Wednesday, June 29, 2005


My favorite part of The Onion is usually their "What Do You Think?" column in which "ordinary people" respond to the question of the week. This week the question is "The Senate continues to debate John Bolton's nomination for UN ambassador, with Bush threatening to appoint him in spite of their concerns. What do you think?"

Mindy Biancardi answers thusly, "Man, if the Democrats are going to block every terrible idea Bush has, nothing's ever going to get done in Washington."

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Blue Voice

If you've been coming by here, I thank you, but I'm not sure how much blogging I'm going to be doing here for the foreseeable future. Probably not very much. I'm going to keep this blog open and might post the odd tidbit here from time to time, but for the foreseeable future I'm going to be doing most of my political ramblings at the Blue Voice.

A bunch of us like-minded liberal bloggers met in the small world of AOL Journals and decided to pool our resources to try to make a go of it in the larger blogosphere. And voila! The Blue Voice. Drop by and see us, kick off your shoes and make yourself at home, and above all, let us know what you think.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Schmoozing with the Prez

Last week, Neil Cavuto put to rest any rumors that Fox News might be fair and balanced with an interview with President Bush that redefined "softball."

As Washington Post reporter Dan Froomkin put it in his "White House Briefing" column...

Thanks to Fox News's exclusive interview with President Bush yesterday, the leader of the free world is now on the record when it comes to John Kerry's Yale grades, Laura Bush's presidential aspirations and -- yes -- the Michael Jackson trial's effect on public policy discourse.

Who wants to talk about that messy war in Iraq, or the Downing Street Memo? Not Neil Cavuto, Fox News executive, anchor, commentator and Bush campaign contributor...

Later, (Fox News anchor John) Gibson had this to say: "Now, Neil, nobody can talk to the president very long without bringing up the war."

Cavuto: "Right..."

And yet, somehow the topic never came up. Not a single question, even though according to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, Americans consider the war in Iraq Bush's number two priority, right after the economy and jobs.

To his credit, Cavuto did ask about the number one priority. He put his question this way "Do you think you get a bum rap in the media on the economy?"

Andrew Sullivan comments that Cavuto is "the man who makes Larry King look like an interrogator at Bagram."

Why Do They Hate Our Freedoms?

Interesting goings-on going on today in Washington as a Patriot Act hearing got a little out of hand. According to ABC News...

The Republican chairman walked off with the gavel, leaving Democrats shouting into turned-off microphones at a raucous hearing Friday on the Patriot Act.

The House Judiciary Committee hearing, with the two sides accusing each other of being irresponsible and undemocratic, came as President Bush was urging Congress to renew those sections of the post-Sept. 11 counterterrorism law set to expire in September.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the panel, abruptly gaveled the meeting to an end and walked out, followed by other Republicans. Sensenbrenner declared that much of the testimony, which veered into debate over the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, was irrelevant...

Democrats asked for the hearing, the 11th the committee has held on the act since April, saying past hearings had been too slanted toward witnesses who supported the law. The four witnesses were from groups, including Amnesty International USA and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, that have questioned the constitutionality of some aspects of the act, which allows law enforcement greater authority to investigate suspected terrorists.

Nadler said Sensenbrenner, one of the authors of the Patriot Act, was "rather rude, cutting everybody off in mid-sentence with an attitude of total hostility."

Tempers flared when Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., accused Amnesty International of endangering the lives of Americans in uniform by referring to the prison at Guantanamo Bay as a "gulag." Sensenbrenner didn't allow the Amnesty representative, Chip Pitts, to respond until Nadler raised a "point of decency."

Sensenbrenner's spokesman, Jeff Lungren, said the hearing had lasted two hours and "the chairman was very accommodating, giving members extra time."

Dem Bloggers has two videos from the hearing, but they are having server problems and it takes a while to download the videos.

Sensenbrenner is one of those Republicans that hates us for our freedoms. In addition to co-authoring the Patriot Act, he is the creator of the Real ID act, which moves us one step closer to having a national identity card. The measure, which ostensibly was designed to combat illegal immigration, requires an electronically readable, government approved identity card. The Department of Homeland Security has the power to set standards and decide if your state's drivers license meets those requirements. You will have to have a federally approved ID card to travel on a plane, open a bank account or use most government services, including collecting Social Security payments. The bill also puts more responsibility on you to prove that you are who you say you are, and more responsibility on the states to verify all of your documentation, but is an unfunded mandate that does not provide any funds to the states to meet these responsibilities. If you thought the lines were long at the DMV before, just wait until this bill goes into effect.

Rather than put this turkey of a bill to a straight up or down vote, which Republicans claim to be all gung-ho about, they tacked it onto the last Iraq War spending bill, ensuring its passage.
Meanwhile, more and more states and communities are rebelling against the Patriot Act. Colorado is the latest. They just passed a bipartisan resolution calling on Congress to bring the Patriot Act into compliance with the Constitution. They join 382 communities and six other states that have issued such resolutions. The other states are Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Idaho and Vermont, all great bastions of liberalism. No, wait a minute, I think most of these are red states, aren't they?

Sixteen provisions of the Patriot Act will expire in September unless Congress acts to reauthorize them.

Update: The Dembloggers videos are loading and playing much better now. The first video shows Sensenbrenner's closing remarks and includes him refusing to yield and gaveling the meeting to a close after Rep. Jerry Nadler called for a point of order, a violation of House parliamentary rules. The second video shows some of the debate that occurred after the meeting was gaveled to a close. C-Span has video of the full hearing (two hours) on its website. It's labeled "House Hearing on Patriot Act Reauthorization (06/10/2005)."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

"The New CNN"

The news from USA Today is that CNN is revamping its lineup. The changes seem to be for the better. Time will tell...

CNN announced a slate of programming and anchor changes Monday intended to refocus the No. 2 cable news network on hard news and analysis, and away from opinion and talk...

"There are many tactical things we could do to try to beat Fox, but we're trying to be ourselves: Roll up our sleeves and report the news, don't talk about it," (new CNN chief Jon) Klein says.
News analyst Andrew Tyndall says that in making the changes, CNN chose to "counterprogram against Fox rather than compete."

...Among the changes: Your World Today, CNN International's one-hour midday broadcast anchored by Zain Verjee and Jim Clancy, will now air on CNN domestic weekdays at noon ET/9 a.m. PT, marking the first time any cable news outlet has devoted a regular daytime block — albeit a low-rated one — solely to international news. Today kicked off Monday with reports from Sudan and Syria.

After 10 years at CNN, Bill Hemmer, the co-anchor of American Morning who turned down CNN's offer to become White House correspondent and whose contract is up this year, announced he's leaving June 17.

Veteran CNN anchor Miles O'Brien, best known for his space shuttle coverage, joins Soledad O'Brien June 20 on Morning, making it an all-O'Brien newscast. "I think it's easier to remember one name in the morning," Klein joked.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer gets a weekday 3 to 6 p.m. ET news block called The Situation Room, which replaces Inside Politics, Crossfire and Wolf Blitzer Reports. The program debuts mid-summer, with Morning's Jack Cafferty and other CNN correspondents joining the program.

Klein says that Blitzer, a longtime CNN anchor and onetime White House correspondent, will focus on "the biggest and most interesting stories of the day, drawing on all our resources."
Klein, a former CBS News executive, also announced that veteran network news executives David Doss and Victor Neufeld have joined CNN. Dodd will supervise Anderson Cooper 360, Neufeld Paula Zahn Tonight.

Tyndall says that in veering toward news and away from opinion, CNN deserves credit for positioning itself as a network where news can be reported and analyzed, not just argued. "Everyone talks in talking points these days," he said. "It's not just on cable news. It's radio. It's everywhere. The entire political world is no longer talking ideas, but talking points."

Wow! Hard news and analysis! What a concept. Hopefully, the hard news doesn't include the "pervert of the day."


If it looks like a lame duck and walks like a lame duck and sounds like a lame duck, it's probably a lame duck. Here's the latest from ABC News...

June 7, 2005 — The corrosive effects of the war in Iraq and a growing disconnect on political priorities have pushed George W. Bush's performance ratings — notably on terrorism — to among the worst of his career, casting a pall over his second term and potentially over his party's prospects ahead.

For the first time, most Americans, 55 percent, say Bush has done more to divide than to unite the country. A career-high 52 percent disapprove of his job performance overall, and, in another first, a bare majority rates him unfavorably on a personal level. Most differ with him on issues ranging from the economy and Social Security to stem-cell research and nuclear power.

Iraq is a major thorn. With discontent over U.S. casualties at a new peak, a record 58 percent say the war there was not worth fighting. Nearly two-thirds think the United States has gotten bogged down in Iraq, up 11 points since March. Forty-five percent go so far as to foresee the equivalent of another Vietnam.

Fifty-two percent, the first majority to say so, think the Iraq war has failed to improve the long-term security of the United States, its fundamental rationale. As an extension — and perhaps most hazardously in political terms — approval of Bush's handling of terrorism, the base of his support, has lost 11 points since January to match its low, 50 percent in June 2004 when it was pressured both by the presidential campaign and the kidnapping and slaying of American Paul Johnson in Saudi Arabia.

All these underscore a broad sense of lost promise for the president: In January, 55 percent of Americans expected Bush to do a better job in his second term than in his first. Today, vastly fewer, 30 percent, say in fact he's doing so. And even though they remain staunchly supportive, the letdown in expectations is biggest in Bush's own back yard, among Republicans.

The complete poll can be found here. (pdf)

Monday, June 06, 2005

Iraq: Denial and Deception

"With this resolution, Congress has now authorized the use of force. I have not ordered the use of force. I hope the use of force will not become necessary. Yet, confronting the threat posed by Iraq is necessary, by whatever means that requires. Either the Iraqi regime will give up its weapons of mass destruction, or, for the sake of peace, the United States will lead a global coalition to disarm that regime. If any doubt our nation's resolve, our determination, they would be unwise to test it. "

-- President George W. Bush, October 16, 2002

"C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action...

"The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.

"The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

"The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change.

"The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD. There were different strategies for dealing with Libya and Iran. If the political context were right, people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work."

-- The Downing Street Memo, July 23, 2002

"The origins of the false contention that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction remain a serious and lingering question about the lead up to the war. There is an ongoing debate about whether this was the result of a 'massive intelligence failure,' in other words a mistake, or the result of intentional and deliberate manipulation of intelligence to justify the case for war. The memo appears to resolve that debate as well, quoting the head of British intelligence as indicating that in the United States 'the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.'

As a result of these concerns, we would ask that you respond to the following questions:
1)Do you or anyone in your administration dispute the accuracy of the leaked document?
2) Were arrangements being made, including the recruitment of allies, before you sought Congressional authorization to go to war? Did you or anyone in your Administration obtain Britain's commitment to invade prior to this time?
3) Was there an effort to create an ultimatum about weapons inspectors in order to help with the justification for the war as the minutes indicate?
4) At what point in time did you and Prime Minister Blair first agree it was necessary to invade Iraq?
5) Was there a coordinated effort with the U.S. intelligence community and/or British officials to 'fix' the intelligence and facts around the policy as the leaked document states?

--Senator John Conyers's letter to President Bush

Click here to add your name to Senator Conyers's letter.

More Required Reading

Jonathan Alter's latest Newsweek column is a gas. In "If Watergate Happened Now" he imagines the consequences if Richard Nixon were our president now and Watergate was a new story. The column is a retrospective look back at the conclusion of Richard Nixon's complete second term. A few excerpts...

Those of us who hoped it would end differently knew we were in trouble when former Nixon media adviser Roger Ailes banned the word "Watergate" from Fox News's coverage and went with the logo "Assault on the Presidency" instead. By that time, the American people figured both sides were just spinning, and a tie always goes to the incumbent.

Once they (Woodward and Bernstein) scored a few scoops with the help of anonymous sources, Sean Hannity et al. went on a rampage. When the young reporters printed an article about grand jury testimony that turned out to be wrong, Drudge and the bloggers had a field day, even though none of them had lifted a finger to try to advance the story. After that, the Silent Majority wouldn't shut up.

Just as in the Valerie Plame case, the Justice Department subpoenaed Woodward and Bernstein to testify before the grand jury about their sources. When they declined, they were jailed for 18 months on contempt charges.

With Woodward and Bernstein out of business, the No. 2 man at the FBI, W. Mark Felt, held a press conference to air complaints that the White House and his own boss were impeding the FBI probe. Of course it was only a one-day story, with Ann Coulter predictably screaming that Felt was a "traitor." Rush Limbaugh dubbed Felt "Special Agent Sour Grapes" because he'd been passed over for the top FBI job. Within hours, the media had moved on to the tale of a runaway bride.

Ken Duberstein and a few other principled Republicans weighed in that Nixon was bad news, but they were drowned out by former aides like Pat Buchanan and G. Gordon Liddy, who wanted to firebomb the Brookings Institution. When "Firebombing Brookings: Good Idea or Not?" became the "Question of the Day" on MSNBC, Liddy's radio show got a nice ratings boost. After Ralph Reed disclosed that Nixon and Henry Kissinger had been on their knees praying in the Oval Office, Nixon went up 15 points in the Gallup, double among "people of faith." Our long national nightmare was just beginning.

Satire or truth?

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Required Reading

I was going to quote to you some of Mark Morford's latest column for the San Francisco Chronicle, "Bush, the Spoiled Man-Child," but it's all good. See for yourself.

Interesting Tidbit of the Day

According to an Information Security Oversight Office report (via the Reason Hit and Run blog), the Executive Branch of the federal government spent over $7 billion (yes, with a 'b') to keep government information away from you. This does not include the CIA budget, which is classified.

1995 = $2.7 Billion
1996 = $2.6 Billion
1997 = $3.4 Billion
1998 = $3.6 Billion
1999 = $3.8 Billion
2000 = $4.3 Billion
2001 = $4.7 Billion
2002 = $5.7 Billion
2003 = $6.5 Billion
2004 = $7.2 Billion

Wal-Mart Meets Reality (TV)

Wal-Mart has been having a lot of trouble with their image lately. A lot of critics have been sniping at them for various things, and it's affecting business and keeping the company on the defensive. They're constantly trying new things to burnish their image, including aggressive campaign ads, a website to counter the anti-Wal-Mart websites, a big media conference, whatever their PR people can think up.

Wal-Mart's latest move is a new reality show called "The Scholar" that pits 10 high-school senoirs against one another to win the grand prize, a full college scholarship valued at $250,000. Wal-Mart is a major sponsor of the show, Wal-Mart will be integrated into the "plots" of the show, and Wal-Mart is underwriting the cost of the scholarships awarded to the runners-up.

I kind of fall into the gray middle ground on the subject of Wal-Mart. I mostly side with the critics. I deplore a lot of their business practices. I wish they would pay their "associates" more and give them better benefits. I hate how they've drifted away from their "Buy American" campaign and get more and more of their goods from overseas. I hate how their quest for lower and lower prices puts the squeeze on their suppliers, driving many into outsourcing. I wish they would spend a little less time and energy burnishing their image, and a little more time and energy actually improving their business practices. But, I confess, I am an occasional Wal-Mart shopper. It's the place to go to get a gallon jar of pickles for a couple of bucks or to get some toilet paper at one o'clock in the morning.

Wal-Mart has the best prices around, but if you shop there you have to consider the hidden costs that come with the good deal. A while back, Rep. George Miller was trying to keep Wal-Mart out of his state, California, and compiled an interesting report called "Everyday Low Wages: The Hidden Price We All Pay for Wal-Mart." (pdf) One section leapt out at me:

"The Democratic Staff of the Committee on Education and the Workforce estimates that one 200-person Wal-Mart store may result in a cost to federal taxpayers of $420,750 per year - about $2,103 per employee. Specifically, the low wages result in the following additional public costs being passed along to taxpayers:

$36,000 a year for free and reduced lunches for just 50 qualifying Wal-Mart families.
$42,000 a year for Section 8 housing assistance, assuming 3 percent of the store employees qualify for such assistance, at $6,700 per family.
$125,000 a year for federal tax credits and deductions for low-income families, assuming 50 employees are heads of households with a child and 50 are married with two children.
$100,000 a year for the additional Title I expenses, assuming 50 Wal-Mart families qualify with an average of 2 children.
$108,000 a year for the additional federal health care costs of moving into state children's health insurance programs (S-CHIP), assuming 30 employees with an average of two children qualify.$9,750 a year for the additional costs for low-income energy assistance."

If Wal-Mart really wants to improve their image with me, they should do something about this. They should stop passing their business costs on to the taxpayers. The above stats don't even include the tremendous financial burden they are putting on state governments by having so many employees on Medicaid rolls. Low prices are good, but Wal-Mart is proving that there is such a thing as too low. If it's a question of money, I'll gladly pay five or ten cents more for my pickles and toilet paper.

Thursday, June 02, 2005


What do the following books have in common?

Alfred Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, John Maynard Keynes's The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, Charles Darwin's Origin of Species and Descent of Man, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, Ralph Nader's Unsafe at Any Speed, Karl Marx's and Freidrich Engels's The Communist Manifesto, Mao Zedong's Quotations from Chairman Mao, John Dewey's Democracy and Education, B. F Skinner's Beyond Freedom and Dignity, Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa, and Sigmund Freud's Introduction to Psychoanalysis.

The right-wing wingnuts at Human Events Online assembled a panel of distinguished right-wing wingnuts to come up with the "Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centurys." The list above is just some of the books they came up with. They either made the top 10 or were listed as honorable mentions. I guess there is nothing more harmful than ideas or thinking.

So what books does Human Events Online recommend? Well, the Human Events Book Service offers several interesting books for sale, including Robert A. Levy's Shakedown: How Trial Lawyers Are Abusing the Judicial Process to Enrich Themselves at Our Expense, Ben Shapiro's Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism Is Corrupting Our Future, Michael Savage's Liberalism Is a Mental Disorder, and, of course, Byron York's Vast Left Wing Conspiracy.

On their homepage, Human Events Online has their "Readers' Top Five," the Human Events Book Service's bestselling books:

1. The Grammar Bible by Michael Strumpf and Auriel Douglas - "In one handy reference: answers to all your toughest questions about good grammar."

They might want to be careful about selling this one. If you learn grammar, you may learn to write. Next thing you know, you might start thinking for yourself.

4. Safely Prosperous or Really Rich? by Howard Ruff - "Whether you want to be 'really rich' or just 'safely prosperous' -- here's how to achieve your own Financial Heaven."

But why settle for just safely prosperous when you can be Really Rich? And why settle for Really Rich when you can be Bloody Stinking Rich? The other spots on their Top 5 are all anti-Muslim diatribes.

2. Infiltration by Paul Sperry - "How radical Muslims masquerading as 'moderates' are infiltrating our government, our military, our prisons, our schools -- and even the Department of Homeland Security."

3. The Life and Religion of Mohammed by J. L. Menezes - "Mohammed: the ugly truth about the founder of the world's most violent religion."

5. The Sword of the Prophet by Serge Trifkovic - "What Muslims, multiculturalists, and the media hope you never find out about Islam."

Hmmm...Is it possible, maybe, that they might have gotten their lists mixed up?

The Pervert of the Day

"I would like to see us return to a little more international coverage on the domestic feed and a little more environmental coverage, and maybe a little less pervert of the day. I mean, there's a lot of perversion around, I know that, but is it really news? I mean, some of it is. I guess you've got to cover Michael Jackson, but not three stories about perversion at the lead of every half-hour."

-- CNN founder Ted Turner, speaking on the occasion of the cable news network's 25th anniversary yesterday