Not About the Election

This cartoon was in my paper, the San Jose Mercury News, this morning. It has Saddam with his arm around Daschle and Lieberman and the caption "Weapons of Mass Destruction." AM radio is 24/7 all about how the Democrats are traitors. The right-wing machine, pundits, etc... are talking only about how the Democrats are holding up the President. They even brag about how they have "boxed the Democrats in on this one." This isn't even ABOUT Iraq to them. This is entirely about politics and the election.

Yesterday Bush said that the Democrats are holding things up. Then yesterday V.P. Cheney appeared on the no-partisan, non-divisive Rush Limbaugh show. Remember, he was originally scheduled to appear on September 11! The transcript is here. I've edited the following to focus on the Democrat-bashing political side of it. Read the transcript for the full "interview." Keep in mind that the tactic of accusing the opposition of what YOU are doing is called inoculation. Also keep in mind that there is no evidence at all that there is any immediate national security need to have this happen NOW, interfering with the election. They started this on LABOR DAY, the traditional day for the beginning of campaign season.
Rush:...The perception here is that the administration is not engaged in politics and that this is a matter of national security. But because of the way the opposition party, up till yesterday in some cases, was opposing this, this appeared to be just another political issue.

Cheney:... Some people say, "Well, it's an election year." Well, that has nothing to do with it. Every other year is an election year and you can't take half the calendar and put it off-limits. ... But there does come a time when you have a Constitutional obligation to honor the oath you swore when you took office, that you have to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and there's an emerging threat here that must be addressed.

Rush: Prior to the president's speech, the opposition party in Washington was continually saying they hadn't seen enough evidence and that they didn't think there was any urgency. In fact, even after the speech, some said, "Well, there's nothing to hasten this before the election, no reason to go." Yet these are the same people, some of the same people who, in 1998, said things that could hardly be different from what you and President Bush have said.

Cheney: Well, I think that's all true, Rush. I don't disagree with any of that. My take on it, in terms of how members are responding, is that there are a number of folks who have questions, and should have questions. These are important issues and they shouldn't be treated lightly, and Congress has an interest, a legitimate interest, and we have an obligation as an administration to provide as much information as we can.

But also, I think there's some very serious folks out there in both parties, and my guess is that in the final analysis, we will be able to get out of Congress a resolution to support whatever the president needs to do, and that it will pass by overwhelming margins in both houses. I think it's that strong.


Rush: Speaking of wreaking havoc on our society, freedom and country, the opponents of this action seem to dredge up a new horror story weekly to try to frighten the American people into opposing this, or at least not supporting it. The most recent one is that global recession will occur if there is an attack on Iraq. Now, this same thing was alleged in 1991, and if I recall, the oil price actually plummeted to $10 a barrel after that conflict. What are the potential economic impacts, both in America and around the world?

The Republicans have launched a full-court press on this one. Obviously this has been the plan for the election all along. The Democrats might have only a few weeks remaining in charge of the Senate and subpoena power. This may be the ONLY chance to look into how this election is being manipulated! The Republicans are capable of THIS, imagine what's coming for the 2004 election! In a few weeks they could have the House, the Senate AND the White House. The Democrats in the Senate MUST do something NOW to show the public how the Republicans are manipulating things!

Earlier thoughts on this are here.


It Is Time

It's Time to read Michael Kinsley. "Yesterday would have been too soon, and tomorrow may be too late."

It Just Spreads

This comes to me from Public Nusiance, who got it from Atrios.

From its inception we have watched the NEA smear as it spreads. We all know it is a lie. We learned how it was just made up. We've talked about those (here, here and here) who repeat it, KNOWING it is a lie. I've been writing about this, and sometimes fuming.

Here is an example of a true believer picking up the lie and believing it:
The National Education Association preaches anti-Americanism, telling teachers to indoctrinate students with stories of American imperialism.
The whole piece is worth reading, because it seems to me to be pretty much on the edge of a call to violence against non-Christians and I think it shows where tolerating these kinds of lies, unchecked, WILL take us. Remember, Timothy McVeigh was filled up with this kind of stuff by Rush and the rest of this right wing liar crowd. Obviously those who make up and spread this stuff feel little pressure to stop. Very little public ostracism. Few, if any, notable "responsible" people speak out. In fact, they are well rewarded for their efforts, and it works.

Stealth Water-Grab

Capital Eye has an article, Water Works, talking about a new House bill to potentially force privatization of local water systems!
Under the House bill, if a community wants federal funds to help upgrade its infrastructure, then it has to agree to consider privatizing its water system. The bill also would make it easier for private water companies to be eligible for the same subsidies that public utilities currently receive.
If you think corporations control too much of your life (and cash) NOW, just wait for THIS one to hit!


MaxSpeak points to this Tom Hayden piece, It's Empire Versus Democracy, on conservative calls for conquest of the Middle East and other regions.
The Wall Street Journal gave the secret away in an October 2001 editorial declaring that September 11 created a unique political opportunity to advance the whole Republican-conservative platform. Worse, the real conservative agenda is to create an American empire, not simply rout out the al-Qaida organization. No sooner had the September 11 attacks occurred than the Wall Street Journal's editorial writer, Max Boot, published "The Case for American Empire" in the conservative organ, the Weekly Standard. Boot endorsed a return to nineteenth century British imperialism, this time under American hegemony. "Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets" (see NYT, Mar. 31, 2002). The orchestrated call for empire was "out of the closet," according to conservative columnist Charles Krautheimer, and was echoed in the works of historians Paul Kennedy and Robert D. Kaplan (who found nice things to say about Emperor Tiberius, namely that he used force to "preserve a peace that was favorable to Rome").
And later ...
Mujahideen, including Osama Bin Laden, were not "evil" when the U.S. government supplied them with weapons and funding in the 1980s, because then the Islamic fundamentalists were battling true "evil" in the form of the Soviet Union. But the label of evil has its uses. It serves to shut off rational debate, for example. It stimulates public fear. It justifies the killing of people whose annihilation might be problematic if they were classified as simply desperate. Fighting evil is good politics.

Was It Tested?

In his speech to the U.N. yesterday President Bush repeatedly mispronounced "nuclear."

If this Iraq adventure doesn't go well and turns into a Middle East war this may be one of the important speeches in this century's history. For generations the world will analyze every action, every meeting, every nuance associated with the events leading to the war, just as they have done with the Cuban Missile Crisis. So why would the President's aides prepare him so poorly for such an important appearance before the world?

Or did they? Was this word focus group tested? Does it make him sound "tough" to voters? Perhaps this is just another calculated piece of a cynical effort to manipulate the election? The timing of this whole Iraq thing is certainly suspicious, coming just before the election.



My mother lives in Manhattan, not far from the World Trade Center. She came out OK. I don't feel that I should write about 9/11 because I wasn't there. To me the day isn't about anything except the people who were there. To me 9/11 isn't anything else, it's about the people. Tomorrow or another day I might write about reactions or consequences war or or politics or countries or religions or terrorists or Bush. Today is not about those things, for me.

Journalistic Integrity

Blog readers may have noticed that there are certain popular blog topics that I have avoided. I have specifically avoided ever mentioning a certain writer whose initials, if you add an 'S', would be "ASS."

Joe Conason writes about paying for Salon's Premium edition when they pay ASS and other right-wingers who lie. I used to recommend that people pay for Salon Premium. With the recent debut of the ASS writer I have to cease my recommendation. Perhaps Salon is trying to gain readers through controversey, but journalistic integrity has to count for something. If we are ever to free ourselves of the influence of the right-wing propaganda and character assasination machine (that Salon has done a good job of writing about) it will happen because honest people shun those who repeatedly get caught lying. For example I recently wrote about George Will who appears on ABC, which gives him credibility. But he repeatedly lies and repeats calculated right-wing smear machine lies, such as the recent NEA smear.

I feel rather strongly about this issue of flat-out lies getting into print. Salon has no business publishing the words of liars who have repeatedly been caught lying. Some of their readers might not be in on the joke. The consequences of the right-wing lie-and-smear machine on people's lives and on the prospects for peace on earth are just too severe to sanction this.


Thin Line Between Company and Party (Part 2)

In Part 1 I wrote about Enron and its web of connections to the Republican Party, channeling money to The Party through campaign cash, lobbying, think tanks, paying salaries of campaign workers, etc. (Sorry, I forgot to mention use of Enron jets and facilities for Party activities…) This sort of thing is not unique to Enron. There are a number of companies that have gained attention because they seem to operate as arms of The Party.

Read this July Washington Post article.

Republican National Committee Chairman Marc F. Racicot sits on Siebel's board of directors. Seibel Systems CEO sends e-mails to employees, "asking" them to "donate" $5,000 to a "PAC" which all goes to Republicans. (Having been an executive, I hate to think what would happen to an executive who chooses not do "donate." Maybe regular employees can get away with it, but don't forget this is in a time of terrible job fear here in Silicon Valley.)
"Siebel, the brash chief executive officer of software maker Siebel Systems Inc., last year beamed e-mails to hundreds of his most fervent employees with an unmistakable message: Cough up $5,000 each for the company's new political action committee.

The response was something this town has never seen: within weeks, more than 350 workers heeded the CEO's call..."
Also in the article, Seibel meets with lawmakers, talks to them about writing his company's products into the Homeland Security bill and then writes them a check, making it clear that the check is linked to the talk. Seible and people from his company get special meetings to demonstrate products to members of the Administration.
""Company officials said their campaign has already paid dividends: It has been awarded several grants and is well-positioned to land others when the administration divvies up the homeland defense money."
Where does the company end, and "The Party" begin?

More to come...

Those Who Fear

I came across this quote today. For some reason it made me think if Bush and Cheney:
"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

UN Fund

My Aunt Ginger forwarded this to me. I'm pretty sure it's for real:
Dear Friends:

I am asking you to join in sending a message from 34,000,000 American women.

The message will help women living in countries where the lack of medical services (not to mention the lack of other necessities that we take for granted every day) results in hardships beyond our imagination.

The US made a commitment of $34 million to the United Nations Population Fund last winter, with Congress approving the funds and President Bush signing the bill containing the appropriation. The Fund provides family planning and reproductive health services to women in 142 countries. It has a budget of about $270 million worldwide and does "invaluable work," as Secretary of State Colin Powell said during his confirmation hearings. The Fund's programs help some of the most impoverished and underserved women in the world.

Our country has reneged on its commitment. The reason given for refusing to release the $34 million is that the Fund provides aid to Chinese government agencies that force women to have abortions.

However, a State Department fact-finding mission was sent to China in May to investigate exactly that allegation. The mission reported that it found no evidence that the program "knowingly supported or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization" and recommended that the funds be released. In addition, the Population Fund is barred by law from using US money in China and, as a U.N. organization, from funding any abortion related activities.

If 34,000,000 American women send one dollar each to the U.N. Population Fund, we can help the Fund continue its "invaluable work" and at the same time confirm that providing family planning and reproductive health services to women who would otherwise have none is a humanitarian issue, not a political one.

PLEASE, NOW: Put a dollar, wrapped in a plain sheet of paper, in an envelope marked "34 Million Friends." If you wish your gift to be acknowledged on the web address www.unfpa.org, print your name on the sheet of paper. Then mail it today to:

Chief, Resource Mobilization Branch
220 East 42nd Street
New York 10017

EVEN MORE IMPORTANT: Send this letter on to at least ten friends-more would be better!-who may join in this message.


PE in 1929

OK, it looks like the PE ratio of the S&P 500 in October, 1929 was 21, and the PE of the DOW was 17.

The current PE ratio of the DOW is 21.6 and the current PE ratio of the S&P 500 is 24.3 but I don't know what "earnings" measure this is using. Anyway, yes, it looks like we are above where stocks fell FROM in the 1929 crash.

Stocks Stink!

Ethel the Blog points to Stocks Stink from Rumor Mill News. Worth reading.
Following are verbatim excerpts from Bill Gross: “STOCKS STINK…Stocks are way over-valued…the Dow’s fair-value is about 5000.

“…stocks stink and will continue to do so until they're priced appropriately, probably somewhere around Dow 5000, S&P 650, or NASDAQ God knows where."
When you hear ANYONE talk about "the bottom" of the market, see if they mention the key word - VALUATION! The valuation of the market is still remarkably high. It is currently at the level that inspired Greenspan to make his famous "irrational exuberance" remark. I read somewhere that they are currently at the valuation that the market crashed FROM in 1929, but I haven't had time to research whether that is accurate. What was the average PE ratio in 1929, and what is it now?

When someone tries to talk to you about the market having a certain return over the long run, here's the catch. If you buy stocks at a certain valuation (P/E ratio -- stock price per dollar of earnings of the company) several years later the stocks should have a higher price AT THAT SAME VALUATION because over time average corporate earnings have risen and therefore should rise, over time. But RIGHT NOW stocks have a very very (very) high valuation - the P/E ratio is much much higher than the historical P/E ratio. Usually the reason for a high P/E ratio is expectations that earnings are going to go way up, and soon. But are there reasons for such expectations at this time? Companies had been screwing with their books to make earnings appear higher, they are likely to stop screwing with the books (for a while), so earnings are certainly not likely to rise (as they had been doing) due to that factor. On top of that the economy is no where near solid so we should not expect any big boost in earnings due to a bug surge in the economy. So \there is no explanation for this high valuation that is based on expected good news. Unless you think that war with Iraq will be good news. Usually in such circumstances you should expect P/E ratios to start falling. If you expect they are likely to they fall to historic averages they have a LONG way still to fall.

Let me put it another way, people think because stocks prices have fallen they are therefore low. Look at this chart to see if you think they have fallen enough to be "low". Now, if you can think of some reason for stocks to be really really high, buy more stocks. Otherwise, run for your life.

Saying it Well

Scot Rosenberg over at Salon's blogs says it well. "The threat is urgent! But it can wait a month".

Going On And On

I realize that I have been going on and on about Iraq in the last few days. I want to make one more point. I've already made the following points:
1) There was a series of "terrorist threats" that coincided with breaking news harmful to the Bush administration, and these threats stopped when the press began mentioning the coincident timing.
2) The drive to start the war began coincident with the start of "election season."
3) We learned from VietNam that the country must be behind sustained military action. Launching this war-drive in election season risks dividing the country, not uniting it. There must be an immediate national emergency to justify this timing.
4) The administration has made no case that there is a current national emergency NOW that requires the war-drive coincident with election season.
5) The previous Iraq war was started based on phony "babies thrown from incubators" evidence, and Bush was caught this weekend providing phony evidence.

And the point I want to make today: What's DIFFERENT about any Iraqi weapons development, when Iraq, North Korea, China, and who knows how many other countries are engaged in these activities.

To be clear, I am not saying that we shouldn't do something about it if Iraq or any of these other countries are developing such weapons. I am saying that the timing of THIS Iraq war-drive appears to be more about manipulating the November elections than about Iraq.


Iraq, Redundant Again

Labor Day is the traditional start of political campaign season. This year, Labor Day was also when the drumbeat for war really kicked in. Coincidence? You decide.

Is there any evidence that anything in Iraq has changed NOW? Is there a reason this is happening NOW instead of 3 months ago?

To be redundant again, we learned from VietNam that the country must be together when we go into a conflict. If things do not go well, we could be in this for a long time and our forces will NEED the country behind them. It must not begin with a potential for domestic conflict built into the origins of the effort! ANY appearance of domestic political considerations being part of the calculation must be avoided at all costs. Yet here we have the Administration firing up the war talk in sync with campaign season. That is potentially divisive, to put it mildly.

If this were REALLY a national emergency, the leaders would be doing everything they could to avoid it being associated with Congressional election season. This has Carl Rove written all over it. Congress MUST find out if this has as any part of it an attempt to manipulate the elections. We MUST know if our leadership is capable of the monstrous crime of terrifying the public with false war scares.

How To Start a War

Thanks to Tom Tomorrow for pointing to this article about the previous Iraq war.

When George Bush Sr. was trying to whip us into war with Iraq he tried out one story after another. He even said at one point that Saddam was "worse than Hitler". One would fizzle and he would try the next one. Eventually there was a story about the Iraqis throwing babies out of incubators, and we went to war. Except it never happened. The story was manufactured by a PR firm, Hill & Knowlton. Here's a link to a fairly extensive description of the Hill & Knowlton incubator story. Here, here and here are more links to this story.

I'm not saying we shouldn't have gone into that war. Maybe we should have. After the war the inspectors did find (and destroyed) chemical, biological and nuclear weapons development facilities. But we went into that war with a U.N. mandate and a multi-national force. That was THE WORLD deciding to do something about Iraq. We were part of a world effort - Iraq was not a threat to us and we were RESPONDING to an action by Iraq.

THIS time we are not responding to anything Iraq has done, we would be distracting from the war on terrorism. (The confederate yahoos who support Bush don't know better than to think Iraq was responsible for 9/11.)