Saturday, October 23, 2004

Dems Gaining Ground in Florida

Hopefully, this will be enough to offset the attempts at voter fraud being made by the right, and then some:

The voter registration drives reaped substantial increases in numbers in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Miami-Dade Democrats increased by 57,113, while Republican numbers rose by 29,460.

In Broward, a Democratic stronghold, the number of party faithful increased by 77,187, while Republicans saw an increase of just 16,907.

And in Palm Beach County, considered ground zero for the 2000 race, the number of Democrats rose by 34,047 and the number of Republicans barely changed, with an increase of just 2,262.


Will Bush Wag the Dog?

This is almost too much for even me to believe, cynical as I am.

Almost, but not quite:

According to White House and Washington Beltway insiders, the Bush administration, worried that it could lose the presidential election to Senator John F. Kerry, has initiated plans to launch a military strike on Iran's top Islamic leadership, its nuclear reactor at Bushehr on the Persian Gulf, and key nuclear targets throughout the country, including the main underground research site at Natanz in central Iran and another in Isfahan. Targets of the planned U.S. attack reportedly include mosques in Tehran, Qom, and Isfahan known by the U.S. to headquarter Iran's top mullahs.

The Iran attack plan was reportedly drawn up after internal polling indicated that if the Bush administration launched a so-called anti-terrorist attack on Iran some two weeks before the election, Bush would be assured of a landslide win against Kerry. Reports of a pre-emptive strike on Iran come amid concerns by a number of political observers that the Bush administration would concoct an "October Surprise" to influence the outcome of the presidential election.

According to White House sources, the USS John F. Kennedy was deployed to the Arabian Sea to coordinate the attack on Iran. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld discussed the Kennedy's role in the planned attack on Iran when he visited the ship in the Arabian Sea on October 9. Rumsfeld and defense ministers of U.S. coalition partners, including those of Albania, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Iraq, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mongolia, Poland, Qatar, Romania, and Ukraine briefly
discussed a very "top level" view of potential dual-track military operations in Iran and Iraq in a special "war room" set up on board the aircraft carrier.


Friday, October 22, 2004

The Pill Is the Work of Satan

It must be, right, since it makes all those evil, loose, feminist women who take it live longer, so that they can poison the world more thoroughly:
Taking the pill can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, according to research out yesterday.

Researchers from Wayne State University in Detroit used data from 162,000 women in the largest and most comprehensive study of the long-term consequences of taking the contraceptive.

The findings contradict previous research suggesting a link with heart disease and tumours, and will prove reassuring to the 3 million women who take the pill in Britain.

The study found that birth control pills reduce the incidence of heart attacks and other forms of cardiovascular disease and lower the incidence of certain types of cancer, including ovarian and endometrial cancer.


Thursday, October 21, 2004

Profiling and Intimidation

The FBI is engaged in some questionable practices and should provide the answers sought by the ACLU:
The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday filed a lawsuit seeking to force the FBI to disclose information about its questioning of Arab Americans and Muslims in the agency's drive to thwart any pre-election attack.

<>In its lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco, the civil rights advocacy group said it had received reports that numerous individuals had been "interrogated" by the FBI since the summer "solely because they are Muslims or of Middle Eastern descent."
"Many Muslims, members of immigrant communities, and persons with ties to the Middle East and South Asia believe that they are at risk of harassment and unlawful or unwarranted monitoring, surveillance and interrogation," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit is seeking internal FBI documents that would shed light on how the government is selecting its targets for questioning and what it does with the information gathered.

The FBI has launched a drive to seek information from Muslims and Arab Americans to help thwart any attack before the Nov. 2 national elections in the United States. The drive includes a stepped up program of interviews.

But some Muslim groups have complained that the campaign is too sweeping and unfairly singles them out for questioning, detention and other civil rights abuses.

"It's time for the FBI to come clean about this unprecedented campaign and the activities of their joint task forces in our state," John Crew, an ACLU attorney, said in a statement.

"If they want the public to believe that these interviews are truly voluntary, why won't they release policies requiring officers to respect the constitutional rights of individuals to answer these chilling questions?"


Death Profiteers

No, I'm not talking about Halliburton in Iraq; I'm referring to Big Pharma right here in Texas. Give these big medical corporations half a chance to profit off of human suffering, and they'll take it nine out of ten times, and still keep coming back for more government handouts later.

This time, they are being called on it:
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a lawsuit Thursday against two flu shot distributors, accusing them of offering the vaccine to hospitals in Houston, Dallas and Sherman at prices inflated up to 1,000 percent.

ASAP Meds Inc., of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Dubin Medical Inc. of San Diego are accused in the lawsuit of "unconscionable pricing of the critical vaccine and for perpetrating fraud in the face of a health care challenge in Texas."

"We will not tolerate instances where the usual customary charges for these vials is $65 to $80 and suddenly being marked up 500 to 1,000 percent," Abbott said.

Abbott contends the companies offered vials for as much as $950 each and demanded cash on delivery. The two companies are accused of violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and committing fraud.

Abbott said the state would seek a refund of any money the hospitals were overcharged and a penalty of $20,000 per violation.

If anyone over age 65 was affected, the state will seek a penalty of up to $250,000, he said.


Unfit for Command

Any Commander-in-Chief who actually believes he can go to war and expect NO casualties is hopelessly delusional and therefore needs to be relieved of duty.

And as I say this, total US casualties continue their climb toward ten thousand.

Ten thousand American men and women killed or maimed or wounded in this pointless war. And far more Iraqi civilians.

But in Bush's dreamworld, all would be well:

Democrats trying to portray President Bush as too headstrong when he decided to invade Iraq got help this week from an unlikely source: televangelist and Bush supporter Pat Robertson.

Appearing on CNN on Tuesday night, Robertson recalled a private meeting with Bush before the Iraq war began, at which he said the president asserted there would be no casualties.

"I warned him about this war. I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, Mr. President, you better prepare the American people for casualties," Robertson told CNN's Paula Zahn.

But Bush said, " 'Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties,' " Robertson related.

During the meeting, Bush "was the most self-assured man I ever met in my life," Robertson said. "You remember Mark Twain said, 'He looks like a contented Christian with four aces.' He was just sitting there, like, 'I'm on top of the world.' "


DeLay Subpoenaed

Time to face the music, bugman:
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has been subpoenaed to testify in a Texas civil lawsuit about his role in using government resources to track down Democratic legislators who fled the state during last year's bitter redistricting dispute.

The subpoena was delivered Wednesday to the Texas Republican's attorneys in Houston after a failed attempt to serve him personally, said Lon Burnam, the Democratic state lawmaker from Fort Worth who filed the lawsuit.

The subpoena calls for DeLay to give a deposition Monday.


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Fraud in Pennsylvania

They are up to no good up north as well:
An ostensibly nonpartisan voter registration drive in Western Pennsylvania has triggered accusations that workers were cheated out of wages and given instructions to avoid adding anyone to the voter rolls who might support the Democratic presidential nominee.

Sproul & Associates, a consulting firm based in Chandler, Ariz., hired to conduct the drive by the Republican National Committee, employed several hundred canvassers throughout the state to register new voters. Some workers yesterday said they were told to avoid registering Democrats or anyone who indicated support for Democratic nominee John F. Kerry.

"We were told that if they wanted to register Democrat, there was no way we were to register them to vote," said Michele Tharp, of Meadville, who said she was sent out to canvass door-to-door and outside businesses in Meadville, Crawford County. "We were only to register Republicans."


Al Qaeda Also Pro-Bush

Or if they're not, they should be. He's taken them to the major leagues:
The war in Iraq probably helped boost al-Qaeda recruitment, according to a report from leading Western think-tank.

The report, the annual Military Balance by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, does not dwell on the causes of the war.

But it does consider its effects and has some highly critical comments.

It says that the risks of terrorism to Westerners and Western assets in Arab countries "appeared to increase after the Iraq war began in March 2003".

It says that al-Qaeda was forced to disperse after the invasion of Afghanistan but remained "a viable and effective 'network of networks' ".

"It is probable that recruitment generally has accelerated on account of Iraq," the report concludes.

"Al-Qaeda has added Iraq to its list of grievances. With Osama Bin Laden's public encouragement, up to 1,000 foreign jihadists may have infiltrated Iraq."


No Osama

Well, it's official. Osama won't be caught, and (or perhaps "therefore") he is not in control of al Qaeda right now anyway.

Of course, this all could be prep for an October surprise:
US concedes hunt for Osama bin Laden has gone cold

United States forces hunting for Osama bin Laden say he appears to have relinquished day-to-day control over the al Qaeda terrorist group.

The top American commander in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General David Barno, has told a briefing at the Pentagon that there's NO indication that bin Laden is dead or seriously ill.

He also declined to repeat a prediction he made in January that bin Laden would be brought to justice by the end of the year, and conceded the US military did not know where he was.

"I don't see any indications that he is in day to day command and control, as it where, of the al-Qaeda organisation or the other terrorist groups that work with them. But certainly in the Afghanistan /Pakistan area. "


Bush Relatives for Kerry

They are in a position to know Bush as a politician and as a person, and they say no:
"Bush Relatives for Kerry" grew out of a series of conversations that took place between a group of people that have two things in common: they are all related to George Walker Bush, and they are all voting for John Kerry. As the election approaches, we feel it is our responsibility to speak out about why we are voting for John Kerry, and to do our small part to help America heal from the sickness it has suffered since George Bush was appointed President in 2000. We invite you to read our stories, and please, don't vote for our cousin!


Up in Smoke

Global warming is not a distant concern. Nor is it just about getting a little sweatier:
Global warming threatens to reverse human progress and make international targets on halving world poverty by 2015 unattainable, a study published today said.

The claim comes from charities including Greenpeace, Oxfam and Action Aid who have joined forces, under the banner of the Working Group on Climate Change and Development, to release the report, called Up In Smoke, in London today.

The group's warning follows a summer in which hurricanes Jeanne and Ivan wreaked havoc across the Caribbean and Bangladesh saw its worst flooding for years.

In a world in which global warming is a reality, it says, such severe weather events are likely to become more frequent and extreme - and the poor will be hardest hit.


Screw the Poor, Part ?

I've lost count. It's just these sort of boring, technical changes in procedure that the Bush administration has been and is using to do real harm to Americans:
Federal banking regulators in the Bush administration are poised to limit the nation's primary law requiring small banks to serve low-income residents in their own neighborhoods through housing investments and development projects.

Since 1977, the Community Reinvestment Act has required banks with assets of more than $250 million to satisfy stringent tests gauging their banking services to low- and moderate-income residents. Because of that obligation, housing groups say, banks have channeled $1.5 trillion into housing, medical clinics and other projects. But many small banks have complained about being sapped by the time and money needed to comply, and also of being overmatched by the resources of larger banks.

So in recent months, two of the nation's four bank regulators - the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, both headed by Bush appointees - have published formal proposals seeking to reduce the number of banks subject to the law.


For Vets, Nothing

Almost two million vets have no health care access whatsoever under Bush:
Nearly 1.7 million military veterans have no health insurance or access to government hospitals and clinics for veterans, according to a report Tuesday from a doctors' group that favors federally financed health care.


Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Just a reminder: The word "casualties" does not mean soldiers (or civilians) killed in battle, but people who are killed or wounded.

Our casualties are approaching ten thousand, with over a thousand soldiers killed and over eight thousand wounded:
The number of U.S. troops wounded in Iraq since military operations began in March 2003 has topped the 8,000 mark, according to figures released by the Pentagon on Tuesday.

The total of 8,016 is more than double what it was six months ago when the insurgency suddenly accelerated. On April 5 the number wounded in action stood at 2,988; by April 26 it had grown to 3,864.

The U.S. military death toll almost doubled in that same period, standing at 1,102 as of Tuesday, by the Pentagon's count. On April 2 it stood at 598.

The wounded toll has grown by several hundred a month since April. It surpassed the 5,000 mark in early June and crossed the 7,000 mark in early September.


Iran Endorses Bush

I am sick and tired of Cheney's constant invocation of various dooms as direct results of Kerry's election (most recently it was a nuke being set off in an American city). Quite frankly, Bush does very little to make the country safe and is widely recognized around the world as serving the interests of the enemies of this nation:
The head of Iran's security council said Tuesday that the re-election of President Bush (news - web sites) was in Tehran's best interests, despite the administration's axis of evil label, accusations that Iran harbors al-Qaida terrorists and threats of sanctions over the country's nuclear ambitions.

Historically, Democrats have harmed Iran more than Republicans, said Hasan Rowhani, head of the Supreme National Security Council, Iran's top security decision-making body.

"We haven't seen anything good from Democrats," Rowhani told state-run television in remarks that, for the first time in recent decades, saw Iran openly supporting one U.S. presidential candidate over another.

Though Iran generally does not publicly wade into U.S. presidential politics, it has a history of preferring Republicans over Democrats, who tend to press human rights issues.

"We do not desire to see Democrats take over," Rowhani said when asked if Iran was supporting Democratic Sen. John Kerry (news - web sites) against Bush.


Soccer Stars Support Zapatistas

As the Guardian reports, Inter Milan, one of Europe's top football teams, has given money and moral support to the Zapatistas. The donation was made with the full support of the players, manager, and owner, making them my clear favorite in the current Champions League competition. (The article also notes that the Zapatistas "are thought to prefer basketball to football," which not only raises the question of why, but also of who's expended the time and energy figuring that one out.)


Protecting Democracy from an Informed Populace

Maybe it's because I'm cynical, or maybe it's because I'm an adult who prefers to make his own decisions, but somehow I don't trust that this is being done in my best interests. Or in yours.
It is shocking: The Bush administration is suppressing a CIA report on 9/11 until after the election, and this one names names. Although the report by the inspector general's office of the CIA was completed in June, it has not been made available to the congressional intelligence committees that mandated the study almost two years ago.

"It is infuriating that a report which shows that high-level people were not doing their jobs in a satisfactory manner before 9/11 is being suppressed," an intelligence official who has read the report told me, adding that "the report is potentially very embarrassing for the administration, because it makes it look like they weren't interested in terrorism before 9/11, or in holding people in the government responsible afterward."

When I asked about the report, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice), ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, said she and committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) sent a letter 14 days ago asking for it to be delivered. "We believe that the CIA has been told not to distribute the report," she said. "We are very concerned."

According to the intelligence official, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity, release of the report, which represents an exhaustive 17-month investigation by an 11-member team within the agency, has been "stalled." First by acting CIA Director John McLaughlin and now by Porter J. Goss, the former Republican House member (and chairman of the Intelligence Committee) who recently was appointed CIA chief by President Bush.


Dirty Tricks in Florida

They're starting early:
Gordon Sasser first got the feeling that something strange was going on when the telephone pierced the silence of a weekday afternoon at his house on the swampy fringes of Tallahassee, northern Florida.

An automated voice had some surprising news: did he know that he could now cast his presidential vote by phone, and could do so right now, using the keypad? Mr Sasser's suspicion that somebody was trying to trick him into thinking he was casting a vote - presumably so that he wouldn't cast a real one - was far from unique.

James Scruggs, another Tallahassee resident, remembers a similar unease about the young woman who phoned him at home, insistently offering to collect his absentee ballot to ensure its safe delivery.

Then there was the elderly woman who called the local elections office last week to register her husband for an absentee vote. According to office staff, as she hung up she made a point of thanking them: she wouldn't have thought to get in touch about her husband, she said, if it hadn't been for their helpful call the night before, when someone had taken her own details, assuring her that she was now registered and would receive a ballot.

But the elections office makes no such calls.

Not to mention:

The US election officially began in Florida yesterday, as early voting sites opened across the state - though in Duval County, a Republican-run area with a large African-American population, that too is a subject of dispute. Only one early voting site, far from densely populated neighbourhoods, has been made available for the entire county.

"One location for a county of 831 acres - that's the most asinine thing I've ever heard," said the Rev William Bolden, a Jacksonville pastor who is among many to detect a pattern in the controversies.


Victory in New York

The courts are opposing Bloomberg's bigoted attempt to deny partner benefits to gays in NY:
New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg lost round one Monday in his bid to overturn a law that would force companies doing business with the city to provide domestic partner benefits.

A judge refused to grant Bloomberg a temporary restraining order to prevent the law from going into effect October 26.

The legislation was passed by city council in May. The following month Bloomberg vetoed it saying the law would hurt the city. Two weeks later council overrode the veto by a 41 - 4 vote. (story)

The law would require contractors that do more than $100,000 of business each year with NYC to offer benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian workers equal to those the companies give heterosexually married couples.

The legislation would make health coverage available to tens of thousands of additional people in the New York City region and because many companies which do business with New York are national corporations it could also provide same-sex benefits to hundreds of thousands of people across the country.


Expensive Concert

Apparently, seeing the Boss can warp your fragile little mind:
The St Paul Pioneer Press suspended investigative reporters Chuck Laszewski and Rick Linsk for three days each after they attended the Vote for Change concert by Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M. and other artists in the Minnesota city.

Editor Vicki Gowler wrote in a September memo to staff that the paper’s ethics policy bars them from activities that would conflict with their employment, including “concerts that are held as political fundraisers.”

Laszewski said he figured he was in the clear because he’s on the investigative team.

“It was fabulous,” Laszewski said of the concert. “It’s getting to be exorbitantly expensive for me, but it was terrific.”



I have to say, this decision comes as rather a surprise. I'd thought the Perrymandering was a fait accompli. But, apparently not:
The US Supreme Court turned down a key element of a Republican strategy to
tighten the party's control of the House of Representatives, possibly setting the stage for bitter litigation over the outcome of congressional elections on November 2.

The court refused Monday to uphold a Republican-engineered redistricting scheme in the state of Texas that is likely to win the party up to six additional House seats and sent back for review an earlier US federal court ruling that had found it legal.

"The judgment is vacated and the cases are remanded to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas for further consideration," the court order stated without further comment.

The decision ended a long and dramatic political battle that featured police manhunts, escapes under cover of darkness and a high-profile Washington power broker acting primarily from behind the scenes.

Coming just two weeks before the US presidential election, the ruling will not be able to affect the November 2 vote.

But legal experts said it was likely to give rise to legal challenges to congressional election results in Texas, a state that sends to Washington a whopping 32 members of the House of Representatives.

"The effect is that the Democrats live to fight another day," said Gerald Hebert, one of the attorneys representing Democratic challengers of the redistricting scheme. "This gives me great optimism... Today's decision helps us get to the place we want to go."


Monday, October 18, 2004

American Revolution

A bold and surprising move by the United States Episcopal Church:

The leaders of the Anglican Communion in the United States who controversially appointed a gay bishop last year have given a defiant response to a call to halt the promotion of homosexual priests.

Frank Griswold, the presiding Bishop and Primate of the US Episcopal Church, said his church was seeking to live the gospel "in a society where homosexuality is openly discussed and increasingly acknowledged".

Yesterday Anglican leaders in London demanded an apology from the US Episcopal Church for the consequences of appointing Canon Gene Robinson, which they had said caused "deep offence" in the Anglican community.

Fifty American bishops attended the consecration of Canon Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire last year, causing outrage among the traditional sections of the church. In an open letter yesterday, Bishop Griswold, speaking on behalf of his US congregation, said: "We regret how difficult and painful actions of our church have been in many provinces of our Communion, and the negative repercussions that have been felt by brother and sister Anglicans."

He added: "Other provinces are also blessed by the lives and ministry of homosexual persons. I regret there are places within our communion where it is unsafe for them to speak out of the truth of who they are."


Vote for Stewart!

Apropos of the Jon Stewart-Tucker Carlson row posted here yesterday by Miriam, go vote in the E Online poll, which asks whether or not Stewart was out of line.


Keeping the Women in Line

More evidence of the Bush administration's commitment to real democracy for all in Iraq:

The State Department announced this week that the Independent Women's Forum is one of the recipients of $10 million in grants to "train Iraqi women in the skills and practices of democratic public life."

Which leaves me wondering: Train women in the skills to do what, exactly? The Forum, started by supporters of Clarence Thomas' nomination to the Supreme Court to oppose "radical" feminism, and an early beneficiary of Richard Mellon Scaife's deep pockets, has a record of using its own skills and practices to oppose women's progress in the United States. If you think I'm exaggerating about how atrocious the IWF's anti-feminist record is, consider the following:

  • The Forum actually lobbied against the Violence Against Women Act, deriding "wishful thinking about the power of the federal government to curb violence against intimate partners."
  • The IWF also disputes the existence of a wage gap between men and women and opposes efforts to strengthen enforcement of the Equal Pay Act. In a statement charmingly titled "The Mothers Day Gift We Don't Want," their president explained that any disparity in income results from the fact that women choose to have children.
  • An IWF-sponsored study criticized women's studies curricula at 30 universities, and the study's author, Christine Stolba, claimed on Fox's O'Reilly Factor that women could learn more about gender politics by reading Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" than reading any of the many important books on the various syllabi.
  • The group is nourished by a steady diet of contributions from some of the most conservative family endowments in the country, including the Olin, Bradley, Scaife, and Randolph foundations.
  • The IWF's board of directors is an all-star lineup of anti-feminism, including the vice president's wife, Lynne Cheney; Clinton-hunter Midge Decter; former Enron board member and wife of former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, Wendy Lee Gramm; and National Review columnist and television personality, Kate O'Bierne.


A Gift from Bush

Whenever he slips up and tells the truth, it's always a gift for the Kerry campaign, and this time is no exception:

The New York Times has endorsed John Kerry. No surprise there. But its true gift to Kerry was an article that appeared in the paper's magazine on the same day. In the piece, Ron Suskind – the veteran political reporter who did damage to the Bush White House with his book on ex-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill – reported that last month at a confidential luncheon with big-money supporters (the RNC Regents), Bush said, "I'm going to come out strong after my swearing in with fundamental tax reform, tort reform, privatizing of Social Security." The privatizing of Social Security? Everyone in politics knows a candidate is not supposed to say that. Bush has been trained – with a rolled-up newspaper? – to talk about Social Security "reform," not privatization. Mentioning the P-word is a major slip-up (almost as bad politically – perhaps worse – as invading another country by mistake). As soon as the newspaper hit breakfast tables cross the nation, a Kerry aide e-mailed me a note:

This Social Security privatization stuff from Bush is a huge gift. Huge.


Not Committed to Elections

For all his rhetoric, democracy in Iraq is hardly at the top of W's list of priorities. That list is headed by something called "Continued American Dominance":
The United States rejected a Saudi plan for an all-Muslim force to protect U.N. election staff in Iraq (news - web sites) because the force would not have been under U.S. command, New York daily Newsday reported Monday.

Saudi Arabia announced it hoped to organize such a force last July during a visit by Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites) but several Muslim countries, including Indonesia, Egypt and Pakistan also were cool to the idea because they would serve under U.S. command, and because of the increasing violence in Iraq.

The United Nations (news - web sites) also was uncertain whether it wanted its staff protected by a force of all one religious group rather than its usual multilateral approach, U.N. sources said.

But Newsday said Crown Prince Abdullah personally lobbied President Bush (news - web sites) to agree to deploy a unit of several hundred troops from Muslim nations to help prepare for January elections.

Washington, the newspaper said, turned down the proposal because the troops would have been under U.N. control under the Saudi plan rather than the U.S. commanders who lead the multinational force now intended to ensure security in Iraq.


Sunday, October 17, 2004

Jon Stewart on Crossfire

posted by Miriam

In case, like me, you are not in the habit of watching Crossfire, but really would like to see Jon Stewart call Tucker Carlson a dick, you can watch it here. Well worth watching, especially if you like seeing "journalists" put to shame by a (self-described) fake news show's anchor.