Easter Lemming Liberal News

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

'Queer Eye' Questions Code Orange


Carson Kressley, the fashion savant of the hit series “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” today questioned Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge’s choice of orange for the current terror alert, calling the color “wildly unflattering.”

“I don’t know too many men who can pull off orange,” Kressley said. “And if I were a big husky boy like Tom Ridge, I would definitely avoid it like the plague.”

By issuing an orange alert, Kressley argued, Ridge was putting the nation “at a greater fashion risk than ever before.”

We’re all running around worrying about al Qaeda, but that doesn’t mean we should have to worry about looking bad, too,” Kressley said.



Another Story on the Dem's Good Ol' Boy Problem


Democrats Losing the Lease on Their Old Kentucky Home

Kentucky state Sen. Tim Shaughnessy, another Democrat, plans to disassociate himself from the national party during his run for reelection next year. "The Democrats are beginning to look like an extremist fringe group," he said. "There's no clear message being delivered — not here and not on the national level."

Shaughnessy is now in the minority in the state Senate, something that would have been hard to imagine in 1988, when Democrats controlled the chamber by nearly a 5-to-1 margin. Republicans now outnumber the Democrats 22 to 16. The GOP took over the chamber in 1999, when two state senators switched parties to join the Republicans.



Black Lawmaker Flips Out In Redistricting Deposition


Houston Press : The Insider Party of One, Ron Wilson gets down on fellow Democrats

Now that he's the only black Texas lawmaker to have voted for the controversial Republican-crafted redistricting plan, Wilson has formally declared war on the party's white liberal establishment and many of his fellow African-American officials.

After a turn on the witness stand two weeks ago in the Democratic lawsuit challenging the plan, Wilson attacked colleague Garnet Coleman for his history of manic depression. Many considered it a low blow, but that was just one more unstatesmanlike wisecrack in an ongoing torrent of invective by the Houston legislator.

Perhaps the most pungent unreported trial verbiage came in an exchange between Wilson and the Democrats' pro bono attorney, Susman Godfrey partner Lee Godfrey. Asked by Godfrey if he was the only black to support redistricting, Wilson answered, "I am the only one that had the -- things -- big enough to do it."

Godfrey then noted that "those things are not something we can see as we're sitting here, would that be correct?" Wilson invited Godfrey to come up to the witness stand and "I'll show it to you." A trial lawyer claims that Wilson muttered under his breath -- not on the record -- to Godfrey: "You'll see the rumors about black men are true!"

Given the heightened hostility between Wilson and the party establishment, it's certain he'll face a challenge in the spring Democratic primary. State Board of Education member Alma Allen ran against Wilson two years ago and will likely get support from peeved party officials eager to remove a major embarrassment.



The 10 Dumbest Political Quotes of 2003


#1 "I triple guarantee you. There are no American infidels in Baghdad." — Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf (AKA "Baghdad Bob"). This was after American news channels showed American tanks inside Baghdad.

#7: "George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters in the United States. He was appointed by God." —Lt. Gen. William Boykin, the defense undersecretary in charge of hunting down top terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan

and eight more!



Top Mainstream Media Nude Scenes for 2003


Top Nude Scenes, Year 2003

1. Christina Ricci in "Prozac Nation"

After its theatrical release was postponed several times, then scrubbed altogether, Prozac Nation finally made it to DVD in several countries in 2003, just in time to make its rising star the woman we were happiest to see naked this year



Interesting Comments on 'NeoCons' and Right 'Realists'


Over at the Whiskey Bar. I don't agree with all of it, for one thing I think Cheney and Rumsfeld are NeoCon's and for another I might call 'Realists' perhaps 'RealPolitikers' but worth reading. Good comments too.

Twilight of the NeoCons? and What is a NeoCon?



Jim Hightower -- The New Koppel Primary


Intervention Magazine :: "I want the American people to see where the media takes politics in this country. To start [by] talking about endorsements. Now we're talking about polls. And then we're talking about money. Well, you know, when you do that, you don't have to talk about what's important to the American people." The audience erupted in applause [to Kuccinich's remarks.]

The very next day, ABC retaliated by pulling its journalists from the campaigns of Kucinich, Sharpton and Mosely-Braun. Not that ABC had been allowing much airtime for any of them – all three of these candidates combined had been mentioned only ten times this entire year on ABC's nightly news show.

Even before the primaries begin and the people get to vote, ABC has unilaterally eliminated a third of the Democratic contenders. Call it the Koppel Primary.




Why In The Hell Does Bush Disagree With His Father?


We should not march into Baghdad, turning the whole Arab world against us. Assigning young soldiers to a fruitless hunt for a securely entrenched dictator and condemning them to fight in what would be an unwinnable urban guerilla war, it could only plunge that part of the world into ever greater instability. A World Transformed, by Brent Scowcroft and George H. W. Bush, Knopf, September 1998.



Give'm Hell Dean


Dean Labels Bush 'Reckless'

From Iraq to homeland security to public health, President Bush's "reckless" habit of placing "ideology over facts" has resulted in "the most dangerous administration in my lifetime," Democrat Howard Dean charged over the past two days.

Dean accused Bush of taking "enormous risks" by refusing to negotiate with North Korea, permitting "warlords" to control much of Afghanistan and failing to address the most serious threats to homeland security.

More than once, Dean drew direct connections between Bush's 10-year, $3 trillion tax cuts and critical security investments. "If you think tax cuts are more important than homeland security, then I think you've made a mistake as president, and clearly that puts us in greater danger," he said in the interview.

A physician, Dean also accused the administration of stubbornly ignoring warnings about mad cow disease and blindly promoting an abstinence-only sex education program that "is not a good solution at all for teens who have decided to have sex."

"Ordinary farmers in Iowa can't sell their calves right now because the president of the United States did not take the precautions that we could have easily predicted," he said. By choosing "ideology over facts," he added, the Republican administration is "not only a failure, but the most dangerous administration in my lifetime."

Other Democrats busy attacking Dean out of desperation.

Jay Carson, spokesman for Dean, said the Vermont Democrat is running a positive campaign that can generate the money and momentum to beat Bush. He said it is Dean's rivals who are doing the attacking -- out of desperation. "The politics of attack . . . is exactly the kind of politics that turns off voters and suppresses turnout," Carson said. "It's bad for the party."



Confirmed - MI-6 'misled' media on Iraq from lates 90's on


The Australian -- Britain's intelligence services ran a publicity campaign to gain support for sanctions and the use of military force in Iraq, it has emerged.

The Government confirmed at the weekend that MI6 had organised Operation Mass Appeal, a campaign to plant stories in the media about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

The admission followed claims by Scott Ritter, a former US Marine who led 14 inspection missions in Iraq, that MI6 had recruited him in 1997 to help with the propaganda effort. He described meetings where the senior officer and at least two other MI6 staff had discussed ways to manipulate intelligence material.

"The aim was to convince the public that Iraq was a far greater threat than it actually was," Mr Ritter said last week.

Democracy Now - Former U.N. Iraqi Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter discusses how he was personally involved in the MI6’s "Operation Mass Appeal" in the late 1990s to "shake up public opinion" by passing dubious intelligence on Iraq to the media.

el - MI-6 had originally said the allegations were unfounded but this weekend a spokesman confessed to the propaganda campaign but tried to say they did not know the intelligence was dubious.

Times of India: "Stories ran in the media about secret underground facilities in Iraq and ongoing programmes to produce weapons of mass destruction," said Ritter.

"They were sourced to western intelligence and all of them were garbage." Kelly, himself a former United Nations weapons inspector and colleague of Ritter, might also have been used by MI6 to pass information to journalists.

"Kelly was a known and government-approved conduit with the media," said Ritter.

ADDED - Copy of Original Sunday Times article.



Our So-Called Boom


Krugman -- In the third quarter of 2003, as everyone knows, real G.D.P. rose at an annual rate of 8.2 percent. But wage and salary income, adjusted for inflation, rose at an annual rate of only 0.8 percent. More recent data don't change the picture: in the six months that ended in November, income from wages rose only 0.65 percent after inflation.

Such measures as the length of time it takes laid-off workers to get new jobs continue to indicate the worst job market in 20 years.

According to the most recent estimate, only 8 percent of corporate taxes were paid by the poorest 60 percent of families, while 67 percent were paid by the richest 5 percent, and 49 percent by the richest 1 percent.

The bottom line, then, is that for most Americans, current economic growth is a form of reality TV, something interesting that is, however, happening to other people. This may change if serious job creation ever kicks in, but it hasn't so far.


Monday, December 29, 2003


Dean Wants $100B for New Jobs in Cities


Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean wants to improve the nation's cities by putting $100 billion toward creating a million jobs, increasing the federal minimum wage to $7 an hour, and providing credit for urban businesses.

Dean said he also wants to protect worker overtime pay and create a Small Business Capital Corporation to invest $1 billion in new loans aimed at creating 100,000 new small-business jobs in the first three years.

His plan would set up a national fund to provide a permanent source of funding to build, rehabilitate and preserve affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families, and double the amount for the Community Development Block Grant program to $10 billion.

Other Democratic presidential candidates have promoted [very similar] policies for strengthening cities and regaining lost jobs.


Is Peace Really Good For Bush?


Democratic activists based outside Washington, particularly in battleground states that have lost a lot of manufacturing jobs since Bush took office, have no trouble coming up with arguments against Bush. Their critique centers on the economic struggles of the working class - people who have a hard time making ends meet, getting a decent education for their children, and paying for health insurance.

If the Democrats seem prepared to fight the election on the grounds of class warfare, the Republicans seem prepared to go after many of those same swing voters on cultural grounds. Mr. Reed, in a recent column in the Washington Post, wrote archly about fellow Democrats moaning that if Bush gets to campaign on peace and prosperity, "what's left for us to run on? Gay marriage?"

Bruce Reed, a former top Clinton aide and president of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, sees the battleground states - economically hurting, culturally conservative - coming down to the wire in 2004. "Voters will be conflicted about which concerns to make paramount," he said in an interview.

He also argued that, in fact, peace and prosperity don't necessarily hand the election to Bush. If Americans are feeling more relaxed about safety by November 2004, that will allow them to turn to the domestic concerns (education and healthcare costs) that traditionally favor the Democrats.



Mad Cow Roulette


Agriculture Department admits: Its testing was never meant to stop a diseased cow from reaching the public, Dr. Ron DeHaven, the department's chief veterinarian. It was meant to reach a statistical level of probability that it could spot one case in a million.

If they've found one infected animal in a million, how many more are out there?


Since 1997, Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, has sent numerous letters to Agriculture Department officials warning that the American testing was "flawed in both design and execution," and that native brain disease, not necessarily caused by feed imported from Britain in the 1980's, "may be hiding among the 'downer cow' population."

It also warned that studies suggested that some pigs suffered from encephalopathy, particularly dangerous because it is still legal to feed rendered pigs - pig parts boiled, ground and dried into a powder - to cows. In 2001, Public Citizen, a consumer group, issued a report saying that testing for mad cow was "in disarray," with huge differences in testing rates among states.



How many days has Bush spent on vacation?


250 days as of August 2003, that's 2 1/2 years - or 100 days a year.

Clinton took 152 in 7 years, last year unavailable, or less than 22 days a year. Carter was the most workaholic at 20 vacation days a year.

This was the number one most asked Ask Yahoo question in 2003.



Jobless Count Skips Millions


The rate hits 9.7% when the underemployed and those who have quit looking are added.

el - higher still if you factor in a higher prison population and a much higher percentage of workers drawing disability.





Mad Cow Politics - Money Talks


The dairy industry, which opposed a ban on selling meat from "downed animals," won nearly unanimous support in a close vote from key House members it contributed to this year.

Political action committees representing dairy farmers gave money to 33 of the 51 members of the House Agriculture Committee, an Associated Press review of campaign reports shows.

Of the 33, 28 voted against the ban on marketing downers — cows too sick or injured to walk on their own — while four voted for the ban and one didn't vote. The House defeated the measure, 202-199, in July.

The Senate approved the ban on a voice vote in November, but it was left out of the final compromise spending bill passed by the House this month and awaiting action in the Senate

During floor debate in July, Stenholm lectured New York Democrat Gary Ackerman, author of the proposed ban in the House, that he did "not understand the cattle business," and argued that most downed animals are merely lame.

Ackerman now says that Agriculture Committee members thought they were protecting the cattle industry but wound up hurting it.

Fast food chains such as Wendy's, Burger King and McDonald's don't accept meat from downed animals, and the Agriculture Department prohibits it in the federal school lunch program.



Dave Barry - Between Iraq and a Hard Place


It was the Year of the Troubling Question. Year in Review 2003.

The most troubling one was: What the heck happened to all those weapons of mass destruction that were supposed to be in Iraq? Apparently there was an intelligence mix-up. As CIA Director George Tenet noted recently, "Our thinking now is that the weapons of mass destruction might actually be in that other one, whaddyacallit, Iran. Or Michigan. We're pretty sure the letter 'i' is involved."

Some other troubling questions from 2003 were:

* If Californians hated Gray Davis so much, why did they elect him governor twice? Did Gray have photos of the entire California electorate naked? Can we see them?

* Why did Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck -- whose sole achievement in 2003 was to co-star in "Gigli," a film so bad it was used to torture suspected terrorists -- receive more media attention than the entire continent of Asia, and nearly as much as Kobe Bryant?

* Who's watching all these "reality" TV shows? Nobody admits to watching them; everybody agrees they're even stupider than those infomercials wherein Ron Popeil spends 30 minutes liquefying vegetables to the rapturous delight of a live, if half-witted, audience. And yet "reality" shows keep getting ratings. Who are the viewers? Have houseplants learned to operate remote controls?

Very funny long Dave Barry.



Half-Truths on Mad Cow Disease


Worried consumers have also been told that there is no scientific evidence showing that people can contract the human variant of mad cow disease when beef has been slaughtered in a way that strips brain and spinal cord tissue away from muscle. The USDA said the infected dairy cow was slaughtered in this way.

el - This is a half-truth. Would you expect anything else from an administration addicted to lies and beholden to corporate interests. Prions can be transmitted by lymph nodes and muscle and separate studies show it present in blood and nerves. On the FDA site itself, unless they quickly remove it, they say experiments with mice have shown the disease is present in the muscle tissue. Meat is all muscle tissue.

Dean had a very informative speech criticizing the Bush administration for blocking policies that would have prevented the disease from getting into sold hamburger meat and also policies making beef easier to track.

And more news: The good news about the 1997 infected beef crisis in Great Britain is that it only killed 130 people. The bad news is that people have been dying from meat they ate 10 years ago.

One of the characteristics of the brain-wasting disease is a dormant period, both in the infected animal and in humans who contracted Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease, which researchers believe is connected to BSE, the author said.

[One major scientist] believes that chronic wasting disease (CWD) running rampant through state deer populations is in the same disease family.

“Most deer that have tested positive for CWD have looked healthy,” he said. “It’s only in the last stages that the symptoms show up.”

Although there were 35 to 37 million cattle slaughtered last year in America, Stauber claims the government tested just 20,000 for the wasting disease.

Stauber said government reports have indicated that the infectious protein or prion is only found in the brain tissue or spine of an infected animal, but other studies point to nerves and blood vessels as another potential source of contamination in the meat supply.

Tech Central is more than spreading half-truths, it is paid propaganda for agri-business. The article is worthless and misleading pseudo-science.



Democrats Buying Airtime to Explain Views


Howard Dean has run half-hour programs in Wisconsin, New Mexico and Iowa that profiled his family, featured supporters and sought donations. In New Hampshire, Joe Lieberman has aired footage from a town-hall meeting where he talked about issues including prescription drugs and the environment. John Kerry held a similar forum that was broadcast live across Iowa, and he plans another live forum for early January in New Hampshire.

The concept isn't new. Ross Perot spent millions filling the TV airwaves with half-hour ads with quirky titles like "Deep Voodoo, Chicken Feathers and The American Dream" during his presidential runs in 1992 and 1996. George W. Bush, Al Gore and Bill Bradley each ran at least one long-format program in the 2000 primaries.

Dean ran a half-hour program once early this month as a test in a relatively cheap media market, Madison, Wis., to determine its effectiveness. The spot, which included Dean's experiences as a doctor and Vermont governor, cost $2,100. The campaign collected more than that in donations on the day it ran, and it decided to run the program again in that media market as well as in Albuquerque, N.M., and Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

el - Perot convinced me on his first run that he would do no worse than the other guys in a half-hour spot.



Blame Leaks Probe Is Gathering Momentum


Administration and CIA officials said they have seen signs in the past few weeks that the investigation continues intensively behind closed doors, even though little about the investigation has been publicly said or seen for months.

The Justice Department has added a fourth prosecutor to the team investigating the leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity, while the FBI has said a grand jury may be called to take testimony from administration officials, sources close to the case said.



How To Get Bubba to Vote Democratic


Democrats have to stick to the issues; they can’t let themselves get too tangled up in taking sides in the ‘cultural war’ questions of the day. They can’t get any real mileage out of affirmative action, the pledge of allegiance, and gay marriage, ‘cause the right sings Bubba’s tune on those issues.

But what Bubba doesn’t know is how much he’s been lied to about things he actually cares about – war and the economy. Bubba’s dying in Iraq and being sucked dry at home. The left needs to do more than simply confront Bubba with BushCo’s destructive policies and their hideous consequences. They need to show Bubba how badly BushCo lies about everything and do so unceasingly.

‘Cause if there’s one thing Bubba hates more than being out of beer on game day, it’s being made a fool of.

Allen Snyder is an instructor of Philosophy and Ethics. This article is copyright by Allen Snyder and originally published by opednews.com but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this credit is attached.



Christmas in Baghdad...


Explosions and bombing almost all day yesterday and deep into the night. At some points it gets hard to tell who is bombing who? Resistance or Americans? Tanks or mortars? Cluster bombs or IEDs? Nothing on the news… to see the reports on CNN, Abu Dhabi, and Al-Arabia you'd think there was nothing going on in Baghdad beyond the usual thumps and thuds. Yesterday was *very* unusual. Embassies, mines, residential areas and the Green Zone… and the sirens. I hate the sirens. I can stand the explosions, the rattling windows, the slamming doors, the planes, the helicopters… but I feel like my heart is wailing when I hear the sirens.

Kids in Iraq also believe in Santa Claus, but people here call him 'Baba Noel' which means, "Father Noel". I asked the children what he looked like and they generally agreed that he was fat, cheerful, decked in red and had white hair. (Their impertinent 11-year-old explains that he's fat because of the dates, cheerful because of the alcohol and wears red because he's a communist!) He doesn't drop into Iraqi homes through the chimney, though, because very few Iraqi homes actually have chimneys. He also doesn't drop in unexpectedly in the middle of the night because that's just rude. He acts as more of an inspiration to parents when they are out buying Christmas gifts for the kids; a holiday muse, if you will. The reindeer are a foreign concept here.

The annual ritual around Christmas for many Christians in Baghdad used to be generally hanging out with family and friends on Christmas Eve, exchanging gifts and food (always food- if you're Iraqi, it's going to be food) and receiving guests and well-wishers. At 12 am, many would attend a Christmas service at their local church and light candles to greet the Christmas spirit. Christmas day would be like our first day of Eid- eating and drinking, receiving family, friends and neighbors and preparing for the inevitable Christmas party in the evening at either a friend's house or in one of the various recreational clubs in Baghdad.

At one point during the evening, the house was dark and there was no electricity. We sat, gathered around on the ground, eating date-balls and watching Abu Josef's dog chew on the lowest branch of the tree. The living room was lit by the warm light radiating from the kerosene heater and a few Christmas candles set on the coffee table. Abu Josef's phone suddenly rang shrilly and Abu Josef ran to pick it up. It was his brother in Toronto and it was the perfect Christmas gift because it was the first time Abu Josef got an overseas call since the war- we were all amazed.

Baghdad Burning - Girl Blog from Iraq... let's talk war, politics and occupation.



Army Stops Many Soldiers From Leaving


In a new form of the draft, the military is preventing soldiers from leaving when their tour of duty is up.

To the Pentagon, stop-loss orders are a finger in the dike -- a tool to halt the hemorrhage of personnel, and maximize cohesion and experience, for units in the field in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Through a series of stop-loss orders, the Army alone has blocked the possible retirements and departures of more than 40,000 soldiers, about 16,000 of them National Guard and reserve members who were eligible to leave the service this year. Hundreds more in the Air Force, Navy and Marines were briefly blocked from retiring or departing the military at some point this year.

By prohibiting soldiers and officers from leaving the service at retirement or the expiration of their contracts, military leaders have breached the Army's manpower limit of 480,000 troops, a ceiling set by Congress. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, disclosed that the number of active-duty soldiers has crept over the congressionally authorized maximum by 20,000 and now registered 500,000 as a result of stop-loss orders. Several lawmakers questioned the legality of exceeding the limit by so much.

To many of the soldiers whose retirements and departures are on ice, however, stop-loss is an inconvenience, a hardship and, in some cases, a personal disaster. Some are resigned to fulfilling what they consider their patriotic duty. Others are livid, insisting they have fallen victim to a policy that amounts to an unannounced, unheralded draft.



Sunday, December 28, 2003

Saudi Arabia, America's ally and enemy


Is Civil War Likely?

Saudi Arabia is in the throes of a crisis. Its population is growing faster than its economy, its welfare state is rapidly deteriorating, regional and sectarian resentments are rising, and the disaffected are increasingly turning to radical Islamic activism. Many understand that the Saudi political system must evolve in order to survive, but a profound cultural schizophrenia prevents the elite from agreeing on the specifics of reform.




Will White Men Elect Bush?


President Bush's overwhelming strength among white men looms as a central obstacle between Democrats and the White House as 2004 approaches.

In an election season heavily shaped by terrorism and national security, several recent polls suggest Bush could dominate white male voters as thoroughly as Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush did during their three successive presidential victories in the 1980s.

"Clearly, it is where the Democrats are going to have their biggest difficulty," said Ruy Teixeira, a public opinion analyst at the Century Foundation, a liberal think tank.

Recent polls underscore the challenge for Democrats with white men. In an ABC/Washington Post survey released last week, white men preferred Bush over an unnamed Democrat in 2004 by 62% to 29%, a head-turning 33-point margin; by contrast, white women gave Bush just a 10-point lead.

Similarly, a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press poll this month found Bush leading an unnamed Democrat by 30 points among white men and enjoying a 68% approval rating with the group.

el - it will need to be a tough Democrat to make headway. Which Democrat do you think is toughest?



The Split Between Dem Leaders and Dem Base


Dean's rivals offer alternatives, from Gephardt's union-based, old-Democrat appeal to Lieberman's desire to recreate Clinton's old New Democrat model to Kerry's and Clark's appeal on national security experience to Edwards's economic populism and optimism. But the divisions among Democrats heading into the election year appear to be less ideological than in some years. Instead the Dean candidacy symbolizes the split between party activists and party leaders.

"Democratic Party activists, whatever their ideological perspective, have a view that their leaders have been completely ineffective in combating President Bush," one Democratic strategist said. "The leaders have a view that either they're doing the best they can or that more clever centrism is better or they need someone with a military background at the head of the party."

Al From, who heads the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, credited Dean with running a successful campaign but questioned whether he can effectively lead the party as nominee. "We need to lay out a reason to replace Bush," From said. "We can't just depend on the fact that the activists in our party are angry at him and like Dean. There aren't enough of them."

But another centrist leader, Simon B. Rosenberg of the New Democratic Network, said party leaders here should recognize what Dean has done. "The Washington party is a failed party, and Dean's criticism of the Washington party is incredibly accurate," he said. "We're completely out of power and heading for permanent minority status if we don't start modernizing the party. Dean has been a modernizer and innovator, and should be embraced for it. Instead he's being attacked for doing it differently."

el - The rest of the article is one long Dean bash.



US rejects Blair's Iraq claims


The top US official in Iraq has rejected claims be Prime Minister Tony Blair that evidence of hidden weapons laboratories have been unearthed in Iraq.

[Blair] said the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) had unearthed "massive evidence of a huge system of clandestine laboratories".

It showed Saddam Hussein had attempted to "conceal weapons", he told British forces, including thousands serving in the Gulf.

But that was not true, said Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, who did not realise Mr Blair had made the claim when it was put to him.

In fact, he said it sounded like a "red herring" put about by someone opposed to military action to undermine the coalition.

"I don't know where those words come from but that is not what (ISG chief) David Kay has said," he told ITV1's Jonathan Dimbleby programme.



With Saddam Gone Pace of U.S. Casualties Has Accelerated


From Sept. 1 through Friday, 145 service members were killed in action in Iraq, compared with 65 from May 1 to Aug. 30. The two four-month intervals cover counterinsurgency operations, far costlier than major combat operations, which President Bush declared over on May 1.

Increases in those wounded in action have been equally dramatic this fall. Since Sept. 1, 1,209 soldiers have received battlefield wounds, more than twice the 574 wounded in action from May 1 through Aug. 30.

Nor have casualties tapered off since the capture of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein on Dec. 13. Through Friday, 12 service members were killed in action and 105 were wounded with Hussein in custody.



While The Nation Was Diverted By Saddam Capture...


Bush snuck into law many parts of Patriot Act II by signing a bill on Saturday.

While broadening the definition of "financial institution," the Bush administration is ramping up provisions within the 2001 USA Patriot Act, which granted the FBI the authority to obtain client records from banks by merely requesting the records in a "National Security Letter." To get the records, the FBI doesn't have to appear before a judge, nor demonstrate "probable cause" - reason to believe that the targeted client is involved in criminal or terrorist activity. Moreover, the National Security Letters are attached with a gag order, preventing any financial institution from informing its clients that their records have been surrendered to the FBI. If a financial institution breaches the gag order, it faces criminal penalties. And finally, the FBI will no longer be required to report to Congress how often they have used the National Security Letters.

Opponents claim the FBI already has all the tools to stop crime and terrorism. Moreover, explains Patrick Filyk, an attorney and vice president of the local chapter of the ACLU, "The only thing the act accomplishes is the removal of judicial oversight and the transfer of more power to law enforcements agents."



The New Bush Iraq Plan of Cutting and Running


The United States has backed away from several of its more ambitious initiatives to transform Iraq's economy, political system and security forces as attacks on U.S. troops have escalated and the timetable for ending the civil occupation has accelerated.

Plans to privatize state-owned businesses -- a key part of a larger Bush administration goal to replace the socialist economy of deposed president Saddam Hussein with a free-market system -- have been dropped over the past few months. So too has a demand that Iraqis write a constitution before a transfer of sovereignty.

With the administration's plans tempered by time and threat, the U.S. administrator of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, and his deputies are now focused on forging compromises with Iraqi leaders and combating a persistent insurgency in order to meet a July 1 deadline to transfer sovereignty to a provisional government.

el - The real Rove/Bush plan has always been keeping himself in power.



NYT Editorial: The New Republicans


The two halves of Republican policy no longer fit together. A political majority that believes in big government for people, and little or no government for corporations, has produced an unsustainable fiscal policy that combines spending on social programs with pork and tax cuts for the rich. Massive budget deficits have been the inevitable result. Something similar happened in the Reagan administration. But unlike Ronald Reagan, Mr. Bush has given no hint of a midcourse adjustment to repair revenue flow. In fact, his Congressional leaders talk of still more tax cuts next year to extend the $1.7 trillion already enacted. That would compound deficits, which could reach $5 trillion in the decade.

This, it appears, is what compassionate conservatism really means. The conservative part is a stern and sometimes intrusive government to regulate the citizenry, but with a hands-off attitude toward business. The compassionate end involves some large federal programs combined with unending sympathy for the demands of special interests. If only it all added up.


Saturday, December 27, 2003

Democrats Need Will To Win


Bob Herbert: The strongest ticket might be Dean-Clark. But the Democrats need more than a candidate or two. The party needs a plan. It needs a coherent, compelling, convincing narrative that shows how voters and the nation would be better off under Dean or Clark or Dick Gephardt -- take your pick -- than they are now.

To regain control of the White House, the Democrats need to give voters, who are frightened by terrorism and disoriented by the pace of 21st century events, new reasons to hope. That can only be done by a thoughtful, united, energized and creative party. A party with a plan and a ferocious will to win.

A party that I don’t see at the moment.

el - Bob Herbert doesn't see the Deaners committed to taking this county, and party, back.



Administration Brushed Aside Mad Cow Threat Warnings


Expert Warned That Mad Cow Was Imminent

The [Agriculture] department had been willfully blind to the threat, he said. The only reason mad cow disease had not been found here, he said, is that the department's animal inspection agency was testing too few animals. Once more cows are tested, he added, "we'll be able to understand the magnitude of our problem."

This nation should immediately start testing every cow that shows signs of illness and eventually every single cow upon slaughter, he said he told Ms. Veneman. Japan has such a program and is finding the disease in young asymptomatic animals.

Cattle with sporadic disease are probably entering the food chain in the United States in small numbers, Dr. Prusiner and other experts say.

Brain tissue from the newly discovered dairy cow in Washington is now being tested in Britain to see if it matches prion strains that caused the mad cow epidemic there, or if it is a homegrown American sporadic strain, Dr. Prusiner said.

Newer tests, by a variety of companies, are more sensitive, cheaper and faster. Dr. Prusiner said that his test could even detect extremely small amounts of infectious prion in very young animals with no symptoms. Sold by InPro Biotechnology in South San Francisco, a single testing operation could process 8,000 samples in 24 hours, he said.

British health officials will start using the test in February, Dr. Prusiner said. If adopted in this country, it would raise the price of a pound of meat by two to three cents, he said.



Ousider Dean Taps Party Base


Attacks on Dean Just Slide Right Off

Dean's ability to withstand attacks — and even gain strength as a result — speaks to a depth of partisan support that could make him formidable in a general election.

Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist who helped elect President Clinton, compared Dean to the politician first fitted with the Teflon label, Ronald Reagan.

Dean's strength with core Democrats gives him the flexibility to reach out to swing voters should he win the party's nomination. For all its seeming novelty, the Dean phenomenon is not entirely new. Just about every presidential campaign of the last generation has featured at least one hopeful playing the role of political outsider, and embraced by followers as the only candidate telling the truths that others avoid.


Friday, December 26, 2003

December Late Night Political Jokes


"Saddam is now being interrogated by the CIA. He is claiming he doesn’t know anything. So either he’s lying or his vice president ran everything too." —Jay Leno

"According to the tabloid newspapers, Rush Limbaugh is now claiming that his maid blackmailed him. Yeah, and Strom Thurmond’s maid tricked him into getting her pregnant. When are these rich white men going to stop falling prey to these tricky maids?" —Jay Leno

"We want to wish our best to Secretary of State Colin Powell. I understand his prostate surgery was very successful, which is good news – although now they have to change his name to Semicolon Powell." —Jay Leno

"President Bush says he doesn't want to use the capture of Saddam for political gain. He says he wants a very slow, public trial that would end, oh, about next November." —Jay Leno

"The late South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond devoted much of his life to the cause of racial segregation, but when it came to separating to whites and blacks, he did make an exception for his penis." —Jon Stewart

"They say that Saddam is acting like a jerk and that he still believes he's president. It's just like Al Gore." —David Letterman

"When they caught Saddam Hussein, he had more than $750,000 dollars. When he heard this, President Bush immediately invited Saddam to a fundraising dinner" —Conan O'Brien

"Few men in history have racked up a more horriffic record of human rights abuses than Iraqi dictator and filthy hippie Saddam Hussein. But who should hold him in judgement? On Monday, President Bush argued for the tyrant to be tried by his countrymen in a process the world would respect. [airs clip of Pres. Bush: "We will work with the Iraqis to develop a way to try him that will stand international scrutiny. I guess that's the best way to put it."] You know, he can't even say international scrutiny without getting nauseous. ... President Bush went on to make it clear that he wasn't out for vigilante justice. [Bush: "Of course, I have my own personal views on how he ought to be treated. But I'm not an Iraqi citizen."] He added, 'Look, I'm just the guy who invaded the country, destroyed their army and had Saddam arrested at gun point. It's not my call.'" —Jon Stewart

"During his interrogation, Hussein was asked about weapons of mass destruction. He said the U.S. dreamed them up as a reason to go to war with us — and Howard Dean said 'Hey, that's my line!'" —Jay Leno

"Officials say that when they tried to interview Saddam Hussein he was smug, curt and often sarcastic. Later, Saddam apologized and said he was just doing his impression of Donald Rumsfeld." —Conan O'Brien

"They found several pairs of Saddam's boxer shorts in the hut and, by the way, that is the closest we have come to finding weapons of mass destruction." —David Letterman

"When they found him Dick Cheney wanted to know how big the hole was and whether or not there was oil in it." —Jay Leno

"They took a DNA sample from him — that's gotta be humiliating. One day your the president of the entire country, the next your being forced to give a DNA sample. And Clinton said 'tell me about it!'" —Jay Leno

"In footage that's already loosing shock value, doctors checked Saddam for lice and pronounced him a member of the Need a Bath party." —Jon Stewart

"The Pentagon says that Dick Cheney's old company Halliburton has been overcharging the government in its 'no bid' contract in Iraq. Boy, how bad are you overcharging when the Pentagon notices?" —Jay Leno

"Howard Dean was endorsed by former Vice President Al Gore and now he is getting advice from Al Gore. And I'm thinking, who better to give advice than the guy who couldn't even get elected with the most votes?" —David Letterman

"General Wesley Clark commented on Gore endorsing Howard Dean. He said endorsements don't win elections. Hey, in this country, votes don't even win elections." —Jay Leno

"Front-runner wanna-be John Kerry is coming under fire for his words, well a word. In the current issue of Rolling Stone, in an interview the Massachusetts senator defended his initial support of the Iraqi invasion by noting and I quote, 'When I voted for the war, I voted for what I thought was best for the country. Did I expect George Bush to f--- it up as badly as he did? I don't think anybody did.' Analysts saw the profanity as a ploy by Kerry to connect with Rolling Stone's young readers. White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card was quick to condemn Kerry's talks. Mr. Card then hurried back to his job f---ing up Iraq." —Jon Stewart

el - These jokes, and many more, are compiled by Danial Kurtzman at About Political Humor which has other good stuff. He is also blogging Quirky, Strange and Flat-Out Funny Political News.





Washington Goes to War (with Howard Dean)


"The punditocracy has chosen its side"

Dean has some problems, no doubt, but the pundits hardly seem to notice that George W. ("You can't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror") Bush cannot pretend to defend deceiving the nation into war anymore. When ABC's Diane Sawyer pressed him in an interview about whether Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction or merely would have liked to have them, Bush replied contemptuously, "What's the difference?" (Try this, Mr. President: "I shot that man, Your Honor, because he pointed a gun at me and was about to pull the trigger," or "I shot that man, Your Honor, because he looked like he was thinking about getting a gun.")

We've all been to this movie before, of course, just one election ago, and it's therefore no surprise that the anti-Dean media fury has increased exponentially with Al Gore's brave, antiestablishment endorsement.

el - Eric Alterman notes the insane anti-Dean hysteria by people who shouldn't act like Bush shills.



We Pray This Season


We pray for peace in our world and for peace in our hearts. We know that we must create peace. There are no other hands on earth but ours. And so we pray most for strength. Strength to endure what must be endured. To overcome what can be overcome. Strength to hold a vision of what can be, without being disheartened by what is.

We pray for hearts moved by love, and the strength to make that love real. We pray that in our lives and in our world, love will triumph over fear.

el - my sister's voice seemed to catch in the family prayer before Christmas dinner as she prayed for God to watch over her son in Iraq.



Bush and the GOP Have A Deficit of Fiscal Prudence


Looming budget deficits threaten long-term economic recovery. Unless taxes are raised, the CBO's new "Long-Term Budget Outlook" says, "current spending policies will probably be financially unsustainable over the next 50 years." And even the current news is shaky: Durable goods orders by businesses unexpectedly fell 3.1% in November.

Already the combination of tax cuts and increased spending has plunged the U.S. back into massive deficits, with an additional $500 billion in red ink likely in 2004.

According to the GAO, unless Congress starts to attack the budget deficit, spending will have to be slashed by 35% in 2030 to maintain current services to retirees, or taxes raised by an inflation-adjusted 40%.

Congress can avoid an economic Dunkirk by looking to the recent past. In the 1990s Congress managed to go from budget deficits to surpluses by insisting on spending caps and "pay as you go" provisions for tax cuts and entitlement expansions.

By combining the increased revenue of the short-term economic recovery with at least enough discipline to stop cutting taxes, Congress can start taking the next generation off the hook for this one's profligacy. The tax-cut punch bowl is empty.




Democrats Fight for Veterans' Votes


For years, veterans were seen as solidly in the Republican camp. But Democrats, especially those in Congress, are fighting hard for veterans' votes in 2004.

On Veterans Day, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) released a report on how many disabled veterans will fail to benefit from a recent GOP-crafted tax reduction. She mentions veterans repeatedly in news conferences, and has assigned a staffer to e-mail veterans about what the Democratic Party is doing to help them.

"Our veterans served for all of us," Pelosi said in a recent statement. "We must be there for all of them."

From health care to disability benefits, the two parties are sparring on issues important to veterans. Some observers say these retired military personnel, often impatient with Bush administration domestic and foreign policies, are listening.

"Democrats for the first time are really courting the military vote," said Joe Barnes, national executive secretary of the Fleet Reserve Association. Issues that have been bipartisan for years, he said, "have moved to become more politicized."

See also Veterans For Dean



MoveOn Anti-Bush Commercial Contest Makes International News


When the Web-based political group MoveOn.org announced a contest in October for homemade commercials challenging the Bush administration -- the winner to be shown on TV during the week of the State of the Union address -- grass-roots America proved a willing and eager advertising agency.

Thirty-second spots poured in by the hundreds in e-mail attachments to MoveOn.org, which has already shown that the Internet can be a battering ram for political activism by organizing protests against the invasion of Iraq. Last week, the group posted 1,017 of the amateur commercials on a Web site (www.bushin30seconds.org), asking viewers to pick their favorites.




Krugman thinks reporters should make some New Year Resolutions


Don't talk about clothes.

Actually look at the candidates' policy proposals.

Beware of personal anecdotes.

Look at the candidates' records

Don't fall for political histrionics.

I don't really expect my journalistic colleagues to follow these rules. No doubt I myself, in moments of weakness, will break one or more of them. But history will not forgive us if we allow laziness and personal pettiness to shape this crucial election.



Howard Dean has likely Huge lead in Delegates


Using the standard DNC formula and only allocating delegates to candidates that poll above 15%, Dean could have a majority of delegates by the end of March based on the latest polls.

Based on the latest polls the assigned delegates for NH and Iowa should be Dean 40, Kerry 14 and Gephardt 13, others 0. (In this methodology, the latest poll is used and undecideds are allocated proportionately to candidates and candidates below 15% are then dropped.)

With a large field this can be devastating to some candidates. For example, in Texas based on the latest poll Dean, Lieberman and Clark will be the only ones to get delegates with Dean picking up 40%. Gephardt, falling just below the 15% cutoff, gets none.

Extended this through March 2nd Dean will have 1014 of 1959 delegates assign to that point. Unless a candidate can break through to the 15% level they are assured of no delegates.

This does confirm my earlier prediction of candidates dropping out due to lack of money and delegates particularly after March 2nd but indicates the chances of a brokered or deadlocked convention look much lower.

I wouldn't make any major changes to my predictions now. I would update the SC race to have Dean now leading. I should replace Gephardt with Lieberman in some of the results based on polls but the impression I still have is the closer an election gets the more Lieberman numbers sink. Clark is becoming the unDean with Gephardt having an outside chance. Lieberman needs a favorable poll or money surge in the next month.

BTW, yes, I am still a bit worried over the Christian Liberation Front.



Bush Advisors Decide to Run Against 'Angry' Dean


President Bush's campaign has settled on a plan to run against Howard Dean that would portray him as reckless, angry and pessimistic, while framing the 2004 election as a referendum on the direction of the nation more than on the president himself, Mr. Bush's aides say.

"Voters don't normally vote for an angry, pessimistic person to be president of the country," Matthew Dowd, a senior Bush adviser, said as he pressed the anti-Dean theme this week in an interview at Mr. Bush's re-election campaign headquarters. "They want somebody, even if times are not great, to be forward looking and optimistic."

As the second part of a two-part strategy, Mr. Bush's aides said, the president will set out upbeat themes and policy ideas, starting with the State of the Union address on Jan. 20. That would be part of a drive to buttress what polls show is a growing feeling among voters that the country is on the right track.

Mr. Bush, some of his own strategists and advisers said, has a long way to go if he wants to avoid being portrayed as a divisive figure who motivates Democrats to vote against him. As a result, the White House is considering using the State of the Union address to propose a big new national goal that would not be partisan or ideological and would help rally the country behind Mr. Bush's leadership, an outside adviser to the administration said. The possibilities floated by the White House include a major initiative for the space program or an ambitious health care goal like increasing life expectancies.

el - but the country is on the wrong track. They still underestimate Dean. Easy to do. I had been underestimating when Dean will have the nomination sewed up. It will occur in March.



Media Polling


Interesting Times uses Google News Search to see who the media is paying attention to in the Dem race for the White House. Since November it has been Dean and he now tops 25% of all the Deomocratic primary coverage. There are three tiers, Dean, five other contenders 10-15%, and the bottom with almost no attention paid of Braun, Kucinich and Sharpton.


Thursday, December 25, 2003

Celebrating Solstice


The Romans celebrated from December 17th to December 24th with a festival called Saturnalia, during which all work was put aside in favor of feasting and gambling. The social order was reversed, with masters waiting on their slaves. The Saturnalia is named after Saturn, who is often depicted with a sickle like the figures of Death or Old Father Time. For new life to flourish, for the sun to rise again, it is necessary to vanquish this gloomy old fellow. Therefore, the feasting and merriment of the midwinter season are religiously mandated in order to combat the forces of gloom.

The day following the Saturnalia, was the Juvenalia, a holiday in honor of children. After vanquishing the Old King, it’s time to celebrate the new in the form of children, the New Year's Baby, the Son of Man. Naturally this is the time of the year at which the birth of Christ is celebrated, since he is also the New King, the Light of the World who brings light.



Dean Touts His Christianity


''Christ was someone who sought out people who were disenfranchised, people who were left behind,'' Dean said. ''He fought against self-righteousness of people who had everything . . . He was a person who set an extraordinary example that has lasted 2000 years, which is pretty inspiring when you think about it.''

...''It's not a bad thing to have churches involved in delivering social services, but I think the president has used it to reward certain churches and make it less likely for others churches to prosper,'' he said.

Asked whether a presidential candidate could win without talking about religious faith, Dean said, ''Dick Nixon and Ronald Reagan never said much about religion. I think it's important, and you have to respect other people's religious beliefs and honor them, but you don't have to pander to them.''

He added, ''That's why I don't get offended when George Bush or Joe Lieberman talk about their religion . . . I have a feeling it has something to do with them as a human being, and they are entitled to talk about what makes them human.''

He acknowledged that he was raised in the ''Northeast'' tradition of not discussing religious beliefs in public, and said he held back in New Hampshire, where that is the practice. But in other areas, such as the South, he said, he would discuss his beliefs more openly.



51 Reasons To Elect Howard Dean


Cowboy Kahlil From Reach'm High:

As my final entry, I felt it important to provide a few notes about something I will dedicate the next 11 months to: the election of Howard Dean.

That probably seems an odd mission for a single 50-year-old who should properly be tending to my children and surviving parent, to career and the preparations for retirement, and perhaps the lost arts of dating and mating that I once thought I'd mastered in the eternal quest for a partnership of eternal design. It is not usual, but there's really nothing odd about doing what only seems right.

I cannot turn away from this; it is too important. I'll do what I can to aid Howard Dean's election. It's as important as anything I've done short of being a father and a friend. And logic surrenders to what the soul directs, though I'll try to enumerate reasons why my soul has risen to pursue this task.

1) I love the American ideal. I'm not so enamored of my country's beauty to believe it comes close to perfection. But it has permitted the advance of human rights in a world that too easily surrenders to the brutal. I'd like to further that and am convinced Howard Dean will achieve that.

2) Howard Dean is a doctor. His partner is a doctor. They have demonstrated a commitment to healing and this country is in need of healing.

....

51) This isn't just about the election of Howard Dean. It's about Americans, you, your family, me, saying we reject the anti-progress gang of old-cons who prefer to keep us living in fear and favor the country that inspired the world, the country whose losses on 9-11 made the world mourn, the country of fairness and opportunity, the country of possibility, the States of America, united again.

With Howard Dean, we no longer have to settle for less.

More jobs, better healthcare, a stronger defense, and an end to the corruption: I encourage you to support Howard Dean. Plus, I dig his tie.

(His advisors made him finally give up his old 'Save the Children' tie)




Wednesday, December 24, 2003

The Poor Media Coverage of Campaigns and the New Internet


Long before he became chairman of Fox News Channel, Roger Ailes (el - when he was paid to be a GOP shill by the GOP instead of advertisers) had sketched the limited horizon of campaign journalism: "There are four things the media are interested in," he said back in 1988. "They're interested in polls, they're interested in pictures, they're interested in mistakes, and they're interested in attacks." I would add some items to that list: money-raising, dissaray and infighting within a given campaign, the so-called "character" issue (and the revelations that may or may not illuminate it), the role of key advisers and consultants, the art of positioning the candidate-- and of course, any possible plot turn in the horse race. That's ten story lines, but only one narrative. (And here's nine alternatives.)

According to Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, the national press is busy jamming the race into its usual story frame of who's-gonna-win, which gets very dull if one candidate has already won. So the search is on for the Leading Challenger, a figure required by another figure, the Front Runner. Here is Kurtz on a current trend in press coverage: (See Dec. 22 entry)

[Frank Rich] charges that shifting coterie--the Washington establishment--with being condescending and simple-minded about the Net, unable to get a fix on Dean and what's happening around the candidate, even though the information is available. That includes reporters, pundits, other candidates, party insiders.

Rich wants to switch historical comparison points, from figures positioned like Dean ideologically (McGovern and Goldwater, according to common analysis in the press) to figures poised to make the leap Dean is making with technology.



As I predicted Dean is now pushing tax 'reform'


el - At Donkey Rising I had commented Dean would switch from talking talking about 'eliminating all of Bush's tax cuts' to 'eliminating all of the tax cuts and reforming the tax system.'

The New Social Contract I am proposing will include fundamental tax reform to ensure that every wealthy American individual and corporation is paying their fair share of taxes – and that the tax burden on working families is reduced.

Not paying your fair share is equivalent to turning your back on being an American. And that’s what American companies that move to offshore shelters are doing. They’re avoiding $70 billion a year in taxes – enough money to bring a real tax cut to every family.



Bush's Faith-Based National Parks


This autumn Donald Murphy, deputy director of the National Park Service, ordered three bronze plaques featuring quotes from Psalms 68:4, 66:4 and 104:24 placed on viewing platforms on the south rim of the Canyon. The plaques were made and donated by the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary in Phoenix, who live in a convent called Cannan in the Desert. The convent was founded in 1963 by Mother Basilea, who visited the Sinai where said said she conversed with the Supreme Diety about the moral decline of the western world.

Startng this summer the Park's bookstore began offering a volume titled The Grand Canyon: a Different View. The view is indeed different. This book of lavish photographs and essays presents the creationist account of the origins of the great canyon of the Colorado River. The book is edited by Tom Vail, a river guide, who offers Christian float trips through the canyon. "For years, as a Colorado River guide I told people how the Grand Canyon was formed over the evolutionary time scale of millions of years," Vail writes in the introduction to the book. "Then I met the Lord. Now, I have "a different view" of the Canyon, which, according to a biblical time scale, can't possibly be more than about a few thousand years old."

One of the contributors is creation "scientist" Dr. Gary Parker who observes: "Where did the Grand Canyon itself come from? The Flood may have stacked the rock like a giant layer cake, but what cut the cake? One thing is sure: the Colorado River did not do it."

Earlier this year, the Bush administration prevented park rangers from publishing a rebuttal to the book for use by interpretive staff and seasonal employees who are often confronted during tours by creationist zealots.




Cheney should check his own 'facts'


Helen Thomas - Look who's talking. Vice President Dick Cheney is accusing the press of "cheap-shot journalism" in covering the Bush administration, claiming "people don't check the facts."


Who's The Best Anti-Dean Candidate?


el - I would have to go to the polls in states after NH. On that basis I think it would be Clark. A lot of discussion here. The NH presidential poll is meaningless at this time.



Dean Leads In Oklahoma and Arizona


Clark is very close in Oklahoma but Dean has a double digit lead in Arizona. Major story is Clark moving up and Lieberman not getting the response expected from his attacks on Dean.




Gephardt Counting on Iowa and Confidence to Win


Mr. Gephardt's aides say they will have enough money to compete through the Feb. 7 primary, but acknowledge that they will need a large infusion of donations to carry them through the subsequent contests. By contrast, Dr. Dean is well equipped to compete in those states.

By the end of September, Mr. Gephardt had raised $13.6 million, while Dr. Dean had raised $25.3 million, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, which tracks campaign finances. Mr. Gephardt had slightly less than $6 million in the bank and Dr. Dean slightly more than $12 million.

Mr. Gephardt and others argue that his Midwestern roots, his emphasis on religion and values, his support of the Iraqi occupation and his strong ties to labor make him an appealing alternative to Dr. Dean, who opposed the war, steers clear of religious discussions and has supported trade deals faulted for severe job losses in industrial states.

Some Republicans have argued that Mr. Gephardt would be the toughest Democrat to beat, particularly given his support in the Midwest, which is expected to be a major battleground in the general election. It is a point that Mr. Gephardt likes to emphasize when he tells voters why they should vote for him instead of Dr. Dean.






Medicare Law Will Probably Limit Drug Discounts


"Every time the authors of this legislation had to choose between low prices and drug company profits, they chose the drug industry's profits."

Two provisions buried deep in the nearly 700-page Medicare drug law may limit the discounts that insurers and pharmacy benefit managers can get from drug makers - and, therefore, how far the new drug benefit for the elderly will stretch, executives say.




City sidewalks, busy sidewalks


City sidewalks, busy sidewalks (with unnoticed corpses)
Dressed in blinking holiday style
In the air there's a feeling like Christmas - Satan/Santa
Children laughing, people passing or not
Meeting smile after smile, I've got mine, Jack
And on every street corner you hear ....

Shopper Rage #1.... Shopper Rage #2, it's Christmas time in the city.




Inspections for Mad Cow Lag Those Done Abroad


Because no domestic cases of mad cow disease have been found before, the United States has never put in place the kind of stringent testing done in Japan and some European countries, where every animal is supposed to be tested before humans can eat it.

Inspectors are supposed to view cattle outside slaughterhouses and weed out any having trouble walking. Those with signs of brain disease are to be ruled unfit for human consumption and sent to a rendering plant.

That appears to have happened with the Washington cow. Yesterday, Elsa Murano, under secretary of agriculture for food safety, said its brain and spinal column had been sent to such a plant, to be turned into protein feed, oils and other products. It is the brain and spinal cord that are the most likely to be infected with prions, the misfolded proteins that can lead to a mad-cow-like disease in humans.

This does not guarantee that infected matter will never make its way into the human food supply, critics noted yesterday.

el - Democracy Now had a great segment today on just this problem. Prions can be transmited by blood and probably muscle as well. The solution was to ban feeding animal products to animals headed for human consumption but in a short-sided strategy agribusiness lobbied against this.

Mr. Stauber said an F.D.A. memorandum in 1997 predicted that if a single case of encephalopathy was found in the United States and a total ban on all feeding of animal protein to animals was immediately enacted, it was still possible that as many as 299,000 infected cows would be found over the next 11 years.



Fareed Zakaria's Illogical Stand


WHAT'S DONE IS DONE. Fareed Zakaria's done many excellent columns on the situation in Iraq, but this week's effort to show there's something inconsistent in Howard Dean's view (shared by Wes Clark and many others) that even though the war was a bad idea we should see it through is inconsistent doesn't add up.

In the particular case of Iraq, it's hard to see how Zakaria's plan to find a friendly general and then leave would in any way mitigate the damage this war has done to our diplomatic situation, and it certainly wouldn't bring any of the dead soldiers back to life. There is, moreover, no guarantee that whatever government we picked would actually be strong enough to resist the insurgent elements without significant US support. And however contained Baath Iraq may or may not have been before the war, if the party were somehow to come back into power after chasing us out of the country it would be very hard to contain in the future.

If I could, I'd like to turn back time about twelve months and see this whole situation handled in a calmer, more patient manner exhibiting a better sense of priorities, but that simply can't be done, so the best thing to do at this point is try and make the policy work.

--Matthew Yglesias in Tapped



Kucinich Stresses Civil Liberties


el - I like Kucinich, I just don't think he can be elected and I think Dean is right in placing a great emphesis on balancing the budget.

Several Kucinich rivals have leveled criticism of the Patriot Act, but not as regularly and forcefully as Kucinich. His doggedness has won some fans in Iowa, home of the first presidential caucus. Shanna Drew, 32, a student at Upper Iowa University, said she was won over by Kucinich's attacks on the Bush administration's civil liberties stance.

"Dennis Kucinich is the only candidate I know who wants total repeal of the Patriot Act," Drew said at a Kucinich campaign event. But she added that it is difficult to spread the word. "Unfortunately a lot of people don't know what's in the Patriot Act. When you call something a Patriot Act, to be opposed to it seems unpatriotic."

Matt Tapscott, another Kucinich supporter who opposes the Patriot Act, said that only "fairly well-informed voters understand that issue."



BUSH PAYS LIPSERVICE TO VETS, THEN SLASHES THEIR HEALTH CARE


Late last week President Bush visited combat veterans at Walter Reed Medical
Center. During his visit, he said "We have made a commitment to the troops,
and we have made a commitment to their loved ones, and that commitment is
that we will provide excellent health care - excellent care - to anybody who
is injured on the battlefield."

His comments stand in stark contrast to the policies he has pushed - and the
record he has amassed - as President. Just this year alone, the President
"announced his formal opposition to a proposal to give National Guard and
Reserve members access to the Pentagon's health-insurance system"- a slap in
the face to thousands of troops, especially considering "a recent General
Accounting Office report estimated that one of every five Guard members has
no health insurance". The President also this year proposed to cut $1.5
billion (14%) out of funding for military family housing/medical facilities.
This followed his 2002 budget which, according to major veterans groups,
"fell $1.5 billion short" of adequately funding veterans care.

This is not the first time the President has staged a photo-op to thank
veterans at Walter Reed and then proposed policies that hurt veterans. A
little less than a year ago, the President visited the medical hospital ,
and then on the same day announced his proposal to cut off 164,000 veterans
from the VA's prescription drug discount program.

The result of the President's harsh treatment of veterans is that "more than
235,000 veterans are currently waiting 6 months or more for initial medical
appointments" with "many veterans waiting 2 years just to be seen by a
doctor." At Ft. Stewart, Georgia, UPI reported "hundreds of sick and
wounded U.S. soldiers including many who served in the Iraq war are
languishing in hot cement barracks here while they wait - sometimes for
months - to see doctors." And CBS News reports that the administration
appears, in some cases, to be denying benefits to soldiers wounded in Iraq.
Specifically, many soldiers say they are seeing their pay and health
benefits severely reduced after they are badly wounded
.



Dean's Cheer in N.H. Extends Beyond Holidays


Washingtonpost.com: "Merry Christmas, everybody. Who wants to say anything mean on a day like today?"

His response showed more than just the ordinary holiday cheer -- with most campaign activities on hold until Friday, Dean will enter the month before this state's Jan. 27 primary with a comfortable advantage. He leads all rivals here by at least 25 percentage points in polls.

Over three busy days of stump speeches, Dean fended off the latest barrage of criticism from his rivals, while drawing large crowds to each of six town meetings.



Naughty and Nice List For 2003


Center for American Progress - The Progress Report

Advocacy Groups

NICE - MoveOn.org: For creating a new commitment to political involvement among the nation's youth.
NAUGHTY - AARP: For abandoning its commitment to the nation's senior citizens and its dues paying members.

Americans and Troops

NICE – Operation Hero Miles: For collecting unused frequent flier miles from Americans and giving them to soldiers trying to fly home to see their families. So far, "the generosity of thousands of travelers this holiday season means soldiers can get 6,700 free plane tickets allowing them to spend quality time with family and friends without worrying about how much it will cost."
NAUGHTY – Loan Sharks: For preying on cash-strapped troops. As more national guard soldiers are called up for prolonged periods of time, they're not making as much money as they were on the outside. Smelling the potential blood in the water, "military bases across the nation are magnets for so-called payday lenders, which make money charging fees as high as $30 every two weeks per $100 borrowed - equal to a 720 percent annual interest rate."

Americans and Troops Part II

NICE – Military Families Speak Out: For highlighting the problem of the severe body armor shortage in Iraq. Because of their work putting this crisis in the spotlight, Congress forced the Administration to make sure more soldiers are better equipped.
NAUGHTY - U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt: For saying the media should be focused on Iraqi reconstruction, which he called "a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day," despite representing a state where thousands of U.S. troops are stationed.

and more...



Pitt at TruthOut -- Dean Deserves It


Dean’s campaign has been, for my money, one of the most remarkable electoral phenomena in recent memory. He has forever changed the face of American political campaigning with his use of Al Gore’s internet. His fundraising abilities have been second to none. He has captured the hearts of the ultra-liberal base, and pulled more than a few Greens along in his wake, while being a centrist budget hawk with a 100% approval rating from the NRA. Figure that one out and you’ve got a stellar dissertation for your Political Science PhD.

Or maybe not. At the end of the day, there is one reason Howard Dean stands ready to grasp the brass ring in Boston. He stood up before the die-hard base of the Democratic Party before, and in the aftermath, of an unnecessary, criminal war. He stood up after two years of hide-the-ball from Bush and the boys regarding September 11. He stood up after that base had endured one of the most ruthless anti-liberal propaganda campaigns since Joe McCarthy held a key to the Congressional washroom. He stood up after this country got lied to again and again and again. He stood up within the confines of a mainstream news media structure that has done more to cover Bush’s backside than anyone could have possibly imagined. He stood up when too many of the other Democratic candidates sat on their hands and played it safe.

He stood up and roared, “I want my country back!”

Call Dean a centrist/conservative/whatever at your whim, but the difference between the politics of Howard Dean and the politics of George W. Bush can only be measured in parsecs. That is also the difference between George W. Bush and the mores of a vast majority of the people within this country. We have spent the last three years being ruled by fear, deliberately and with intent.


Tuesday, December 23, 2003


Liberals Like Christ


It has been a long while since I linked to this good site. Maybe I should add it to my roll next time I update. It is very needed to help counter the Hard Right GOP/Christian connection.






Investor class critical of Bush policies


Although 73 percent of investors polled say they have gained from the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, 84 percent say they would have preferred a different approach to fiscal policy. More than 50 percent would have favored additional spending for Social Security, Medicare, job creation, health insurance or education.

Forty-nine percent of those polled are Republican and 20 percent are Democrats. Fifty-two percent describe their political views as moderate and 38 percent are conservatives.

Respondents have a median household income of $98,000 and a median portfolio size of $387,000.

"It was surprising to us in particular that support for the President's tax cuts was so weak and, in general, that our subscribers don't seem nearly as worried about federal tax relief as they do a whole host of other issues -- from health care to education," Money Managing Editor Bob Safian says in a written statement.

Half of those polled say they would vote for Bush if an election were held today.


Dean On Running


Q: What is it that led you to run and say I can do this?

A: I thought the country was in really bad trouble. I thought the right-wingers were really hurting the country badly, huge deficits that we are never going to be able to pay back. A defense policy that is making this country weaker not stronger for all the president’s bully-boy stuff. I just think this country needs a fundamental change in direction and we really need to go back to principled American ideals that we are all in this together, a defense policy that is consistent with moral leadership in the world and a financial policy that does not run up enormous debts.

Q: But made you want to do this?

A: I went to see Gary Hart before I did this and he told me there is no such thing as a wimp that has become president of the United States because you have to go through this process. Sure, the process is very tough but you want tough people to be president of the United States. It is a learning process. You learn a lot about America. Governors have an advantage because I have already had to balance budgets — nobody has had to do that — and made tough choices and was accountable for it.

Q: What is your take on the attacks?

A: I think that the other campaigns feel like they are desperate. Let’s not forget that not a single vote has been cast. Not a single vote has been cast in a primary or a caucus yet, so polls don’t make a front-runner. The real front-runner is George Bush and the real long-shot is the American people and we need to stay focused on that.

Q: What do you think about when you go to sleep?

A: I usually wake up at 4 in the morning and think about politics for three hours. I don’t enjoy it but that is what happens. I have run eight statewide races and I know what’s coming and it is not pretty. The last few weeks and few days of a campaign are some of the most intense experiences a person can have short of being incarcerated in a prison camp someplace. It is really tough.



Being a Tool of Satan


I reminded readers that my "What Would Mohammed Drive?" drawing was an assault not upon Islam but on the distortion of the Muslim religion by murderous fanatics - the followers of Mohammed who flew those planes into our buildings, to be sure, but also the Taliban killers of noncompliant women and destroyers of great art, the true believers who decapitated an American reporter, the young Palestinian suicide bombers taking out patrons of pizza parlors in the name of the Prophet Mohammed.

Then I gave my Journalism 101 lecture on the First Amendment, explaining that in this country we do not apologize for our opinions. Free speech is the linchpin of our republic. All other freedoms flow from it. After all, we don't need a First Amendment to allow us to run boring, inoffensive cartoons. We need constitutional protection for our right to express unpopular views. If we can't discuss the great issues of the day on the pages of our newspapers fearlessly, and without apology, where can we discuss them? In the streets with guns? In cafés with strapped-on bombs?

Twenty-five years ago, I began inciting the wrath of the faithful by caricaturing the grotesque disparity between Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's televangelism scam and the Christian piety they used to justify it.

One of the first cartoons I ever drew on PTL was in 1978, when Jim Bakker's financial mismanagement forced him to lay off a significant portion of his staff. The drawing showed the TV preacher sitting at the center of Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper informing his disciples, "I'm going to have to let some of you go!" Bakker's aides told reporters that he was so upset by the drawing that he fell to his knees in his office, weeping into the gold shag carpet. Once he staggered to his feet, he and Tammy Faye went on the air and, displaying my cartoons, encouraged viewers to phone in complaints to the Observer and cancel their subscriptions.

Jim Bakker finally resigned in disgrace from his PTL ministry, and I drew a cartoon of the televangelist who replaced him, Jerry Falwell, as a serpent slithering into PTL paradise: "Jim and Tammy were expelled from paradise and left me in charge."

One of the many angry readers who called me at the newspaper said, "You're a tool of Satan."

"Excuse me?"

"You're a tool of Satan for that cartoon you drew."

"That's impossible," I said. "I couldn't be a tool of Satan. The Charlotte Observer's personnel department tests for that sort of thing."

Confused silence on the other end.

"They try to screen for tools of Satan," I explained. "Knight Ridder human resources has a strict policy against hiring tools of Satan."

Click.

Cursor.org pointed to the above link after noting Luckovich is under fire from conservatives for his recent cartoon on Bush.

el - it is a pundit or cartoonist's highest ambition, being called a tool of Satan.



Citizen Conrad's Friends


Krugman - We're now learning that Lord Black also used his control of Hollinger to reward friends, including journalists, who share his political views. Inevitably the list includes both Henry Kissinger and Richard Perle.

Mr. Perle, wearing his defense-insider hat, co-wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed praising the Pentagon's controversial Boeing tanker deal. He didn't disclose Boeing's $2.5 million investment in Trireme.

Sure enough, Hollinger also invested $2.5 million in Trireme, which is advised by Lord Black. In addition, Mr. Perle was paid more than $300,000 a year and received $2 million in bonuses as head of a Hollinger subsidiary. It's good to have friends.

The real surprise, though, is that two prominent journalists, William Buckley and George Will, were also regular paid advisors to Hollinger.

The Iraq war bears an eerie resemblance to the Spanish-American war. (There was never any evidence linking Spain to the Maine's demise.) And Citizen Kane is back, in the form of an incestuous media-political complex.

Article that led to column here.



Worries about an Iraq Civil War


From a female Baghdad blogger - I once said that I hoped, and believed, Iraqis were above the horrors of civil war and the slaughter of innocents, and I'm clinging to that belief with the sheer strength of desperation these days. I remember hearing the stories about Lebanon from people who were actually living there during the fighting and a constant question arose when they talked about the grief and horrors- what led up to it? What were the signs? How did it happen? And most importantly… did anyone see it coming?



DLC is fighting the battles of 15 years ago


Bush's big-government conservatism has provoked a small, but steady, stream of defections from Republican moderates, deficit hawks, and principled conservatives which, combined with the GOP's narrow margins in the congress, has meant that none of Bush's major domestic initiatives -- not the tax cuts, not the Medicare bill, not the energy bill -- had the votes to pass without cooperation from Democrats.

And cooperation is exactly what they've gotten, from folks like Zell Miller, John Breaux, and Max Baucus, who've helped move terrible legislation to the president's desk and let the GOP get away with running the most partisan congress in generations. The DLC didn't support any of these bills, but I haven't seen them criticizing those who did, many of them card-carrying New Democrats. We know the DLC doesn't shy away from condemning Democrats from the left wing of the party who cast votes that displease them, but they've been utterly silent on the craven behavior of the party's right wing



Running Out of Oil


The Big RollOver Chart (pdf).

Technology is great, but it can’t find what’s not there. In the last 5 years, we consumed 27 billion barrels of oil a year, but the oil industry discovered only 3 billion barrels a year. So, only 1 barrel was replaced for every 9 we used!

When will the big problems start to occur occur? 2007 - 2020.

What would you do differently if you knew we would run out of oil needed in your lifetime?

In view of all this, the notion that the war with Iraq had nothing to do with oil is simply preposterous. The US attacked Iraq (which appears to have had no weapons of mass destruction and was not threatening other nations), rather than North Korea (which is actively developing a nuclear weapons programme and boasting of its intentions to blow everyone else to kingdom come) because Iraq had something it wanted. In one respect alone, Bush and Blair have been making plans for the day when oil production peaks, by seeking to secure the reserves of other nations.

Shell knows this and is now running some of the world's largest wind farms. A new project will supply a quarter of London's power needs.

History of oil prices - constant dollars.


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