Is THIS Why We're Supposed To Hate France Now?

Will the French Indict Cheney?:
"One of France's best-known investigating magistrates, Judge Renaud van Ruymbeke--who came to fame by unearthing major French campaign finance scandals in the 1990s that led to a raft of indictments--has been conducting a probe of the Nigeria deal since October. And, three days before Christmas, the Paris daily Le Figaro front-paged the news that Judge van Ruymbeke had notified the Justice Ministry that Cheney might be among those eventually indicted as a result of his investigation."

It's Serious

The other day I wrote that I think this terrorist threat is serious because it came right after Dean said that catching Saddam has not made America safer. Since increasing the threat level validated what Dean said, I don't think they would do it when they did unless it was for real.

Another reason I think it is serious is that for several days the right-wing AM radio hosts have been talking about how al-Queda wants Bush out of office, and will use an attack on America as an attempt to accomplish that, and that if one does happen, all the pro-al-Queda Democrats will be criticizing Bush for letting it happen. This is before-the-fact immunizing Bush, and before-the-fact politicizing such an event against Democrats. If this is their marching orders, it means that The Party is pretty sure something is coming.


I saw Leiberman on some cable show last night, and listening to him go on and on about how terrible Dean would be for the country it came to me that at this point the only reason Leiberman is in the race is to keep Dean from becoming President after he wins the nomination! Leiberman knows he isn't going to get the nomination, and his campaign is entirely anti-Dean at this point, almost as a partner of Bush. He knows that everything he is saying is going to be used by the Republicans, and he is actively inventing new things to harm Dean with. But he is so resentful of the Democratic base for rejecting him, and is so married to this "Dean can't win" idea, that he is doing everything he can to make it so, just so he can say "I told you so" later.

If Bush Wins In 2004

Here's what's in store for us, and the world, if Bush wins. The Hawks tell Bush how to win war on terror: Syria, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, France.

France? Yes. Read this: "we will have to pursue the war against terror far beyond the boundaries of the Middle East, into the heart of Western Europe"

The draft will be the least of our worries. This crowd is not just wingnuts, they are wingNUTS, and they're in charge now!

Is There A Terror Threat Or Not?

The Bush Administration has a habit of terrifying us with "terror alerts" and then acting like there really isn't anything to worry about. They won't fund cargo port inspections, they won't provide money for cities for terrorism preparedness, and worst of all they politicize the terrorism issue, dividing the country in half. There is no question that they used terrorism alerts politically to get the public stirred up for war with Iraq. (And then, after the invasion, didn't even bother for weeks to send teams to look for weapons of mass destruction.)

Now we have what they say is the most serious terror threat since 9/11, but they are encouraging people to gather in large numbers. Shouldn't we be afraid? At least one congressman is acting responsibly - a Republicans no less! Shays' comments draw fire:
"Some New Year's-related comments from a Connecticut congressman are getting an angry reaction.
Christopher Shays told a T-V station (W-V-I-T) that he wouldn't go to New York's Times Square 'for anything.' He also urged New Year's revelers not to go, citing terrorism fears.
Shays says it's irresponsible for federal officials to make people think they don't need to take precautions -- like avoiding packed crowds in New York City."
If something happens tonite we're going to look back and wonder why they allowed half a million people to gather in Times Square with a terrorism alert in effect. What are they thinking? Is there even a little bit of concern for the public in their thinking, or is it all, all just political calculation?

Update - The Mayor of New York:
"New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg accused the head of a House of Representatives panel on terrorism of lacking courage on Wednesday for shunning the traditional Times Square New Year's eve celebration because of security worries.

Bloomberg, appearing on morning television programs Friday, equated showing up for the street party with defying terrorists."
Packing half a million targets people, into Times Square to "defy" the terrorists. Right.

Initial Unemployment Claims

The headline, New Jobless Claims Lowest of Bush Tenure.
"The Labor Department (news - web sites) reported Wednesday that new applications filed for unemployment insurance dropped by a seasonally adjusted 15,000 to 339,000 for the week ending Dec. 27."
The reality: ETA Press Release: Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report:
"The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 516,501 in the week ending Dec. 27, an increase of 91,785 from the previous week."
I report, you decide.


Why Liberals Are Angry

Column: Why Liberals Are Angry:
"Some say liberals are ticked because the rest of the country hasn't yet conceded that George W. is a duplicitous bumbler with emperor envy. Some say it's only because liberalism has suffered a long decline. Others say a stolen election, a seedy impeachment, an illegal war and the pack-mentality media account for liberal wrath.
All these are true. But there's a more seminal cause of liberal anger. In view of it, the only surprise is that the anger took so long to erupt."

What They're Going To Do

Here's what The Party has in store for us. They are going to get Democrats together in focus groups, and they're going to ask them, "If you learned that so-and-so happened, would this cause you to stop supporting Democratic candidates?" When they find some things that make enough Democrats answer "Yes," then you'll start seeing stories in the paper saying that whatever it was that caused them to say yes really happened. Then the stories will turn into whirlwinds and you'll be hearing the story from all directions. Years from now the press will be repeating the story as fact.

In other words, if they learn that Democrats will stop supporting their candidate if they learn that the candidate said that polar bears should be trapped and moved to France, then you are going to start hearing stories about how the candidate said that polar bears should be trapped and moved to France, even though the candidate never said any such thing.

This will happen over and over again between now and the election, made-up story after made-up story, until even you are so fed up with the Democratic candidate that you'll be thinking of not voting at all, maybe even voting for Bush.

Get ready for it. It will happen. It's what they do.

Bush Declares War On PBS

It's not enough that AM radio, TV and the newspapers are 24-hour-a-day, 7-days-a-week ads for The Party. Now Bush is trying to bring PBS under control. This from Common Cause:
Public Broadcasting Under Siege!

$800,000 buys two seats on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's board!

The Bush Administration has awarded two major Republican donors seats on the nine-member board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Bush appointees Cheryl Halpern and Gay Hart Gaines and their families have given over $800,000 to Republican causes in recent years.

But just as troubling are the agendas that Halpern and Hart Gaines would bring to the CPB. Both have stated views or espoused causes that call into question their qualifications to service on a board whose mission is to promote and fund public television and radio programming.

Halpern, in her confirmation hearings, indicated that she would welcome empowering the CPB board members to intervene in program content when they felt a program was biased. And, Gaines was an ardent supporter of Representative Newt Gingrich (R-GA) who, as House Speaker in 1994, proposed cutting all federal assistance to public television.

Common Cause will not let this issue slip by without public scrutiny. We need your help to bring this to the public's attention.

We must not let partisan insiders wrest control of public broadcasting from balanced board members and threaten the integrity of the CPB from within.

Please send a generous contribution today to help us protect the fairness of public broadcasting!

Click here to find out more: http://www.commoncause.org/news/default.cfm?ArtID=270

Click here to donate to Common Cause: http://www.commoncause.org/support


What They Think Of You

From a roundtable discussion of globalization, with corporate executives and venture capitalists participating:
"There's something at an individual level that people in the [Silicon] Valley have to sign up to do, as well. In this globally competitive marketplace, you have engineers in China that go to work from 8 (a.m.) to 10 (p.m.). The company feeds them lunch, a great lunch. They have great facilities, equal to the Valley. They serve them a great dinner, and they work six days a week. They go home to be with their families during a month during Chinese New Year. But after that, they're working hard, and they're really dedicated to what they're doing.

And so we have to recover from the sense of entitlement. Individuals have to want to get retrained. They're going to have to want to work hard. Sometimes I wonder whether or not we've lost that in the Valley."
Got that? It couldn't be clearer. THIS is the corporate view of your job and your life in the future. You need to lose your "sense of entitlement" and get ready for a six day workweek, working 8am to 10pm, living in a barracks at the office, living only to serve to corporation and visiting your family once a year. (How soon will they be hatching superior workers in test tubes, and raising them from birth to be better workers for their selected job?)

The economists call it the reality of "globally competition." But the real reality is that this is what happens when you apply "market solutions" to a world with hundreds of millions of unemployed. In a purely market-driven world, NECESSARILY those lucky enough to get jobs will devolve to subsistence wages, the rest will starve off.

When you value people only as economic units, the humanity goes away. In "market" logic the sick or old person should be discarded as a drain on economic resources. In "market" logic there is no point in having a government that looks out for the interests of the public at large -- this "gets in the way" of competition. In "market" logic there is no point in recreation, except for its value in making the worker unit a bit more productive. In "market" logic there is no point in educating beyond what you need for your job. In "market" logic your only value to society is the extent to which you will serve the corporation.

A lot of people don't understand how much has already changed for Americans, with the globalization of the economy and the concentration of wealth. We seem prosperous, and we seem to have a stake in this economy, but it's all debt. The only reason there is a new SUV in that driveway, and a new family in that nice house, is they are still allowed to borrow money. This borrowing represents our living off of selling the public's assets -- assets sold by the George Bushes of the world to the Ken Lays of the world.

How long will the debt be sustainable? The day when they stop accepting our dollars is the day when America wakes up and realized what has happened to us. The fall of the dollar is a sign of what is happening.

We're going to have to re-think our concepts of "ownership" before this is all over. Why should the great masses of Americans be forced ever downward economically to the benefit of a few who "own" so much of our resources. With the concentration of wealth that is occurring, this problem is getting ever worse. We should re-think these concepts now, and discuss more equitable distribution of wealth, before things get bad enough that people take matters into their own hands. This is what has always happened in the past.

Who is our economy for? Who will love the people who have no use?

Your Food Safety

I'm watching a "Mad Cow" press conference on C-Span.

Has the Bush Administration ordered an increase in testing for Mad Cow disease? No.

Has the Bush Administration ordered "downer" cows kept our of the food supply? No.

This would interfere with corporate profits. Who the f*ck do you think you are, anyway?

Update - Tuesday the government stopped allowing "downer" cows to be used as food.

Bush Campaigning On Local Radio

Bush's Campaign Finds Platform on Local Radio,
"While the Bush campaign maintains a low profile on the national campaign stage — content for now to watch the Democrats beat on one another — it is aggressively working the expansive hustings of Republican-friendly talk radio, priming the grass roots faithful for battle next year."
But if any Democrat wants time on these stations to respond to the 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week Republican Party ad, the answer is NO, we won't let you. Once upon a time WE THE PEOPLE licensed out the broadcast frequencies for the benefit of the public. Now the corporations have taken them over and are using them to push The Party on the public, full time. This is just like what's going on in the Congress, Democrats are just not welcome. Our country is only for Republicans now. Bush is President of the Republicans, not the country. The budget only goes to districts with Republican representatives. Government contracts only go to Republican campaign contributors. The things that we -- the ones who didn't vote for Bush and the ones who didn't vote at all -- more than half the country, care about, like the environment, the poor, health carwomen'sens' rights, gay rights, minority rights, civil rights, Social Security, the right to sue in court, public schools, even public parks, well, that's "a big Fuck You Democrat, we're in power now, get over it, dry up and die."

Is He Drinking Again?

uggabugga asks if George is drinking again. He never did AA or any other programs, and denies that he is an alcoholic, so it's more likely than if he had honestly dealt with it.

Jobless Count Skips Millions

Jobless Count Skips Millions:
"The nation's official jobless rate is 5.9%, a relatively benign level by historical standards. But economists say that figure paints only a partial — and artificially rosy — picture of the labor market.

To begin with, there are the 8.7 million unemployed, defined as those without a job who are actively looking for work. But lurking behind that group are 4.9 million part-time workers such as Gluskin who say they would rather be working full time — the highest number in a decade.

There are also the 1.5 million people who want a job but didn't look for one in the last month. Nearly a third of this group say they stopped the search because they were too depressed about the prospect of finding anything. Officially termed 'discouraged,' their number has surged 20% in a year.

Add these three groups together and the jobless total for the U.S. hits 9.7%, up from 9.4% a year ago."
Don't forget the huge number of people in prisons now.

Crashes My Browser

Steve Gilliard's blog crashes Internet Explorer on my computer. I would love to read what he is writing. Anyone have any suggestions?


Today's Google Experiment

For today's Google Experiment, let's learn about Chronic Wasting Disease in deer and other wildlife. Rumor has it that hunters are coming down with the human form of Mad Cow Disease from eating deer.

From the Colorado Division of Wildlife site:
"Chronic wasting disease belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Within this family of diseases, there are three predominant variants that affect animals: scrapie, which has been identified in sheep for more that 200 years; bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle (sometimes referred to as "Mad Cow Disease"); and chronic wasting disease in deer and elk. Within the family, there are also two main variants that affect humans: Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, which occurs naturally in about one out of every one million people; and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, which has been linked to the large-scale outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopthy in cattle herds in Great Britain. Through that outbreak and the fact that the British consumed nearly 750,000 infected cattle during a 10-year period, approximately 130 humans have died to date after contracting Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease."
From the National Wildlife Health Center site:
"Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is related to a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). TSEs include such diseases as scrapie in sheep, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle (aka Mad Cow Disease) and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease of humans and are diseases of the nervous system that result in distinctive lesions in the brain. The causative agent is believed to be a modified protein (prion). These modified proteins are typically found in nervous and lymphatic tissues, but recent experimental evidence shows prions can occur in muscle tissue of mice [emphasis mine - DJ]. "
Prions in muscle tissue! This is a federal site, and in the Bush/Orwell administration information like this is always temporary -- watch how fast the beef industry gets THAT taken down!

Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Alaska, Montana, Hawaii, Idaho, Guam

U.S. Expands Mad Cow-Related Beef Recall.
Following slaughter and processing, "The meat gets boxed up and cut and perhaps commingled with other products," Petersen said.
If you live in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Alaska, Montana, Hawaii, Idaho or Guam, and you ate hamburger recently, you'll find out in 5-15 years if you have Mad Cow Disease. Of course, what about the OTHER cows that were NOT tested?


Plantu's Musharraf

MY Meme! MINE!

Dept. of Who is the Economy For? over at Sideshow. That's MY meme! MINE! ME ME ME ME ME!

"We Are In Baghdad Now"

frontline: truth, war and consquences: introduction | PBS:
"When asked if he feels any unease or discomfort at the fact that some Americans feel the United States was suckered into a war under the false pretenses of disarming Saddam of weapons of mass destruction, Chalabi replies, 'No. ... We are in Baghdad now.'"
You've got to learn not to listen to anything they say, and look only at what they are actually doing. They are in Baghdad now.

Other examples - taxes on the rich greatly reduced, others like the estate tax just eliminated; the taxes the rest of us pay are going out as contracts and payments to campaign contributors; Medicare gone in a few years; legislation is now entirely one-party; the massive deficits mean that our Social Security is already gone; environmental laws decimated; the courts taken over by the Federalist Society... All the words are just smokescreens for what they are accomplishing.

They are in Baghdad now.


What's The Difference?

Wampum has some funny "What's the difference?" examples up, in the post titled, "Half Full."

But before reading that, click at the top of the Wampum page to nominate your favorite lefty weblog for a Koufax award.

Why Did Bush Invade Iraq?

Remind us.

Parts of Patriot Act II Have Already Become Law

I can't believe this:

On December 13, when U.S. forces captured Saddam Hussein, President George W. Bush not only celebrated with his national security team, but also pulled out his pen and signed into law a bill that grants the FBI sweeping new powers. A White House spokesperson explained the curious timing of the signing - on a Saturday - as "the President signs bills seven days a week." But the last time Bush signed a bill into law on a Saturday happened more than a year ago - on a spending bill that the President needed to sign, to prevent shuttng down the federal government the following Monday.

By signing the bill on the day of Hussein's capture, Bush effectively consigned a dramatic expansion of the USA Patriot Act to a mere footnote. Consequently, while most Americans watched as Hussein was probed for head lice, few were aware that the FBI had just obtained the power to probe their financial records, even if the feds don't suspect their involvement in crime or terrorism.

By signing the bill on the day of Hussein's capture, Bush effectively consigned a dramatic expansion of the USA Patriot Act to a mere footnote.

The Bush Administration and its Congressional allies tucked away these new executive powers in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004, a legislative behemoth that funds all the intelligence activities of the federal government. The Act included a simple, yet insidious, redefinition of "financial institution," which previously referred to banks, but now includes stockbrokers, car dealerships, casinos, credit card companies, insurance agencies, jewelers, airlines, the U.S. Post Office, and any other business "whose cash transactions have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax, or regulatory matters."

I'm at a loss for words folks. W's administration has now sunk to absolutely unparalleled depths of dishonesty -- they're now purposefully hiding legislation that curtails civil liberties from the public.

The author of this piece, David Martin, asks the right question:

The Bush Administration has yet to answer pivotal questions about its latest constitutional coup: If these new executive powers are necessary to protect United States citizens, then why would the legislation not withstand the test of public debate? If the new act's provisions are in the public interest, why use stealth in ramming them through the legislative process?

My goodness.

I really don't know what else to say folks.

Off To See LOTR

We're off to see Lord of the Rings.

Update - It was GREAT!

Quarantine? Don't They Know What Mad Cow Disease IS?

U.S. Quarantines Calves From Diseased Cow:
U.S. officials have quarantined two calves from the Washington cow with mad cow disease, even though transmission of the disease from mother to calf is considered unlikely.
Quarantine? Mad Cow disease is not an infectious virus! Quarantining the cows doesn't do ANYTHING to prevent the disease from spreading. Are they trying to make the public think they're doing something about this? How about ACTUALLY doing something about it? How about banning the feeding of dead sick animals to other animals? How about banning the feeding of animals AT ALL to vegetarian animals?! DUH!

Good One

From Wealth Bondage:
"Seeing the Forrest: "We need to break up the rich white mens' club and get the money circulating again. The way to do that is to bring back very high taxes at the top, and estate taxes, and use the money to strengthen 'the commons' -- our public resources and human resources. Education, hospitals, health care, roads, infrastructure, arts and quality of life." I notice that this guy has a free piece of crap blogspot blog. Gotta tell you something about this loser's chances of success. Maybe we winners should take up a collection buy him a real blog. Sad, really. No wonder he is into income redistribution. I'd ship his job to China, if he had one."
A collection to buy me things? Not a bad idea actually. I like it.

Readers - you want to understand Wealth Bondage before you'll understand this post. Here's a clue, a comment left by the author:
"Always a pleasure to see you gnash your teeth in impotent rage. My contribution to the greater good is setting an example for others to emulate. People look up to me, as they did to the Pope in the Dark Ages. I give them hope. Instead of alms, I strew my blessing. "Go little sheep gently to your pens that thou might be fleeced."
In the spirit of the times, for sure.


It's For Real

British Lab Confirms Case of Mad Cow Disease (washingtonpost.com).

Everything I'm Reading

Everything I'm reading about our nation's meat inspection system and (lack of) efforts to prevent "mad cow" from infecting people tells me that profits not only came before concerns for public safety, but that profits were the only concern, and safety was no concern. These people running our government do not care about us at all. The people managing industries like the beef industry care only about tomorrow's profits. Their shortsighted greed may have destroyed their entire industry.

This story, for example, is worth reading. Expert Warned That Mad Cow Was Imminent,
"Ever since he identified the bizarre brain-destroying proteins that cause mad cow disease, Dr. Stanley Prusiner, a neurologist at the University of California at San Francisco, has worried about whether the meat supply in America is safe.

He spoke over the years of the need to increase testing and safety measures. Then in May, a case of mad cow disease appeared in Canada, and he quickly sought a meeting with Ann M. Veneman, the secretary of agriculture. He was rebuffed, he said in an interview yesterday, until he ran into Karl Rove, senior adviser to President Bush.

So six weeks ago, Dr. Prusiner, who won the 1997 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work on prions, entered Ms. Veneman's office with a message. "I went to tell her that what happened in Canada was going to happen in the United States," Dr. Prusiner said. "I told her it was just a matter of time."

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

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

Fast, accurate and inexpensive tests are available, Dr. Prusiner said, including one that he has patented through his university.

Ms. Veneman's response (he said she did not share his sense of urgency) left him frustrated. That frustration soared this week after a cow in Washington State was tentatively found to have the disease. If the nation had increased testing and inspections, meat from that cow might never have entered the food chain, he said."


If the fates allow

Tom reminds me of the only Christmas song I like.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
From now on,
our troubles will be miles away.

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.

Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

Go Read This!

As my pal Chuck says, it's brilliant.

Be sure to read the comments that follow from the wingnuts -- they're hilarious.

And, of course, after you're done reading this bit of brilliance, be sure to have yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

Happy Holidogs!

Happy Holidogs from the Johnsons!

Top, left to right, Duke, Percy, Buddy, anonymous
Bottom, left to right, Espresso, anonymous, anonymous, Hannah

(Card by Sudeep)

Merry Christmas

Behind Razor Wire

Thanks to Skimble, this cartoon.

Taking Over The Democratic Party

LiberalOasis talks about where to go from here, now that liberals seem to be getting control of the Democratic party again:
"We must phrase our arguments -- whether on TV, in the blogosphere, in letters to the editor, or in personal conversations – in ways that find common ground and speak to the fundamental concerns and hopes of non-liberals."
This is something I've been thinking about lately. We have to recognize how far from our own thinking most Americans are at this point. As just one example, MOST Americans still think that Iraq was behind the 9/11 attack. How do we break through that? We don't do it by just repeating that Bush is a liar. We don't do it by expressing anger. We have to make a solid, positive case when talking to people who have had no source of information beyond Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and the corporate media. There's a lot of work to do.

Still Nothing

Now It's a Scandal - New evidence that a House GOP leader offered a bribe.:
"What does a guy have to do to get a congressional bribe investigated? Even making allowances for slow readers, John Ashcroft's Justice Department is taking an awfully long time to decide whether to do anything about the (unsuccessful) attempt to bribe Rep. Smith. "
More here.

By the way, what happened to the investigation of the White House outing an undercover CIA agent?

And Ken Lay, what's up with him? The worst corporate scandal in American history, and the guy is still running loose?

Oh yeah, what about Bush's insider trading at Harken Energy? And the inveswtigation of Cheney's corruption at Halliburton? And he's still getting payments from Halliburton -- isn't that against government ethics rules?

The Day Before Christmas

Typically this would be Friday news - buried over the weekend. But this is a BIG story, so it gets Christmas Eve. Administration Is Exempting Alaska Forest From Protection: (Washington Post version here, this link won't go away...)
"The Bush administration announced on Tuesday that the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, the largest in the country, would be exempted from a Clinton-era rule, potentially opening up more than half of the 17 million-acre forest for more development and as many as 50 logging projects."
And how did this come about?
"The decision stems from the settlement of a lawsuit between Alaska and the federal government over the so-called roadless rule, which prohibited the building of roads in 58.5 million acres of undeveloped national forest across the country.

Environmental groups attacked the administration for the settlement in July, saying it was an underhanded strategy for circumventing the regulation. Conservation groups said the administration had failed to defend the roadless designation adequately. "
Got that? It was a set-up. The right-wingers in Alaska sue the Bush government, the Bush government agrees to "settle," giving the Alaskan right-wingers everything they ask for. (Does this remind you of the Microsoft "settlement"?)

Be sure to talk about this over Christmas dinner. (And don't eat the roast beef!)

The Cloud Minders of River Oaks

I’m back from a trip to Bushland. I just returned from a family wedding in Houston over the weekend. Every time I visit my relatives in Houston it’s quite an interesting experience for me. (For my musings about last year's visit, go here.) My relatives in Houston have all become Republicans in the last twenty years or so. They were all Great Society liberals who supported LBJ in the 1960s but have since become, like most well-off white Texans, diehard Republicans who believe Bill Clinton is the anti-Christ. It’s a rather shocking transformation that has taken place during my lifetime.

My family in Houston often travels in some very interesting circles. The wedding was in the late morning on Saturday. It was followed by a jazz brunch reception at one of the hipper places in tony River Oaks. At one point I looked out at the bitter looks on the faces of the wealthy Houstonians eating Eggs Benedict. These folks had driven up in all manner of expensive cars (scores of BMWs, Mercedes, and Lexuses were on hand) and were clearly doing quite well financially. I thought to myself, “What a sour bunch!” My father said, almost as if reading my mind, “But these are the beautiful people.” I said, “Oh my goodness, really? They don’t look beautiful, they look unhappy.” He later wisecracked, “Besides everyone at this table, do you think Dean would get one vote out of the remaining fifty people in this room? These are the quintessential Bushies.” An interesting point, eh?

The next morning, as I still pondered the prior day’s experience, I watched an episode of Star Trek (the Original Series) entitled “The Cloud Minders.” In it, the Enterprise and its crew travel to a world in which there are two social classes, the ruling class that lives above the clouds in a city called Stratos and the worker class that worked extracting a mineral called zienite, on the planet‘s surface. The two classes have been separated for so long that they’ve evolved into very different groups of people who can scarcely talk with each other -- both viewing the other with extreme suspicion and, not surprisingly, no empathy whatsoever.

Later the same day I went to a family Christmas Party. Recently, a cousin and her husband bought two residences, each worth in excess of a million dollars. Unfortunately, they were forced to sell one of them because, shucks, they really couldn’t afford that second one! They apparently were teetering on the financial edge just a few short months ago. Over the last few months, I’ve listened to several very compassionate descriptions of their predicament from my relatives. Their situation, however, seemed like a ridiculous and quite preventable one to me. Those of us who have houses that cost under six figures often find such stories of woe hilarious actually. The funniest part was when the cousin in question passed by at the Christmas Party wearing a $10,000 Rolex watch. After seeing the watch, my wife leaned over and said “I’ve got an answer to their problems! Can you say “Pawn Shop?”

Other topics of conversation from the Christmas Party included David Letterman’s possible leftist liberal leanings and how trial lawyers are going to destroy the medical system in this country. (During this discussion, one of my aunts, a small business owner, stated rather matter-of-factly that she’d never paid for health insurance for any of her employees during the last twenty five years.) I also learned that the courts were just out there to harass good taxpaying citizens by allowing nuisance lawsuits. In short, while my relatives were apparently filled with compassion for my cousin (who I honestly believe doesn’t deserve it), they apparently had little compassion for, well anyone else, especially those who couldn’t afford medical insurance or anyone who might file a lawsuit.

So, what’s the point of this post? Well, the whole experience has really gotten me to thinking about how the social classes in American really don‘t have much contact with each other these days. Those of the higher classes therefore have very little compassion for anyone else. The policies of this current administration certainly drive this point home quite effectively. While happily cutting taxes and helping their rich friends and contributors with tax breaks and credits, members of this well-heeled administration has done very little for anyone else who isn’t from their privileged class.

This is not a new problem either. Through a rather bizarre quirk of fate, I study wealthy elites in the Gilded Age and I see the same phenomenon in that era over and over again. Those of you who read my blog know that I returned to this idea rather often. Just as it is today, wealthy elites who were then effectively in charge of the most morally bankrupt political era in our history approached government the very same way. There were always plenty of goodies for their contributors and buddies but very little for anyone else.

My rather depressing conclusion? While there are notable (and brief) exceptions like the Progressive Era and New Deal, genuine compassion for your fellow man is not something that I would say is really a hallmark of the upper classes in American history. As social classes have become more distinct and isolated from one another in this country over the last century, empathy from those at the top has truly become a rather rare phenomenon. It was possible for a patrician like Theodore or Franklin Roosevelt to understand the problems of the working-class. However, a century later, it has become harder for those at the higher echelons of American society today, suffering from several decades’ worth of indoctrination with the modern-day version of Social Darwinist ideology, to do the same.

Like the Cloud Minders of Stratos or the wealthy elites of the Gilded Age, Texans from W’s patrician class apparently lack empathy for the poor or anyone outside their class.

At the very least, this lack of empathy explains much about the world view of the Bushies and their domestic policies, doesn’t it?

New Jobless

"In the week ending Dec. 20, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 353,000, a decrease of 1,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 354,000."
Here's the UNADJUSTED number: ETA Press Release: Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report,
"The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 423,782 in the week ending Dec. 20, an increase of 11,248 from the previous week."


Blogs for Bush: TIME gets it right for "Person of the Year"

Over at Blogs for Bush they're complaining that Time included a black soldier on the cover, saying making the American Soldier "person of the year" was"probably the best choice, despite their politically correct cover."

Typical Republicans.

U.S. Beef Industry To End Now?

Yahoo! News - Report: Japan Bans U.S. Beef Imports.

Things are going to happen fast now. By the time we wake up tomorrow there will be no beef industry in the US. This is because we have no real inspection system -- the corporations have bought off the government -- and our Agriculture Secretary is corporate lobbyist Ann Veneman.

Look what happens when we have put the corporations in charge of regulating themselves! NO ONE is going to trust anything the government says about this, and they shouldn't. And WE shouldn't, either! Are YOU going to eat beef now, or ever again in your life? (I haven't for years, of course.)

Here's an earlier post about the US beef industry. Sorry that you can't access the NY Times articles anymore.

Update - Korea.

Update - I'm going to elevate Richard's comment:
"Everybody remember this for when wingnuts complain about how bad regulation is for business: Putting corporate toadies in charge of regulation is BAD FOR BUSINESS. Not just bad, but catastrophic."
Update - I just heard on the news that they slaughtered this cow and sent its meat to be used in animal feed before getting the test results. The idiots. The greedy fucking idiots set up the procedures to allow this to happen, for a few extra dollars. And in light of this I'm elevating a comment from Thomas' previous post below:
"The Swiss segment of my family has been dairy farmers forever and you don't slaughter a "downed" cow, you burn it and everything associated with it, and then you clorox the barn.

You also warn your neighbors and don't ship milk until the vet tells you what happened. You may lose your herd, but if you ship tainted milk or meat, no one will ever buy from you again, so it doesn't make any difference.

Of course, my relatives are family farmers, not industrial milk factories."
Update - More here: USDA refused to release mad cow records,
"In addition, former USDA veterinarians tell UPI they have long suspected the disease was in U.S herds and there are probably additional infected animals.

[. . .] The USDA insisted the case is probably isolated and the US beef supply is safe. "I plan to serve beef for my Christmas dinner," Veneman said, "and we remain confident in the safety of our food supply."

Responded Friedlander: "She might as well kiss her (behind) goodbye, then.
Veneman went on to say she had confidence in the USDA surveillance system for detecting mad cow and protecting the public, noting the agency has tested more than 20,000 cattle for the disease this year.

This represents only a small percentage of the millions of cows in the U.S. herd, however, and experts say current procedures are unlikely to detect mad cow.

The Washington cow was tested because it was a so-called downer cow -- a cow unable to stand on its own -- which is a sign of mad cow disease. However, the United States sees approximately 200,000 of these per year or about 10 times as many animals are tested for the disease.

[. . .] Schwochert agreed with that, saying the USDA's sparse testing means they cannot say with any confidence whether there are additional cases or not."
They let the fox guard the food inspection henhouse. Now we're all fucked. It DOES matter who you vote for!

Morning Update - Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Russia, Ukraine and South Africa. "The 15-nation European Union has long banned the import of most U.S. beef because of health concerns over cattle treated with growth hormones, allowing in a limited quantity of the meat from the United States."

Mad Cow Disease reaches U.S. - “not terrorist related”

[Uh... why do the first words out of the mouths of our government officials these days have to be "does not appear to be terrorist related"? -Thomas]

First Case of Suspected Mad Cow found in U.S.
Dec. 23, 2003

The first U.S. case of suspected mad cow disease was found in an animal in Washington State the USDA announced tonight. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said that a single "downer" Holstein cow that was either sick or injured and intended for rendering, not food processing, tested presumptively positive for the brain-wasting illness. The farm in Mabton, WA, about 40 miles southeast of Yakima, has been quarantined and meat from other animals in the herd are being traced for testing. The USDA will hold daily briefings on its investigation.


[Read the Reuter's AlertNet article. The animal was a "downer" ... i.e., it wasn't moving (i.e. it was obviously sick) when it was slaughtered. They singled it out for testing, then they proceeded to process the meat!!! God damn, I'm happy I'm a vegetarian!!! You'd think that common sense would dictate that the meat be quarantined until the test results came back... god forbid we do anything to impact the profitability of the beef industry, I guess.

Hmm... we banned all import of Canadian beef due to a single BSE case earlier this year... what do you think the current administration is going to say if Canada suggests they take similar action?!?


--Thomas Leavitt

There's A New "Bat" Up

The Dean campaign is typing to raise $1.5 million by Dec. 31. Click on the left to contribute!

What's The Difference

Eric Alterman is playing "What's the Difference?"
"DIANE SAWYER: But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still --

RESIDENT BUSH: So what's the difference?

Uh, okay....Soooo.......

You won the lottery as opposed to the possibility that you could win the lottery?

'What's the Difference?'

Jennifer Connelly loves you as opposed to the possibility that Jennifer Connelly might one day love you?

'What's the Difference?'
Play here.

So I thought up a few: To my wife: "Was I cleaning the yard, or was I thinking about cleaning the yard?" "What's the difference?"

To the IRS: "Did I pay my taxes on time, or was I going to pay my taxes when I damn well felt like it?" "What's the difference, leave me alone."

We should make this as widespread as "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is.

This Threat Looks Serious

U.S. Officials Face Array of Possible Plots:
"Unlike past elevations of the terrorism threat level, the decision to raise the alert to orange this time was unanimous and decisive, because it was based on what senior Bush administration officials described as the most alarming, credible and specific information they had ever seen.

'I have never seen the national security leadership as tense and anxious as they are right now,' said a second senior federal law enforcement official. He said that even the timing of the raising of the threat level was moved up a day because of rapidly developing concerns over the weekend. Bush administration officials were so concerned, he said, that they sent a plane to Missouri on Saturday to bring Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft back to Washington from vacation.

'In the past, there were disagreements over whether [the elevated alert] was needed,' that official said. 'This time, everyone said, 'Yeah, let's do it.' It is the most specific and credible information we've had, period.'"
My own indicator of the seriousness of the threat -- that it wasn't another threat just for political purposes -- was that it followed Dean's statement that capturing Saddam has not made us any safer. Rove would NEVER allow the government to confirm that, so someone must have overridden Rove on this.

But the stock market continues to go up. What are they thinking?

FDA - Price Enforcement Arm Of The Drug Companies

I've said before that the FBI is the investigative arm of The Party, the Justice Department is the domestic enforcement arm and the military is The Party's foreign enforcement arm.

Now, many of the agencies have become The Party'srevenue arms, handing out contract, tax cuts or favors to campaign contributors. Here's an example: U.S. Forbids Drug Imports by Illinois.

Combine this with the recent Medicare "reform" bill prohibiting Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices, and we have the Drug Price Enforcement Arm of the drug companies in action.

Vast profits come from pumping just a few million into The Party and its propaganda arm, The Wurlitzer.


Terror Threat Up, Stock Market, Too

Why is the stock market rising along with the terror threat level? Does Wall Street know something that we don't?

Remember the administration's plans for a terrorism threat futures market? The idea was that the perfection of the market would lead to better indicators of where terrorists would strike, etc... The wingnuts believe in The Market as a religion, and believe that by setting up markets where greedheads can place bets on things like terrorist strikes, we can watch where people are placing their bets, and that will show us what is going to happen.

Well, here's a terrorist threat, and here's the stock market. It's supposed to be the worst threat since 9/11. But the stock market went UP today.

I know that the Bush administration has so politicized national security that their credibility is zero with half the country -- but the stock market doesn't even pay attention to them anymore? The stock market believes that they put out terrorist threats for political reasons?

We need to get these clowns out of office for our own protection. What if this is a REAL threat? What if the next one is? We need an administration that people trust.

Fighting For Whose Country?

I've been hearing praise of the soldiers who "died for their country." Now that the President's justification for the Iraq war has changed -- now that it was a war to "free the Iraqi people" instead of a war to protect us from an imminent threat -- how does this square with soldiers "dying for their country? Iraq wasn't their country. Did they sign up to free Iraqis?

I've been hearing that our soldiers are "fighting to preserve our freedom." Now that the President's justification for the Iraq war was that it was a war to "free the Iraqi people," how does "freeing the Iraqi people" preserve OUR freedom?

I'm complaining about the lies, not about the good this has done for Iraqis. (Iraqi men, anyway, not women.)

Workers In Iraq

Everybody, everybody, everybody, please go read this:Whiskey Bar: Right to Work State.

Then think about what the Bush Administration is planning for a second term HERE.

Long Past Time For Some Changes

Democrats Forced To Work on Margins (washingtonpost.com):
"The The Republicans' aggressive moves caught the Democrats off guard. Although they had come to expect tough GOP tactics in the House, they were stunned when the strategies moved to the Senate, where relations between the parties have been less confrontational. Some Democrats now regret they did not react more quickly and aggressively."
Didn't catch ME "off guard." I understood what The Party was all about. I knew that the Republicans had declared war on half of the country. I knew it years ago. And when you're in a war, you want leadership that at the very least recognizes there's a war going on.
""We never imagined they would not include all conferees" in the negotiations, Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) said in an interview as the session was ending. "Our mistake was we didn't insist on inclusion" before key bills were sent to conference for final drafting, he added."
Sounds like it's time for Tom to go.
Democrats "probably should have done more" to protest the Medicare negotiations and will be "much more resolute" in confronting future GOP tactics, said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who played a pivotal role in the Democrats' response to the Medicare legislation."
Sounds like it's time for Teddy to go.
"On Medicare, Democrats see plenty of blame to go around.

Some question Kennedy's early support for a Senate bill that opened the way for conference agreement. Many are furious at Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.) and John Breaux (La.), who stuck around to negotiate after Republicans barred all other Democrats, including Daschle, from the conference. Others say Daschle should have kicked up more of a fuss, although he insists it would have done little good. Still others say Democratic critics of the bill might have prevailed if the AARP had not endorsed it."
DEFINITELY time for Max and John to go!

And good riddance Zell!

"New Economy"

New Economy: Offshore Jobs in Technology: Opportunity or a Threat?:
"So what is really happening? Is the offshore outsourcing of technology jobs a cataclysmic jolt or a natural evolution of the economy?

The short answer is that the trend is real, irreversible and another step in the globalization of the American economy. It does present a challenge to industry, government and individual workers. But the shifting of some technology jobs abroad fits into a well-worn historical pattern of economic change and adjustment in the United States.

'To be competitive and to maintain and improve American living standards, we have to move up the technology food chain,' said Craig R. Barrett, the chief executive of Intel."
Man, oh man. I'll tell you. I've learned that when people start talking about a "new economy" it's time to run and hide. "We have to move up the technology food chain." What the fuck does that even MEAN?

All the experts say that the old, "low skill" jobs like software engineer will be replaced by new jobs that we don't even know about yet. Well, it's a FACT that I don't know about the new jobs, because here in Silicon Valley we SURE haven't seen them yet. The argument seems to be that because sometimes in the past new kinds of jobs have shown up to replace the jobs that were lost, therefore new jobs will always show up. Personally, I'm not one to place my bets on an angel showing up and waving a wand and making everything better. I'm more one for planning what to do in case that doesn't happen.

It's supposed to be a good thing when we find ways to get more work done using fewer people:
"In an information economy, technology services are an "input'' in the same way that steel, glass and rubber are parts of a car. So reducing the cost of technology services curbs inflation while improving efficiency and productivity. A recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that every dollar of costs that United States companies move offshore yields a benefit of $1.12 to $1.14 to the American economy, mainly from cost savings and steering workers toward jobs that add more value than those replaced."
The problem now is this money is not being distributed past the top floor. Instead of paying workers more, the money is going to the top. The concentration of wealth is accelerating. YOU AND I are not benefiting from the changes in the economy, while a few are becoming vastly richer.

The solution? We need to break up the rich white mens' club and get the money circulating again. The way to do that is to bring back very high taxes at the top, and estate taxes, and use the money to strengthen "the commons" -- our public resources and human resources. Education, hospitals, health care, roads, infrastructure, arts and quality of life.

We also need to change the way our corporations are chartered to being back the idea that they exist to benefit the public at large. Perhaps we should require that representatives of workers sit on the boards of corporations. A personal favorite solution is to ban corporations from using money for anything that does not directly benefit shareholders. This means no more political contributions, and contributions to "think tanks" and other fronts for political operations. This would help lessen the influence of money on our democracy, returning us closer to one-person-one-vote instead of one-dollar-one-vote.

What do you think?


Aspirin Factory?

Suddenly the Right finds it useful to stop claiming it was an aspirin factory: The Clinton View of Iraq-al Qaeda Ties.

How will this mesh with their claim that Clinton did nothing about al-Queda? AND with their claim that the attack on the chemical plant was a "wag the dog" effort to deflect attention from Monica?

Anyway, it looks like they're trying SO hard to justify invading Iraq that they're willing to let go of one of their anti-Clinton myths. Or, perhaps, they just expect the public not to make the connection.



Yahoo! News - Saddam was held by Kurdish forces, drugged and left for US troops

Yahoo! News - Saddam was held by Kurdish forces, drugged and left for US troops. I saw this at Debka a week ago, but didn't pay much attention. Here's another source, with what looks like confirmation.


The Bush Tax!

Blog for America : The Bush Tax -- How Much is it Costing You?
"George W. Bush talks a lot about "tax cuts," but he doesn't mention how much his fiscal irresponsibility costs. Call it the Bush Tax—what we are all forced to pay because the president gave away your money in tax breaks that gave the most benefits to people making over $300,000 per year. The Bush Tax shifts tax costs to states and communities, which then raise your taxes to make up the difference."
Re-framing the discussion. Calling Bush's cuts in services a "tax." VERY good move! And there's a web site to go along with it.

Wolf In Charge Of Chickencoop

I heard about this back in September. What's happening with this now?

Psychological Warfare

Tom Hartman writes, in Conservatives Target Testicles:
"Rush Limbaugh just declared psychological war on the working white males of America, although most of them probably didn't realize it. This week Limbaugh rolled out a 'funny' faux advertisement for the 'Hillary Clinton Testicle Lock Box' that now any woman can use to clamp down on men's testicles just like Hillary does.

This wasn't just a whim of Limbaugh's, or a response to his recent rehab. It's part of a sophisticated psychological operations program by conservatives that explicitly targets working men in America, and dates back to research first done for Richard Nixon.

[. . .] The majority of unemployed or under-employed men don't kill themselves, however. Instead, they get angry, and look for the sources of their anger. And this is where the conservatives are working hard to perform an elegant smoke-and-mirrors switch of attention.

Conservatives have figured out how crucial it is to make sure that the working-class "NASCAR Dad" demographic - so important to conservatives that NASCAR drivers were invited to place their cars on the White House lawn for a Bush photo op - don't connect their sense of lost masculinity with this conservative administration's anti-worker policies.

Thus the Hillary Clinton Testicle Lock Box. And the Phallic Projection Force War In Iraq. And the Big Bulge Strut On The Aircraft Carried Deck.

[. . .] If Democrats can help NASCAR Dads realize that conservative trade and fiscal policies are at the root of their problems, they may wake America up from the web of deceit being spun by Bush and Rove. If not, prepare for another four years of the rich getting richer while the middle class slides into the abyss, perhaps taking American democracy with it."
Read it, read it, read it!

Animal Rights: What the Nobel Committee Failed to Note

Animal Rights: What the Nobel Committee Failed to Note:
"Forty-eight billion farm animals are killed each year around the world - nearly eight times the human population, more than 130 million a day, more than five million every hour, almost 100,000 a minute. These numbers do not include the billions of other animals whose lives are taken, bodies injured, and freedom stolen in the name of entertainment, sport, or fashion. As Costello wearily asks, how is it possible that the great mass of humanity fails to recognize what humans do to animals for the great evil that it is?"

The Rise Of The Euro

EURUSD=X: Basic Chart for EUR to USD - Yahoo! Finance


That Great "New Jobless" Number Today

Perhaps you read that there was a "dip" in the "new jobless" number this week. It was a "seasonally adjusted number:
In Washington, the Labor Department (news - web sites) said new claims for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week. It said that for the work week ending Dec. 13, new applications for benefits declined by a seasonally adjusted 22,000 to 353,000, the lowest level since Nov. 1. The drop was much larger than economists were expecting.
What were the UNADJUSTED numbers? From the Labor Department's report, ETA Press Release: Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report:
"The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 411,081 in the week ending Dec. 13, a decrease of 75,048 from the previous week. There were 486,258 initial claims in the comparable week in 2002. "
The ACTUAL new jobless number was 411,258. That's not good at all.

It Can Only Decline

Most Americans continue to believe that Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 attack. The politics of this break down pretty clearly: Those who believe that Iraq was behind 9/11 support Bush's position on the war and therefore support Bush. Those who do not believe this do not support Bush's position on the war and do not support Bush. Bush's entire political advantage going into 2004 is based on this public perception.

Many "moderate" Democrats take the position that, since most of the public currently believes that Iraq was responsible for 9/11, it is therefore foolish to go against the grain and claim otherwise. Their political position is that it is not politically advantageous to disagree with a majority of the public regardless of where the facts lie on a given issue. They say that Dean is way out of "the mainstream" for saying that invading Iraq and capturing Saddam was a strategic mistake that has not made us safer.

It may be true on any given day that it is a politically risky position to contradict what the public believes. Doing so leaves you open to opportunistic attacks from those who would prefer that the public remain deceived for their own political advantage. On any given day this may be a political reality. But what happens when you take a position that is at odds with the facts -- as well as at odds with the overall good of the country -- and do so for short term political advantage, and then the public's understanding of the facts changes? Doesn't today's convenient political position bring with it the risk that public understanding of an issue will change tomorrow, leaving you looking foolish and opportunistic? Isn't it therefore better in the longer term to take positions that agree with the truth and facts of an issue, and the good of the country?

Those of us who follow the news know that it is not true that Iraq was responsible for 9/11. This means that, as the facts come out, more and more people will come to understand that since Iraq was not behind 9/11, the invasion of that country was a foolish diversion from protecting us against those who were responsible for 9/11. As time passes the number of people supporting Bush on this issue can only decline, because the facts do not support his position. Between now and the election facts are not going to emerge that support the public's belief that Iraq was responsible for 9/11, but since facts exist that contradict this belief, some or many of them might emerge and affect public understanding and change the poll numbers.

Furthermore, we must realize that those who believe Bush and think that Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 attack are not going to vote for anyone but Bush. So supporting this position only to appear to be siding with the majority will not help Democrats politically.

It makes sense to take the opposing position -- the one that also agrees with the facts and the one that is in the best interest of the country -- and oppose Bush on this Iraq war issue. Democrats should that a position advocating protecting the country from the real terrorists rather than diverting attention and resources. It is the task of Bush's opponents to find ways to inform the public of the facts. As more people become aware of the facts they will move from support of Bush's position to support of Dean's.

Not Just Dean

It's not just the Dean people who will be going door-to-door in the coming year. Read the article In These Times | Door by Door, and then go volunteer to help.

The Union Mall - Sweatshop Free Shopping!

The Union Mall - Sweatshop Free Shopping!


Bush Ad -- When Angry Democrats Attack

GeorgeWBush.com :: When Angry Democrats Attack.


The Timing

Tom and I have written recently about whether Saddam's trial and execution will be timed for political purposes. In Post Pop, The Blogging of the President: 2004 writes about political timing in general. A good read.

This Changes My Opinion

Critics: Convicted felons worked for electronic voting companies:
"A manufacturer of electronic voting machines has employed at least five convicted felons as managers, according to critics demanding more stringent background checks for people responsible for voting machine software.

Voter advocate Bev Harris alleged Tuesday that managers of a subsidiary of Diebold Inc., one of the country's largest voting equipment vendors, included a cocaine trafficker, a man who conducted fraudulent stock transactions, and a programmer jailed for falsifying computer records."
Before now my thinking was that it's a little bit too wild to try to say that there really was a PLAN to steal elections. My thinking was that the voting machines were not secure enough to ensure AGAINST this happening, and against loss of data if a machine malfunctions -- that it just didn't make sense to have voting machines that didn't have a way to verify that the voters' choices were what was recorded and counted. AND, if I WERE going to try to fix an election, I'd need to have people in on the plan that I could count on to be dishonest enough, and to keep quiet.

But no, all this is starting to look more than a little suspicious:

  • The companies are owned by hard-right wingnut Republicans.
  • The companies sacrifice the extra profits from the add-on sale of printers.
  • The companies resist changing in response to criticism and adding printers. They don't fix software flaws that are pointed out to them. Instead they hire PR firms to tell lies and smear and ridicule their critics (a typical REPUBLICAN response.)
  • They sneak in uncertified software.
  • Republicans in the Congress refuse to co-sponsor bills to fix this problem.

    So what IS going on here? And how long do we all have to wait to be sure that our election process is NOT being stolen? It's the "be sure" part of that sentence that is important to me. I saw David Dill speak recently, and he began his talk by saying that democracy depends on the losers accepting the results of elections. Whether The Party is involved in a scheme to steal elections or not, this has gone too far. I can't accept that the results of elections conducted with these machines are fair because there is no way to know for sure.

    Now, I was in the computer business for a long time, and of course a computer hardware crash or software bug never happened to me in all that time. An intentional virus never happened to me, either. And I'm sure none of these things never happened to you. Right? They certainly never happened to the election officials who are buying these machines. So you and I and the election officials never had any reason to make backups of our critically important data. Right? But, theoretically, just theoretically we know that these things could happen to us, probably in an alternate universe, but they could happen. So, theoretically, we should be backing up our data. Right? So shouldn't our voting machines also have a way to verify that our votes are counted correctly?

  • Voting Machines Story

    Voting machine maker dinged: AUDITOR SAYS SOFTWARE WASN'T APPROVED:
    "Secretary of State Kevin Shelley said Tuesday that Diebold Elections Systems could lose the right to sell electronic voting machines in California after state auditors found the company distributed software that had not been approved by election officials.

    The auditors reported that voters in 17 California counties cast ballots in recent elections using software that had not been certified by the state. And voters in Los Angeles County and two smaller counties voted on machines installed with software that was not approved by the Federal Election Commission."
    This company is just bad news.

    What Did Bush Know?

    Misleader.org: Daily Mislead:
    "At his press conference yesterday, President Bush was asked about charges that he had received warnings prior to the September 11th attacks that a terrorist incident was imminent. He answered that even asking such a question was 'an absurd insinuation.'1 It was the same sentiment expressed by Bush's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who said in May of 2002 that '[no one predicted] that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane.'2

    The problem for the president and the administration is that the White House has previously admitted that the president had personally received such specific warnings. As ABC News reported in May of 2002, 'White House officials acknowledge that U.S. intelligence officials informed President Bush weeks before the September 11th attacks that Osama bin Laden's terrorist network might try to hijack American planes.'3 As Condoleezza Rice said at a hastily called press conference to spin these revelations, the President specifically received an 'analytic report' on August 6th, 2001 at his Crawford mansion that 'talked about Osama bin Laden's methods of operation' and 'mentioned hijacking.'4 According to Reuters, that report was congruent with 'intelligence since 1998 that said followers of bin Laden were planning to strike U.S. targets, hijack U.S. planes.'5."
    And why is the Bush administration continuing to block efforts to find out what they knew?


    Eric Alterman

    Eric Alterman's Altercation can be found HERE. I think that somehow MSNBC has messed up the usual links.

    Is America Safer Now?

    After 9/11 we were in a "war on terror," fighting those who attacked us. How did it make America safer to DIVERT resources -- intelligence assets, Arabic language translators, military resources, etc. -- from that "war on terror" to INSTEAD fight a war against Iraq? We actually moved assets OUT of Afghanistan. We actually took troops AWAY from searching for bin Laden and al Queda, to instead participate in the invasion of Iraq! Shouldn't we have concluded the "war on terror" before starting that other adventure? Isn't is a basic principle of war that you don't want to fight on two different fronts at the same time?

    Tell me how invading Iraq made America safer?!

    Death for Political Purposes

    Now folks when Dave put up this post, I really wasn't sure I bought the premise of it.

    Surely W and the boys aren't going to have our little puppet government (currently headed by noted INC liar Ahmad Chalabi) in Iraq have a trial and execute Saddam just before the election in order to have the news dominated by this story next fall, thereby helping to assure W's re-election, right?

    Well, my goodness. Since W apparently spent a fair amount of time in his interview / positive photo op tonight with the Diane Sawyer of the SCLM on ABC talking about this very topic, I can't help but wonder now.

    I mean, heck folks, I think Saddam's a monster who should be put on trial (although perhaps not executed -- that's always barbaric).

    However, if this trial and execution becomes a story primarily for domestic political consumption to help W's re-election chances, that's just surreal and horrific all by itself -- not that I have a great deal of sympathy with Saddam or anything.

    Surely they really wouldn't do this, right?



    My Printer Died

    I had JUST installed a new color ink cartridge, and the Epson 777 turned itself off. It won't come back on! Does anyone out there have any suggestions? (The ink cartridge was, of course, very expensive, and didn't even get used once!)

    Can anyone suggest a good color printer?

    Does anyone want to buy me a new printer for Christmas?

    Probably In October -- Surprise!

    Official: Saddam May Face Death Penalty.

    What was I thinking? OF COURSE -- an EXECUTION just before the election! This is BUSH we're talking about!

    And start talking about the punishment NOW, even before the trial. Bush justice. Try him ourselves, without involving the U.N. and international law. Use Bush law.

    What ELSE would he want? And this is Republicans -- what better wedge to stir up lots and lots of division, and give them the opportunity to do lots and lots of name-calling?!

    Update - Headline over at Drudge: "XX SADDAM DEATH TRIAL ON TV XX"


    Saddam's capture

    It is good that Saddam has been captured. Saddam is a monster who deserves to be tried for his crimes.

    Atrios warns us to be on the lookout for someone in the media to try and link Saddam's capture in some way to 9/11.

    Well, nothing like that as of yet.

    However, we do have this braindead story from the SCLM about how this development "roils" the presidential race for the Democrats.

    Say what?

    It's not like Saddam's capture will change anything at all on the ground in Iraq.

    Holy cow.

    What a transparently pro-Bush story.

    Not that I'm surprised or anything.

    --Tom Spencer

    Update:Think this guy will be wishing he hadn't said this a month from now?:

    "I think the way we captured Saddam Hussein and the fact that he gave up without a fight will take the oxygen out of a certain kind of resistance," CBS News Analyst Fouad Ajami, a Middle East scholar, tells Dan Rather. "When the man himself in this hole in the ground gives himself up without a fight it's very difficult to enlist jihadists - kids from Saudi Arabia, Syria, etc. - who will come to Iraq to fight and die for the cause."

    Don't bet on it folks.

    Update 2: The RNC's talking points on Saddam's capture, disguised as a news story, are right here.

    Terrifying, eh?

    Open Letter to Kerry

    From Eschaton:
    "Dear Senator Kerry,

    We write this open letter as a group of bloggers whose audience you
    respect enough that you advertise on our web sites.

    We are deeply disturbed that former staff members of your campaign and
    other Dean rivals now working at the so-called “Americans for Jobs,
    Health Care and Progressive Values” have resorted to the Willie Horton
    campaign tactic of linking Howard Dean to Osama Bin Laden. Vigorous
    competition among Democrats is expected and welcome, but all
    Democratic leaders should denounce these kinds of tactics.

    Given your staff link to this attack through your former press
    secretary, Robert Gibbs—the new group’s spokesman— we feel it is
    incumbent on you and your campaign to make it clear that this kind of
    attack is unacceptable. Otherwise, there will be the appearance of
    covert cooperation by your campaign in supporting this effort.

    If your campaign does not make clear that you have no link to this
    scurrilous attack, all of us will have to reevaluate our willingness
    to allow advertising by your campaign on our web sites.

    We don’t expect to have to make that decision, since we have faith in
    your integrity and expect you to quickly make clear your denunciation
    of this destructive and anti-democratic operation.


    Atrios- Eschaton http://atrios.blogspot.com/
    Jeralyn Merritt- Talk Left http://www.talkleft.com/
    Nathan Newman- NathanNewman.org http://www.nathannewman.org/log/
    Oliver Willis- Oliver Willis http://www.oliverwillis.com/
    Jesse Taylor and Ezra Klein- Pandagon http://www.pandagon.net
    Add me to the list (except that I don't take advertising anyway):
    Dave Johnson- Seeing the Forest http://seetheforest.blogspot.com

    In Reality

    U.S. Suits Multiply, but Fewer Ever Get to Trial, Study Says:
    "On television and in the popular imagination, lawsuits and prosecutions end in trials, in open court before a jury. In reality, according to a new study, trials have become quite uncommon. "
    In America, "in reality" isn't relevant.



    This came to me, titled, "Karma's a bitch"KATV Channel 7 - Father and Son Drown in Eudora
    "Eudora - A man and his son drowned Monday night after the son tried to drown their dog. It happened near the city of Eudora, just outside of city limits. Police say the son fell into a pit full of water inside an old cotton gin and the father went in after him.

    Police say the son and his cousin were trying to drown their pit bull, because the dog was old and wouldn't fight anymore. Before drowning the dog, the son fell in and the cousin ran for help.

    18-year-old Eugene Weston Junior and his cousin planned to drown their pit bull in an old abandoned cotton gin across the street from their home.

    The gin hadn't been used in more than 30 years and inside the pit was a thick combination of water, oil, diesel fuel, hydraulic fluid, and dirt. As the son looked into the eight to ten foot pit, he slipped and fell in.

    The cousin ran for help and called 9-1-1. That's when the father, 42-year-old Eugene Weston Senior, jumped into the pit after his son.

    Police say the old gin has been pumped dry and is now covered up. They plan to fill it in with dirt to prevent this kind of accident in the future.

    The pit bull is still alive and unharmed. "
    What can I say?

    pseudorandom: Does President Bush Count Like a Dog?

    Does President Bush Count Like a Dog?



    Jimmy Carter Calls Zell A Mistake

    Carter: Miller appointment a mistake:
    "Former President Jimmy Carter says the appointment of Georgia's Zell Miller to the Senate was a mistake because his fellow ex-governor 'betrayed all the basic principles that I thought he and I and others shared.'
    [. . .]

    "I would rather not even comment about Zell Miller on the radio," then proceeded to call the appointment "one of the worst mistakes" then-Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes made in his four years in office.

    Barnes tapped Miller in 2000 to fill the vacancy left by the death of Republican Sen. Paul Coverdell. He then went on to win a special election to complete Coverdell's term, which ends in January 2005. Miller has announced he won't seek re-election, and Republicans are viewed as the favorites to capture the seat."
    Don't let the door hit you on the way out, Zell! On second thought...

    Better Support The Prez - Or You Don't Get No Turkey on Thanksgiving!

    Thanks to TBOGG we learn that the troops who attended Bush's Thanksgiving visit were pre-screened and many were turned away from having a Thanksgiving turkey dinner at all!
    "With the Pentagon just recovering from that, Stars and Stripes is blowing the whistle on President Bush's Thanksgiving visit to Baghdad, saying the cheering soldiers who met him were pre-screened and others showing up for a turkey dinner were turned away."
    And the White House line is that this campaign photo-op visit was to improve the morale of the troops!

    Campaign Finance

    I'd like to make a point about the Campaign Finance law, which seems to be over the head of everyone in the media this week.

    The ban on issue ads only involves corporate and union money. You can't run an issue ad paid for with corporate or union money in the 30-day period before an election.

    A Moral Issue

    In the car just a minute ago, I heard Rush Limbaugh talking about the issue of denying Iraq contracts to companies from countries that did not support the US position on invading. He said, "They have engaged in no behavior that deserves to be rewarded."

    To you and me, the issue of contracts to rebuild Iraq would seem to involve diplomatic relations, preservation of our relationships with Europe and the rest of the world, international law, logic, fairness, competitive bidding, and especially "common sense" -- that further pissing off our allies does us no good, and in fact endangers us because these countries may not be there for us when we really DO need them because of some REAL threat we might someday face.

    This is an excellent opportunity to encourage people to read George Lakoff's book Moral Politics! From this book you will gain understanding of how the right-wing mind works. Lakoff shows how, for the Right, this is a moral issue. All arguments of logic, fairness, or anything else, pale in comparison to the moral issue of rewarding what they regard as bad behavior! This is the Right's version of "common sense." It doesn't matter what the future consequences of breaking with decades of international relationships might bring. In fact, the concept of international law itself is objectionable to the Right because it leads to situations where we violate the Right's moral values.

    In the meantime, while waiting for the book to arrive, you can read a summary of Lakoff's ideas here and here (part 2).

    Update - Richard, in the comments, makes a VERY GOOD point! Rush is saying here that the contracts are being used as REWARDS for behavior. So what behavior is Halliburton being rewarded for?!! Very good question.

    Calpundit Has A Good Idea

    Calpundit, talking about software patents:
    "I happen to think that patents on 'fundamental' software technologies are way too easy to get in any case, but the real problem here is that of letting a broad patent sit dormant for a long time while other people use it, either knowingly or not. After there's a critical mass, and the users can't easily switch to something else, the patent holder sues. Unisys pulled this same trick over the underlying technology for the GIF image format.
    It strikes me that patent law should resemble trademark law in this respect: if you don't defend your patent, you lose it. Companies that adopt technology need to have a reasonable way of knowing whether the technology is patented and what the patent holder's licensing terms are, and they need to know this before they invest heavily in the technology. Anything else is fundamentally unfair."
    Defend it or lose it. That's a start, anyway.

    I remember when (I think it was) Magnavox claimed a patent on using the "XOR" (exclusive or) instruction to generate graphics in video games. They sued some small companies that would have to settle, and used the precedent to go after bigger companies. Finally they went after Activision, won the lawsuit, and received a huge award.

    Software patents are bad enough, and restrict innovation, but the practice of keeping your patent a secret until a rival has built up a significant business, and then pouncing, should be outlawed.

    ALSO - go read the comments following Calpundit's post!

    Senator Boxer Introduces Paper Trail Voting Bill

    Boxer wants new voting machines to give receipts:
    "Sen. Barbara Boxer, reacting to a growing controversy over possible security flaws in electronic voting, said Thursday she would propose a law requiring all states with counties that use such computerized touch-screen systems to provide voters with a paper receipt -- and do it by next November's presidential election."
    It's in the mainstream, people.

    Sweatshops For Christmas

    Inside Santa's workshop. (high bandwidth recommended.)


    Weblog Awards

    If you can think of any weblogs to nominate, do it here: Wampum: The 2003 Koufax Awards.

    Sen. Graham Introduces Verified Voting Bill In Senate

    Statement -- October 23, 2003:
    "Senator Bob Graham, D-Florida, today introduced the Voter Verification Act, legislation that would require computer voting systems to produce a paper record.
    “After the election of 2000 and the mid-term election – where stories of voter problems were not uncommon – we have to put an electoral system into place in which Americans can have full confidence,” said Graham. “This legislation will take us one step further to ensure that every vote really counts and we do not have another debacle like the 2000 election.”

    Election Central

    "Election Central is published by Warren Slocum, a non-partisan Registrar of Voters. This site chronicles the voting machine wars and explores the nexus of technology and voting and the battle for integirty of elections - legislation, verified voting, election reform, voting machine innovations, security and election policy making are of special interest."

    What will W and the boys try to get away with over the Christmas holiday?

    Occasional guest blogger Tom Spencer from the defunct (at least for the next few months) Thinking It Through blog over at History News Network here.

    As we all know, this administration is always trying to get away with things. Today's story about Halliburton's profiteering is a perfect example of this. Do you really think they'd be announcing the results of any sort of investigation into Halliburton if it hadn't been for the NYT story earlier this week? They'd love to keep the gladhanding of their political cronies under the radar, right?

    BTW, I'm shocked, shocked I say, to discover that there's profiteering going on in those no-bid contracts to the Vice President's old company. Aren't you?

    As a historian of the Gilded Age, I'm used to seeing corruption like this in my research -- especially since a lot of my research is in Lincoln Steffens's favorite town, St. Louis. However, I must admit, these guys may have outdone what I thought were some of the most corrupt administrations in American history.

    But I digress. The point of this post is that I'd like to ask bloggers and readers of STF an interesting question that we can all talk about for the next week or so. What do you think the Bush administration will try to slip under the radar over the upcoming holiday? We all know how adept they are at trying to sneak things under the radar, don't we? They really do make Clinton's folks look like amateurs at times, don't they?

    My bet is that they'll release the 20% of Gitmo detainees they've known were innocent for several months now over the holiday. It is a helluva note that these guys are so ethically challenged that they're waiting for the right time to do it instead of, um, doing it immediately because it's the, um, ethical thing to do.

    But, once again, I digress. What bombshell will the administration quietly announce "ho-hum" like around the holiday? Let's say between the dates of December 23 and December 26?

    What do you think?


    A guy gets into a car wreck in 1988, goes into a coma. He wakes up, and they start to tell him about things, and eventually he asks about President Reagan. They tell him that President Reagan has Alzheimer's disease.

    He says, "OH MY GOD!! That means that George Bush is President!!!"

    Who Is Our Economy For?

    What does rising productivity mean to you? A commenter named Lawrence Krubner left this excellent comment at Brad DeLong's weblog:
    When unions are strong labor gets more of productivity gains than capital. When unions are weak, capital gets more of productivity gains than labor. When markets are competitive consumers get the majority of productivity gains. When markets are monopolistic the majority of the gains go to labor or capital, depending on the strength of the unions.
    Saying unions are weak now would be an understatement.

    Take No Prisoners

    Take No Prisoners -- watch US Marines execute a wounded man, while other Marines cheer. (Warning - disturbing footage.)

    Watch the Marine describe the feeling of executing the guy as "awesome." How many Timothy McVeighs are we creating?

    Bush Mocks The Very Idea Of Laws Applying To Him

    Yahoo! News - Bush Rejects Europeans on Iraq Contract Flap:
    "Bush scoffed at a question seeking his reaction to Schroeder's statement on Thursday that international law must apply to the awarding of the contracts.

    'International law? I better call my lawyer,' he said. "


    Who Spends?

    From The Volokh Conspiracy:
    "...in the first three years of the Bush administration, non-defense discretionary outlays will have risen by 20.8 percent. This compares to a .7% decrease in such spending for the first three years of the Clinton administration..."
    That first 3 years of the Clinton presidency, by the way, was before the Republicans took the House and Senate.

    Not exactly what Rush and the rest of The Party would have you believe.

    Who Are We "At War" With?

    Something I've been thinking about -- Who are we "at war" with?

    With the Bush administration and the dictatorship of The Party, we have to look at what they DO, not what they SAY, to understand their agenda. Because they lie. Because they use a cloud of false words as a smokescreen to cover what they really wish to achieve.

    The United States was attacked on 9/11 by al-Queda, an organization run by Osama bin Laden. They were harbored in Afghanistan, by the Taliban. We invaded that country, overthrew the Taliban government, and have been pursuing the remnants of al-Queda since.

    But, with Afghanistan, the Taliban and al-Queda largely out of the way, Bush has instead declared that we are still "at war" with "terrorism," that there is a larger war to be fought, and that this "war" will go on for many, many years.

    So who and where are the "terrorists" we are "at war" with? Are we at war with Chechnya? Are we at war with Palestinians? If so, WHY? What do Palestinian or Chechnyan terrorists have to do with the United States? In the Philippines we are at war, again against Islamists who were no threat whatsoever to the people of the United States. What about Iraqis? What threat were Iraqis to the people of the United States? No.

    Are we at war with American militias? Are we at war with the Irish Republican Army? Clearly not. So by looking at what they are DOING instead of what they are saying, we can see that it isn't just any "terrorism" that is our enemy. By ignoring American right-wing terrorists, The Party shows that it isn't even terrorism that DOES threaten Americans that they are "at war" against.

    If there is any tie between al-Queda, the Taliban, Palestinians, Chechnyans, etc., it is because of their religion, not because they had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks or any other threat to the people of the United States. So are we "at war" with a religion? Many in the U.S. would say that we are -- would say that this is a war of Christianity (never mind that the U.S. is not entirely Christian -- under Bush it IS entirely Christian for all practical purposes) against Islam.

    What are the goals of this "war?" What are the limits? When is it over? Only when The Party says so?