Saturday, September 04, 2004

Defending Decadence

I had the honor and pleasure of tending bar at the starting point of the Southern Decadence parade a few years back, so it makes me very happy to see this:
A fundamentalist pastor who led a protest march through last year's Southern Decadence has been banned from going near this year's festival. Southern Decadence is the largest gay event in the South and runs until September 6.

Reverend Grant Storms led a group of church members down Bourbon Street attempting to disrupt crowds. (story) When he was refused entry into a gay bar where he wanted to protest Storms charged the doorman with assault. The charge was later thrown out of court.

Today, Civil District Judge Michael Bagneris granted an area business group a restraining order against Storms to prevent him from disrupting this year's party.

Storms and his followers will be allowed to hold signs denouncing homosexuality but are barred from using megaphones, bullhorns or other noisemakers.


Double Standard

The hypocrisy of the Catholic Church is no secret, given their protection of child molesters and rapists. However, I never would have imagined that "it's okay if you are Republican" was an argument they'd accept when it comes to abortion.

But there it is:
In the view of the nation's Roman Catholic bishops, politicians who belong to the church but depart from its teachings on abortion should be denied honors from a Catholic institution.

Unless, some would say, you happen to be a national hero of Sept. 11 who has raised a lot of money for a church-affiliated hospital.

That would be the former mayor of New York, Rudolph W. Giuliani, an abortion rights supporter, whose name will grace a new $25 million trauma center at St. Vincent's Hospital Manhattan. Ground was broken last week.

The hospital is a branch of St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers, a system of eight hospitals, four nursing homes and a large home-health care agency, overseen by the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Sisters of Charity. Ultimate authority over the complex rests in the hands of Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Sister Dorothy Metz, president of the Sisters of Charity.

Like all Catholic medical institutions, it does not provide abortions, contraception or other procedures that violate Catholic teaching.

"If you would name a center after somebody, certainly that would qualify as an honor," said the Rev. Frank Pavone, a priest who lives in Staten Island and runs the national anti-abortion campaign Priests for Life. Father Pavone called the naming "troublesome," saying, "It certainly isn't something I would do if I were in that position."

He said that Republicans who support abortion rights should be treated the same as Democrats who hold similar views, including some who have been denied communion. Mr. Giuliani is a Republican.

Christopher Slattery, an anti-abortion activist in the New York area, said the naming of the trauma center was "outrageous."

"I think it's a scandal that a Roman Catholic institution is prominently honoring a man who has a serious, at least one serious moral flaw, if not many," he said.


Sick and Tired

Shouldn't a healthier, happier, more leisurely life be a part of the American Dream? And with such overwhelming material wealth as the US has created in the last half century, should we not be moving closer to that goal, rather than farther away?
American workers are stressed out, and in an unforgiving economy, they are becoming more so every day.

Sixty-two percent say their workload has increased over the last six months; 53 percent say work leaves them "overtired and overwhelmed."

Even at home, in the soccer bleachers or at the Labor Day picnic, workers are never really off the clock, bound to BlackBerries, cellphones and laptops. Add iffy job security, rising health care costs, ailing pension plans and the fear that a financial setback could put mortgage payments out of reach, and the office has become, for many, an echo chamber of angst.

It is enough to make workers sick - and it does.

Decades of research have linked stress to everything from heart attacks and stroke to diabetes and a weakened immune system. Now, however, researchers are connecting the dots, finding that the growing stress and uncertainty of the office have a measurable impact on workers' health and, by extension, on companies' bottom lines.


Smearing the Dead

Even Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists who have been dead for half a century are not safe from Bush's lies:
Trying to match John Kerry, who roused the base at his convention with a line bashing the House of Bush-House of Saud coziness, George W. Bush roused the base at his convention with a liberal-media-elite-bashing line.

Painting himself as the noble agent for "the transformational power of liberty" abroad, he said "there have always been doubters" when America uses its "strength" to "advance freedom": "In 1946, 18 months after the fall of Berlin to Allied forces, a journalist in The New York Times wrote this: 'Germany is a land in an acute stage of economic, political and moral crisis. European capitals are frightened. In every military headquarters, one meets alarmed officials doing their utmost to deal with the consequences of the occupation policy that they admit has failed.' End quote. Maybe that same person's still around, writing editorials."

She isn't. Anne O'Hare McCormick, who died in 1954, was The Times's pioneering foreign affairs correspondent who covered the real Axis of Evil, interviewing Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and Patton. She was hardly a left-wing radical or defeatist. In 1937, she became the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism, and she was the first woman to be a member of The Times's editorial board.

The president distorted the columnist's dispatch. The "moral crisis" and failure she described were in the British and French sectors. She reported that the Americans were doing better because of their policy to "encourage initiative and develop self-government." She wanted the U.S. to commit more troops and stay the course - not cut and run.


Another Bloody Day in Liberated Iraq

Very bad:
At least 49 people were killed, including 20 in a suicide car bomb blast, yesterday in one of the bloodiest days since the new Iraqi government took office, A bomb went off in Kirkuk in front of a police academy as hundreds of trainees and civilians were leaving for the day, turning the street into a mass of bloodied bodies, gutted cars, shards of glass and twisted metal.

The blast left 20 dead and 36 wounded, said Dr Ridha Abdullah, head of the Kirkuk general hospital. "I saw one of my friends killed before my eyes. I couldn't do anything to help him," said Bassem Ali, a student at the academy whose left hand was hurt in the blast.

Rescue services were overwhelmed by the scale of the devastation and some people had to wait for attention sprawled across the academy's steps, which were covered in blood.


Eat His Shorts

O'Reilly, punk'd:
Stephen at Vodkapundit is wondering if Bill O'Reilly was hornswoggled (we love that word) earlier tonight when he read an email on air. The letter came from "Jack Mehoffer", which is awfully close to the ol' gag name "Jack Mehoff."We're not sure about this one.. but we'll leave it up to-- Well, let's just say, "We Report, YOU Decide."


Proliferation, Cont'd

Nuclear capability continues to spread, and we have absolutely no rational sense of how this should or should not be proceeding:
South Korean officials will meet with the UN nuclear watchdog this month to explain about controversial uranium enrichment tests conducted four years ago, Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon said.


Friday, September 03, 2004

Republican Promises

Worth nothing:
A day after President Bush heralded his efforts to help the elderly cope with increased medical expenses, federal officials announced the largest premium increase in dollars in the Medicare program's history, raising the monthly expense by $11.60 to $78.20.

The increase, which amounts to 17 percent, results largely from increased payments to doctors and reflects rising medical expenses generally, officials said. The rise has nothing to do with a program that will start in 2006 to offer prescription drugs, for which beneficiaries must pay a separate premium.


Bandwagon Time

There seems to be something about Fridays and blogs and cats, and I have all three right now, so here you go:



That little flap with some midlevel worker at the Pentagon as an Israeli spy is rather larger than previously reported, and guess who's involved:
FBI counterintelligence agents are investigating whether several Pentagon officials leaked classified information to Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, according to a law enforcement official and other people familiar with the case.

Senior White House officials, including national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, have been apprised that Chalabi is part of the investigation, according to a senior U.S. official. The inquiry is part of the larger counterintelligence probe that was disclosed last week -- the scope of which is not yet clear.


The Truth About Iraq

Bush will be out of office quite soon. But look what he's gotten us into:
When asked this week on CNN how long the U.S. military is likely to remain in Iraq, Senator John McCain replied "probably" 10 or 20 years. "That's not so bad," he said, adding, "We've been in Korea for 50 years. We've been in West Germany for 50 years."

Reporters have come to expect candor from Senator McCain, and in this case he didn't disappoint. But there weren't any speakers mounting the podium at the Republican National Convention to hammer home the message that G.I.'s would be in Iraq for a decade or two.

That's not the understanding most Americans had when this wretched war was sold to them, and it's not the view most Americans hold now.

If Senator McCain is correct (and the belief in official Washington is that he is), then boys and girls who are 5 or 10 years old now will get their chance in 2015 or 2020 to strap on the Kevlar and engage the Iraqi "insurgents" who, like the indigenous forces we fought in Vietnam, will never accept the occupation of their country by America.


Patient? Humble? Go Fuck Yourself!

I mentioned yesterday that the New York Times had some rather fond hopes regarding what Bush would say last night (much less what he would do in the future). Well, now that estimable daily is shaking its head ruefully over something we all could see coming:
It was depressing to hear Dick Cheney, who spoke on Wednesday night, repeat his crowd-pleasing snipe against Senator Kerry for calling for "a more sensitive war on terror." It was a phony criticism, given that Mr. Bush has used almost identical language in the past. But, worse, it signaled that Mr. Cheney and the administration's other hit men will spend the next two months trying to sell their failed approach to foreign policy, and encouraging Americans to believe that anyone who acknowledges that the United States needs to take a more patient and humble approach to the world is in league with the girlie men.


Already Backing Down

Unsurprisingly, Bush is trying to flee the debates, just as he has fled so much in his pathetic life:
President Bush's campaign won't say for sure whether he will agree to the three debates proposed by the independent Commission on Presidential Debates, or if a Republican strategist was right this week when he said the Bush campaign would agree to only two debates.

The commission, without a formal agreement by the Bush camp, set debates for Sept. 30 in Coral Gables, Fla.; Oct. 8 in St. Louis; and Oct. 13 in Tempe. A vice presidential debate between incumbent Dick Cheney and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's running mate, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, was set for Oct. 5 in Cleveland.

GOP strategist Scott Reed was quoted by the Reuter news agency this week as saying the Bush camp's position is that "two debates are sufficient and will not dominate the entire fall schedule."


Burn Him!

Tom Burka is spouting heretical nonsense again:
Life, if you looked about you, bore no resemblance not only to the lies that streamed out of the telescreens, but even to the ideals that the Republican Party was trying to achieve. Great areas of it, even for a Republican Party member, were neutral and non-political, a matter of slogging through dreary jobs, fighting for a place on the subway, looking for a parking spot at the mall, eating a corn-dog, watching reality TV.

Crazy talk, I assure you. In truth, we are all only creatures of the GOP's divine plan.


Just Say No

Bush's quixotic crusade has to stop, and it's up to us to stop it:
It's official: the 2004 campaign is a referendum on whether the United States should wage a crusade to bring liberty to the repressed of the world – particularly in the Middle East – in order to heed the call of God and to protect the United States from terrorists who target America because they despise freedom. Or, at least, that is how George W. Bush would like the contest to be framed.

In his acceptance speech, Bush pushed the message of the week – it's the war, stupid – to lofty heights. Like the speakers of previous nights, he fully embraced the war in Iraq. But while John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Zell Miller, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Laura Bush depicted the war as an action necessary for safeguarding America, Bush also placed it within the context of an even grander mission. "America," he proclaimed from that altar-like podium, "is called to lead the cause of freedom in the new century.... Freedom is not America's gift to the world. It is the Almighty God's gift." (Minutes earlier, New York Governor George Pataki described Bush as the Supreme Being's gift to the United States: "He is one of those men God and fate somehow lead to the fore in times of challenge.")


Just Go

And read Molly Ivins, because she says it better than I ever could.



I am sure that Cheney knew nothing of this:
An internal investigation into Halliburton Co (HAL.NYS) reportedly revealed that the company had considered bribing Nigerian officials to win contracts a decade back.

The internal probe into Halliburton, the world's second largest oilfield services company, uncovered handwritten notes suggesting that members of a consortium led by the company had considered bribing Nigerian officials to wincontracts. The consortium, named TSKJ, was formed in the early 1990s and included former Halliburton employees.

The contracts, worth approximately $7 billion, included a $5 billion project to build a natural gas liquefaction plant. The payments were reportedly made between 1995 and 2002. However, media reports quoted a Halliburton spokeswoman saying that although the evidence reveals that the members of the consortium were discussing bribing Nigerian officials, there is no indication to suggest that any money changed hands. Halliburton reportedly said that it has already submitted the information to the US Department of Justice, the US Securities and Exchange Commission and a French magistrate.

Halliburton had also allegedly overcharged on contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, which the company had won through political pressure. Media reports quoted the company saying that there is no evidence suggesting Vice President Dick Cheney’s knowledge of the misconduct.

Nowadays, of course, such hijinks are deemed crass. It's more seemly to have the government in tow.


Thursday, September 02, 2004

First Shots Fired

It's good to see this, just as the boy king is preparing to accept the nomination:
Fighting back, Democratic Sen. John Kerry called President Bush "unfit to lead this nation" because of the war in Iraq and his record on jobs, health care and energy prices. He lashed out at the incumbent and Vice President Dick Cheney for avoiding service in the Vietnam War.

"I'm not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and by those who have misled the nation into Iraq," Kerry said in prepared remarks issued as the Republican was poised to accept his party's nomination for a second term.

Cheney and Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga., led a chorus of Republicans who challenged Kerry's credentials to be commander in chief, arguing that although they respect his decorated Vietnam War service, his 20-year voting record in the Senate on national security issues made him unfit for the nation's top job.

Kerry answered his critics with a blistering statement.

"For the past week, they attacked my patriotism and my fitness to serve as commander in chief," Kerry said. "We'll, here's my answer. I'm not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and by those who have misled the nation into Iraq."

Bush served stateside in the Texas Air National Guard. Cheney received five deferments and never served in the military.


Bush Thinks We Are Children

According to his chief of staff, the president views the American people as juvenile and in need of a daddy:
White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said yesterday that President Bush views America as a ''10-year-old child" in need of the sort of protection provided by a parent.

Card's remark, criticized later by Democrat John F. Kerry's campaign as ''condescending," came in a speech to Republican delegates from Maine and Massachusetts that was threaded with references to Bush's role as protector of the country. Republicans have sounded that theme repeatedly at the GOP convention as they discuss the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the war in Iraq.

''It struck me as I was speaking to people in Bangor, Maine, that this president sees America as we think about a 10-year-old child," Card said. ''I know as a parent I would sacrifice all for my children."

The comment underscored an argument put forth some by political pundits, such as MSNBC talk-show host Chris Matthews, that the Republican Party has cast itself as the ''daddy party." A Kerry spokesman, seizing on Card's characterization of Bush as a parental figure for the nation, contended that the president had failed.

''Any parent that ran a household the way George W. Bush runs the country would find themselves in bankruptcy court on the way to family court," said Phil Singer, a Kerry spokesman. ''Just over the last year, 1.3 million people have fallen into poverty, including 700,000 children, and 1.4 million people have lost their health insurance while family incomes have declined three years in a row. America can do better."


Fond Hopes

The New York Times gets it right when it comes to the meaninglessness of a "War on Terror," but if I were they, I'd not be holding my breath waiting for Bush to say anything nearly so sensible:
While Republican delegates have been meeting in New York City, terrorist bombs have been exploding in the rest of the world. The horrific pictures of victims on an Israeli bus and slain airplane and subway passengers, as well as of a school held hostage in Russia, are a stark reminder to Americans that terrorism is not all about us. It is the tactic of preference for the self-obsessed radical movements of our age.

President Bush was absolutely right when he said it was impossible to win a war against terrorism - it's like announcing we can win a war against violence. Terrorism can only be minimized and controlled, and that can be done only with a worldwide strategy, joined by all of the world's sensible and peaceful nations. We hope that when Mr. Bush accepts his party's nomination for re-election tonight, he makes that argument.


Iraq Invasion = Nuclear Proliferation

The day after Cheney came out with his absolutely ridiculous statement that the US has managed to shut down nuclear material black markets, the experts weigh in:
The Bush administration may think tough talk will discourage Iran's nuclear ambitions, but U.S. policy on Iraq and North Korea has left the Islamic state believing that only nuclear weapons can deter the possibility of U.S. invasion, experts said on Thursday.

Iran, which President Bush has branded part of an "axis of evil" along with North Korea and prewar Iraq, saw Baghdad fall to U.S.-led forces in April 2003, the same month that North Korea told the United States it possessed nuclear weapons.

Now, with 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and North Korean diplomatic talks promising attractive benefits for Pyongyang, Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations said the message to Iran was clear.

"You've got to become North Korea, or you will be Iraq," said Takeyh, the council's senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies.

"Biological and chemical weapons don't deter the U.S. military and are no guarantee of territorial integrity or sovereignty," he said. "But nuclear weapons have a bargaining utility."

Added Vali Nasr, a Middle East expert who teaches at the Naval Postgraduate School: "(Iran has) come to believe, rightly or wrongly, that they're more likely to manage a threat to the regime if they have a nuclear capability."


Against Their Own Interest

Given the many ways that the Bush administration has failed to come through for the NYPD and NYFD since 9/11, this decision is amazing:
After a quick detour to Ohio to rally voters in that battleground state, President George Bush made his triumphal landing in New York on Wednesday night - and headed straight for a community centre in Queens for an appearance with firefighters that was heavy with September 11 symbolism.

At the neighbourhood centre, which serves an Italian-American community, Mr Bush received the endorsement of the 20,000-strong Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York.

He held up for cameras an "FDNY" cap - the symbol of New York firefighters that became well-known to Americans after the terrorist attacks that devastated this city.


Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Embarrassing, Drunk, AWOL

A new story from Salon spells out just George W. Bush managed to avoid service by being a political liability for Poppy:
Before there was Karl Rove, Lee Atwater or even James Baker, the Bush family's political guru was a gregarious newspaper owner and campaign consultant from Midland, Texas, named Jimmy Allison. In the spring of 1972, George H.W. Bush phoned his friend and asked a favor: Could Allison find a place on the Senate campaign he was managing in Alabama for his troublesome eldest son, the 25-year-old George W. Bush?

"The impression I had was that Georgie was raising a lot of hell in Houston, getting in trouble and embarrassing the family, and they just really wanted to get him out of Houston and under Jimmy's wing," Allison's widow, Linda, told me. "And Jimmy said, 'Sure.' He was so loyal."

Linda Allison's story, never before published, contradicts the Bush campaign's assertion that George W. Bush transferred from the Texas Air National Guard to the Alabama National Guard in 1972 because he received an irresistible offer to gain high-level experience on the campaign of Bush family friend Winton "Red" Blount. In fact, according to what Allison says her late husband told her, the younger Bush had become a political liability for his father, who was then the United States ambassador to the United Nations, and the family wanted him out of Texas. "I think they wanted someone they trusted to keep an eye on him," Linda Allison said.
Allison's account corroborates a Washington Post investigation in February that found no credible witnesses to the service in the Alabama National Guard that Bush maintains he performed, despite a lack of documentary evidence. Asked if she'd ever seen Bush in a uniform, Allison said: "Good lord, no. I had no idea that the National Guard was involved in his life in any way." Allison also confirmed previously published accounts that Bush often showed up in the Blount campaign offices around noon, boasting about how much alcohol he had consumed the night before. (Bush has admitted that he was a heavy drinker in those years, but he has refused to say whether he also used drugs).



Another job well done by the Bush administration:
The United States condemned Iran Wednesday as a threat to global peace with its plans to process 37 tons of raw uranium, which one nuclear expert said could eventually yield material for five atomic bombs.



Even for Bush, this is amazing. Workers who have become sick from working in American weapons factories are the latest target of his compassion:
The Bush administration is locked in a rare election-year fight with fellow Republicans in the Senate over a troubled program for tens of thousands of weapons plant workers who got sick building nuclear bombs.

The lawmakers say they don't understand why the administration is blocking a Senate-passed amendment to the defense bill that would overhaul a compensation program bogged down by delays and other problems.

"I can't fully understand what their resistance is," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (news, bio, voting record), who is in a tough re-election battle in Alaska. "We've been
hammered by our constituents."

Many of the workers are from battleground states in the upcoming presidential election, including Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico, Ohio and Washington state.

"These people are sick and dying," said Terrie Barrie of Craig, Colo., whose husband was sickened while working at the former Rocky Flats plant near Denver. "The administration, the Department of Energy (news - web sites), is just refusing to listen."
The workers were exposed to toxic substances such as radiation, heavy metals, asbestos and harsh solvents and acids while employed by Energy Department contractors. They often were not told what they were working with and did not have adequate protections.

"These are our Cold War veterans," said Sen. Lamar Alexander (news - web sites), R-Tenn. "They were working in an environment that they thought was safe. It wasn't safe."


If You Watch, You'll Need the Drugs


WHEN President Bush delivers his acceptance speech at the RNC Thursday, he'll be inadvertently helping American customers of a Canadian online drugstore. People who place orders with during the president's address will get an additional 25 percent discount on the Canadian pharmacy's already bargain rates. They'll even donate a meal to Meals on Wheels with each order placed. Pharmacy owner Jeff Uhl tells PAGE SIX, "We feel it is highly unfair for Americans, especially seniors, to have to choose between meals and meds, and we hope our program will help as many people as possible to no longer have to suffer this choice."



It's extraordinary how difficult it is to think of one thing this administration has done right in its "War on Terror." If they aren't torturing people abroad, they're going after the wrong people here. At least they are finally admitting it, in this one case:
In a dramatic reversal, the Justice Department (news - web sites) acknowledges its original prosecution of a suspected terror cell in Detroit was filled with a "pattern of mistakes and oversights" that warrant the dismissal of the convictions.

In a 60-page memo that harshly criticizes its own prosecutors' work, the department told U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen on Tuesday night it supports the Detroit defendants' request for a new trial and would no longer pursue terrorism charges against them. The defendants at most would only face fraud charges at a new trial.

The Justice Department is "concurring in the defendants' motions for a new trial" and asks the court to dismiss the first count of the original indictment charging the defendants with material support of terrorism, the government's filing said.

The reversal comes during the buildup to President Bush (news - web sites)'s nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, where he and his allies have been touting their success in the war on terror.

The department's decision came after a monthslong internal investigation uncovered several pieces of evidence that prosecutors failed to turn over to defense lawyers before the trial last year. The probe exposed deep differences within the government over the course of the case and the quality of the prosecution's evidence.

The internal investigation of prosecutorial misconduct found enough problems that there is "no reasonable prospect of winning," the government conceded, drawing back from a case once hailed by the Bush administration as a major victory in the war on terror.

"In its best light, the record would show that the prosecution committed a pattern of mistakes and oversights that deprived the defendants of discoverable evidence (including impeachment material) and created a record filled with misleading inferences that such material did not exist," Justice told the court.


1187 and Counting

The arrests are piling up:
More than 1,100 people were arrested Tuesday in protests across New York, including about 200 demonstrators near Ground Zero, police officials said.

Police said that 1,187 people were arrested Tuesday in protests surrounding the Republican National Convention. Many were part of a demonstration by the War Resisters League near Ground Zero, where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood.

Charges range from disorderly conduct, obstruction of governmental administration and resisting arrest, authorities said.


Selfish Hedonists

Alan Keyes continues to provide humor with his ridiculous ideas; he'd better be careful though. Attacking a Cheney cannot be good for one's health:
Republicans Tuesday wrote off a Senate win in Illinois and likely any chance of keeping control of the chamber following a series of inflammatory statements about gays and the lesbian daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney.

In an interview with editorialist and the host of his own Sirius OutQ radio, Michaelangelo Signorile, Alan Keys said that homosexuality is "selfish hedonism." Signorile then asked Keyes, the GOP candidate for the US Senate in Illinois, whether he considered Mary Cheney is a "selfish hedonist."

"Of course she is," Keyes replied. "That goes by definition. Of course she is."

"If we embrace homosexuality as a proper basis for marriage, we are saying that it's possible to have a marriage state that in principle excludes procreation and is based simply on the premise of selfish hedonism," he told Signorile and Corey Johnson Sirius OutQ political reporter on air.


Thanks for the Death

Every time I think that Rove has said the most insane thing I could imagine, he manages to prove me wrong. Now, it seems, the families of dead soldiers are giving Bush medals out of gratitude, or something:
Seems the president has finally decided to privately meet with families of soldiers killed in Iraq. And it sure is odd what Karl Rove claims grieving parents say to the man who sent their kids to war, in private:

"At one recent stop, outside Green Bay, Wis., the parents of a slain 18-year-old soldier asked to meet with Bush on behalf of four other families who had a relative die in Iraq. Their message? 'We're praying for you and we're going to give you a medal that represents our gratitude for your leadership of our country and for what you did for our son,' recounted Rove ..."

A medal for what you did for our son. No comment required, except to note that the same Washington Post article also points to increasing disillusionment among military families with the war in Iraq.


Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Defend Cash

As reported here earlier, the GOP is trying to co-opt the Man in Black. They must be stopped:

The American Gas Association and the Nissan Motor Co. had arranged a swank party to honor Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander and his state's delegation to the Republican convention.

And, since the event was being held at Sotheby's, which will be auctioning Cash memorabilia in mid-September, it was decided to make the event a "tribute" to the singer.

To a lot of Cash fans, however, that sounded like claiming that the Man in Black was a Republican.

And those were fighting words for folks who recall that it was Cash who sang: "I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down/ Livin' in the hopeless hungry side of town/I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime/But is there because he's a victim of his times."

The notion that the man who wrote those words would be used to promote the reelection of a Republican president did not sit well with Erin Siegel, a 22-year-old art student from Brooklyn, who urged Cash fans to gather across from Sotheby's Tuesday afternoon. "A lot of his political songs really represented issues the Republicans don't really seem to care about very much," she explained.

"I find this really offensive, for his name or his memory to be used like this," Siegel added.

Cash's daughter, singer Rosanne Cash, seemed to agree. She issued a statement declaring that the family wanted everyone to know that the event should "NOT be seen as a show of support for the Republican agenda."


Still Number One

Anyone who truly buys the notion that the United States is a nation devoted to peace and stability beyond what is immediately beneficial to us should consider this: Our nation exports three times as many weapons as our nearest competitor in the market.

Death is intimately interwoven with our economy, not just oil. And until that changes, we will be the root cause of much of the violence afficting the world.
The United States continued to dominate the global arms market last year, signing deals worth more than 14.5 billion US dollars, or 56.7 percent of all global arms sales deals, according to a US Congressional study released on Monday.

Russia ranked second, signing deals worth 4.3 billion dollars, or 16.8 percent of all global arms agreements, the study showed. Germany was the third largest arms supplier in 2003, signing deals worth 1.4 billion dollars.



Bush says (now) that we will win the "War on Terror."

I wonder which of today's events counts as the greatest step towards that noble end?

Police: Nine killed in Moscow subway blast


16 killed in Israel bus bombings


Iraqi militants: 12 hostages killed


Some Questions for Kerry

For him to start asking, that is:
``In this different kind of war, we may never sit down at a peace table. But make no mistake about it, we are winning and we will win,'' Bush said with his trademark grin. ``We will win by staying on the offensive, we will win by spreading liberty.''

Okay, Mr. President. But—when? If we don’t sit down at a peace table, how do we know the war’s over, much less who came out the winner? What would victory mean? Who or what makes that determination? The government? Our gut? As it happens, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been asking those sorts of questions for more than a year, to his credit. And to our chagrin, he has yet to produce a convincing answer. Is that because the plan is to stay permanently on the offensive? Always at war? Always “winning” without ever having “won”? To compound the problem, this administration’s doctrine of preventive war leaves wide open the question of when the next one will begin. To pre-empt a real threat? To obliterate an imagined one?

These are the questions you might think Democratic challenger John Kerry would be asking. But no. His spokesman responded to the Bush stumble with a nice zinger: “This president has gone from mission accomplished to mission miscalculated to mission impossible.”


Kerry Shake-Up?

Democrats who have been wailing and gnashing their teeth at Kerry's reluctance to play hardball with the Republicans may get their wish soon:
As the Bush campaign commands an exquisitely directed convention, the faltering Kerry campaign might be on the verge of a major shake-up," the Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt reports. Aides says Kerry is "bouncing off the walls" in frustration.

The campaign "command structure" is "often frozen -- or at least tempered -- by too many chefs, a too-heavy reliance on polls or focus groups and an aversion to risks. As a result, the message often is muddled and the reaction to hard-hitting attacks from Republicans often is slow and unconvincing."

"A few very well-connected Democrats report something will occur in the next few days. One person who might assume more control is Joe Lockhart, a former press secretary to Bill Clinton and a respected public-relations figure, but one who has almost no experience in the high-stakes world of presidential campaigns. Another possibility: veteran Democratic politico John Sasso, currently at the Democratic National Committee."

Update: The National Journal reports Kerry's campaign today "announced the official addition of several 'key new staff' for the race's final weeks. Joe Lockhart joins as a senior adviser, while Joel Johnson will be director of rapid response; other additions include Lori Denham, Karen Finney, Dr. Susan Rice and former Congressman Mel Levine. Rumor has it that the recent Swift Boat skirmishes are at least part of the reason behind the hires."


Yet More Censorship

If you had the slightest lingering doubt about the nature of Fox, don't:
The Fox News Channel, the highest-rated cable news network in the country, arrives this week at the Republican National Convention with an opportunity to serve up ample red meat for its core constituency.

A growing number of advertisers would like a piece of that audience, but The Nation, the left-leaning political magazine, will not be among them. Ten days ago, the ad agency for The Nation sent a 60-second commercial to the cable network promoting its brand of political news and commentary as free of White House influence and corporate agendas.

"Nobody owns The Nation. Not Time Warner, not Murdoch. So there's no corporate slant, no White House spin. Just the straight dope," the commercial says.

While the ad will appear on Time Warner's CNN, as well as NBC Universal's MSNBC and Bravo, it will not appear on Fox News, a division of the News Corporation whose chairman and chief executive is Rupert Murdoch.

"They rejected it out of hand," said Arthur Stupar, senior vice president for circulation at The Nation. "I find it ironic. They are the G.O.P. cable station, a champion of free markets, and they got spooked at the thought of running an ad that doesn't publish spin or serve the agenda of corporate conglomerates."


Flip-Flop, Big Time

Bush today:
In a speech to the national convention of the American Legion, Bush said, "We meet today in a time of war for our country, a war we did not start yet one that we will win."

Bush yesterday:
When asked ``Can we win?'' the war on terror, Bush said, ``I don't think you can win it."


More Censorship

The Log Cabin Republicans just can't get a break:
CNN is refusing to run a television ad campaign produced by the Log Cabin Republicans.

In a letter to the gay Republican group the Cable News Network said that images in the ad are “too controversial.”
The ad begins with footage from President Ronald Reagan’s 1992 speech at the Republican National Convention in Houston. President Reagan said, “Whatever else history may say about me when I'm gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears.”

The commercial offers a clear choice for the GOP, the Log Cabin Republicans say: "Either follow President Reagan’s lead by uniting Republicans on common beliefs or follow Jerry Falwell, Pat Buchanan and Rick Santorum’s lead by dividing the GOP with an intolerant social agenda based on fear and exclusion."

The ad closes with images of the Reverend Fred Phelps holding a sign that reads “God Hates Fags,” at the funeral of hate crime victim Matthew Shepard.

Based on this description, CNN's excuse is simply laughable. I don't know how many times I've seen comparable hate-filled signs on news programs; for the network to refuse to show "controversial" images in an effort to fight hatred is absolutely wrong.


Monday, August 30, 2004

Our Victory in Afghanistan

It seems somehow fitting that even as the party that has done the most damage to our democracy in recent memory celebrates their (remarkably lame) convention, the successful democracy in Afghanistan is revealed to be not quite so successful (again):
The Taliban vowed to intensify their attacks on American and coalition forces in Afghanistan, a day after a car bomb ripped through the offices of a US security company in Kabul, killing 10 people.

The atrocity sparked a chain of security alerts in the capital, where the Taliban promised fresh violence in the run-up to a landmark presidential election scheduled for October 9.

The US embassy emailed its citizens warning them to keep a low profile, the UN advised its staff to stay off the streets, and aid workers were ordered to avoid establishments selling alcohol.


The Face of the GOP

As classy as ever, some Republican delegates are wearing band-aids to mock Kerry's Purple Hearts. How can any veteran support these people?

Clever band-aids provided courtesy of this guy.


GOP Lies: Long, Boring

I actually subjected myself to the RNC tonight, and it was truly amazing for the amateurishness of its production values, for the predictability of its 9/11 exploitation, and for the unbelievability of its lies, from any number of people, including McCain and Giuliani.

Their speeches were remarkable in how dull yet disingenuous they managed to be:
Republican Sen. John McCain, a popular moderate, delivered a hearty endorsement Monday night of President Bush, describing him as a "tested" leader who remains unbowed in the face of terrorism.

"I salute his determination to make this world a better, safer, freer place," McCain of Arizona told the roughly 4,800 delegates and alternates gathered at Madison Square Garden for the Republican convention. "He has not wavered. He has not flinched from the hard choices. He will not yield. And neither will we."


Spy in the Pentagon

Juan Cole weighs in:
It appears to be the case that someone in the Pentagon got wind that Larry Franklin had been flipped, and was terrified that the investigation might go on up the ladder at the Pentagon, in AIPAC, and with the Israelis. So they leaked news of the investigation to make sure that everybody clammed up and shredded everything.

The NYT piece today reflects continued efforts at the Pentagon to paint Franklin as a low-level desk grunt with little access to Paul Wolfowitz. This last is just a lie. In a conversation with me, Franklin indicated that he was in very close contact with Wolfowitz, and he offered to get me an audience. I said, "You don't read my web log, do you?"

CNN reports that AIPAC, which passed confidential Pentagon documents and information from Franklin to the Israelis, holds 2000 meetings a year with US Senators and Congressmen, leading to the passage of an average of 100 pro-Israel pieces of legislation every year!

Some readers have suggested that I have exaggerated AIPAC's hold on the US Congress. But I have direct knowledge of senators and congressmen being afraid to speak out on Israeli issues because of AIPAC's reputation for targetting representatives for un-election if they dare do so. And, it is easy to check.


An Actual Plan

I feel certain that Bush's response will be to call the Dems "soft" or some such thing, and then go on doing absolutely nothing to slow nuclear proliferation around the globe:
A John Kerry administration would propose to Iran that it be allowed to keep its nuclear power plants in exchange for giving up the right to retain the nuclear fuel that could be used for bomb-making, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, John Edwards, has said.

Senator Edwards said that if Iran failed to take what he called a "great bargain", it would essentially confirm that it is building nuclear weapons under the cover of a supposedly peaceful nuclear power program.


We Can't Win

War without end, that's Bush's vision for the world:
President Bush says staying the course in the war on terror will make the world safer for future generations, though he acknowledges an all-out victory against terrorism may not be possible.

In an interview on NBC-TV's ``Today'' show broadcast to coincide with Monday's start of the Republican National Convention in New York, Bush said retreating from the war on terror ``would be a disaster for your children.'''

``You cannot show weakness in this world today because the enemy will exploit that weakness,'' he said. ``It will embolden them and make the world a more dangerous place.''

When asked ``Can we win?'' the war on terror, Bush said, ``I don't think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that the - those who use terror as a tool are - less acceptable in parts of the world.''

I for one do not want to live in a world of unending war, of constant fear and continuing alienation from other nations. A new vision, please?

UPDATE: Fortunately, Edwards jumped at this chance:

Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards quickly labeled that a concession of defeat in the war that terrorists launched in 2001, and White House spokesman Scott McClellan hastened to clarify the president's remarks.


Sunday, August 29, 2004

Holding Out

Laura Branigan's song "Gloria" marks my eighties beyond my ability to efface its influence. And now she is gone:

Pop singer Laura Branigan died from a brain aneurysm on Thursday. She was 47.

Her manager, John Bowers, told The Associated Press that Branigan died at home in East Quogue, New York, in her sleep. She apparently had been complaining to her family of headaches for weeks but had not seen a doctor.

The singer was best known for her hit "Gloria," off her self-titled debut album, which earned her a Grammy nomination for best female pop vocalist. Her song "Imagination" appeared in the movie "Flashdance," earning her a second Grammy nomination (she eventually was nominated four times). Her other hits included "Solitaire," "Self Control" and a duet with Michael Bolton, "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You."



My suggestions the other day seem to have been, perhaps, correct:
The Pentagon official under suspicion of turning over classified information to Israel began cooperating with federal agents several weeks ago and was preparing to lead the authorities to contacts inside the Israeli government when the case became publicly known last week, government officials said Sunday.

The disclosure of the inquiry late on Friday by CBS News revealed what had been for nearly a year a covert national security investigation conducted by the F.B.I., according to the officials, who said that news reports about the inquiry compromised important investigative steps, like the effort to follow the trail back to the Israelis.

As a result, several areas of the case remain murky, the officials said. One main uncertainty is the legal status of Lawrence A. Franklin, the lower-level Pentagon policy analyst who the authorities believe passed the Israelis a draft presidential policy directive related to Iran.


The Worst

And given Reagan and the first Bush, that is saying something (not that Clinton was a treat, by any means, but in comparison...):
As Republicans gather in New York City for the start of the GOP National Convention the nation's oldest gay rights group released a summary of the Bush administration’s record on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues, calling the Bush-Cheney team "the most anti-gay administration in the history of the gay rights movement."

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said that despite attempts by the Republican Party to put on a "moderate" face during television coverage of the convention the "party can't hide the truth".


300 Down

How many to go? The GOP is so much more efficient that they've already topped the Dems by a factor of thirty:

Even before today's opening of the Republican Party's national convention in New York, more than 300 people have been arrested for protesting against President George Bush's campaign for re-election.

That is 30 times more people than were arrested during the four-day Democratic convention in Boston last month, when John Kerry was nominated as a candidate for president.


Democracy v. Electoral College

The New York Times has come out against the electoral college, at long last. Of course, when the debate was actually raging, in 2000, they were for it:
The arcane rules governing the Electoral College have the potential to create havoc if things go wrong. Electors are not required to vote for the candidates they are pledged to, and if the vote is close in the Electoral College, a losing candidate might well be able to persuade a small number of electors to switch sides. Because there are an even number of electors - one for every senator and House member of the states, and three for the District of Columbia - the Electoral College vote can end in a tie. There are several plausible situations in which a 269-269 tie could occur this year. In the case of a tie, the election goes to the House of Representatives, where each state delegation gets one vote - one for Wyoming's 500,000 residents and one for California's 35.5 million.

The Electoral College's supporters argue that it plays an important role in balancing relations among the states, and protecting the interests of small states. A few years ago, this page was moved by these concerns to support the Electoral College. But we were wrong. The small states are already significantly overrepresented in the Senate, which more than looks out for their interests. And there is no interest higher than making every vote count.


Strong Leadership

With a military operating in such a fashion, during an occupation where hearts and minds are key to any lasting stability, is there any way we can win in any meaningful sense?

A U.S. soldier expected to plead guilty to charges of abusing Iraqi prisoners told a German magazine he deeply regretted his actions but said the abuses were encouraged by military intelligence services.

Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick told the weekly Der Spiegel conditions in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib jail were a "nightmare" with no clear line of command and contradictory demands placed on junior soldiers with insufficient training.

"I didn't know at all who was actually in charge," he said, according to a German translation of his remarks. "The battalion wanted one thing from you, the company wanted something else and the secret service had their own ideas. It was just chaos," he said.