Friday, October 31, 2003
( 4:17 PM )
Happy Spooky Day!
Hope your haunts and howlers are fun and full of spooky goodness! I'm going home to a 2 1/2 foot frog that drools. Enjoy the onset of the autumn holidays and to all my Celtic Friends: Happy Samhain! See you on the other side of Sunday.
( 10:45 AM )
Economy Roars Back (Yea, Right)
In case you got a momentary thrill by the much heralded news yesterday that the economy had its BEST QUARTER EVER!!! and that we ARE NOW IN GREAT RECOVERY!!! - I hope that you are sitting down when you review the facts today. Several bloggers have some good posts up about the reality of the economy - but I thought I'd go straight to the much-stalked source: Paul Krugman. He reminds us that this surge in the GDP happened before with the same lunatic delight eminating from the White House.
That's what happened 18 months ago,
when a preliminary estimate put first-
quarter 2002 growth at 5.8 percent. That
was later revised down to 5.0. More
important, growth in the next quarter
slumped to 1.3 percent, and we now know
that the economy wasn't really on the mend:
after that brief spurt, the nation proceeded
to lose another 600,000 jobs.
The same story unfolded in the third
quarter of 2002, when growth rose to 4
percent, and the economy actually gained
200,000 jobs. But growth slipped back down
to 1.4 percent, and job losses resumed.
Now Krugman isn't trying to rain on everyone's parade - he's just trying to remind us that we are dealing with an administration that will cling to anything in order to have GOOD NEWS delivered. The fact is, the last quarter's GDP growth was boosted by consumer spending, which actually downshifted in the last month of the quarter. It's a trend that couldn't keep up.
This can't go on — in the long run, consumer spending
can't outpace the growth in consumer income.
Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley has suggested,
plausibly, that much of last quarter's consumer splurge
was "borrowed" from the future: consumers took
advantage of low-interest financing, cash from home
refinancing and tax rebate checks to accelerate
purchases they would otherwise have made later. If
he's right, we'll see below-normal purchases and
slower growth in the months ahead.
The problem is, of course, jobs. People can't keep spending money that they don't have. And whatever any reports say about growth, none of it is in the jobs sector. The problem is that Bush's tax cuts aren't what made last quarter's growth happen. Sure, any sort of tax cut might give a short term stimulus, but the trick is actually getting the economy back for the long term. And with ongoing job losses, I simply can't see how this signifies a true recovery. It would be great if it did.
To put it more bluntly: it would be quite a trick
to run the biggest budget deficit in the history
of the planet, and still end a presidential term
with fewer jobs than when you started. And
despite yesterday's good news, that's a trick
President Bush still seems likely to pull off.
When I look at the real world around me, everyone I know that is out of a job still has no prospects. Here in Oregon, we're still running at 8.0% unemployment - and more layoffs seem to be announced every week. Not to mention the fact that another 600 Reserve and Guard troops left Oregon this week, which will put their families in difficult economic straits as well. Let's face it. The biggest tax cuts went to the richest people in this country - the sorts of people who don't spend on every day consumer goods, they save and invest. The rest of the tax cuts that were received by middle-lower income folks are totally negated by the fact that our state taxes are now having to go up, just so our kids can stay in school. It's not that Bush doesn't care about the working people of this country... then again, all signs point to the fact that he doesn't. And it doesn't seem to bother him that much.
Thursday, October 30, 2003
( 1:50 PM )
Mama's A Little Late to the Solidarity Game
But She Wants to Play Anyway
Forgive me for the redundancy, but since I had a sick day away from the computer yesterday, I now will take my place next to my fellow bloggers in complete and utter disbelief at the ridiculous antics of Donald Luskin (warning: that link leads to a creepy blog). For those of you who don't keep up with the economics columns - Luskin writes for the National Review Online, and has of late taken to expressing what seems to be quite unadulterated psychotic hatred for our pal Paul Krugman- economist extraordinaire and columnist for the New York Times.
Now Luskin has gone off the deep-end, having his lawyer send Atrios a letter threatening to "out" his identity and sue him for calling Luskin a stalker and for the comments left by readers on one of his posts. Mama has a couple of points:
First, any threat to a blogger that his or her identity will be 'outed' is a threat to all bloggers. The protection of privacy is the one aspect of the internet that gives advantage to all. Not only is this kind of threat uncool, it's very criminal in its nature, given the fact that most bloggers depend on anonymity (herself herein included) to be able to express themselves in their blogs.
Second, Luskin's lament that Atrios has committed libel by calling him a stalker of Krugman is so incredibly lame because Luskin called himself a stalker of Krugman! Not only that, but Atrios is far from the only person to have called Luskin this since Luskin began his very obvious stalking of Paul Krugman. For God's sake, he rants on and on about Krugman being evil and dangerous and virtually pants as he describes stalking Krugman at one of his book signings!
Unfortunately for Luskin, he's made the wrong move if he was somehow trying to get vindication from Atrios. He's playing in the wrong field if he thinks he can take on bloggers.
Chiming in have been among others, Kos, Digby, TBogg, Billmon, CalPundit, Tom Tomorrow, BlahBlahBlah, Slacktivist, and of course, Uggabugga has a chart and Tom Burka has the last laugh.
Mama says to Mr. Luskin: I am Atrios.
( 11:17 AM )
A Security Show Worth an Oscar
I heard a pundit on one of the cable news shows a few nights ago talking about the kid who'd been arrested for planting the box cutters and bleach on the Southwest airplanes last week. This pundit was a security expert and basically said that while the TSA and the media were focused on keeping pointy things off the airplanes, there still hadn't been any true evaluation of security issues in airports across the country. Our local columnist-extraordinaire, Steve Duin, found to his surprise that this is all too frighteningly true.
Before the pilot called, I had all the usual
suspicions that airport security is selective,
specious and intended only to ensure that
the "flying public" -- i.e., we sheep -- sleep
well at night.
That the Transportation Security Administration
is still focused on box cutters more than two
years after Sept. 11 shows no respect for the
ingenuity of our enemies in the war on terror.
Most airport screening seems costly, superfluous
and misdirected, not unlike the plans to cap
Portland's reservoirs in the name of national security.
Then the phone rang, and a United Airlines pilot
invited me out to Portland International Airport
to point out one of the more dramatic holes in
the vaunted antiterrorist net.
The pilot invited Duin to go with him to PDX (Portland Airport) and see for himself the gigantic holes in the security apparatus set up by the TSA. As they stand and watch, employees get off a shuttle bus carrying all manner of bags, backpacks and other items, swipe cards through a security door and proceed into the most secure area of the airport without their bags ever being checked.
Once they pass through that door, the pilot
said -- and airport officials confirmed -- these
employees have unrestricted access to the
airplanes, runways and passenger boarding
areas. Yet neither they nor their bags pass
through a screening process or any other
"This," the man said, "is a scenario that
scares the hell out of pilots."
It's not the pointy objects the TSA is taking away from passengers that are the main cause for alarm - terrorists could use any manner of sharp objects already on the plane (ie, the wine bottles). The pilots are now behind reinforced doors and after 9/11, no passengers are going to sit still if someone were to produce a threatening object in the passenger compartment. The TSA is pretending that playing catch up to the terrorists' last method is good enough. It's not - what is going on is only a symbolic effort with no true security meaning. The pilot explains:
"Getting through a cockpit door would take
an heroic effort," the pilot said. "We're not
going to allow that. We have a crash ax up
there. That's why the most likely scenario we
see developing isn't nail files and box cutters.
It's an employee walking out onto the ramp
with some C-4 in an ice cooler."
In this scenario, an airport employee -- or
someone who jumped him in the employee
parking lot, stripping him of his security badge
and demanding his access number -- would
bring the plastic explosives and automatic
weapons through the unguarded doors. He
would then hide them on a plane, or walk
upstairs and pass the weapons to fellow
terrorists who have already cruised through
Once that gear is carried onto the plane, the
pilot said, the C-4 would be used to blow the
cockpit door and the guns would overwhelm
any federal marshals or co-pilots armed with
So the pilots went to the airport hierarchy and complained about this hole in the security. What were they told?
Yet when the United pilot took his concerns
to the chief of security at PDX six months
ago, he said, he was informed that requiring
mechanics, janitors and the ground crew
to pass through screening would
So basically, the security checks that pilots and passengers are forced to endure do not apply to employees behind the scenes. A simple security pass is all that's needed.
"We need to get the flying public thinking
again," the pilot said. "The human brain has
an alarming capacity to forget. We've been
lulled into a false sense of security." He recalled
those weeks when the National Guard
patrolled the nation's airports, toting guns but
no ammunition. "It was all for show. And that's
what TSA is now. It's a show to make the flying
public think they're safe. And they're not."
Another big show brought to you from the administration-without-substance. Yikes.
( 10:14 AM )
Mama's Helpful Hints No. 82:
If It Smells Poopy, It Most Probably Is Poopy
Thanks to Maru for this link to this page at the Center for American Progress that takes apart Bush's press conference and matches his claims to actual facts - and they even source their stuff! Here are some tidbits:
CLAIM: “Credibility comes when you say something is going to happen and then it does happen…You are not credible if you issue resolutions and then nothing happens.” [Source: President Bush, 10/28/03]
FACT: Bush said about his first tax cut that “Tax relief will create new jobs” and the economy proceeded to shed almost 3 million jobs. He said about his second tax cut that “tax relief means new jobs for Americans” and the economy continued to shed jobs. He said about the war in Iraq in May that “major combat operations have ended” and yet more troops have died since that statement than during the war. [Source: President Bush, 4/16/01, 9/5/03 and 5/1/03]
On the War on Terror/Iraq
CLAIM: “The world is more peaceful and more free under my leadership.” [Source: President Bush, 10/28/03]
FACT: According to Amnesty International’s 2003 annual report “The world has become more dangerous, and governments more repressive, since the effort to fight terrorism began after the 9/11, attacks on the United States.” For the U.S. specifically, “Since March, 353 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq, including 229 in hostile fire.” [Source: NY Times, 5/29/03 and CNN, 10/28/03]
On the Economy
CLAIM: “So I’ve proposed additional measures to keep the economy on the path to greater job creation…by making permanent the tax cuts that have helped our economy.” [Source: President Bush, 10/28/03]
FACT: Since first Bush tax cut took effect in June 2001, the U.S. economy has lost 2.75 million jobs – the unemployment rate has risen from 4.4% to 6.1%. Since the second Bush tax cut took effect in May 2003, the economy has shed 124,000 more jobs. [Source: BLS]
For more factual responses to claims made by Bush, check out MoveOn.org's Misleader effort.
( 9:14 AM )
Home sick yesterday. Baby sick too. We just spent the day lying on the couch lethargically together watching Big Bird. Cuddles heal anything. Even with the coughing and stuffy noses, it was better than any day in my cubicle at work.
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
( 4:06 PM )
Fire Retardent Bloggers
If you're wondering how your fellow bloggers-who-live-near-the-big-fires are doing, check out TBogg and San Diego Soliloquies .
Just a note: From here, it looks like Californians who are eager to have their new governor somehow repeal their car tax might want to take a second look:
Schwarzenegger could repeal the increased
car tax but would have to find $4 billion in the
state's coffers to give back to municipalities
expected to use the money for police, fire and
other local services, said Richard Chivaro, chief
counsel for Westly.
Sure, it might be nice not to have taxes. Then again, it's nice to have firemen when you need them.
( 3:44 PM )
From the "Tell It Like it Is" File
“I think Washington corrupts people,” she said.
“He was a wonderful husband and father, the
best I ever saw, until he went there. I told him
I was trying to get him out of the dark side, all
that power and greed and people kissing up
to them all time. Now he’s one of them. All they
care about is getting reelected. I hate them all.”
The words of the scorned wife of Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) who was told by her husband on Monday that he wants a divorce because he wants to be with his lobbyist girlfriend. LaTourette promised to limit his time in Congress to ten years, but he is now running for a sixth two year term.
Frankly, if generalized, Mrs. LaTourette's indictment of Washington rings pretty true. Pretty scary. But pretty true.
thanks to Atrios for the link.
( 3:07 PM )
That Other War
Two CIA officers were killed in Afghanistan over the weekend. They were tracking "terrorists" in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Translation: they were tracking groups of Taliban fighters. Yep, they are still there and still active. In fact, they are making it a very dangerous place lately:
More than 350 people, including civilians,
foreign and government soldiers, aid
workers and many rebels have been killed
since August across Afghanistan.
The violence is the worst since U.S.-led
forces toppled the Taliban from power
late in 2001 for harboring Osama bin Laden
and his al Qaeda network.
Funny. I think it was just...oh, TODAY that the President said this:
And the world is safer today because Saddam
Hussein and the Taliban are gone. We're now
working with many nations to make sure
Afghanistan and Iraq are never again a source
of terror and danger for the rest of the world.
It must be nice to live in such a wonderful and positive world as Mr. Bush must surely live in.
I guess I turned away for a second because I missed when they appointed Ren and Stimpy as the official White House speechwriters: "Happy Happy! Joy Joy!"
( 2:31 PM )
Here Comes the Sun
One of the most powerful solar flares in years erupted
from giant sunspot 486 this morning at approximately
1110 UT. The blast measured X17 on the Richter scale
of solar flares. As a result of the explosion, a strong
S3-class solar radiation storm is underway.
The explosion also hurled a coronal mass ejection
(CME) toward Earth. When it left the sun, the cloud
was traveling 2125 km/s (almost 5 million mph). This
CME could trigger bright auroras when it sweeps
past our planet perhaps as early as tonight.
I take my solemn duty as Prognosticator of Doom from Space seriously, folks. So when I post something like this, you might just want to pay attention. On a lighter note, we should be in the clear tomorrow; there doesn't appear to be any smackdowns from the Universe coming tomorrow. Yet.
Thanks to Maru for the link.
( 2:05 PM )
A Nation of Idiots
Or so the president must believe. Because if he thought even one of us had a brain in our heads, I don't think he'd give such blatantly untrue and dastardly explanations of things.
Evidently, according to GW this morning at his press conference, he didn't actually say that combat was over after his super duper landing on the aircraft carrier, and it wasn't the white house that put the big sign up on the USS Abraham Lincoln in May that said "Mission Accomplished."
THE PRESIDENT: Nora, I think you ought
to look at my speech. I said, Iraq is a
dangerous place and we've still got hard
work to do, there's still more to be done.
And we had just come off a very successful
military operation. I was there to thank
The "Mission Accomplished" sign, of course,
was put up by the members of the USS
Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission
was accomplished. I know it was attributed
some how to some ingenious advance man
from my staff -- they weren't that ingenious,
by the way.
Uh huh. Well, of course it took about two seconds for intrepid bloggers to find the very quotes of him saying that the mission was "accomplished" and also to note that it indeed WAS the white house that set up the entire spectacle, including the big banner.
See all the gory details over at Dkos.
Once again, it looks like it may have been a mistake to let the president speak for himself. While the nation is clearly used to and accepting of his speech foibles, this whole outright-lying thing may not go over as well. The question is whether the press will actually tell the truth of the matter or just let his words rewrite history. One thing is clear: Bush, the administration and the GOP in general are operating from a platform that believes the citizens of this nation are dupes and that we can be taken for a ride without complaint. I hope this isn't true. I hope people start recognizing that their president thinks they're stupid. Maybe if they do, they'll show him up and respond in kind.
UPDATE: Emma over at Notes on the Atrocities has the best breakdown of the press conference I've seen so far. She includes a section on the new jargon introduced by the President (which today included "suiciders" and "actionable intelligence").
Monday, October 27, 2003
( 1:32 PM )
I have never claimed to be a huge fan of Clinton or his presidency on the policy front - most of the policies he passed were not anywhere near as progressive as I would have hoped - so this post is not a Clinton apologist piece; rather it is my own attempt to put into perspective the current administration's "scandals."
Investigations into Clinton's Presidency:
Travelgate: the firings of White House Travel Office personnel - came to nothing(lives lost: 0)
FBI Filegate: FBI files in the White House - came to nothing (lives lost: 0)
Whitewater: really dumb real estate deal - came to nothing except for a couple of people not associated with the Clintons (lives lost: 0)
Suicide of Vincent Foster: came to nothing in terms of any Clinton involvement (lives lost: 1, but not due to Clinton culpability)
Paula Jones: charges found groundless (lives lost: 0)
Impeachment: lying under oath about extramarital affair, ended with impeachment but not dismissal from office (lives lost: 0)
Investigations into Bush II's Presidency:
9/11 Investigation: so far hitting a brick wall in trying to get documents from the Bush White House (lives lost: +3000)
Valarie Plame Leak: White House compromised identity of undercover CIA officer in revenge ploy (lives lost: 0, intelligence assets compromised: unknown)
False Intelligence Used as Excuse for War: demanded investigation held up by House Republicans (lives lost: +400 coalition forces, unknown thousands of civilians)
There's just a little difference in the types of investigations that have been necessary for this current administration as compared to the ones concocted against the last one. It's time people wake up and realize that Bush II and his administration are costing us more than tax dollars, they are costing us lives across several generations and they are making us pay for their deliberate lies. This isn't about mistakes. This is about knowing how to govern wisely. So far, there hasn't been a shred of evidence that sort of knowledge exists in this administration.
And if the press doesn't start paying as much attention to the investigations of these incidents as they did to the ridiculous investigations into Clinton, then I fail to see how, in any realm of reality, they will be able to look themselves in a mirror and call themselves "journalists."
Friday, October 24, 2003
( 2:19 PM )
Space Invades and Time Travels
It's Friday and I don't really feel like blogging about anything important, I confess. There are a ton of things in the news that are bothering me, but, heck, they'll probably still be there on Monday. Unless the event of the previous post proves to be a little more unpredictable than predicted...so to speak.
At any rate, I feel that the most important issue of the impending weekend is that we get AN EXTRA HOUR OF SLEEP on Saturday night. Now, this would have thrilled me oh, about 2 years ago. Now, it has absolutely no affect on me whatsoever because there is a certain 16-month old in the room next door who has no concept of the brilliance of an extra hour of sleep. Sigh. Good thing he looks cute in that frog outfit he's wearing for halloween - keeps the balance.
Anyway, as my brother, who refuses on principle to ever change his watch forward or backward, says: the reason for daylight savings has long passed into our cultural history. There is truly no reason for us to continue using it. It's like we think that we can somehow arbitrarily change time travel for our own, puny, human purposes, when all along time has just kept trotting along. And so really, I'm thinking it's probably something like 2032, not 2003 like we thought, only we've been fooling ourselves this whole time with this stupid twice-yearly practice.
At some point, the universe is going to have to kick us back on to the correct space-time continuum - oh, now I get it!
( 9:04 AM )
Do Not Panic - It's Only a Space Storm
Looks like we're going to be interacting with space today. A gigantic magnetic sun burst will be hitting earth today, in ..oh, about 2-3 hours from now.
The coronal mass ejection, or CME, is
expected to reach Earth about 3 p.m.
EDT and its effects could last 12 to 18
hours, according to space weather
"Space weather forecasters?" Wow, I wonder how you get a gig like that - cause we sure don't have one on our local tv news channel.
Anyway, this super-magnetic space wave may possibly knock out some cell phone communications, as well as affect power grids and satellite relays.
At any rate, scientists think it will be no big deal...or then, again, it could affect earth and earthlings in major disasterous ways.
"But like anything in nature, sometimes
they don't act like we expect them to,"
Either way, it puts the whole ruling the world thing in perspective, eh, GW?
But most important of all: DO NOT PLAY YOUR THRILLER ALBUM TODAY!!!
The CMEs can also have a biological effect
on humans... For example, it would not be
a good idea to do a space walk when a
solar event is predicted.
I assume this also means no moonwalking either - so be careful. Walk forward at a normal cadence and you should be safe. I only write this to warn you because I care.
For further fantastic and witty discussion along with fabulous pictures, visit DKos (you might want to go before the earth crumbles beneath the wave of magnetic solar energy).
UPDATE: Then again, it could be worse, you might not be on earth:
Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids
In fact it's cold as hell
And there's no one there to raise them if you did
And all this science I don't understand
It's just my job five days a week
A rocket man, a rocket man
And I think it's gonna be a long long time...
Thursday, October 23, 2003
( 4:44 PM )
What? You Mean People Are Getting Hurt In Iraq?
This news popped up on the wire today - "Press Underreports Wounded in Iraq." Until now, the press has been almost completely silent on the subject of the thousands of soldiers wounded in Iraq. Interestingly, at the end of the second week of the White House's push for "GOOD NEWS!!" instead of casualty figures, this story is broaching a subject that should have had a clear airing long ago.
Few newspapers routinely report injuries in
Iraq, beyond references to specific incidents.
Since the war began in March, 1,927 soldiers
have been wounded in Iraq, many quite
severely. (The tally is current as of Oct. 20.)
Of this number, 1,590 were wounded in hostile
action, and 337 from other causes. About 20%
of the injured in Iraq have suffered severe
brain injuries, and as many as 70% "had the
potential for resulting in brain injury," according
to an Oct. 16 article in The Boston Globe.
And to add to that horrifying statistic:
A United Press International investigation,
published Oct. 20, revealed that many
wounded veterans from Iraq, under care at
places such as the Fort Stewart military
base in Georgia, must wait "weeks and
months for proper medical help" and are
being kept in living conditions that are
"unacceptable for sick and injured soldiers."
One officer was quoted as saying, "They're
being treated like dogs." The Army has said
it is attempting to remedy the situation.
This is despicable. The fact that there are thousands of men and women being medically evacuated from Iraq is important, even if just from the mere point that we have so few troops really left. The reality is sobering:
According to an Oct. 3 report by UPI,
nearly 4,000 soldiers had been medically
evacuated from Iraq for non-combat reasons.
That's on top of the 2,000 wounded in combat since March. That's 6,000 people.
I don't think the White House PR program is working so far. If I'm correct, it seems to have had the opposite effect it was intending: News outlets are now looking for and investigating news stories about the realities of the war. This must keep up. The press never should have so easily bowed to the propaganda machine of this administration. And it will only be public pressure and outcry that will bring this government either to its senses or kick it out the door. We cannot continue to laud the "good news that's not being reported" in Iraq when we're not hearing about the truth in the first place.
The truth is, it does matter how many are dying and how many are being evacuated, even if not for combat reasons. Sure, combat deaths and injuries are a way to keep tallies. But really, are we still that dependent on casualty numbers to prove our point? I thought we got over that 30 years ago. Then again...this administration seems mired in the past. More of the truth:
As for the tally of total deaths in Iraq, most
of the media continues to only cite those killed
in hostile action. On Oct. 20, for example, The
New York Times reported: "Since President
Bush declared an end to major hostilities in
Iraq on May 1, 106 American soldiers
have been killed." But this number represents
only those killed in combat by hostile fire. A
total of 200 American troops have been killed in
this time period from all causes, such as vehicle
accidents, drowning, and suicides, a figure that
is rarely mentioned in the press.
The number doubles when we see the truth. The fact is, these soldiers were in a combat arena, they were on combat duty. Whether they died by the bullet of an enemy or because their jeep flipped over and killed them or they drowned or they simply could not bear it any longer and took their own lives - they still died serving our country. Aren't they good enough to recognize too? I think so. It's time we started demanding the true figures about what is happening in Iraq, and it's time we started determining truthfully whether it's worth the cost our men and women and their families are paying.
If you didn't already know, Lunaville has the best sources for these figures.
( 3:34 PM )
Just discovered I've made it to being a Flappy Bird in the Ecosystem. Wow, it feels good to enter the world of the upright - and with wings! And hey, I share an evolutionary ladder rung with Paul Krugman. Now, that's what I call a bonus Darwin point.
( 12:27 PM )
Moral Relativism: The New GOP Chic
In a fantastic editorial in today's Miami Herald, Joy-Ann Reid tells it like it is (thanks again to Maru for the link).
The right wing operates its own code
-- a kind of moral Talibanism where the
punishment for sin is death (as in the
death penalty) or if the crime is noncriminal,
ridicule, ouster or impeachment. The
right applies the code to politicians,
ordinary citizens and celebrities with equal
dispassion. And no one gets away
unjudged -- except, of course, for the
Here is how it works:
Rule: If a small-time drug user
gets caught with a couple of joints or
a few rocks of crack cocaine and is
sentenced to a long prison term under
New York's Draconian, Rockefeller-era drug
laws, that's justice to the Rush Limbaughs
of the world. In fact, Rush would have such
a person thrown under the jail and then
deported, as he has said many times.
Exception: If Limbaugh himself gets caught
copping thousands of mother's-little-helpers
in a Denny's parking lot,this self-admitted
three-time loser gets 30 days in club rehab
and a free pass from the press and the
public, who are supposed to be seized
with Christian understanding. This exception
would not apply to Al Franken. Nor would
it apply to one of those black folk Rush has
admonished to ''take the bone out of their
nose'' before calling his show.
Rule: Gambling is a sin, and the
myriad debaucheries of the entertainment
industry, including wild and woolly
Las Vegas, are to be frowned upon.
Exception: If Bill Bennett bets the
college money at the Tropicana, he gets
a free pass (and probably a couple of
free nights in the boom-boom suite). He
remains the official morality czar of Fox News,
where he is free to comment on the ''death
of outrage'' --including the complex universal
logic by which Bill Clinton is to blame for
Arnold Schwarzenegger's sins.
(I love that: "the death of outrage" --hahahaha!)
She goes on from there. The double standard is pretty obvious to most of us by now who don't see things through the "filter" of the powerful neo-con machine. But maybe, just maybe, it's starting to be come a little more conspicuous to the general public / media? Well, I guess it remains to be seen...
So which is it? Is it right or wrong to
take illegal drugs? Right or wrong to
disrespect women? Right or wrong to
gamble, to cheat on your wife, to drive
drunk (the sin a certain commander in
chief got a pass on during the 2000
election), or for that matter, to lie . . . ?
That, of course, depends on your political party.
I'd like to think these sorts of tactics would end with a new administration. I'd like to think those in power would act like adults sooner or later. But then again, I'd like to think most people in this country actually think about stuff like this - and I know I'm wrong on that one... sigh.
( 12:14 PM )
Where Did the Little Pink Houses Go?
An open letter from John Mellencamp:
The fight for freedom in this country has been
long, painful, and ongoing. It is time to take
back our country. Take it back from political
agendas, corporate greed and overall manipulation.
It is time to take action here in our land, in
our own schools, neighborhoods, farms, and
businesses. We have been lied to and terrorized
by our own government, and it is time to take
action. Now is the time to come together.
Oh, what do those rock and roll, hollywood-types know anyway?
(thanks to Maru for the link)
( 11:54 AM )
Looks like the Senate got some brains somewhere and just voted with the House to end the 40-year ban on travel to Cuba. I know, I know - I can barely believe it myself. And the amendment to the Transportation funding bill was sponsored by a Republican!
Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, who co-sponsored
the amendment to the spending bill with Dorgan,
said the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign
Asset Control, a key office in the fight against
terrorism and drug trafficking, shouldn't be devoting
resources to American tourists going to Cuba.
What? Was that logic I just saw being used in Congress? Defying a threatened veto, the vote was 59-36. The Reuters article explains further the ramifications:
Travel ban opponents say the fact that both
houses of Congress have the same language
makes it harder to strip out the measure, an
amendment included in a larger Transportation
and Treasury appropriation bill, once it goes
to conference committee.
The White House has vowed to veto the
overall spending bill if it contains language
Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat
and one of the amendment's sponsors, said
the administration should focus on catching
terrorists, not travelers. He cited a Homeland
Security Department memo which said it would
use "intelligence and investigative resources"
to identify travelers to Cuba.
"That's Byzantine. It makes no sense," Dorgan
said during the debate on the Senate floor.
This is a major blow to the George-Jeb Bush powerhouse in Cuban policy. Of course, all logic points to the fact that decades of sanctions and travel restrictions have not meant an end to Castro, or even had any influence on that country except to keep needed supplies from its citizens. In a strange dichotomy, the US governments through the decades have insisted on opening trade with Communist China so that the natural forces of the market would work to break down the totalitarian nature of that country, while at the same time restricting all trade and capitalist influence on Cuba. The political power of the Florida and New Jersey Cubans may be waning, which is good news for everyone. The federal government does not need to be spending millions of dollars on pursuing and prosecuting Americans who visit Cuba, it does not need to be spending millions on that stupid radio broadcast that is blocked by Castro and heard by no one.
Even Republicans in Congress can see what a useless, futile exercise the trade restrictions and travel bans have been. There will be more sunshine shone on that country's dark sides, more western influence than there ever has been since Castro came to power, and there will be more opportunity for meaningful assistance to the people of Cuba, not to mention the ability for their families in the U.S. to visit them. The time for the travel ban AND the trade restrictions is over.
I don't often have cause to applaud Congress. But darn it, they done good today.
( 10:26 AM )
World Youth Congress Learns Major Lesson:
Stop Acting Like Their Parents
I read a fabulous article this morning in Wiretap (just a note: if you don't read Wiretap regularly, I encourage you to do so if you're at all interested in young people who have better brains than the people running this country) by a young woman named Emily Freeburg. She attended the World Congress of Youth in Morocco in August and her article was an honest assesment of what started out as a great experiment in Solidarity turned very, very sour. It's not just a lesson for young people, it's a lesson for all of us. Because when you get down to it, the future our children have is dependent on the resources and the example we give to them.
I'm 23. I'm an idealist. But this summer I
went to a World Congress of Youth, and
beyond learning of a truly universal love
for the 50 Cent "In Da Club" song, I learned
that we carry history in ourselves. We are
more like our parents than we know --
and this is dangerous.
Yikes. Talk about indictment. The article goes on to describe how despite their expectations that they would have the opportunity to work together to solve problems and come up with a declaration to present to the United Nations, it all went downhill starting when the opening paragraph of the Declaration was being drafted. Some participants wanted the language regarding inclusiveness to include sexual orientation.
As soon as the translation went through in
Arabic, many Moroccans and other delegates
from Islamic countries were on their feet
shouting in Arabic, chanting, and heading for
the plenary stage. The arguments against
adding in homosexuality weren't complex;
there was no way homosexuality could be
alluded to, because in Islam it does not exist.
Though it wasn't specifically argued, there
was no way a document could be handed to
the King (who paid for the Congress) with
such a reference.
But it got worse.
The tension hung. Then after a workshop to
fundraise for a youth peace coalition between
Israelis and Palestinians, a Moroccan-led mob
of Palestinians and their supporters stormed
in, ripping apart the posters and t-shirts about
peace, and flaunting their destruction in front
of the watching Moroccan TV cameras. Several
people were hurt in the confrontation, and the
only Israeli girl attending the Congress was
Let it be clear that the mob was not the majority,
the violence was not committed by every
Palestinian there, and many were trying to be
reasonable, but an angry mob is formidable and
not open for rationalization.
It turned out that the Congress did not expel the kids who actually hit the girl. The Moroccan government's reasoning was that they couldn't condemn the attack because Arab nations do not recognize Israel (Israel was not invited to the conference by the sponsor, but by the co-sponsor, a peace group out of the UK). Emily, the author, was devastated by the incident and moreso when she later heard from one of the Moroccan participants that "they could not punish one because they all would have done it." The Congress tried to rectify the situation by having the kids get together and sing "Imagine."
The strength of my reaction surprised me. Was I
really so idealistic that this relatively small act of
violence shattered me? Part of it too, was anger.
This was a youth meeting, youth must be the ones
speaking to work this out, and the adults had sold
us out again by managing this problem, and not
addressing it head on. Youth then, were only allowed
to address problems in the abstract, on paper, but
when something arose that did affect us, we were
not allowed to talk about it.
We live in a world of violence, pain and injustice,
and the world's young people were singing
"Imagine" and holding hands. At that moment I
did not believe that peace was possible because
no one would take responsibility and each country
has alliances that are too large to change. It was
too much to stomach.
The Conference eventually ended up with no true consensus and the final declaration seemed to be all but a farce. Emily was disappointed, and as I read the article to the end, I realized how truly devastating this sort of event could be for someone who had all the hopes and expectations that the next generation could change things. In the end, she didn't feel it was a total failure because she learned lessons she never would have otherwise.
Two weeks after the Congress, the World
Trade Organization talks failed for similar
reasons as we did: mysterious processes
of document creation, politicized leadership,
inability for people to put their concerns on
the table right away, and the blatant ignoring
of certain country's contributions, though
they had every right to contribute.
This generation can be a bridge, but not if we
don't change ourselves. If we keep acting like
our parents do, we're going to end up with a
world that isn't fit for our own children. I wish
I could tell you the answer, I wish I could tell
you Arab and African Muslim youth and Western
youth get along and communicate with ease,
but we don't. One is a culture of endless
individualism, in the other there is a unified
Arab or Muslim identity, which often politically
and culturally lacks self-criticism. Both are changing,
but each side wonders why the other can't be
more like itself.
She comes to some great and challenging conclusions in the end. I was moved by her ability to try and learn and see ways to overcome what she had seen and experienced. But I also read in this article my own responsibility as a parent and as no longer being part of the "youth" generation. I so long took my youth for granted, my activism in my younger days empowered me to feel that I was going to make things happen, cause positive change, all that good and meaningful stuff. In some ways, I'd like to believe it did. But now that I have entered a new season in my life and I find myself with the job description of "parent," I find it a sobering lesson that my activism, my actions, my language and my behavior carry so much more weight because I am raising the Future.
I didn't like to read that this young woman felt that part of the problem was that the kids were just acting like their parents. But what could be more true? If we as the parents don't start breaking the patterns, how can we expect our children to do so? If they have no example, it will be nearly impossible for them. They cannot create positive change out of nothing. Young people are even now carrying out the traditions and same behavior as their parents in all parts of the world - to the destruction of a peaceful community of humanity. Emily's conclusion was that it was up to her generation to stop the cycle. But I find that there is much more responsibility for us to stop it before they have to take it on.
After all, if mankind keeps leaving the cleaning up to the kids...pretty soon there won't be any kids to do the clean up anymore.
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
( 4:16 PM )
New GOP Job Description: God
It's been one of those weeks where blogging has had to take second chair to real life work (blah) - but I did want to at least comment on one issue today. That is the struggle in Florida over the life (or death) of Terri Schiavo. This poor woman has been on feeding tubes for 13 years. She has conclusively been ruled completely brain dead. She clearly stated her wishes to her husband and her friends that if something like this ever happened, she did NOT want to be kept alive by a feeding tube. So when her husband tried to do what she wished and end his own torture of having to see her that way, her parents stepped in and tried to block him.
After a couple of years of legal battle, and courts finding that indeed, she was completely brain dead and she did indeed make clear her wishes not to be kept alive by feeding tubes, the GOP in the Florida legislature and Jeb Bush have now stepped in to play the part of God in this scenario. Instead of following the law, Florida Republicans pushed through legislation specifically regarding Mrs. Schiavo's case which said that her life could not be ended by her husband and per her own wishes:
"Transforming an idea into law often takes
months. This time it took less than 24 hours,"
political editor Adam C. Smith wrote in the
St. Petersburg Times. "It was an impressive
show of force by the conservative wing of
the Republican Party."
Bush's signature was on the bill before the ink of the legislation was dry.
Once again, Republicans' actions speak far louder than their words. Just last week was the first "Sanctity of Marriage" week declared by President Bush (now, of course, this was a blatant move to discriminate against a population of committed couples in this country who don't happen to be heterosexual), but despite the language of the GOP's insistence that marriage is sanctified and that GOD makes marriage and that no one should mess with it, etc, etc, etc.... here they go completely stealing the marital rights of a man who is only trying to do as his wife wishes. The law recognizes him as her next of kin, NOT her parents, and yet the GOP and the Bushes feel that in this case, marriage is pretty much a moot point because the higher issue is .... what??? What is the issue here?
The news reports say that the Republicans who pushed through the legislation against Mr. Schiavo were very powerful right-to-lifers. Well, that's well and fine that they feel strongly about abortion, but this case has nothing to do with that issue. Mrs. Schiavo's right to life is HERS, and she clearly stated that should she be put on feeding machines alone to keep her alive, that she wished to have the machines turned off. The law supports this decision and she should have her wishes. Of course it's terribly difficult for her parents to say goodbye and let her go, of course they don't want to believe she is dead (they think she will be able to feed herself through therapy, despite multiple conclusions that she is in a permanent vegitative state). But she is, technically, dead. The parents insist she knows they are there, and I feel for them, but their emotions do not cancel out the medical fact that there is no brain activity in her head and that it won't come back.
This move by Florida's government is abhorrent to me and I can only hope and pray that Mrs. Schiavo's husband prevails somehow and is able to give her a peaceful passing and put her body and his heart to rest. He is said to be devastated by this turn of events.
Instead of allowing her a death with dignity, instead of fulfilling her wishes, instead of recognizing her husband's right to make the decision, these GOP legislators who egg on the emotionally distraught and misled parents have put themselves and their own selfish interests first. Nice move, you arrogant bastards.
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
( 3:12 PM )
Our Brothers Before Us
I noticed today for the first time on Kamikaze Kumquat's blog that her brother is being deployed to Iraq in less than 2 weeks. I can sort of relate, having just had my own brother return from that conflict in late June, as some of you will remember. I don't know what her brother will be doing or where he will be going in Iraq, but I wanted to send out a blog-pal note to say that we will be thinking of him and hope he comes home soon and safe.
This brings up another note of news today: The Washington Post is reporting that more than 30 soldiers have not reported back from their brief R&R (the two weeks they got off from Iraq). Funny thing about it, though:
[Army Col.] Mack said the soldiers who have
missed their flights are "definitely a concern,"
but she added that the Army had anticipated
that some soldiers would not return, and
that the numbers thus far are small.
It's clear that several of those soldiers simply don't want to go back. They haven't yet been declared AWOL, but the Army is keeping track. Billmon reminds us that perhaps they are only following their Commander-in-Chief's example of not showing up for his Guard duty for an entire year during Vietnam. Not that Bush was serving any sort of actual combat duty like the men and women of today's armed forces. But still, how hard could it have been to show up for drills in Alabama?
It may be that this new idea of giving the soldiers R&R back home in the US is not the way to go for the Army. It is too easy to not go back. And more and more soldiers don't want to go back. Or even be there in the first place. In a year from now, will there still be mounting casualties and troops drawn thin and weary from 18 month deployments with no breaks and no end in site for the rotation? I hope not. But with this president, I fear the worst when it comes to the welfare of the people who serve their country. Amazingly, they still serve their country, even when their country sends them to hell.
( 2:47 PM )
Thanks to HyLo for the link to Hesiod who brought up an article today that shows that dissenters are still targets of violence in this country.
Fire officials think an arsonist angry with a
family’s anti-war sentiments likely started a
fire that woke the family from its sleep Monday
Fire Chief Larry Shifflett called the fire "suspicious"
and said the blaze probably began when
someone set fire to an anti-war sign hanging on
that side of the porch.
The family had hung the sign on the porch two
months ago after vandals continued to rip the
same posted sign from their yard.
The sign, now reduced to ashes, told of the
number of Iraqi civilians and coalition forces
killed since the war began in March, Nickels said.
"We’re trying to reflect a concern for people,"
Nickels said. "That war is bad for everybody.
It doesn’t serve us well in the global community."
The couple’s house has also been egged and
just last week, someone ripped down a flag
promoting world peace from their porch, Nickels said.
Only this time, the vandal didn't stop at egging them, he actually set their house on fire and they escaped with their children in tow before the sun was even up. This is absolutely horrifying. The Justice Department is busy busting people selling bongs and nitwits who unwillingly and unknowingly associated with the wrong Arabs while actual would-be murderers will most likely be ignored.
This was a political hate crime - it was not merely some local criminal on a spree. There was a proven pattern of hate-crime actions against this family for their political views, which they were free to express on their own porch. This family could have been killed because someone felt that it was more important to terrorize them for their belief that the war was wrong than it was to merely disagree with them. This is abhorrent. And unfortunately, it's not an isolated event. People who dissent with the government's view are still in danger, especially in communities where conservative isolation is the dominant viewpoint.
What's really sad, though, is that if the people who are lambasting the dissenters would only sit for a moment and think about it, they would realize that indeed, they too are worse off now than they were before Bush took office. They too are in dire economic straits, supporting the majority of the tax burden, which is now going to pay for the ongoing quagmire in Iraq, and they aren't any safer.
Why are there people like this anyway? Whatever happened to looking out for your neighbor? Whatever happened to "I don't agree with you, but I'll defend your right to say what you believe"? Whatever happened to human decency? The signs of fascism are everywhere, and when I hear stories like this, somehow I'm not comforted that we still have a year to go till it's stopped. But at least it's only a year.
( 9:18 AM )
A Conservative Crosses Over
I was amazed by a commentary written into our local paper at the end of last week. I've been anxious to blog about it because, to me, it seemed pretty extraordinary. It was written by Becky Miller, formerly a senior aid to one of this state's most notorious conservative bullies: Bill Sizemore. She always thought she'd been in the right - and even when she saw Sizemore for the criminal that he was, she still felt confident in her ultra-right views. And she was validated by the talk radio and the president and Sean Hannity and all those folks.
But then, she took a chance. She read Al Franken's Lies and The Lying Liars that Tell Them. And it changed her forever.
I read the book in one sitting. It is an amazing book,
and -- if you're a decent, honest, hard-working,
patriotic, true-blue conservative who listens to Rush
Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly and watches Fox News --
an earth-shattering book.
Until I read this book, I believed the Bill Sizemore/
Oregon Taxpayers United mess was a bit of a fluke.
(In 2002 I testified against him in a civil trial in which
a Multnomah County jury found that his charitable
foundation and political action committee had
committed fraud and forgery, and that Oregon
Taxpayers United had engaged in a pattern of
racketeering to obtain signatures on initiative petitions
for tax measures drafted by Sizemore.) The spin, the
lies, the greed, the disregard for the everyday person
-- I thought it was all just a fluke and really limited to
this one little pustule of filth that had festered in a little
storefront in Clackamas, Oregon. Boy, was I wrong.
I believe Franken is telling the truth in his book
because it meshes perfectly with what I personally
She goes on to say that she heard someone call into a talk radio show (the beastly Lars Larson, a local neo-con hate spewer who, I am ashamed to say, has now gone national) the other day and say that even if Rush Limbaugh confessed it himself, this listener would never believe he was a drug addict. But now Ms. Miller sees this incredulous attitude for what it is. Al Franken has cured her!
The leaders we conservatives have trusted have
taken advantage of our trust to line the pockets of
the wealthy and powerful, and it's time we rose up
and drove out these greedy liars. They've hijacked
and distorted our belief system for their own gain,
and in doing so are destroying our credibility.
And if we decent, honest, hard-working, patriotic,
true-blue conservatives of this country neglect the
duty we have to our children and grandchildren, we
will never be able to work with those decent, honest,
hard-working, patriotic, true-blue liberal Americans
that these lying creeps have taught us to despise.
We will never be safe to debate them or, when
warranted, to listen to them and maybe even agree
with them. We will never be safe to work out our
differences or to work together. And we will never be
able to build on the all-American sense of unity that
burst forth following 9/11, only to disappear shortly
thereafter in a cloud of lying, greedy partisan politics.
I'm still a decent, honest, hard-working, patriotic,
true-blue conservative. But Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly,
Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and the rest of you lying liars
-- I'm through with you! (Read the book, and you'll get
that one, too.)
Amen, sister. Welcome to the Revolution.
Friday, October 17, 2003
( 12:29 PM )
Well, At Least There Was No Barfing
Bush had dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi tonight (it's already tonight in Japan) and managed to get through it without any regurgitation episodes. So that's one up from his dad. Bush is on an Asian Mission: strong arm the countries into helping us by cripling their own economies. I think it may work - Bush is such a sweet and persuasive guy, after all.
Bush himself made no public comment on
the touchy topic of Tokyo's policy of intervening
in foreign exchange markets to stem the
yen's recent rise against the dollar.
But a senior U.S. administration official told
reporters later: "The president once again
reiterated his support for a strong dollar and
for market-determined exchange rates."
In other words, Bush went over to strong-arm Japan into complying with our economic wishes. It's an interesting tactic, considering Japan is one of the only countries to actually give a LOT of money to our Iraq "problem."
Tokyo spent a record 13.5 trillion yen
($123 billion) in the first nine months of the
year to try to stem the rise of the currency,
which recently hit three-year highs against
U.S. manufacturers say a weak yen threatens
their competitiveness. Japan is worried that a
strong yen could hurt its rebounding economy
by making exports too expensive.
This is unacceptable to Bush. He and his cronies are determined that the "markets" must rule - and so any country that attempts to intervene to protect its own currency is just asking to get on our enemies list right now. Funny thing, how Bush insists that other economies do what we want, even if it means their own struggling countries are hurt by it. Way to make friends and influence people!
"We need a level playing field when it comes
(to) trade and a level playing field will help us
create jobs here in America," Bush said in
California before leaving for Japan on the first
leg of a trip that will also take him to the
Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia
It's all about a "level playing field," which means fair for the U.S., not for anyone else. But this is somewhat confusing. Bush is saying that these countries should make it easier for us to create jobs in our country. But Bush also lauds US corporations that continue to send factories and outsource staff to other countries. So he says one thing but does another? What is this? Oh, wait a minute... this is the Bush administration. It's not about what they do, it's about how well they can obfuscate. Sorry, lost my place on the hymnsheet for a second there.
( 11:32 AM )
Okay, Who's The Wise Guy
This news just on the wire over at Reuters: Two separate Southwest Airlines planes had bags containing boxcutters and bleach in their lavatories last night (in Houston and New Orleans), which were discovered during maintenance today. So now ALL airplanes are going to be searched. What is going on? Here's the cryptic part:
A note in both packages indicated the items
were intended to challenge the TSA checkpoint
security procedures, Southwest said. It
immediately turned over the items to authorities.
Hmmm. Well, in terms of showing the sad state of TSA's "security," the stunt worked. In terms of being stupid and being really, really, REALLY stupid - I wonder if the guy knew enough not to leave fingerprints.
This is just one incident. But it seems like a lot of things are piling up lately to show that all those promises about how we are safer now and that something like 9/11 will never happen again are pretty empty as far as promises go. I just pray something like 9/11 does NOT happen again - and if it does, it better damn well not be something our government could have prevented but for not having enough money to cover all the homeland security needs because of the money needed for Iraq.
( 10:55 AM )
Friday is For Fathers
I know I skipped last Friday - but I'm trying to keep up! I try as much as possible to support the Dad blogs, and especially the Stay-at-Home-Dad blogs since that is a subject close to my heart (and home). I enjoy them all and encourage you to take a look if you get the chance. Here's an update of our Dads-About-Town and what they are up to lately!
Being Daddy celebrates his daughter's first songwriting achievement! And it's a fantastic song! (I especially like it since I always wanted to be on the moon too). Over at Rebel Dad, he's keeping us up with all the links we need - especially regarding how moms in the workplace depend on their stay-at-home hubbies. David, over at Daddy Make a Picture has a fresh new look (and I love his stuff, despite the fact that he's a Yankees fan) - and he has a great post up about the dreadful commercials that I always scream and yell about myself.
One of my favorites, Laid-Off Dad (also a Yankees fan), is enjoying a well-deserved mini-holiday right now. But read his stuff, it's legendary! Over at Frenzied Daddy (also a fellow Oregonian) Russ is dealing with the crap corporate world. But his job as Dad never gets downsized.
Fulltime Father has a great post up about the gender thing - and I like what he has to say, except I think that if a boy wants to wear a dress, well then, a dress it is. Really, can a dress be that much worse than superman tights and a cape?
Over at Fishyshark, our About-To-Be-Dad hasn't posted in a while, but he does have a gorgeous picture of the woman he most likely doesn't deserve (just kidding, Kos!). Elisa looks gorgeous, but I know she's ready to go - I believe the due date is any time now. The next few months are going to be nothing like what Kos expected - but better than he ever dreamed.
Other Blogging Dads that I love to read (that don't necessarily blog about Daddy-dom) are Tom Burka and TBogg.
Finally, a Kudos to my own Dad, who has always been there for me no matter what. He's literally driven thousands of miles to rescue me, he's defended me endlessly, protected me and he even changed his entire life to move across the country and be an on-site Grandad. If you read the post earlier about Dad's fantastic blog (I've taken it down now since it seemed a little negative and I want to be nice - today) you knew how frustrated I was for him earlier, but in the end, it's going to work out (he is now linked from the Blog for America, so that's great), I'm sure. Webpages aside, I'm more proud than anything that he's my Dad. The college kids he teaches, the people he comes into contact with and my entire family are better because of him. I think any political campaign would also be. That's probably why I'm feeling so defensive of him. Well, I'm sure things will work out okay.
Check out these dads - they are awesome, hardworking and very, very cool... In this mama's book anyway.
Thursday, October 16, 2003
( 4:30 PM )
Going Home Early to Torture Myself
At least Dad is coming over to watch the game with me. So I won't be alone in what, based on the karma created last night, will inevitably be misery. Go Sox (sigh).
UPDATE: Yup. I was right. It was the most torturous game ever. Well, on the bright side, Armageddon is on hold for at least a year....
( 3:44 PM )
My Favorite Quote of the Week
Bush told his senior aides Tuesday that he
"didn't want to see any stories" quoting
unnamed administration officials in the media
anymore, and that if he did, there would be
consequences, said a senior administration
official who asked that his name not be used.
You can't help but wonder after reading that bit ... Did Tom Burka write that story? (more indepth on the actual story over at Kos.)
( 3:31 PM )
In Case You Couldn't Find Anything
To Make You Angry This Week
Reading one of my favorites today, I came across this article in Guerilla News Network. Looks like while Bush is asking us for $87billion to modernize Iraq's infrastructure, he's once again giving us... the shaft.
Talk about sticker shock. The condition of the country
was far worse than anyone dared imagine. Engineers
released their findings this September and, using a
grammar school grading system, they assigned grades
to describe the state of disrepair they found.
The country's roads got a D+. Aviation infrastructure
got a D. Schools a D minus. Wastewater treatment
facilities, a D. Dams, a D. Hazardous waste storage
a D+. And, even though the nation is a major oil
producer, the energy sector got a D+.
In all, the experts said it would take more than
$1.6 trillion over the next five years to bring the
country's infrastructure up to modern standards.
Oh, wait. I bet you thought I was talking about Iraq.
No. The report I am citing was released this
September by the American Society of Civil Engineers
and it described the condition of America's infrastructure.
In it, the ASCE warned that America's critical
infrastructure was "crumbling" and ongoing neglect
would add $300 billion a year to the repair bill.
Bush made a big deal in his campaign about how it's not our job to fix the problems of the world. He swept into office on what seemed like a very isolationist viewpoint and lots of people thought he would do a lot of work on domestic issues. But that wasn't the PNAC's plan. So here we are. Our government is using taxpayer dollars to award multi-million contracts exclusively to American companies to improve the infrastructure of Iraq:
So, as you bump your way to work today on
pothole-studded streets understand that the
cost of your new suspension is a small price
to pay for the smooth 1,200-kilometer highway
being built in Afghanistan on a $300 million
contract to U.S. engineering firm Louis Berger
Then there's the $240 million earmarked to
improve Iraq's roads and bridges. And, even
as the Bush administration fights subsidies
for Amtrak, another $303 million in U.S. funds
is going to upgrade Iraq's railroads. Bechtel
will oversee much of this work.
But wait! It's not just roads and bridges where we aren't getting improvement and Iraq is - its in our general safety and security too!
Ten years ago, President Bill Clinton pushed
legislation to put more cops on the street. The
Bush administration has since eliminated all
direct funding for street cops. Now, with money
short and so many military reservists—many of
whom are cops in civilian life—on active duty,
cities and counties find themselves dangerously
short of police, fire and other first responders.
Nevertheless, while American law enforcement
goes begging, the administration has been
generous in letting contracts to rebuild Iraq's civil
and military policing. There is the $2 billion to
build a new Iraqi army and another $470 million to
fund civilian police, judges, courts and related law
enforcement services. U.S.-based DynCorp and its
parent company, Computer Sciences Corp., are the
prime contractors here.
The irony here isn't necessarily that Iraq is getting our money. It's larger than that, this is about the very core issues we as a country are facing right now. Namely, our economy and the basic survival of working people in this nation:
And so we are left to ponder. America's
infrastructure is a mess and getting worse.
Instead of spending the additional $25 billion
needed to repair it, the administration is
handing nearly the same amount in contracts
out to a small number of U.S. companies to
repair Iraq's infrastructure instead. Had that
money been allocated for U.S. infrastructure
the contracts would have been, by law, subject
to open bidding and would therefore have been
divvied up among hundreds of companies, small
and large, across the country. In the old days,
they called that a domestic economic stimulus plan.
So much for this president caring about creating jobs... or caring about this country, period.
( 11:46 AM )
Oregon Fights for Power
...Electrical Power, that is. I've posted on this subject previously, but it's becoming a hotter issue as election day gets closer.
If you're interested, there is a fantastic debate about it on Portland Indymedia . As I've noted before, I am much more inclined towards a publicly owned utility district here for the various reasons that a) I'm basically a socialist, b) Enron has screwed us royally and they're only about to do it again because of the bankruptcy, c) Portlanders will be MUCH better off in terms of rates (PUDs are proven to have lower rates, even here in Oregon), responsivenes, control over their own utility company and in the not-getting-a-corporate-screwing department, and finally, d) I'd just ONCE like the people to win over the corporations!!
Now, all that being said, it's going to be a hard battle. The disinformation swirling around out there about how we're all going to go down in flames if we own our own utility is thick, massive and everywhere. PGE and Pacific Power are spending millions in tv ads (I can't get through an entire episode of Angel without at least two ads per segment from a power company!), print ads, billboards and letters to the editor of the newspaper that are either from PGE executives, or sound like they are from PGE executives. (PGE is going under the astroturf name "Citizens Against the Government Takeover") - funny, huh? The Oregonian's own editorial board (read: "we want to be just like the WSJ Editorial Board!") is against the PUD.
The two biggest arguments from the corporate powers are that: 1) YOUR TAXES WILL GO UP!!! if we own our utility and 2) YOU'LL HAVE TO DEAL WITH ANOTHER CORRUPT LAYER OF GOVERNMENT!!!
Let's review: PGE does not exist anymore - it is a wholly owned subsidiary of Enron. Enron is in bankruptcy and wants to sell off bits and pieces of PGE to the highest (non-regulated) bidder as soon as possible, which will be nice for Enron, but will soak the local customers. Pacific Power is owned by, I think, a Scottish company, so really, they are invested in our local quality of life for sure. The whole argument about taxes going up is about property taxes. PGE screams at us that with a PUD, our property taxes may rise up to "30 percent!" This is a total misrepresentation (a lie). The levy that will be needed to support the PUD will amount to 30 cents on a $100,000 home, 45 cents on a $150,000 home. OUCH! Boy, that's a price to pay for not being under the thumb of Enron or an Enron clone!
Next, that "layer of government" problem. Hmmm. Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver and Eugene all have public utility companies and they all have run well for many years and at a substantially lower rate for their customers than the Enron-owned variety. The PUD is not going to suddenly emerge as some monster beaurocracy that doesn't know what its doing. Obviously, the current employees of PGE and Pacific Power are who will be hired by the PUD and the PUD will take every effort to make it a smooth transition. The entire point of a PUD is that we have a say in it, it is accountable to us through our government. We are not left voiceless and hanging on an electrical wire by a corporation that isn't invested at all in us.
Let's look at some numbers:
$5 million: amount of ratepayer money PGE used to defeat 1992 ballot measure that would have closed the Trojan Nuclear plant at no cost to ratepayers.
1: number of weeks after the measure's defeat that PGE closed Trojan permanently at ratepayer expense.
$569 million: amount PGE has collected from ratepayers for federal and state income tax payments since 1997.
$0.2 million: amount of these collections Enron/PGE has actually paid in income taxes (it kept the other $568.8 million for itself).
$100 million: amount PGE employees lost due to Enron's stock fraud.
$80 million: amount Oregon PERS lost due to Enron's stock fraud.
5: number of pages in Enron reorganization plan needed to list all lawsuits against PGE, most for fraud.
Undetermined: amount these suits may cost PGE ratepayers.
30: number of "restructuring specialists" Enron has hired to help it sell PGE for the best return.
$860,000: amount each "specialist" is paid per year in salary alone.
$300 million: yearly increased cost to ratepayers if sale to an unregulated buyer happens.
0: number of reasons Enron's creditors, the Wall Street banks, have not to dismember PGE in the bankruptcy proceeding.
As someone once said, can you hear me now? Portlanders have a very important decision in their hands this election. PLEASE vote and please consider that voting for a PUD will be better for you and your family in the long run than sticking with the catastrophe of a power system that we now have. We have got to start taking back power out of the hands of greedy corporations that want nothing to do with regulating their outfits to benefit our safety, our pocketbooks or our quality of life. "Free Enterprise" is not at stake here, those of you who worship the Invisible Hand. This is about citizen ownership. You not only have the right to own your own power company, you have a responsibility to do so because otherwise you are ceding your position as a citizen of this city and state and you are not preserving the benefits that are possible for the next generation. That's really what it's all about.
( 8:57 AM )
Regarding the Previous Post
I don't want to talk about it.
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
( 3:51 PM )
Arrgghhh!! I Can't Stand the Tension!!
Come ON Sox!
UPDATE: Darn it - I have to catch the bus home so I'm probably gonna miss the end of the game (I'm only watching the ESPN box scores online and that's stressful enough). As of 4:53 pm pst, the Sox are ahead by one. Maybe it's best I leave now anyway.
~~~~Mama sending pre-game good vibes to Kerry Wood~~~~
Cubs game starts in 1 hour. Mama's warning: Go to the bathroom before it starts, there will be no stops.
( 3:35 PM )
What??!! They LIED??!!
In case you are new to the world, here's a short recap: since George W. Bush was appointed president, almost every word out of his mouth has been a downright lie. Okay, you're caught up. Now you might be forgiven for not realizing this since the American media has done uber-squat to delve into the truth itself. They maybe be picking up speed reporting Bush's falling numbers lately, but I have yet to see ongoing headlines screaming about the misdeeds of this President (which, by the way, don't even require much digging to find). Thus, I'm not feeling all that sorry for them as they go on the defense against the new "GOOD NEWS!" PR assault from the White House this week (see below). Something that might help them is to pay a little attention to this report being circulated by Ambassador Wilson (yes, that guy).
I actually printed out the entire report and read it on my busride home last night (it's an easy 56 pages to get through as most of it is charts and short paragraphs). I will preface my analysis (and sorry if it's a bit long, but the report was pretty detailed) of the report by saying it is HORRIBLY edited. It reads like the first draft of a college paper that hasn't even had its first read-through. It is organized badly and not all that well written - and as I just said, badly needs editing. However, if you can make it through these asthetic issues, I think you might find it very worth reading.
It's called "The Truth from These Podia" and it is written by Retired USAF Col. Sam Gardiner, who has taught strategy and military operations at the National War College, the Air War College and the Naval War College. It is a run-down of the calculated strategy by the US and UK governments to purposefully mislead their citizens in order to gain support for a war they intended to conduct long before they admitted it. Here is a summary of the report from the author:
The United States (and UK) conducted a strategic influence campaign that:
- distorted perceptions of the situation both before and during the conflict
- caused misdirection of portions of the military operation
- was irresponsible in parts
- might have been illegal in some ways
- cost big bucks
- will be even more serious in the future.
He also ads in his summary:
- Clearly the assumption of some in the government is the people of the United States and the United Kingdom will come to a wrong decision if they are given the truth.
- We probably have taken "Information Warfare" too far.
- We allowed strategic psychological operations to become part of public affairs.
- We failed to make adequate distinction between strategic influence stuff and intelligence.
- Message became more important than performance
Gardiner then goes on to show the chain of stories constructed and or molded and then given to the press (who voraciously and unquestioningly devoured them) that made up the molding of the American impression:
• Terrorism and 9/11
• Lt. Commander Speicher
• Mohammad Atta meeting with Iraqi
• Ansar al-Salm
• Chemical and biological weapons
– Delivery readiness
• Weapons labs
• WMD cluster bombs
• Cutting off ears
• Cyber war capability
• Nuclear materials from Niger
• Aluminum tubes
• Nuclear weapons development
• Dirty bombs
• Humanitarian operations
• Attacking the power grid
• Russian punishment
– Signing long term oil
– Night-vision goggles
– GPS Jamming equipment
– Saddam in embassy
• German punishment
• Surrender of the 507th
He goes on to detail this chain of stories and how the governments of the US and the UK, in almost identical styles and even words, used them to deceive their populations.
In addition to the lies and planted stories, the public statements to the American people were psychological operations themselves. The planning for the entire war came out of several sources, and all built upon one central theme: we must deceive to achieve (thanks, I made that one up myself):
In the Pentagon, in addition to the normal public
affairs structure, the Special Plans Office was deeply
involved in this effort, supported (with information)
by the Iraqi National Congress. There was the
Rendon Group, headed by John Rendon who gave
media advice to OSD, the Joint Staff and the White
House. Finally, there were connections to large
The Rendon Group worked for the Government of
Kuwait during the Gulf I. John Rendon proudly
tells that it was he who shipped small American
flags to Kuwait for the citizens to wave as troops
entered Kuwait City. He suggested the same
technique for this war, but the Joint Staff information
operations office turned down the idea.
The Rendon Group worked for both OSD and the Joint
Staff during this war. John Rendon says he was part
of the daily 9:30 phone calls with the key information
players to set themes.
The main thrust of the entire report focuses on this: For the first time in our government and military history, the strategic goal of the military commanders was part and parcel of the government's goal to achieve what it wanted (take over of Iraq) and to manipulate evidence, people's opinions and even the truth in order to achieve that goal:
As far as I am aware, this is the first time a military
commander was given objectives that were about
justifying the war.
And, as I noted earlier, the press was the willing playmate.
I think the materials point to problems in the way
newspapers did their job during the war. Why don’t
they react immediately that they need to do some
self-appraisal? I think one could take the stories
I have highlighted and ask some direct questions. How
was it that the Washington Post took classified
information on the Jessica Lynch story and published
it just the way the individual leaking it in the Pentagon
wanted? Why did the New York Times let itself be
used by “intelligence officials” on stories? Why did the
Washington Times never seem to question a leak they
were given? Why were newspapers in the UK better
than those in the U.S. in raising questions before and
during the war?
I’ve not heard any self-criticism from reporters to
whom I have talked. When I’ve talked to television producers
and reporters my sense is they believe the whole
story is just too complex to tell. That’s sad but probably
We can only conclude that these efforts will be improved on even further by this administration for its next conquest. If anyone stands in its way, watch out.
He (General Gerald Mauer) described a paper called
the Information Operations Roadmap that was being
coordinated in the Pentagon. He said when the paper
was drafted by his office it said that information
operations would be used against an “adversary.”
He went on to say that when the paper got to the
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
(Feith), it was changed to say that information
operations will attempt to “disrupt, corrupt or usurp
adversarial…decision making.” Adversarial…decision-
making will be disrupted. In other words, we will
even go after friends if they are against what we
are doing or want to do.
Pretty damning report. But will anyone read it? After all, we're just a bunch of idiots that would rather be lied to because we can't handle the truth, and even if we could, we would get in the way of our unelected leaders' plans. Better to just let it go.
Now that's what I call democracy!
( 2:49 PM )
Everything Is Going Great,
They Just Aren't Reporting It
The new WH talking points this week are:
1. There are GOOD THINGS happening in Iraq
2. People don't know about them because the Press isn't reporting them
3. People would be more supportive of the President if they knew how great things really were
It's been repeated so many times in the last few days by pundits that it's obvious they all got the same fax from the White House. The blame is once again being pinned on the messengers because the White House can't find anyone else to throw on the fire to distract news watchers.
The Congressional Republicans are getting in on the act as well.
On returning from a trip to Iraq and
Afghanistan, a group of Senate
Republicans said yesterday that the
Bush administration deserves a lot
more credit for successful reconstruction
efforts in those war-torn nations.
As Congress prepares to vote on the
administration’s $87 billion supplemental
request for Iraq, Republican Sens. Mitch
McConnell (Ky.), Conrad Burns (Mont.)
and Craig Thomas (Wyo.) renewed the
argument that despite critical Democrats
and what the Republicans view as
excessively negative press, significant
progress has been made. They cited the
smiles, claps and thumbs-up gestures of
Iraqi youth among other indications that
the reconstruction process is gathering
But evidently, Democrats aren't allowed to go and see for themselves:
Meanwhile, several Senate Democrats complained
that they were denied access to a plane for a
inspection tour of their own.
“For whatever reason, Sens. [Chris] Dodd [D-Conn.]
and others who requested the opportunity to travel
were prohibited from doing so, and I think that
requires a better explanation that the one I’ve been
given so far,” Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said.
The new PR plan launced last week by the White House seems to be going forward full-blast. The GOP has joined with its shills in the non-news and is making enemies of the very people ("journalists") who have so far not kicked up a molecule of investigative dust on this presidency. The PR plan isn't so much more speeches to tout the goodness and sweetness of our occupation of Iraq, but more of an attack on those who no longer are falling in line.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT:
Well, Lou, now the White House is on the
offensive about its public relations offensive.
It was just yesterday that President Bush
complained about his story about the progress
in Iraq was not getting out. He also has said
that the Americans are not getting the truth
when it comes to this story. That's why the
White House went around and bypassed what
he called the national media filter to give
exclusive interviews to five reporters of regional
outlets who normally don't cover the White House.
What has happened now, well, it's opened
an active debate whether the blame-the-media
aspect of this White House strategy is going to
be effective. The White House today made no
apologies about it, White House spokesman Scott
McClellan defending the administration, saying
it's absolutely necessary.
KAREN TUMULTY, "TIME": Well, I must say,
I do find it ironic that the White House was
not complaining about the national media
when they were giving glowing coverage of
our actual -- of our progress during the war itself.
The fact is that the White House laid down
some expectations of what this war would
produce. They suggested we would be in and
out of Iraq within three months. They suggested
that the oil revenues would pay to fix the
damage. None of that has happened. And so I
think the media's doing its job, which is measuring
them against what they, themselves, had promised.
Well, while Bush goes on the offensive against a press that really has hardly done him wrong since he got into office, and the press goes on the defensive trying to 'splain that they are just "reporting the facts, ma'am" -- We can be assured that our elected representatives are getting the story straight for us:
Rep. George Nethercutt said yesterday that
Iraq's reconstruction is going better than is
portrayed by the news media, citing his recent
four-day trip to the country.
"The story of what we've done in the postwar
period is remarkable," Nethercutt, R-Wash.,
told an audience of 65 at a noon meeting at the
University of Washington's Daniel J. Evans
School of Public Affairs.
"It is a better and more important story than
losing a couple of soldiers every day."
Uh, George? Did you seriously mean that? Because if that's how the White House and Republicans in Congress feel, then I think the voters might have something to say about that.
So, in summary: Several soldiers are getting killed per day in Iraq, we don't even know the number of severely wounded there are, bombs are going off every day, and we are making things better by sending Turkish troops in soon. BUT THAT DOESN'T MATTER because people are happy and smiling and they don't even mind that they don't have jobs or money or food - because EVERYTHING is better when the Americans take over!
Did I get that right, Mr. President?