1 to 2 out of the last 4 elections. As each person came in to vote, the poll checker would check their list and remove the cards of any sporadic voters who showed up to the polls. Runners would periodically come by to collect the names and take them make to central staging area. Sporadic's who had not voted by a certain time would then be given reminder calls/visits to go vote.

I am not revealing any heavy duty secrets here as the Republicans were doing the exact same thing.

The "poll watcher" section of the training consisted of being informed of the legal rights of voters and how to counterchallenge challenges Republican poll watchers might make towards Democratic voters. We were also informed that we would be given a special hotline # for our legal team on election day (they feared giving it out to us the night before in case it might slip into Republican hands who might then try to jam the phone line).

And therein lies the rub. While both I and my Republican counterpart were ostensibly there to do the same job, it became clear to me that as poll watchers in a largely Democratic district, I was there to ensure that people could vote and she was there to prevent voting if she could.

I was stationed in Baldwin Boro -- a place from what I could see -- which was overwhelmingly white. At one point, the Republican poll watcher made the comment that she was, "...glad that they hadn't put her in the Hill District or East Liberty." "I'm glad they put me in someplace civilized where I don't have to worry about a lot of voter irregularities."

For anyone reading this who does not know it (or hasn't guessed it): the two "uncivilized" districts that she mentioned are largely composed of African American residents. She was obviously warned to expect to have to challenge voters in those districts and she was happy to have a relatively easy gig in the white suburbs (above and beyond whatever other "fears" she may have had about the "projects" that she gossiped about with a Republican clerk).

Please note that at the legal training we were also informed that the Democrats had discovered that every Crown Victoria car in the state had been rented out for election day. What is the significance of this, you may ask? Crown Vics are used by the police. This is the car model that was used in Florida by Republicans in Florida in 2000 to intimidate African American voters. The idea is to park them outside polling places and staff them with white guys in suits who appear to be taking down names, license plate # 's or taking photographs of voters.

And you probably thought that this crap only took place below the Mason-Dixon line.

I will say that the Republican poll watcher at my post didn't challenge any voter (that I saw). I can't say that her actions would have been the same if she had been sent to someplace less "civilized." (gag)

As I had been instructed to "not make any trouble for the paid poll workers" I did not get into an argument over the nasty comments made about the state of civilization in various neighborhoods. But it does feel good to put it down for the record here.

Olbermann To The Rescue?

From: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6210240

"...there is a small but blood-curdling set of news stories that right now exists somewhere between the world of investigative journalism, and the world of the Reynolds Wrap Hat. And while the group’s ultimate home remains unclear - so might our election of just a week ago.

Stories like these have filled the web since the tide turned against John Kerry late Tuesday night. But not until Friday did they begin to spill into the more conventional news media. That’s when the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that officials in Warren County, Ohio, had “locked down” its administration building to prevent anybody from observing the vote count there...

...Thus the majority of the media has yet to touch the other stories of Ohio (the amazing Bush Times Ten voting machine in Gahanna) or the sagas of Ohio South: huge margins for Bush in Florida counties in which registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 2-1, places where the optical scanning of precinct totals seems to have turned results from perfect matches for the pro-Kerry exit poll data, to Bush sweeps.

We will be endeavoring to pull those stories, along with the Warren County farce, into the mainstream Monday and/or Tuesday nights on Countdown."

Tell the world that we know we f'd up

http://sorryeverybody.com

A great site where the other (almost) half let's the world know that we know
just how bad Bush is for the whole world.

And boy are we sorry!

November 7, 2004

Exit Polls: The Next Safeguard To Go?

Both "Reliable Sources" on CNN (today) and "Fox News Watch" on Fox News (yesterday) had segments disparaging the reliability of exit polls. They have both taken the position that the early exit polls included too many Democrats/women/whatever and so were misleading as to the eventual outcome of the election. They further blamed the bloggers for leaking these polls and "upsetting" the public. They declared that exit polls are notoriously unreliable.

In the first place, exit polls have not been historically thought to be unreliable. They usually can be counted on to pretty accurately reflect whom the voter has selected. They did receive a bum rap in Florida in Election 2000 because there was such a high level of spoiled ballots that year. In other words, the polls were correct in showing the numbers for the candidates that the voters thought they had voted for but they could not take into account that poorly designed ballots had caused the voters to incorrectly mark their actual ballots which of course changed the outcome of the vote.

Actually, exit polls have long been used as evidence by international organizations (including the US) to challenge rigged elections in foreign countries.

Now in both Florida and Ohio, we have exit polls that differ wildly from the actual vote. However, this time, we cannot go back and review the ballots to explain the discrepancy. We cannot do this because these two states relied heavily on DIEBOLD voting machine that do not have a paper trail to audit.

We knew coming into Election 2004 that electronic voting increased the possibility to rig elections:

(From http://www.crisispapers.org/essays/fixed-election.htm )

"For example, in the highly suspicious Georgia senatorial and gubernatorial election of 2002, conducted entirely with touch-screen voting machines, the discrepancy between the pre-election polls and the election returns were beyond belief. The Democratic governor, Roy Barnes, who led Republican Sonny Perdue in the polls by 9 to 11 points, lost to Perdue by five points – a swing of about sixteen points. Max Cleland, ahead by five points,lost to Saxby Chamblis by six points.

These were shifts, respectively, of five and four margins of error. Talk to a statistician, and you will learn that the probabilities of such anomalies are vanishingly small. Is there, or was there, any way to validate the vote in those machines? Absolutely not. There is no independent record of the votes. That's just how the machines are designed."
The Republicans are well aware that exit polls can be used to warn us when "mischief is occurring:

(From http://www.crisispapers.org/essays/fixed-election.htm )

"Soon after the polls closed in 2002, the exit polls from Voter News Service began to announce trends that were favorable to the Democrats. Then, suddenly, VNS told us that the results were “unreliable” and the entire election day operation was shut down.

How convenient for the GOP! And we have never received a clear explanation of what happened. Just the same message we had heard two years before in 2000: 'Get over it!'

In fact, in the past, exit polls have proven to be the most accurate polling methods. So they must be brought back as “checks” against the non-auditable machines. If the media's service, VNS, won't do it, then the left must demand an explanation of why it won't, and an alternative exit polling service must be put in place".

Rather than blame exit polls -- or the bloggers who publish them -- and call for the discontinuation of these polls, we must insure that exit polls are widespread and fairly and impartially conducted so as to serve to remain as strong statistical evidence of fraud and manipulation.

More importantly, we must insist on a paper trail for all elections. The Democratic Party let this issue slid by and blew the election this time around.

Will we continue to trust Republican-owned companies such as DIEBOLD to honor our most sacred right to freely elect our own officials?

The Republicans placed antigay marriage amendments on the ballot in eleven states this election. Call it Machiavellian or incredibly smart -- it did the trick to turn out their base.

We must start working now to place "Count Every Vote" (paper trails) amendments on every states ballots in the 2006 midterm election.

It will serve to not only ensure fair and free elections, but it will also turn out our base in an off year.