The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Friday, October 24, 2003

A REVOLUTION IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY -- John Podesta, former Clinton Chief of Staff and current head of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress is planning one.

THE DAILY DISTORTION -- Brought to you by the good folks at johnkerry.com.

THE RHETORIC

"And so the new role of the Federal Government is to set high standards, provide resources, hold people accountable, and liberate school districts to meet the standards--We're going to spend more on our schools, and we're going to spend it more wisely."
--[Remarks on Signing the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, 1/8/2002]

THE REALITY: Bush's Budget leaves many children behind:

"How could voters not be disappointed by the Bush administration's mishandling of education policy generally, and especially its decision to withhold more than $6 billion from the landmark No Child Left Behind Act?...The Bush administration wanted to trumpet No Child Left Behind, then fail to pay for it---without the voters taking notice. But Americans, who value education, can tell a bait-and-switch when they see one."
--[Editorial, New York Times, 10/21/2003]

Don't You Want a President Who Means What He Says?

ANGRY CIA -- Atrios has got the goods.

WAL-MART KNEW -- That's the message from federal law enforcement authorities investigating the use of illegal workers to clean Wal-Mart stores. The company, of course, is denying all knowledge of the widespread use of illegal workers by Wal-Mart contractors all over the country, but the feds are not buying it. Nor should they.

MORE BLEEDING IRAQ -- Three U.S. soldiers were killed and 17 wounded during a day of fierce attacks on our soldiers by Iraqi insurgents. Since May 1, when Mr Bush declared an end to major combat and "mission accomplished," 108 U.S. soldiers have died and nearly 2000 have been wounded.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

JOE WILSON ENDORSES KERRY -- Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who exposed the Bush regime's lies about Iraq non-existent nuclear weapons program with a July op-ed in The New York Times, has endorsed Senator John Kerry [D-MA] for President of the United States.
In a conference call with New Hampshire reporters, Wilson said he and Kerry have shared the experience of challenging their government -- Wilson when he questioned the "rush to war'' with Iraq, Kerry when he challenged America's role in Vietnam.

Speaking from Washington, Wilson said Kerry's actions, coming when he was a 23-year-old Vietnam War veteran, makes him stand out in the Democratic presidential field.

"John Kerry did the same thing after he came out of Vietnam, I did it at the age of 53 ... with a long and distinguished career behind me,'' Wilson said. "John Kerry did it at the very beginning of his career.

"I know how these sorts of things test one's mettle,'' he said. "To have stood up and said what he did, at the time that he did, in my judgment, sets him apart from the other candidates.''
Welcome aboard, Mr Ambassador. Once again, you are fighting the good fight for the good guys.

BILL CLINTON IS STILL SAVING LIVES -- While Mr Bush sides with pharmaceutical companies to keep drug prices high [sending millions of Americans to Canada to buy drugs cheaper there, our last legally-elected President is working to save lives of millions of Africans infected with AIDS.
Former President Bill Clinton has secured a deal with four generic-drug companies to provide low-cost AIDS drugs in the developing world, an aide to the former president said Thursday.

The agreement, which was to be announced at a news conference later Thursday, will cut the price of a triple-drug regimen to about 38 cents a day.

The deal, brokered by the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation, was reported Thursday in The Wall Street Journal and confirmed by the Clinton aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The companies involved -- three Indian companies and one South African firm -- opened their books to a group of Clinton advisers, who then worked with the companies to cut costs.

Patented versions of the regimen run at least $1.54 per day. Where available, the discounted generic regimen costs 55 cents per day.

The foundation also helped several Caribbean and African nations prepare detailed plans for introducing the drugs. The plans are intended to make the drugs more readily available throughout each nation.

To pay for the drugs, and for improvements in the countries' health systems, Clinton has secured partial funding by lobbying wealthy nations including Ireland and Canada. Ireland has committed $58.3 million over five years, mainly to Mozambique.

"Usually I just call the prime minister or the president," Clinton told the Journal, "and tell them what we're doing and ask them to have somebody look at it. And I always tell them that even though we're friends they don't have to do this for me -- don't do it unless they think it's a good thing."

Clinton's foundation has been working with the governments of Rwanda, Mozambique, Tanzania and several Caribbean nations to fund AIDS treatment.

The three African nations have each secured additional funds from other sources including the World Bank and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
But he engaged in consensual sexual activity with an adult female! He engaged in consensual sexual activity with an adult female!

THE INCOMPETENT MR CHENEY -- Dick Cheney was sold to the American public as the sober and experienced statesman who would see to it that Mr Bush pursued a sober and realistic set of policies, especially in the areas of foreign affairs and defense. However, as Joshua Marshall points out in The Hill, Mr Cheney is hardly the man he is often thought to be. His policy errors, arrogance, and sheer vindictiveness have done far more harm to the nation than most people suspect. Mr Marshall begins with Mr Cheney's disastrous decision to disband the Iraqi army and turn hundreds of thousands of unemployed and angry young men loose on the streets, but there is far more than just that.
What was the main legacy of the vice president's energy task force? A bill? No, it was embroiling the administration in a series of controversies and lawsuits all tied to Cheney's insistence on running the outfit with a near-Nixonian and ultimately self-defeating secrecy.

Cheney was also responsible for shelving the recommendations of the Hart-Rudman commission so that he could spearhead his own task force so that he could put the administration's stamp on whatever anti-terrorism reforms eventually got adopted. But Cheney got distracted by other matters, and his task force didn't get down to business until after Sept. 11.

After the attacks, Cheney was one of several key advisers arguing that the White House should keep Tom Ridge's Office of Homeland Security within the White House rather than upgrade it to a Cabinet department and thus open it to congressional scrutiny. Cheney's obstinacy ensured that the administration's efforts on Homeland Security were stuck in neutral for nearly eight months.

In March 2002---right about the time he started poking his nose into the Niger uranium business---Cheney embarked on his only major diplomatic initiative: a tour of Middle Eastern capitals to line up support for war against Iraq. The initiative was a test-case for the first principle of Cheney's foreign policy: that a strong hand from Washington is the key to building consensus among America's allies.

The vice president went to the region to get moderate Arab leaders to line up behind the United States against Iraq. But when he returned a week later, those friendly Arab states were reconciling with Iraq for the first time in more than a decade at a summit of the Arab League in Beirut. It was a major embarrassment for the White House and a signal rebuke for Cheney's brand of clumsy, strong-arm diplomacy.

Oh, one last goof: Cheney and the now-fired Larry Lindsey were the two principal voices responsible for the president's early and self-defeating opposition to the serious securities law reform that eventually became Sarbanes-Oxley bill.
And this is the man who is supposed to be in charge of George W Bush? Well, that explains a lot. Just one more question: Who is in charge of Dick Cheney?

STRANGER THAN FICTION -- Why would babies attack and bite another baby?

NO WONDER THEY DON'T LIKE HIM -- Americans don't know about things like this, but there are good reasons, apart from the Iraq War, that Mr Bush is loathed around the world. Take, for example, the issue of a possible free trade agreement with Australia and the liberal and humane way the Aussies ensure their people have access to the drugs they need. Under orders from his paymasters back home, Mr Bush is trying to kill Australia's liberal Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
President George Bush has put the future of Australia's cheap pharmaceuticals in question, telling Prime Minister John Howard that raising their prices is a key goal for United States negotiators in any free trade deal.

A senior Australian official said President Bush singled out changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme as an area where he is under heavy political pressure to deliver benefits to domestic constituencies. The US pharmaceutical industry outspent even the oil industry to be the biggest financier of Republican candidates at last year's Congressional elections.

Australia's scheme has given it some of the West's cheapest pharmaceuticals by making the Government a monopoly buyer, a power it has used to squeeze prices.
So, Australians enjoy cheap pharmacological medicines because that is how they want it and they've arranged their society to meet this need. None of that matters to Mr Bush, though. The shabby demands of his grasping political financiers back home are far more important than the health and welfare of the Australian public.

It's a wonder the protests were not more fierce. They probably should have been.

ATTACKS ON U.S. SOLDIERS "SPIKE" -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's memo, which appeard in USA Today yesterday, indicated that, the Bush regime's public statements to the contrary, the war on terror is not going as well as we have been led to believe. New reports from Iraq suggest that resistance to the U.S. occupation is growing, not lessening.
Iraqi insurgents have stepped up attacks on U.S. troops in recent weeks, the commander of American forces said Wednesday, as bombers struck again in this Sunni Muslim area west of Baghdad, in the northern city of Mosul and in the heart of the capital.

Elsewhere, U.S. troops of the 4th Infantry Division arrested more than a dozen suspects, including a former major general, in pre-dawn raids Wednesday north of Baghdad.

The Baghdad bombing, which occurred as a convoy passed through a tunnel, slightly wounded two U.S. soldiers, who were returned to duty after treatment, a U.S. officer at the scene reported.

In Fallujah, however, witnesses said four Americans were carried away on stretchers after a roadside bomb exploded beside a three-vehicle convoy. The U.S. military in Baghdad had no report on the incident.

After the attack, residents cheered and swarmed over one disabled vehicle, looting its contents and setting it afire. It was the third attack on American troops in the Fallujah area in as many days.

In Mosul, 225 miles north of Baghdad, one soldier from the 101st Airborne Division was slightly injured when a bomb exploded in front of his convoy, the military said.

The commander of U.S. forces, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, acknowledged that attacks against his troops have increased in the last three weeks, especially in Anbar province, which includes Fallujah.

"The number of wounded and the number of engagements in last three weeks have been a little bit higher than we've seen before," Sanchez said in Baghdad. "We've had an average number of engagements from 20 to 25 (daily). We've seen a spike up to 35 in last three weeks."
I suggested earlier this week that rather than things being better in Iraq than the media is reporting, that things might actually be worse. Considering that the Defense Department is not even reporting many armed clashes between U.S. soldiers and Iraqi insurgents, I think my original hunch was correct.

FEDS BUST ILLEGAL WAL-MART WORKERS -- More than 300 illegal workers were arrested by federal authorities at 61 Wal-Mart stores from states all over the eastern parts of the country. Naturally, the company denied any knowledge of illegality, saying the workers were employed by an outside contractor to clean the stores and were not working directly for Wal-Mart. This is typical of Wal-Mart. They demand their products be delivered to them at incredibly low prices, so their supplies must run sweatshops in order to comply with Wal-Mart strictures. When the dismal working conditions in these factories are made public, Wal-Mart disavows any knowledge of them and points to the fact that the workplaces themselves are not owned by Wal-Mart. Of course not, but the working conditions in those factories exist because of Wal-Mart pricing demands. Essentially, in order to sell to Wal-Mart, many suppliers must run sweatshops.

My hunch is that the same thing has happened here. Wal-Mart demands that its stores be cleaned for such a low price that the only way to compete for the contract is to employ illegal workers and pay them a pittance. Since Wal-Mart does not employ the workers themselves, they escape legal liability. Of course, the suppliers are legally and morally responsible in these cases, since no one forces them to bid for Wal-Mart contracts, but when the world's largest employer makes contractual demands that force their suppliers to violate labor laws, should not Wal-Mart be held to account--by consumers, if by no one else?

AIN'T THAT AMERICA -- John Cougar Mellencamp is tellin' it like it is:
George W Bush has lied to us, failed to keep our own borders secure, entered a war under false pretense, endangered lives, and created financial chaos. How is it that he hasn’t been recalled? Perhaps this time we could even have a real election . . . but that wouldn’t fit the Bush administration’s “take what you want and fire people later” policy. Take an election; take an oil field; take advantage of your own people -- a game of political Three-Card Monte.
If this keeps up, none of us will be able to afford one of those nice pink houses.

A CABINET WITH NO CLASS -- The consumer watchdog group Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights has a new report out which reveals that 13 of Mr Bush's 16 cabinet secretaries have been employed by, served on the board of, or have significant financial interest in corporations that have been targeted by consumer class-action lawsuits. It seems little wonder, then, that the Bush regime vociferously supported legislation to limit the awards of class action lawsuits, an issue near-and-dear to the heart of corporate America. Fortunately, however, this latest attempt at "tort reform" [meaning gutting the rights of plaintiffs in order to protect the wealthy corporate interests that bankroll the GOP] failed in the Senate, thanks to the opposition of Democrats.

WHO WILL BE THE NEXT POPE? -- Time magazine has some thoughts on the matter.

NEW PEW POLL SHOWS PERILS FOR BUSH -- A new poll from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reveals deep doubt and distrust of Mr Bush's domestic and foreign policies. According to the poll, 66% of respondents say jobs are now hard to find in their area, up from 59% since June 2002 and people are increasingly willing to blame Mr Bush's economic policies for this. Forty three percent of respondents say Mr Bush's policies are having a negative affect on the economy and only 18% say they are improving things. Among the critical independent block of voters, only 13% think Mr Bush's policies are improving the economy, 46% believe they are making it worse, and 34% believe they are making no difference at all. Even 40% of Republicans think Mr Bush's policies are having no affect on the economy and 13% believe they are making it worse. In other words, more than half of all Republican repondents to the poll believe Mr Bush's econoomic polices are either having no affect on the economy or are making things work. Not exactly a ringing endorsement from the base.

Support for the Iraq War and Mr Bush's foreign policy is beginning to crumble:
But even as Bush's complaints about the media "filter" of news from Iraq ring true with many Americans, an increasing number believe U.S. forces in the country should be withdrawn as soon as possible ­ 39% say that now, compared with 32% in late September. A 58% majority wants U.S. troops to remain in Iraq until a stable government is established, down from 64% last month.

A solid majority of Democrats (56%) now want the troops to be brought home as soon as possible, a 12-point increase in the past month. Republicans remain overwhelmingly opposed to a withdrawal (by 78% to 20%). Independents also oppose such a move, but 40% favor a troop withdrawal now, up from 33% last month.

Public support for the decision to go to war is slipping as well. Six-in-ten Americans (60%) now say it was the right decision to go to war in Iraq, down from 63% in September, 67% in July and 74% in April, shortly after the fall of Baghdad. However, the public's assessments of the military situation, which turned much more negative in the summer, have not changed much in the past few months. Fewer than one-in-five (16%) believe things in Iraq are going very well, with a plurality (44%) saying things are going fairly well; both numbers are largely unchanged from September (15% very well, 47% fairly well). In April, 61% of Americans said the military effort was going very well.
If Mr Bush cannot run on a strong economy and job market--and evidently, he cannot--he will have to rely on good news from Iraq to save his bacon on election day. Hmmm. I think I smell something burning in the kitchen.

THAT'S THE IDEA -- Mr Bush was heckled repeatedly by members of the Australian parliament during his address to that body. Still other Aussie MPs wore armbands to signify their disagreement with Mr Bush and some refused to stand for him. Apprently, Australian politicians take less kindly to being lied to than American ones do. Hordes of protestors demonstrated outside parliament in Canberra, Australia, as well.

My favorite description of the event, however, came from Annabel Crabb in the Melbourne Age.
The day might have started as a high-security event staged with US military precision, but nothing could stop it in the end from degenerating into a classic Aussie wing-ding.

John Howard was eventually forced to throw himself, like a human shield, between his honoured visitor, George Bush, and marauding Greens senators as they tried to accost the US President.

"Go back to the Senate, you ferals!" shouted ordinarily prim Liberal MP Sophie Panopoulos, incensed at the behaviour of conscientious interjectors Bob Brown and Kerry Nettle. But the ferals weren't going anywhere.

Wearing cartoonishly large photos of Australian Guantanamo Bay detainees on their lapels, as well as generous sprays of foliage ("Wattle," explained a staffer later, although the greenery looked suspiciously smokeable), the Greens were up and down like a jack-in-the-box, helping George Bush along with his speech.

Speaker Neil Andrew ordered the Greens out, but they refused to go, and the agonised parliamentary attendants could do little more than pluck at the sleeves of the recalcitrant pair.

Up in the rafters, US journalists could be seen gaping in disbelief as they encountered their first experience of Australian parliamentary behaviour.

Bogong moths - the meaty, furry insects that invade Canberra at this time of year - wheeled crazily over Dubya's head and slammed into light fittings.

Prime Minister John Howard turned an odd, magenta hue.
I happen to know for a fact that Ms Crabb's story is being joyously e-mailed around Foggy Bottom today, as State Department staffers take what little comfort they can in Mr Bush's embarrassment.

WHAT A LEADER SHOULD BE -- I highly recommend reading General Wesley Clark's cover story in the latest issue of The New York Review of Books [10/23/03]. If you do, I think you'll see why so many people--myself included--see Wesley Clark as not just the man who could save the Democrats in 2004, but the man who could save America, from herself, for years into the future.

NIGHTMARE WORLD -- It is enough to make you physically ill.
The boys were patient, standing in line and waiting their turn to rape.

Their two victims, girls of 13, were patient as well, never crying out, at least that is what the neighbors said, and enduring the violence and abuse not once, but repeatedly over five months.

That was three years ago. Late last month, 10 young men, now ranging in age from 18 to 21, were convicted of rape in a closed courtroom in nearby Evry and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to five years. Seven others will go on trial in November. The fact that they are being brought to justice at all is highly unusual.

The phenomenon of gang rape in France has become banal. It occurs - how often is unknown - in the concrete wastelands built as cheap housing for immigrants on the outskirts of France's big cities. Here, according to sociologists and prosecutors, teenage boys, many of them loosely organized into gangs, prey on neighborhood girls.
If France is truly committed to preserving its historic role as an epicenter of western civilization, it should focus more energy on conquering this threat instead of obsessing about le defi Americain.

TOM TOMORROW -- Learn from the Republicans.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

JEFFREY'S AT THE WATERGATE IS GONE -- and Aquarelle is back. Find out why that's a good thing.

BELTWAY BANDIT NFL POWER POLL

01. Kansas City Chiefs [7-0]: Survived by one yard on Monday night, but that's all it takes. [Just ask Dick Vermeil , who won by one yard in the Super Bowl a few years back.] The Chiefs have not looked dominant in a few weeks now, but they're healthy and they keep on winning. [No change]

02. Minnesota Vikings [6-0]: Clearly, the class of the NFC. [+1]

03. Indianapolis Colts [5-1]: A home victory over division rival Houston would keep the Colts ahead of the Titans heading into the second half of the regular season. [+2]

04. Tennessee Titans [5-2]: A big win punctuates the obvious: Steve McNair is the best football player in the world right now. [+4]

05. Carolina Panthers [5-1]: Ah, that's how you beat the Panthers--shut down Stephen Davis . If you can. Sunday, it finally happened. [-3]

06. New England Patriots [5-2]: His team is wounded and battered, but Bill Belichick just won't let them die. No one is coaching better than he is right now. That goes for his entire coaching staff, too. [+4]

07. Miami Dolphins [4-2]: A tough loss to Bill Belichick is no shame, but the Dolphins need to get Ricky Williams going again. [-3]

08. Seattle Seahawks [5-1]: Barely surviving the Bears is not encouraging, but Mike Holmgren 's crew is in a dogfight to dominance of the NFC West division. First place is always the right place to be. [+1]

09. Denver Broncos [5-2]: Losing close games to good teams, but injuries are really starting to pile up. [-3]

10. St. Louis Rams [4-2]: The Greatest Show on Turf is back. [+2]

11. Dallas Cowboys [5-1]: A punishing run defense and careful offense, combined with solid special teams is an old Bill Parcells standard. He's showing it still works. [+2]

12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [3-3]: When are these guys going to start acting like defending champs? Oh, wait, they are acting like defending champs: All those champs that couldn't defend. [-5]

13. Philadelphia Eagles [3-3]: In second place, but damn lucky to be there. It's hard to take Philly seriously right now. [+3]

14. Buffalo Bills [4-3]: Huge home win over hapless Redskins rescues season and [temporarily, at least] Gregg Williams ' job. [+5]

15. Green Bay Packers [3-4]: About to be left in the dust by the Vikes. [-4]

16. Baltimore Ravens [3-3]: The defense is brilliant and the running game superb. Inexperience at quarterback is just killing this team right now. [-2]

17. San Francisco 49ers [3-4]: Beating the Super Bowl champs by 17 points? Where the hell did that come from? [+3]

18. Cincinnati Bengals [2-4]: I wrote at the beginning of the season and several times since that Marvin Lewis will turn this team into a winner in a year or so. He's on his way. [+4]

19. New Orleans Saints [3-4]: Two wins in a row over bad teams is a start. The Saints need some heart and some confidence because the roster still looks pretty good. [+5]

20. New York Giants [2-4]: Three games out of first place and a trip to Minnesota coming up next. Jim Fassel will soon feel the heat. [-3]

21. Washington Redskins [3-4]: No defense. No offense. No chance. [-3]

22. Cleveland Browns [3-4]: Capable of beating or being beaten by any team in the league. [-7]

23. Pittsburgh Steelers [2-4]: Last year's magic is gone. Pittsburgh has a decent quarterback and excellent wideouts, but the defense is a mess and there is no running game. [No change]

24. New York Jets [2-4]: Two wins in a row give J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets fans hope before Pennington returns, probably in November. [+2]

25. Houston Texans [2-4]: This team is two years away. [-4]

26. Oakland Raiders [2-5]: Put up a valiant effort, but this team just doesn't have the playmakers anymore. They're old and slow. [-1]

27. Arizona Cardinals [1-5]: Team moved three times during bye week: First to Los Angeles, then to San Antonio, and finally back to Arizona. [+1]

28. Atlanta Falcons [1-6]: There is just no hope for this team until QB Michael Vick returns. Rarely has there been a more convincing example of the value of one player to a team as this 2003 Falcons squad. [-1]

29. San Diego Chargers [1-5]: Can Marty repeat 2001 and run off four more victories in a row? I doubt it. [+3]

30. Jacksonville Jaguars [1-5]: At least they didn't lose this week. It was a bye week. [No change]

31. Chicago Bears [1-5]: Chris Chandler is a definite upgrade at quarterback over Kordell Stewart, but the legendarily-fragile "Chandelier" won't stay upright for long behind that Chicago offensive line. [No change]

32. Detroit Lions [1-5]: Losing to Dallas is no shame this year, but losing by 31 points? Mooch, you've got a lot of work to do. [-3]

AUSSIES MEET BUSH WITH PROTESTS -- These people have got the right idea.

AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME -- Those clever, clever Germans.

BUSH IS AN IGNORANT LOUT -- And this just proves it again.

BOONDOCKS HITS TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE

Source

WORLD TO U.S.: PAY FOR IRAQ YEROWNDAMNSELF -- The United States is at the Madrid donor's conference, hat in hand, begging other countries to hand over their cash to underwrite Mr Bush's great adventure in Mesopotamia. The rest of the world, understandably, is less than enthusiastic about handing over its cash.
On Tuesday, the EU's external affairs commissioner, Chris Patten, said they were right to be cautious.

"A lot of the criticism we've heard about policy in Iraq has clearly been motivated by good sense," he said.

Patten, who administers the EU's foreign aid budget, said he was satisfied with its proposed $233 million contribution, noting it was about the same the European bloc spent in Afghanistan in the first year after the U.S.-led war that toppled the Taliban.

He said he would go back to EU governments in March, "by which time we'll know more about the security situation, more about the real needs," to discuss proposals for further assistance.

"But what if between now and then the security situation is making it difficult for us to spend the money?" he said, noting that he "would be an awful fool" if he asked for more funds than he could spend.
Let's put ourselves in their position. If France or Russia had invaded another country against our wishes and the wishes of virtually the entire international community, and then they came begging to us for contributions to their war fund, what do you think our response would be?

Precisely.

BUSH HAS MADE "NO BOLD MOVES" AGAINST TERRORISTS -- In a memo to high-level Pentagon figures, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admits that the Bush regime has not "yet made truly bold moves" against Al Qaeda and other terrorists. In contrast to his upbeat public statements, Mr Rumsfeld also acknowledges that the United States faces "a long, hard slog" in Iraq and Afghanistan, rebuilding those countries and eradicating terrorism from them.

The release of this memo is just another in a recent list of policy and public relations setbacks for Mr Rumsfeld who was riding high a year ago. Pardon me if I do not weep.

CARTOON OF THE DAY

Source

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I LIKE THIS. IT MAKES ME LAUGH

Source

LIBERALS IN PRINT -- A glance at The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list reveals that liberal books are doing very well. Tops in the USA is "Dude, Where's My Country?" by filmmaker/author Michael Moore. Bill O'Reilly's sure-to-be-nauseating self-help book is second, and Al Franken's hilarious "Lies [And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them]" is third in the nation. "Bushwacked," by Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose is in sixth place, "Madame Secretary" by Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is in seventh place, and "The Great Unravelling," by Princeton economics professor and NY Times columnist Paul Krugman is in eighth place. Right wing nutjobs Laura Ingraham and the brother of pill-popping radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh also have books on the bestseller list.

"Stupid White Men" [Michael Moore] is in 19th place, "Living History" [Senator Clinton] is in 20th place, and "The Lies of George W. Bush" [David Corn] and "Big Lies" [Joe Conason] are in 29th and 35th place, respectively.

All in all, a good showing for the liberal authors right now. Let's hope it continues.

MAKES SENSE TO ME -- Woman hurls television out window, lives to tell about it.

JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH -- One of my favorite blogs, Ruy Teixeira's Donkey Rising, discusses why Mr Bush's trouble with senior citizens, the the subject of a recent story on the front page of The New York Times, is likely to persist even if Congress passes a prescription drug benefit for senior citizens. Why? Hint: It won't be good enough.

THE DAILY DISTORTION -- Brought to you by the good people at johnkerry.com.
Distortion of the Day for Monday, October 20
"My plan is good for the long-term health of our economy. It is good for the businesses that create jobs."
---When: June 7, 2001

Reality
Nearly 3.2 million jobs have been lost since Bush took office- and over 2.5 million of these are manufacturing jobs. [Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics and www.jec.gov].
Don't You Want a President Who Means What He Says?

JOHN KERRY IS BACK... -- in New Hampshire, at least. A new poll has Senator John Kerry [D-MA] closing in on his closest rival in the New Hampshire primary.
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry has rebounded from a weak second place showing in September to close the margin between himself and frontrunner, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, while retired general Wesley Clark is at a standstill, according to an exclusive 7NEWS-Suffolk University poll released today.

When asked, “if the Democratic Primary election for President were held today, toward whom would you lean,” 25% of likely New Hampshire Democratic voters selected Dean, while 19% chose Kerry. In addition, Kerry outpolled Dean in personal popularity, with a favorable rating of 66% versus 60% for Dean.

“John Kerry is back,” said Suffolk University adjunct professor David Paleologos, a veteran pollster and author. “Although Kerry still trails, he’s gaining momentum and he’s more personally popular than Dean – these are two indicators of a real recovery and not a dead-cat bounce.”
For those of us who like Senator Kerry and wish to see him as President of the United States, this is welcome news indeed.

IT'S ALL POLITICS -- According to Washington Post report, the Bush regime is planning to withdraw as many as 30,000 troops from Iraq in the summer of 2004, so that it will have a political impact on the 2004 election. This cynical bit of electioneering, done at the expense of national security drew poor reviews from Senator John McCain [R-AZ], who appeared on Meet the Press and said any premature troop withdrawal "not a military decision," but a political one.

Meanwhile, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey [R-TX], a right-winger if there ever was one, called the White House's leak of Valerie Plame's name to the press, "just a short-sighted, self-centered, simple-minded cowardly act of revenge."

Senator McCain is often right and he is right again. Mr Armey is not often right, but when he is, he is.

Monday, October 20, 2003

ANOTHER BLACK EYE -- Human Rights Watch is accusing the Bush regime of not properly investigating civilian deaths in Iraq caused by U.S. soldiers.

OBJECTION, YOUR DISHONOR -- I'm afraid this won't do much to improve the image of the French.

THIS IS YOUR HYPOCRITE ON DRUGS

Source

A MISERABLE FAILURE FOR 4 MORE YEARS? -- When Rep. Richard Gephardt [D-MO] referred to the Bush White House as a "miserable failure," he summed up the beliefs of millions of people all over the country. Now, Jack Beatty of The Atlantic asks if a miserable failure can be re-elected and, if so, what it means for the United States and our future.
Bush's victory would testify to a civic failure more dangerous to the American future than any policies implemented or continued during a second Bush term. A majority would have demonstrated that democratic accountability is finished. That you can fail in everything and still be re-elected president.

You can preside over the most catastrophic failure of intelligence and national defense in history. Can fire no one associated with this fatal chain of blunders and bureaucratic buck-passing. Can oppose an inquest into September 11 for more than a year until pressure from the relatives of those killed on that day becomes politically toxic. Can name Henry Kissinger, that mortician of truth, to head the independent commission you finally accede to. You can start an unnecessary war that kills hundreds of Americans and as many as 7,000 Iraqi civilians--adjusted for the difference in population, the equivalent of 80,000 Americans. Can occupy Iraq without a plan to restore traffic lights, much less order. Can make American soldiers targets in a war of attrition conducted by snipers, assassins, and planters of remote-control bombs--and taunt the murderers of our young men to "bring it on." Can spend hundreds of billions of dollars on nation building--and pass the bill to America's children. (Asked to consider rescinding your tax cut for the top one percent of taxpayers for one year in order to fund the $87 billion you requested from Congress to pay for the occupation of Iraq, your Vice President said no; that would slow growth.) You can lose more jobs than any other President since Hoover. You can cut cops and after-school programs and Pell Grants and housing allowances for the poor to give tax cuts to millionaires. You can wreck the nation's finances, running up the largest deficit in history. You can permit 17,000 power plants to increase their health-endangering pollution of the air. You can lower the prestige of the United States in every country of the world by your unilateral conduct of foreign policy and puerile "you're either with us or against us" rhetoric. Above all, you can lie the country into war and your lies can be exposed--and, if a majority prefers ignorance to civic responsibility, you can still be reelected.
I think that gets to the heart of why so many liberals believe defeating Mr Bush in 2004 is absolutely critical. It is not just the policy imperatives that demand a crushing defeat for Mr Bush, it is what it means for the country if he is not sent back to Texas in disgrace. Have we no standards for good government any more? Do we require any level of competence in our public officials? Do we want the entire planet to loathe us more than they do Osama Bin Laden?

George W Bush must be defeated in 2004. Mr Beatty has provided us with an eloquent explanation for why that must come to pass.

HEALTHCARE PRIORITIES -- Americans are very concerned about the state of health care in this country, their own access to quality and affordable health care and increasingly see the provision of such as more important than holding down taxes.
in 10 said that providing health insurance to all Americans was more important than holding down taxes. The survey also found that 6 in 10 would prefer a system that covers everyone over the present arrangement, in which nearly 44 million people lack insurance. That support drops below half if such a system meant a limited choice of doctors or waiting lists for care.
...
Thirteen months before the next election, the public's perceptions of the health care system track the partisan and economic splits seen on a range of other issues. By comfortable margins, Republicans and the affluent reported being content with the quality of care in the United States; minorities, Democrats, the uninsured and individuals in poor health voice the most complaints.

President Bush, in keeping with previous polls, receives some of his lowest job performance ratings in the area of health -- particularly in providing prescription drug coverage for retirees and tackling the cost and availability of insurance. Only 1 in 3 people said they approved of his handling of those areas, compared with half who supported his efforts in Iraq and 67 percent who approved of the president's prosecution of the war against terror.

The results come as policymakers are wrangling over the health care issues on which voters are demanding action. Republican congressional leaders did not meet a self-imposed deadline Friday for settling on the outlines of a Medicare prescription drug benefit.
The failures of Mr Bush and the Republican Congress to achieve anything meaningful in health care reform is a fat and rich target for Democrats in 2004. When Mr Bush tries to evade responsibility for health care in this country by saying he's been too busy fighting terror, the Democrats can fire back that if Mr Bush found enough time to raise a record amount of money for his re-election campaign, he should have been able to find enough time to fix health care in the United States. It's a powerful argument and Mr Bush is likely to be very vulnerable to it.

LOW TAX PARADISE -- But what Grover Norquist calls paradise, most Americans would call Hell. Alabama, to be exact.
A hundred and fifty fewer low-income AIDS patients will receive life-saving medicines from the state. Fifteen thousand low-income Alabamians may lose their hypertension drugs.

High Hopes, a program that offers after-school tutoring to students who fail the high school graduation exam, is being slashed. And up to 1,500 poor children and adults with Down syndrome, autism and other disabilities will not be able to attend a state-supported special-needs camp.

The cuts are reaching down to core government functions. The court system is laying off 500 of 1,600 workers, from clerk's office employees to probation officers. The health department is losing investigators who track tuberculosis, and sharply reducing restaurant inspections.

Alabama's huge budget gap is a result of the voters' rejection, nearly six weeks ago, of Gov. Bob Riley's tax reform plan, which would have generated an additional $1.2 billion, much of it from undertaxed timberland. After the vote, Governor Riley was forced to cut most state agencies by 18 percent, and other recipients of state funds by 75 percent. Bad as things are, the impact is being blunted by a fortuitous one-time injection of federal funds. Next year agencies are bracing for a 56 percent hit. If the state cannot find more revenue — and Governor Riley is searching — it may be nearly impossible for basic services, including courts, prisons and police, to operate.

Alabama's disintegrating government is a problem, certainly, for anyone in the state. But it may also be a harbinger of where the nation is headed. There is a "starve the beast" ethic, currently fashionable among conservatives, holding that the best way to downsize government and end the social safety net is to get voters to demand lower taxes. But before we hurtle any further in that direction, we should think hard about whether we want the whole nation to look like Alabama does this year or, worse, next year.
This is fine for people in Alabama, who demand nothing more and, presumably, deserve nothing more. But what about the rest of America? This is a vision the Democrats must conjure up as the natural extension of Bushonomics--the heir to the Gingrich/Norquist economics that President Clinton [temporarily] defeated in the 1990s. It's coming back and this time there is no President Clinton to veto repulsive budgets. Will the Democrats stand up and present an honorable alternative to this in 2004? I sure hope so.

BUSHONOMICS -- George W Bush might not have achieved his goal of "making the pie higher," but he has managed to make the budget deficit a lot higher. In fact, Mr Bush's regime has taken the budget deficit to heights never seen before in the history of the human species on this planet.
The federal budget deficit hit a record $374.2 billion in 2003, the administration reported Monday, as the costs of the war in Iraq, a new round of tax cuts and economic weakness pushed the government's red ink to the highest level in history.

Providing a final accounting of the budget year that ended Sept. 30, the administration said that the 2003 deficit was more than double last year's imbalance of $157.8 billion.

In dollar terms, the 2003 figure easily surpassed the old record of $290.4 billion set in 1992 when President Bush's father was president.
Even the administration concedes next year's budget deficit will be much higher, somewhere in the range of $500 billion.
The back-to-back deficits in 2002 and 2003 represent a significant turnaround in the country's fiscal fortunes after four consecutive years of budget surpluses. That was the longest such stretch since the 1920s, as government coffers were swollen by rising income tax revenues, reflecting the record-long 10-year economic expansion which ended with the recession that began in March 2001.

That recession and weak economic growth since then, plus three rounds of tax cuts pushed through Congress by the president and rising government spending to bolster homeland security and fight a global war on terrorism have sent the deficits soaring.
It's almost hard to believe this man has the nerve to demand four more years.

GEORGE W. BUSH'S KIND OF SUMMIT -- First, evict the poor.

OSAMA BIN LADEN -- Alive and well.

MORE BLEEDING IRAQ -- One more American soldier dead and five wounded.

THE GUARDIANS OF VIRTUE... -- are falling down on the job in George W Bush's America. Rush Limbaugh. Bill Bennett. Dr Laura. As The Guardian puts is:
One pops pills. Another gambles. Another lets her mother die alone. Yet these are Bush's virtue-mongers
Read it all and laugh.

THE MEDIA ON IRAQ -- The Bush regime is agog over "biased" media coverage of Iraq, which allegedly focuses unduly on things like death and terrorism. There should be more media stories about schools and hospitals opening, claim the administration and its defenders. Perhaps the news media is not being harsh enough in its coverage of Iraq.
Yet reporters who covered the war say that some of the Coalition's achievements are less impressive than they sound. Paul (Jerry) Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, proudly announced the reopening of Iraq's schools this month, while White House officials point to the opening of Iraq's 240 hospitals. In fact, many schools were already open in May, once major combat ended, and no major hospital closed during the war. But that didn't stop a group of Republican senators from tearing into American reporters covering Iraq earlier this month. "I was not told by the media... that thousands and thousands of Iraqi schoolchildren went back to school," said Larry Craig of Idaho, who recently toured Iraq. The senator neglected to mention that he slept both nights of his trip in Kuwait, not Iraq.
What if things are actually worse than they are being reported as, not better. What if that is true?

Sunday, October 19, 2003

BLEEDING IRAQ -- Two more American soldiers died on Saturday and a third was wounded.

A GOOD START TO THE WORLD SERIES -- I guess there is a God.

DISSENT IN THE RANKS -- The Plame scandal has Republicans doubting the Bush regime, no matter how shamefully the right-wing media spins the story and defames two respected public servants like Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his CIA operative wife, Ms Plame. In conjunction with the disarray in Iraq, we find the Right and the New Right increasingly pointing fingers at each other, with both sides blaming the White House for not fixing all these problems.
FBI investigators are questioning White House staff to find who leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer in July, apparently to discredit the agent's husband, a critic of the administration.

The incident has infuriated conservative Republicans, who believe that the president should have demanded the identities of the leakers and dismissed them. The critics from his party were all the more outraged when the president suggested that the culprits might never be found.

William Kristol, the editor of the neo-conservative magazine the Weekly Standard, said the leak scandal and the president's response illustrated "the disarray within his administration", observing that "the civil war in the Bush administration has become crippling".

Mr Kristol wrote: "The CIA is in open revolt against the White House. The state department and the defence department aren't working together at all. We are way beyond 'fruitful tension' and all the other normal excuses for bureaucratic conflict. This is a situation that only the president can fix."
And it gets better...
There is worse to come for Mr Bush in the next few weeks. The leak investigation is expected to gather steam and will either produce a culprit close to the Oval Office or provoke claims of a whitewash.

Then, on November 7, humiliation looms. His most ferocious critic in the Senate - Edward Kennedy, who recently called the Iraq war a fraud "made up in Texas" - will receive an award for "excellence in public service". It will be presented in Texas by the man who selected Senator Kennedy for the honour: George Bush, the president's father.
Oh, that's going to be sweet. Payback is a long time coming for this most ignorant and arrogant of administrations. I intend to enjoy every single juicy, meaty, bloody moment of it.

BUSH SLIPPING WITH ELDERS -- A combination of the poor economy, gigantic deficits, a bleeding war in Iraq, and lack of movement on a Medicare package for senior citizens is conspiring to undermine support for Mr Bush among older Americans.
Mr. Bush's popularity has declined over all since early summer, but some recent polls suggest that he lost significantly more ground among voters 65 and older than he did among younger Americans. Politicians in both parties consider older voters to be particularly important because they are much more likely to vote than younger people, and because they are heavily concentrated in states that are often presidential battlegrounds, like Florida and Pennsylvania.
...
A poll conducted this month by The New York Times and CBS News showed that Mr. Bush had a 41 percent approval rating among the 65-and-older voters, his lowest among any age group. That was down from 44 percent in July and 63 percent in May.

Similar trends have been reported this fall by the Pew Research Center. The latest Gallup Poll, released this week, showed that even as Mr. Bush's overall approval rating had risen to 56 percent from 50 percent during the past month, voters older than 65 remained his weakest age group. Forty-nine percent of them approved of the job he was doing, compared with 60 percent of those 30 to 49.

Analysts in both parties cite the economy, the stock market and the situation in Iraq as major factors in the slippage, along with more traditional concerns for older Americans like Medicare and the cost of prescription drugs.

Representative Robert T. Matsui of California, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said: "With low interest rates and a sluggish economy, they're the group that's probably harmed the most. They're not getting the rate of return they would have expected with the savings they have."
This is an interesting development. If the Democratic nominee is to have any chance in 2004, winning the senior vote by a comfortable margin will be absolutely necessary. If senior citizens do not trust the Democrats--the party of Social Security and Medicare--more than the GOP to safeguard their interests, then the election is lost for the good guys. Fortunately, it appears that the more natural inclinations of senior citizens are coming to the fore. Combined with a significant drop in Mr Bush's support among males--the core of the GOP voting base--you can see why Karl Rove must not be sleeping well most nights.

STATE DEPT SAW IRAQ TROUBLE COMING -- A State Department study foresaw much of the current trouble in Iraq long before the invasion and occupation took place.
Their findings included a much more dire assessment of Iraq's dilapidated electrical and water systems than many Pentagon officials assumed. They warned of a society so brutalized by Saddam Hussein's rule that many Iraqis might react coolly to Americans' notion of quickly rebuilding civil society.

Several officials said that many of the findings in the $5 million study were ignored by Pentagon officials until recently, although the Pentagon said they took the findings into account. The work is now being relied on heavily as occupation forces struggle to impose stability in Iraq.
...
"The period immediately after regime change might offer these criminals the opportunity to engage in acts of killing, plunder and looting," the report warned, urging American officials to "organize military patrols by coalition forces in all major cities to prevent lawlessness, especially against vital utilities and key government facilities."
So what happened? If all these things were known within the administration [as they were widely predicted outside the administration], why was not more done to prevent this current situation from coming about? Well, apparently the Defense Department ignored the warnings from the State Department because they conflicted with the neoconservative sureties that grip the Pentagon civilians. At least, that's what Foggy Bottom asserts. The Pentagon, naturally, disputes that, claiming that the State Dept report was noticed by the Defense Dept and considered. Obviously, though, it was not considered for very long. Let's not forget that Donald Rumsfeld's reaction to the looting, murder and rape in Baghdad immediately after Saddam's fall was to call it the natural consequence of "freedom."