Friday, April 30, 2004

I'm debating: should I eat Alexander Cockburn's words criticizing John Kerry? On the one hand, Cockburn (and I) don't trust most Democrats anymore. Both parties are bought by corporations. That's why Dean was forced to take a fall: he wasn't bought. Last January, Dean was getting 13 percent of his money in contributions of $2000; Kerry was getting 55 percent of his money that way. That's why I'm not generous with Kerry, as I was with Dean. I ask myself if I'm just contributing to another big business puppet.

On the other hand, I'd say Cockburn was inaccurate in his assessment that Kerry will focus on reducing the deficit and neglect jobs. After reading that Kerry is pledging to create ten million new jobs, I went to Google and typed in "John Kerry's positions on jobs". There are LOTS of specific details there about his plans.

Take a look. Click here. Scroll down to Priorities and click on any aspect of his jobs plan you want to know more about. He certainly sounds like a real Democrat. Maybe I'm too cynical.

By the way, I'm especially pleased to see Kerry criticizing the lack of security at chemical plants. That oversight has been troubling me.

So I'm apologizing for yesterday's posting--in a way.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Here's a priceless quote from GWB in regards to himself and Cheney with the commission: "I think it helped them understand the way I think". Right, Dubya, now they know for sure that you can't make a neuron connection without President Cheney right there with you.

This Friday's nightline:
Now I want to tell you about this Friday’s broadcast. We’re going to do something different, something that we think is important. Friday night, we will show you the pictures, and Ted will read the names, of the men and women from the armed forces who have been killed in combat in Iraq. That’s it. That will be the whole broadcast. Nightline has been reporting on the casualties under the heading of “Line of Duty.”

But we realized that we seemed to just be giving numbers. So many killed in this incident, so many more in that attack. Whether you agree with the war or not, these men and women are serving, are putting their lives on the line, in our names. We think it is important to remember that those who have paid the ultimate price all have faces, and names, and loved ones. We thought about doing this on Memorial Day, but that’s a time when most media outlets do stories about the military, and they are generally lost in the holiday crush of picnics and all. We didn’t want this broadcast to get lost. Honestly, I don’t know if people will watch this for thirty seconds, or ten minutes, or at all. That’s not the point. We think this is important. These men and women have earned nothing less.

One point, we are not going to include those killed in non-hostile incidents. There’s no disrespect meant here, we just don’t have enough time in this one broadcast. But they are no less deserving of our thoughts. I hope that you will join us for at least part of “The Fallen” on Friday.
But you don't get to see it, St. Louis:
NewsBlues.com is reporting that Sinclair Broadcast Group has ordered its ABC-affiliated stations not to carry tomorrow's "Nightline," which will air the names and photos of soldiers who have been killed in combat in Iraq.

Sinclair General Counsel Barry Faber tells the site: "We find it to be contrary to the public interest."

The boycott will affect eight ABC-affiliated Sinclair stations.
One of which is KDNL 30. Dead soldiers are ok, as long as we can't see them. Now go buy an SUV, America!

(c/o Atrios)

Billy Brahma said yesterday that trading our Dean pins for Kerry pins is "not even a decent trade." Alexander Cockburn is no fan of Kerry's either. This month's column in The Nation criticizes Kerry's economic plans. Kerry, in frequent consultation with Clinton's man Robert Rubin, is making deficit reduction his priority. Cockburn argues that doing so will not create jobs, and jobs are what this economy needs most right now.

If you still foolishly believe that the economy in Clilnton time was properly guided for the long-term benefit of the many, as opposed to short-term bonanzas for the wealthy few, I strongly urge you to read Robert Pollin's Contours of Descent, which I hailed here last November.

Cockburn contends that reducing the deficit is perhaps useful for boosting the GDP, but boosting the GDP in no way guarantees more jobs. That's why we have the term "jobless recovery." He quotes his colleague Pollin: "The Democrats should instead be talking about a major jobs program, through refinancing of state and local government spending in education, health and social welfare."

I'm not sure we can't do both. Let me remind you Dean folks that as governor of Vermont, Howard Dean was a deficit hawk who nevertheless increased jobs by 20 percent. If we had to choose, though, between jobs and deficit reduction--yes, jobs come first.

Cockburn contends that the problem with the deficit isn't so much that it is intrinsically bad. It's not "unparalleled in recent U.S. economic history." But the deficit IS bad when it's used as an excuse to strangle social programs. We amass a huge deficit by giving tax cuts to the wealthy, then we get:

the Greenspan Two-Step: Endorse the tax cuts, then say, as the Fed chairman did in February, that the consequent deficits require the evisceration of Social Security. Remember, Bill Clinton was all set to start privatizing Social Security, until the allurements of the divine Monica postponed the onslaught.

In fact, this two-step is what Paul Krugman's been warning us about for months now. Krugman is fond of reminding us that it was Greenspan who recommended increasing the Social Security tax in the late eighties--to make the program permanently solvent. So actually, what we've got here is the Greenspan Three-Step.

Pollin suggests that a progressive way to shrink the deficit would be a small tax on stock transactions--say 0.5 percent. That would raise $100 billion next year even if the shock of it sent markets tumbling "an implausibly large 50 percent."

But, Cockburn concludes:

A tax on financial transactions? Now you're talking, but not about anything you might expect from the Democratic Party or John Kerry.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Alexander Cockburn has graciously agreed to provide my posting this morning. In other words, I'm going to quote the intro to his column in the May 3 issue of The Nation.

As one who regards Gerry Ford as our greatest President (least time served, least damage done, husband of Betty, plus Stevens as his contribution to the Supreme Court), I'd always imagined the man from Grand Rapids would never be surpassed in sheer slowness of thought. When a reporter asked Ford a question it was like watching the great sequence in Rossellini's film about Louis XIV, when a shouted command is relayed at a stately pace through a dozen intermediaries from the kitchen to the royal ear. In Ford's case, to watch a message negotiate the neural path from ear to cortex was to see a hippo wade through glue.

But I think Bush has Ford beat. Had he ever made a mistake, the reporter asked at that White House press conference. The President's face remained composed, masking the turmoil and terror raging within, as his cerebrum went into gridlock. It should have been easy for him. Broad avenues of homely humility beckoned. "John, no man can stand before his Creator as I do each day and say he is without error . . ." Reagan would have hit the ball out of the park. But the President froze. He said he'd have to think it over.


The Lovenstein Institute's latest analysis of presidential I.Q.s puts Bush at the bottom of the heap. Reagan used to hold that position with a mere 105. Bush Senior carried on the tradition with 98 (and he was in charge of the CIA?!). Dumbya has 91 whole points of I.Q. (Gerry Ford, by the way, wasn't as dumb as he looked--121.)

Today, Huey in Boondocks says:

What's problematic to me is not that the president is staggeringly dim-witted, but that the press knows he's staggeringly dim-witted and everyone just pretends that he's not. It's like the presidency has become the Special Olympics and everyone wants to give him an award just for trying.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The Photographic History of the Bush Administration Putting Its Mouth Where Its Money Isn’t

I love this sight, it was produced by the House Appropriations Committee – Minority Contact: David Sirota (202) 225-3481

The Bush Credibility Gap: Real Life Examples
A chronology of Bush saying one thing then doing another. (Imagine my shock!!)

Anti-abortionists have forfeited the right to call themselves pro-life. The Missouri House of Representatives tried to shave thousands of kids off Medicare three weeks ago because the youngsters came from families that made more than $8700 a year. The right wing wants to make sure these children get born, but it effectively throws them away as soon as they're out of the womb. That's not pro-life.

Too often, our society, especially Republicans, ignores their health, their education, child care and after school care while their mothers--often poor, single women--work. We ARE willing, though, to spend money on prisons for those neglected babies once the inevitable large percentage of them turn into criminals. That "solution" costs society more money in the long run than a social safety net would.

Some poor women have opted out of that cycle by having abortions, and in a way their decision makes sense. In 1999 two researchers (Donahue and Levvitt of Stanford Law School and the University of Chicago, respectively) showed a link between Roe v. Wade and, twenty-five years later, falling crime statistics. A CNSNews.com article states:

Not only does the study "suggest that legalized abortion is a primary explanation of the large drops in murder, property crime and violent crime," a quarter century after Roe v. Wade, it also reported that crime rates in five states that allowed abortion before 1973 "experienced declines earlier than the rest of the nation."

Click here to read the article.

Neither I nor the authors of that study are recommending abortion to control crime. What I am saying is that unwanted babies face a bleak future. If we want to make abortion less appealing to poor, young, single mothers we need a social safety net for their children. Now that's a pro-life attitude. And we could further increase the likelihood of abortion being rare by preventing unwanted pregnancies. We need sex education that includes but goes beyond "abstinence training."

Monday, April 26, 2004

Abortion: Part 1

In "The King and I", the king of Siam puzzles over the fact that people will "fight to prove that what they do not know IS SO!" His puzzlement came to mind as I considered this business of fetuses and souls--when fetuses or babies get said souls, if indeed they ever do. Noone's ever seen one, but some folks will fight to prove that a fertilized egg has a soul. That's why they opposed stem cell research, not to mention abortion. Aside from any lack of proof, this view is unconvincing. The few dozen cells in a fertilized egg could turn out in the finished baby to be fingernail tissue. Sure those cells have a complete set of chromosomes, but a soul? During the stem cell brouhaha, Katha Pollitt commented that "[N]early half of all fertilized eggs fail to implant and are washed out with menstruation--maybe there should be funerals for tampons, just to be on the safe side."

Carol Wise, writing in Democracy 4 America, had a different theory. "Like anyone who has ever seen any kind of animal or human birth, I know that at the moment of birth, the baby is basically dead until its airway is cleared and it takes its first breath. It is with that first breath that the soul enters the body." No proof for that theory either, but it does seem more probable that a soul might enter a complete baby along with the breath of life than that it would reside in a few dozen cells of fingernail tissue.

The problem with this stubborn insistence in fighting "to prove that what they do not know IS SO" is that banning abortion is so impractical. Consider Portugal, where abortion is illegal. Women--and their parents, husbands, boyfriends, even a cab driver who took a woman to a clinic--are tried and sent to jail over the issue. What sense does it make to send a woman to jail and leave her three small children without a mother? Other Europeans find this situation "medieval", and the Portuguese are faced with the impossibility of trying to prevent a woman's choice on this matter. Although virtually all Portuguese abhor abortion, 86% of them now want it legalized.

It's enough to make you wonder if we should just let the anti-abortionists have their way and see how much even they end up hating it.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Charles Krauthammer is after Kerry for planning to mend our diplomatic fences in Europe and go to the U.N. for help in Iraq. "This is an Iraq policy? Never has a more serious question received a more feckless answer." Actually I know of another Iraq policy that is far more feckless. With only ten weeks to go, Bush plans to turn authority in Iraq over to . . . he knows not whom. But whoever it is, they'll have only partial command of their own troops and will not be able to enact new laws. So they're in charge, but not. They're in charge of issuing drivers' licenses and seeing that public restrooms are kept clean.

Bush doesn't have a plan; he doesn't even have a clue.

In the April 26 issue of The Nation, Jonathan Schell describes this plan that isn't one and concludes:

Instead of saying, "On June 30, the Coalition will hand over sovereignty to the Iraqi people," we should say, "On June 30, the re-election campaign of George W. Bush will hand over the appearance of responsibility for the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq to certain of its local appointees."

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Criticize him all you want, but President George Bush has one unerring talent. If there's a wrong way to do something, he will infallibly find it. And I don't just mean the big stuff like attacking Iraq, cutting taxes for the rich, and gutting the environment. No. Here is a man who pays attention to the niceties, the small details of doing it wrong. Here are two recent gaffes:

1) After the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy spoke on television. He explained that when a project succeeds, it has a hundred proud parents. When it fails, it's an orphan. Kennedy said he couldn't leave the Bay of Pigs failure an orphan. He was in charge, and the failure was his responsibility. The next day his poll numbers shot up eleven points. In private, he expressed surprise that he could fail so miserably and become more popular. Tuesday of last week a reporter asked Bush if he had made any mistakes as president. Nope, couldn't think of any. See what I mean about his unerring instincts?

2) Bush is appointing John Negroponte as ambassador to Iraq after June 30. First of all, who are we kidding with the term "ambassador"? He'll be the de facto president of a bloody mess. Negroponte speaks no Arabic, and his only connection with the Middle East is that he sold the Iranis weapons during their eight year war with Iraq. His credentials won't endear us to Iraqis. Other than that, he's best known for using the money from those arms sales to finance the Contras in their terrorism against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua in the eighties. Then there's his record as ambassador in death-squad plagued Honduras. He used American aid not to push for democracy but to further empower the country's military. The American Prospect had this to say when he became ambassador to the U.N.: "Negroponte [is] an ambassador who comes to his new post trailing an abysmal record of official mendacity and a murky relation to the darkest of deeds." Could Bush have chosen more unwisely?

We got the advance word about reinstating the draft a couple of weeks ago from Democracy 4 America. Now they're starting to sell it to the public. On NPR yesterday, I heard Joe Biden, for God's sake, a Democrat, speaking in favor of it.

In this morning's paper, Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., says we need to "ensure that all Americans 'bear some responsibility . . . pay some price'" for our freedoms. He spins it as hard as he can: "His main interest, he said, is to ensure that . . . 'the privileged, the rich' as well as the less affluent bear the burden of fighting wars of the future." He might as well have waved his hands in front of him, shaken his head, and protested: "Honest, honest, we wouldn't just put the rich kids in community service in Sausalito." When they start using phrases like "bear the burden", watch out.

If we hadn't gone into Iraq, no draft would be necessary. Now we're stuck there. Or are we? Islamic countries are pushing the U.N. to take over in Iraq after June 30. Pakistan and Malaysia are even offering to contribute troops.

What attitude will the people on this website take? Some will say that we should not be quick to acquiesce to a draft or to believe assurances that it would be fair this time. Others will be more uncompromising: @#$%^&*! Try to remember what happened with the last unfair draft for an unnecessary war. It's not necessary. It's never been fair, and it wouldn't be this time. And some of us may feel that more troops must be called up. We shouldn't be in this bind, but we are, and we need more soldiers.

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Today, I speak on behalf of the Linda Jacobsen campaign. Linda has vowed to defeat a man named Kenny Hulshof in the 9th Congressional District. I received an email about an event Hulshof held not too long ago, and it occurred to me that maybe there were some people out there who might know why THIS guy in particular needs to be run out of Washington.

http://lindajacobsenforcongress.com/contributions.html

A quick bio: Kenny Hulshof was a prosecuting attorney from the Ashcroft School of Repression, and now takes his cues directly from the Karl Rove playbook. There is not Right Wing-nut position he doesn’t like, and his donor list reads like a who’s who of the Midwestern Conservative movement’s A-List. Ken Hulshof is so far in Edward Jones’, Agribusiness interests, and Wal Mart’s pockets that it’s disgusting!

Ken Hulshof sits on possibly the MOST POWERFUL Committee in Congress, Ways and Means. The Ways and Means Committee controls much of what goes on in Congress because it’s primary role is to set the budget priorities for where tax dollars are come from, and they control many key sub committees in Congress today. He was installed on Ways and Means in his freshman term in office during the Gingrich regime. Kenny proved to be a good little soldier for the Killer B’s (Bond, Roy Blunt, and of course Bush via his relative and St. Louis resident, Bucky Bush) and fell right in line. For his service to the Crown, Hulshof was rewarded with the Chairmanship of the Bush/Cheney campaign in Missouri.

If that’s not enough for you, here’s a description of an event where Mr. Hulshof used his position and status to not only act like the Snake Oil salesman that he is, but demonstrated an attitude that he has no real respect for the 1st Amendment or political dissent, despite Republican rhetoric contrary to this! I’ve added some commentary:

"Kenny Hulshof was in Columbia in the morning with Rod Paige (The guy who called the NEA “terrorists”) and in Fulton this evening at WWU for a "debate" with an Enlgish prof. (It was revealed to us at the Missouri Democratic convention that Westminster will not allow Democratic speakers on campus. Ask Linda about it) Turns out they go to the same church and are buds and it was no debate. (see above) Also they picked the old white men to ask questions, of course, because they either knew them or they were sitting with people they knew so they knew they would be on their side!!!! I was outraged and seated in a spot where I could not easily escape, especially since I am now known there and it would have been too impolite to get up and leave. I went to support the English prof, but it wasn't a real debate. They did disagree on the war, but he was way too respectful of Hulshof. (So, what does this mean? Was the debate a “staged event”?) Anyway, Linda needs to know what he is saying about the war. There is supposedly an article in the American Standard (A Google search on the phrase “American Standard” appropriately takes you to the toilet manufacturing company, but NO news publications or references thereof. Hmmm) that has "evidence" of ties or communication between bin Laden and Iraq. (Complicity is an amazing thing, isn’t it?) I wanted to ask him what the "evidence" was and why it hadn't appeared in the mainstream media, but I wanted more to get out of there before my blood pressure was any higher. So she needs to follow up on that. Are they ever going to debate? He was very slick. Implied a lot of things without really saying them so he could later weasle out of it, like Bush. (Oh gee, a Republican using implication over fact? Big surprise there!) I was thoroughly disgusted. I wasted my time and I have at least 10 million things to do before Saturday!!!

If she wants me to do a fundraiser for her here I'm willing after the session is over and before the end of May. We need to get right on it."


Indeed we do. I ask you to visit Linda’s site and support her efforts in any way you can. 2004 is the year when we turn the tide against these Republicans who use Fascist tactics and slick PR to get elected. I say, let’s not only take Bush head on, but his power structure, too! Kenny Hulshof is a cog in the Republican machine, but he is an important one to remove if we are to truly bring Change for Missouri.

Joe Bruemmer
314-910-0122

"The liberty of a Democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the
growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their
Democratic State itself. That, in its' essence, is Fascism-ownership of
Government power by an individual, by a group or by any controlling
power."

-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Lately, it's stylish to quote Will Rogers, Jr.: "I am not a member of any organized political party--I am a Democrat."

Well, hey, talk about disorganized: would it cheer you up to know that Republican infighting is putting the GOP in danger of losing the Senate this fall?

Click here to find out about the extreme right wing Republican Club for Growth and the damage it's wreaking within GOP ranks. I just want to wish the Club luck. And I want to wish the moderates luck fighting them. Let's hope they incapacitate each other.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Hey kids, it's time for "What's That Word?" The exciting game where we pick some words and take a look at their definitions.

Let's start with:

Liberal
a: of, favoring, or based upon the principles of liberalism
b: capitalized : of or constituting a political party advocating or associated with the principles of political liberalism; especially : of or constituting a political party in the United Kingdom associated with ideals of individual especially economic freedom, greater individual participation in government, and constitutional, political, and administrative reforms designed to secure these objectives
c: BROAD-MINDED; especially : not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms

Okay, now just for fun:

Conservative:
a: of or relating to a philosophy of conservatism
b: capitalized : of or constituting a political party professing the principles of conservatism : as (1) : of or constituting a party of the United Kingdom advocating support of established institutions (2) : PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE
c: tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions : TRADITIONAL
d: marked by moderation or caution (a conservative estimate) marked by or relating to traditional norms of taste, elegance, style, or manners (a conservative suit)

So kids, what have we learned in today's lesson? That's right, say it with me... Liberal good, Conservative bad.
Wasn't that fun?

Now it's your turn, does anyone have their own definitions of these two words they'd like to share with the class?

Thursday, [American soldiers] had been out, handing out candy, shaking hands with people. Residents had been giving them flowers. Suddenly, they were taking small arms fire from a house. A homemade bomb exploded, and suddenly the same people who had been giving them flowers were now cheering.

The quotation above from the Post-Dispatch illustrates one thing: Lord knows, we need a way to get out of there. Bush’s idea of a credible plan is to put Chalabi and the other Governing Council people in charge. Sigh. On the assumption we can show Bush the door in November, we’ll be needing a real plan. It’s tempting to give Saddam Hussein a shave and a haircut, declare him rehabilitated, and put him back in charge. But nobody will go for that. Bring in the U.N.? Our troops have done an admirable job of balancing force with caution and concern, so I’m not criticizing them when I say that the U.N. couldn’t do worse than we have. Koffi Anan might have a better idea than the cowboys in D.C. of how to settle down this hornets’ nest. Whether the U.N. could actually bring peace is anybody’s guess. Paul Krugman had the most intriguing idea:

The best we can realistically hope for now is to turn power over to relatively moderate Iraqis with a real base of popular support. Yes, that mainly means Islamic clerics. The architects of the war will complain bitterly, and claim that we could have achieved far more. But they've been wrong about everything so far--and if we keep following their advice, Iraq really will turn into another Vietnam.

That “V” word keeps coming up more and more these days. Sure, the body count in Iraq is miles below that of Vietnam—so far. But the destructive potential of continued conflict in this particularly bloody, maniacal corner of the planet is breathtaking.

You know the situation is beyond awful when Charles Krauthammer agrees with Paul Krugman: "We must put down the rebellions, then transfer power as quickly as we can to those who will inherit it anyway: The Shiite majority . . . ."

Sometimes I just want to grab Dumbya by the shoulders, shake him like a ragdoll, and scream imprecations.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Seymour Hersh is being unkind to the Bushies again. In the April 12 issue of The New Yorker, he skewers them on the subject of Afghanistan. He begins with Richard Clarke, who says the Administration sees Afghanistan as a “military and political backwater—a detour along the road to Iraq . . . .” That attitude has made Bush et. al. so stingy with resources there that “’the U.S. has succeeded in stabilizing only two or three cities. The President of Afghanistan is just the mayor of Kabul.’”

Hersh says: “Clarke’s view of what went wrong was buttressed by an internal military analysis” the Department of Defense asked retired Colonel Hy Rothstein to undertake. Rothstein served twenty years in the Army Special Forces and is now senior lecturer in defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School, so he's no dissident. He just wanted to be helpful. After interviewing dozens of soldiers there, from enlisted men to senior military officers, Rothstein wrote a “devastating critique of the Administration’s policies.” It said that despite Rumsfeld’s much heralded new way of waging war (e.g. Special Forces on horseback and Predator Drones), basically what we did was bomb the hell out of the place. That was ineffective against an enemy that had gone to ground, and besides, it caused more than a thousand civilian deaths. Rumsfeld swatted away complaints about them saying that “’some amount’” of collateral damage was inevitable.

Subtlety would have worked better than the blunt instrument of bombs. “’The Special Forces were created to deal with precisely this kind of enemy,’ Rothstein wrote. ‘Unconventional warfare prescribes that Special Forces soldiers must be diplomats, doctors, spies, cultural anthropologists, and good friends—all before their primary work comes into play.’” Such Special Forces would surely have become aware that there were deep divisions within the Taliban vis-à-vis al Qaeda. The two groups were not synonymous. The U.S. could have exploited those divisions and used Taliban members opposed to al Qaeda to stabilize the country. Instead we left a power vacuum that gave “’warlordism, banditry, and opium production . . . a new lease on life.’”

Naturally, Rothstein’s report “was returned to him, with the message that he had to cut it drastically and soften his conclusions.” Too much truth. The Bush administration just hates too much truth. Well, thanks to Hersh, this cat is out of the bag. And there's plenty more truth about the administration's failed policies in Afghanistan where this came from. Take a look at the article.

You know what? I'd like to see the 9/11 Commission question Hy Rothstein.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

It's impossible to know how many guilty secrets the White House is hiding in documents they refuse to turn over to the 9/11 Commission. For all anybody knows, there's nothing "guilty" about them, and withholding them is just spiteful stubbornness. Sure, I know it's unlikely to be only spiteful stubbornness, but it's possible. Just remember what we saw last week in the judiciary branch of the White House when a federal marshal confiscated reporters' tape recordings of a public speech by Justice Scalia. What? Scalia was speaking about the Constitution when the incident occurred! Bob Herbert of the Times consulted a professor of media, ethics, and the law. He says Ms. Kirtland felt it was an affront to the Constitution to seize those tapes and also a violation of the Privacy Protection Act of 1980. The Act "'protects journalists not just from newsroom searches,' she said, 'but from the seizure of their work product material . . . like these tapes or digital recordings.'" Herbert concludes that "[T]he power brokers have gone mad. They've deluded themselves into thinking they're royalty, not public servants . . . ."

Scalia did apologize this week for the incident, though. He wrote to one of the reporters, "I was as upset as you were." Uh-huh. Last year he prevented radio and television coverage of a ceremony in which he received an award for supporting free speech. Talk about irony-challenged. No, if he was upset, it was because of the bad press. I don't know who did the finger-wagging, but I'd guess somebody got in his face and told him that confiscating those tapes was beyond embarrassing, it was probably illegal.

These right wingers--Bush, Scalia, Cheney, et. al.--treat information like money. Something to be withheld from the lower classes.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Harry Truman said that “Secrecy and a free, democratic government don’t mix.” Oh well, he’s just some dead Democrat. What does he know? What the Bushies know is that secrets, apart from often being necessary, give their holder power. Under the heading of necessary secrets are those that Cheney refused to disclose about his Energy Commission. Can’t have Americans confirming what they already know about how energy policy was formed, can we?

And if any of those guilty secrets do come out, the White House smears the truthteller by lying and hiding behind a veil of anonymity--a powerful form of secrecy. Krugman’s April 2 column details the complicity of CNN in the administration’s sneaky behavior. For example, Krugman reported that Letterman showed a video of a Bush speech with a shot of a small boy yawning. (Too much truth! Too much truth! We can’t tolerate laughter.) So CNN reported: “We’re being told by the White House that the kid, as funny as he was, was edited into that video.” Letterman was not amused by the accusation and said the kid was absolutely there during the speech. So CNN backed down but claimed that Ms. Kagan “misspoke.” CNN pretended that the White House wasn’t behind the accusation. Oh? “So who was?" Krugman wants to know. "And if the claim didn’t come from the White House, why did CNN run it without checking?”

It was just a minor incident, but as the song goes, “Little things mean a lot”, especially when they form a consistent pattern of smear, then retreat if the smear backfires. Their smears of Clarke are even more convoluted--and entertaining, if you like black humor. That's the modus operandi: say whatever you think you can get away with through your spokesliars at CNN. And if somebody calls you on it, back off little by little. The public will lose interest before it all gets straightened out.

More tomorrow on secrecy.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Missouri Treasurer's Race

Who gets to hold on to the state's wallet? The Treasurer, that's who... This thread provides information and a place for conversation on the State Treasurer's race.

There are three candidate's registered for the Democratic Primary in August. They are:

Jason Klumb
Mark Powell
Mark Abel

Information on each of these candidates is provided in the first comments on this post. Please review this information, provide additional information, and share your comments and opinions.

We hope this discussion will lead to an informed endorsement by our CFM members. Thanks.

Okay, some of you think civility is a waste of time. And I have to admit that Molly Ivins, my favorite, would probably agree with you. In fact, she'd have relished Jason Crowell's performance last Wednesday. In support of that claim, I give you part of the intro to her 1991 book Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?

From the first moment I saw the Texas Legislature, I adored it. Opening day, 61st session, 1971, I walked onto the floor of the Texas House, saw one ol' boy dig another in the ribs with his elbow, wink, and announce, "Hey, boy!Yew should see whut Ah found mahself last night! An' she don't talk, neither!" It was reporter-heaven. Some sensitive souls are sickened by it, a few find it merely distasteful, and others persist in reporting on it in a way that squeezes all the juice and life out of it: "House Bill 327 was passed out of subcommittee by unanimous vote on Tuesday."

One of my heroes is William Brann, the great populist, who edited a paper called The Iconoclast in Waco before the turn of the century. Brann, a fearless man, loathed three things above all others: cant, hypocrisy, and the Baptists. "The trouble with our Texas Baptists," he once observed, "is that we do not hold them under water long enough." But there he was in the Vatican City of the Baptists, and for his pains, one fine day in 1898, on a wooden sidewalk, an irate Baptist shot him in the back. Right where his galluses crossed. But the story has a happy ending, on account of, as he lay dying on the sidewalk, William Brann drew his own gun and shot his murderer to death. Me, I hoped to go like Brann. A martyr to honest journalism.

So in my early days at the Observer, when I would denounce some sorry sumbitch in the Lege as an egg-suckin' child-molester who ran on all fours and had the brains of an adolescent pissant, I would courageously prepare myself to be horse-whipped at the least. All that ever happened was, I'd see the sumbitch in the capitol the next day, he'd beam, spread his arms, and say, "Baby! Yew put mah name in yore paper!" Twenty years, and I've never been able to permanently piss off a single one of them. I have finally had to admit, Texas politicians are unusually civilized people.

I wonder, though, with the rise of Tom De Lay, whether Molly still considers Texas politicians unusually civilized people.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Here's a disturbing Nation article about the Kerry campaign:

"So far, the team appears to be following the same playbook--center-right and investor-friendly--that turned Al Gore into a formless pudding during the 2000 campaign. "This group is consulting literally daily with Bob Rubin," Altman gushed. Former Treasury Secretary Rubin gave us NAFTA and other free-trade milestones that led to the jobs hemorrhage."

Read the rest here

I hate to be around mean spirited people. Even if I don't get drawn into their petty criticisms of people we know, they make me feel sour just because I have to put up with them. They bring out the worst in me. The same is true on a national scale. Every once in a while I hear a little homily on, say, NPR warning liberals not to be so partisan. I hoot in derision over the injustice of US being lectured on that subject. Liberals are the ones who put up with lies and lying liars. We hear BIG lies: Saddam was getting yellowcake from Nigeria. We hear LITTLE lies: The Clinton people trashed the White House before they left. We get stonewalled. Jim Jeffords's complaint in the paper yesterday was typical. For the past three years, he says he's "'been stonewalled in getting information from the EPA. . . . I have bent over backwards to try to accommodate the EPA, but my patience is now worn out. I had hoped that we could put the posturing aside . . . .'" He's just facing the same old stuff and nonsense we expect from Republicans.

And occasionally, they let their inner sneer out into the limelight. (Well, okay, Cheney's sneer is out there all the time.) But yesterday Jason Crowell, the Republican leader of our state senate, gave the Dems a Bronx cheer as they tried to discuss the budget. At least Bill McClellan's column in this morning's Post-Dispatch took him to task for it. McClellan bemoans the current state of affairs: "Civility is as outdated as typewriters."

McClellan went after the Republicans on this issue, but Dems also came in for a warning about civility. "Last week, Air America Radio, the left's answer to Rush Limbaugh et al. came on line. Ridicule, scorn, contempt and name-calling will now be coming from both sides of the aisle." Actually, he's right. Not about Franken and Garofalo. Their bias is obvious, but their tone is reasonable. With all due respect to Lee, though, I have to say that Randi Rhodes is well informed but shrill.

I've decided to consider the warnings issued to liberals about civility as an implicit compliment. Their subtext is "We expect that childishness and hatefulness from Republicans. But liberals have always been grownups." The question is how do we effectively fight meanspirited tactics and lies without letting them bring out the worst in us?

Thursday, April 08, 2004

YOUR NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS ONE!

This was sent to me yesterday by Jonathan Halvorson, who is a former Missouri for Dean supporter who now lives in New York. It seemed so unfathomable to me that I had to research it myself. Imagine my surprise when I found it to be completely true. Thanks Jonathan.

Yesterday, as the Missouri House struggled to pass a budget, House Majority Floor Leader Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, grew impatient with Democrats speaking out against the bill.
To express his disapproval, Representative Crowell began to harass and laugh at the Democrats. His comments included "Hello, hello, earth to you" and many repetitions of "Puleezeeee." He went on to scold Democrats, talk over them, and make fun of them.
When a few Democrats continued to ask for their time, this fine representative responded by making loud farting noises into his microphone to drown what the Democrats were saying.

Please drop Representative Crowell a note at Jason.Crowell@house.mo.gov and let him know how much you appreciate his sterling leadership.

To read the supporting story click here
To read the post's take on it click here
...and of course my take on the post's take:

Ms.(or Mrs.) Young,

I am confused about your article. Is it an editorial or is it meant to be straight news? Where you actually there? If so, I am amazed that the worst thing you can say about Jason Cromwell’s unbelievably tacky and disrespectful behavior is that he startled members by spitting into the microphone. Did you miss the fact that he continually talked over the democrats, said PUHLEEEEZEE several times, insinuated they were from another planet and made flatulence noises into the microphone? The title of your piece frames the issue nicely for republicans “Mo. budget plan boosts school funding” Perhaps it should have been, “Republican Majority House Leader Jason Crowell Proves He’s a Condescending Ass”

Dyan Ortbal-Avalos

My daughter-in-law's dad has always been a gung ho Democrat. Candidate signs would dot his lawn in October of election years. In 2002, though, he voted for Talent. Abortion, don't you know. I'll see him at Ashley's fourth birthday party this Saturday and maybe have a chance to tell him about Portugal.

Nicholas Kristof's Wednesday New York Times column described the situation in that small industrialized country where abortion is illegal. Recently, seven women went on trial for having abortions. They faced three years each in prison. Ten accomplices were also tried--husbands, boyfriends, parents, even a taxi driver who had taken a pregnant woman to a clinic.

Despite their almost universal disapproval of abortion, most Portuguese--79 percent--now favor abortion rights. To read the article click here. And be sure to read all the way to the end. There's a little reward waiting for you there.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Thomas Paine who wrote the original "Common Sense" pamphlet and inspired the American Revolution with prose that spoke directly to the people, handed out this addendum after a speech made by the King.

I was inspired to look back by our pal Matthew Schmidt, who is working on a presentation about Thomas Paine for school right now. (at least he better be so he can make it to tonight's meetup)

In the addendum I substituted the word "King" with "President" and it works amazingly well to describe any of Bush's speechs. Come and play along, it's fun.

SINCE the publication of the first edition of this pamphlet, or rather, on the same day on which it came out, President Bush’s speech made its appearance in this country. Had the spirit of prophecy directed the birth of this production, it could not have brought it forth, at a more seasonable juncture, or a more necessary time. The bloody mindedness of the one, show the necessity of pursuing the doctrine of the other. Men read by way of revenge. And the speech instead of terrifying, prepared a way for the manly principles of Independence.

Ceremony, and even, silence, from whatever motive they may arise, have a hurtful tendency, when they give the least degree of countenance to base and wicked performances; wherefore, if this maxim be admitted, it naturally follows, that the President's speech, as being a piece of finished villainy, deserved, and still deserves, a general execration both by the Congress and the people. Yet as the domestic tranquility of a nation, depends greatly on the chastity of what may properly be called NATIONAL MATTERS, it is often better, to pass some things over in silent disdain, than to make use of such new methods of dislike, as might introduce the least innovation, on that guardian of our peace and safety. And perhaps, it is chiefly owing to this prudent delicacy, that the President’s speech, hath not before now, suffered a public execution. The speech if it may be called one, is nothing better than a willful audacious libel against the truth, the common good, and the existence of mankind; and is a formal and pompous method of offering up human sacrifices to the pride of tyrants. But this general massacre of mankind, is one of the privileges, and the certain consequences of Presidents; for as nature knows them not, they know not her, and although they are beings of our own creating, they know not us, and are become the gods of their creators.

Okay, ready for a mouthful? Here's a study whose title says it all: "The Unprecedented Rising Tide of Corporate Profits and the Simultaneous Ebbing of Labor Compensation--Gainers and Losers from the National Economic Recovery in 2002 and 2003". The title sorta says it all, except for a few statistics, which are coming right up.

In the Monday New York Times op-ed section, Bob Herbert reported on this study from the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. He quoted the lead author:

"This is the first time we've ever had a case where two years into a recovery, corporate profits got a larger share of the growth of national income than labor did. Normally labor gets about 65 percent and corporate profits about 15 to 18 percent. This time profits got 41 percent and labor . . . got 38 percent."

The study said: "In no other recovery from a post-World War II recession did corporate profits ever account for as much as 20 percent of the growth in national income. And at no time did corporate profits ever increase by a greater amount than labor compensation."

In other words, an awful lot of American workers have been had. Fleeced. Taken to the cleaners.


And might I add: cheated, flim-flammed, bilked, done out of, gyped, chiseled, and clipped. Which is why I grind my teeth when David Brooks claims that:

Since 1995, the U.S. has enjoyed a productivity renaissance. Productivity gains cause standard of living increases.

Not quite. Productivity gains ought to cause standard of living increases.

Let's just review the stats once more. After other recessions the breakdown of gains went:

Labor: 65 percent
Corporate Profits: 15 to 18 percent

This time the gains are:
Labor: 38 percent
Corporate profits: 41 percent

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Dateline: 4/5/04, St. Louis, Missouri

President Bush threw out the first pitch at the St. Louis Cardinals home opener at
Busch Stadium today. Bush completely missed the plate and immediately blamed Bill Clinton for it, consistent in his refusal to be held accountable for anything negative that happens during his administration. Bush insisted that "since the stadium was named after my daddy," he could blame whomever he wanted. While talking to
reporters during the game, Bush reveled in baseball analogies and insisted that just because he was born on third base, doesn't mean he didn't hit a triple in The Rich White Man's Affirmative Action League.

Michael Ankelman

The Monday Post-Dispatch had an AP article about whether the civilians who run the U.S. press office in Iraq see their work as an arm of the Bush campaign. They maintain they stress the positive because there's so much good going on in Iraq. On the other hand, the final paragraph quoted Gordon Robison, a former authority contractor there.

"Iraq is in danger of costing George W. Bush his presidency, and the CPA's media staff are determined to see that does not happen," Robison said. "I had the impression in dealing with the civilians in the Green Room that they viewed their job as essentially political, promoting what the Coalition Provisional Authority is doing in Iraq as a political arm of the Bush administration."

That quotation sent me scurrying for my Bible of Bureaucracy: Catch-22. Dig this gem from General Dreedle:

" . . . I have a crying need for a tough, experienced, competent officer like you to help produce the memoranda upon which we rely so heavily to let people know how good we are . . . ."

Monday, April 05, 2004

Hans Blix, quoted in the April 5 issue of The Nation, says that Jacques Chirac "was among the first who doubted the intelligence reports [about weapons of mass destruction]. He said that the agencies 'intoxicate each other.'"

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Reading this morning's Post-Dispatch, I'm reminded of what I said on Friday about Bush boldly dealing with the issue of condom warnings. "PUH-LEEZE could we concentrate for a minute on something important?" For example, maybe he could pressure the Department of Labor to investigate companies that routinely shave workers' hours off the computer. I never suspected it was a common practice, but the article makes it clear that many big retailers erase hours all the time. Since employees get no paper record of their hours when they clock in and out, altering computer records is simple, and it's not easy to prove it happened--even if a worker is willing to risk his job by challenging the boss. (The scam resembles the problems we fear could occur with computerized voting.)

Store managers do it under pressure from the head office, which then turns a blind eye, keeps up the pressure, and says things like:

"Pep Boys' policy dictates, and record demonstrates, that any store manager found to have shaved any amount of employee time be terminated."

Karl, who was offering you that bridge a couple of days ago? He should sell it to someone who believes Pep Boys.

I pointed out Friday that sin doesn't begin and end with sex. Cheating workers who make maybe $8 an hour--barely enough to live on-- is distinctly unchristian. ("Do unto others" etc. and "Thou shalt not steal"). So if Bush is such a good Christian, he could ask Congress to pass a bill requiring that workers at least get a paper printout of their hours. And if he gave the Department of Labor more funds to investigate and prosecute these cheaters, the taxes workers would pay on the additional hours they earned would even compensate the government for its efforts. Win/Win.

But I'm sure that neither Bush, Bond, nor Talent would be interested in my ideas. One more reason, then, to support Kerry and Farmer.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Oh Boy! It's Flashback Friday

August 12, 1996
From Letterman

I must admit, my crazy ass would have found great pleasure in executing #7 (with my drunk friend Matt, of course)

Top Ten Ways to Get Yourself Kicked Out of the Republican Convention

10. Walk around naked except for a strategically placed "Clinton/Gore" button

9. Shout, "The great state of Kansas casts all its votes for Erik Estrada!"

8. Use the first 20 minutes of your speech to call out Bingo numbers

7. Every time you see a Dole poster, say, "I thought he was dead!"

6. Limit delegates to five minutes per speech and two hookers per room

5. Introduce Dole as "El Gringo No-chance-o"

4. Yell, "Clear a path to the buffet table! Limbaugh's coming through!"

3. Surprise Elizabeth Dole with playful yet powerful head butt

2. Announce over P.A. system, "Speaker Gingrich, please meet your gay lover at entrance three"

1. Drink like Ted Kennedy at a Democratic convention

317 federal observers sent to 9 states to monitor elections
November 6, 2000

Before reading, can you guess which state is not on this list?

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The federal government is sending 317 observers to nine states to ensure voting rights of minority groups protected in Tuesday's general elections.

The Justice Department announced that under the Voting Rights Act it has dispatched observers to monitor balloting in parts of Alabama, Arizona, California, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Utah.

The 317 observers requested by the Justice Department's civil rights division are supplied by the Office of Personnel Management. The observers are instructed to watch and record activities during voting hours. Meanwhile, 45 Justice Department personnel coordinate the activities and maintain contact with local election officials.

One Justice Department attorney has been sent to Flint, Michigan, and another to Fort Worth, Texas, to respond to unspecified election-related concerns.


Have a great weekend!

Bush has asked the FDA to modify the warning on condom wrappers. He wants folks to know that condoms don’t always prevent the spread of genital warts. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not in favor of genital warts. But PUH-LEEZE, could we concentrate for a minute on something important? This is the man who wanted to spend billions on Star Wars and ignored terrorist threats. This is the man who stopped the EPA from clamping down on mercury pollution. (Hmmm. Thousands of deaths from mercury pollution or genital warts—which would we rather stop?) This is the man who . . . . You fill in the rest of the list. I’m too disgusted.

I’m irate about crotch preachers. This idea that sin begins and ends with sex did not even come from Christ, who had nothing to say about the issue. Instead, Jesus concentrated on helping the needy. And any church—or president—who has lost sight of that truism is immoral.

Yesterday's posting found my insightful curmudgeon (my husband) railing against the way The Post allowed a corporate spokeswoman to contradict the findings of a study on high fructose corn syrup, and against shills for the Republican Party like KrauthammerMona Charen, and Cal Thomas. He defended Molly, though--no shill she--and thought Kit Bond didn't deserve space among the Letters. Today it's my turn. Let's go in reverse order. I write the Post about once a month, and it's been almost three years since they published anything of mine. Naturally, I agree with Connie that Kit Bond deserves no special consideration. I mean, I'm beginning to wonder if someone over there blackballed me. Why does that corrupt old soul get printed--what, just because he's a senator? Next: The notion of Molly as a shill is ludicrous. When she gets mad at Democrats, they better duck for cover. And besides, she has the interests of ordinary people at heart--just like the scientists who conducted the study on high fructose corn syrup. Which brings me full circle. Journalists should quote the opposition when the subject falls in the category of opinion, like which tax policy is best.

BUT, if I don't want to read shills for the Republicans, I might as well drop the Post-Dispatch and pick up The Nation. After all, doesn't the Post owe the public a chance to read Amy White? Many of its readers appreciate and agree with her, more's the pity. I'm just here to say that this business of a free press can drive a person crazy. But until we get it all figured out, I still agree with my husband: Miss Spokesliar for the Grocery Manufacturers of America should have been left out of that article. She didn't provide balance. Who's kidding whom? Her only purpose was to muddy the waters.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Help! I'm imprisoned in my den. I don't have a laptop, so I have to stay here because I can't tear myself away from Franken's show on Air America Radio.

If Kerry Wins, Bush And His Advisors Know That They Are Vulnerable To Potential Prison Terms

Check out this interesting editorial on Buzzflash.

This seems like as good a time as any to try out this block quote thing Matt is spewing about so I will give you this little gem from the above mentioned editorial.

When your back is to the wall and you know that you might face a prison term if you lose, you fight like a street brawler wearing brass knuckles and using everything at your disposal, including electronic voting software and the judicial system, to stay in office.

Mark Twain said: "Tell me where a man gets his corn pone, and I'll tell you what his 'pinions is." That observation is one of my husband, Connie's, favorites, and he had occasion to refer to it again at breakfast last Friday. He was grousing about the "objectivity" of an AP article on the role of corn sweeteners in obesity. According to the article, a new study validates what scientists have been propounding for years, that high fructose corn syrup is more likely to cause weight gain than other sugars in our food. The middle one fourth of the article gave a food industry spokeswoman a chance to defend Sara Lee and Coca Cola. Connie, punctuating the air with his forefinger, denounced the writer for wasting our time with her malarkey. "Of course she'd say high fructose corn syrup isn't the culprit. She gets her corn pone from SELLING the stuff. We KNOW what HER 'pinions is."

Now, his exasperation with the article raises several questions. First of all, of course, is his criticism fair? I did devil's advocate and said that the article has to give both sides. WHY? he wanted to know. "I just want to hear the science, the facts, not their spin. And furthermore, I don't think Charles Krauthammer should be allowed on the op-ed page without a warning under the headline: 'shill for the Republican Party.' Same goes for Cal Thomas and Mona Charen. George Will and Safire can stay. They occasionally have an independent thought." Oh, he was rolling, and before I could even ask him if Molly deserved to be labeled too, he said that Molly Ivins has more factual support for what she says, that she's not shilling for anybody. Kit Bond is, so when he writes a letter to the Post, they shouldn't jump to publish him.

Today, you got Connie's take on the matter. Tomorrow, mine.