<$BlogRSDURL$>

Friday, July 23, 2004

Stolen from the comments section of pandagon.net

These are the Things That You Must Believe In Order To Remain A Republican...

Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.

Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing UN resolutions against Iraq.

A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multinational corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.

Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.

The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.

A good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our longtime allies, then demand their cooperation and money.

Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing health care to all Americans is socialism.

HMOs and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.

Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense. A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.

The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's driving record is none of our business.

Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness, and you need our prayers for your recovery.

You support states' rights, which means Attorney General John Ashcroft can tell states what local voter initiatives they have the right to adopt.

What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest, but wha tBush did in the '80s is irrelevant.

Taking a classified document is the end of the world, but outting a CIA agent is good clean fun.


|

Thursday, July 22, 2004

The 9/11 report. This from the Guardian: The full report is available here.

"A big failure of this commission in my opinion is that it dealt mostly with the mechanics of the attacks and not the religious, cultural and political elements involved. Given the thinking process of Bush, he will never understand these factors."

"A key recommendation of the report is that the US to create an "intelligence tsar". Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and the families of the 9/11 victims have been pushing this proposal. Once again, Bush is opposed and dragging his feet, but I predict he will cave in before the November election and then act as if it were his proposal."

"If I had been a member of the commission, I would have summarised my belief by calling the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld team the "axis of liars" for not taking direct responsibility for their failures and misleading the American people and world leaders about what they knew both before and after the invasion of Iraq. "

|

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

This from CNN's web site - Casino ejects Ronstadt over 'Fahrenheit' praise.
 
Whatever happened to the First amendment of the Constitution?  This comes on the heels of Disney's recent refusal to distribute Michael Moore's movie and the rightwing pressure that resulted in CBS relegating it's Reagan movie to it's sister Showtime channel.
 
Free speech is what we used to take for granted but not anymore.  The beginning of the end.


|

Monday, July 19, 2004

Posted to "The New Republic Online" on July 19, 2004.

"Power from the People," by Jonathan Chiat

Last summer, President Bush and the Republican congressional leadership had a problem. The legislative linchpin of the president's reelection effort, a bill to add prescription-drug coverage to Medicare, lacked the votes in Congress, where conservative Republicans were chafing at the expense. GOP leaders finally secured a bare majority by consenting to the demands of 13 Republican House members, who agreed to vote yes if the cost would not exceed $400 billion over ten years. But that created another problem: The administration knew the bill would cost considerably more--$534 billion, to be exact.

The only non-loyalist who seems to have known the real number was Richard Foster, a 31-year veteran of the bureaucracy who was serving as chief actuary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The job of putting a lid on Foster fell to his boss, Thomas Scully, appointed by Bush to run Medicare. Scully instructed Foster not to reveal the number, or even to answer queries from Democrats, without his approval. Foster later said he understood Scully to be operating at the White House's direction. In one e-mail obtained by The Wall Street Journal, Foster asked Scully for permission to answer congressional queries that "strike me as straightforward requests for technical information." No, replied Scully's assistant, who then warned, "The consequences for insubordination are extremely severe." (Scully, by the way, later admitted to having negotiated a job with lobbying firms while he helped craft the bill, in which they had a massive interest.)

The Medicare bill was therefore widely understood to cost $400 billion when, at three o'clock in the morning on November 23, the House of Representatives assembled to vote on it. Surprisingly, a majority voted no. In response, the GOP leadership violated the customary time limit on votes, holding the vote open for nearly three hours and twisting enough arms to reverse the result shortly before dawn. (A hint as to their methods of persuasion came from retiring Republican Representative Nick Smith, who offhandedly revealed a few days later that certain "members and groups" had offered to contribute $100,000 to the congressional campaign of his son Brad, who was running for Smith's seat, if he voted yes.) When Democrats controlled Congress, they had extended a vote once, in 1987, for 15 minutes, after a member inadvertently caused a budget bill's defeat and then left town--provoking spasms of indignation from Republicans. The three-hour Medicare vote, congressional scholar Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute later wrote, was "the ugliest and most outrageous breach of standards in the modern history of the House."

To ensure that it received proper credit for the new law, the Bush administration employed similarly unconventional means, hiring a pharmaceutical lobbyist to help sell it to distrustful voters. The advertising campaign included $9.5 million in TV advertising--which, astoundingly enough, was financed not by Bush's campaign, but by taxpayer dollars. Promotion of the law also involved the production of "video news releases," in which a "reporter"--actually, a p.r. agent--touted the virtues of the new Medicare law. The General Accounting Office (GAO) later concluded that the videos amounted to an illegal use of government money to produce propaganda, but not before 40 TV stations had already aired them.

Here we have a sample of the style of governance that has prevailed under Bush's presidency. It's not the sort of thing you would find in a civics textbook. Bush and his allies have been described as partisan or bare-knuckled, but the problem is more fundamental than that. They have routinely violated norms of political conduct, smothered information necessary for informed public debate, and illegitimately exploited government power to perpetuate their rule. These habits are not just mean and nasty. They're undemocratic.

What does it mean to call the president "undemocratic"? It does not mean Bush is an aspiring dictator. Despite descending from a former president and telling confidants that God chose him to lead the country, he does not claim divine right of rule. He is not going to cancel the election or rig it with faulty ballots. (Well, almost certainly not.) But democracy can be a matter of degree. Russia and the United States are both democracies, but the United States is more democratic than Russia. The proper indictment of the Bush administration is, therefore, not that he's abandoning American democracy, but that he's weakening it. This administration is, in fact, the least democratic in the modern history of the presidency.

There are many definitions of democracy, but let us begin with one supplied by Bush himself. A democracy, he told Al Arabiya television in May during an interview on the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, is "where leaders are willing to discuss it with the media. And we act in a way where, you know, our Congress asks pointed questions to the leadership. In other words, people want to know the truth. That stands in contrast to dictatorships. A dictator wouldn't be answering questions about this."

It's ironic that Bush used this definition because, by this measure, he has run the least democratic administration of any president since the advent of television and radio. Since Franklin Roosevelt made press conferences a regular feature, Bush has held fewer of them than any president--14 solo press conferences, as compared with Bill Clinton's 41 and George H.W. Bush's 77 at this point in their presidencies. When he does appear before the press, Bush routinely refuses to answer difficult questions. (Why did he insist that Vice President Dick Cheney appear by his side before the 9/11 Commission? "Because it's a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9/11 Commission is looking forward to asking us. And I'm looking forward to answering them.") The president is so evasive that his technique has become a point of pride for his admirers. "Watching President Bush's press conference Tuesday night, you could see why he drives the press crazy," wrote Fred Barnes in The Weekly Standard this April. "No matter what they asked, his answer was invariably the same."

Bush's attitude typifies his administration's general refusal to speak candidly. Every presidency, of course, tries to formulate a party line. But, before Bush, the spin was usually counterbalanced by off-the-record candor. "In other Administrations, the chief of staff and key deputies--people like [Michael] Deaver and James A. Baker III, during the Reagan-Bush years, and John Podesta and Leon Panetta, under Clinton--have usually been open with reporters; they've even courted the press," Ken Auletta reported in The New Yorker this January. "In the current White House, [Andy] Card and [Karl] Rove usually don't return calls, and staffers boast of not answering reporters' questions."

Some Bush supporters explain this reticence as a justified response to a biased media. Yet Bushies show no more willingness to answer pointed questions from Congress. Last month, Attorney General John Ashcroft refused to release the administration's memos on the use of torture and refused even to offer a legal basis for his refusal. These sorts of incidents have become routine. In 2002, the administration denied requests to have Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge testify on Capitol Hill. That same year, Medicare Director Scully refused to appear at a hearing where witnesses with different points of view were allowed to testify. Last fall, the Bush White House declared it would not answer any questions from Democrats on the Appropriations Committees unless those questions were first cleared with the Republican chairmen. (This latter demand was so outrageous that the administration had to drop it after even congressional Republicans objected.)

The best single measure of Bush's unwillingness to submit to pointed questions may be his disposition toward the 9/11 Commission. First, he fervently opposed creating the Commission. When that failed, he threw up impediments to their work. He sought (unsuccessfully) to prevent national security adviser Condoleezza Rice from testifying. Bush himself initially refused to testify and blocked the Commission's access to important documents. Later, after agreeing under pressure to testify, he refused to do so under oath. He sought to limit his testimony to one hour. He sought to block commissioners other than the co-chairmen from attending his testimony. He demanded that Cheney appear alongside him. He allowed only a single staffer to take notes. And he barred the presence of a transcriber.

Who else has the White House tried to keep in the dark? Oh yes: the public--the people who Bush says "want to know the truth." "For the past three years, the Bush administration has quietly but efficiently dropped a shroud of secrecy across many critical operations of the federal government--cloaking its own affairs from scrutiny and removing from the public domain important information on health, safety, and environmental matters," concluded a long investigation by U.S. News & World Report last December. "The result has been a reversal of a decades-long trend of openness in government." Consider just one example. Bush's 2004 budget cut grants to the states (outside of Medicaid, which rises automatically) by 2.4 percent. After statehouses complained, the administration announced it would cease publishing Budget Information for States, which documents how much states receive from various federal programs. (The administration claimed it did so to save on printing costs.) The result, as Alysoun McLaughlin of the National Conference of State Legislatures told The Washington Post: "There's no one place in the public domain for this information anymore."

The administration has not confined its mania for secrecy to obscure policy wonkery; it has been essential to selling most of its signature policies. The Medicare bill would not have passed Congress had the administration shared its true cost. And both Congress and the public might have been more skeptical of the administration's repeated claims that Iraq's oil could, as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz put it, "finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon"--and of the case for war in general--had they been allowed to see a secret government study that painted a decidedly bleak picture of Iraq's oil industry.

Yale's Robert Dahl, America's foremost democracy scholar, suggests another definition of democracy. "Opportunities to gain an enlightened understanding of public matters are not just part of the definition of democracy," he writes in his book On Democracy. "They are a requirement for democracy." It is not terribly controversial to suggest that democracies function best with an informed public, and the administration's inaccessibility and penchant for secrecy obviously hinder that. But Bush has done more than keep the public in the dark: He has actively sought to mislead it.

One particularly egregious example is the administration's persistent effort to cultivate in the public mind a connection between Iraq and the September 11 terrorist attacks in order to justify a war to oust Saddam Hussein. As one White House adviser told The New York Times, "If you discount the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda, then you discount the proposition that it's part of the war on terror. If it's not part of the war on terror, then what is it--some cockeyed adventure on the part of George W. Bush?"

So the administration led Americans to believe that Iraq had aided in the attacks on us. Cheney, for example, repeatedly referred to an alleged 2001 meeting between September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague--even though the CIA determined the meeting never took place. Cheney would suggest Iraq's involvement in September 11 in more subtle ways as well: "If we're successful in Iraq," Cheney asserted last year, "we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on September 11." This statement is not false--the terrorists were, in fact, geographically based in the region of which Iraq is the heart--but it is designed to give the false impression that the September 11 terrorists were based in Iraq. Similarly, in his letter to Congress requesting authorization for war with Iraq, Bush wrote that such action "is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."

This campaign of misinformation succeeded. During the run-up to the war, a large majority of Americans implicated Iraq in the September 11 attacks. Even if you supported the Iraq war (as I did), this fact must be considered a serious problem for American democracy. Bush did not obtain, or even seek, the rational, informed consent of the public.

But the Iraq war was a model of enlightened deliberation compared with the process that resulted in Bush's signature tax cuts. Again, setting aside the substantive merits of the tax cuts (which, regular New Republic readers may vaguely recall, I did not support), two pieces of public opinion data stood out in 2001. First, only 20 to 30 percent of voters deemed tax cuts their highest fiscal priority--the rest preferred increased spending or debt reduction. Second, polls showed that the public preferred tax cuts distributed far more evenly than Bush desired. The most popular option was to give every taxpayer an equal-sized rebate--an option several orders of magnitude more progressive than what actually passed.

The administration confronted both problems by mounting an elaborate disinformation campaign. Bush's approach is thrown into stark relief by a White House memo instructing Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill how to communicate the administration message during his March 2001 appearance on "Meet the Press." "The public prefers spending on things like health care and education over cutting taxes," the memo warned. "It's crucial that you make clear that there are no tradeoffs here." In this case, the phrase "make clear" serves as a euphemism for "lie." More money for tax cuts necessarily entailed less for health care and education.

Falsehoods were embedded in nearly every aspect of Bush's sales pitch: his claim that his tax cut would amount to just one-fourth of the projected surplus (his own figures showed one-third); his assertion that "by far the vast majority of my tax cut goes to those at the bottom" (in fact, some 40 percent went to the wealthiest 1 percent); and his repeated claim that a waitress earning $20,000 a year was the paradigmatic beneficiary of his tax cut (in truth, most such waitresses got nothing from Bush's plan, and the few who did benefit received about $125).

In previous years, the effects of such propaganda would have been blunted by official computations by number-crunchers at the Treasury Department and the Joint Committee on Taxation, who used to release figures on who would benefit from various changes in the tax code. But, when they took control of the White House and Congress, Republicans put a stop to such inconvenient wonkery. True, Republicans could not prevent the Congressional Budget Office from estimating the cost of their tax cuts. But they could, and did, render such estimates meaningless by larding up their tax bills with gimmicks, such as sunset provisions, that obscured the true cost of the cuts and forced public debate to revolve around numbers--as in a "1.3 trillion dollar tax cut"--that experts on both sides understood to be fantastical.

Don't all politicians fudge the truth from time to time? Sure. The difference is that, over the last few years, misinformation has become fundamental, rather than incidental, to the political process. As Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution puts it, "What's striking is the extent of [manipulation] in this administration. The most ambitious and fundamental proposals have been cloaked in language that's designed to mislead." This dishonesty is necessary because the policies do not reflect the will of the majority. As a forthcoming paper on the 2001 tax cut by Yale's Jacob Hacker and Harvard's Paul Pierson notes, "For those committed to core principles of democratic governance, the picture that emerges is unsettling. On the central questions of how large the tax cut should be and how its benefits should be distributed, the preferences of a majority of voters appear to have been systematically ignored. Far from ruling the polity, average voters proved vulnerable to systematic and extensive manipulation."

Democracies are also characterized by limits on the use of government power to ensconce the ruling party. Indeed, limits on such abuses are a key determinant of a democracy's strength. This is why we don't allow the president to, say, force federal employees to donate to his campaign, or sic the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on his critics. If the incumbent could turn the entire government into an apparatus of his political party, then dislodging incumbents would become prohibitively difficult. That's precisely what happens in weak democracies--classic "one-and-a-half party" states like Singapore and Paraguay--where ruling parties can hold power for decades despite superficially free elections.

But, if democracy requires a distinction between the interests of the government and the interests of the party that happens to run it, Bush and his allies have little regard for such discrimination. Bush's use of the Department of Health and Human Services to fund propaganda on behalf of its Medicare bill was not an isolated instance. After cutting taxes in 2001, the IRS mailed out promotional notices to the public, gushing, "We are pleased to inform you that the United States Congress passed--and President George W. Bush signed into law--the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, which provides long-term tax relief for all Americans who pay income taxes." (Larry Noble of the Center for Responsive Politics told the Times, "I've never heard of anything like this, certainly not from the IRS, certainly not with this rah-rah tone. It's outrageous.") When the checks did arrive, they were helpfully emblazoned with Bush's catchphrase, "Tax relief for America's workers."

The Bush administration has been just as brazen about misusing its powers over state secrecy. While the White House has restricted access to vast swaths of material--even classifying decades-old documents that had never previously been classified--it has been extravagantly liberal in releasing information that suits Bush's partisan interests (see "Secrets and Lies," page 7). In 2002, Bush embarrassed his predecessor by declassifying portions of the transcript of a conversation in which Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak asked Bill Clinton to pardon fugitive tax-evader Marc Rich. When Clinton asked Bush to declassify the rest of the transcript, arguing that additional context would make him look better, the White House refused. This spring, the administration declassified a steady stream of memos and briefings all for the purpose of rebutting criticisms raised by the 9/11 Commission. (For instance, it declassified a 1995 memo by Commission member and former Clinton Justice Department official Jamie Gorelick in an attempt to embarrass her.) "Bush is the first president since Richard Nixon to try to brandish declassification as a political weapon," concluded John Prados, an analyst with the National Security Archive, in an article for TNR online.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Republicans draw little distinction between their partisan interests and the national interest; they have all but said so. As the Iraq war began last year, Republicans argued that patriotism required the passage of Bush's tax cuts. "When our troops are over there fighting," GOP Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison put it, "we don't want partisan bickering to be what they see on television from back home." Once you have equated the security of the state with the welfare of a political party, it's no great leap to turn the former into an instrument of the latter. In May of last year, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay ordered the Department of Homeland Security to track down an airplane carrying Democratic legislators fleeing Texas in order to foil a GOP redistricting effort. Last July, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas ordered Capitol Police to break up a meeting of Democratic representatives. (DeLay's request was heeded; Thomas's was not.)

But the most effective use of self-perpetuating power has been the particularly undemocratic way Bush's party has run Congress, especially the House of Representatives. It's hardly new, of course, for the House majority party to run roughshod over the minority. But, with Bush issuing orders to DeLay, the trampling of minority rights in the last few years has "been carried to a new extreme," as Mann told my colleague Michael Crowley in the latter's definitive report on the subject ("Oppressed Minority," July 23, 2003).

The GOP, for example, routinely denies Democrats the right to propose or amend legislation. As a result, popular reforms--such as allowing the importation of prescription drugs from Canada--have never come to a vote, even though a majority of representatives support them. Republicans restrict debate to an hour or less on major legislation. They bring bills to the floor minutes before they are to be voted on, allowing members (and reporters) almost no chance to understand the details before they are passed. That the Medicare vote took place between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. is not unusual--the House does its business in the dead of night, literally and figuratively.

The import of such procedural tactics becomes clear if we consider a couple of examples. Last year, the administration proposed a rule change allowing companies to deny more of their workers overtime pay. Under public pressure, the Senate and the House both voted to bar the change. But then a conference committee--which, by rule, may only iron out differences between the House and Senate, not rewrite provisions on which the two chambers agree--inserted it into a bill anyway. The same thing happened in March, when a conference overturned a vote by both the House and Senate to stop the Federal Communications Commission from weakening regulations on media concentration. The beauty of this end-run tactic, for the GOP leadership, is that they get the unpopular policies they desire, but politically vulnerable Republicans can tell their constituents they voted against them. Democracy only works if voters know who to blame if they don't get their way. Today, however, Congress is run specifically to prevent that from happening.

And, at the direction of the White House, Republicans are working to make sure it stays that way, using--you guessed it--undemocratic means. In 2003, Republicans in Texas and Colorado, at the urging of DeLay and Rove, violated a long-standing tradition by redrawing the congressional map to their benefit without new census data. Both parties have engaged in gerrymandering throughout U.S. history. But, in Texas and Colorado, Republicans have taken the practice beyond the previously accepted norms.

We've grown accustomed to thinking that such excesses, both in governing style and ideology, invariably lead to a correction. The consensus could be summarized in a single line: "The system works." But, in fact, it was the very flaws of the system that gave Bush the means, motive, and opportunity to govern so undemocratically.

Bush's election, through no fault of his own, depended on a series of undemocratic quirks in our electoral process. First, the United States is the only democracy in the world that allows a popular-vote loser to win an election. (Whether or not this arrangement makes sense, a system that sometimes awards the election to the candidate who receives the second-most votes is, by definition, less democratic than a system that never does.)

Moreover, the electoral college gives disproportionate power to citizens of less populous states. The combined population of the Gore states exceeded that of the Bush states, but, since Bush had more small-state support, he won the electoral college. (And, again, whatever the general merits, giving more voting weight to some citizens than to others is inherently less democratic than giving equal weight to all.)

Finally, unlike parliamentary or run-off elections, our elections offer no way for third-party voters to register a second choice--resulting in perverse outcomes such as a right-of-center candidate winning despite two left-of-center candidates combining for an outright majority. Had any one of these quirks not existed, Bush would not be president, and a platform lacking popular support would not have been thrust to the top of the national agenda. But they didn't exist, and Bush, in power but without public backing, found duplicity an effective tool.

Normally, the consequences of an electoral fluke would have been limited by a Congress sensitive to public opinion. But Congress is not completely democratic either. The House has been gerrymandered to the point where competetive elections are rare and GOP control is all but immune to voter dissatisfaction. And the Senate--reflecting an even more pronounced small-state bias than the electoral college--gives the citizens in the 30 states Bush won in 2000, which comprise slightly less than half of the U.S. population, 60 seats. The 20 states Gore won comprise a narrow majority of the population, but they get only 40 seats in the Senate. Even with this skew, Democrats captured nearly half the seats; balance the scales, and the Senate would have a solid Democratic majority.

Republicans therefore ended up running the presidency, the Senate, and the House, despite a lack of evidence that voters wanted them to control any one of the three. At the beginning of 2001, the conventional wisdom held that Republicans would court a backlash if they exceeded their limited mandate. The common metaphor is a pendulum that, if tilted off center, inevitably swings back. The more apt (and less comforting) metaphor, however, may be a feedback loop. Facing a lack of public support, Bush and his allies circumscribe normal democratic procedures to enact their agenda. The Republican Congress, in turn, spares Bush from paying a price for his anti-democratic endeavors, and this protection only encourages further abuses by the White House.

Indeed, Congress has ceased to provide a check on the executive branch, functioning instead as the legislative arm of the White House. Bush is the first president since James Garfield not to veto a single bill. Whereas the Democratic Congress held hearings about Whitewater, it's simply impossible to imagine today's GOP Congress investigating Bush's past business dealings. Even Republicans confess that their party has essentially abandoned its duty to oversee the executive branch. "Our party controls the levers of government," GOP Representative Ray LaHood told Congressional Quarterly. "We're not about to go out and look beneath a bunch of rocks to try to cause heartburn."

And so, where the Republicans have broken rules--say, using the Treasury department to disseminate political advertising, or employing conference committees to write laws from scratch--the enforcement mechanisms are essentially controlled by the perpetrators themselves. If Republicans stand together, there will be no investigations. (Or, at least, no serious investigations.) If there are no investigations, there is no process for the media to cover. If there's no media coverage, there's no public outrage to constrain the GOP. After the GAO ruled that the administration broke the law with its Medicare videos, Democrats in Congress demanded that the money spent on the ads be refunded. But Republicans simply ignored them, and the story disappeared.

In any case, most of the abuses under Bush--things like suppressing cost estimates, or redistricting more than once a decade--have violated norms, not rules. When you violate norms, you're limited only by your sense of shame and your party's willingness to stick together. Which suggests the most frightening lesson of the Bush administration: The institutional restraints on an anti-democratic presidency are weaker than we believed. When we say "the system works," we think of Nixon's various shady machinations against his foes, or Franklin Roosevelt's court-packing scheme, both of which were duly foiled. But those anti-democratic excesses were foiled not merely by "the system," but by the people who inhabited that system and the particular political circumstances of the time. Nixon's crimes were uncovered by a Democratic-controlled Congress, whose investigations gained bipartisan legitimacy when many Republicans (including members of Nixon's own administration) turned against him. Unlike Nixon, FDR enjoyed unified control of Congress, yet his fellow Democrats were fractious enough to stop him from bullying the Supreme Court. Had those presidents, like Bush, enjoyed the benefits of a subservient Congress and a staff that never spoke out against their excesses, they might have done a lot of damage.

How much damage will Bush ultimately do? The answer is still to be determined, and the biggest single thing that will determine it takes place on November 2.

|

Seen and heard on CNN's Inside Politics, today 7/19/04.
 
In a recent poll, 30% of all registered voters are undecided!  The reason intimated was that they didn't know John Kerry!!
 
UH?  John Kerry is the person running against the current President of the United States of America.  What more is there to know?
 
If a voter is still undecided and claims it's because he doesn't know John Kerry then that suggests to me that he/she is happy for the incumbant to serve another 4 years.  If on the other hand, the undecided is not happy with the incumbant, then it's easy, vote for the other guy, known or unknown.  Of course the undecided could always stay home on polling day or register a protest vote (a protest that will fall on deaf ears) by putting ones mark against Nader.

|

Following on from the posting reference Thomas Frank, here are two items on the same subject from Kevin Drum (blogger at Washington Monthly)

"

WORKING CLASS WOES — PART 1....The New York Times reports that the working class isn't doing too well these days:

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that hourly earnings of production workers - nonmanagement workers ranging from nurses and teachers to hamburger flippers and assembly-line workers - fell 1.1 percent in June, after accounting for inflation....In June, production workers took home $525.84 a week, on average. After accounting for inflation, this is about $8 less than they were pocketing last January, and is the lowest level of weekly pay since October 2001.

...."There's a bit of a dichotomy," said Ethan S. Harris, chief economist at Lehman Brothers. "Joe Six-Pack is under a lot of pressure. He got a lousy raise; he's paying more for gasoline and milk. He's not doing that great. But proprietors' income is up. Profits are up. Home values are up. Middle-income and upper-income people are looking pretty good."

....Their woes are a product of supply and demand for labor. From 1996 through 2000 when employers were hiring hand over fist, real hourly wages of ordinary workers rose by 7.5 percent.

Supply and demand. Yes indeed. The labor market is a slave to supply and demand just like any other market, right?

Odd, then, that CEO pay rose 27% in 2003, isn't it? Did the supply of CEOs shrink last year? Did demand skyrocket?

What's more, compared to average workers, who remain stuck in the invisible grip of Adam Smith, CEO pay has increased about 3x since 1990 and about 7x since 1980.

Is this the free market at work? That's what I'm told. So I have a contest in mind: a prize for the least laughable explanation for why CEO pay has gone up 7x since 1980 based on supply and demand. At a minimum, winning entries should explain the following:

Please keep your entries under 100,000 words, and restrict your econometrics to fields no more complex than differential topology.

Grand prize to be announced at a future date."

"

WORKING CLASS WOES — PART 2....Thomas Frank, author of What's the Matter With Kansas?, writes in the LA Times today that one of the reasons the working class is doing so poorly these days is that no one stands up for them anymore:

[Moderate DLC] Democrats explicitly rule out what they deride as "class warfare" and take great pains to emphasize their friendliness to business interests....The Republicans, meanwhile, were industriously fabricating their own class-based language of the right, and while they made their populist appeal to blue-collar voters, Democrats were giving those same voters — their traditional base — the big brushoff, ousting their representatives from positions within the party and consigning their issues, with a laugh and a sneer, to the dustbin of history. A more ruinous strategy for Democrats would be difficult to invent. And the ruination just keeps on coming.

Frank's thesis is that Republicans have successfully wooed blue collar workers via social wedge issues, while at the same time Democrats have decided to move upscale. The result is that neither party cares much about the economic issues of the working class:

Behold the political alignment that Kansas is pioneering for us all....when two female pop stars exchange a lascivious kiss on national TV, Kansas goes haywire. Kansas screams for the heads of the liberal elite. Kansas runs to the polling place. And Kansas cuts those pop stars' taxes.

As a social system, the backlash works. The two adversaries feed off each other in a kind of inverted symbiosis: One mocks the other, and the other heaps even more power on the mocker. This arrangement should be the envy of every ruling class in the world. Not only can it be pushed much, much further, but it is fairly certain that it will be so pushed. All the incentives point that way, as do the never-examined cultural requirements of modern capitalism.

Why shouldn't our culture just get worse and worse, if making it worse will only cause the people who worsen it to grow wealthier and wealthier?

I'm not quite as pessimistic as Frank that this vicious cycle is inevitable — in fact, I'm one of those DLC Dems who think that the Republican embrace of neanderthal social issues will eventually ruin them. At the same time, though, he's right about the working class: their wages have stagnated over the past 30 years even though the economy has grown tremendously, and the Democratic party hasn't done nearly enough to address this. It's no wonder the Republicans have been so successful at picking off blue collar workers via social issues.

I only wish Frank had a bit more room in his op-ed to tell us what he thinks the Democrats ought to be doing about this. I guess you have to buy the book if you want to know that".


|

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Is this the real and fair picture of the democrats? 

If so, it is disheartening, unless it wakes everybody
up.

Thomas Frank appeared on the Charlie Rose show on Friday, 16th. July, 2004.
I think I agree with just about everything he says in his book, but, I don't believe
a REAL progressive liberal could get elected to the WH. Take a look at what happened
to Dennis Kucinich (who I supported in the primary). Bottom line, this is a conservative
county.

Published on Friday, July 16, 2004 by TomDispatch.com

Red-State America Against Itself
by Thomas Frank

That our politics have been shifting rightward for
more than thirty years is a generally acknowledged
fact of American life. That this rightward movement
has largely been accomplished by working-class voters
whose lives have been materially worsened by the
conservative policies they have supported is a less
comfortable fact, one we have trouble talking about in
a straightforward manner.

And yet the backlash is there, whenever we care to
look, from the "hardhats" of the 1960s to the "Reagan
Democrats" of the 1980s to today's mad-as-hell "red
states." You can see the paradox first-hand on nearly
any Main Street in middle America -- "going out of
business" signs side by side with placards supporting
George W. Bush.

I chose to observe the phenomenon by going back to my
home state of Kansas, a place that has been
particularly ill-served by the conservative policies
of privatization, deregulation, and de-unionization,
and that has reacted to its worsening situation by
becoming more conservative still. Indeed, Kansas is
today the site of a ferocious struggle within the
Republican Party, a fight pitting affluent moderate
Republicans against conservatives from the
working-class districts and the downmarket churches.
And it's hard not to feel some affection for the
conservative faction, even as you deplore their
political views. After all, these are the people that
liberalism is supposed to speak to: the hard-luck
farmers, the bitter factory workers, the outsiders,
the disenfranchised, the disreputable.

Democrats shed the language of class warfare

Who is to blame for this landscape of distortion, of
paranoia, and of good people led astray? Though Kansas
voters have chosen self-destructive policies, it is
just as clear to me that liberalism deserves a large
part of the blame for the backlash phenomenon.
Liberalism may not be the monstrous, all-powerful
conspiracy that conservatives make it out to be, but
its failings are clear nonetheless. Somewhere in the
last four decades liberalism ceased to be relevant to
huge portions of its traditional constituency, and we
can say that liberalism lost places like Wichita and
Shawnee, Kansas with as much accuracy as we can point
out that conservatism won them over.

This is due partially, I think, to the Democratic
Party's more-or-less official response to its waning
fortunes. The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the
organization that produced such figures as Bill
Clinton, Al Gore, Joe Lieberman, and Terry McAuliffe,
has long been pushing the party to forget blue-collar
voters and concentrate instead on recruiting affluent,
white-collar professionals who are liberal on social
issues. The larger interests that the DLC wants
desperately to court are corporations, capable of
generating campaign contributions far outweighing
anything raised by organized labor. The way to collect
the votes and -- more important -- the money of these
coveted constituencies, "New Democrats" think, is to
stand rock-solid on, say, the pro-choice position
while making endless concessions on economic issues,
on welfare, NAFTA, Social Security, labor law,
privatization, deregulation, and the rest of it. Such
Democrats explicitly rule out what they deride as
"class warfare" and take great pains to emphasize
their friendliness to business interests. Like the
conservatives, they take economic issues off the
table. As for the working-class voters who were until
recently the party's very backbone, the DLC figures
they will have nowhere else to go; Democrats will
always be marginally better on economic issues than
Republicans. Besides, what politician in this
success-worshiping country really wants to be the
voice of poor people? Where's the soft money in that?

This is, in drastic miniature, the criminally stupid
strategy that has dominated Democratic thinking off
and on ever since the "New Politics" days of the early
seventies. Over the years it has enjoyed a few
successes, but, as political writer E. J. Dionne has
pointed out, the larger result was that both parties
have become "vehicles for upper-middle-class
interests" and the old class-based language of the
left quickly disappeared from the universe of the
respectable. The Republicans, meanwhile, were
industriously fabricating their own class-based
language of the right, and while they made their
populist appeal to blue-collar voters, Democrats were
giving those same voters -- their traditional base --
the big brush-off, ousting their representatives from
positions within the party and consigning their
issues, with a laugh and a sneer, to the dustbin of
history. A more ruinous strategy for Democrats would
be difficult to invent. And the ruination just keeps
on coming. However desperately they triangulate and
accommodate, the losses keep mounting.

Curiously enough, though, Democrats of the DLC variety
aren't worried. They seem to look forward to a day
when their party really is what David Brooks and Ann
Coulter claim it to be now: a coming-together of the
rich and the self-righteous. While Republicans trick
out their poisonous stereotype of the liberal elite,
Democrats seem determined to live up to the libel.

Such Democrats look at a situation like present-day
Kansas where social conservatives war ferociously on
moderate Republicans and they rub their hands with
anticipation: Just look at how Ronald Reagan's "social
issues" have come back to bite his party in the ass!
If only the crazy Cons push a little bit more, these
Democrats think, the Republican Party will alienate
the wealthy suburban Mods for good, and we will be
able to step in and carry places like super-affluent
Mission Hills, Kansas, along with all the juicy boodle
that its inhabitants are capable of throwing our way.

While I enjoy watching Republicans fight one another
as much as the next guy, I don't think the Kansas
story really gives true liberals any cause to cheer.
Maybe someday the DLC dream will come to pass, with
the Democrats having moved so far to the right that
they are no different than old-fashioned moderate
Republicans, and maybe then the affluent will finally
come over to their side en masse. But along the way
the things that liberalism once stood for -- equality
and economic security -- will have been abandoned
completely. Abandoned, let us remember, at the
historical moment when we need them most.

Movement building on the right

The true lesson for liberals in the Kansas story is
the utter and final repudiation of their historical
decision to remake themselves as the other
pro-business party. By all rights the people of
Wichita and Shawnee should today be flocking to the
party of Roosevelt, not deserting it. Culturally
speaking, however, that option is simply not available
to them anymore. Democrats no longer speak to the
people on the losing end of a free-market system that
is becoming more brutal and more arrogant by the day.

The problem is not that Democrats are monolithically
pro-choice or anti-school-prayer; it's that by
dropping the class language that once distinguished
them sharply from Republicans they have left
themselves vulnerable to cultural wedge issues like
guns and abortion and the sneers of Hollywood whose
hallucinatory appeal would ordinarily be far
overshadowed by material concerns. We are in an
environment where Republicans talk constantly about
class -- in a coded way, to be sure -- but where
Democrats are afraid to bring it up.

Democratic political strategy simply assumes that
people know where their economic interest lies and
that they will act on it by instinct. There is no need
for any business-bumming class-war rhetoric on the
part of candidates or party spokesmen, and there is
certainly no need for a liberal to actually get his
hands dirty fraternizing with the disgruntled. Let
them look at the record and see for themselves:
Democrats are slightly more generous with Social
Security benefits, slightly stricter on environmental
regulations, and do less union-busting than
Republicans.

The gigantic error in all this is that people don't
spontaneously understand their situation in the great
sweep of things. Liberalism isn't a force of karmic
nature that pushes back when the corporate world goes
too far; it is a man-made contrivance as subject to
setbacks and defeats as any other. Consider our social
welfare apparatus, the system of taxes, regulations,
and social insurance that is under sustained attack
these days. Social Security, the FDA, and all the rest
of it didn't just spring out of the ground fully
formed in response to the obvious excesses of a
laissez-faire system; they were the result of decades
of movement-building, of bloody fights between
strikers and state militias, of agitating, educating,
and thankless organizing. More than forty years passed
between the first glimmerings of a left-wing reform
movement in the 1890s and the actual enactment of its
reforms in the 1930s. In the meantime scores of the
most rapacious species of robber baron went to their
reward untaxed, unregulated, and unquestioned.

An even more telling demonstration of the importance
of movements in framing people's perspectives can be
found in the voting practices of union members. Take
your average white male voter: in the 2000 election
they chose George W. Bush by a considerable margin.
Find white males who were union members, however, and
they voted for Al Gore by a similar margin. The same
difference is repeated whatever the demographic
category: women, gun owners, retirees, and so on --
when they are union members, their politics shift to
the left. This is true even when the union members in
question had little contact with union leaders. Just
being in a union evidently changes the way a person
looks at politics, inoculates them against the
derangement of the backlash. Here, values matter
almost least of all, while the economy, health care,
and education are of paramount concern. Union voters
are, in other words, the reverse image of the
Brown-back conservative who cares nothing for
economics but torments himself night and day with
vague fears about "cultural decline."

Labor unions are on the wane today, as everyone knows,
down to 9% of the private-sector workforce from a
high-water mark of 38% in the 1950s. Their decline
goes largely unchecked by a Democratic Party anxious
to demonstrate its fealty to corporate America, and
unmourned by a therapeutic left that never liked those
Archie Bunker types in the first place. Among the
broader population, accustomed to thinking of
organizations as though they were consumer products,
it is simply assumed that unions are declining because
nobody wants to join them anymore, the same way the
public has lost its taste for the music of the Bay
City Rollers. And in the offices of the union-busting
specialists and the Wall Street brokers and the retail
executives, the news is understood the same way
aristocrats across Europe greeted the defeat of
Napoleon in 1815: as a monumental victory in a war to
the death.

While leftists sit around congratulating themselves on
their personal virtue, the right understands the
central significance of movement-building, and they
have taken to the task with admirable diligence. Cast
your eyes over the vast and complex structure of
conservative "movement culture," a phenomenon that has
little left-wing counterpart anymore. There are
foundations like the one operated by the Kochs in
Wichita, channeling their millions into the political
battle at the highest levels, subsidizing free-market
economics departments and magazines and thinkers. Then
there are the think tanks, the Institutes Hoover and
American Enterprise, that send the money sluicing on
into the pockets of the right-wing pundit corps, Ann
Coulter, Dinesh D'Souza, and the rest, furnishing them
with what they need to keep their books coming and
their minds in fighting trim between media bouts. A
brigade of lobbyists. A flock of magazines and
newspapers. A publishing house or two. And, at the
bottom, the committed grassroots organizers going
door-to-door, organizing their neighbors, mortgaging
their houses even, to push the gospel of the backlash.


And this movement speaks to those at society's bottom,
addresses them on a daily basis. From the left they
hear nothing, but from the Cons they get an
explanation for it all. Even better, they get a plan
for action, a scheme for world conquest with a wedge
issue. And why shouldn't they get to dream their lurid
dreams of politics-as-manipulation? They've had it
done to them enough in reality.

Kansas in the vanguard?

American conservatism depends for its continued
dominance and even for its very existence on people
never making certain mental connections about the
world, connections that until recently were treated as
obvious or self-evident everywhere on the planet. For
example, the connection between mass culture, most of
which conservatives hate, and laissez-faire
capitalism, which they adore without reservation. Or
between the small towns they profess to love and the
market forces that are slowly grinding those small
towns back into the red-state dust -- which forces
they praise in the most exalted terms.

In this onrushing parade of anti-knowledge my home
state has proudly taken a place at the front. It is
true that Kansas is an extreme case, and that there
are still working-class areas here that are yet to be
converted to the Con gospel. But it is also true that
things that begin in Kansas --the Civil War,
Prohibition, Populism, Pizza Hut -- have a historical
tendency to go national.

Maybe Kansas, instead of being a laughingstock, is
actually in the vanguard. Maybe what has happened
there points the way in which all our public policy
debates are heading. Maybe someday soon the political
choices of Americans everywhere will be whittled down
to the two factions of the Republican Party. Whether
the Mods still call themselves "Republicans" then or
have switched to being Democrats won't really matter:
both groups will be what Kansans call "fiscal
conservatives," which is to say "friends of business,"
and the issues that motivated our parents' Democratic
Party will be permanently off the table.

Sociologists often warn against letting the nation's
distribution of wealth become too polarized, as it
clearly has in the last few decades. Societies that
turn their backs on equality, the professors insist,
inevitably meet with a terrible comeuppance. But those
sociologists were thinking of an old world in which
class anger was a phenomenon of the left. They weren't
reckoning with Kansas, with the world we are becoming.


Behold the political alignment that Kansas is
pioneering for us all. The corporate world -- for
reasons having a great deal to do with its
corporateness -- blankets the nation with a cultural
style designed to offend and to pretend-subvert: sassy
teens in Skechers flout the Man; hipsters dressed in
T-shirts reading "FCUK" snicker at the suits who just
don't get it. It's meant to be offensive, and Kansas
is duly offended. The state watches impotently as its
culture, beamed in from the coasts, becomes coarser
and more offensive by the year. Kansas aches for
revenge. Kansas gloats when celebrities say stupid
things; it cheers when movie stars go to jail. And
when two female rock stars exchange a lascivious kiss
on national TV, Kansas goes haywire. Kansas screams
for the heads of the liberal elite. Kansas comes
running to the polling place. And Kansas cuts those
rock stars' taxes.

As a social system, the backlash works. The two
adversaries feed off of each other in a kind of
inverted symbiosis: one mocks the other, and the other
heaps even more power on the one. This arrangement
should be the envy of every ruling class in the world.
Not only can it be pushed much, much farther, but it
is fairly certain that it will be so pushed. All the
incentives point that way, as do the never-examined
cultural requirements of modern capitalism. Why
shouldn't our culture just get worse and worse, if
making it worse will only cause the people who worsen
it to grow wealthier and wealthier?

Thomas Frank was born and raised in the suburbs of
Kansas City. He is editor of The Baffler magazine and
the author of One Market Under God, a study of "New
Economy" thinking, and The Conquest of Cool, an
examination of the roots of corporate hipsterism. This
piece is adapted from his new book, What's the Matter
with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of
America.

Adapted from the Book: What's the Matter with Kansas?
How Conservatives Won the Heart of America by Thomas
Frank.

|

Oh, Canada

Published on Friday, July 16, 2004 by the Globe & Mail

/ Canada
My Five Minutes on Fox
Defending Canada Against the Broadsides of the U.S.
Right is a Learning Experience

by Rudyard Griffiths

My descent into Fox News's bizarre take on all things
Canadian started with a mention on Matt Drudge's
website. The editors of the Drudge Report had posted
the findings of a survey my organization had released
in the final week of the federal election. When we
asked 500 Canadian teens a series of questions in a
telephone poll about our country's role on the world
stage, 40 per cent indicated that they agreed with the
statement, "America is force for evil in the world."

Albeit a strong opinion seemingly held by a
significant number of teens, this statistic generated
only a few mentions in the Canadian media -- a sharp
contrast to what was soon to unfold on U.S. airwaves.

The first sign that the Drudge Report mention was
whipping up a tempest in a teapot came in the form of
a screed by arch Canada-baiter and top-rated Fox News
personality Bill O'Reilly. I suspect his producers
have Google news alerts set up with the key words
"Canada," "socialism," "draft dodgers" and
"anti-Americanism." On his show, Mr. O'Reilly used the
single survey statistic to let loose on Canada's
political leaders, the media and our "ignorant teens."
One of his choicer utterances included: "The truth is
that the USA has freed more human beings in 230 years
than the rest of the world combined. France has freed
almost no one. Ditto Canada. . . . I object to the
anti-American foreign press and bums like Chirac in
France and Chrétien in Canada."

Sorry, but didn't our Governor-General and President
George W. Bush just commemorate the 60th anniversary
of D-Day together in France? Last time I looked, we
fought alongside the Americans in Korea, during the
long grind of the Cold War and served with distinction
in Bosnia and Afghanistan. And by the way, we have had
a new Prime Minister for seven months and his name is
Paul Martin.

Getting mentioned on Fox News all but guarantees you
the full, if fleeting, attention of America's
conservative news media. In the ensuing 24 hours, my
e-mail inbox was clogged with a strange mélange of
messages from Canada-hating O'Reilly fans and updates
from friends on both sides of the border as to where
our now "viral" poll was popping up in the U.S. media.


CNN's Tucker Carlson of Crossfire fame offered what
was a familiar anti-Canadian refrain in the continuing
coverage of the poll result: "It's time for America to
get some self-respect. . . . Until Canadian attitudes
change, there should be a moratorium on Canadian
immigration to the United States. No one who says
'aboot' could come here."

It is easy to write off Bill O'Reilly and Tucker
Carlson as blowhards or worse. But egging on their
sound bites and over exaggerations is the roiling
anger of a U.S. public fed up by the incessant tide of
global anti-U.S. sentiment.

The United States is a nation long used to being
loved. From their iconic and near-universal popular
culture, to powerful memories of the freeing of
nations and peoples in wars long past, Americans have
taken great strength from the enduring popularity of
their founding ideals and way of life. This sentiment
propelled the United States, in the second half of the
20th century, to engage with the world and fashion
many of the great international institutions and norms
that underwrite the prosperity and, until recently,
the security we enjoy.

Implicit in the anti-Canada rants of Mr. O'Reilly and
his ilk is the belief that America is now alone.
Indeed, many Americans feel acutely that the country
is under constant threat of attack by its enemies and
is misunderstood and unfairly criticized by ungrateful
former allies. For this growing segment of U.S.
society, the rational response is to give up on a
global community that has seemingly given up on the
United States and act unilaterally to preserve U.S.
national interests abroad and security at home before
it's too late.

Fox News and conservative U.S. media have the pulse of
a tangible isolationist movement in the American
heartland. And while recent events might sometimes
make it difficult to discern the good that America
does in the world, an international community lacking
U.S. participation is far worse off than one that
benefits from active U.S. interest and involvement.

Three days after our poll appeared in the Drudge
Report, I got the opportunity to go on Fox News to try
to do some damage control. It was an interesting
lesson in talking to the prickly and standoffish
America that Fox News proudly champions. The show was
aptly named Heartland, and its host was the combative
former Republican congressman John Kasich.

Right from Mr. Kasich's first question as to whether
Vietnam draft dodgers had taken over our education
system, I knew I was in for an uphill struggle. I
tried to explain that Canadian teens were no different
than American teens. They wear Nike shoes, listen to
U.S. popular music and most likely know as much about
U.S. history as their own. My conciliatory tone didn't
satisfy the former congressman. What about the press?
Is the same liberal media cabal that banned Fox News
from Canadian airwaves responsible for our teens'
anti-Americanism? My five minutes flew by and I felt I
was failing miserably to counteract the stereotype
that all Canadians are Yankee-haters.

Mr. Kasich wrapped up the show by proudly stating that
he was going to Canada this summer to go fishing and
what a beautiful country we had. In that
characteristically gregarious American way, he
suggested he and his "loud mouth" would try to
convince Canadians that the United States wasn't a
force for evil in the world.

As bad as global opinion might get toward the U.S.,
and despite the degree to which anti-Americanism
abroad is feeding isolationism in the United States, I
am optimistic about the future.

Frankly, they are just too damn friendly, even on Fox
News, to fall captive to the false security of a
Fortress America.

Rudyard Griffiths is executive director of the
Dominion Institute


|

Friday, July 16, 2004

 

Uh-oh!

|

Just in case you need to be reminded, there is still a war going on and people continue to die.

|

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

I keep hearing, again this morning on C-Span, to the point where my blood boils and I can't stand it any longer. What you ask? That the current administration inherited Clinton's recession!

Well, When Did the recession Start?

Definition of a recession:- A recession is 2 or more quarters of negative GDP growth.

GDP growth was positive during Clinton's last quarter in office.

The chart below clearly shows that the recession started in March 2001, so where's the beef? The official record of GDP growth is compiled by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis. I wish these people (you know who they are) would stop misleading us.



Posted by Hello

|

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Greasing up to power

Must read article in the Guardian

While the article is mostly about the British media the same analogy can be applied to American reporting:

"When most of our journalists fail us, it's hardly surprising that the few who are brave enough to expose the lies of the powerful become heroes, even if their work is pretty coarse. When a scruffy comedian from Michigan (Michael Moore)can bring us closer to the truth than the BBC, it's time for a serious examination of why news has become the propaganda of the victor".

|

What's wrong with being a Liberal?

John squared are being accused of being Liberals! I don't have a problem with that and I don't understand why most Republicans and some Democrats shy away from the Liberal label, I'm proud to be a Liberal so what's wrong with that?

But, just to set the record straight, here is some data on the 2 Johns that shows that they are not Liberal enough in my book:

Below are the rankings for the last five years:

2003: Kerry - 1st (96.5) Edwards - 4th (94.5)
2002: Kerry - 9th (87.3) Edwards - 31st (63.0)
2001: Kerry - 11th (87.7) Edwards - 35th (68.2)
2000: Kerry - 20th (77) Edwards - 19th (80.8)
1999: Kerry - 16th (80.8) Edwards - 31st (72.2)

Average: Kerry - 12th (85.9) Edwards - 24th (75.7)

The rankings for 2003 are skewed by the campaign season, and a longer look shows that Kerry is liberal, but hardly a Paul Wellstone liberal, and Edwards is smack in the middle of the Democratic pack. So there.


|

Monday, July 12, 2004

Published on Monday, July 12, 2004 by CommonDreams.org

Bush May Still Win in Iraq
by Wade Hudson

The Bush Administration could have done the invasion
of Iraq "right." They could have used more troops.
They could have discouraged, rather than sanctioned,
the post-invasion looting. They could have established
order by keeping the Iraqi Army intact. They could
have cultivated popular support by hiring Iraqis to
rebuild the country rather than giving no-bid
contracts to their friends, at much greater cost. They
could have conducted elections sooner rather than
later.

But if they had, the Iraqi people would have elected
an anti-American, Islamist government.

So, instead, they allowed the country to fall into
chaos so that most Iraqis would reluctantly accept a
pro-American Iraqi strong man as their head of
government. Thus far, it's working. Even Ayatollah
Sistani accepts the secular Iyad Allawi as Prime
Minister, for now. The Bush scheme may soon accomplish
its primary goal: the re-election of the "War
President" this November.

The Bush Administration is brazenly driven by
election-year politics. The rush to war against Iraq
was dictated by the election calendar. As reported by
the New Republic, the Bush Administration is
explicitly pressuring Pakistan to capture bin Laden
prior to the election. The Administration has violated
core conservative principles by getting Congress to
pass legislation hypocritically designed to gain votes
in November.

Concerning the recent transfer of limited power to an
interim Iraqi government, Seymour Hersh reported in
the June 28 New Yorker that a former White House
official depicted the Administration as eager-almost
desperate-to "put together something by June 30th-just
something that could stand up" through the
Presidential election.

There may be no limit to what Team Bush will do to win
November 2. If there is, it's impossible to define.

In early April 2003, shortly after the Marines
arrived, an Iraqi college student in Baghdad who had
refused to join the Baath Party told me, "I'm afraid
that the Americans will just secure the resources of
Iraq and leave Iraq in the hands of another crazy
leader." This student was not alone. Many observers
anticipated that the U.S. would install another Saddam
clone to take charge in Iraq. The selection of Allawi
is consistent with this suspicion.

"Allawi helped Saddam get to power," an American
intelligence officer told Hersh. "He was a very
effective operator and a true believer." Reuel Marc
Gerecht, a former C.I.A. case officer, commented, "His
strongest virtue is that he's a thug." According to
Hersh, one of Allawi 's former medical-school
classmates, Dr. Haifa al-Azawi, depicted Allawi as a
"big husky man . . . who carried a gun on his belt and
frequently brandished it, terrorizing the medical
students."

Hersh wrote that when Allawi moved to London in 1971,
he was in charge of the European operations of the
Baath Party and the local activities of the
Mukhabarat, its intelligence agency, until 1975.
Vincent Cannistraro, a former C.I.A. officer, said,
"Allawi has blood on his hands from his days in
London." A cabinet-level Middle East diplomat told
Hersh that Allawi was involved with a Mukhabarat "hit
team" that sought out and killed Baath Party
dissenters throughout Europe. Why Allawi fell out of
favor with Saddam and became the victim of
assassination attempts himself is unknown.

Bush-Allawi are demonstrating considerable political
skills. Partly by reminding the Kurds that they would
need pipelines even if they seized Kirkuk and the
Northern oil fields, Bush-Allawi, with military
assistance from Israel, are keeping the Kurds on
board. Bush-Allawi have kept the Shiite elites in the
South relatively quiet by attacking and weakening the
forces of Ayatollah Sistani's fierce opponent, Muqtada
al Sadr.

And Bush-Allawi allowed the insurgents to take over in
Fallujah, which has enabled the Sunnis to centralize a
political base. From this strengthened position, the
Iraqi Sunnis have openly, forcefully told the foreign
jihadists to stop their suicide bombing, with
considerable success. Now Allawi is planning to revive
the Army and is promising amnesty for Iraqi insurgents
if they back off. Given his connections with the
former Baathists in the Sunni Triangle, Allawi might
well persuade the Iraqi insurgents to focus on the
U.S. military and permit him to restore security for
the Iraqi people.

With increased security, Allawi's honeymoon could well
last for a while. He might cobble together a
confederation with the Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites each
having regional power. If he were to tell the
Americans to withdraw their troops completely and Bush
agreed to a date certain, the national assembly, if
one is elected in January, would more likely select
him as their Prime Minister.

But a more probable scenario is that once the U.S.
election is over, Allawi will "postpone" the Iraqi
election and perpetuate martial law. If Bush pulls the
rabbit out of the hat and beats Kerry, Bush probably
won' t have democracy in Iraq, but at least Iraq's
dictator will be "our" dictator.

Wade Hudson (whudson@igc.org), Editor of Toward Peace
served in Baghdad with the Iraq Peace Team before,
during, and after the invasion.

|

Published on Monday, July 12, 2004 by CommonDreams.org

Venezuela and Saudi Arabia: A Tale of Two Countries
by Medea Benjamin

This is a tale of two countries.

The first is Saudi Arabia, a fundamentalist theocracy
that, according to the U.S. State Department, whips
and beheads political dissidents; doesn't allow women
to vote; squashes political protest; amputates the
hands of thieves; regularly censors the press; and has
been linked by numerous reports to the Al Qaeda
terrorist network that was behind the 9/11 attacks.

The second is Venezuela, a republican democracy where
elections are hotly contested and closely scrutinized
by international observers; political rallies
regularly draw hundreds of thousands of partisans into
the street; an independent press routinely criticizes
top government officials; and a presidential recall
referendum will take place on August 15.

Both are major oil exporters to the United States. One
is being singled out for criticism and the other is
being shielded from it by the Bush administration. Can
you guess which is which?

In the nearly three years since the 9/11, attacks the
Bush administration has been criticized for failing to
hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the support provided
by wealthy Saudi families to Al Qaeda and madrassas --
the schools that train Saudi youth to hate America.

During that same period, the Bush administration
stepped up its verbal attacks on Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez. Moreover, the Bush administration's
involvement in removing democratically elected
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti earlier this
year heightened fears in Venezuela that President Bush
will try to intervene in Venezuela -- after all, the
Bush administration was the only government in the
hemisphere that approved of the 2002 coup.

Making matters worse, the National Endowment for
Democracy (NED) -- a group funded by the U.S. Congress
-- has financed Venezuelan opposition groups,
including some who participated in the April 2002
coup, to recall President Chavez. This is a potential
violation of Venezuela's election laws and the NED's
own charter. Regardless, it is illegal in the U.S. for
political candidates to accept money from foreign
governments and we should abide by the same standard
in other countries.

Though Venezuela continues to cooperate with the U.S.
military on anti-drug and anti-terrorist operations,
and is making business deals with multinational
corporations from Chevron-Texaco and ExxonMobil to
Ford, the Bush administration still wants Chavez out.

By way of contrast, the Saudi royal family spends
millions every year on lobbyists and public relations
specialists to court presidents and members of
Congress. It has an especially cozy relationship with
the Bush family. According to Bob Woodward's new book,
Plan of Attack, the Saudi government promised
President Bush it would press OPEC to increase
production quotas and lower the cost of oil before the
November elections in the United States‹a goal it has
partially achieved.

President Chavez hasn't helped his relationship with
the United States by making fiery anti-imperialist
speeches and insulting President Bush. But Venezuela
is no Saudi Arabia. By mobilizing millions of poor
Venezuelans to actively participate in politics for
the first time, Chavez's presidency is in fact the
result of a greatly revitalized democracy.

For nearly half a century, Venezuela was governed by
two parties that took turns controlling the federal
government. Corruption and cronyism were rampant.
Tapping into widespread discontent, Chavez was elected
by landslide majorities in multi-party elections in
both 1998 and 2000 by running on a platform of more,
not less, democracy.

In 1999, after a year-long constitutional assembly, a
majority of the country voted for a new constitution,
which extended new rights to women, children and
indigenous groups. Amnesty International applauded the
new constitution, calling it "an important and
significant step forward in terms of human rights."
The new constitution also included the provision that
allows for a special recall referendum of the
president -- something no other country in the Western
Hemisphere allows.

When it comes to elections, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia
are like night and day. Saudi Arabia has a feudal
monarchy; Venezuela has the most closely watched
electoral democracy of any country in the Western
Hemisphere.

Under the supervision of Jimmy Carter and the
Organization of American States, Venezuelan voters
will go to the polls on August 15 to decide whether
they want to recall President Hugo Chavez from office
-- two years before his six-year term officially ends
in 2006.

Of course, nothing bothers Venezuela's upper classes
more than being out of power. Chavez's presidency
interrupted the gradual privatization of Venezuela's
state oil company, which generates much of the
country's wealth. Chavez is today spending tens of
millions of dollars more on educational programs to
teach millions to read and on healthcare for those too
poor to afford it.

As he campaigns toward the August 15 recall
referendum, President Chavez might do do well to cool
his anti-Bush rhetoric, which not only hurts his
relationship with the United States but also hurts his
standing with swing voters.

At the same time, the U.S. government should recognize
that Venezuela is certainly a more reliable friend
than Saudi Arabia. Congress should investigate whether
any National Endowment for Democracy funding went to
2002 coup leaders or violated local election laws. And
for its part, the Bush administration should publicly
proclaim its support for electoral democracy in
Venezuela -- even if that means that Chavez finishes
his term and is re-elected in 2006.

Medea Benjamin is co-founder of Global Exchange, a
human rights organization that has led human rights
and election monitoring delegations to more than 20
countries worldwide.

|

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

The Republican case against fascism
By Bennet Kelley

A chorus of Democrats is declaring that the Bush administration is
among the most reckless, radical and deceitful administrations in modern
history, but has had limited success in convincing voters of this fact
-- possibly because the message is lost in the current cacophony of
Bush hatred.

Democrats should permit a more compelling voice to enunciate this
theme--the voice of distinguished Republicans.

Voices like former White House aide John DiIulio, who acknowledged that
"this administration is further to right than much of the public
understands," or Clyde Prestowitz's, a Reagan administration veteran,
who aptly described the Bush administration's economic and foreign
policies as a "radicalism of the right" which cannot be sustained
because "it is at odds with fundamental--and truly conservative--American values."

Senior Republicans have been especially critical of Bush's economic
policies. Rudy Penner, the Republican former head of the Congressional
Budget Office, called the Bush tax proposals "radical," while a veteran
of four Republican administrations confided to David Broder that the
2003 tax cuts "may be the least defensible" economic policy he had ever
seen.

Former Nixon Commerce Secretary Peter Peterson accused the
administration of pursuing a "tax-cut theology that simply discards any
objective evidence that violates the tenets of the faith" and which is
likely to fail "with great injury to the young."

Vermont Sen. Jeffords, who left the party partly due to its "tax-cut
theology," warned that this administration's "belief that tax cuts will
solve any problem is uncompromising, unyielding, and, sadly, undeterred
by past experience."

Former Senator Rudman articulated this same theme stating that the Bush
administration wants to "pretend our choices have no consequences and
saddle our kids and grandkids with taxes that will soon ramp up to
unsustainable levels."

Each of these men would agree with N. Gregory Mankiw, Bush's chief
economic adviser, who prior to joining the administration, dismissed
supply-side economics as "fad economics" conceived by "charlatans and
cranks."

Republican criticism of the administration is not limited to economic
policy; as a number of prominent Republicans have been unsettled by
this administration's hawkish unilateral foreign policy, which Reagan-Bush
veteran James Pinkerton characterized as "Strangelovian." Nixon veteran
and Goldwater biographer Bill Rentschler believes that Bush has been
"guided and goaded" by "crafty, militant [and] extreme" NeoCon advisers
whom Goldwater viewed as seeking "to destroy everybody who doesn't
agree with them" in betrayal of "fundamental principles of conservatism."

Foreign policy veteran Brent Scowcroft warned before the war that there
was "scant evidence" to tie Iraq to terrorist organizations and that a
war with Iraq would only divert us from the war on terrorism, a view
shared by Sen. Hagel.

Sen. Hagel also has criticized the administration's brash
unilateralism, noting that leadership requires more than impugning "the motives of
those who disagree with you. [This is] bullying people... .You can't do
that to partners and allies."

The most biting criticism has come from Nixon White House Counsel John
Dean, who addressed the administration's "alarming" number of lies and
deceptions on matters of policy.

Dean compared Bush's statements to other Presidential lies and found
that "Bush's lies are almost never justifiable...[and] are typically of
the most serious kind - lies that misinform the public in such a way as
to disrupt the proper functioning of the democratic process."

While Republicans have never missed an opportunity to add the "radical"
prefix to every Democratic movement, the Bush NeoCons have been
relatively unscathed. Democrats should highlight these statements from their learned
Republican colleagues to hammer home that the Bush administration, in
adhering to the rigid and extreme ideology of the NeoCons, has become a
runaway train blindly heading for disaster.

Democrats are more likely to convince swing voters of this danger if
they understand that both Democrats and Republicans are sounding the
alarm. Republicans are properly alarmed about this administration's radical
and reckless policies, since they not only know that American voters have
never knowingly embraced radicalism but also that history demonstrates
that radicalism has only led to catastrophe for a political movement
and the people it governs.

In 2004, the test will be whether Democrats convince voters to follow
the warning of the most senior Republican of them all, Abe Lincoln,
that in "grave emergencies, moderation is ...safer than radicalism."

Bennet Kelley is publisher of BushLies.net and former National Co-Chair
of the Democratic National Committee's young professional arm.
His e-mail address is BKelley@hispeedmediae. com. The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily this newspaper.

sent by June Wortman - 520-648-5877

|


Fox News is part of the same media group. So now we know why those who get their news from Fox are so confused! Posted by Hello

|

Friday, July 02, 2004

Nader off the Arizona ballot
by kos
Fri Jul 2nd, 2004 at 12:58:11 EDT

It's official -- Nader's Arizona organization, faced with an unwinnable legal challenge to the validity of its petition signatures, has withdrawn itself from ballot consideration "in the face of overwhelming evidence" collected by the AZ Democratic Party.
The other question that remains unanswered is whether the Arizona Democratic Party's findings that the ballot signatures turned in where in large part fraudulent will impact two other potential ballot initiatives whose signatures were collected by the same Republican firm -- an anti-immigrant effort and an attempt to overturn AZ's clean election laws.


|

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Why do I hate America? (not my words)

|

Will the media stop at nothing to get G. W. Bush re-elected?

"Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was a senator named John who found himself on Al Gore's short list of potential running mates.

The campaign press in the summer of 2000 was entranced with John. It tumbled all over itself to describe John as the perfect match for what it saw as the somewhat wooden, robot-like Gore. One newspaper described John as a man with "an easy manner and good looks," a politician whose "charisma [might] rub off on [Gore]," a person who could "bring some charm to the ticket." John's selection, it opined, would signal that Gore "thinks the election will be decided on personality." A television reporter also regarded this John as "charismatic." Another newspaper saw him as "younger and more telegenic than Dick Cheney." Yet a third newspaper called him "handsome," with "a record tailor-made to undermine the standard Republican attack on liberal Democrats."

This John's surname was Kerry – though if you guessed Edwards, you are more than excused – and the press outlets that offered the above descriptions were the St. Petersburg Times, NBC News, the Boston Globe, and the (New York) Daily News, respectively.

What a difference 1,460 days make".
Read on.


|

Republicans will stop at nothing to steal an election!

CONCORD, N.H. - The former head a Republican consulting group pleaded guilty to jamming Democratic telephone lines in several New Hampshire cities during the 2002 general election.

Read the whole story here.

|

Thanks to Ella Sepich for this input.

Subject: FW: City of Phoenix Police Alert....Please read.....




I don't know if this is true or not...but it sounds possible...be safe!


This is important! Please read this! Be alert, be wise, be safe...

This is a new car jacking scam bulletin from the Phoenix Police Department.
Please read. Be safe.

POLICE ALERT

Be aware of new car-jacking scheme.

Imagine: You walk across the parking lot, unlock your car and get inside.
Then you lock all your doors, start the engine and shift into REVERSE, and you look into the rearview mirror to back out of your parking space and you notice a piece of paper stuck to the middle of the rear window.

So, you shift into PARK, unlock your doors and jump out of your car to remove that paper (or whatever it is) that is obstructing your view...

When you reach the back of your car, that is when the car-jackers appear out of nowhere, jump into your car and take off!!

Your engine was running, (ladies would have their purse in the car) and they practically mow you down as they speed off in your car.

BE AWARE OF THIS NEW SCHEME THAT IS NOW BEING USED.
Just drive away and remove the paper that is stuck to your window later, and be thankful that you read this email.

I hope you will forward this to friends and family...especially to women!

A purse contains all your identification, and you certainly do NOT want someone getting your home address. They already HAVE your keys!

This list is a public service of the City of Tempe, Arizona

Maria Eunise Beltran
Traffic Records
Phoenix Police Department
261-8487


|

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?