The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Monday, January 31, 2005

How to abuse the Internet

A while back, I criticized the above site for posting some credulous information about voting irregularities in Texas. But the host is doing a good service, after all. The latest piece is yet another example of the huge sub-category that might be called "right-wing netlore."

In the e-mail forward, a man claiming to be an officer onboard the USS Lincoln (an aircraft carrier sent to Indonesia for tsunami relief work, whose roster does not include an 'Ed Stanton') complains about civilian aid workers:

"What I saw [in the Lincoln's wardroom] was a mob of civilians sitting around like they owned the place. They wore various colored vests with logos on the back including Save The Children, World Health Organization and the dreaded baby blue vest of the United Nations. Mixed in with this crowd were a bunch of reporters, cameramen and Indonesian military officers in uniform. They all carried cameras, sunglasses and fanny packs like tourists on their way to Disneyland.

My warship had been transformed into a floating hotel for a bunch of trifling do-gooders overnight."

Ahhh yes, the dreaded vest of the United Nations. Instant tip-off. It's interesting to note that there isn't a single mention of these "do-gooders" doing anything untoward. It's also interesting to note that an actual officer from the Lincoln, who is verifiably aboard, contradicts this statement. And here you have it:

"The civilians that have been transported by our helicopters and have been hosted aboard the carrier are not a 'traveling circus’ of aid workers or 'trifling do-gooders,'" writes Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Vorce in answer to Ed Stanton's characterization of relief workers from the United Nations and other organizations. "On the contrary, these are professionals who have years of experience in mitigating human suffering and tragedy."

Routine 26: Fox in the Henhouse

Here's something scary about the privatization debate. And something even more frightening about how easy it would be for journalists to do their job. You know, the one they insist on not doing. Thanks to TPM for this.

"Down at the very bottom of the GOP Social Security playbook we just posted, there's a sample speech for pitching phase-out to audiences 50 and over. It starts on page 83 of the PDF document. Then if you go down to the end of the speech there's a footer that says ...
This speech was developed by

Presentation Testing, Inc.

For more information about how this speech was developed, please contact Rich Thau at Presentation Testing, Inc. at 212-760-4358.

(Before that sample speech, there's another for young voters which includes the same authorship note.)

Well, TPM reader GD typed Mr. Thau's name into google and found this PDF document in which Thau describes one of the seminars he does. And right there at the top of the document, Thau quotes himself saying: "I've testified on Capitol Hill. I have worked with many members of Congress. They are not committed to passing laws to give your employees retirement security."

And there you have it. The man the GOP hired to plot their Social Security strategy is one committed to destroying it. Think about that the next time you hear some Republican talking about how desperate he is to "save" the program. Bastards.

As a matter of fact, I DO own the road...

Another DNC candidate has dropped out, and Dean is looking strong. There have been all sorts of rumors about the party establishment trying to block him, but check this out:

"Some senior Democratic operatives say unease about a Dean chairmanship is widespread among congressional leaders and many governors. But almost none of those grumbling privately have expressed their concerns publicly — in part, some believe, because they fear crossing the ardent grass-roots, Internet-activist community still backing Dean."

I'd call that encouraging news from the muckity-mucks. But then there's this bit:

"Skeptics are also concerned that Dean will use the chairmanship to establish himself as a competing voice to the party's elected officials. Among some party insiders listening closely, he raised eyebrows and anxieties Saturday when he suggested that as chairman he would feel free to criticize Democrats who veered from the dominant party position on several key issues."

Dean isn't a dope-- but look at how many Dems are refusing to stand up for things they support, like Social Security? Having sissy-boys like Lieberman talk conciliation as the GOP runs roughshod over the nation isn't doing anything for us but help us keep losing. And how could anyone complain if he took after some nutjob like Zell Miller? He's a Fox employee now, for Pete's sake!

How to dismantle the New Deal

This piece from the Christian Science Monitor puts things in pretty clear language on privatization-- the admin's plan is to increase taxes on the poor. Here's a thought: why not redistribute the SS of America's wealthiest 1% among the poorest 5% or so?

"Because the surplus payroll taxes were handed over to the federal government (in return for Treasury bonds), this meant ordinary income taxes could be kept low. After all, the federal government has a fixed need for money, and if it gets excess money from payroll taxes it can afford to keep income taxes lower than they'd otherwise be.

But the payroll tax is a flat tax, paid disproportionately by low and middle income workers. The income tax is a progressive tax and is paid disproportionately by high earners."

And the proposed fix? Make the poor poorer so that the wealthy don't have to be prevented from getting wealthier. How about a system where everyone's income goes up? Like it did under Roosevelt and Clinton?

Easterbrook takes a spill

I often enjoy the work that Easterbrook writes in The New Republic. But in this review of Jared Diamond's latest ("Collapse"), he demonstrates an alarming ability to get some things dead wrong. Disappointing.

"[Jared Diamond's book] "Guns [Germs, and Steel]" asked why the West is atop the food chain of nations. Its conclusion, that Western success was a coincidence driven by good luck, has proven extremely influential in academia, as the view is quintessentially postmodern.... [E]nvironmental coincidences are the principal factor in human history. Diamond contends it was chance, not culture or brainpower, that brought industrial power first to Europe; Western civilization has nothing to boast about."

Where to begin? This is a complete misrepresentation of the book's thesis. It raises that most reviled of rightie boogeymen, the radical professor. In fact, the view is not at all postmodern. And professors of the humanities are far from titans of academic opinion-- many are fighting for their very future by a newly-corporatist academic environment that prizes cash over all else. I could go on at great length about these two issues.-- and believe me, I have no truck with "postmodernism," which is far from a united academic movement to begin with. I'll just leave it at that. And maybe right the Times a letter about quality control...

FDR Must Be Destroyed!

For those of us wondering just why the far right is so hell-bent on destroying the New Deal, Slate writer Daniel Gross has an interesting piece on how things were when Roosevelt came into office-- and turned a laissez-faire GOP disaster (sound familiar?) into a thriving economy. Recommended reading.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Spongebob: Threat or Menace?

You've probably heard about James Dobson's crusade against one of the most pervasive evils to face contemporary American society-- a cartoon about a sponge who works in a restaurant run by a crab. Predictably, the fundamentalist right's latest attempt to guide the nation down a path of moral virtue centers around condemning a children's cartoon as a gay conspiracy. Again.

This Daily Kos link will provide you with a few handy links, including the noteworthy blog of Keith Olbermann-- an MSNBC host who's become something of a darling of the left for his coverage of Ohio voter fraud. And now for his willingness to call a theocratic spade a theocratic spade. Small victories, folks.

Now for my take on the issue. Some of you might be familiar with the pot-smokin' analyses of Scooby-Doo or H.R. Pufnstuff. These were amusing takes on cartoons as subversive pokes taken at The Man formulated by drug users. The right-wing equivalent seems to be these theories that cartoons are serious attempts to seduce the nation's youngsters into a homosexual lifestyle. They're both equally absurd. But only one group takes them seriously... Who would you consider insane after a 5-minute chat? Some joker talking about how Shaggy is obviously a pothead, or someone angrily denouncing children's programming as a way for gay men to get into the square pants of America's youth?

An early look at the Iraqi vote

None of us want to hear that the vote in Iraq will be yet another disaster on the part of the administration. And although it's hard to tell what the long-term ramifications will be (most notably the Sunni boycott), it is somewhat comforting to hear reports of the enthusiasm of those who did participate. Although it's an incredible tragedy that we actually anticipated a body count (and another failure of the admin), perhaps it's a blessing that it was only 45 people... including the suicide bombers. Tragic.

This article is from the Associated Press, and I'll be linking to new stories as they become available. I can already tell you that the righties will spend the week crowing about the success of the elections, regardless of what stories emerge, and using that as a justification for this entire misguided and poorly executed war. $200 billion and counting, 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians, and 1,600 dead American soldiers. That anyone can call it a success is beyond me.

Say, wasn't that... naaaahhhh.

Salon has another story about incompetence in Iraq. People like Sean Hannity like to (falsely) claim that Clinton turned down a chance to extradite bin Laden from the Sudan. However, this admin has taken a pass on several verifiable chances to capture or kill al-Zarqawi. But I'm sure that's Clinton's fault, too...

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for a string of suicide bombings and rocket attacks aimed at disrupting the Iraqi elections.

The violence might have been inevitable, but it's becoming increasingly clear that Zarqawi's role in it it wasn't. We already knew that the White House had three chances to take out Zarqawi before the war began, and that it turned down each one. As military officials told NBC last March, White House officials rejected a Pentagon plan to take out Zarqawi just before the war began because eliminating a terrorist camp in Iraq might undercut one of the administration's rationales for starting the war in the first place.

Now a new report from Newsweek reveals what appears to be yet another missed chance to lock up Zarqawi. According to the magazine, a young Saudi who participated in a bombing attack against the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad says Iraqi police actually had Zarqawi in custody in Fallujah in October. Iraq's deputy minister for intelligence affairs tells Newsweek that Iraqi security officials believe that the story may well be true.

If it is, it means that Iraqi police had in their hands the most wanted man in Iraq -- a man with a $25 million price on his head -- and that they simply let him go. Even before the Newsweek story broke, there were serious doubts about the training that the United States is providing to Iraqi security personnel. Another fumble in the hunt for Zarqawi won't exactly put those doubts to rest.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Unpaid Propagandists

Apparently the group "Talon News" (the name virtually screams right-wing kooks, no?) has managed to get some White House press corps credentials. And they're using them to make the prez look good. By lying. In fact, top-tier douchebag Jeff Gannon has even been feeding the prez fake quotes to boost his image. Gannon borrowed a line from Rush Limbaugh-- who has since revealed the theft:

"Limbaugh continues: 'What makes me think that the reporter was listening to [my] program is that Harry Reid never actually said "soup lines." That is my characterization of their portrayal of America. He never actually said it. He just describes circumstances reminiscent of soup lines.'"

So the question is, who gave a couple of right-wing hacks press credentials? And in light of the revelation that at least three right-wing hacks have been on the government payroll, what will be done to clean up this corruption?

On a personal note, how many Republicans do you know who still stick up for this administration? I've been meaning to write that during Christmas, when I was home with the family, I was surrounded by Repubs. Half the family, to be precise. And although they love to take potshots at my liberalism, I didn't hear anyone gloating over W's second term. I think they're all smart enough to be a little nervous about it.

McManus and Gallagher's graft connection

Another nugget from Media Matters, who are regularly accused of being funded by the likes of George Soros. Untrue, they say. But they've managed to discover that payoffs to reactionary shills run deeper than just the White House. The most recent pundits exposed as recipients of taxpayer money to plug the admin's policies are apparently receiving money from plenty of other right-wing organizations.

By the way-- why aren't we hearing more people (or anyone, for that matter) use the word graft in conjunction with McManus, Gallagher and Williams? And how much corruption will have to be unearthed before the press starts doing their job. Before the public gets fired up?

Friday, January 28, 2005

Dick Cheney: Auschwitz Groundskeeper

I was going to leave this one alone, but the photos are too funny to pass up. And liberal blogs can always use a little levity, considering how grim things are these days.

As WaPo reporter Robin Givhan writes:

"The ceremony at the Nazi death camp was outdoors, so those in attendance. . . were wearing dark, formal overcoats and dress shoes or boots. Because it was cold and snowing, they were also wearing gentlemen's hats. In short, they were dressed for the inclement weather as well as the sobriety and dignity of the event.

The vice president, however, was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower."

Maybe he was just trying to look like an average (Canadian) Joe. You know-- keepin' it real.

More bad science from the White House

The International Space Station is a money pit that hasn't provided any scientists with any useful data. The Hubble telescope has been close to revolutionary in the way that it's allowed astronomers and physicists to understand the universe. Naturally, as physicist Robert Park writes, the budget takes this into account:

"On Feb 7, when the President's FY06 Budget Request is released, Sean O'Keefe will announce that no money is allotted for repair of the Hubble Space Telescope. However, money will be provided to drop the greatest telescope ever built into the ocean. Fixing Hubble with astronauts is too dangerous, O'Keefe said. Repairing Hubble with robots is too uncertain, an NRC panel said. It's too expensive anyway, the White House said. On the same day, the White House estimated the budget deficit at $427B. Besides, it wasn't too dangerous for the ISS crew to spend five hours outside yesterday repairing a Russian robot arm. So what's the arm for? It's so astronauts can make repairs without going outside. Hmmm. But why would anyone bother to repair the ISS? It doesn't do anything. Drop the ISS in the ocean, and save Hubble. "

Actual good news from the FCC?

The New York Times writes that the admin is going to abandon its fight to allow increased media consolidation:

The Bush administration says it won't appeal a court decision that blocks proposed regulations aimed at loosening limits on media ownership.

The Federal Communications Commission had until Monday, Jan. 31, to decide whether to appeal the ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. The Justice Department, in consultation with the FCC, decided against taking the matter to the Supreme Court, said FCC spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher.

Third columnist paid to push admin's agenda

Looks like another moral values crusader was on the take. Big surprise, huh? From Salon:

"One day after President Bush ordered his Cabinet secretaries to stop hiring commentators to help promote administration initiatives, and one day after the second high-profile conservative pundit was found to be on the federal payroll, a third embarrassing hire has emerged. Salon has confirmed that Michael McManus, a marriage advocate whose syndicated column, "Ethics & Religion," appears in 50 newspapers, was hired as a subcontractor by the Department of Health and Human Services to foster a Bush-approved marriage initiative. McManus championed the plan in his columns without disclosing to readers he was being paid to help it succeed."

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Just say "personal accounts" update

It looks like Rove and Luntz are winning the fight to ban the term "privatization." Reporters have begun using the admin's new poll-tested terminology:

NYT: "If individual investment accounts become an integral part of Social Security, as President Bush is proposing, what will happen to workers who become disabled before they retire?"

Reporter questions from Wednesday's press conference:

"Q: Mr. President, at the beginning of your remarks today you referred to two criteria that you're looking for on a Social Security fix; namely, permanent solvency and personal accounts....

Q: Any transition to personal accounts is estimated to cost between $1 trillion to $2 trillion over 10 years....

Q: Are you prepared today to say that those who opt into a potential private account -- a personal account could, in fact, have a guaranteed benefit, as well?"

Credit goes to TPM and Salon for compiling these. Like I mentioned in my first post, for once we're actually seeing the birth of spin on this issue-- cradle to maturity. But why is the press so willing to cave in?

The admin's PR budget

The American Prospect's blog cites a report by the Committee on Gov't Reform, headed by Henry Waxman. Now that attention is being given to payoffs the government has made to conservative pundits, will anyone take a look at what's been given to PR firms?

From the story:

In 2000, the last full fiscal year of the Clinton Administration, the federal government spent $38.6 million on 64 contracts with major public relations agencies. In 2001, the first year of the Bush Administration, the federal government spent $36.6 million on 67 contracts with major public relations agencies.

In 2002, the first fully budgeted year of the Bush Administration, federal spending on PR contracts increased to $64.7 million on 67 contracts. This spending level remained steady in 2003, during which $64 million was spent on 95 contracts. In 2004, spending by the federal government on PR contracts rose again. Last fiscal year, the federal government spent $88.2 million on 60 contracts with public relations agencies.

In 2004 alone -- an election year, perhaps not coincidentally -- the Bush administration spent 17 percent more on PR than the Clinton administration did in its last two budgets combined.

Slate fires another volley against the blogs

I check in with Slate pretty much daily, and rarely find something that I think is link-worthy. But I thought this was worth a mention. A few weeks ago, they ran a strange article by Chris Suellentrop on the shameless self-importance of bloggers. Today there's this one, warning of the shameless self-importance of bloggers.

What's strange about both of the articles, is that they implicitly acknowledge the impact blogs have had on the mass media. Both authors read blogs and look to them for information (people like Marshall and Markos have been known to break stories that are then covered by the press). And I've never heard of any blogger claiming that his or her work will change the face of America. However, the big-time bloggers have managed to become capable fund-raisers, convinced other citizens to take political action of various sorts, and demand accountability from the media and politicians. And when a media outlet is called on something these days, they tend to pay attention to the reaction of the blogosphere. And when you think about it, haven't blogs really started taking off under this administration-- the most secretive and extremist in most of our lifetimes? Liberal bloggers aren't trying to demolish the media. It's just a reaction against the seeming inability of the press to provide objective information to the public.

For my part, I have no dreams of becoming a pundit or activist leader. I'm just providing a forum that highlights news that concerns me, and causes that motivate me. And if it inspires anyone out there to contact a reporter or politician, donate to a campaign, or otherwise take political action-- then I'm content.

Shafer's article completely misses the point, since he acknowledges the effectiveness blogs have had on this front. He warns that bloggers won't supplant the media. But I don't think many bloggers have that in mind in the first place.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

And now for something completely irrelevant...

W just gave a press conference today, and actually had to deal with some tough questions regarding Rice's confirmation. Technically, he didn't "deal with" them, but see for yourself.

Q: Well, you had a Democratic senator basically call your secretary of state nominee a liar. I mean, that's some pretty harsh language ...

BUSH: Well, there are 99 senators other than that person. And I'm looking forward to working with as many members as we can.

Condi Rice is a fine, fine public servant, greatly admired here in America and greatly admired around the world. And she will make a great secretary of state. And I'm looking forward to working with her.

Listen, thank you all every much [sic?] for your time. I appreciate this and looking forward [sic?] to working with you all as we have a productive 2005.

Thank you.

Huh. I would have thought he'd say something like "that's nonsense." Or maybe "that's an unfair accusation." Here's an idea: "She isn't a liar." Instead we get a non sequitur. Not exactly a strong show of support from the would-be colossus of the 21st century...

Thank you.

Wrong, yet committed.

I guess we can admit one thing about Bush-- like a troubled six year-old, once he gets an idea in his head, he just won't let go. But as Dems (and Ralph Waldo Emerson) have been attempting to point out, "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." When you've been proven wrong but stick to your guns anyway, it doesn't make you a great leader. It makes you General Custer.

The story:

"According to a July 28th, 2000 article in USA Today, back in 1978 when President Bush was running for congress in Texas, "he predicted Social Security would go broke in 10 years and said the system should give people 'the chance to invest money the way they feel' is best.""

Let me predict the right-wing spin-- his statements just show that he was 25 years ahead of his time. All right, seventy years. Give or take.

By the same standards, I'd like to make a prediction of my own-- in ten years, W will be remembered as the president who almost destroyed the American experiment in democracy. Check back in 2085 for the results.

Reaping the Whirlwind

Over at TNR, Noam Scheiber comments on the suggestion that there could be another GOP defection from the privatization plan-- the fundamentalist right. And it makes perfect sense. He courted them on values, and now his mercenaries expect payment:

"The Times has an interesting piece today about how leading conservative evangelicals (all the usual suspects, like James Dobson and Tony Perkins) have advised the administration not to count on their support for Social Security privatization unless it gets religion, so to speak, on gay marriage. The most fascinating graf of the piece:
Several members of the group said that not long ago, many of their supporters were working or middle class, members of families that felt more allegiance to the Democratic Party because of programs like Social Security before gravitating to the Republican Party as it took up more cultural conservative issues over the last 20 years.
I actually think this is one of the sleeper political considerations surrounding Social Security. Republicans have beening winning over Reagan Democrat-types for the last two decades because, for these people, moral values increasingly trump economic concerns when it comes time to vote. But when it comes to Social Security, the issue is pretty much entirely about economics--there aren't any offsetting moral-value considerataions to speak of (though the White House is trying to suggest there are)."

PS- Note on the title of this post: "Well-read Humbert!"

Second admin shill outed

Salon points out that Howard Kurtz has found another 'journalist' who received payments from the government to promote their policies. Armstrong Williams on No Child Left Behind, and now Maggie Gallagher for the gay marriage amendment. She should fire her agent-- she only received a tenth the money that Williams did...

There are others -- one other syndicated columnist, at least, who, like Armstrong Williams took thousands of taxpayer dollars to write glowing reviews of administration policies and defend government programs in interviews and TV appearances. Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post reports that Maggie Gallagher, a syndicated columnist, had a $21,500 contract with the department of health and human services to help promote President Bush's initiative to convince poor people to get married. As a paid representative of the administration, she wrote columns for National Review Online, among other outlets, promoting the pro-marriage program. On other occasions, Gallagher was working more directly for HHS, writing brochures and other literature.

Gallagher says her deal wasn't anything like Williams' (she has a point, in a way, he got a lot more money than she did.) And according to Kurtz, Gallagher says that if she had remembered the financial arrangement she had with the administration, she would have disclosed it to her readers. But she wants us to believe that the thousands of additional dollars in her checking account were so insignificant to her, it just never occurred to her to mention it. "Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it?" Gallagher said to Kurtz. "I don't know. You tell me."

I think I can answer that, ma'am: Yes.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Privatization ist Verboten, Take II

Take the time to read this post from Talking Points Memo and the post immediately preceding it. They both deal with the attempt to change the term "privatization" when discussing Social Security. Or more accurately, get rid of that term completely, since it hasn't been testing well with focus groups in the last couple of months.

I wrote about this on the morning of Friday the 21st. And I have to admit that it's nice to see the blogosphere launch a frontal assault on the GOP for this particular bit of deception. Even better, they're writing about it as it happens.

Sure, I can't help dreaming. But if you've been a mainstream news junkie over the last few weeks, you've noticed lots of hype over the power of the blogs. Or lots of comments about how the liberal blogs are maintained by hacks who are trying to undermine the current admin in spite of the fact that they have no financial stake in speaking out. Often in the same article. But let me get back to business...

The blogs seem to be focusing on several connected issues in recent days: (in ascending order of magnitude)
1) The fight against Rice and Gonzales
2) The fight for Dean
3) The fight to ensure that Democrats start fighting
4) The fight to re-establish objectivity in the media

All respectable goals, in my opinion. I'm focusing on number four, in my own small way. But they're all connected, and all well worth fighting for. 2005 stands to be a good year for bloggers, and the media is paying attention. I'll be writing more about Dean as I collect enough info to give a credible overview of how the nomination of the new DNC Chair develops. I'd encourage all of you to write letters to Democratic Senators to encourage them to oppose Rice and Gonzales-- c'mon, it takes five minutes, people!

And last, but not least, I'd encourage anyone who gives a damn to harass the press into calling Social Security privatization what it is. Privatization. The most rewarding thing about this blog has been hearing from people who have taken action, and written letters to media outlets or government officials in order to give voice to the 49% of Americans who voted against this administration. I'll keep fighting. Will you?

Matt Sandwich vs. Marc Maron

There are a couple of reasons that I haven't been posting much lately. I'm not going to use the snow as an excuse, since that doesn't have any impact on sitting on my duff in front of a computer and being a news-hound.

Here's the real reason. I scored a couple of free tickets to see funnyman Marc Maron on Saturday night. As it happened, I wound up sitting on the front row at Jimmy Tingle's Off Broadway to watch the Air America host and veteran comic. I think the show is one of the best in the lineup, and it's been a real trip to see it go from ragtag outfit to slick, sophisticated political show with an all-star guest list (including Bill Clinton and Howard Dean). And the comedy is top-notch.

Anyway, while in the front row in this rather intimate setting, I wound up doing a little talking to Mr. Maron (he was "riffing" with the audience, as he puts it). Long story in the telling, but it was a nice, smart-assed back and forth. He might come across as Woody Allen on meth, but that's just a schtick. He was a genuinely nice guy, eager to chat with folks after the 90-minute(!) show, and willing to pose for photos. I'd post the shot I took with him, but I'd hate to reveal my secret identity-- the Green Goblin would be all over me....

Listen to Morning Sedition. You can get commercial-free installments daily at His co-host, Mark Reilly, has become a very sophisticated radio host in his own right. He more than deserves a mention here.

So there's one postscript to this episode. I just listened to the archived show from yesterday (since I'm rarely up and about at 6 a.m.), and he mentioned our exchange on the show. Ha. Give me a few years, folks. I'll meet all the soldiers heading the charge against the GOP.

Blogs Bash Bush's Balls

That isn't really what this link is about-- I just like the Variety-style headline. Anyway, it looks as though the prez's approval rating took a dip last week. Maybe the $70 million party wasn't such a great idea. The article is brief but full of links.

Current approval rating: 44%

The New Fiscal Conservatism

This should give anyone who voted for Bush and our "great economy" should take pause upon reading this article. But won't. One of the key points:

"In 2003, the most recent year with full international statistics, central banks financed 83 per cent of the US current account deficit, with Asian central banks accounting for 86 per cent of flows.

A similar picture is emerging for 2004. Despite a good start to the year, when the private sector was a large net purchaser of dollar assets, central banks came to the rescue again. The People's Bank of China has let it be known that China increased dollar reserves by $207bn (€159bn) in 2004, financing nearly a third of the US current account deficit, estimated at $650bn."

And if large investors decide that Euros are the better option...?

Friday, January 21, 2005

Fox has most liberal coverage of Inauguration

In terms of progressive pundits allowed to participate, that is.

GOP/Dem pundits on Fox : 19/7

On MSNBC: 13/2

On CNN: 10/1

Does this mean I need to start tuning in to the new "progressive voice" of cable news?

Inaugural Donors

Care to see who ponied up the dough for the festivities this week? Just follow the link so you'll know which companies to avoid....

The Clinton Haircut Scandal, Take Two

Remember the infamous Clinton haircut? Where he sat on board Air Force One and got a trim from a guy known to charge $200 per customer? The right was foaming at the mouth-- in the words of Robert Reich:

Reich: I mean who cares? But it was--why is this populist president getting his hair cut by this fancy guy--

Q: For $200.

Reich: As if the president paid $200 for his haircut. But yes, he charges $200 a haircut and probably more.

Well, it looks like Queenie Bush has kicked things up a few notches. From

"our favorite TV nugget of the day so far came courtesy of Barbara Walters, who matter-of-factly informed viewers that Laura Bush recently had her hair done by famed New York City stylist Sally Hershberger, who charges $700 for a haircut."

I won't be holding my breath for the outrage...

World Fears Bush

From the Guardian:

George Bush will be sworn in as president of the United States for a second term today in a lavish Washington ceremony, amid mounting international concern that his new administration will make the world a more dangerous place.

A poll of 21 countries published yesterday - reflecting opinion in Africa, Latin America, North America, Asia and Europe - showed that a clear majority have grave fears about the next four years.

Fifty-eight per cent of the 22,000 who took part in the poll, commissioned by the BBC World Service, said they expected Mr Bush to have a negative impact on peace and security, compared with only 26% who considered him a positive force.


TPM has an entertaining look at the birth of a meme. Apparently, the word "privatization" to describe Social Security, uhmmm, privatization hasn't tested well with focus groups. So the right is trying to eradicate it.

The Post: Will you talk to Senate Democrats about your privatization plan?

THE PRESIDENT: You mean, the personal savings accounts?

The Post: Yes, exactly. Scott has been --

THE PRESIDENT: We don't want to be editorializing, at least in the questions.

The Post: You used partial privatization yourself last year, sir.


The Post: Yes, three times in one sentence. We had to figure this out, because we're in an argument with the RNC [Republican National Committee] about how we should actually word this. [Post staff writer] Mike Allen, the industrious Mike Allen, found it.

THE PRESIDENT: Allen did what now?

The Post: You used partial privatization.

THE PRESIDENT: I did, personally?

The Post: Right.

To quote Charlie Brown: *sigh*

Michael Powell to step down

The good news: according to the WSJ, Mr. Media Consolidation is throwing in the towel.

The bad news: Finding another Republican to crack down on nipples while further empowering media conglomerates will be a cakewalk for this administration.

Hopefully that link will work. The article is a sterling example of how the WSJ frames the news. I don't know a soul who thinks that making Clear Channel even bigger is a good idea-- but these fellows make it sound like Powell's a hero to small businessmen everywhere.

Did you see it here first, by any chance?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

SAIC at the Trough

That's short for the Science Applications International Corporation, which sounds very, uhhhm, scientific. Tell me if you heard about this one in the news.... They were responsible for implementing the FBIs new computer system, which was to facilitate the sharing of intelligence on such high-priority issues as terrorism. Turns out that it's a dud. The system is being scrapped. The government spent $171,000,000 on the project. (That's $171 million, folks.) SAIC will still retain $100 million of that amount.

Here's a little info on SAIC*

They have contributed, in the last four years,
$45,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee
$45,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee
$30,000 to Bush's re-election effort in 2004.
And last but not least......
$600,000 to Republican candidates since the year 2000. (NOTE: they contributed $400,000 to Dem candidates during the same period. Smooth.)

Their distinguished staff?

One Admiral William Owens, who went from being an SAIC CEO to join Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board (which includes such luminaries as Newt Gingrich and Richard Perle).
A former senior VP, Christopher Henry, went on to become an aid to Doug Feith-- the man responsible for coordinating *cough* SAIC's no-bid Iraq contracts. Like their efforts to train Iraqi security forces. You know-- the force that the prez and Con-job Rice estimate at 125,000, and others estimate at...... 4,000.

*This information comes from Christie Harvey of the Center for American Progress, and I'm relating it as it was heard on a radio appearance of hers on January 19 of this year. Kiss kiss, Christie.

Inaugural cost actually $70 million

I hate linking to subscriber-only articles, but this is a meaty one from salon. In fact, it's so chock-full of info that it's hard to choose samples. Here are some of the salient points:

". . .according to a mostly underreported Washington Post poll this week, a strong majority of Americans -- 66 percent, including 46 percent of Republicans -- would have preferred a "smaller, more subdued" inauguration, given the ongoing war in Iraq."

"Most major outlets stuck to the lower, albeit still unprecedented, figure of $40 million, which the Presidential Inaugural Committee said it hopes to raise from private donors. But a more accurate figure may be $50 million. That's the amount cited by the Washington Times (which is plugged in to GOP circles). But even that number doesn't take into account the nearly $20 million that's being spent for security, putting the real cost at closer to $70 million. . ."

Newsweek also reported that Bush's natural self-confidence was boosted by his "clear election victory" in November. But as Salon previously noted, in the past 80 years, only three times have presidents been elected with fewer than 300 electoral votes. Bush accounts for two of the three anomalies; in 2000 he won 271 electoral votes, and in 2004 he captured 286. (Jimmy Carter is the third example, with 297.) By way of comparison, Bush's final margin of victory was almost identical to Carter's win over Gerald Ford in 1976, when there was very little discussion of a mandate for the Democrat. Yet to Newsweek's eyes, Bush enjoyed a "clear victory."

Your 2004 Inaugural Allstars

I've made a few snide remarks about how "funny" and "Republican" are such a rare combo. Now, unsurprisingly, "hip" can be added to the list...

This brief article includes a lineup of the youth-oriented-- ahem-- "America's Future Rocks" event. It's the rock equivalent of aerosol cheese on saltines.

(Thanks to WF for sending this my way.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

UPDATE: No to Frost

This story from a local Texas evening news program, doesn't make Martin Frost out to be a fraud. It just showed that he did what he had to do to get elected.... in Texas. It should also remind us that the Democratic party is NOT represented by the likes of Dennis Hastert and Kay Hutchinson.

The fact that the upper echelon of the party still thinks that dressing up in reactionary clothing is the answer is a crying shame. There's nothing wrong with being a conservative Democrat. But there's something terribly wrong with trying to mimic the fascist right on a national level.

Will Kerry fight?

He's making a good show of things this week. After his no-show during the call to challenge the Ohio vote, that is. I've signed on, and I've sent a couple of remarks to his office about the importance of fighting, versus the importance of appeasement in the name of judiciousness. Like Gore, Kerry could be an inspiring candidate. But he has to provide the inspiration, and it's going to be an uphill battle against the media.

Here's the text of an online petition that he's circulating:

We must stop rewarding incompetence, start demanding accountability, and for the sake of the troops in Iraq, we must replace Donald Rumsfeld. Please join me in signing the following letter to President Bush on

Mr. President,

I was surprised and disappointed that you told the Washington Post last week that no Bush administration official should be held accountable for our failures in Iraq. As the situation worsens and more American lives are lost and troops deployed to the region, it's time to stop rewarding incompetence and to start demanding accountability. For the sake of our men and women in uniform and their families here at home, I urge you to start by replacing Donald Rumsfeld. His record of failure and his inability to play it straight with the American people and our troops overseas make him unfit to serve as Secretary of Defense for one more day, never mind four more years.

If you care about restoring our credibility around the world and our credibility with our troops on the ground in Iraq, you've got to start by removing Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. That's why I am joining Senator John Kerry and hundreds of thousands of Americans in adding my name to the petition calling for Rumsfeld's immediate removal from office.

I urge you to act without delay. We can't afford any more auto-penned letters of condolences and shifting stories about what kind of armor we have to protect our troops.

American soliders and their families are counting on you as Commander in Chief to hold those in charge of the war in Iraq to the highest standards.

Thank you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Looking back at the Ohio vote challenge

I haven't said much about what took place. I'm glad that Rep. Jones and Sen. Boxer did what they did. I'm disappointed that more Democrats didn't step in to make it more of an issue. I'm annoyed that the Repubs felt compelled to dismiss the issue* with their usual playbook of scorn and ridicule. In other words, it all played out according to everyone's expectations.

But this article at Flakmag does a splendid job of breaking it all down for us. Recommended reading. And yet another look at how the right keeps winning by using playground bully tactics-- while the left keeps deciding that the only answer is to ignore the problem in hopes that it will disappear (ATTN: it won't).

In a shameful example, GOP Rep. Candice Miller said "How interesting that their challenge does not mention the Democratic group ACORN which submitted vote registrations for dead people that used 25 different addresses for the same individual." So let me get this straight. The GOP has allegations of voter fraud, too-- but chooses to ignore them?!? This should be a scandal. Typically, it's a non-issue. And only two members of Congress felt compelled to do something about it.

Race for the DNC Chair

MyDD has a nice look at how the issue is shaping up at this very moment, and I'm inclined to agree. I was hoping it wouldn't happen, but it looks like it's turning into a Dean vs. the Establishment battle. And the most prominent establishment candidate is Martin Frost. Typically, he's a pretty conservative Dem. I don't have a huge problem with that, even though it's the tactic that's kept costing us elections. What I do have a huge problem with is that he's adopted that other most infamous ot recent tactics-- distancing himself from his fellow Democrats. And sucking up to Bush, which is utterly inexcusable at this point in time. Like I've said before, it's imperative that we start putting fighters in the trenches. To use Civil War parlance, it's time for Grant to take the reins from McClellan.

The W Scandal Scorecard (subscriber only) has written an article documenting 34 cases of the administration's dishonesty, corruption and amorality. A must-read. In fact, I'd even recommend printing it out as a handy reference tool. My reaction to most of them was "Oh, yeah! Say, whatever happened with that?" The answer is usually 'nothing at all.'

A sample:

1. Memogate: The Senate Computer Theft

The scandal: From 2001 to 2003, Republican staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee illicitly accessed nearly 5,000 computer files containing confidential Democratic strategy memos about President Bush's judicial nominees. The GOP used the memos to shape their own plans and leaked some to the media.

The problem: The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act states it is illegal to obtain confidential information from a government computer.

The outcome: Unresolved. The Justice Department has assigned a prosecutor to the case. The staff member at the heart of the matter, Manuel Miranda, has attempted to brazen it out, filing suit in September 2004 against the DOJ to end the investigation. "A grand jury will indict a ham sandwich," Miranda complained. Some jokes just write themselves.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Krugman interview with Rolling Stone

Here's a brief and very well-done piece in which economist Paul Krugman answers common questions about the Social Security system-- and why privatization is such a big deal anyway. A must-read. Here's an excerpt:

But what happens if [the SS trust fund] doesn't [last]?

Even if the trust fund does run out, Social Security will still be able to pay eighty percent of promised benefits. The actual shortfall would be a pretty small part of the federal budget, quite easily made up from other sources. Once the whole baby-boomer generation is into the retirement pool, Social Security's share of the gross domestic product will only increase by about two percent. Well, President Bush's tax cuts are more than two percent of GDP -- and they're happening right now, not fifty years from now. So the idea that there's this Social Security thing that is a huge problem is just wrong.

Weakly Standard on SS Privatization

This article is pro-privatizaton. But it unintentionally makes an argument against the idea. Acknowledging that it's going to be a hard fight, thanks to the number of Dems and Repubs that are having a tough time swallowing the admin's proposals.

But in the last paragraph, we see this: "Republican unity in Congress may not be sufficient to win passage, but it is necessary. For the White House, the key task is to draft a Social Security proposal that will please or at least be acceptable to three Republican factions. The first faction favors dumping the "wage index" used to calculate a beneficiary's initial monthly payment. This would slow the growth of benefits by 40 percent over the next few decades while keeping benefits at the current, inflation-adjusted level. The White House initially looked favorably on this. But it's moved away from the idea in the face of noisy objections that a 40 percent "cut" is a nonstarter."

So, the only way to get it passed is to refuse to cut benefits. The cost would already be in the trillions-- why not add some more?

Detroit Auto Show highlights low MPG autos

This is an interesting article by TNR's Gregg Easterbrook on how things were looking at the Detroit show this last week. On the TV coverage, you might have seen things like air-conditioned seats, and heated steering wheels. Or you might have noticed the prominience of hydrogen-powered cars. (Never mind that there's no method of producing hydrogen fuel cells that saves any more fossil fuels than just using gasoline.)

But those hydrogen cars were just a red herring. According to Easterbrook, the real story was more horsepower. And that means burning more gas. Interesting stuff.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Titan: deep-dish pizza of the cosmos

" Data beamed back from Titan, one of Saturn's moons, sketched a picture of a pale orange landscape with a spongy surface topped by a thin crust." Sounds pretty delicious. Actually, I'm linking to this article for the slideshow of images from this moon of Saturn. While contemplating the fact that these images are being sent from 900 million miles away, try to reassure yourself that we'll still be teaching evolution in four years' time.

US Military Destroying Ancient Relics

Something else you won't see in the US news.

"He saw a 2,600-year-old brick pavement crushed by military vehicles, archaeological fragments scattered across the site, and trenches driven into ancient deposits.

Vast amounts of sand and earth, visibly mixed with archaeological fragments, were gouged from the site to fill thousands of sandbags and metal mesh baskets. When this practice was stopped, large quantities of sand and earth were brought in from elsewhere, contaminating the site for future generations of archaeologists."

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Hitler: Bring me the pope!

This is weird. Genuinely weird. And it really struck me because I just read something a couple of days ago (I can't remember where it was, so it obviously didn't make much of an impact) about the Vatican's attempts to beatify Pius XII even as more documentary evidence is emerging of his anti-semitic stance during the second World War. John Paul II has been recommending sainthood in record numbers-- to the point where even The Onion wrote a snarky article about it.

The thing is, that article I read was all about how Italian newspapers are criticizing the pope for his admiration of Pius XII. And how the Vatican is on the defensive about the whole affair. If I find it again, I'll update the post. Like I said-- weird.

Iraq the "current world headquarters for Islamic terrorism"

That's the conclusion of a new CIA report. According to Scott McClellan, it's great news. The assassinations, increasing number of insurgents, and the threats to the Iraqi vote all show what a success the invasion of Iraq is.

Q Does the President disagree with the report's conclusion that the war and the uncertainty on the ground has created a breeding ground for terrorism?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think we just answered this question. We just went through it, so I would go back to what I just said, and those are, I think, the points to make.

Q I mean, the reason that we keep asking the question again is that it's just confusing to me how you can say it confirms your strategy is the right approach when there is terrorism in Iraq now, a terrorist breeding ground in Iraq now and growing there, and wasn't there before. So how does that confirm your approach?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's assuming that terrorists would just be sitting around doing nothing if we weren't staying on the offensive in the war on terrorism. I mean, by going on the offensive we've been able to liberate two countries, the people of two countries -- in Afghanistan and Iraq. And now we must continue to do everything we can to support efforts to build democratic futures for the people of the region. And that's exactly what we'll continue to do.

But I disagree with the characterization of the report, because I think the report confirms that we have the right strategy to win the war on terrorism, because of what I said a minute ago. So I would disagree with that. And this is -- the report looks at much more than just that. It's a speculative report that looks at a number of areas in the world, and we welcome the report. It's important to look at what the report has to say. And I don't think we've had time to look at the whole report, and I would encourage each of you to look at the whole report, as well, and maybe -- because I think some of the characterization is off the mark.

Friday, January 14, 2005

More W Disingenuousness

This is worth a laugh, too. From Noam Scheiber's blog on The New Republic's website:

I was struck by the following detail in today's Wall Street Journal profile of incoming national security adviser Stephen Hadley:
In personal style, Mr. Hadley has far more of the button-down Ivy League aesthetic of Bush 41 than the swagger of Bush 43. The younger Mr. Bush has chided Mr. Hadley for wearing penny loafers to cut brush at the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas--a charge Mr. Hadley denies.
Struck because, when I recently read Bill Minutaglio's Bush biography, First Son, I could have sworn I came across several passages in which Bush was ridiculed by authentic Southerners for wearing ... penny loafers. As in, "Bush surprised the GOP campaign workers in the Deep South with his Yankee affectations, his alien, preppy way of wearing penny loafers without any socks'" (page 143). And, "Holton looked down and noticed that Bush was wearing one blue sock and one green one. He Scotch taped the tassels onto his loafers" (page 168). And, "[H]is coteacher, Becky Ferguson, was shocked to see those same preppy loafers, with the tassels still Scotch-taped to them" (page 200).

I guess no one writes all their own material anyway.

(Man, I'm really learning to love that Amazon "search inside" function.)

In a word-- douche. Although it is kinda fun to see them switching the story from W the tenderfoot to W the seasoned "brush-clearer."

White House posts on progress in Iraq

This is priceless. On the official White House site, you can read all about the good news from Iraq. You might be aware that rightie pundits (Rush in particular) have been going nuts about how the media isn't covering the good things that are happening there. You know, because they're flaming liberals who want the terrorists to win. Jeez. Anyway, the last update to this page was on October 21 of last year. So, if the admin can't even find heart-warming tales to share with the public, what exactly are major news outlets supposed to write about?

Heard on the radio

In another alarming example of how this admin works, I caught a story this morning about a town hall meeting Bush just had on the issue of Social Security. Since I can't seem to find any reports online, I have to reconstruct it from half-asleep memory. It went something like this....

Woman: My two sisters and I were raised by my mother, a Welsh immigrant.

W: She's the same age as my mother.

Woman: She just turned eighty.

Yep, it looks like the Potemkin Village strategy isn't just for electioneering anymore. It's also great for bogus policy-pushing.

Republicans against privatization

Senator Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine, from this morning's Press Herald: "I don't think there's any consensus on what the problem [with Social Security] is or the extent of the problem. I have serious concerns about undermining the fundamental principles of the Social Security Trust Fund."

Rep. Aderholt (R) of Alabama says president is "sort of" lying?

Aderholt agrees with reform critics who say Social Security is not in crisis. Aderholt said he believes reform is needed, but there is no reason to rush the reform effort.

"It's sort of deceiving when we talk about the situation being that we are on the brink of disaster. We're not. It will be several decades before the system goes bankrupt," Aderholt said.

Aderholt worries that political rhetoric designed to push legislation through Congress will scare his retired constituents.

See the rest from the Decatur Daily.

These are from Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Dept. of Wishful Thinking

From MyDD, this posting on the possibility that there will be grounds for impeaching W. You know, if you need a small pick-me-up.

Another Small Victory

From the WaPo (subscriber only).

Evolution Stickers Ordered Removed

Disclaimers Violate Church-State Separation, Judge Rules

ATLANTA -- A federal judge Thursday ordered a suburban Atlanta school system to remove stickers in its high school biology textbooks that call evolution "a theory, not a fact," saying the disclaimers were an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

"By denigrating evolution, the school board appears to be endorsing the well-known prevailing alternative theory, creationism or variations thereof, even though the sticker does not specifically reference any alternative theories," U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper said.

The stickers were put in the books by school officials in Cobb County in 2002. They read: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

"This is a great day for Cobb County students," said Michael Manely, an attorney for the parents who sued over the stickers. "They're going to be permitted to learn science unadulterated by religious dogma."

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Another highly recommended read

Courtesy of the New York review of books, this one's all about how W won the election. And it's very nicely done.

Another tasty morsel of good news

They're more like crumbs, but I'll take what I can get:

Limbaugh dumped for liberal show

A southern Vermont-based radio station will trade in the rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh and other conservative talk show hosts for the liberal commentary of Air America next week.

WKVT-AM 1490 in Brattleboro will replace four of its weekday syndicated conservative talk shows on Jan. 17 with programs from the fledgling liberal radio network Air America, which launched in March. . .

. . . That's not good news for Milton Eaton of Brattleboro, who worked as secretary of development for former Gov. Richard Snelling, a Republican. Eaton said he listens to [recovering drug addict Rush] Limbaugh two or three times a week when he was in his car running errands.

"It's really disappointing to hear that," Eaton said. "There is such a liberal media down here that [recovering drug addict] Rush was a refreshing change."

[Hehhehheh. They flushed "Falafel" O'Reilly, too. Any of you midwesterners who read the Sandwich care to call your local talk radio station? I know you're out there...]

Oneupmanship with a vengeance

I admit it. Even I keep feeling happy when a Bush appointee goes down in flames for being a crook. You'd think I'd know better by now. The only lesson they learn is to dig up someone whose skeletons are a little deeper in the closet. Or at least don't resonate so much with the public. Enter Michael Chertoff. The man set to replace Bernie Kerik. The man who has no security experience, but plenty of experience in illegally detaining US citizens. Heaven help us. I can already feel the Dems rolling over on this one. Highly recommended reading.

As if all this weren't enough, Chertoff-- staunch partisan-- was Senate Republican counsel for the Whitewater investigation. You know, the one that found no wrongdoing on the part of the Clintons, but cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. Now that's one real American hero! Or at least a spicy meatball... Hmmmm. Maybe it's time for a sandwich.

Deulfer Report Redux

With a whimper, it's revealed that the Deulfer Report was spot on. And the top dogs' proclamations that they knew exactly where the non-existent WMDs were are officially bogus.

From the CNN story:

Asked whether the Bush administration planned to announce the end of the physical WMD search, [White House Press Secretary Scott] McClellan deferred to Duelfer.

"I think it's up to him to make those determinations," McClellan said.

Lovely. I've heard a rumor that the search was officially over before the election, but I can't verify it.

Bonus link:
This is a handy comparison of the WMD issue versus the CBS issue-- sort of a cost-benefit analysis. Just a friendly reminder of what the media is choosing to cover.

What CBS got right

The right is going bananas over the firings at CBS, even as it's come out that the admin hired a pundit to sell their policies. Sad. Daily Kos has posted a nice list of facts that came to light through the CBS investigation. The same facts that aren't, and have never been, a story. Sadder.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Dean for DNC Chair

I've (mostly) held off on commenting on the DNC leadership post. One thing that caused me to do that was The New Republic's opposition to Dean, who had my nominal support. Not that I'm afraid to have my own opinions, but they've run several anti-McAuliffe articles, too. It just didn't add up, but it made me wonder if I was missing some bigger picture.

I've come down in the Dean camp, especially now that he's written supporters to announce that he's officially making a play for it. This entry on the Washington Monthly's blog (an excellent one, by the way, that I've linked to in the past) is a great summation of the case for Dean. And my main concern is that we start putting fighters in the top slots. That ain't happening in Congress, and as pleases as I was with Barbara Boxer for contesting the Ohio vote, it also highlighted how rare a quality that is in the party these days. Sigh. It's imperative that we start taking the fight to the GOP, rather than continually ceding ground and playing defense. It's not like there's anything to lose after the last three elections. And judging from the ground we've gained in state legislatures, we could be poised to start making headway on a national level -- if people start believing in the Dems again. People like underdogs, but not when the underdog is the greasy nerd with taped-up glasses who gladly hands over his milk money every day.

Bush to DC: You'll Pay

This is an excerpt from a salon piece, in which they quote the WaPo. The link is for subscribers only.

While the Bush administration has raised a record $40 million to pay for champagne, fireworks, and marching bands at its inaugural bash, it can't seem to find the money to help the District of Columbia cover the security costs. According to this morning's Washington Post, the Bush administration is planning to leave the cash-strapped city holding an 11.9 million dollar bill.

"Federal officials have told the District that it should cover the expenses by using some of the $240 million in federal homeland security grants it has received in the past three years -- money awarded to the city because it is among the places at highest risk of a terrorist attack."

"The region has earmarked federal homeland security funds for such priorities as increasing hospital capacity, equipping firefighters with protective gear and building transit system command centers." But now, the Post reports, nearly $12 million will now have to be spent on such essentials as "reviewing stands."

Considering that a full 90 percent of the District's residents went to the polls on Nov. 2 in the hope that Bush would never see a second inauguration, it seems like poor form to make them pay so much for the festivities. Even members of the president's own party are taken aback: A spokesman for Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, a Virginia Republican who chairs the committee which oversees the District, called the Bush administration's position "simply not acceptable."

TNR: the right to organize is under fire

Lots of heavy-hitting bloggers have linked to this TNR editorial that was in yesterday's issue. And it is a good one, so I'll link to it as well.

TNR: the right to organize is under fire

Lots of heavy-hitting bloggers have linked to this TNR editorial that was in yesterday's issue. And it is a good one, so I'll link to it as well.

Death Squad Update

This story is getting so enough attention on the blogosphere that I'm thinking it's worth another mention. This time, I'm going to The Left Coaster for their brief, but link-filled piece on how these things worked in El Salvador. Time for a refresher course. There are also some nice bits on how the media dealt with the revelation-- or , more to the point, didn't.

Monday, January 10, 2005

More Social Security Nonsense

Just a day after Russert's misinformation on life expectancy, MSNBC has done it again. In an article titled "5 myths about Social Security," the same incorrect information is repeated by a different columnist. To wit, seniors are going to need 14 more years of benefits than they did when the program started. Instead-- see my previous post-- it's closer to 5 years.

Naturally, I wrote in to point this out. The contact info, as well as a chance to rate the article, appear at the bottom of the article. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Latest Letter

This one went to Meet the Press, regarding a little something that Tim Russert said today. Text follows...


On the January 9th airing of Meet the Press, host Tim Russert said the following:

"When the baby boomers retire, there'll be 80 million. Roosevelt said eligibility 65, which was genius, because if you made it to 65, you were on Social Security for a month or two and that was it. Life expectancy's now 78, 79, 80 years old, so you have twice as many people on the program for 15 years."

Any mathematician or statistician would be able to point out the inherent flaw of this argument. Although the average life expectancy of Americans is currently about 78.7 years, the average life expectancy of a 65 year-old American is not fourteen years.

"A related idea is to attribute the current financial pressures on Social Security to a supposed dramatic increase in life expectancy in recent years. Since average life expectancy at birth is now about 76, this is interpreted as implying that people collect benefits for 14 to 18 years longer than they used to. However, as Table 1 indicates, the average life expectancy at age 65 (i.e., the number of years a person could be expected to receive unreduced Social Security retirement benefits) has only increased a modest 5 years (on average) since 1940. So, for example, men attaining 65 in 1990 can expect to live for 15.3 years compared to 12.7 years for men attaining 65 back in 1940. So the actual increase in time that males can anticipate receiving Social Security is closer to 3 years than to 14."

This information is readily available on the site of the Social Security Administration. Why is not readily available from hosts of news shows that are broadcast nationwide? Or, more importantly, why is not being shared with the Americans who tune into Meet the Press to hear factual reporting from trusted journalists?

The address is Write your own-- preferably avoiding 'astroturfing,' which is the practice of sending form letters to media outlets. That's the GOPs job.

The New Strategy?

I'm not sure how much credence to give this post over at My Due Diligence. On one hand, it speaks to a lot of misgivings that I have about the way the DNC has been handling things. And judging from what we've seen out of Al Gore in the last year, it seems appropriate to argue for the end of the consultant class in our struggles for the halls of power.* On the other hand, the GOP is winning by using the very things MyDD argues against-- test-marketing every utterance of the POTUS, and managing his public persona entirely by focus group. And it's working awfully well. What it comes down to for me is that it isn't working for us, and hasn't worked for us in quite a while. Which means that it's time to give some serious thought to alternatives at the top levels of the party.

*I'm even a little unsure about this one. A lot of us were awed by his new dynamism and fiery rhetoric-- as many were dismayed by his willingness to not be himself during the 2000 campaign, when it was clear that the election was his to lose. The reality in 2004 was that the right's attack dogs immediately settled in to attacking him as "unhinged" and "insane." Could they have done that in 2000 without any media track record of 'reinvention'? That, I can't answer.

One more thought. If we DO make a major strategy change, I suspect that the righties will start talking about how the party has gone from sane to being "in the hands of radicals." In fact, it would be a truly populist movement-- but it would be a hard fight to get the word out in a media controlled by folks afraid to contradict GOP talking points.

My initial conclusion is that one of the most important fights is to demand objective reporting from all media outlets. Neithe Gore nor Kerry was a truly bad candidate-- but the cards were stacked against them, and they both responded by trying to dance to the media's tune. If we field a candidate who isn't going to get a fair shot from the media, we're in serious hot water from the start....

Return of the Bell Curve

Atrios has provided a useful service with this article. It's long and involved, but you might want to keep it in mind. I'm linking to it because I've noticed that the book "The Bell Curve" is still a favorite of the right's would-be scientists. Most of us only remember this early-90's book from its quickly-discredited findings that intelligence and race are linked. I won't get into where I've encountered this book being quoted by 21st-century Lysenkoists, but it's good to be aware that reactionaries are still relying on it as THE source for quotes on how science supposedly justifies.... well, lots of stuff typically associated with the fundies. Especially since it was written by people with letters after their names. You might want to bookmark it for later reading. File under K, for 'Know Your Enemy.'


This report from Newsweek, courtesy of Daily Kos, sounds incredible. On the other hand, given this admin's track record of adopting failed policies from Christmas past, it sounds a bit too plausible to immediately write off. And a bit too much like Rummy's still calling the shots.

"NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration's battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers."

The Party of Family Values

Here are a couple of squeaky-clean 2004 contributors to the GOP-- Fox Broadcasting (which strangely enough gives more money to the Dems, although they put $430,000 in Repub coffers), Hooters ($57,521), and such purveyors of Demon Rum as Coors ( $186,283) and Anheuser-Busch ( $488,720).

Columbia House, the people who brought you the CD/DVD club (formerly the 8-track and cassette club) contributed 100% of their $22,000 to the GOP last year, and they have a bit of an announcement to make. They just hope that the right isn't paying any attention.....

The headline: Columbia House Plans Porn Club

Shrewd, yet hypocritical. That's pretty much the mantra of the right these days, no?

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Sinclair Strikes Back

From a press release:

"Although Sinclair respects the rights of these organizations to voice their opinions, we find inappropriate that their tactics include advocating their constituency to contact our advertisers in a blatant attempt to use economic pressure to censor the speech of Sinclair. Moreover, the continued misrepresentation of the facts surrounding any company's advertising practices regarding Sinclair stations constitutes "trade defamation" which would entitle Sinclair to seek damages in a court of law. Sinclair will aggressively pursue any organization or any individual which engages in such defamation, including individuals who lend their names to mass e-mail campaigns spreading such misinformation."

The Staples issue has turned out to be something of a controversy. Sinclair is claiming that Media Matters lied about the whole thing. While that isn't true, apparently Staples is trying to waffle a bit. From David Brock's letter:

"Despite Staples' issuance of a "clarification" yesterday, January 6, 2005, an article in The Baltimore Sun today, January 7, 2005, noted that Staples spokesman Paul Capelli "still acknowledg[ed] e-mail complaints in part caused it to stop advertising on Sinclair's local programs."

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Hit the showers, Carlson!

Here's an AP story that seems to confirm a rumor that's been floating around the blogosphere today. CNN has given Tucker Carlson the boot. If you don't know him, you should. At least, you should know him as the Crossfire co-host given a massive beatdown at the hands of The Daily Show's Jon Stewart. Sure, it's too early to start heralding a new age in hackery-free cable news. But it's a step in the right direction. I'll include the complete article below. In the meantime, Tucker Carlson is dead! Long live Tuc... errr, scratch that.

CNN Lets 'Crossfire' Host Carlson Go

2 hours, 50 minutes ago Television - AP

By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer

NEW YORK - CNN said goodbye to pundit Tucker Carlson on Wednesday, and with him likely the "Crossfire" program that has been the granddaddy of high-volume political debate shows on cable television.

CNN will probably fold "Crossfire" into its other programming, perhaps as an occasional segment on the daytime show "Inside Politics," said Jonathan Klein, who was appointed in late November as chief executive of CNN's U.S. network.

Klein on Wednesday told Carlson, one of the four "Crossfire" hosts, that CNN would not be offering him a new contract. Carlson has been talking with MSNBC about a prime-time opening replacing Deborah Norville.

"I would host any kind of show for (MSNBC chief executive) Rick Kaplan," said Carlson, whose Friday night PBS show "Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered" resumes this week.

He said he enjoyed every minute working for CNN, but that he had told executives last April that he wanted to do something different from "Crossfire."

The bow-tied[sic] wearing conservative pundit got into a public tussle last fall with comic Jon Stewart, who has been critical of cable political programs that devolve into shoutfests.

"I guess I come down more firmly in the Jon Stewart camp," Klein told The Associated Press.

He said all of the cable networks, including CNN, have overdosed on programming devoted to arguing over issues. Klein said he wants more substantive programming that is still compelling.

"I doubt that when the president sits down with his advisers they scream at him to bring him up to date on all of the issues," he said. "I don't know why we don't treat the audience with the same respect."

"Crossfire" began in 1982 and was once a mainstay of CNN's prime time. Pat Buchanan (news - web sites) from the right and Michael Kinsley from the left were two of its most prominent hosts.

But as Fox News Channel perfected the format with popular hosts Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, "Crossfire" lost favor among CNN executives and was moved to the afternoons in 2002. It averages 447,000 viewers each weekday, down 21 percent from the previous season, according to Nielsen Media Research. Carlson rotates as host with conservative columnist Bob Novak. Paul Begala and James Carville are the left-leaning ringleaders.

Klein said he hoped Novak, Begala and Carville would continue with meaningful commentator roles at CNN.

Carlson had one failed bid at prime time on CNN with "The Spin Room," which was canceled after less than six months in 2001.

He subbed last week for newscaster Aaron Brown as Klein wanted to see him in a different role before making a decision about his future. Klein said his views on wanting to change the tone of political coverage were separate from the decision to keep Carlson.

"His career aspirations and our programming needs just don't synch up," Klein said. "He wants to host his own nighttime show and we don't see that in the cards here. Out of respect for him and his talent, we thought it would be best to let him explore opportunities elsewhere."

An MSNBC spokesman had no comment on CNN's decision.

"We think Tucker is a great journalist and we're exploring our options for a
new 9 p.m. show," said MSNBC's Jeremy Gaines.
Man, that's cold. The language takes me back to being fired from my job at a pizza place at age 16. Is it just me, or does it not seem unusually frosty? Then again, it sounds an awful lot like Tuck 'n Stuff thought he could play by Fox rules in another neighborhood. But they've already got more ratfinks than you can shake a stick at with Hannity, O'Reilly, and the omnipresent Coulter. No help there. Hehhehheh...

Chastened Republicans get ethical.

Bwahahaha! I can't be-lieve you keep falling for that one! Quit being a sucker-- that's the job of the "liberal media." The New York Times and Washington Post both reported that Republicans bowed to public pressure and decided not to go through with the DeLay rule, that would allow an indicted committee head, speaker, etc. to keep his or her post. The GOP enacted this in the mid-90s to sock it to a Democrat. What they didn't really get around to telling you is that the Republicans have simply decided to adopt the same tactic with a lower profile. I've written enough letters for one night. I'll leave these for tomorrow.

Required reading, courtesy of The American Prospect.

HOT Sinclair Action

Sometimes I get so wound up over the day's politics that I forget my primary goal of hosting this blog-- fighting for media accountability. If we don't start seeing objective news, there isn't much hope of winning no matter how good the candidates are, or how vile the GOP platform. So here's more on Sinclair. Hearing that their actions caused Staples to stop advertising, I decided to send my own letter to twelve different companies that advertise with Sinclair. Follow the link to get e-mail addresses of the appropriate people. I contacted Dunkin' Donuts, Domino's, Wal-Mart, Geico, Target, May Dept. Stores (they have about ten different names), Best Buy, Circuit City, General Mills, etc. Naturally, I picked companies that I might actually do some business with. That's the point, right? No sense in mailing someone who isn't in your neighborhood...

Here's the text of my letter (I used my work address and real name-- much better than an anonymous handle). Write your own, and suggest that friends do the same. Sinclair Action has already made a difference. Now let's make a bigger difference.

Having noticed that your corporation provides advertising revenue to Sinclair Broadcasting, I felt compelled to share my opinion with you. Sinclair received national attention during the 2004 election when they ordered all 62 of their member stations to air, uninterrupted, a politicial piece which accused presidential candidate John Kerry of being dishonest and unpatriotic. There would be no airing of opposing viewpoints. After much controversy, and the
threat of litigation by its own stockholders, Sinclair reversed its stance.

However, this is not the only example of Sinclair Broadcasting using its ownership of 62 television stations to further a biased political agenda under the pretense of presenting objective news. The features "The Point" (hosted by Sinclair vice president Mark Hyman) and "Get This" are part of Sinclair's news package. All 62 stations are required to air both segments. The bias of these features has been documented (here, for example:, and
your company's willingness to support the continued use of television airwaves to promote a partisan agenda show an utter lack of appreciation of the American values of an objective press and an informed electorate.

After sending this letter, I intend to forward a copy to over thirty friends and relatives, and to post the letter on my own Internet website. I will ask that anyone who reads the letter avoid doing any business with your company until such time as you demonstrate a willingness to expend your capital in a more ethical manner.

According to the WaPo, 36,200 letters have been sent through the site. I've added twelve to that. Can I hear 50?

Act tonight!

Tomorrow the House and Senate have a chance to make clear that the disenfrachisement of voters in battleground states during the 2004 election is reprehensible.

Unfortuantely, it sounds like the powers that be in the Democratic party are planning on a strategic retreat. Again. It's more than clear that the GOP-- especially now that it controls every branch of the government-- is not going to give an inch when it comes to enacting their reactionary policies. Appeasement isn't an option anymore. Direct and open opposition is the only answer.

Follow the above link TODAY and send an e-mail to select members of Congress letting them know that you want them to start fighting for us. Over one hundred thousand people have sent letters through this site. Join us, and make your voice heard.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Little Strokes....

A victory of sorts for Staples has decided to stop running ads on Sinclair's news shows. Join. Write letters. Donate. It's making a difference.

From the press release:

"Media Matters for America today announced that Staples, Inc. will no longer advertise on local news programming on Sinclair Broadcast Group TV stations nationwide. Citing an effort to be responsive to customer concerns about Sinclair's injection of partisan conservative politics into its nightly newscasts, Staples, Inc. attributed its decision in part to the response the company received from customers visiting the website."

Here's why Sinclair needs to be stopped: (

This ran on Sinclair's 'The Point' segment of their 62 stations' news programs. See if you can smell the bias:
  • [Sinclair vice president and Point host Mark] Hyman endorsed the Bush administration's proposed partial privatization of Social Security, which Democrats oppose, resolving that "Capitol Hill will pass and the President will sign legislation that restructures Social Security that preserves benefits promised to today's seniors and offers investment choices to new workers."
  • Hyman echoed Republican criticism of Medicaid, resolving that its "spending will be brought under control." On December 20, The New York Times reported on the Bush administration's efforts to "curb growth of Medicaid spending," noting: "In a letter to President Bush last week, 47 Democratic senators expressed 'opposition to any Medicaid reform proposal that seeks to impose a cap on federal Medicaid spending in any form or eliminates the fundamental guarantee to Medicaid coverage for our nation's must [sic: most] vulnerable citizens.'"
  • Hyman repeated his attacks on the mainstream media, resolving that "the partisan press will report only facts in the news and keep opinion in the editorial and commentary sections of their papers and newscasts." But he failed to address his own organization's lack of a counterbalance to its conservative commentary segment or the numerous factual inaccuracies that appear frequently in both "The Point" and Sinclair's twice-daily "Get This" news segment, as Media Matters has extensively documented (here, here, here, here, and here). In April 2004, Sinclair's ABC affiliates refused to broadcast an episode of ABC's Nightline in which host Ted Koppel read the names of the 700-plus U.S. soldiers who had died in Iraq up to that point, claiming: "We do not believe political statements should be disguised as news content." But Sinclair sought to disguise its own political views as news content in October when it planned to air a film attacking Senator John Kerry, Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal, and present it as news. Following Media Matters' and other groups' opposition to Sinclair's plans, Sinclair instead aired A POW Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media, a program during which Kerry attackers and the program's host made a number of factually false statements about Kerry, some of which were left uncorrected.
  • Hyman criticized campaign finance reform, resolving that "Washington will come to its senses and rescind the abusive McCain-Feingold legislation because no one should have a gag order placed on them when it comes to political speech." As Media Matters has noted, Hyman has previously used attacks on campaign finance reform as a means for attacking Democrats, referring to the legislation as "McCain-Feingold-Soros legislation" in reference to progressive financier and philanthropist George Soros.
  • Hyman echoed almost verbatim conservative criticisms of the federal tax code, resolving that "America dumps its tax code that punishes entrepreneurship, investment and risk-taking, and replaces it with policies that reward economic growth and savings." A report from the conservative Heritage Foundation titled "Why Congress Should Repeal the Tax Code" argued that the tax code saps "the economy's strength by punishing work, saving, investment, risk-taking, and entrepreneurship."

Should matter, but won't.

We've seen it before. Like the time that scientists (especially Nobel recipients) came out in support of Kerry. Like the time retired military top brass came out in support of Kerry. Now we've got a dozen retired military officials opposing the confirmation of Alberto "Torture Memo" Gonzales. Sadly, the GOP will use the same word they've used the last four years-- obstructionist-- if any Dems mount a fight. Never mind that Repubs blocked tons of Clinton's moderate judicial nominees, and Dems have been (Grrrrr.....) quite pliant in approving W's extremists.

Here's an excerpt from the WaPo story linked to above:

"A dozen high-ranking retired military officers took the unusual step yesterday of signing a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing "deep concern" over the nomination of White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales as attorney general, marking a rare military foray into the debate over a civilian post. The group includes retired Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The officers are one of several groups to separately urge the Senate to sharply question Gonzales during a confirmation hearing Thursday about his role in shaping legal policies on torture and interrogation methods. . . .

The letter signed by the retired officers, compiled by the group Human Rights First and sent to the committee's leadership last night, criticizes Gonzales for his role in reviewing and approving a series of memorandums arguing, among other things, that the United States could lawfully ignore portions of the Geneva Conventions and that some forms of torture "may be justified" in the war on terror. "Today, it is clear that these operations have fostered greater animosity toward the United States, undermined our intelligence gathering efforts and added to the risks facing our troops serving around the world," the officers wrote, referring to the Bush administration's detention and interrogation policies. . . .

In addition to Shalikashvili, other prominent signatories to the letter include retired Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, former chief of the Central Command; former Air Force Chief of Staff Merrill A. McPeak; and Lt. Gen. Claudia J. Kennedy, the Army's first female three-star general."

Monday, January 03, 2005

More "Funny"

Above is a link to Something Awful. I've mentioned them before, and they am funny. They also drew my attention to this site:

Ewwwwwww! Matt Sandwich isn't a fan of hippies. It was all well and good in the sixties, when hippies were doing things like promoting equality, producing bands like Love, and I guess smelling kinda weird. But these days, when 'the scene' is dominated by whippersnappers who are better termed "credit card hippies," "Xippies" (for Generation X hippies), and "Trustifarians," with their hackysacks, tie-dyed togs and well-funded attempts to be countercultural, it's more than a tad silly.

Never fear, though. Plenty of the lonely, patchouli-scented, hearts on this site are just plain old enough to know that things are a little different here in the 21st century. But they're clinging. I know, plenty of aging hippies are out there doing great things to help the poor and disenfranchised. But I don't think they're self-indulgent enough to join this site.

Check in. Have a chuckle and a shudder at the same time. And no, I'm not trying to prove my DLC bona fides. I really do think they're goofy, and I still don't think we need to move to the right.

Editorial on SocSec Privatization

Ahhh, yes. This sort of information doesn't seem to get much attention in "news" stories. The last bastion of hope seems to be coming from a few responsible columnists here and there. Consider this:

"It should come as no shock that individual investors might not do as well as hoped [were Social Security privatized]. The stock market's historical returns - some 7 percent a year - are predicated on a hypothetical investor who bought an array of stocks in the past, reinvested all dividends, never cashed in and never paid commissions or fees. That's not how investing works in the real world. An especially grave danger is that investors would withdraw their funds before retirement, a pattern that is pronounced in 401(k) plans. It would be politically very difficult to refuse people access to accounts that were sold to them on the premise that they - not the government - would own them."

I don't suppose anyone out there has heard the admin suggest the waiving of brokerage fees under this plan. As you can see from earlier posts of mine, countries that have gone the privatization route have found that seniors are losing more to brokers than they are collecting in benefits.....

Required reading, hot off the presses.

God Goes Ga-Ga on Gridiron

The idea of religion in sports (not to mention the Grammies, et al) has bugged me ever since my high school football team prayed before our games. That said, I admired the fact that the coaches who led the prayer never prayed for victory, but for safety, fair play and camaraderie. Still, it seemed odd to think that an omniscient being would be very concerned. Today I ran across an article on that had something to say on the topic. And I think it (unintentionally) points out something that might illuminate the ways in which the left and the right can't seem to find common ground on religion...

"The most common and notorious misrepresentation is that religious players frequently credit the Almighty for their making the big play or winning the game, as if the Christian (and non-Christian) players on the opposing team did not enjoy equal standing before God, and as if the purpose of faith is to get ahead on the scoreboard. Equally troubling is the frequent dissonance between players' religious words and decidedly irreligious behavior. Barry Bonds is a serial sky-pointer and a man who credits God for his tremendous success on the field, yet to many in the public he is considered a steroid-using cheater. The football player recently fined $75,000 for the vicious hit on Green Bay Packers receiver Robert Ferguson is the same Donovin Dariuswho appears in the NFL Network program declaring his commitment to use his football playing to glorify God." - Tom Krattenmaker

You have to have a subscription to read the full article, of course. Anyway, liberals seem to demand a higher level of accountability from openly religious individuals. Righties seem to use religion as a blanket excuse for bad behavior (Swaggart, Baker, Ashcroft, etc).