Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Plame Update - Such as it is

It's been almost eighteen months since an unidentified senior White House official blew Valerie Plame's cover. Despite the crime happening literally under their noses and a very limited pool of suspects, Bush and Ashcroft's Justice Department have not made any arrests of sought any indictments.

Aren't you glad these guys take National Security so seriously?

Monday, November 29, 2004

Social Security

The American Progress Action fund has information about Social Security and its prospects under that status quo and if "privatized" by the Bush Administration.

Did you know:

With no changes to the system, all benefits can be payed at least through 2052?

Our current National Debt of $7.5 trillion would be increased by at least $2 trillion over ten years if privatization were enacted?

George Bush's tax cuts for the top 1% over the next 75 years would more than pay for the cost of fixing, by offsetting future shortfalls, the present system?

Only .6 cents of every dollar paid out in benefits through Social Security goes to administrative costs. In contrast, England, which has privatized social security, pays out 15 cents in administrative costs for every dollar in benefits. That's 2500% higher.

Saving Baboons

A friend of mine received an urgent email yesterday from her daughter, who works at the Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education (CARE), rehabilitating orphaned and injured baboons. A troop of seventeen baboons had previously been rehabilitated and released into what was believed to be a secure location. This turned out to not be the case and members of the troop have been poisoned and shot by a local landowner. Because baboons are considered vermin by the South African government, the law is on the landowner's side. To save the surviving members of the troop, CARE needs to immediately raise $2000 to purchase the materials to build an appropriate enclosure.

If you wish to donate, the easiest way is to go to the CAREwebsite. The quickest way is to transfer cash directly from your bank to CARE's bank account, at
First National Bank (Branch #251655)
Account #62025834187
Swift code: FIRN ZA JJ

Tell a friend.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

These People Will Lie About Anything, cont.

From Kevin Drum:
April 6, 2002: A widely circulated CIA briefing paper about unrest in Venezuela states, "dissident military factions, including some disgruntled senior officers and a group of radical junior officers, are stepping up efforts to organize a coup against President Chávez, possibly as early as this month."

April 12-14, 2002: Dissident military factions in the Venezuelan army organize a coup against Chávez.

April 17, 2002: A senior administration official tells the press, "The United States did not know that there was going to be an attempt of this kind to overthrow — or to get Chávez out of power."

Supporting the Troops

I got an email this morning advertising products that support our troops. Or, as the email put it, "products that promote support for our troops and our country." Among the products being peddled are lapel pins, bracelets, and yellow ribbon magnets. There's a hyperlink that says "Click Here to Learn More" that takes you to the product information page. No where is there any information that indicates that your purchase of these products, or for that matter, your display of them, does anything to actually support the troops. You know, like ensuring that they have adequate food, equipment, manpower, etc.

Yesterday, however, I came across a program, My Soldier, that allows its participants to "adopt a soldier." Enrollment is free and the program directs you to a service person who you will send letters/care packages to. Check it out.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Big Brother IS Watching...

...and sometimes he's not the government (well, not entirely).

Many color printers encode their serial number and manufacturing code in the documents they print. These can be traced back to the printer which, if registered with the manufacturer, allows it to be traced back to the purchaser. Not a big deal, necessarily, if you're doing nothing illegal and your government isn't nefarious. It's that last part, what with House Republicans wanting to be able to examine, free of the restraints of existing privacy protection laws, our tax returns, that I'm worried about.

Update - More from Mark Leon Goldberg at Tapped.

Brand Democrat

"Brand Democrat" apparel, courtesy of the inimitably energetic Oliver Willis.

Perspective From the Front

From a letter from a Marine stationed at Al Assad:

Our counter-battery/mortar fire is quicker than hell. Four rounds from each weapons system, 81's and 155's.Ouch, that's gotta hurt on the receiving end. Too bad, so sad for Hadji. Should've picked another damn neighborhood to screw with, not mine.

I intend no disrespect to our fine soldiers, but perhaps a little cultural perspective would be in order here. Could it be that the sentiments in the last line would more aptly be expressed by "Hadji?"

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Finding Neverland

Tonight I saw a sneak preview with my daughter of Finding Neverland, with Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet. It is melodramatic and emotionally manipulative and, in the end, a magical movie experience.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Bush's Tax Plan - Screw the Middle Class

When I read in my newspaper this morning about George Bush's plan to overhaul the federal tax system, I thought I must have missed or misunderstood something. To offset the revenue that would be lost as a result of the tax cuts, which go almost exclusively to the rich, Bush's plan includes eliminating business tax deductions for employer-provided health insurance. "I must not understand what that means," I thought. The way that sounded to me, employers currently write-off their employee health insurance premiums as a business expense and Bush wants to eliminate that write-off. But that couldn't be right, could it?

It seems a lot of other people share my interpretation and my bafflement. Just go here, and here, and here. What I don't understand is, of all the sources of revenue to tap, why this one? Bush famously does not have a plan to deal with the health care problems in this country, but he wants to pull out the economic basis of the one we've got. It may be that employers will not stop offering health insurance plans to their employees if this plan of Bush's goes through, but since we know the employers' bottom line is not going to be sacrificed, it's going to have to be employees' pay or other benefits that will have to be cut to support this. Another shift of the tax burden from the richest, who can afford it, to the middle class.

For you millions of idiots who voted for Bush (yes, you're idiots!!!!!!!)this is his expression of gratitude for your support. Don't let this bother you too much, though; he's just getting started.

A Plague of Locusts

A swarm of locusts has descended on Egypt, but because of climactic conditions are expected to do little damage there, migrating instead to warmer climes in Saudi Arabia and Sudan. Yeah, that's just what the Sudanese need now.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

George the Irrelevant

The George Will column I referred to below raises some questions about the Bush Administration's foreign policy performance that illustrate what charitably might be considered inconsistency in the President's positions but might more accurately be viewed as political opportunism and hypocrisy. I know, that's nothing to get worked up about; everybody does it. What the column also reveals is what a morally debased whore George Will is.

From the column:
"In 1991 the secretary of defense, explaining the lack of wisdom of regime change, said: 'Once you've got Baghdad, it's not clear what you do with it. It's not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the one that's currently there now. Is it going to be a Shia regime, a Sunni regime or a Kurdish regime? Or one that tilts toward the Baathists, or one that tilts toward the Islamic fundamentalists? How much credibility is that government going to have if it's set up by the United States military when it's there? How long does the United States military have to stay to protect the people that sign on for that government, and what happens to it once we leave?' Was Dick Cheney right?"

,"In 2000, before becoming George W. Bush's national security adviser, you questioned the use of U.S. military forces in peacekeeping operations: 'Carrying out civil administration and police functions is simply going to degrade the American capability to do the things America has to do. We don't need to have the 82nd Airborne escorting kids to kindergarten.' Are current noncombat operations in Iraq degrading U.S. military capabilities?"

There's nothing wrong with these questions. Far from it, they raise legitimate doubts about the philosophical underpinnings and the consistency of Republican foreign policy. What I find troublesome is the timing of these questions.

Had they been raised, say three or four weeks ago, or anytime in the last three years but before November 2, they might have contributed to a serious national debate about the efficacy of the Bush Administration. Had a person of Will's stature among conservative pundits had the temerity to call into question the apparent flip-flop between Candidate Bush's 2000 views on nation building and President Bush's subsequent actions in that arena, we as a nation would have had the opportunity to openly acknowledge that a 180 degree change in the President's views had taken place in the interim. Will has largely remained silent, though, and when these inconsistencies were pointed out by Democrats it was viewed as partisan sniping. So it goes with the rest of Will's column. Although the acendance of Rice to the State Department raises a fine opportunity for Will to publish this column, it would have been just as timely and relevant any time before now.

The difference is that by publishing it now Will gets to pat himself on the back for displaying his bold questioning of the Bush Administration, demonstrating to all that he is a free thinker, independent of the Republicans in power without doing anything to threaten them. The election is over and won, the die has been cast. I think Will is too smart to believe that anything a mere columnist has to say can now influence the man in the White House. Neither, at this point, will any manifestation of popular will. We know that this President does not expose himself to views contrary to his own and does not question his own actions or those of the people serving him after the fact. Will is playing to the grandstand now, burnishing his body of work by trying to establish after it no longer matters that he too can boldly question the President. It's all just a show.

Nonetheless, the questions he raised in the column are good ones. Somebody should see to it that Rice answers them. Somebody who matters. In other words, not Will.

(And you thought this entry would be about Bush, didn't you?)

Quizzing Condi

George Will has questions. Does Condoleezza Rice have answers?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

End Selective Service Registration

At my old blog site, I had several posts about the draft, including one encouraging people to contact their representatives in the house urging them to support HR 4746, which if passed will end selective service registration. The bill was sponsored by Major R. Owens of New York and has been co-sponsored by ten other representatives, including Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, and my own representative, Lynn Woolsey. I'm renewing that request now.

We heard throughout the election and have continued to hear since that Bush and Rumsfeld have no desire or plan to reinstitute a draft. And yet they are exhausting all their alternatives, from issuing stop-loss orders extending the service of those already in uniform, to recalling the ready reserve, to sending training units into the war zone. When they have run out of those young (and sometimes middle-aged) people willing to volunteer while the need for more young people continues to grow, the point will be reached when the draft is the last option. Our young are our most precious option. They represent the future of our nation and I simply don't trust the people running this country and its military to suddenly develop a sense of responsibility.

Please, locate your Representative and contact him or her, urging them to support HR 4746. The threat of a draft will not go away until the means to implement it does.

Monday, November 15, 2004

It's Condi the Liar

So, Condoleeza Rice, the most duplicitous and spectacularly incompetent person to ever serve the United States Goverment in any capacity,is Bush's nominee to replace Colin Powell as Secretary of State. It's Rice, a Sovietologist who spent her first 8 months as National Security Advisor preparing our nation's defense against a Soviet-style threat. Who was scheduled, on 9/11, to give a speech on SDI, the pie-in-the-sky defense against what she perceived as the gravest threat to our nation's security, that of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Who, before the 9/11 commission and in front of a national television audience referred to a Presidential briefing describing al-Qaeda's intent to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings as a "historical" document. That Condoleeza Rice.

How special.

Bye-bye Colin

So, Colin Powell has resigned. I'm trying to think back to four years ago, when he was named Secretary of State, and what we thought that would mean for the Bush Administration. There was the hope that his nomination, when paired with that of Norman Mineta, a Democrat, as Secretary of Transportation, that Bush, who gained the Presidency under a cloud, just might govern humbly from the center. It's mighty hard to remember that now, isn't it?

Despite the fact that Bush and most of his administration turned out to be far more extreme than all but the most cynical of us thought possible, there was still the hope that Colin Powell might serve as a moderating influence. If he was, it was in ways that were neither very visible nor consequential. There does not appear to have been a significant policy fight over foreign affairs in which Powell prevailed over Rumsfeld or the neo-cons. Failing as a moderating influence within the administration, Powell served as its moderate face for the world. It was in that role that he performed his greatest disservice to his nation and the world. It was in that role, as the Administration's voice of reason, that he went before the United Nation and followed the script, using his satellite photos and his pointer to describe the chimerical horrible arsenal Saddam Hussein was prepared to loose upon the Middle East.

I cannot refer to Powell's service in the Bush Administration as a tragedy, for you need in a tragedy to have a hero, a man extraordinary in some way who is brought low by his weakness. Powell turned out to be extraordinary only by his unsurpassed mediocrity, his now legendary weakness. The full measure of his weakness, of his lack of character was revealed later, when we discovered that he made that presentation despite remaining unconvinced himself. The war he sold to the American people that day has split this country and devastated the people and nation of Iraq. It has brought the credibility of our country to an historic low. And for that, Colin Powell is owed as much credit as anybody else. How different might the world be today if, when told to take the case to the United Nations, he had served his Constitution rather than his President and said no.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Gonzales Must be Rejected

I ran this post at my other blog a couple of days ago. I'm re-running it here only because I want you to contact your Senators to tell them to reject President Bush's nomination of Alberto Gonzales to replace John Ashcroft as Attorney General.

Introducing his nominee to replace John Ashcroft as Attorney General, George Bush said of Alberto Gonzales "he has an unwavering principle of respect for the law."

Oh, really?

According to Newsweek, Gonzales convened the meetings that resulted in the Justice Department memo that held that laws prohibiting torture do not apply to the President's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants. In another memo he wrote, he described Geneva Convention limitations on interrogation methods that could be used on prisoners of war as "quaint."

While working for Bush in Texas, Gonzales prepared for Governor Bush memos describing the crimes, trials and appeals of condemned prisoners for the Governor to review while deciding whether to extend clemency. Notably absent from all of these memos were mention of quality of counsel, exculpatory evidence, or mitigating circumstances. As a Texas Supreme Court Justice, Gonzales displayed the kind of indifference to the appearance of conflict of interest that has characterized Dick Cheney, happily accepting campaign contributions from corporations that were litigants in matters before his court.

I understand that the President has the prerogative to select to his cabinet those people whom he believes will best and most effectively carry out his programs and goals. Each Senator, however, has taken an oath to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States of America. Gonzales' record serving under Bush so far offers strong evidence that as Attorney General he will threaten the individual freedoms guaranteed to Americans by the Constitution. The Senate questioning of Gonzales should require Gonzales to explain, if he can, how his previous actions have been consistent with the principals of lilberty and freedom that Americans have fought to establish and preserve for more than two centuries.

The American people like to believe that we as a nation are exceptional, and to some extent I believe we are. The exceptionalism manifests itself when our words and deeds reflect the noble dreams of our founding fathers. Gonzales' actions in the service of George W. Bush betray those dreams and exemplify the mantra of the Bush Administration, that the ends justify the means. For his craven service, Gonzales must not be rewarded by being placed in charge of the Justice Department. Americans and citizens of other countries who believe that America can still act as a strong and just nation driven by the noble hopes of our ancestors look to the Senate to reject this nomination, to reject the Bush doctrine that we must fearfully undermine our civil liberties and civilized impulses to protect ourselves from a nasty world.

Bush, Iraq, etc.

Retired Army Colonel David Hackworth states what has long been obvious, that President Bush needs to hold those among his subordinates who are responsible for the screwups in the planning and execution of the Iraq war accountable. Hackworth goes on to take a swipe at Rudy Giuliani for his comments blaming the troops in the field for the failure to secure the ammo dumps during the early days of the invasion, saying the "ambitious former mayor who dodged the Vietnam draft should be rapped on the head with the butt of an M-16 rifle for putting the politically expedient bad mouth on our brave soldiers".

It's interesting that Hackworth begins his article by stating "now that the election’s over, President Bush needs to deep-six his candidate hat and get serious as commander-in-chief." The implication is that it was acceptable for Bush to put his political interests ahead of the troops' welfare until the election was over. There might be quite a bit fewer dead and maimed American soldiers if Bush had gotten serious about being commander-in-chief at the beginning of the war. Perhaps had he started holding his underlings accountable for their mistakes (mistakes which have cost our troops and Iraqi civilians their lives) we would have developed some kind of coherent strategy in Iraq (instead of the currently in place "whack-a-mole" strategy) long before now.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

A War Crime in Fallujah

On a far less positive note, the New York Times reports that "Human rights experts said Friday that American soldiers might have committed a war crime on Thursday when they sent fleeing Iraqi civilians back into Falluja."

"A stream of refugees, about 300 men, women and children, were detained by American soldiers as they left southern Falluja by car and on foot. The women and children were allowed to proceed. The men were tested for any residues left by the handling of explosives. All tested negative, but they were sent back."

We seem to be getting more and more evidence that we have all but completely lost sight of any humane goal in Iraq. We seem to randomly identify who our friends and foes are and bestow acts of kindness on the former and alternately random and focused acts of violence on the latter. We are not winning hearts and minds, we are not "liberating" the country, as we are the occupiers from which they require liberation, and we continue to sow the seeds, in richly fertilized fields, for a new generation of terrorists.

This has to end.

Positive Thoughts

While reading through this morning's paper, I noted the following positive items:

The VA is deemphasizing research into stress as a primary cause of Gulf War Syndrome and will now "embrace the possibility that unconventional theories given the time and resources to test them may lead the way to resolving and undermining the unforeseen and unsupposed battlefield conditions that existed in 1990, 1991 and which may have tunneled silently into the bodies of Gulf War veterans." It only took more than a decade to actually start looking for causes rather than trying to squeeze the facts into the old theory.

Rod Paige has resigned as Secretary of Education. You remember, the guy who called the National Education Association a "terrorist organization." That guy.

Nicaragua has decided to completely eliminate its arsenal of surface to air missiles. Or maybe all but 400 of them. Either way, many will be destroyed.

Mexico, with assistance from The Nature Conservancy, has agreed to protect from development 370,000 acres of tropical forest in the Yucutan.

Hamid Karzai is still the world's dapperest leader. That wasn't in the paper. It was more of a random observation.

Friday, November 12, 2004

We're Patriotic, Too, Aren't We?

I had this, accompanied by a photo of a marine with a cigaret dangling from his lips, sent to me in an email:

No matter how obnoxious of a conservative-bashing liberal crusader Dan Rather is much of the time, when he returns to his patriotic Texas roots, he does so powerfully -- as he did Wednesday night in concluding the CBS Evening News with an emotional tribute to U.S. Marines. With a photo on screen of a grizzled Marine in Fallujah, at the end of the November 10 newscast, Rather asked: "Now, if I may, with your indulgence, this is personal."

Up on screen, CBS displayed a picture, by Los Angeles Times photographer Luis Sinco, of a Marine in Fallujah with dirt of his face, blood on his nose and a cigarette hanging from his mouth.

As the photo enlarged and CBS zoomed in, Rather asserted: "The picture, did you see it? The best war photograph of recent years is in many newspapers today, front page in some. Taken by Luis Sinco of the Los Angeles Times, it is this close-up of a U.S.
Marine on the front lines of Fallujah. He is tired, dirty and bloodied, dragging on that cigarette, eyes narrowed and alert, not with the thousand-yard stare of a dazed infantryman so familiar to all who have seen combat firsthand up close. No, this is a warrior with his eyes on the far horizon, scanning for danger. See it, study it, absorb it, think about it. Then take a deep breath of pride. And if your eyes don't dampen, you're a better man or woman than I. Where such men come from and what will happen to our
country when they cease to come, we can wonder with worry. But for now, we have them, and they are there in that brown hell known as Iraq. Whatever you may think of the war, they went for the right reason [Rather back on screen in place of the picture]: They loved their country. May these men and women of honor, valor, integrity and loyalty know that they, their deeds and their sacrifices are not forgotten. That can be validated by every schoolchild in America being shown the picture and having it explained to them,
lest they, and we, forget. For the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather reporting. Good night."

What is it about conservatives that they seem to regard patriotism as a uniquely conservative value or emotion? How is it that they can be so closed-minded that they can't conceive that somebody who disagrees with them on political issues can still love his or her country? And why do we let them get away with this? I have a number of liberal friends who don't fly the flag on national holidays not because they don't love their country but because they believe that by doing so they will send the wrong message, that they are conservative. Knock it off, folks!!! It's our country too, our flag too. Proudly proclaim your love for them and upset the expectations of those who think displaying your love for your country is a uniquely conservative practice. After 9/11 a lot of liberals put flag decals on our cars, as conservatives did. Because George Bush has distorted the importance of 9/11 for political means and wrapped himself in the flag doesn't allow him to claim it exclusively. It's ours. Let's take it back.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

How's That Minority Status Working Out?

The Lennon Report offers these numbers from the election:

AND SPEAKING OF RIGHT, it appears they crushed us in the 2004 election. Until you atually look at the numbers:

- Bush won the popular vote by a whopping 3%.
- 41.3 million people voted for Dem senators, while 37.9 million voted for Reps. A popular vote margin of about 4.5%
- Dems in congress are there on 59.6 million votes. Republicans are there on 57.6 million votes.

I don't know if these numbers are accurate, but I do like the way they look. Go start an argument with a Bush supporter.

Is Ken Mehlman Gay? Should We Care?

In an entry at AMERICAblog about the possibility of Ken Mehlman becoming Chairman of the Republican National Committee, John Aravosis states he thinks the public has the right to know Mehlman's sexual orientation, listing six pretty dubious reasons. He continues,
"Now, I have no idea whether Ken Mehlman is gay, bi or straight. But therein lies the problem. In the face of longtime rumors, this 37 year old single man has, oddly, refused to answer questions about his sexual orientation. I can't recall many, if any, straight men who refuse to acknowledge that they're straight - if anything, most are a bit too obvious about it - and that ultimately leads to speculation, caused by Mehlman's own failure to respond to a direct question posed by a reporter."

I don't know if Mehlman is gay, bi, straight, or asexual, and frankly I don't care. Whatever his feelings about the privacy others are entitled to, I believe he is entitled to keep his own preferences to himself. What he is and who he has sex with is nobody's business but his and whoever he is doing it with. It doesn't concern me, it doesn't concern you, and it shouldn't concern Aravosis.

One of the arguments Aravosis makes to justify his demands that Mehlman reveal his sexuality is that "Mehlman has already said publicly that the gay issue is fair game for politics. If it's fair game, then the same rules apply to him." It doesn't work that way, though.

With Albert Gonzales having been named Bush's nominee to replace John Ashcroft as Attorney General, there has been much discussion the last couple of days about Gonzales' role in the memo justifying the use of torture. One of the arguments I've seen excusing Gonzales and the Administration is that our enemies, the terrorists, do not abide by the restraints of the Geneva Conventions, so we shouldn't have to either. What that argument ignores is that some things are intrinsically wrong, torture among them. It doesn't make it right to torture people, to treat your enemies inhumanely just because that's how they do business. With our Declaration of Independence, we acceded to "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind." A concern that we would be viewed as just by the community of man and by posterity has guided our nation's nobler endeavors. At our best, we have done things because it was right to do them. We have declined to do other things because to do so would have been wrong.

The same principal applies here. People are entitled to sexual privacy. It's their right. It doesn't matter whether that appears in the Constitution or not. It's part of the fundamental right people have to be left alone. They don't forfeit that entitlement, that right, because they wish to deny it to others. It is an appeal to our baser nature to strip that privacy from people we disagree with because it is politically convenient to do so.

If we disagree with Mehlman's politics, then let's battle his politics. To focus on whether he likes men or women distracts us from the real issues and deprives us of the luxury of being morally right. We can't depoliticize sexual preference by making a political issue out of it.
Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com