Thursday, October 28, 2004

Too Much 

It isn't bad enough that the Bush-Cheney campaign team requires loyalty oaths to get into their events. But to prove that the troops are behind them, they have had a bit more trouble.

In a recent ad from BC-04 called "Whatever it Takes," the ad shows a number of soldiers who show up to back the president. Problem? The campaign had to photoshop the image to make duplicate copies of a number of soliders to give the appearance of a crowd.

The Bushies blame it on "an underling," much like they do with everyting that goes wrong.

This isn't the first time for such shenanigans. Remember when the statue of Hussein fell? Crowds were brought in around the statue to give the appearance of a mass upheaval when in fact there were so few in attendance.

And remember, John Kerry will do anything to win.

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Kentucky Republicans are Nuts 

Apparently, in Kentucky, it is perfectly ok to be out of your mind, so long as you are a Republilcan.

Two Republican leaders, campaigning for Jim "Who am I, Where am I" Bunning, questioned the sexuality of Bunning's Democratic opponent, as somehow this is appropriate campaign behavior.

Twice yesterday Senate President David Williams referred to Dan Mongiardo as "limp wristed" while another state Senator questioned whether using the word "man" was even appropriate.

Incredulously, Williams tried to defend the term "limp wristed" as not a "sexual slur" but rather a description of someone who was weak. When the reporters looked as puzzled as any thinking person would over this explanation, Williams blustered:

"I'm not going to have them limiting my choice of vocabulary, my freedom of speech..."

He then tried to figure out why Democrats would find this charge offensive. He says:

"I'm not saying anything about anyone's sexual orientation. But if I were -- are they saying that's pejorative, that it's bad to be homosexual? I don't think they would say that, but how can they have it both ways?"

No Williams, you neanderthal, no one in their right mind would assume you were flattering Mongiardo, or any other homosexual, with the deragatory term "limp wristed."

If you wanted to try to dispel the image that Kentucky is filled with a bunch of slack jawed country bumpkins, their leadership in the state certainly did not achieve it.

And all of this while Senator Bunning is proudly claiming that he only watches Fox News, doesn't read newspapers, and got the date wrong on the most horrific attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor.

Yeah, limp wristed candidates are certainly at the top of your worries.

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More Unitary Executive 

When the Reagan administration was preparing to take office in January, 1981, they hired Pendelton James to be the headhunter who would help the administration staff the executive branch agencies with those sympathetic to the Reagan agenda--something that was taken from the Heritage Foundation's book, "Mandate to Govern."

The vetting process essentially asked anyone wanting to work with the administration whether they were Republican, had they voted for the President, had they worked on his campaign, and even had they supported Bush during the primary. All of this was done to insure that bureaucratic oversight was done by those who shared the Reagan vision.

To the victor goes the spoils!

This has been taken one step further by the current Bush administration with potential negative consequences, if not outright breaking the law.

The Bush administration has been vetting the scientific advisory committees with those who are loyal to the Bush agenda. And scientists who sit on these advisory committees have been "pressured to issue opinions which conform to" the Bush ideology, says Congressman Brian Baird and Eddie Bernice Johnson.

Back in the spring, they asked the GAO to look into whether vetting was going on, and the GAO issued a report in April that found that not only was the practice occurring with great regularity, but also that members of industry were sitting on advisory committees that issued opinions that directly benefited their industry

Despite the GAO report concluding that the practice violated several laws, the Bush administration has continued the practice. Baird has written a letter to AG Ashcroft asking for an investigation into the practice, arguing that "The government must wrestle with many technically complex issues. In doing that, we need to gather the best expert advice we can find. When the advisory process is perceived to be dominated by political calculations, scientists and engineers begin to wonder whether it is worth their time and effort to even advise the government."

What do you suppose the outcome of that investigation will be?

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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Gooses and Ganders 

In the third presidential debate, on one of the last questions to the candidates, the issues of gay marriage came up. After President Bush's meandering answer about activist judges, the question turned to Senator Kerry. Senator Kerry said that "we were all God's Children" and then brought Cheney's daughter, Mary, into the answer by saying that "if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as."

Afterward you would have thought that Senator Kerry had committed the most egregious act of modern politics. The headline on CNN's website was "Cheney's Indignant About Kerry Remark," and Lynne Cheney charged that Kerry's infusion of her daughter's sexuality into the political race was a "cheap and tawdry political trick" with her husband muttering something similar to "Big Time."

Over at "NewsMax," which is always known for its sobering analysis of politics, Ed Koch, former Mayor of New York who apparently these days has lost his mind, claimed that this disgraceful gesture by Kerry ended the possibility of Kerry and Edwards winning the election. Koch claims that Kerry was trying to "drive a wedge between Mr. Cheney and conservatives [who were] unaware that his daughter was gay." Unaware that his daughter was gay?

In the Vice-Presidential debate between Cheney and Lieberman in 2000, Cheney was able to show how he broke with conservatives on the issue of gay marriage, claiming that anyone should be able to engage in whatever relationships they chose. His daughter, Mary, even joined the ticket in 2000 as part of the "gay friendly Republican Unity Coalition" in an effort to bolster the "compassionate conservative" image of the Governor.

In August of this year, Cheney deliberately infused his daughter's sexuality into the campaign in a townhall meeting in Davenport, Iowa. In that meeting, Cheney said that he has "a gay daughter, Mary, who is a lesbian" before going on to pronounce the freedoms of couples to pair up however they wish.

So when Kerry makes a comment, relatively innocuous about the Cheney's daughter, it was not as if he outed her. The Cheney's had been using her, and her sexuality, to reach out to the gay voters since the 2000 election.

But it doesn't stop there. After all this flack that Kerry took over mentioning Cheney's daughter, we now learn that Mary has hired her sexuality out to the Pete Coors campaign for Senator of Colorado.

In a blurb that appeared on page A4 in the "Wall Street Journal" yesterday, David Rogers notes that "Mr. Coors, a six-foot-five former chief executive on leave as chairman of Adolph Coors Co., has the potential to broaden Republican appeal. His company hired Mary Cheney, the vice president's daughter, to improve its image with the gay community."

So this little flower, who has been devastated by Kerry thoughtless comments regarding her sexuality, apparently will "hire" her sexuality out to political campaigns, even those with a history of discrimination against homosexuals. Are the Cheney's mad that Kerry used Mary's sexuality without paying for its use? Is that it? I am scratching my head trying to figure out what exactly the outrage is all about?

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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Here's a Headscratcher 

On Monday, the "Wall Street Journal" ran a story on the final week of the race. In it, the authors, Shailagh Murray and Greg Hitt had this to say:

Mr. Bush believes the key to victory lies in his party's conservative core. He gave a rare interview over the weekend to Fox News, a network sympathetic to the Bush cause and popular with Republicans. Among other things, Mr. Bush voiced doubts about whether the country can be fully protected from future terror attacks. "Whether or not we can be ever fully safe is up -- you know, up in the air," he said.

See anything that might raise an eyebrow? I didn't.

Then how is it in today's "Wall Street Journal "Corrections" section, you read this:

NEWS CORP.'S Fox News was incorrectly described in a page-one article Monday as being sympathetic to the Bush cause.

Just for a hint at how the WSJ might have came to this conclusion, here is Salon's selection of the questions that interviewers from Fox News have asked President Bush recently:



# "I've got 15 questions for you. If they're dumb, tell me they're dumb."

# "Do you think that when he says these things, John Kerry, your opponent, you were in these three debates with him, do you think he knows he's not telling the truth?"

# "In light of the CBS document fiasco, do you think you get a fair shake from the network news and the elite media like the New York Times?"

# "A guy over at Newsweek said 80 percent in the elite media favors Kerry. That doesn't surprise you, does it?"

# "And you're healthy?"

# "What's Chirac's problem? He hasn't been a great ally to the U.S. since 9/11. He doesn't want NATO forces to protect elections in Afghanistan. Come on."

# "Do you have any theory on why college professors, pinhead press people why they go into the liberal realm?"

# "Has the press given [Kerry] a pass?"

*"Is it a reality that we could turn on our television sets one day -- Fox News Channel, I hope -- and find out that a nuclear weapon has gone off here?"

# "You've said one of the things you were most unhappy about is this issue of the tone in Washington. Let me just run down a list of prominent Democrats for a second here, because I can't remember a time in my life where it's been this bad."

# "You're the president of the United States. You're also leading troops in harm's way. This is the leader of the opposition party [criticizing you]. Does that bother you?"

# "John Kerry has flipped-flopped his way into a dangerous position [regarding Iraq]. So my question is, If John Kerry were president would he make this country more vulnerable and more susceptible to terror attacks?"

# "Now, all this was propaganda. All of this that you didn't ... They say you didn't register in Massachusetts [with the National Guard in 1973]. Is that bogus?"

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Election 2000,Redux 

Remember that 36 day period following the 2000 election? Remember what a mess that was? Remember how bitter people felt when the Supreme Court stepped in and stopped the election, allowing Florida to go to George Bush and with it, the presidency? Remember the bipartisan commission lead by former presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford that urged changes to avoid another election 2000? Then remember President Bush signing the "Help America Vote Act" in 2002 that was supposed to do just this (as an aside, look at the private signing ceremony language versus the public one)?

Well here we are just a week before the election and guess what? The Department of Justice, with four years to prepare, are cited by the GAO for being woefully unprepared to handle complaints on election night of voter irregularity. After the 2000 election, the GAO found that complaints to the DoJ were not logged nor documented, and thus never investigated.

Representatives John Conyers and John Dingell
wrote to the DoJ to see what changes have been made to prepare for another tight election, and have found very little. The GAO found that in the 2002 election cycle, complaints were logged but done with very little attention to detail--such as where the problem took place--an important detail, some may argue.

For the 2004 election, the DoJ will place 39 Department attorneys on hand to receive complaints--an increase from 2000 of--are you ready for this? Eight!

Thank Goodness the Bush administration is taking no chances that votes will be fairly made and counted in this election cycle. I mean we have to be sure to set an example for the Iraqis, who are going to hold a democratic vote in January with, at best, 25% of the people able to vote.

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Monday, October 25, 2004

A Week To Go--Keep Your Eye Off the Ball 

After the last debate, the news allowed themselves to be handled by the Bush machine over the horror of Kerry infusing Cheney's gay daughter into the debate--the Horror! This despite allowing the President to lie about never making a statement that he was not concerned about finding Osama bin Laden.

So with a week to go, what is the new story? Well, it kinda plays on the flip flop theme and is geared towards the sports enthusiasts who may be thinking about voting.

I have Andy DMX Dudas to thank for this one. Seems the conservative bloggers, particularly some stupid group called "Football Fans for Truth" have run a story that apparently catches Kerry in a flip flop. Kerry recounts his story about being at Game 6 in New York in 1986 when Bill Buckner let the ball roll between his legs. But it also appears that on the same day, Kerry was at a meeting in Boston with New Mexico's governor on behalf of his boss, Governor Michael Dukakis.

Sure enough, this has now bounced around the echo chamber, until it finds its way onto ESPN, who fact check the story for all of us:

Kerry attended both. Kerry attended the event, took a shuttle flight from Boston to New York City (I heard they are relatively close), and got to Shea with the game in progress.

Just like the ridiculous haircut story, this is yet another effort by the conservatives to keep the attention off the real issue--the deplorable leadership exerted by President Bush.

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Annoy the Media... 

In 1992, bumper stickers appeared on the cars of those who supported Bush-Quayle that stated: "ANNOY THE MEDIA, ELECT BUSH." The reason was that an incumbent president, with stratospheric approval ratings, was running in a tight election for his political life. And the media that was covering him was far different from the toothless tigers that followed his campaign around in 1988. As Tom Rosensteil argues in his book, "Strange Bedfellows," 1988 was a low point in the media's obligation to be a watchdog during elections, admitting that they had been handled by a political campaign in a way that was detrimental to the other campaign. In 1992, no more. Hence the media did not simply refuse to read from Republican script, and they often covered other voices to check the facts coming from the Bush-Quayle campaign.

The bumper sticker was meant to fire the base, stretching back to Spiro Agnew's charge of the "nattering nabobs of negativism." The argument--the media hate Republicans and will do whatever necessary to see they are kept out of political office.

Fast forward 12 years and what do we see a week before the election--the media hate Republicans and will do whatever it can to keep George W. Bush from being elected.

In a piece by Diana West in "The Washington Times" erects the charge. In it she drudges up the connection of Kerry with CBS-CNN-New York Times, as well as Ted Koppel who went to Vietnam to contradict the lies of the Swift Boat liars recent round of charges.

But she is not alone. When the President found that "some" of his lies were being fact checked, his spokesperson said:

"The Bush campaign should be able to make an argument without having it reflexively dismissed as distorted or inaccurate by the biggest newspapers in the country."

So when the President lies, it shouldn't be the press's job to challenge it? As if it really is doing in the first place?

Other instances of bias comes in the much ballyhooed memo written by Mark Halperin in which he argues that objectivity does not mean that two distortions should be pitched as balanced. If one campaign is telling whoppers while the other is fudging around the edges, then the focus should be disproportionately on the candidate telling the whopper. So egregious was this, according to conservatives, that Frontpage decided it had to do a full blown character dissection, starting from birth, of Halperin and how he became a liberal while still in diapers. Don't believe me?

"Mark Halperin?s idea of what is right may be what is Left. He was born in 1965 in Bethesda, Maryland, the red-diaper baby of hard-Left-connected controversial foreign policy specialist Morton Halperin. This fact reveals an entire Left-spin universe in which Mark grew up exposed to his father?s comrades and radical ideas."

But Halperin's point was not to pile on Republicans. It was to criticize the central problem of objectivity as a norm or reporting. Equal weight should not be given to two objects that are fundamentally unequal. At least "Fox News" has figured that out.

But back to my point. In a close election, when every voter counts, the campaigns need to do everything possible to rally the base in the way one squeezes a lemon for lemonade. And one way to do that is to throw the old tried and true--annoy the media, vote Bush.

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Sunday, October 24, 2004

Got to Keep 'em Superficial 

As we head into the presidential election, and despite the level of interest we have seen in this election by groups that traditionally do not participate in elections, we know there is one consistency from previous elections. The treatment of the superficial over the substantive. There have been a number of stories on Kerry's comments regarding the Cheney's lesbian daughter, about Teresa's comment that she did not know that Laura Bush held a job before becoming First Lady, but very little on the substantive issues that make a difference in our lives. For those, we have to turn to political ads, which we know have no interest in making sure that American are informed on the true nature of the interest.

Take for issue health care. Here is an issue that has been on the top of American's minds since the late 1980s and early 1990s, and to date there has been nothing done to fix it. John Kerry, which seeks to tweak the health care system we have has been tied by the Bush camp as calling for a crazy government run system that makes "Hillary-care" look like a walk in a park.

In 1993, "Hillary-care" was what the Republicans, and in particular the health insurance companies, worked to kill any change in our miserable health care system in America. In one famed example, the Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA) took out ad buys in which it showed a fictitious couple talking about the "big government" plan by the Democrats. The ads, targeted only in markets where key politicians are media existed, had the effect of elevating the HIAA from a minor player to the major player onn health care reform. HIAA won, and America lost.

We have a similar situation today. The story that has dominated the news cycle the last couple of weeks has been a lack of flu shots to protect most Americans in the upcoming flu season. John Kerry blames the President for outsourcing the flu vaccine to the Brits, and Bush blames Kerry for trial lawyers driving up the cost of health care (?).

The real reason that the flu vaccine is not available has a great deal to do with the power of the drug lobby in the United States. In an article in the "New York Times," Bartlett and Steele, which have a great book on the power of big drugs in the US, argue that the absence of a flu vaccine is because there is no money in making one, unlike one to treat erectile dysfunction. If you have trouble "gaining wood," there are three different drugs to help you out (in fact, the term "erectile dysfunction" was used over "impotence" when pitchmen like Bob Dole and Mike Ditka did not want a term like "impotence" to clash with their leadership image).

All of this has come from changes in FDA regulations in 1997 that allowed drug companies to no longer go through doctors in an effort to push products, but rather to appeal directly to the American public through television ads. The result? The most expensive prescription drug prices than anyone in the rest of the world pays.

But this is not what we are being told by our elected leaders.They tell us that drugs cost so high in the US because companies are consistently spending sizeable sums in research and development to give us the best drugs for the future to fight any disease imaginable. But this is false. As Marcia Angell has argued, R&D is a small part of the budget of big drug companies--right around 14%--while marketing and administration absorbs nearly 40%. Further, the introduction of these new drugs that are supposed to be helping us fight the diseases of the future have nearly dried up. What have they been replaced with? The erectile dysfunction drugs or those that are to help with high cholestoral levels.

Bartlett and Steele argue for a centralized system like the Federal Reserve System whose members would be free from politics and would coordinate our health care system, identifying those drugs that work and funneling "research money to where it will do the most good rather than to those areas with the largest and most vocal constituency, thereby treating the victims of various diseases and conditions more equitably."

Thousands of people may die this year because there is no vaccination available to treat those who get the flu. To their survivors, someone has to tell them that their loved one died because "there is no money in a flu vaccination."

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Saturday, October 23, 2004

The Anti-Intellectuals 

In the 1960s, Richard Hofstadter wrote a book bemoaning the rise of anti-intellectualism in the United States, in which prominent politicians were being rewarded for appealing to the lowest common demoninator in all of us. Whether it was McCarthy's charges against Acheson's effeminate Europeanism, or Ike's eschewing anything but the Western novel, it was a period similar to the sort of thing we are seeing today.

Republicans in particular have elevated anti-intellectualism as an American value. How to count the ways?

There is Rummy's consistent drubbing of opponents of the war favoring either "Old Europe" or one dominated by the "French and Germans" (and lets not forget the House of Representative's change of french fries to "Freedom" fries). Even moreso, there is the complete lack of curiosity among the President on the days events. President Bush, early in his career if you recall, was seen boarding "Air Force One" carrying Bernard Goldberg's pitiful book, "Bias," which essentially signaled to the President's supporters that it may actually be the smarter thing to not read papers or watch the news, since it is so flawed anyway.

This strategy has seemed to seep to all levels of the Republican Party. Incredulously, here is Senator Jim Bunning in an interview after a speech he gave at the Rotary Club in Kentucky. When asked about the Army Reserve troops who refused orders to take supplies into a dangerous area because their truck was lightly armored, Bunning said "I don't know anything about that." When told that this was a national news story that had played over the course of several days, Bunning said:

"Let me explain something: I don't watch the national news, and I don't read the paper. I haven't done that for the last six weeks. I watch Fox News to get my information."

When told that (gasp) even Fox had carried the story, he said "Not the times I watched it."

We all know just how misinformed Fox News watchers are regarding the important problems facing the US and the world, but this is something. A US Senator, who ostensibly has a staff, only watches Fox News, and even that limited amount cannot inform him that there are serious issues involving our troops in Iraq. His only meager response was:

I traveled to Iraq and things were going swimmingly. Imagine that?

If you remember in 2000, Rush Limbaugh and others consistently urged a vote against Gore because he was like that kid who sat in the front row, always asked for more homework, and told the teacher when she forgot to give the class the homework for the day. And he was punished for this. Shouldn't we want a President who is not just an over achiever but one who is intellectually interested in all things different? Apparently not if you are a Republican.

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Thursday, October 21, 2004

The Initiative? 

Interesting bit of analysis on the ballot initiatives and various referenda in this particular election cycle.

There was much hay made early on that suggested that Karl Rove had a hand in pushing a number of contentious issues onto the ballot this year as a way to get conservatives out to vote. That may actually not be the case. While there are a number of favorable issues--among them is the bans on same sex marriage, the tide of the ballot movement this year seems to favor progressives in states that may actually matter the most to Democrats--again, an instance of Rove getting cute early on, only to have it back fire on him (think of his early decision to urge the steel tariff).

Additionally, it doesn't seem that in the end these conservative measures are going to matter much for the Republicans since they are lost in the noise of the "dual wars on terrorism and ...Iraq, the hemorrhaging of good jobs, the cost of health care and other kitchen table issues" have pushed same sex marriage sorts of issues to the bottom of the wrung. And while they may inspire the core, these issues will do very little to the swing voter, a strategy that may actually backfire for Rove and the President.

In Arizona, one of the wedge issues Rove created has now led to the very real possibility that the President will lose Arizona.. A ballot issue designed to prevent illegal aliens from voting or getting any public services has been perceived as draconian, turning off a number of libertarian leaning Republicans in a state already "displeased with Bush's guest worker program." Even though they won't turn their votes to Kerry, the possibility exists that they will support third party candidates or simply boycott the polls--costing the President 30,000 voters. In essence, the Arizona Rove wedge issue could become the next California Prop 187.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2004

George W. Orwell 

Over at Brad Blog, he has found yet another instance in which the White House has revised the official version of history to keep embarrassing comments or deliberate lies out of the purview of the American public.

In the third debate, the President must have been setting it up for the scrubbing. When John Kerry unloaded on the President for claiming he no longer cared about finding Osama bin Laden, the President responded:

Gosh, I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations.

But he did say it. Or did he? In the President's March 2, 2002 press conference, he said:

"Well, as I say, we haven't heard much from him. ... And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him."

Yet if you were to look for the audio and video clip of the press conference, which was linked in the White House webpage, you would find that it is no longer available--not all, just for the March 2002 press conference in question.

This has been a pattern in the administration, and one that goes without mention in the press (also, to show you what the press cares about, check out how many stories have been run about John Kerry's remarks about Mary Cheney vs. those holding the President to count for lying about never saying he didn't care if Osama was found or not!).

Brad asks why the White House is removing this information when it is so widely available elsewhere. I think I can answer that for you, Brad.

I think the answer is hidden in Bush's response about distorting Kerry's health care plan, which he is. Kerry claimed that there is not one news organization that has analyzed his plan that has concluded that it is a government run plan. Bush then retorted:

In all due respect, I'm not so sure it's credible to quote leading news organizations about -- oh, nevermind.

If the information is not on the website but rather it is being run on the news, it gives the administration leverage to claim that it is doctored by the liberal press to make it appear that the President actually said it--when in fact he did. Check out Derelection today and look at the number of stories in which the administration is waging war on the press--determined to browbeat them into submission or rid them of credibility.

Despite your political leanings, what makes this country great is having faith in the veracity of the official record. The President is currently undermining democracy and no one seems to give a damn about it.

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Monday, October 18, 2004

President Bush: Insecurity at our Borders 

It appears that the President is lurching ahead of Senator Kerry in the opinion polls because he has helped focus the media's attention on national security, and not domestic issues which would crush him. The media, of course, seem more than willing to scamper along.

While doing it, they miss glaring problems with the Bush administration's inability to keep us secure, largely because the Bush administration favor's corporate sponsors over the safety of the public. The same public, the media tells us in opinion polls, who think Bush would do a much better job protecting America from a terrorist attack.

Public Citizen has released a report that has identified five critical infrastructure vulnerabilities:

Chemical Plants: Even though the Army warned the administration that an attack on any one chemical plant in the US could endanger 1 million people, the administration has sided with the chemical industry to pressure Congress into defeating the Chemical Security Act, which would have made chemical plants in the US safer. Further, the administration has pressured the EPA into backing away from regulations it was considering that would require chemical plants to become safer, and the Department of Homeland Security has issued no safety mandates, choosing instead to rely on "voluntary industry standards" to insure the safety of our chemical plants

Nuclear Power Plants: Despite the 9/11 Commission documenting the problems in the safety of our nuclear power plants, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as I documented earlier, has allowed the same private company that guards many of our nuclear power plants to also conduct "surprise" infiltrations of these very same plants. Further, the NRC proposed to weaken regulations of nuclear power plants this year. And the GAO has identified three major security problems that have gone unaddressed since releasing its report last year.

Hazardous materials: Over a million carloads of hazardous material travel through the US every year, many moving right through heavily populated areas. Despite this, the administration has weakened security over hazardous material trucking. A final rule was recently pushed by the administration that would have required all hazardous material drives to inspect the intergrity of their trucks before hauling them, and the administration has delayed rules that would require background checks of drivers.

Ports: Even after 9/11, the administration still can only verify 4-6% of the contents of all containers and there seems to be no urgency within the administration to push port authorities to doing a better job.

Water Systems: Even though water seems to be important to the sustenance of life, the President has opposed increasing federal spending to improving our water infrastructure, and has even moved to cut funding for loans to states to upgrade their water systems. The administration has opted, not surprisingly, to forcing local governments to sell public water systems to private companies.

As the report documents, in each of these five areas you will find major contributors to the Bush re-election campaign, with funders in the Ranger and Pioneer level.

I bet this is an ad we won't see

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Saturday, October 16, 2004

Tucker the Dick 

If you have not heard, or did not see, Jon Stewart went on "Crossfire" yesterday and said what most of us have been dying to say to this program, and those like it:

"...you have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably."

Stewart took aim at both Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala for being "partisan hacks," but it was Carlson who took great offense for being "lectured" to by this "comedian":

"Do you like lecture people like this or do you come over to their house and sit and lecture them; they're not doing the right thing, that they're missing their opportunities, evading their responsibilities?"

Stewart replied that he would if they thought they were avoiding their responsibilities.

As to the partisan hack charge, Carlson thought he had Stewart by bringing up his interview with John Kerry. Here is clever Carlson:

"You had John Kerry on your show and you sniff his throne and you're accusing us of partisan hackery...you have this marvelous opportunity not to be the guy's butt boy, to go ahead and be his butt boy. Come on. It's embarrassing."

To which Stewart replied:

"You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls. "

At the end of the show, Stewart proclaimed Carlson to be as big a "dick" on "Crossfire" as on any show. Now while this may play into left vs right, Stewart's major point is clear. Television is destroying democracy. As AlterNet concludes:

"Stewart may not have made any friends, but at least he pointed to one of the worst problems in our political discourse. No, not that Tucker Carlson is a dick, but that creeps like him are in control of it."

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Friday, October 15, 2004

I Know I Am, But What Are You? 

The Bush campaign engaged in a strategy of labeling Kerry a flip flopper, someone who was inconsistent in nearly every political decision he has taken over the course of his political career. And for awhile, it worked when Kerry was dragged down by television ads about voting for the $87 billion before voting against it. However, the narrative has seemed to run its course, and thus the President and his campaign has recently shifted tactics. Now, not surprisingly, they are labeling him as consistent in all of his positions that he has taken over the lifetime of his political career.

Beginning in the second debate, and certainly in the third, the President has leveled the "liberal" label on Senator Kerry. There has been the "most liberal" senator in the US Senate from the "National Journal"," and then his zinger in the third debate that Kerry was the "conservative senator" from Massachussetts.

This is a strategy that dates back to his father's campaign in 1988, in which the Bush-Quayle campaign consistently hammered Governor Dukakis with the liberal label, after which it had become such a perjorative that commentators took to calling it the "L" word.

So here is President Bush yesterday at a rally:

He's against these Social Security reforms. He's against just about every reform that gives more authority and more control to the individual. On issue after issue, from Medicare without choices to schools with less accountability to higher taxes, he takes the side of more centralized control and more bureaucracies. And there's a word for that attitude. It's called liberalism.

The audience, of course, responds with a unified "Boo!" Then Bush says:

He dismisses that as a label. But he must have seen it differently when he said to a newspaper, I am a liberal and proud of it.

And then, to show that he was in the land of facts, the President adds:

Nonpartisan National Journal magazine did a study and named him the most liberal member of the United States Senate. That takes a lot of hard work.

But as I discussed in July, the "National Journal" article has Kerry at the top only in 2003, when he was gearing up for a run for the Democratic nomination. In other years, Kerry was in the middle of the pack.

It shows the President's campaign is in trouble that a month before the election, they have tried to switch narratives. In fact, so schizophrenic is the RNC that they are using the liberal and flip flopper label all in one sentence! In an answer to the question, who is John Kerry, they answer:

A Massachusetts liberal out of touch with America. A flip flopper who wants to raise taxes, is weak on national security, weak on intelligence and weak on homeland security.


But where it worked in 1988, it should not work this time. The Bush team has worked so hard to describe Kerry as inconsistent that a switch to describe him as consistent is a contradiction in message. And a contradiction in message works to the disadvantage of those levelling the charge, not the target.

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Thursday, October 14, 2004

Granting Amnesty 

During the debates last night, the subject of what to do with the number of illegal aliens who are in the United States was discussed. Bob Schieffer asked Mr. Bush whether he saw this as an economic issue or a security issue.

The President clearly looked to paint it as a security issue, hinting that anyone (read: Kerry) who would consider granting them amnesty was a fuzzy headed moron:

Now, it's very important for our citizens to also know that I don't believe we ought to have amnesty. I don't think we ought to reward illegal behavior. There are plenty of people standing in line to become a citizen. And we ought not to crowd these people ahead of them in line.

Mr. Kerry didn't say it, but I did as I yelled at my television set: Does this mean Ronald Reagan was all wet on the issue of immigration?

Back in 1986, the Congress handed to the President a massive overhaul of the immigration system in the United States. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 had an amnesty provision written into it, which the President signed and enforced.

The provision allowed that any illiegal alien who had worked and lived in the US since 1982 were eligible to apply for amnesty and then full citizenship. This was considered the only practical way to deal with the problem of millions of hispanics (mostly) who had crossed our Southern borders and were living and working in the US.

But the President needed to portray it as a security issue. But in so doing, he rebuked the icon of the Republican party.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Along the Foreign-Domestic Frontier 

It is a common myth among Americans that a wall seperates domestic issues from foreign issues, and that somehow never the twain shall meet.

But foreign governments seek to influence domestic politics all the time (in what one writer has termed the US as "penetrated hegemon"). For example, Saudi Arabia has spent "$17.6 million" on lobbyists since 9/11 in an effort to improve its image after we learned that the hijackers were Saudi citizens.

Now comes an effort (thanks to Shark Daddy) from the "Guardian."

The "Guardian" has come up with a set of ideals on how its readers (and any of the other maligned Europeans) can have a subtle impact on the presidential election. They have coupled their readers with independent voters in Clark County, Ohio (which Gore barely won) in an effort for these readers to convince the independents to vote, and in all probability, to vote for Kerry.

They have also provided the contact information for the major papers in the County and have asked its readers to write letters to the editor. Further, they have provided a list of organizations that are working to mobilize voters, and encouraging them to give money to these organizations.

To the "Guardian," they see that what happens in the Presidential Election as having an impact upon British citizens, and in more general terms, the citizens of the world. And are looking for ways to make a difference.

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If Drudge Writes in His Journal, Does It Make a Sound? 

The conservative echo chamber has something common in every instance it is found. The original "sound" that creates the echo begins with the Drudge Report.

For example, in the instance of the flak made over John Kerry's haircut two years ago, the original story that John Kerry, Man of the People, paid "$150" for a haircut (later reduced to $75) began on the Drudge Report. Here is how the story progressed over a four day period:

Rush Limbaugh immediately picked up the story and framed it as Kerry was a faux-populist. Rush runs the $150 figure even though he had the corrected $75 figure.

In the course of three days, this haircut story would bounce from Rush, to The National Review, to “The Washington Times,” and then to Buchanan & Press and finally onto Fox News, where Brit Hume would quote the $150 figure, noting that he heard it through the grapevine.

Finally, the story makes it onto CNN’s “Inside Politics” where Judy Woodruff suggests that his campaign in trouble and on Buchanan and Press, Bill Press asks his guest: Does the hair cut story raise doubts whether Kerry is qualified to be the President of the United States?


What you have is similar to trying to make a fire when you are camping. You go out and find twigs and things that will catch fire and burn fast until you have a critical mass that can keep the fire going once you put the big wood on. Here, Drudge is the spark and the conservatives online, in print, and on television keep the story bouncing until it makes it into the mainstream press.

A second, and more recent example, has been documented by "Media Matters for America." In this example, Drudge has edited what John Edwards said on stem cell research to make it sound like Edwards claimed that if you elect John Kerry to President, paraplegics will get up and walk again.

Here is what Edwards said:

EDWARDS: Christopher Reeve just passed away. And America just lost a great champion for this cause. Somebody who is a powerful voice for the need to do stem cell research and change the lives of people like him, who have gone through the tragedy. Well, if we can do the work that we can do in this country -- the work we will do when John Kerry is president -- people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk. Get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.

And here is what Drudge wrote:

Edwards: When John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk. Get up out of that wheelchair and walk again...

Moments after Drudge hit "send," the statement received bounce. The "Wall Street Journal" online used the Drudge statement. Low and behold, there is Rush Limbaugh close behind. Let's not leave out the bloggers. Here is one: CHRISTOPHER REEVE'S DEATH EXPLOITED BY JOHN EDWARDS. And there it is on KLTV out of Jacksonville, Florida: "Edwards Comments Under Attack."

Stupidly, the mainstream media will take it and allow others, if they exist, to refute it. Doesn't matter if it is false.

The press's motto?

They distort, we comply....

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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Misunderestimator 

Watching "The Choice" on PBS, the narrator argues, correctly, that conventional wisdom predicted that George W. Bush would govern like his father did--from the middle. In fact, this conventional wisdom was not just held by reporters but also by political scientists who study the presidency.

Reporters, who relied on these political scientists and their dominant view of presidential power, suggested that a President who wins by a slim majority--or even worse, did not win the popular vote at all--would have very little politlcal capital and thus would have to exert massive bargaining and persuading skills with the Congress in order to get anything done. And any piece of the president's legislative program would need to be bargained away in order to get it through the Congress.

But the blindness totally missed the reasons why the Bush administration moved as aggressively as it did. In yesterday's "Washington Post," Dana Milbank details how the Vice President has amassed tremendous power in a way that defies the conventional wisdom regarding the role of the vice-presidency. A month ago, I outlined the reservoir of power from which the Bush administration draws from, and how it can explain the actions taken, in particular, by it in areas ranging from sanctioning torture to influencing the regulatory process.

Yet journalists, and frankly many of my colleagues, are awe struck at any new action that this administration takes. And further, they foolishly believe that if he wants to succeed in a second term, he will certainly have to govern more from the middle. Or they believe he is crazy.

If you want to get a handle on how Bush governs, first understand the playbook from which he studies.

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Monday, October 11, 2004

Damn that Factcheck 

Factcheck.org got into the business this election cycle of being an impartial, reliable source for information about the truth or falsity of the campaigns for office. On their website, it says:

We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit, "consumer advocate" for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.

So people working for the Kerry campaign took that to heart, assuming that factcheck did its homework when it came up with that line that the President classified as a small business when he received $84 from a timber-growing company in 2001. In fact, here is what their analysis said:

President Bush himself would have qualified as a "small business owner" under the Republican definition, based on his 2001 federal income tax returns. He reported $84 of business income from his part ownership of a timber-growing enterprise. However, 99.99% of Bush's total income came from other sources that year. (Bush also qualified as a "small business owner" in 2000 based on $314 of "business income," but not in 2002 and 2003 when he reported his timber income as "royalties" on a different tax schedule.)

So John Kerry goes into the second debate and says this:

And you know why he gets that count? The president got $84 from a timber company that owns, and he's counted as a small business. Dick Cheney's counted as a small business. That's how they do things. That's just not right.

To which the President starts twitching, and then launches into this series of zingers:

BUSH: I own a timber company?
(LAUGHTER)
That's news to me.
(LAUGHTER)
Need some wood?
(LAUGHTER)


Now, after Factcheck gets an overflow of visits to their site, they admit that their first report may not be accurate. Here is the correction:

(Oct 9; CORRECTION: What we originally reported as a "timber-growing" enterprise is actually described on Bush's tax return as an "oil and gas production" concern, the Lone Star Trust. We were confused because The Lone Star Trust currently owns 50% of another company, "LSTF, LLC", described on Bush’s 2003 financial disclosure forms as a limited-liability company organized "for the purpose of the production of trees for commercial sales." So, Bush does own part interest in a tree-growing company, but the $84 came from an oil and gas company and we should have reported it as such.)

If you're Kerry, do you sit there and say "You're kidding?" Factcheck has been all about sniffing the distortions out of campaigns and encouraging the public and the press to come to them for the truth. So when one does, they screw it up. Why would any person running for office use them again? Further, when you try to bring up this episode in a discussion, you have the other side immediately jump in and say, "yeah, well we all can see just how "fair" they are..."

Good going Factcheck. I wonder where on their correction did it list the pressure they got from the BC campaign to check its records?

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Saturday, October 09, 2004

Seeing Green 

I was thrown by a comment the President made last night that did not make a bit of sense to me. In an extended dissertation of Kerry's tax plan, Mr. Bush went on about how un-credible Senator Kerry was. Then in a comparison between his own tax plan and Senator Kerry's, the President said:

"We've got battling green eye shades."

This apparently is something that the President has picked up when he received his MBA.

In all the references I can find to "green eye shades," they all have to do with either accountants or individuals who are bean counters. For example, there is this passage in an E-book:

First to adapt to the world of numbers were the accounting mentalities of the time. Thus did computers take root in general ledgers, receivables and payables, payroll and cost distribution, order entry and sales analysis, inventory control and plant scheduling. Bespectacled folk with their fabled green eye-shades and gartered sleeves took up punched cards and tab-runs. They climbed down from their tall stools bringing with them the bookkeeper's technologies: the double-entry and the cross-foot. And when it was five o'clock they went home. What was not finished today would wait until tomorrow.


And there is this by EPA Administrator Christie Whitman in January of 2002:

Before anyone wonders why the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency is speaking to a room full of accountants, I think that it can at least be said that environmentalists and accountants have a couple of things in common. First, we have both been said to view the world through green eye shades, though obviously for different reasons.

Apparently the news media felt no need to tell the rest of us what it means since they have been known to use the term as well. In a "USA Today" story about Enron, Joan Biskupic says:

Cases typically involve a series of complicated transactions made over a period of time, not, for example, a single bank robbery. So prosecutors have to try to build accounting expertise within their ranks and rely more on investigators with green eye-shades and pencils rather than traditional surveillance and shoe leather.

Even though a search of the White House website only turns up last night's use of the term, it appears the President has used it before.

In May and August 2002, the President said this while touting his health care plan:

I believe that when we trust people with their -- trust their decisions, and trust their judgment about how best to care for themselves, a better plan evolves. A much better plan than one designed by some green eye-shades up on Capitol Hill.

But if you were Joe Public, are you likely to conclude that the President was disconnecting with the English language as he is want to do? I would think that after using the term twice in 2002, and not again until last night, his media strategists had to conclude that it was confusing the President' audiences.

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Friday, October 08, 2004

Presidential "Timber" 

President Bush looked nonplussed when Senator Kerry said that President Bush had owned "$84" in timber a company that would have classified him as a small business owner under the President's new plan. He even chuckled and asked the audience if anyone wanted to buy wood.

This of course seemed to weird for Kerry to have made up. And of course he didn't. According to Factcheck.org, the President report in 2001 $84 of income from a part ownership in a timber company:

President Bush himself would have qualified as a "small business owner" under the Republican definition, based on his 2001 federal income tax returns. He reported $84 of business income from his part ownership of a timber-growing enterprise. However, 99.99% of Bush's total income came from other sources that year. (Bush also qualified as a "small business owner" in 2000 based on $314 of "business income," but not in 2002 and 2003 when he reported his timber income as "royalties" on a different tax schedule.)

You can read for yourself here or here.

God I love instant fact checking. If only it had existed in 1988!

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How Irritating 

One of the reasons you read newspapers is to hope the you will get more context to a story without visuals to help you along. Thus you turn to the "New York Times" for in depth reporting, and damned if you don't get them taking the cheap way out.

What better way to draw readers to a story, and then to get them to think about the story prior to even reading it about a corrupt ballot process, then to use this picture.

Come on Times, you can do better than this.

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Thursday, October 07, 2004

Interpreting the Law 

I watched the DVD "Bushisms" last night, and while some of the verbal gaffes made me laugh out loud, one caught my attention because it was not a mistatement or a misunderstanding of how the political process works.

In one scene, President Bush says: "The legislature's job is to write the law. It's the executive branch's job to interpret the law." After he says this, Jacob Weisberg appears, and in a condescending tone says that it is the president's job to execute the law and the judiciary's job to interpret the law. This sort of one-dimensional thinking has caused journalists to overlook how recent presidents have argued that it is their constitutional right to say what the law is, despite what the other branches say.

Beginning with the Reagan administration, the president's legal advisors have pushed presidential prerogatives to the limits, and then pushed a little more.

Where they start is with Federalist 49. In Federalist 49, Madison says:

The several departments being perfectly co-ordinate by the terms of their common commission, none of them, it is evident, can pretend to an exclusive or superior right of settling the boundaries between their respective powers...

The Reagan Justice Department, in particular, pushed this principle of coordinancy to mean that the branches of government have no constitutional right to tell the other branches what is and is not constitutional. Hence, the president has a coordinate right to determine the constitutional meaning of the legislation he signs--as such, it means that if he determines parts of the legislation to be constitutionally suspect, he is in his right to refuse to enforce it or defend it.

Indeed, in 1987, Attorney General Ed Meese told an audience that gathered at Tulane University that "constitutional interpretation is not the business of the Court only, but also properly the business of all branches of government." This was backed up by a concurring opinion issued by Justice Antonin Scalia in the case "Freytag v Commissioner" (1991):

??it was not enough simply to repose the power to execute the laws (or to appoint) in the President; it was also necessary to provide him with the means to resist legislative encroachment upon that power. The means selected were various, including a separate political constituency, to which he alone was responsible, and the power to veto encroaching laws?or even to disregard them when they are unconstitutional.?

But this deals with constitutional interpretation, you might ask? What about the interpretation of bills alone independent of the constitutional problems a president might find with it?

Also beginning, in any consistent fashion, with the Reagan administration, the President has asserted that the "Take Care" clause of the Constitution means that, since he is the only nationally elected political figure, it is his obligation to tell the administrative state how to interpret and thus execute the provisions of a law signed by the President. In areas in which the Congress is vague on the meaning of sections of a bill, it is the President's obligation to breathe meaning into it.

For example, when Congress gave to President Reagan the "Immigration Reform and Control Act" in 1986, a provision of the bill that dealt with discriminatory intent was left vague. It was feared that the IRCA would allow employers to discriminate against employees by firing them, claiming they feared that they were illegal aliens. In Congress, the section of the bill was added by Congressman Barney Frank, and Frank intended for it to mean that if an employee was released due to discrimination, it would be up to the employer to defend the reasons why he was fired. In conference, the meaning was stripped out. When it got to the Reagan administration, the President defined the vague section in such a way that it placed the burden of proof on the employee--it was an interpretation that was business friendly.

So while reporters and others can giggle at how President Bush hasn't a clue how the political process works, know that the joke is on all of you. In fact, President Bush would prefer that you continued to "misunderestimate" him.

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Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Probably Lies 

The "Guardian" is carrying excerpts from Michael Moore's new book in which he reprints some of the letters he has received from US troops in Iraq. Here are some excerpts:

I was over there from Jan'03 to Aug'03. I hated every minute. It was a daily battle to keep my spirits up. I hate the army and my job. I am supposed to get out next February but will now be unable to because the asshole in the White House decided that now would be a great time to put a stop-loss in effect for the army.


AND

These roadside bombs nearly destroyed one of our Hummers and riddled my friends with shrapnel, almost killing them. They would not have had a scratch if they had the "Up Armour" kits on them. So where was [George] W [Bush] on that one?


Read for yourself.

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So Busted 

You just knew last night when the VP tried to get a dig in about Senator Edwards' failure to show up to the Senate, that it would be easy to debunk. And thus it begins.

Here is a pic of the two of them together at a prayer breakfast in 2001.

Further, ABC News has listed two other dates, so far, that the two ran into one another:

On April 8, 2001, Cheney and Edwards shook hands when they met off-camera during a taping of NBC's "Meet the Press," moderator Tim Russert said Wednesday on "Today."

On Jan. 8, 2003, the two met when the first-term North Carolina senator accompanied Elizabeth Dole to her swearing-in by Cheney as a North Carolina senator, Edwards aides also said.


What is even better is that, if you watched the debate last night, Elizabeth Edwards made a bee line to VP Cheney and said something to him. According to Senator Edwards, she was reminding the Veep that they had met before. Classic. I suppose you will get Republilcans who will start a campaign to muzzle her for speaking out, much the same way they suggested Kerry's wife Teresa should be muzzled for telling a conservative hack to "shove it."

This reminds me a bit of 1992, when the media refused to play the game the Bush/Quayle team laid out for them. In that election, the media was showing its bias by questioning the president. We should hear that charge very soon.

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Good One 

Many thanks to P-Dogg and his sidekick Mo Pain for sending me the updated link to Factcheck.com.

Last night, the Vice President implored the television audience to visit "Factcheck.com" to see how Senator Edwards had distorted his ties with Haliburton. As I said last night, this might have opened a can of worms for the President and Vice-President.

It seems that clicking on "Factcheck.com" today takes you to George Soros's website, www.georgesoros.com. As of 7 pm last night, the domain, "Factcheck.com" belonged to an organization that touted itself as the "Leading Education Site on the Net." It says the domain was registered in February 2004 and is set to expire on February 2007.

According to CNN, the website belongs to a company located in the Grand Caymen Islands, and when their site became overloaded by webtraffic, they took it out on the VP by redirecting visitors to Soros's site.

Here is a quote from a representative to Soros:

"We are as surprised as anyone by this turn of events but certainly encourage voters to visit both of these valuable sites," Michael Vachon, a senior aide to Soros, said in a statement.

I bet!

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Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Factcheck 

The Vice President boldly used the name of Factcheck.com (although it is .org) to rebut what he claimed were lies that Senator Edwards was leveling against him and his time as head of Haliburton. But does the Vice President really want voters rushing to the website (perhaps that is why he obscured it)? If voters head to the site, they will find the distortions by the Bush-Cheney team run ahead of those from Kerry-Edwards.

Even today, Factcheck released a report on how Bush-Cheney have distorted Senator Kerry's health plan, not to mention the 87 billion dollar vote, not to mention the way in which they have twisted Kerry's statement about a "global test." Just for the record, here is Kerry's statement on the "global test":

"No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But if and when you do it . . . you've got to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test, where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."

If Factcheck is hard to access, try Spinsanity. You will still find the same results.

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Monday, October 04, 2004

Why aren't we hearing this? 

President Bush is telling us that he is for us, that a vote for Kerry is a vote for tax increases and big government. When will someone raise the question asking President Bush whether his current tax breaks without any offset in government spending is a tax on future taxpayers?

Currently, the Congress is about to give the President a bill that would give corporations in the US another $50 billion in tax cuts. Corporations just recently received $13 billion, which means that large corporations have just received $63 billion in tax breaks.

The recent round come as a result of a bill in Congress that addresses a ruling by the World Trade Organization that a subsidy given to American corporations with business overseas was illegal. The President could have used the money that had gone to the subsidy to pay down our debt or to "offset some of the $146 billion" given to the tax cut extension signed by the administration last week.

If you are keeping score, the Bush administration has been enormously friendly to corporate America, all the while telling Americans that "help is on the way." In a report by Citizens for Tax Just and the Institute on Taxation and Economimc Policy, the authors examined 275 of the nation's most profitable Fortune 500 companies and found:



# Eighty-two of the 275 companies paid zero or less in federal income taxes in at least one year from 2001-2003.

# The companies who paid "less" experienced multiple tax-free years. In the years they paid no income taxes, these companies earned approximately $102 billion in pretax U.S. profits. Due to excessive tax breaks, the firms were handed tax rebate checks from the U.S. Treasury totaling $12.6 billion.

# Loopholes and other tax subsidies enjoyed by the 275 companies reduced federal revenues by $43.4 billion in 2001, $60.8 billion in 2002, and $71 billion in 2003.

#In three years, these companies received $175.2 billion dollars worth of tax breaks. Half of these tax break dollars went to just 25 of the companies.


Here is what the President had to say today:

And so when you cut individual income taxes on everybody who pays taxes, you're really helping our small businesses. And when you help the small businesses, you help the job creators. And when you help the job creators, somebody is more likely to find work.

Small business! Good one!

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More Grasping at straws 

Gee, I wonder where Drudge got this? He is running a story, with video, that Kerry may have violated the rules of the debate by pulling a "mysterious" item out of his coat jacket--in essence, as he asks, "Did Kerry Have Cheat Sheet?"

Now this is being called "Pocket Gate" and understandably shows up in conservative news publications. Despite the fact that Fox News has cleared it up by showing it to be a black pen, the mystery is still bouncing around the conservative echo chamber as a way to distract attention from the President and on to Kerry. Want evidence that Kerry is sneaky? Will do anything to win? Then look at what he was pulling out of his pocket on Thursday night....!

Pathetic

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Saturday, October 02, 2004

Sound Familiar? 

From James Fallows's "Atlantic Monthly" summer article on the debating style between John Kerry and George Bush:

Burka says that the change began when Bush took seriously a run for the White House. He became more partisan, more formal, more cautious. The results were evident in his second Texas debate, against Garry Mauro. Again the Bush team stonewalled in debate negotiations—this time out of haughtiness, because of Bush's huge lead in the polls. Mauro wanted as many debates as possible; Bush finally agreed to only one. It was on a Friday night in mid-October, head-to-head against high school football games, for minimal statewide viewership. The location was in El Paso, so remote from the rest of the state it is in a different time zone, and with a heavily Hispanic, Democratic electorate. Bush thought that if he could become the first Republican in memory to carry El Paso—as he ultimately did—he might demonstrate the potential breadth of his nationwide appeal.

As a result, Mauro and the entire debate were essentially props for a Bush campaign blitz in West Texas. The debate was held in a tiny basement room on the campus of the University of Texas at El Paso. The candidates' families and a few local officials sat on metal folding chairs in the room; everyone else, including reporters, watched TV monitors elsewhere. Laura Bush sat a few feet away from Mauro's children, whom she knew but (according to Mauro) did not speak to or acknowledge. According to the rules of this debate, insisted on by Bush's team, the screen had to show only whichever candidate was speaking—that is, no cutaway or reaction shots were allowed.

Therefore no one outside the room saw the miniature drama inside. Bush was halfway toward his presidential style, speaking more slowly and less gracefully than four years earlier, and with a more dismissive air toward his opponent. While Mauro was speaking, Bush would sigh, grimace, and send body-language messages of boredom or contempt.

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Grasping at straws 

The Republicans are doing whatever they can to spin a victory for President Bush in the first debate, and they are pulling out all the stops in their efforts.

The biggest emphasis has been on the flip flopper description, trying to paint Kerry into taking inconsistent positions. The most obvious has been on Kerry's pronouncement that Iraq was a mistake, but still vowing to fight for it.

Yesterday, when President Bush did not have to defend himself against an opponent, he charged to a crowd of true believers:

Last night was very revealing. He continued his pattern of confusing contradictions. After voting for the war, after saying my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from was the right decision, he now said it was all a mistake.

This has been echoed by the RNC:

Said Americans In Iraq Not Dying For “Mistake.” PBS’ JIM LEHRER: “Are Americans now dying in Iraq for a mistake?” KERRY: “No, and they don’t have to, providing we have the leadership that we put – that I’m offering.” (Sen. John Kerry, First Presidential Debate, Miami, FL, 9/30/04)
Earlier In Debate, Kerry Called Iraq War “Mistake.” “We can’t leave a failed Iraq. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a mistake of judgment to go there and take the focus off of Osama bin Laden. It was.” (Sen. John Kerry, First Presidential Debate, Miami, FL, 9/30/04)
“But The President Made A Mistake In Invading Iraq.” (Sen. John Kerry, First Presidential Debate, Miami, FL, 9/30/04)


And the President's minions? Here is David Brooks, writing in the Op/Ed section of today's "New York Times":

That's why he's been fuzzy about the big things over the entire course of his career. That's why he has changed his mind on big issues with such astonishing rapidity. That's why he gets twisted into pretzels, like vowing to continue fighting the Iraq war, which he says was a mistake to begin.

But Brooks, Bush, and the RNC (and the other disciples) have twisted Kerry's answer to fit their narrative of a vacillator.

Kerry said that he authorized the support for the war only after President Bush had exhausted all means and then only after Bush had put together a broad coalition of support (yes, I know that there are 31 other countries, but considering they contribute 27,000 troops while the US contributes 137,000 does not signal a broad coalition of support).

Kerry then argued that Bush rushed into war on faulty evidence--evidence that was put together to support an attack on Iraq. If the administration would have waited, then we could have determined that Iraq did not have WMD's and did not have a connection with terrorists. This would have allowed us to concentrate on where the nerve center of terrrorism really was--in Afghanistan. But the President did not wait, and thus the mistake.

Now that the troops are committed, the country is in anarchy and ripe for growing terrorist cells (think of Afghanistan after the Soviets left), Kerry argues that you have to stay and complete the job. Leaving Iraq now would cause the world more harm than our staying. But what you need to do is internationalize the effort so that America does not increasingly take on casualties and any political reform will be seen as more legitimate than the US seeking to install puppet dictators. So for the good of America, American soldiers (how do you justify over a 1,000 dead by leaving?), and for the good of Iraq, you have to stay. How is this a flip flop?

But that is not what you get from Republicans. It is intellectually dishonest for David Brooks, a smart guy, to use his forum in the "Times" to paint Kerry as a vacillator while Bush as "steadfast" but not practical.

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Friday, October 01, 2004

Fair and Balanced? Yeah Right 

Fox News tells us that it plays it straight when it comes to politics. It does not choose sides and it is as fair to one side as the other.

However, a moment of candor shows Fox's real nature (as if it was a mystery to any thinking person). On their website today, there was a story by Mr fair Carl Cameron, who is covering the Kerry campaign, that purported to be portions of a stump speech given by John Kerry today. Some examples:

"Women should like me! I do manicures" and in a comparison between him and Bush, Kerry was purported to have said: "I'm metrosexual--he's a cowboy."

When called on it, Fox News lamely retracted the story on their website:

Earlier Friday, FOXNews.com posted an item purporting to contain quotations from Kerry. The item was based on a reporter’s partial script that had been written in jest and should not have been posted or broadcast. We regret the error, which occurred because of fatigue and bad judgment, not malice.

Now remember, when CBS got caught relying on a fake memo, Fox News was the first to howl that it was clear that Dan Rather could not be fair when covering Bush. Where is the equal shame that Carl Cameron cannot be fair covering Kerry? And you know what? Fox loyalists will see nothing wrong with this. Nothing.

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The Problem with Fortress Bush 

I listened first on the radio to the debate last night on my way home from a pre-debate panel discussion. Listening to the President speak, you could hear it in his voice that he was not quite there. Long pauses as he fumbled through his head to try to remember which campaign message he needed to deliver, and certainly a lot of stammering through sentences. When I got home, I was shocked to see that what I heard fit the person who was speaking. President Bush clearly was rusty. He leaned over the podium as if it was the only thing keeping him upright. When the split screen was shown (in violation of the "Memorandum of Understanding"), the President looked at times irritated, at times clueless, and at times like he was having a terrible bout with gas. And for all of the Bush team's careful scripting, last night the production did not hold to script.

This brings me up to the why questions. Why did the President look so woefully unprepared? Since they knew the debate was coming, why didn't the President perform better than he did?

My answer goes into the way in which the Bush administration has managed the press for the President. In his article, "Fortress Bush," Ken Auletta documents the obsession the Bush administration has with press management. And it has clearly worked for this administration. There is the "Friday news dump" in which bad news is released Friday afternoon. There is the insistence that reporters submit their questions ahead of time before any interview is granted, and there is the slavishness towards message control. All of these things have helped the President navigate the difficult political road that has faced him since he took office in 2001.

But it also has hurt him. The message control obsession has left the President terribly vulnerable when he is forced into an unscripted event. Think of the interview the President did last winter with Tim Russert of "Meet the Press." In that interview, the President was clearly unprepared and looked at moments as if Russert was speaking in a foreign language. Afterwards, the administration placed pressure on NBC not to allow the interview to be replayed or given out for others to use.

When the President refuses to meet with the press and his critics, when he refuses to hold regular press conferences, he succumbs to sycophants and group think. He refuses to understand that people might disagree with him, and as last night showed, he gets irritated when John Kerry actually did. No, the administration has to figure out, in the month remaining, how to undo the effects of mind control that has lasted nearly four years. If the President went to bed last night and was not worried, then he has some major problems ahead. Even President Bush's most reliable spinmeisters could not get him out of the miserable performance from last night.

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