Social & Political


Popular Vote
Bush: 48.2 percent
Kerry: 51.4 percent
Nader/Other: 0.4 percent
Other topics
Kerry wins Florida with 50.8 percent
Kerry wins Nevada and New Mexico
Colorado splits under its new rules, in favor of Bush
The Democrats take the Senate with 50 seats
The House remains Republican, but lose nine seats]]>

Social & Political

Red Sox win. Halfway to normal?

<![CDATA[I was sitting with four Brits watching the Red Sox win last night, talking about the different pitches and what the strike zone is and how it all compared to cricket, when someone in the bar said "Well, we're halfway back to normal life, if we could only get the election over with."
How true. My nerves are worn raw, there's a venom flowing through the electorate that is destroying our system. I've been an asshole responding to people lately and I'm only half conscious, it seems, leaving extra zeros out of the number of tons of explosives the Bushies lost. I know Republicans who think I am an enemy of the state for my opinions.
This is the first election I can remember—ever, and I doorbelled for Nixon, the paragon of divisiveness or so we thought until 2000, ferchrissake—that seems to be based on total disrespect for differences of opinion. I respected Democrats when I was a Republican and respect and still vote for the occasional Republican.
We have a president who mocks his opponent like a third grade bully rather than talking about the issues like an adult speaking to adults. A vote for Kerry, according to people who have commented here and at, is a vote for everything from Satan to socialism. And I am sick of it, it just needs to be over, so we can start to rebuild a polity from the scraps.
Even if it means another four years of fighting the dissolution of American freedom conducted by the extreme right, the end of the election will be a relief. Sure, the extreme religious right will be starting to build the concentration camps, but we’ll know what we’re fighting and everyone will see it for what it is when Bush/Cheney claim they have a “mandate.”
There is no more “normal,” I guess, just raw history, breaking over our broken bloodied civic body like waves of salt pouring into the wounds. The American spirit has been shattered by the fear-mongering of the Bush Administration and its toadies in the media. Bluster and absolutism has replaced confident American optimism and a willingness to learn from mistakes.
At least the Red Sox broke the curse.
Here’s my prediction for next Tuesday: Kerry 303 electoral college votes to Bush’s 235. That is, if Karl Rove doesn’t disrupt the vote count, and he is already gearing up to do it.
Normal…. I’d give a kidney to see an election close to normal, in which the extreme right was willing to live with the choice made by the majority of their fellow citizens. I fear for my children on the eve of the national choice, which has come to feel like being strapped into Dr. Kevorkian’s miraculous self-inflicted death machine. Elections used to fill me with hope. Normal, with all its uncertainty and hard work sounds pretty good to me right now.]]>

Social & Political

How big a blunder? How about 950 bombs, 19,000 dead and 95,000 wounded

<![CDATA[The White House is playing down the fact it lost 380 tons of high explosives. Apparently, it’s no big deal to the Bushies that they’ve let an ammunition dump that had been identified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) prior to the war to be looted to the floorboards.
Reports have downplayed the seriousness of the situation, focusing on the fact that the explosives aren’t as dangerous as nuclear weapons. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said at a press gaggle today:

[T]he first priority, from our standpoint, was to make sure that this wasn’t a nuclear proliferation risk, which it is not. These are conventional high explosives that we are talking about. And the President wants to make sure that we get to the bottom of this. Now, the Pentagon, upon learning of this, directed the multinational forces and the Iraqi survey group to look into this matter, and that’s what they are currently doing.
Now, if you go back and look at the Duelfer report that recently has come out, according to the Duelfer report, as of mid-September, more than 243,000 tons of munitions have been destroyed since Operation Iraqi Freedom. Coalition forces have cleared and reviewed a total of 10,033 caches of munitions; another nearly 163,000 tons of munitions have been secured and are on line to be destroyed. That puts this all — that puts this all in context.

So, the excuse is that because it has captured and destroyed 406,000 tons of munitions since the invasion began, the loss of 380 tons isn’t a serious issue. But this doesn’t represent an apples-to-apples comparison, as much of the 406,000 tons of confiscated munitions is guns and ammunition and not high explosives. However, the real point is that 380 tons of high explosives is out there in someone’s hands.
Tthe real issue is that the explosives can be used against civilians and soldiers in Iraq and around the world. Consider that only five grams of RDX, for example, is enough to kill a person when used in an anti-personnel land mine. When 1,000 pounds of explosives were set off by a suicide bomber in Baghdad last January, 24 people were killed. The Irish Republican Army used about 900 pounds of explosives to set off 22 bombs that killed nine and injured 130 people seriously on “Bloody Friday” in 1972.
Taken with that background, the 380 tons of lost high explosives is enough to commit hundreds or thousands or atrocities. If we estimate that 800 pounds of explosives can kill 20 people and injure 100, the lost munitions are sufficient to build 950 bombs that would kill 19,000 people and injure 95,000 people.
That is a screw-up of massive proportion. What possible excuse is there for this material being unprotected, for not dropping a huge special forces team in during the invasion to lock this down, since the IAEA told the Administration it was there about before the war?]]>

Social & Political

The winner will pick a chief justice

<![CDATA[With the announcement that U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a Nixon appointee who was raised to chief justice by President Reagan who has been on the bench for 32 years, has thyroid cancer, the stakes in the presidential election become even more clearly drawn. The winner of next week’s election will surely appoint a chief justice, the most important role in the U.S. judiciary. Besides the well known concern about the placement of a justice who could vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, there is a clear push to erase the separation of church and state under the Bush Administration.
While the president accuses Senator Kerry of one sort of litmus test for judges, he applies a litmus test to anyone he meets, disregarding those who disagree with him out of hand. That indifference to the opinions of more than half of Americans is a far more worrying litmus test than any applied by previous presidents or Senator Kerry. If President Bush were to promote Antonin Scalia to chief and bring White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez (who, among other things, has written the memorandums justifying the use of torture and the expansion of presidential powers to detain U.S. citizens as “enemy combatants”) onto the bench as an associate justice, he will have tipped the court to the extreme right—it will no longer represent a balanced forum for national questions. Gonzalez has already shown his contempt for balance, acting early in the Bush II years to remove the American Bar Association from the judicial nominating process, effectively expelling the main source of objective analysis of a nominee’s fitness for the bench.
President Bush has already appointed a blatantly political Director of the CIA who is suppressing a report that could reflect poorly on the administration, trying to prevent its release before the election. That’s just one example of the politicization of information, rather than the pursuit of debate over policy, that marks the Bush Administration as the most dangerous to the American system in history.
The president will not hesitate to press his agenda on the Supreme Court, which is where the damage will be felt for the longest time, as these are appointments for life.]]>

Social & Political

Support The Spirit of America Iraqi Democracy Project

<![CDATA[Jim Hake has launched one of the bravest programs to help the people of Iraq. Spirit of America, a Los Angeles non-profit has “deploy[ed] the best practices of the modern U.S. economy – efficiency and speed – around the margins of the Iraq war effort,” according to the Wall Street Journal. This economic assistance is critical to the transition of Iraq from tyranny to democracy.
I wholeheartedly support Jim and Spirit of America’s efforts. I’ve know Jim for a decade and his dedication to unleashing the potential in every person is extraordinary, a gift he has shared generously at every turn.
You may find it odd that a critic of the war enthusiastically supports Spirit of America, but I could not agree more with Jim’s assessment of the reasons for sending help to support the Iraqi election on January 2nd:

Tomorrow, we are launching the Iraq Democracy Project also known as “Friends of Democracy”. This is our most important initiative to date with the greatest opportunity to influence positively the future of Iraq.  Here’s why. 
In many ways, the war on terror – the struggle for freedom, progress and peace – boils down to success in Iraq.  This is true whether you supported or opposed the policy that got us there.  The stakes are enormous.  That is why we see the level of violence in Iraq.  The terrorists also know what is at stake.
The upcoming national elections (Jan. 2) can be the most visible symbol of success in Iraq.  As the free elections in Afghanistan were a major blow to the Taliban, the elections in Iraq can be a crucial step in defeating the terrorists and stabilizing the country.  This is an historic moment and there won’t be a second chance.  We can make a difference.

Social & Political

Bush's anti-internationalism costs the United States, again

<![CDATA[President Bush mocks Senator Kerry for his internationalist views. We know the cost of Bush's approach to the international community is a war where we are fighting virtually alone and two events this week underscore the continuing cost to the United States.
The British announced that they will move 850 troops in Basra closer to Baghdad (a concession that only highlights how American troops currently serve alone at the heart of the conflict), as British Prime Minister Tony Blair throws a little support to his erstwhile ally before the election.
The redeployment will last only a couple weeks, suggesting it is a political rather than strategic move to shore up President Bush’s claim he has a working coalition in the region. Only one-fifth of the total British force sent to Iraq in 2003 is still in-country, which American force levels have remained near invasion numbers.
The British troops will be redeployed only if they stay under British command, which contradicts Bush’s refusal last week to allow Muslim troops to operate under United Nations commanders and not U.S. officers.
“The multinational force commanders also had some concerns about forces operating outside the chain of command structure,” White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters on Air Force One on October 18. However, if the British retain command of their troops, the challenge today is in negotiation among command structures and the categorical rejection of U.N. assistance is the real culprit—President Bush has so deeply damaged the U.S.-U.N. relationship that there is no expectation the two organizations can work together.
So, U.S. troops continue to carry far more of the burden than is necessary because of President Bush’s total disregard for diplomacy.
Another casualty of Bush’s intransigence is cooperation with the United Nations’ anti-terrorism efforts, which leverage the contributions of countries around the globe. Whether Mr. Bush acknowledges it or not, tapping into the police and security resources of all these countries is a more efficient way to achieve his goal of striking at terrorist organizations before they reach America.
The lack of coordination with intelligence organizations in many countries costs the United States every day, both in terms of the cost and speed of accessing information and responding effectively. As John Robb put it when describing successful missile attacks on a local basis: “This proves yet again that localized uses of specific weapon systems within the context of good intelligence coordination can get things done in this kind of conflict.”
But the Bush Administration refuses to coordinate with anyone on any but its own terms. That is dangerous for the United States, making an already difficult war more impractical to fight. To refer to Robb, again, without a resilient network based on deep relationships there is a lower likelihood of success in the battle against terror networks.
You cannot send armies abroad to fight terror cells, you have to deploy intelligence operatives and small strike teams; if you don’t show respect for local authorities, they don’t provide the support needed to take this approach to the war on terror (the same phenomenon is easily seen in the relationships between local and federal police agencies in the United States, where toes are constantly stepped on to the detriment of investigations—it was why the Amber Alert system had to be put in place, to give local authorities a fast track to national law enforcement networks). But the Bush Administration refuses to acknowledge that success is a matter of global teamwork.
Just today, the United Nations announced its global container control program, which aims to track and police container traffic to prevent drug and human smuggling, terrorism and other crimes facilitated by the 220 million containers on the move around the world. The number of containers is expected to double in the next eight years, making U.S. cooperation with other countries all the more important. It is an increasingly complex problem that no single government can address, and if the U.S. tries to do it alone the country will not interdict attacks before containers arrive in our ports.
Senator Kerry has repeatedly pointed to container traffic as a key point of vulnerability for the United States. Last evening, in a debate between the candidates for U.S. Senate from Washington, Senator Patty Murray, a realist, said that improving our port security is a critical initiative, but her opponent, Congressmen George Nethercutt chided her, saying that by the time the container arrived in a U.S. port the war was lost. He then went on to endorse President Bush’s idea of fighting terrorists in their home bases, presumably following the “shock and awe” approach introduced in Iraq.
Nethercutt makes two critical mistakes with his argument. First, there is no “home base” in a terror network, something anyone should know by this juncture in the War on Terror. Despite having “eliminated two-thirds of the leadership of al Queda,” the U.S. has not reduced the threat from the organization in any measurable way—in fact, by counting only the leaders of al Queda in 2001 when calculating that figure, the Bush Administration demonstrates it is profoundly blind to the nature of terror networks, which are based on constant recruitment and movement of members.
Second, unless the United States cooperates with foreign governments to police container traffic, a process that requires international cooperation, how will we prevent terrorists or bombs from arriving in U.S. ports? That approach begs for failure to be identified only when the first bomb goes off. Does Nethercutt believe that fighting terrorists in their home base includes placing U.S. troops in all the ports where U.S.-bound shipping originates? It’s absurd on the face of it and further evidence of the blindness that afflicts neocons.]]>

Social & Political

How many soldiers is enough?

<![CDATA[The Bush Administration is adamant that it will not reinstate the draft. Let's just assume, for a moment, that is true and not the kind of thing the first President Bush said on the campaign trail ("Read my lips, no new taxes") before he raised taxes in office.
We can, however, look at how the administration has deployed troops and judge the use of American lives and resources in response to the terrorist attacks and then in the invasion of Iraq. The numbers tell a story of an administration more dedicate to reelection than protecting our troops, that has responded to increased attacks with fewer troops and that does not enjoy the complete support of the people serving in our armies.
Way back in August 2001, when President Bush was on vacation and ignoring the terrorist chatter he was being told about before heading out to play some golf, the Department of Defense didn't report on Army, Navy and Air Force reservist and National Guardsmen called to duty. In September of that year, after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, there were 15,600 National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers called up to duty, along with 1,470 Naval and 2,652 Coast Guard reservists.
Four months later, in January 2002, after the invasion of Afghanistan, the National Guard and Army Reserves on active duty was up to 72,203 soldiers. So far, so good, as we won the war in Afghanistan and controlled most of the country. With that force level, we appeared to be prepared to win the peace, as well, but Iraq beckoned and in the intervening years much of Afghanistan has fallen back into the hands of warlords and the Taliban.
The Afghan elections were bracing examples of the desire for democracy, but since it is very dangerous to travel in most of Afghanistan, the U.S. seems to be more interested in the B-roll footage of Afghan voters than in actually making the country a democratic society that does not harbor terrorists.
Okay, in January 2003, two months before we invaded Iraq, the total Reserve and National Guard troops on active duty had increased to 94,624. We were still getting a lot of security for our money and in return for the American lives lost.
Three months later, in April 2003, the number had soared to 224,528 Reserve and National Guardsmen on active duty. We’d swept through much of Iraq and “major operations” were underway with very few casualties. All in all, it looked like a success, as fewer than 100 U.S. troops had been killed.
Now, here the logic of “support our troops” at the White House seems to have fallen apart. By January 2004, when the number of U.S. soldiers killed each month began its dramatic acceleration, the number of reservists and guardsmen on active duty was down to 193, 804.
Why, given the increased risk to troops, wasn’t the force level increased? But, hey, it was an election year, so the story needed to be about reduced troop deployments. Meanwhile, more U.S. soldiers than ever were dying each month.
By this month, the total number of Reserve and National Guard troops on active duty was down another 20,000, to 173,172. Yet, so far this month 48 U.S. soldiers have died, meaning the ratio of casualties to active duty troops is actually rising.
This suggests that the Bush Administration has put the election ahead of the safety of our troops, despite its repeated statements that it stands firmly in support of our men and women in the armed services. Either that, or they are incompetent, because they should be deploying troops to increase security rather than reducing active duty numbers. Absent incompetence, this may be the result of soldiers refusing to re-up when their service obligations are finished. In any case, none of these explanations jibes with the statements by the administration, which is made up of people who avoided service when they had the opportunity to go to war.
The Bush Administration says it supports our troops. On the contrary, it is failing to provide sufficient force and resources while arguing that its motives are not political, competent and fully supported by members of the armed forces, none of which seems to be the case.
It would probably be advisable to listen to everything President Bush and Vice President Cheney say about the Kerry/Edwards’ ticket’s plans and motivations and simply swap out “Kerry” and replace it with “Bush” in any statement about flip-flopping or failure of leadership, because that’s what the numbers prove.]]>

Social & Political

Bush "rejects" Kerry?

<![CDATA[Reuters leads with this headline this morning: “Bush Rejects Kerry on Terror War, Economy.” Which leaves me wondering why the press is covering this as though President Bush’s advice on how we should vote is more important than the actual issues of the war and the economy. Of course Bush rejects Kerry—he’s not going to vote for Kerry, ferchrissake, so the headline isn’t news and doesn’t make sense as a hook for anyone’s attention.
Reading past the strangely dumb headline, however, you get this astonishing litany of misstatements, to take a phrase from the President:

CITY, Iowa (Reuters) – President Bush (news – web sites) charged on Wednesday that Democrat John Kerry (news – web sites) has a “fundamental misunderstanding” of the war on terrorism because he does not see Iraq (news – web sites) as a theater of that conflict.
Bush, in a Reuters interview aboard Air Force One, also rejected criticism from the Massachusetts senator that he will be the first president since Depression-era Herbert Hoover to preside over an economy that has lost jobs under his tenure.

First, Kerry clearly sees and has articulated that he sees Iraq as a theater in the War on Terror, precisely because Bush made it a theater in the War on Terror. That country was not a hotbed of terrorist activity or recruitment prior to the war; Afghanistan was, so too were Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, but Iraq was a sideshow and a small one, at that.
President Bush, “wearing an Air Force One flight jacket,” said of the Iraqi theater: “Zarqawi is a terrorist. We are fighting Mr. Zarqawi in Iraq. My opponent seems to think that if we were not fighting in Iraq, he would become a peaceful citizen. Zarqawi would be plotting, planning, ready to strike. He must be defeated there, so we do not face him here.”
Okay, but wouldn’t it be more efficient to be fighting just Zarqawi and al Queda, not the majority of Iraqis? Wouldn’t not killing 10,000 or 20,000 innocent people in Iraq be a better way to discourage terrorist recruitment? Whether we like Saddam or not, he was the Iraqi’s asshole and they could blame him and not us for the abuse he heaped on his people; now we’re in the center of that shitstorm, thanks to Mr. Bush. Failing to recognize how we must gracefully exit the war we started is a more egregious “fundamental misunderstanding” than anything Bush has accused Kerry of misunderstanding.
Bush may “reject” criticism about his economic performance, but there is no rational way to discount the one-and-a-half to two million Americans who had jobs when Bush took office but do not today. Moreover, Bush is responsible for widening unemployment that isn’t accounted for in that figure, because so many people have entered the workforce—about a quarter million a month—that unemployment has climbed from 3.8 percent just before the 2000 election to 5.4 percent today.
If you look at the number of people not in the labor force, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number has increased by almost six million since 2000—that’s a lot of folks who have just given up on working (see the table below). This is where the one percent decrease in labor force participation rates since 2000 comes from: Bush’s policies have driven people out of the workforce, contrary to the conservative argument that they create an environment where people are more motivated to work. If the President creates disincentives to employment, he ought to be removed from office by the voters, no?
Finally, Mr. Bush said he “questioned whether members of the U.S. Congress should receive flu shots as recommended by a Capitol Hill doctor due to shortages of the vaccine.” If he has a problem with this, why not exercise some of that vaunted leadership or, as he has with other issues he feels strongly about, act decisively to prevent healthy Capitol Hill workers and legislators from receiving flu shots on the public dime?
Follow the “more” link to see a table describing participation in the workforce.

Pictures & Comics

Recommended viewing

<![CDATA[For a bit of fun and truth rolled up in a song and short video, visit this site for a tribute to George Bush’s gaping chicanery. Not neocon friendly (their heads will explode, so there is an upside) or work safe.
Thanks to Howard for the link.]]>

Social & Political

If you are healthy, don't get a flu shot—unless you work at the U.S. Capitol

<![CDATA[Remember President Bush's admonition during the third debate that, if you are healthy, not to get a flu shot this year? You don't? Well, let’s go to the tape for the president’s words!
But the President’s closest ally in the Senate, Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) apparently isn’t susceptible to the power of Bush’s leadership. According to the Washington Post:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.), a heart surgeon, sent letters urging his 99 colleagues to get the shots because they mingle and shake hands with so many people, his spokeswoman, Amy Call, said. She said she did not know how many senators have taken his advice.

Doesn’t this guy think the rest of us interact with other people all day long? Maybe he’s just afraid of touching Democrats (with Dick Cheney more concerned about Democrats fucking themselves, it may be understandable). More likely, he just thinks he’s one of the elect, the better-than-us.
Since Bush and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson are calling for Americans at a lower risk of getting the flu not to get a flu shot this year, it is striking that Republican leaders on the Hill are shirking that directive. I did not hear in President Bush’s list of priority recipients of the flu shots “members of the Senate and House of Representatives.”
It would be something rather extraordinary if the Senate Republicans actually lived in the world they govern, wouldn’t it? The cognitive dissonance alone could cause two or three dozen strokes on the floor of that august chamber.
Yep, that’s leadership, Bush-style.]]>