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Sunday, October 31, 2004

10 days 10 reasons: Reason # 1 to vote Bush out of office...

What motivates George W. Bush to make the decisions that he makes? I don’t pretend to know his motivation, but in almost everything that I’ve come across regarding all my research into why I think you should not re-elect George Bush, there has been one overarching theme of this administration: big business. There is not much that Bush does out of pure ideology, and those things that he claims to be ideology can easily be seen to be pandering to the religious right.

Some of the most egregious examples of Bush’s corporate collusion are with Bush’s environmental initiatives. Enron is among Bush’s all time top corporate sponsors, Bush’s nickname for Kenneth Lay was Kenny Boy. The Texans for Public Justice have more:
The self-inflicted 2001 implosion of Ken Lay’s fraudulent paper tiger, Enron Corp., kicked off an extraordinary season of corporate scandals featuring a dizzying number of Bush Pioneers…who still walk the streets. The $550,025 that Ken Lay’s Enron Corp. gave Bush by mid 1999 made it his No. 1 career patron, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Lay, whom George W. Bush affectionately called “Kenny Boy,” became a master electrical power broker by mastering political power trading. “Virtually every … aspect of Enron’s operations is overseen by the federal government,” the Dallas Morning News noted in 1996. Enron even had software, dubbed “the matrix,” that estimated how much a particular regulatory change would cost. A tax dodger that received more than $1 billion in taxpayer subsidies, Enron was a huge political donor that kept a stable of ex-government officials on retainer (see Rob Mosbacher and William SchubertD. Stephen Goddard); law firm Vinson & Elkins (see Thomas Marinis); and investment firms too numerous to mention. Several Enron officials have pled guilty or been indicted for accounting fraud and manipulating California’s electricity market but its top officials remain at large. Despite a doctorate in economics, Lay has argued that he did not grasp the complex financial deals that Enron used to book huge profits--and cover up staggering losses. A report by Enron’s bankruptcy court examiner in late 2003 concluded that he and CEO Jeff Skilling “breached their fiduciary duties” because they “knew or should have known” Enron was cooking the books. The report said Lay could owe Enron’s creditors $94 million for repaying company loans with company stock.
Enron and Kenny Boy aren’t the only ones that have profited enormously because they colluded with the Bush administration. The NRDC has more (and there is plenty more where these came from):
Polluter support for Bush paying off bigMay 03, 2004: A new report sheds light on how corporate contributions to the Bush administration are paying off big for polluters. Since 1999, 30 power companies that own the nation's dirtiest power plants have raised $6.6 million for President Bush and the Republican National Committee, according to an analysis by Public Citizen. Executives at 10 of these utilities raised at least $100,000 or $200,000 each, earning them the honor of being named to the president's list of "pioneers" or "rangers," respectively. These top fundraisers for the president include executives at FirstEnergy Corp. ($865,877), Southern Co. ($807,062), TXU ($754,898), Dominion ($679,105), Centerpoint (formerly Reliant) Energy ($539,900), Cinergy Corp ($431,722), Exelon ($404,856), Edison Electric Institute ($348,750), Dynergy Inc. ($311,382) and Edison International ($192,291). Collectively, these top 10 industry fundraisers have raised $1.5 million over the last 5 years. Public Citizen's report draws a connection between this corporate gift-giving and political paybacks in the form of the administration's weakening changes to the Clean Air Act that benefit the utility industry."One of the Bush administration's biggest, most damaging environmental policy changes to date would weaken the Clean Air Act to allow power plants to emit more smokestack pollution," said John Walke, director of NRDC's clean air program.

Corporations shaped Bush energy policy, GAO saysAugust 25, 2003: An investigation by the General Accounting Office has confirmed what environmental groups have long contended: corporations played a significant role in formulating the Bush administration's energy policy. But the full extent of corporate influence is unknown because the White House still refuses to release key records related to the secretive energy policy task force headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. According to the GAO's report, industry lobbyists from oil and gas, electricity, nuclear, coal and chemical companies gave detailed recommendations to the administration's task force while environmentalists and other experts were largely shut out of the process."We don't hate to say we told you so," said NRDC senior attorney Sharon Buccino, "we just hate that the Bush energy plan was crafted by and for polluting energy companies."NRDC won a lawsuit against the Energy Department that forced the disclosure of thousands of previously unreleased documents, many of which revealed the dealings between policymakers and industry. Another lawsuit against the White House is still pending in federal court. Meanwhile, the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch are pressing forward with a separate suit that would force the administration to reveal details of its secret meetings with industry officials. The GAO also filed its own suit to obtain information from the White House about the task force's dealings, but the suit was dismissed in federal court and the agency didn't appeal.
As I have mentioned in the past and I am continuing to hammer home, the war in Iraq was certainly not about WMDs or spreading democracy (don’t forget, both WMDs have not been found and democracy seems more and more unlikely every day). As Naomi Klein argues so strongly in her article Baghdad Year Zero, the war in Iraq was about creating a corporate utopia like the world has never seen. Iraq is not about protecting or freeing people, it is about crushing crony capitalism and the free market at any cost.

The Medicare deal was wrought with payoffs to big pharma. By limiting the government’s ability to negotiate drug prices the Medicare reform bill has guaranteed a windfall in profits for the drug companies. By preventing those who can’t afford to pay the prices in the US from going to Canada (where the government keeps prices low) the government is taking millions of dollars out of the pockets of Americans who need it the most and giving it to the mega rich drug companies. By locking people into one of the drug cards for a year while allowing the drug companies to change drugs or drug prices the Medicare bill has limited the rights of people to find the best deal and made it easier on the drug companies.

The President’s new push toward privatized social security (he said that he would work hard to privatize in his 2nd term) amounts to nothing more than big business collusion. Social Security can be solvent with the fiscal responsibility of the Clinton administration. Chile has a privatized Social Security program. The individual accounts cost the Chilean people 15% to 20% in fees. The Social Security Administration in the US actually has a very small overhead; by privatizing Social Security you would ultimately end up costing people who end up having to pay fees to invest their money (which in a privatized system, they would be forced to do). Furthermore, by requiring people to invest in the stock market, the government is essentially giving corporations a massive inflation in their profits. This may seem like a good thing, but when you have millions of workers that are not educated about or not interested in investing, then you will run into the situation where you have companies that are profiting not because they are worthwhile but because they are popular or they are the default. That doesn’t make businesses want to work to earn legitimate investment in their stocks, and it certainly isn’t good for the average American.

Then there is the military industrial complex. It is no secret that Bush is a massive fan of the Star Wars program. It is also not a secret that the Star Wars program is a multi-billion dollar project. It is easy to understand why the Bush administration fought so hard for a Star Wars program despite the fact that our most current and credible threat is not from ICBMs but from terrorists. The US military’s budget is approaching $400 billion dollars and is greater than the total amount spent by the next 20 biggest military spenders. This figure is as of 2002 and does not include discretionary spending for Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom which total anywhere between $120 billion to $200 billion so far. That puts our military spending to more than the total military spending for the rest of the world combined. We are in an arms race with ourselves and the only winners are the mega corporations making the weapon systems.

This President is in the pockets of big business like no other president in history. More importantly, Bush cloaks his actions in a veil of pandering ideology that blinds people to his actions and gets them to support him and vote against their own interest. The time has come to take the action that American’s hold so dearly. If you are reading this in the United States, it is likely November 1st. Consider carefully the facts that I have presented to you, understand that the Bush Administration does not have your best interests in mind and tomorrow, vote wisely. Your vote will help determine the tenor in the United States, the security of the US, the quality of the environment, the standing of the United States in the rest of the world for decades to come, and your children’s and grandchildren’s futures. Change is needed, I urge you to do your part.

On the road again...

Actually I've been on the road for a couple of days. I have all my 10 days 10 reasons posts all pre-written so all I have to do is log on and publish the posts. It's a good thing I did that, if I hadn't, I wouldn't have been able to get that done. On the other hand, those 10 reasons added up to about 13,400 words ... and high fives to everyone who read all of them (or will have read all of them tomorrow that is)!

In other news, this trip has been an absolute nightmare. Col Cranky™ has seen fit to make sure that all of his little menial gripes about the USAF have been projected onto me. I find that ironic because I am the last person that would be able to change anything that he's complaining about. It comes down to him wanting to go home and him expecting the USAF to just drop every last damned thing to accommodate him on his schedule. Plus, he just doesn't know what's going on and he flies off the handle at the speculation that things may possibly not go how he would like them to go. He's just your typical grade A jerk. It's guys like him that make people want to get out of the military or not join at all in the first place. He'll be gone soon though.

Damned internet cafe time limits...

More later maybe.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

10 days 10 reasons: Reason # 2 to vote Bush out of office...

I have been pre-writing these posts since the middle of October. I have been struggling to decide what exactly I wanted to post as my number 2nd reason not to vote for Bush. The two choices I came up with were either the war in Iraq or the Supreme Court. I have chosen to discuss the Supreme Court for a few reasons. First, I feel that since the war in Iraq is the main problem that most people have with Bush, it gets plenty of coverage. Second, and probably most frustratingly, because I’m in the military I don’t enjoy the same level of freedom of speech as other citizens in the US. It is possible that I could face serious consequences for saying what I want to say. I’m walking a very fine line as it is and I think taking a giant leap over to the other side would be pushing it (I will continue to discuss it in general terms with respect to how it affects people, but I can’t attack it directly.) Finally, just yesterday (as of the time of this writing) the issue of Supreme Court justices has been pushed into the lime light with the announcement that Justice Rehnquist has Thyroid cancer.

First I want to say that I will simply assume that if you are a reader of at ease, you are at least nominally well informed about your American civics. You understand the sweeping implications that a Supreme Court justice can have on the lives of every day citizens. You don’t read this blog because you can’t wait to see what Radiohead lyrics I’ll post next or what percentage of my tour is completed (although hopefully you do enjoy those posts a little). If you come back to this blog it is because you are interested in the topics on which I’ve chosen to post, which has been mainly political up to this point. No matter your political affiliation, you understand.

So what kind of Supreme Court justice would Bush nominate? Realistically, I can’t get into Bush’s head to know who he would put on the bench today if given the chance. What I can do is take a look at not only the people that Bush has nominated to be federal judges but also the means in which he has used to subvert the system to get them onto the bench.

During the debates Bush was asked if there were a vacancy on the Supreme Court who he would fill that vacancy with. This is how Bush responded:

I would pick somebody who would not allow their personal opinion to get in the way of the law. I would pick somebody who would strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States.

Let me give you a couple of examples, I guess, of the kind of person I wouldn't pick.

I wouldn't pick a judge who said that the Pledge of Allegiance couldn't be said in a school because it had the words "under God" in it. I think that's an example of a judge allowing personal opinion to enter into the decision-making process as opposed to a strict interpretation of the Constitution.

Another example would be the Dred Scott case, which is where judges, years ago, said that the Constitution allowed slavery because of personal property rights.

That's a personal opinion. That's not what the Constitution says. The Constitution of the United States says we're all -- you know, it doesn't say that. It doesn't speak to the equality of America.

And so, I would pick people that would be strict constructionists. We've got plenty of lawmakers in Washington, D.C. Legislators make law; judges interpret the Constitution.

And I suspect one of us will have a pick at the end of next year -- the next four years. And that's the kind of judge I'm going to put on there. No litmus test except for how they interpret the Constitution.
So Bush opens up telling us that he wouldn’t pick a judge that would let their personal opinions “get in the way of the law.” But in his very next breath he gives some examples of personal opinions that he would not mind getting in the way of the law: the pledge of allegiance case. The President considers his opinion to be law and in his opinion the pledge should be allowed in public schools. In fact the very idea of it is equivalent to a famously bad Supreme Court decision.

As an aside, the Dred Scott case was not about personal property rights it was about racism: “The decision of the court was read in March of 1857. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney – a staunch supporter of slavery – wrote the "majority opinion" for the court. It stated that because Scott was black, he was not a citizen and therefore had no right to sue. The decision also declared the Missouri Compromise of 1820, legislation which restricted slavery in certain territories, unconstitutional.”

So Mr. Bush has a litmus test: his personal opinion about what is law and what is not law. Any judge who disagrees with Bush’s opinions on the law will not get a nomination; furthermore, the closer that a person’s opinions match up with Mr. Bush’s opinions; the more likely they are to get a nomination. So what kinds of people would Bush nominate to be judges?

In April of 2003 President Bush nominated Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Here’s what The Washington post had to say about that:

Washington Post
Apr 11, 2003

PRESIDENT BUSH must have worked hard to dream up an escalation of the judicial nomination wars as dramatic as his decision this week to nominate Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. A protégé of Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, Mr. Pryor is a parody of what Democrats imagine Mr. Bush to be plotting for the federal courts. We have argued strongly in favor of several of Mr. Bush's nominees -- and urged fair and swift consideration of all. And we have criticized Democratic attacks on nominees of substance and quality. But we have also urged Mr. Bush to look for common ground on judicial nominations, to address legitimate Democratic grievances and to seek nominees of such stature as defies political objection. The Pryor nomination shows that Mr. Bush has other ideas.

Mr. Pryor is probably best known as a zealous advocate of relaxing the wall between church and state. He teamed up with one of Pat Robertson's organizations in a court effort to defend student-led prayer in public schools, and he has vocally defended Alabama's chief justice, who has insisted on displaying the Ten Commandments in state court facilities. But his career is broader. He has urged the repeal of a key section of the Votings Rights Act, which he regards as "an affront to federalism and an expensive burden." He has also called Roe v. Wade "the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history." Whatever one thinks of Roe, it is offensive to rank it among the court's most notorious cases, which include Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson, after all.

Mr. Pryor's speeches display a disturbingly politicized view of the role of courts. He has suggested that impeachment is an appropriate remedy for judges who "repeatedly and recklessly . . . overturn popular will and . . . rewrite constitutional law." And he talks publicly about judging in the vulgarly political terms of the current judicial culture war. He concluded one speech, for example, with the following prayer: "Please, God, no more Souters" -- a reference to the betrayal many conservatives feel at the honorable career of Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter.

Mr. Pryor has bipartisan support in Alabama, and he worked to repeal the provisions in that state's constitution that forbade interracial marriage. But this is not a nomination the White House can sell as above politics. Mr. Bush cannot at once ask for apolitical consideration of his nominees and put forth nominees who, in word and deed, turn federal courts into political battlegrounds. If he sends the Senate nominees such as Mr. Pryor, he cannot complain too loudly when his nominees receive the most searching scrutiny.

As you can see, Mr. Pryor is the epitome of the hard core religious right. But is he indicative of the types of judges that Bush would nominate? Are there any more examples? Well there is Charles Pickering:

Civil Rights Record on the Bench. As a federal district court judge, Charles Pickering has been indifferent and sometimes even hostile to cases brought to address injustices. In 1994, Judge Pickering presided over a case in which the government brought criminal charges against three individuals for burning a cross on the lawn of an interracial couple. Two of the defendants pled guilty, but Daniel Swan went to trial and was convicted of charges resulting in a mandatory seven years in prison. Although Pickering has a reputation for being a law-and-order judge, he claimed to have been troubled by the disparities between Swan's sentence and those of his two co-defendants. He repeatedly used off-the-record threats and other methods to force prosecutors to drop the most serious charge against Swan. Pickering then sentenced Swan to 27 months in prison-almost five fewer years than the law required-for an act that he called a "drunken prank."

He has also been hostile to other lawsuits involving civil rights issues. He called the one person/one vote doctrine "obtrusive" and has complained that strengthening African-American voting power through the redistricting process could be harmful. He has rarely ruled in favor of an employment discrimination plaintiff. When asked about his unbalanced record on employment discrimination cases at his 2002 confirmation hearing, Pickering made the outrageous assertion that meritorious claims are resolved by the EEOC and generally only those lacking in merit are brought to the federal courts.

Civil Rights Record as an Attorney. Pickering's actions on the bench reinforce dramatically that the insensitivity he demonstrated as a young lawyer towards some of the most divisive issues our nation has faced continues unabated. As a law student in 1959, Pickering wrote an article suggesting a way for Mississippi to strengthen its law against interracial marriage. Soon after his law school graduation, he formed a three-person law partnership with a man who ran for governor as a "total segregationist." Later, as a legislator serving in the all-white Mississippi state Senate, he voted against several measures intended to expand electoral opportunities for African- Americans. He also voted to continue funding for the Sovereignty Commission, a notorious state-funded agency founded to fight desegregation in Mississippi and to spy on civil rights and union activists.

At his 1990 hearing for a district court seat, Pickering stated under oath: "I never had any contact with [the Sovereignty Commission] and I had disagreement with the purposes and the methods and some of the approaches that they took." Not only had Pickering voted to fund the Sovereignty Commission, recently released documents include a memo to the Commission's files indicating that Pickering was "very interested" in a Sovereignty Commission investigation into union activity in his hometown and "requested to be apprised of developments" regarding the investigation.

Reproductive Freedom. Pickering is anti-choice. As a state senator, he voted for a constitutional convention to pass an amendment overturning Roe v. Wade. He also chaired the committee for the Republican Party that originally drafted the party platform plank opposing abortion even in cases of rape or incest or to protect the health of a pregnant woman.

Opposition. Judge Pickering's nomination has been opposed by a broad coalition of public interest groups as noted below. In addition, the Congressional Black Caucus has written a letter to Senator Leahy opposing Pickering's confirmation to the Fifth Circuit:

We would like to make our position perfectly clear to you and the Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Congressional Black Caucus adamantly opposes the nomination of Mr. Pickering to the Fifth Circuit. Mr. Pickering's career and record on civil rights is a grave concern. Mr. Pickering also has a quarter-century of hostility to women's rights, including a woman's right to choose.

Bush not only nominated Charles Pickering, he renominated Pickering after his nomination was defeated in committee. Pickering’s renomination was also defeated so Mr. Bush decided to give him a recess appointment. When the nominee who fit Mr. Bush’s agenda could not get approved, he tried again, and when he could not get approved for a second time, he resorted to underhanded, desperate tricks. Rather than choose a candidate that could get bipartisan support, he subverted the process to push through his radical nominee.

The list of judges with radical right agendas doesn’t stop there by any means. Bush has also nominated Charles Allen, Priscilla Owen, Richard Allen Griffin, William Haynes, Brett Kavanaugh, Carolyn Kuhl, David W. McKeague, William G. Myers III, Janice Rogers Brown, Terrence William Boyle, and others. The one thing that all these nominees have in common is their radically conservative agenda. It is clear that, given the chance (and it is almost a certainty that he will have at least one and up to three chances), Bush would do whatever it took to get someone that is as much of a hard right conservative as any of the nominees that I’ve discussed here on to the Supreme Court. This would have real and long lasting consequences to our everyday lives.

Bush’s judicial agenda is alarming; he does not deserve to be re-elected.

10 days 10 reasons: Reason # 3 to vote Bush out of office...

When George Bush was asked about his performance with regard to the environment at the second debate, he had this to say:
I guess you'd say I'm a good steward of the land.

The quality of the air's cleaner since I've been the president. Fewer water complaints since I've been the president. More land being restored since I've been the president.
The folks over at the official Bush Cheney re-election website tell us this:
Over the last four years, the air has become cleaner, our water more pure, and we have reversed the net loss of wetlands. In addition, our parks are better managed, better funded, and better protected. Throughout his first term, President Bush has launched a series of climate change initiatives to improve scientific understanding and reduce emissions through the use of new, energy-efficient technologies. He has proposed several clean air initiatives that will dramatically improve air quality and public health.
It certainly sounds as if nobody should have anything to complain about. If, as Bush says, the air is cleaner, the waters are less poisoned, and global warming is being brought under control then it must just be those easily dismissed tree hugging hippie loons that think else wise.

Sometimes facts aren’t our friends; and in this case, they are mortal enemies of the President. Fortunately there are some news sources that are still interested in providing us with facts:
Knight Ridder compiled 14 pollution-oriented indicators from government and university statistics. Nine of the 14 indicators showed a worsening trend, two showed improvements and three others zigzagged.

Statistics that have worsened:

  • Superfund cleanups of toxic waste fell by 52 percent.

  • Fish-consumption warnings for rivers doubled.

  • Fish-consumption advisories for lakes increased 39 percent.

  • The number of beach closings rose 26 percent.

  • Civil citations issued to polluters fell 57 percent.

  • Criminal pollution prosecutions dropped 17 percent.

  • Asthma attacks increased by 6 percent.

  • There were small increases in global temperatures and unhealthy air days.
But as we have seen, a picture tells a thousand words. In your opinion, do those graphics represent good stewardship?

One of the most egregious examples of Bush’s bad environmental policies is when he pulled the US out of the Kyoto treaty. Why do you think that is? Is it because other countries are just looking for any way to hate us and bring us down? Maybe.

And maybe not. The US has 4.6% of the world’s population, 30% of the world’s economy, and is the world’s number one polluter both in total and per capita. The Kyoto Treaty proposed that all industrialized nations would be required “to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 8% of the 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.” The Bush administration pulled its support from the Kyoto Treaty by March of 2001, thus effectively killing the measure that would have made a substantial impact on air quality around the globe.

It is extremely difficult to pinpoint the most egregious example of Bush’s anti-environmental policies – in fact it may take all day long just to read through all of Bush’s poor environmental record – but perhaps the one initiative that stands out is the Clear Skies Initiative. The Bush administration commissioned a study by a research organization called “Clear the Air” to study the impacts of the Clear Skies Initiative in 2004. On June 9, 2004, Clear the Air issued a press release that said:
"The results are staggering," said Angela Ledford, Director, Clear the Air. "The Bush administration knows how to solve this problem. But instead of simply enforcing the law, they are allowing the polluters to rewrite the rules, weaken current law, and pass it off as progress."

The report compares the premature deaths that would result under the Bush administration's air pollution plan, the existing Clean Air Act, and a proposal sponsored by Senator Jim Jeffords to strengthen the Clean Air Act. The Administration’s proposal would allow 4,000 preventable premature deaths each year compared with simply enforcing current law, while repealing the very safeguards that could save those lives.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC) has this to say about the Clear Skies Initiative:
Bush air pollution plan weakens current law, threatens public health February 27, 2003: The Bush administration's air pollution plan, misleadingly dubbed the "Clear Skies Initiative," was reintroduced in Congress. If enacted, the plan would weaken public health protections of the current Clean Air Act. It would delay and dilute cuts in power plants' sulfur, nitrogen and mercury pollution compared to timely enforcement of current law. By allowing industry to make fewer reductions in toxic pollution over a much longer period of time than current law, critics say the plan would cost thousands of lives, intensify global warming and reward polluting industries that have been flouting the law for years.

The administration plan allows more than twice as much SO2 for nearly a decade longer (2010-18), compared with faithful enforcement of the current Clean Air Act. After 2018, SO2 emissions will still be one and a half times higher than if current law is enforced. The plan allows more than one and a half times as much NOx for nearly a decade longer (2010-2018), and one third more NOx even after 2018. The plan also lets power plants emit more than five times as much mercury for a decade longer (2010-2018), and three times as much after 2018.

"The Bush air pollution plan would It would make lethal pollution legal, condemning millions of Americans to breathing dangerous air," said David Doniger, policy director of NRDC's Climate Center.
Again, this administration’s hubris is unmatched. We have had this administration tell us time after time that their environmental policy is what is best for the people of this country. The fact of the matter is that Bush’s policies have benefited one group of people, the corporations and their shareholders. Policies like the Clear Skies Initiative will dramatically affect the health of the American people and loose regulations on drilling for oil have only eroded this country’s national parks. And at the same time, Bush is not using the tools that he does have available to prosecute polluters or clean superfund sites.

Kerry has an extremely strong environmental record in the Senate and he has the backing of environmental groups. Bush has the support of polluters. Vote for Kerry so we can ensure that our environment will remain unspoiled by pollution for our children and grandchildren.

Friday, October 29, 2004

African American Voter Suppression...

The following pamphlet is being distributed in the African American communities in Milwaukee:

The plain fact of the matter is that something like 80% (or more) of African Americans vote democratic. This is blatant black voter suppression by the Republicans. and it is outrageous. I mean come on! They'll take your children away???

The Daily Kos has more...

Holy Crap! It's Friday already!

One thing that happens to you when you're working every day of the week is that you get to a point where you don't realize what day of the week it is. I had no idea it was Friday until I saw Tbogg's Basset Blogging.

Being that it's Friday, let's have a look-see at our Pie Chart From Hell!

What's cooler than being cool?


Can you believe that I'm over the hump? I'm half way done today, kick ass!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

10 days 10 reasons: Reason # 4 to vote Bush out of office...

You know, sometimes facts simply speak for themselves. This post will likely be the shortest of all of my posts, but it will contain the most information. Bush’s record on job growth has been abysmal to say the least. Keep the following factoid in mind:

Bush’s best job performance is worse than Clinton’s worst job performance.

Here are the down and dirty facts (all graphs link to source page):

This is a graph that shows the actual job performance as the bold black line, and Bush’s hopelessly optimistic yearly predictions in light grey.

This graph shows the rate at which jobs were created or were lost during the duration of a 4 year term:

Compare that with Clinton’s job performance in his first term:

And Clinton’s second term:

Do you remember the “jobless recovery” of the 1990s? The following graph shows the number of jobs in that recovery (the orange line) and the number of jobs in our current recovery (the blue line). Both start at a baseline of 100 that is 6 months prior to the official start of the recession.

At the current rate of growth of jobs, Bush’s job recession will last until July 2005. That means that it will be a 52 month job recession. How does that compare with other recessions under other Presidents? Like this:

According to the administration, this is the result of sound fiscal policy. All those tax cuts that Bush gave to the corporations and the super-rich were supposed to trickle down and create new jobs at an astounding rate. That didn’t happen. It’s time for a new President, vote Bush out of office.

Lots of shout outs (shouts out?) to give!

Ever since I joined the PBA, I've been getting some great positive feedback about my blog. I just want to say thanks to everyone who has taken the time to not only read the blog, but in many cases make comments, write emails, or blogroll me. The vast majority of the hits on at ease have come from Needlenose. The wit and biting sarcasm you can find over at Needlenose cracks me up and makes some very serious points at the same time. I appreciate that Needlenose blogged me mostly because it wasn't until they blogged me that I found them. You'll find them on my links to the right shortly.

Also, I wanted to give a big shout out to rab from the great Why Are We Back in Iraq? blog. He's shown me nothing but support on his blog and in the brand new PBA forums. So thanks for the support and welcome to my links list!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

10 days 10 reasons: Reason # 5 to vote Bush out of office...

Like just about everyone in the US and many people around the world, I remember exactly what I was doing on September 11, 2001. At that point I had been at McConnell AFB in Wichita, KS for just under a year – my first duty assignment was Robins AFB, GA, but I volunteered to take an assignment to McConnell after 8 months because navigators were getting hardly any flight time due to equipment changes in the KC-135. The weekend prior, I had been a part of a really big deal exercise and I got to spend that weekend on base rather than with my (then girlfriend) Beth at Vance AFB, OK where she was going through pilot training. The week prior, I had been giving serious thought to moving out of the tiny apartment that I was living in and moving into a house, and on 9/11, I had spent the early part of the morning looking at houses for rent on the internet.

It was one of those late summer / early fall days in the Midwest that I absolutely love. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, there was a hint of a chill in the air, and I didn’t have a care in the world. I have a 12 disc CD player in my car and the radio has never really picked up any good reception for some reason, so up to that point, I had absolutely zero contact with any news.

When I got into work, there was nothing going on, no people roaming the halls even though there were plenty of cars there, nobody mission planning or anything. I didn’t think much of it, I had seen the squadron like that before. It wasn’t until I got into the scheduling office (where I worked) where one of the guys was listening to the radio that I heard that the world trade center was on fire. My first thought was that they must be reliving the bombing of 1993 for some odd reason. The guy that was in there said “No a plane has run into the World Trade Center, it’s all over the news.” I immediately went into the break room and found everyone in the squadron crowded around the TV. It wasn’t until we actually watched the 2nd plane hit the 2nd tower that most of us realized that it was no accident (one of the dimmer bulbs in the crowd exclaimed what we were all thinking “Whoa dude, how can that be an accident?”)

Our Squadron Director of Operations (DO) knew how things work and pointed at one guy and said, “You, start running the THREATCON Alpha checklist,” pointed at another guy and said, “You, start running the THREATCON Bravo checklist,” looked at another guy and said, “You, start running the THREATCON Charlie checklist,” and then said, “Standby for THREATCON Delta.” We were at Delta within the hour, by that afternoon I was in crew rest for an Alpha alert that would last a week and would see me flying Combat Air Patrol (CAP) missions over Denver when all other traffic was grounded. By the end of that week, we departed for Bangor, Maine where tankers were flying CAP missions over New York City and Washington, DC. After doing that for 3 weeks, we headed out to Qatar for 2 months and the rest is history.

But did it have to happen?

On April 30, 2001, the CNN show “Inside Politics” kicked off its program by covering the measures that Bush was taking with regard to the ballistic missile defense system.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: And we're coming to you from Atlanta today, and thanks for joining us. We begin with President Bush's efforts to smooth the way for his controversial goal of building a missile defense system. He spoke by telephone today with the leaders of Britain, Germany, France and Canada, and with the NATO secretary- general. Mr. Bush is reaching out to allies who are cool to his missile defense plan before he gives a key speech on that subject in Washington tomorrow.

CNN's David Ensor has more on the speech and the president's nuclear arms strategy.


DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president's speech will highlight sweeping changes he plans in the way the U.S. defends itself, and announce that he is sending a team to hear allied concerns before he spells out the specific details later this spring.

BUSH: It should be possible to reduce the number of American nuclear weapons significantly further.

ENSOR: The final decisions are not made yet, but officials are preparing proposals for dramatic unilateral cuts in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, taking it from over 7,000 weapons down to as low as 1,500; slashing the number of bombing targets in Russia in the event of war; adding a small number of new targets in China; increasing by as much as $7 billion research and development of strategic and theater ballistic missile defense systems; adding sea-based and space-based systems to the land-based plan already in testing under the Clinton administration.

BUSH: At the earliest possible date, my administration will deploy anti-ballistic missile systems.

ENSOR: The problem for Mr. Bush: the earliest possible date for missile defense may well be after he leaves office.

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT: We have years to go just in testing and research to find out if there is anything worth deploying.

ENSOR: What's more, the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty clearly forbids any kind of national missile defense. So, kill the treaty now? A debate is raging within the administration. Secretary of State Powell and his aides favor going slow.

CIRINCIONE: I think withdrawal from the ABM treaty would cause a major international crisis at this point. It could dominate the president's first year in office, and he doesn't need that.

ENSOR: On the other side, administration hawks, like Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and their aides, are pushing hard for Mr. Bush to abrogate the ABM treaty this spring and go it alone on nuclear weapons.

RICHARD PERLE, FORMER ASSISTANT DEFENSE SECRETARY: We should decide what we need, keep only what we need and no more than that, and then proceed to shape our strategic forces consistent with what we judge our requirements to be. There's no reason to ask the Russians for their approval any more than we should be asking anyone else for their approval.


ENSOR: Some are also arguing for the development of new nuclear weapons that can penetrate deep into the Earth to go after chemical or biological weapons facilities or leadership bunkers. But still others within the administration argue that to do so will put the president on record in favor of new nuclear weapons at a time when he's trying to convince the world he's in favor of defense, not offense -- Judy.
While the President was out trying to persuade other countries to let us go about the unbelievably expensive and complex (and illegal since it was specifically forbidden by the ABM treaty) task of completing Reagan’s Star Wars program, others in the Bush Administration were hard at work on their duties. What Mrs. Woodruff reported almost as an aside would turn out to have profound implications four-and-a-half months later:
WOODRUFF: We will have more of the day's political news coming up. But now a look at some other top stories.

The State Department officially released its annual terrorism report just a little more than an hour ago, but unlike last year, there's no extensive mention of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. A senior State Department official tells CNN the U.S. government made a mistake in focusing so much energy on bin Laden and "personalizing terrorism."
Of course, we all know the official line: The administration did what they could, the terrorists were absolutely unpredictable and the terrorists snuck through our defenses, our intelligence was bad, and they just plain couldn’t have imagined that it would happen. It wasn’t until Condoleezza Rice was famously asked to inform everyone what the title of the August 6th Presidential Daily Brief was that the public got a glimpse of what the administration knew before September 11th: Osama Bin Laden Determined to Attack inside the US. Obviously, our hindsight has become clear, what is most distressing is the understanding of just how much information the Bush administration had and did not act upon. The focus was faith-based initiatives and missile defense and they felt it was a mistake to follow in the footsteps of the Clinton administration and focus so much time and energy on Osama Bin Laden.

The Clinton administration knew the seriousness of the terror threat, so much so that they had drafted a plan to attack Afghanistan and the terrorist camps and freeze the assets of the terrorists (a plan that was much the same as the plan enacted shortly after 9/11). Sandy Berger had briefed the Afghanistan attack plan to the incoming Bush administration who then promptly sat on it for 8 months. Bush and Ashcroft had other priorities than terrorism – the missile defense shield, the war on drugs, and cracking down on pornography – and were skeptical of anything to do with the Clinton administration.

Six months later, while Bush was on vacation in Crawford, he received his now infamous June 6 PDB. According to John D. Rockefeller III (D-WV), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, on April 9, 2004, “At a time when our intelligence experts were warning of a possible strike against the United States, it's clear that the administration didn't take the threat seriously enough to marshal the resources that might have possibly thwarted the attack.”

Now, there are new reports coming out of a CIA report on the events leading up to 9/11. According to one intelligence official, “the report is potentially very embarrassing for the administration, because it makes it look like they weren't interested in terrorism before 9/11, or in holding people in the government responsible afterward.” Unfortunately for the American voter, the report is “being suppressed” according to that intelligence official. It is a report that names names and “found very senior-level officials responsible.” When released that report will simply verify what I’ve already told you, the Bush administration did not consider terrorism to be a top priority in the days leading up to 9/11. It is this lack of focus where Bush dropped the ball. Quite simply, 9/11 did not have to happen.

What will Bush drop the ball on next time? Let’s not find out. Don’t vote for Bush on November 2nd.

Voter Suppression in Florida Part II

Kos has a story that is awfully troubling to me and it should be troubling to you too. According to the BBC:

A secret document obtained from inside Bush campaign headquarters in Florida suggests a plan - possibly in violation of US law - to disrupt voting in the state's African-American voting districts, a BBC Newsnight investigation reveals.

Election supervisor Ion Sancho believes some voters are being intimidated.

Two e-mails, prepared for the executive director of the Bush campaign in Florida and the campaign's national research director in Washington DC, contain a 15-page so-called "caging list".

It lists 1,886 names and addresses of voters in predominantly black and traditionally Democrat areas of Jacksonville, Florida.

An elections supervisor in Tallahassee, when shown the list, told Newsnight: "The only possible reason why they would keep such a thing is to challenge voters on election day." [...]

In Jacksonville, to determine if Republicans were using the lists or other means of intimidating voters, we filmed a private detective filming every "early voter" - the majority of whom are black - from behind a vehicle with blacked-out windows.

The private detective claimed not to know who was paying for his all-day services.

On the scene, Democratic Congresswoman Corinne Brown said the surveillance operation was part of a campaign of intimidation tactics used by the Republican Party to intimate and scare off African American voters, almost all of whom are registered Democrats

Now what the hell kind of PI doesn't know who is paying him?

Kos ultimately makes this out to be trying to prevent the military vote because some of the people that are affected are assigned to NAF Jacksonville. Honestly, I don't approve of that approach. Kos, it appears to me (and I could be wrong), is using the military to generate more support in the public. I think that informing people that the folks in the campaign are trying to suppress the rights of voters (regardless of occupation, color, religion, or whatever) should be enough.

Now, having said that, I can say this: Holy Fucking Shit -- I try to keep the language down usually, but this is a special case. Here's the absolutely perfect part of this, they are caught red handed. See, there's a W. re-election parody site at www.georgewbush.org that has intercepted some seriously damning emails that are not parodies. Anyone who inadvertently sent an email to [username]@georgewbush.org rather than the campaign's real domain georgewbush.com had their email intercepted by the anti-Bush parody site's owners.

Expect this to become a bigger issue.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

10 days 10 reasons: Reason # 6 to vote Bush out of office...

This year one of the biggest political hot potatoes has become the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003. Bush has touted his plan which includes the prescription drug card (which, according to factcheck.org has received an underwhelming response) and limits the government’s ability to negotiate with the drug companies as “…honoring the commitments of Medicare to all our seniors” (as quoted on the official George Bush re-election website).

There are other reactions to this Medicare plan however. Helen Halpin, the Director of the Center for Health and Public Policy Studies and a health policy professor at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health explains why Bush’s Medicare proposal offers incentives to seniors to use managed plans from for-profit HMOs rather than government funded programs. In effect, Bush has once again struck a major coup for profit-driven HMOs. For-profit managed care providers are more interested in the bottom line rather than providing the best service with the money they have available.

There are the much publicized stories about seniors who tried to go to Canada to buy their prescription drugs for lower prices (Canada has price controls on its prescription drugs) only to have them taken from them by the border guards on the way back into the US. Conveniently, the FDA issued a re-goddamned-diculous terror warning against illegally imported prescription drugs from Canada saying that al-Qaeda was planning on poisoning those drugs. Of course, by preventing (or scaring) seniors from buying drugs from red Canada, the administration has effectively tried to plug any leaks in the revenue stream for big pharma at a time when the prices for drugs increased at triple the rate of inflation.

Then there are those prescription drug cards that Bush is so fond of. Those cards are far from a dream according to Ed Foster

The sneakwrap techniques of never making a promise to your customers you can't break have been perfected mostly by the software and telecom industries. But one reader points out another arena in which sneakwrap is being taken to new heights: the Medicare discount drug card program.

"It looks like sneakwrap is becoming the new wave," the reader wrote, pointing to some of the objections that have been raised regarding the Medicare-approved drug discount cards. "Want to know what drugs 'Brand X' card let you get at a discount? Well, it depends. You need to choose your card carefully, because not every card has a complete formulary. And, by law, you are stuck with that card for a year --no switching, even if you are willing to pay again for a new card. So you have to check the up-to-date list on the Internet and carefully pick the card that covers all the drugs you need."

But while customers can switch Medicare discount cards only once a year, the card providers can change drugs and prices every week. "The discount card company can add or remove any drug from their formulary, at any time," the reader wrote. "They are trying to figure out how many card holders they will have, and how much of what drugs they will move. And if it turns out they are not making money, or maybe they just want to fold and keep the cash they have collected so far, the card company can simply discontinue services, leaving the cardholders to wait the rest of their 12 months to try again. So even though you picked the card carefully to cover your needs, the card company could just drop all of your needed drugs within the month. No penalties, it's perfectly legal."

And, in the grand sneakwrap tradition, all the Medicare card providers have to do is change the formulary on their website. "Yes, on that same website list you used to pick the card so carefully, they can just take it off the list, like it was never there," the reader wrote. "No, they don't need show a history of when they add and drop drugs. Why would you want to be able to see if they add and drop drugs a lot? Well, that's just tough -- you can't."

Of course, what really makes the revocable nature of the Medicare drug discounts particularly disturbing is the fact that it's we taxpayers, and not the drug companies, that are footing the bill for them. And, as someone who is all too rapidly approaching Medicare age myself, I wonder how long it will before the sneakwrap approach will be apply to other Medicare benefits, or even Social Security? In a sneakwrapped world, will we have any entitlements that can't be taken away by someone changing the rules on an obscure web page no one bothers to read?

Again, the trend here is clear. The Bush administration has done everything it can to make their plans appear appealing to seniors and to actually BE appealing to the drug companies.

The deceptions in this Medicare bill certainly don’t end there. Even the passing of the Medicare bill was absolutely wrought with accusations of infidelity. For starters, the voting for the bill was held open for nearly three hours – voting on a bill will often times be held open for 15 minutes to catch stragglers, but three hours is unheard of. Then there are the accusations of bribery. Perhaps most interesting was the fact that the then Medicare administrator, Thomas A. Scully, had threatened to fire an actuary who had determined that the Medicare bill would cost over $150 billion more than what the Bush administration estimated if that actuary revealed that information to anyone. It was not until after the bill was passed and signed into law that the true cost of the bill $551.5 billion over 10 years was revealed. According to the New York Times:

Ultimately, the legislation squeaked through the House by a final vote of 220 to 215, but only after Republican leaders kept the roll call open for nearly three hours while they twisted the arms of recalcitrant party members. Had the cost estimates been higher than the Congressional Budget Office figures, lawmakers of both parties say, it is possible the Republican-backed bill would have been doomed, or at least significantly altered.

This administrations gall, dishonesty, and downright corporate pandering at the expense of some of the neediest citizens of our country is amazing. Even if there was nothing else that the Bush administration had done wrong, the Medicare issue would be a very good reason to vote Bush out of office.

Monday, October 25, 2004

10 days 10 reasons: Reason # 7 to vote Bush out of office...

Today, the motto is “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” To wit, since Bush and Rove have spent so much effort on making John Kerry’s supposed flip-flops an issue, I am going to quote a very long list of Bush flip-flops that I found on the Center for American Progress. One could argue that the CAP is biased, but since all the quotes are given with links for context (something you will rarely ever find on a site detailing Kerry’s supposed flip-flops) you can make up your own mind.

1. Social Security Surplus

BUSH PLEDGES NOT TO TOUCH SOCIAL SECURITY SURPLUS... "We're going to keep the promise of Social Security and keep the government from raiding the Social Security surplus." [President Bush, 3/3/01]

...BUSH SPENDS SOCIAL SECURITY SURPLUS The New York Times reported that "the president's new budget uses Social Security surpluses to pay for other programs every year through 2013, ultimately diverting more than $1.4 trillion in Social Security funds to other purposes." [The New York Times, 2/6/02]

2. Patient's Right to Sue

GOVERNOR BUSH VETOES PATIENTS' RIGHT TO SUE... "Despite his campaign rhetoric in favor of a patients' bill of rights, Bush fought such a bill tooth and nail as Texas governor, vetoing a bill coauthored by Republican state Rep. John Smithee in 1995. He... constantly opposed a patient's right to sue an HMO over coverage denied that resulted in adverse health effects." [Salon, 2/7/01]

...CANDIDATE BUSH PRAISES TEXAS PATIENTS' RIGHT TO SUE... "We're one of the first states that said you can sue an HMO for denying you proper coverage... It's time for our nation to come together and do what's right for the people. And I think this is right for the people. You know, I support a national patients' bill of rights, Mr. Vice President. And I want all people covered. I don't want the law to supersede good law like we've got in Texas." [Governor Bush, 10/17/00]

...PRESIDENT BUSH'S ADMINISTRATION ARGUES AGAINST RIGHT TO SUE "To let two Texas consumers, Juan Davila and Ruby R. Calad, sue their managed-care companies for wrongful denials of medical benefits ‘would be to completely undermine' federal law regulating employee benefits, Assistant Solicitor General James A. Feldman said at oral argument March 23. Moreover, the administration's brief attacked the policy rationale for Texas's law, which is similar to statutes on the books in nine other states." [Washington Post, 4/5/04]

3. Tobacco Buyout

BUSH SUPPORTS CURRENT TOBACCO FARMERS' QUOTA SYSTEM... "They've got the quota system in place -- the allotment system -- and I don't think that needs to be changed." [President Bush, 5/04]

...BUSH ADMINISTRATION WILL SUPPORT FEDERAL BUYOUT OF TOBACCO QUOTAS "The administration is open to a buyout." [White House spokeswoman Jeanie Mamo, 6/18/04]

4. North Korea

BUSH WILL NOT OFFER NUCLEAR NORTH KOREA INCENTIVES TO DISARM... "We developed a bold approach under which, if the North addressed our long-standing concerns, the United States was prepared to take important steps that would have significantly improved the lives of the North Korean people. Now that North Korea's covert nuclear weapons program has come to light, we are unable to pursue this approach." [President's Statement, 11/15/02]

...BUSH ADMINISTRATION OFFERS NORTH KOREA INCENTIVES TO DISARM" Well, we will work to take steps to ease their political and economic isolation. So there would be -- what you would see would be some provisional or temporary proposals that would only lead to lasting benefit after North Korea dismantles its nuclear programs. So there would be some provisional or temporary efforts of that nature." [White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, 6/23/04]

5. Abortion

BUSH SUPPORTS A WOMAN'S RIGHT TO CHOOSE... "Bush said he...favors leaving up to a woman and her doctor the abortion question." [The Nation, 6/15/00, quoting the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, 5/78]

...BUSH OPPOSES A WOMAN'S RIGHT TO CHOOSE "I am pro-life." [Governor Bush, 10/3/00]


BUSH PROMISES TO FORCE OPEC TO LOWER PRICES... "What I think the president ought to do [when gas prices spike] is he ought to get on the phone with the OPEC cartel and say we expect you to open your spigots...And the president of the United States must jawbone OPEC members to lower the price." [President Bush, 1/26/00]

...BUSH REFUSES TO LOBBY OPEC LEADERS With gas prices soaring in the United States at the beginning of 2004, the Miami Herald reported the president refused to "personally lobby oil cartel leaders to change their minds." [Miami Herald, 4/1/04]

7. Iraq Funding

BUSH SPOKESMAN DENIES NEED FOR ADDITIONAL FUNDS FOR THE REST OF 2004... "We do not anticipate requesting supplemental funding for '04" [White House Budget Director Joshua Bolton, 2/2/04]

...BUSH REQUESTS ADDITIONAL FUNDS FOR IRAQ FOR 2004 "I am requesting that Congress establish a $25 billion contingency reserve fund for the coming fiscal year to meet all commitments to our troops." [President Bush, Statement by President, 5/5/04]

8. Condoleezza Rice Testimony

BUSH SPOKESMAN SAYS RICE WON'T TESTIFY AS 'A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE'... "Again, this is not her personal preference; this goes back to a matter of principle. There is a separation of powers issue involved here. Historically, White House staffers do not testify before legislative bodies. So it's a matter of principle, not a matter of preference." [White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, 3/9/04]

...BUSH ORDERS RICE TO TESTIFY: "Today I have informed the Commission on Terrorist Attacks Against the United States that my National Security Advisor, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, will provide public testimony." [President Bush, 3/30/04]

9. Science

BUSH PLEDGES TO ISSUE REGULATIONS BASED ON SCIENCE..."I think we ought to have high standards set by agencies that rely upon science, not by what may feel good or what sounds good." [then-Governor George W. Bush, 1/15/00]

...BUSH ADMINISTRATION REGULATIONS IGNORE SCIENCE "60 leading scientists including Nobel laureates, leading medical experts, former federal agency directors and university chairs and presidents—issued a statement calling for regulatory and legislative action to restore scientific integrity to federal policymaking. According to the scientists, the Bush administration has, among other abuses, suppressed and distorted scientific analysis from federal agencies, and taken actions that have undermined the quality of scientific advisory panels." [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2/18/04]

10. Ahmed Chalabi

BUSH INVITES CHALABI TO STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS...President Bush also met with Chalabi during his brief trip to Iraq last Thanksgiving [White House Documents 1/20/04, 11/27/03]

...BUSH MILITARY ASSISTS IN RAID OF CHALABI'S HOUSE "U.S. soldiers raided the home of America's one-time ally Ahmad Chalabi on Thursday and seized documents and computers." [Washington Post, 5/20/04]

11. Department of Homeland Security

BUSH OPPOSES THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY..."So, creating a Cabinet office doesn't solve the problem. You still will have agencies within the federal government that have to be coordinated. So the answer is that creating a Cabinet post doesn't solve anything." [White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, 3/19/02]

...BUSH SUPPORTS THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY "So tonight, I ask the Congress to join me in creating a single, permanent department with an overriding and urgent mission: securing the homeland of America and protecting the American people." [President Bush, Address to the Nation, 6/6/02]

12. Weapons of Mass Destruction

BUSH SAYS WE FOUND THE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION..."We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories...for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them." [President Bush, Interview in Poland, 5/29/03]

...BUSH SAYS WE HAVEN'T FOUND WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION "David Kay has found the capacity to produce weapons. And when David Kay goes in and says we haven't found stockpiles yet, and there's theories [sic] as to where the weapons went. They could have been destroyed during the war. Saddam and his henchmen could have destroyed them as we entered into Iraq. They could be hidden. They could have been transported to another country, and we'll find out." [President Bush, Meet the Press, 2/7/04]

13. Free Trade

BUSH SUPPORTS FREE TRADE... "I believe strongly that if we promote trade, and when we promote trade, it will help workers on both sides of this issue." [President Bush in Peru, 3/23/02]

...BUSH SUPPORTS RESTRICTIONS ON TRADE "In a decision largely driven by his political advisers, President Bush set aside his free-trade principles last year and imposed heavy tariffs on imported steel to help out struggling mills in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, two states crucial for his reelection." [Washington Post, 9/19/03]

14. Osama Bin Laden

BUSH WANTS OSAMA DEAD OR ALIVE... "I want justice. And there's an old poster out West, I recall, that says, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive.'" [President Bush, on Osama Bin Laden, 09/17/01]

...BUSH DOESN'T CARE ABOUT OSAMA "I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him... I truly am not that concerned about him."[President Bush, Press Conference, 3/13/02]

15. The Environment

BUSH SUPPORTS MANDATORY CAPS ON CARBON DIOXIDE... "[If elected], Governor Bush will work to...establish mandatory reduction targets for emissions of four main pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and carbon dioxide." [Bush Environmental Plan, 9/29/00]

...BUSH OPPOSES MANDATORY CAPS ON CARBON DIOXIDE "I do not believe, however, that the government should impose on power plants mandatory emissions reductions for carbon dioxide, which is not a 'pollutant' under the Clean Air Act." [President Bush, Letter to Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), 3/13/03]

16. WMD Commission

BUSH RESISTS AN OUTSIDE INVESTIGATION ON WMD INTELLIGENCE FAILURE... "The White House immediately turned aside the calls from Kay and many Democrats for an immediate outside investigation, seeking to head off any new wide-ranging election-year inquiry that might go beyond reports already being assembled by congressional committees and the Central Intelligence Agency." [NY Times, 1/29/04]

...BUSH SUPPORTS AN OUTSIDE INVESTIGATION ON WMD INTELLIGENCE FAILURE "Today, by executive order, I am creating an independent commission, chaired by Governor and former Senator Chuck Robb, Judge Laurence Silberman, to look at American intelligence capabilities, especially our intelligence about weapons of mass destruction." [President Bush, 2/6/04]

17. Creation of the 9/11 Commission

BUSH OPPOSES CREATION OF INDEPENDENT 9/11 COMMISSION... "President Bush took a few minutes during his trip to Europe Thursday to voice his opposition to establishing a special commission to probe how the government dealt with terror warnings before Sept. 11." [CBS News, 5/23/02]

...BUSH SUPPORTS CREATION OF INDEPENDENT 9/11 COMMISSION "President Bush said today he now supports establishing an independent commission to investigate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks." [ABC News, 09/20/02]

18. Time Extension for 9/11 Commission

BUSH OPPOSES TIME EXTENSION FOR 9/11 COMMISSION... "President Bush and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) have decided to oppose granting more time to an independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks." [Washington Post, 1/19/04]

...BUSH SUPPORTS TIME EXTENSION FOR 9/11 COMMISSION "The White House announced Wednesday its support for a request from the commission investigating the September 11, 2001 attacks for more time to complete its work." [CNN, 2/4/04]

19. One Hour Limit for 9/11 Commission Testimony

BUSH LIMITS TESTIMONY IN FRONT OF 9/11 COMMISSION TO ONE HOUR... "President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have placed strict limits on the private interviews they will grant to the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, saying that they will meet only with the panel's top two officials and that Mr. Bush will submit to only a single hour of questioning, commission members said Wednesday." [NY Times, 2/26/04]

...BUSH SETS NO TIMELIMIT FOR TESTIMONY "The president's going to answer all of the questions they want to raise. Nobody's watching the clock." [White House spokesman Scott McClellan, 3/10/04]

20. Gay Marriage

BUSH SAYS GAY MARRIAGE IS A STATE ISSUE... "The state can do what they want to do. Don't try to trap me in this state's issue like you're trying to get me into." [Gov. George W. Bush on Gay Marriage, Larry King Live, 2/15/00]

...BUSH SUPPORTS CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT BANNING GAY MARRIAGE" Today I call upon the Congress to promptly pass, and to send to the states for ratification, an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of man and woman as husband and wife." [President Bush, 2/24/04]

21. Nation Building

BUSH OPPOSES NATION BUILDING... "If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road." [Gov. George W. Bush, 10/3/00]

...BUSH SUPPORTS NATION BUILDING "We will be changing the regime of Iraq, for the good of the Iraqi people." [President Bush, 3/6/03]

22. Saddam/al Qaeda Link

BUSH SAYS IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEEN AL QAEDA AND SADDAM... "You can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror." [President Bush, 9/25/02]

...BUSH SAYS SADDAM HAD NO ROLE IN AL QAEDA PLOT "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in Sept. 11." [President Bush, 9/17/03]

23. U.N. Resolution

BUSH VOWS TO HAVE A UN VOTE NO MATTER WHAT... "No matter what the whip count is, we're calling for the vote. We want to see people stand up and say what their opinion is about Saddam Hussein and the utility of the United Nations Security Council. And so, you bet. It's time for people to show their cards, to let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam." [President Bush 3/6/03]

...BUSH WITHDRAWS REQUEST FOR VOTE "At a National Security Council meeting convened at the White House at 8:55 a.m., Bush finalized the decision to withdraw the resolution from consideration and prepared to deliver an address to the nation that had already been written." [Washington Post, 3/18/03]

24. Involvement in the Palestinian Conflict

BUSH OPPOSES SUMMITS... "Well, we've tried summits in the past, as you may remember. It wasn't all that long ago where a summit was called and nothing happened, and as a result we had significant intifada in the area." [President Bush, 04/05/02]

...BUSH SUPPORTS SUMMITS "If a meeting advances progress toward two states living side by side in peace, I will strongly consider such a meeting. I'm committed to working toward peace in the Middle East." [President Bush, 5/23/03]

25. Campaign Finance

BUSH OPPOSES MCCAIN-FEINGOLD... "George W. Bush opposes McCain-Feingold...as an infringement on free expression." [Washington Post, 3/28/2000]

...BUSH SIGNS MCCAIN-FEINGOLD INTO LAW "[T]his bill improves the current system of financing for Federal campaigns, and therefore I have signed it into law." [President Bush, at the McCain-Feingold signing ceremony, 03/27/02]

26. 527s

BUSH OPPOSES RESTRICTIONS ON 527S... "I also have reservations about the constitutionality of the broad ban on issue advertising [in McCain Feingold], which restrains the speech of a wide variety of groups on issues of public import." [President Bush, 3/27/02]

…BUSH SAYS 527S BAD FOR SYSTEM "I don't think we ought to have 527s. I can't be more plain about it…I think they're bad for the system. That's why I signed the bill, McCain-Feingold." [President Bush, 8/23/04]

27. Medical Records

BUSH SAYS MEDICAL RECORDS MUST REMAIN PRIVATE... "I believe that we must protect…the right of every American to have confidence that his or her personal medical records will remain private." [President Bush, 4/12/01]

…BUSH SAYS PATIENTS' HISTORIES ARE NOT CONFIDENTIAL The Justice Department…asserts that patients "no longer possess a reasonable expectation that their histories will remain completely confidential." [Business Week, 4/30/04]

28. Timelines For Dictators

BUSH SETS TIMELINE FOR SADDAM... "If Iraq does not accept the terms within a week of passage or fails to disclose required information within 30 days, the resolution authorizes 'all necessary means' to force compliance--in other words, a military attack." [LA Times, 10/3/02]

…BUSH SAYS HE'S AGAINST TIMELINES "I don't think you give timelines to dictators." [President Bush, 8/27/04]

29. The Great Lakes

BUSH WANTS TO DIVERT GREAT LAKES... "Even though experts say 'diverting any water from the Great Lakes region sets a bad precedent' Bush 'said he wants to talk to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien about piping water to parched states in the west and southwest.'– [AP, 7/19/01]

...BUSH SAYS HE'LL NEVER DIVERT GREAT LAKES "We've got to use our resources wisely, like water. It starts with keeping the Great Lakes water in the Great Lakes Basin...My position is clear: We're never going to allow diversion of Great Lakes water." [President Bush, 8/16/04]

30. Winning The War On Terror

BUSH CLAIMS HE CAN WIN THE WAR ON TERROR... "One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we're asking questions, is, can you ever win the war on terror? Of course, you can." [President Bush, 4/13/04]

…BUSH SAYS WAR ON TERROR IS UNWINNABLE "I don't think you can win [the war on terror]." [President Bush, 8/30/04]

…BUSH SAYS HE WILL WIN THE WAR ON TERROR "Make no mistake about it, we are winning and we will win [the war on terror]." [President Bush, 8/31/04]

They say the first 1000 hits is the toughest...

Well, I've done it; I've reached 1000 hits. It's smooth sailing from here on out.

What do you mean that Atrios has over 30,000,000 hits? He gets how many per day? 30,000? Holy Crap.

Back to work for me I guess...

Well, they should know...

You know, I just can't help but chuckle when I go to Bush Relatives for Kerry.

What a big bunch of American Hating Terrorists™.

We're in deep Qaqaa now...

Have you ever wondered where all high explosive material for all the car bombs and IEDs in Iraq is coming from? The New York Times has a story about it today.

Josh Marshall has more:
The explosives at al Qa Qaa were one of the primary -- and much-publicized -- concerns of non-proliferation officials at the IAEA and elsewhere prior to the war. During and after the war there was apparently no effort to secure the facility or catalog its remaining contents. Then no one realized there was a problem until more than a year later when someone told Jerry Bremer. But he didn't tell anyone in Washington, or at least no one remembers. And then Condi Rice only found out about it within the last month, but it's not clear she told anyone (i.e., the president or other principals) either.

Don't forget, this is the Administration of Personal Responsibility™ so I'm sure indictments, firings, or admonisments are on their way.

Or maybe not...

Sunday, October 24, 2004

10 days 10 reasons: Reason # 8 to vote Bush out of office...

I’m certainly no expert on the Social Security program. I’m pretty sure I understand it in very general terms. There are a few sites for which I’ve gone to for information: the Motley Fool, the Congressional Budget Office, and CNN are good ones for starters. What I’ve learned is that depending on how wisely the federal government handles the budget, Social Security will be solvent for a very long time.

It goes something like this. The Social Security taxes that the government collects exceed the current outlays of the Social Security program. The excess funds are put into a Social Security trust fund. According to the SSA, this trust fund is scheduled to be depleted in 2042 due to the number of baby boomers reaching retirement age. However, when the federal budget has a deficit, the government will borrow from the Social Security trust fund. It is this trust fund that everyone liked to scoff at Al Gore about.

Some common reasons that the government will have a deficit include a poor economy, trade deficit, tax cuts, and the costs of waging a war. The Bush administration, unlike the Clinton administration has mastered the art of the budget deficit. In the short 4 year period the Bush administration has pushed the national debt up as far as it has ever been $7.4 trillion when at the end of the Clinton administration we were seeing record surpluses and projections for actually paying down the debt rather than just paying the interest.

So as you can see, as the federal budget goes, so goes Social Security. This administration has made it almost a mission to patently ignore fiscal responsibility and Social Security is in jeopardy because of it. This is exactly why Social Security has become such a hot button issue in this election. Kerry’s plan is sound fiscal responsibility in the government. Bush’s plan is, well he doesn’t have a stated plan.

Well, Bush didn’t have a stated plan. David Corn says it best on AlterNet:
The New York Times has endorsed John Kerry. No surprise there. But its true gift to Kerry was an article that appeared in the paper's magazine on the same day. In the piece, Ron Suskind – the veteran political reporter who did damage to the Bush White House with his book on ex-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill – reported that last month at a confidential luncheon with big-money supporters (the RNC Regents), Bush said, "I'm going to come out strong after my swearing in with fundamental tax reform, tort reform, privatizing of Social Security." The privatizing of Social Security? Everyone in politics knows a candidate is not supposed to say that. Bush has been trained – with a rolled-up newspaper? – to talk about Social Security "reform," not privatization. Mentioning the P-word is a major slip-up (almost as bad politically – perhaps worse – as invading another country by mistake). As soon as the newspaper hit breakfast tables cross the nation, a Kerry aide e-mailed me a note:

This Social Security privatization stuff from Bush is a huge gift. Huge.
The Kerry campaign has been capitalizing on Bush’s slip up since the debates. The one issue that Kerry brought up at the debate was one issue that factcheck.org brought up:
There are a host of unanswered questions about Bush's intentions regarding Social Security, and the campaign so far hasn't shed much light on any of them. Bush has said he wouldn't increase payroll taxes, but maintaining benefits for current retirees while allowing some portion of current payroll taxes to go into privately owned accounts will cost at least $1 trillion and perhaps much more, depending on what estimates are used. Bush hasn't said where the money would come from.
The people at Fact Check have plenty of problems with both Bush’s and Kerry’s plans for Social Security, and they have even more problems with some of the attack ads, and to be completely fair, I am no where near equipped to answer the issues they bring up.

There are reasons outside of the purely economic issues of funding the Social Security system that need to be addressed though. The first issue is the fact that if you tie in Social Security with the stock market you introduce risk. Social Security is intended to help people in times of need. What other situation would create a time of need more than a stock market collapse? Social Security should be able to help people in need regardless of the performance of the markets. The second issue is how exactly would the government force people to invest in the stock market who are uninterested or unknowledgeable about doing that? It is generally the poorest Americans that have not ever invested in the stock market. Privatizing Social Security would therefore benefit the rich more than the poor; those who need it the least would get the most out of it.

There are problems with Social Security, but not all of those problems are intrinsic to the Social Security program itself. With sound fiscal discipline in the government comes Social Security solvency. With privatization comes risk and undue burden on those who need it. The Bush administration has shown that it is not in any way interested in fiscal discipline and has said that he will waste no time in privatizing the Social Security system. For these reasons, Bush does not deserve to be re-elected.

Time to start keeping an eye on the lawsuits surrounding the election...

Well we have a week an a day to go until the election. Thanks to the Supreme Court, we now get to look forward to months of lawsuits and trials before we learn exactly who the winner is. The Election Law blog has all the details on all the law issues of this election. More importantly, Rick informs us of not only alleged fraud but what charges are valid and what charges are without merit.

Unfortunately, this site will be popular until long after the election is over I think...

Faithbased Watch

Reason number 10 to vote Bush out was because of his Faith-based initiatives. I wish I would have known about this site before I wrote that. You can keep track of exactly how Bush's faith-based initiatives are affecting our country by venturing on over to Media Transparency's Faithbased Watch. I will be perma-linking this over to the right shortly.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

10 days 10 reasons: Reason # 9 to vote Bush out of office...

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. – Benjamin Franklin

"There is no doubt," he declared on the Senate floor that evening, "that if we lived in a police state, it would be easier to catch terrorists. If we lived in a country where the police were allowed to search your home at any time for any reason; if we lived in a country where the government was entitled to open your mail, eavesdrop on your phone conversations, or intercept your e-mail communications . . . the government would probably discover and arrest more terrorists, or would-be terrorists . . . But that would not be a country in which we would want to live." – Senator Russell Feingold (the lone dissenter against the USA PATRIOT Act that was rammed through the Senate and passed 96 to 1)

The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act is an ironically named act that is the direct result of the work of John Ashcroft and the Bush Administration. According to the Washington Post, in the six weeks after September 11, 2001, the administration hawks led by John Ashcroft had negotiated a deal with Senator Leahy (known in Washington to be a staunch civil libertarian) on a bill that would better enable the Government to combat terrorism while still preserving the civil liberties of all Americans. At the 11th hour, after Ashcroft, Leahy, and others had agreed upon this measure, Ashcroft met with Leahy and informed him that he wanted more and the deal was off.

Following that meeting, Ashcroft held a press conference and told the American people that he was distressed with the slow speed at which the counter-terrorism bill was going through the legislative process. Ashcroft, at the meeting he just had with Leahy, had now taken the initiative and within 17 days a whole new bill, the USA PATRIOT Act, had been introduced into and passed by both the House and Senate. This new bill included everything that Ashcroft wanted and passed by stunning margins of both Republicans and Democrats who, realistically at the time, felt that they would be portrayed as soft on terrorism if they didn’t support the bill. The only provision of the bill that the Democrats managed to work in was the sunset provision; the USA PATRIOT Act would have to pass the House and Senate again in 2005.

It has become standard for this Administration to write bills in secret then ram them through the Congress by using intimidation or in some cases bribery to get those bills passed. In the days immediately after September 11th, the Administration used the threat of terrorism and the never before seen national unity to push its agenda on the nation. Democrats stood shoulder to shoulder with Republicans on just about everything in those weeks and months (or the vast majority of them did) but not always because they thought that everything they were doing was the right thing to do. That is how the bill passed and that is how the sunset provision got in it.

The legislative history of the USA PATRIOT Act is distressing, but it is its content and the potential misuse and actual misuse of the law that has caused the most uproar. One example is the case of Jose Padilla. Jose Padilla is a Chicago gang member who has been held at a Navy brig in South Carolina because he is suspected to have worked with al Qaeda to set off a “dirty bomb”. No charges have been filed, Padilla does not have access to an attorney, and he has not been given due process of the law. John Ashcroft said this about the Jose Padilla case: "In determining that [Jose Padilla] is an enemy combatant who legally can be detained by the United States military, we have acted with legal authority both under the laws of war and clear Supreme Court precedent." [Source: DOD transcript]. But according to the U.S. Second Circuit Court, "Based on the text of the Constitution and the cases interpreting it, we reject that the President has inherent constitutional power to detain Padilla under the circumstances presented here." - U.S. Second Circuit Court, 12/18/03

Then there is the case of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri. According to CNN:
Before his arrest, al-Marri -- a Qatari national -- was attending graduate school at Bradley University in Illinois. Originally, the government held him on a "material witness" warrant. Then it charged him with making false statements. Less than a month before al-Marri's trial, the government dropped its charges against him, and declared him an "enemy combatant."

Few people know that the government sought to have al-Marri's criminal case dismissed without prejudice -- that is, without losing the government's ability to choose later to re-indict him in a civilian criminal court. But that tactic failed.

After designating al-Marri an enemy combatant, the government held him incommunicado in a South Carolina military prison -- where Padilla is being held.

Al-Marri's attorneys challenged his detention in Illinois. But the government argues that his habeas corpus petition should have been filed in South Carolina, where the government incarcerated him. As noted above, this is the same argument the government successfully made with respect to Jose Padilla -- as reflected in the Padilla v. Rumsfeld decision.

And I found this on the ACLU website:

The ACLU’s concern peaked over the 2004 New Year's holiday when the Las Vegas Review-Journal confirmed that the FBI had ham-handedly used so-called “national security letters” to seize the travel and hotel records of over 300,000 visitors to the city. The bureau did so without any actual intelligence suggesting an imminent attack in Las Vegas. National security letter authority was expanded by the Patriot Act and a 2003 intelligence spending bill to allow agents to seize credit, business and communications records without the assent of a judge or grand jury, let alone a showing of criminal probable cause.

The ACLU e-mail actually said that because the Patriot Act was being implemented under the strictest secrecy, no outside group could know whether the law was being abused. It also noted that at the press conference introducing a bill to narrow parts of the Patriot Act, original co-sponsor Larry Craig, a conservative Republican Senator from Idaho, said the potential for abuse was an entirely legitimate reason for reform.

What is important to note is that even if there were no direct examples of misuse of the USA PATRIOT Act, if you ignore the examples I’ve just given, the potential for misuse exists. In fact in September of this year, a federal district judge in New York ruled that a key component of the USA PATRIOT Act is unconstitutional. The ruling struck down the broad rights that the act gives the government to spy on conversations on the internet because it would limit people’s right to free speech. To see exactly how other provisions could be misused read this pamphlet by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.

What could be more disturbing than the USA PATRIOT Act? The Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, that’s what. This classified bill, dubbed the Patriot Act II, was leaked to the Center for Public Integrity, a non-partisan think tank, who then released it out to the public. This “sweeping expansion of the anti-terrorism act” has expanded some of the provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act to Orwellian extremes and has made the already broad first act a great deal broader and has made it more likely that the Government will abuse the laws. Not surprisingly, given the political atmosphere now and given the fact that many Congressmen and Senators who passed a bill in 2001 that they weren’t allowed to read, the Patriot Act II has met with stiff resistance. According to Wired.com (another article here) though, the Patriot Act II is being passed a la carte as riders on other bills.
While the nation was distracted last month by images of Saddam Hussein's spider hole and dental exam, President George W. Bush quietly signed into law a new bill that gives the FBI increased surveillance powers and dramatically expands the reach of the USA Patriot Act.

The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 grants the FBI unprecedented power to obtain records from financial institutions without requiring permission from a judge.

Under the law, the FBI does not need to seek a court order to access such records, nor does it need to prove just cause.

Previously, under the Patriot Act, the FBI had to submit subpoena requests to a federal judge. Intelligence agencies and the Treasury Department, however, could obtain some financial data from banks, credit unions and other financial institutions without a court order or grand jury subpoena if they had the approval of a senior government official.

The new law (see Section 374 of the act), however, lets the FBI acquire these records through an administrative procedure whereby an FBI field agent simply drafts a so-called national security letter stating the information is relevant to a national security investigation.

And the law broadens the definition of "financial institution" to include such businesses as insurance companies, travel agencies, real estate agents, stockbrokers, the U.S. Postal Service and even jewelry stores, casinos and car dealerships.

The law also prohibits subpoenaed businesses from revealing to anyone, including customers who may be under investigation, that the government has requested records of their transactions.

Bush signed the bill on Dec. 13, a Saturday, which was the same day the U.S. military captured Saddam Hussein.
The USA PATRIOT Act and the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 (either passed in entirety or piece by piece) are shining examples of the Bush Administration’s complete disregard for the civil liberties of the people of the United States. Despite what pundits like Ann Coulter (who has denied any misuse of the USA PATRIOT Act and who constantly refers to liberals as terrorists or enemies) or Michelle Malkin (who wrote a book defending the Japanese internment after Pearl Harbor) say, the USA PATRIOT Act has been misused and it has great potential to be further misused. Ask yourself one question, do you trust the Government enough to give them the blanket powers found in the USA PATRIOT Act? Do you trust that the Government will not overstep its bounds if given an opportunity? If your answer was no to either of these questions, then it only makes sense for you to vote for John Kerry who is for limiting the USA PATRIOT Act and ensuring civil liberties (in much the same way the Leahy made compromises with the DOJ to ensure that the government had the tools it needed and didn’t overstep the bounds of the Constitution) and against George Bush who is in favor of not only eliminating the sunset provision but also passing entirely new provisions of the PATRIOT Act II.
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