Tuesday, December 30, 2003

You Have NO Idea What Terrorists Could Do If They Knew The Rainfall in South Dakota 

The FBI is warning police nationwide to be alert for people carrying almanacs, cautioning that the popular reference books covering everything from abbreviations to weather trends could be used for terrorist planning.

In a bulletin sent Christmas Eve to about 18,000 police organizations, the FBI said terrorists may use almanacs "to assist with target selection and pre-operational planning."

Again, A More Realistic Picture Of The Recovery 

Our So-Called Boom

The Republicans are helping to create the biggest class divide in history by rewarding wealth and punishing those who cannot get by. It's that simple. The tax breaks go to those who make the most money and the entire economy is depicted in the cable news channels as if the stock market were its only index.

The point here is that poverty is up. New jobs are disappearing overseas and those who have retail sector employment are getting wages so low they can hardly make ends meet.

Read this in its entirety and understand that unless the boom lifts all boats, it really isn't a boom.

It was a merry Christmas for Sharper Image and Neiman Marcus, which reported big sales increases over last year's holiday season. It was considerably less cheery at Wal-Mart and other low-priced chains. We don't know the final sales figures yet, but it's clear that high-end stores did very well, while stores catering to middle- and low-income families achieved only modest gains.

Based on these reports, you may be tempted to speculate that the economic recovery is an exclusive party, and most people weren't invited. You'd be right.

Commerce Department figures reveal a startling disconnect between overall economic growth, which has been impressive since last spring, and the incomes of a great majority of Americans. In the third quarter of 2003, as everyone knows, real G.D.P. rose at an annual rate of 8.2 percent. But wage and salary income, adjusted for inflation, rose at an annual rate of only 0.8 percent. More recent data don't change the picture: in the six months that ended in November, income from wages rose only 0.65 percent after inflation.

Why aren't workers sharing in the so-called boom? Start with jobs.

Payroll employment began rising in August, but the pace of job growth remains modest, averaging less than 90,000 per month. That's well short of the 225,000 jobs added per month during the Clinton years; it's even below the roughly 150,000 jobs needed to keep up with a growing working-age population.

But if the number of jobs isn't rising much, aren't workers at least earning more? You may have thought so. After all, companies have been able to increase output without hiring more workers, thanks to the rapidly rising output per worker. (Yes, that's a tautology.) Historically, higher productivity has translated into rising wages. But not this time: thanks to a weak labor market, employers have felt no pressure to share productivity gains. Calculations by the Economic Policy Institute show real wages for most workers flat or falling even as the economy expands.

An aside: how weak is the labor market? The measured unemployment rate of 5.9 percent isn't that high by historical standards, but there's something funny about that number. An unusually large number of people have given up looking for work, so they are no longer counted as unemployed, and many of those who say they have jobs seem to be only marginally employed. Such measures as the length of time it takes laid-off workers to get new jobs continue to indicate the worst job market in 20 years.

So if jobs are scarce and wages are flat, who's benefiting from the economy's expansion? The direct gains are going largely to corporate profits, which rose at an annual rate of more than 40 percent in the third quarter. Indirectly, that means that gains are going to stockholders, who are the ultimate owners of corporate profits. (That is, if the gains don't go to self-dealing executives, but let's save that topic for another day.)

Well, so what? Aren't we well on our way toward becoming what the administration and its reliable defenders call an "ownership society," in which everyone shares in stock market gains? Um, no. It's true that slightly more than half of American families participate in the stock market, either directly or through investment accounts. But most families own at most a few thousand dollars' worth of stocks.

A good indicator of the share of increased profits that goes to different income groups is the Congressional Budget Office's estimate of the share of the corporate profits tax that falls, indirectly, on those groups. According to the most recent estimate, only 8 percent of corporate taxes were paid by the poorest 60 percent of families, while 67 percent were paid by the richest 5 percent, and 49 percent by the richest 1 percent. ("Class warfare!" the right shouts.) So a recovery that boosts profits but not wages delivers the bulk of its benefits to a small, affluent minority.

The bottom line, then, is that for most Americans, current economic growth is a form of reality TV, something interesting that is, however, happening to other people. This may change if serious job creation ever kicks in, but it hasn't so far.

The big question is whether a recovery that does so little for most Americans can really be sustained. Can an economy thrive on sales of luxury goods alone? We may soon find out.

Monday, December 29, 2003

It's difficult to feel sympathy for Limbaugh 

Hat Tip Miami Herald

Moral outrage in this case doesn't come easy. Even for a pathetic drug addict hounded by zealots.

Prosecutors have invaded his privacy, snooped around his medical records, trampled the rights of a self-indulgent pill popper like he was the second coming of Pablo Escobar.

Yet, the liberal heart falters.

It would help considerably if Rush hadn't spent the past 15 years railing against lenient treatment for drug-induced miscreants, advocating the very state and federal get-tough legislation that has packed some 300,000 of his fellow nonviolent druggies into federal, state and county jails. The average federal drug conviction now nets 78 months in prison, compared with 30 months for your average manslaughter rap.

Conjuring up sympathy for Rush Limbaugh takes a mighty effort.

''I probably understand as much as anybody how addiction takes place. That it's a medical problem and never should be treated as a criminal-justice problem,'' said Howard Finkelstein, Broward County's chief assistant public defender and someone who, years ago, fought his own addiction.

Finkelstein admitted struggling to come to the defense of ``a sanctimonious son of a b---- who, for years, has been excoriating people who have used drugs. I have to fight my immature, emotional response and forget all the pain he has brought to others.''


But Finkelstein sees the case, at its essence, as a frightening diminution of a basic right. Prosectors were in court last week seeking to bust through doctor-client confidentiality restraints and delve into Limbaugh's medical records.

A Palm Beach County judge said yes. But he gave Limbaugh's lawyers 15 days to persuade an appeals court to keep the records sealed.

Limbaugh, who has yet to be charged with any crime, could be in legal jeopardy on two counts. Prosecutors indicated that they think he hopped from one doctor to the next, illegally obtaining overlapping prescriptions for powerful painkillers such as OxyContin and hydrocodone. Investigators claim he accumulated some 2,000 pills, shopping around for prescriptions among four Palm Beach County doctors.

And the very quantity of the drugs could trigger the legal definition for trafficking in narcotics. It doesn't much matter that Rush Limbaugh is a rich man, living in a $24 million Palm Beach mansion, who likely was squirreling away so many painkillers for utterly selfish reasons. A rich addict would hardly consider selling his treasure trove of precious pills.

But Finkelstein notes that under our draconian drug laws, possession of even a relatively small amount of drugs automatically presumes the holder is a nefarious dealer, out to profit from the drug trade. Never mind that an addict like Limbaugh undoubtedly thinks of the pills, in nearly desperate terms, as his personal stash against the onset of pain or depression.


Limbaugh has admitted his addiction problem on his radio show, but he seems to intimate that a fellow can score 2,000 prescription painkillers without breaking a few laws. It might be easier for us bleeding hearts if Limbaugh would just admit that he has been ensnared in the same unfair, mindless get-tough antidrug legislation that has been used to prosecute hapless addicts for years.

But Limbaugh makes it tough for critics of drug laws to rally to his cause. After Tuesday's hearing, he was back on the radio, complaining to his listeners that he was the victim of Democrats' vindictiveness. Somehow, in his drug-addled mind, Limbaugh imagines that his travails are a reprise of the 2000 election, ''when the Florida Supreme Court decided to change election law in the middle of the process,'' he complained Tuesday. ``All these chads, all these magnifying glasses.''

Poor pathetic, muddled Rush. He can't seem to face up to the unkind reality that got him into all this trouble. It wasn't all those hanging chads. It was all those OxyContins.

More On The Unemployment Figure 

Also from CBS News online

But since the recession began in March 2001, the country has lost 2.35 million payroll jobs.

And in a significant change from past downturns, workers who lost their jobs have stayed unemployed far longer. The proportion of unemployed workers who have been without a job for more than six months hit 24 percent in November, a 20-year high, which Bush's Democratic opponents contend is evidence of the president's mishandling of the economy.

Clearer Unemployment Picture 

From CBS News on line

Yes, this is the true picture, niot the dandy one partrayed by our lazy ass press.

A falling unemployment rate may be spurring President Bush's prospects for reelection, but it is masking millions of Americans who do not have full time jobs, a newspaper reports.

The Los Angeles Times reports that while the nation's unemployment rate of 5.9 percent is relatively low, it fails to include the 4.9 million people who want full-time positions but are working part-time jobs. The figure also omits 1.5 million people who have stopped looking of work.

Taken together, the total number of jobless reaches 15.1 million — or 9.7 percent, up from 9.4 percent a year ago, the Times reports.

Mad Cow Disease, Courtesy, the Republicans. 

Hat Tip Daily Kos

On June 13, 2001, the House Appropriations Committee voted down an amendment by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) that would have provided an additional $50 million for the Food Safety and Inspection Service to increase inspection of imported meat. The amendment was voted down by conservatives. [Source: House Appropriations Vote, 6/13/01]

An amendment by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) in May of 2002 would have provided $35 million "for the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service toincrease protections against foot and mouth and mad cow disease." At the time, Kaptur "said it was a `miracle' the United States had not suffered an outbreak given the problems this year in Europe." Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Henry Bonilla, R-Texas "said there was no need for the amendment " and "the amendment then failed on a 35-27 vote." [Source: Congress Daily, 5/11/02]

"In his bill of particulars, Mr. Obey claims that the administration is standing in the way of hundreds of millions of dollars in added spending, including $239 million to cover expanded FDA inspections of imported food. At present, the United States inspects less than 2% of all imported food. Mr. Obey contends that the extra money would increase the total to 10%. The administration has yet to respond to Mr. Obey's very detailed critique of its spending priorities on homeland security. If the White House believes that his numbers and analysis are wrong, it needs to say so and provide a substantive response to his complaints. If not, the Bush administration needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with more funding for these critical national-security initiatives." The White House objected to the funding, at it was subsequently voted down. [Source: Washington Times editorial, 12/23/02]

Howard Dean and Religion 

"Let's get into a little religion here," Dean said at a morning meeting with voters in response to a question about his beliefs. "Don't you think Jerry Falwell reminds you a lot more of the Pharisees than he does of the teachings of Jesus? And don't you think this campaign ought to be about evicting the money changers from the temple?"


By Walter Cronkite 

Cronkite: The new Inquisition

President Bush's televised answer to the growing concerns of many - including some Republicans - about the powers granted to him in the USA Patriot Act was to ask for even stronger measures, particularly the expanded use of "nonjudicial subpoenas." That means a federal agency such as the FBI can write its own subpoenas to conduct a search - no judges needed.

Unfortunately, security and liberty form a zero-sum equation. The inevitable trade-off: To increase security is to decrease liberty and vice versa. In the past, such trade-offs have been temporary - for the duration of the crisis of the moment. But today, we cannot see an end to the War on Terrorism, and that forces us to decide how secure we have to be and how free we want to be.

By delivering the speech last week himself, Bush added presidential heft to the issue and took some of the heat off of his attorney general, who is seen by many as the heedless champion of security at any price.

In his 2 1/2 years in office, Attorney General John Ashcroft has earned himself a remarkable distinction as the Torquemada of American law. Tomas de Torquemada was the 15th century Dominican friar who became the grand inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. He was largely responsible for its methods, including torture and the burning of heretics - Muslims in particular.

Now, of course, I am not accusing the attorney general of pulling out anyone's fingernails or burning people at the stake (at least I don't know of any such cases). But one does get the sense these days that the old Spaniard's spirit is comfortably at home in Ashcroft's Department of Justice.

The Patriot Act is much in the news, as Ashcroft and his minions seek both to justify its excesses and strengthen them, thus intensifying its dangerous infringements on the Bill of Rights.

There was something almost medieval in the treatment of Muslim suspects in the aftermath of Sept. 11. Many were held incommunicado, without effective counsel and without ever being charged, not for days or weeks, but for months or longer, some under harsh conditions designed for the most dangerous criminals.

It was in the spirit of the Inquisition that the Justice Department announced recently that it would begin gathering data on judges who give sentences lighter than called for by legislative guidelines.

Nothing so clearly evokes Torquemada's spirit as Ashcroft's penchant for overruling U.S. attorneys who have sought lesser penalties in capital cases. The attorney general has done this at least 30 times since he took office, according to the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel. In several cases, Ashcroft actually has overturned plea bargains negotiated by those government prosecutors.

The New York Times editorialized that the attorney general seems to want the death penalty used more often.

Ashcroft is not alone in this. His boss, while governor of Texas, seemed never to have met a death sentence he didn't like. The two of them represent a subdivision of the Republican Party known as the "social conservatives," who often have favored the use of government power to police moral issues they view as modern heresies, such as abortion, homosexuality and obscenity. They contrast with those Republicans who tend to resist such uses of federal power and can generally be counted on to defend individual rights.

What makes this administration's legal bloodthirstiness particularly alarming is the almost religious zeal that seems to drive it. So, what we are seeing now is a confluence of two streams of American thought. One of those streams represents those who believe security must have priority over civil rights. The other stream represents those who believe that civil rights must be preserved even as we prosecute to the hilt the war on terrorism.

Our liberty could drown in the resultant turbulence of these colliding currents.

Walter Cronkite has been a journalist for more than 60 years, including 19 as anchor of the CBS Evening News.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Uh...hey...uh, Rush 

Remember Donovan McNabb, the Eagle's Black quarterback who really wasn't very good? Remember how the NFL only wanted him to be good because they really wanted a good Black quarterback?

Uh..well..uh, his team is now 12 and 4.

Oh well. It's that Liberal media...

Bush’s Gambit 

Perhaps it should be Rove’s Gambit, because it’s a spin problem for certain. It is also a cut and run strategy. Bush doesn’t give a rat’s ass about democracy in Iraq. Bush only cares about being re-elected. So how do we manage the story of the Iraq insurgency so Americans are not dying in the middle of a hard fought presidential campaign? And even if the Dems don’t win, it looks like it will be a tough battle nonetheless. In other words, when can Bush declare, “we won”? My guess is that we could continue to lose two soldiers a day and add ten to the wounded list and most Americans will still be more interested in Paris Hilton’s butt and Michael Jackson’s bedroom. It’s possible that the public will grow tired of hearing bad news from Iraq and will themselves conclude that burning Humvees and suicide bombings will make the ‘liberation’ seem more semantics and philosophy than any real progress.

That said, let’s extrapolate. 2 dead a day X 200 days = 400 more dead since Bush’s carrier landing. So let’s put the total dead at somewhere in between 800 and 900 Americans by next Summer. Where will the press be about this, and where will Americans be? Americans of late have a very short memory and when the insurgency is still going on, and it will continue to boil because it does not run on ammunition, or Baath Party money- it runs on pure anger, how strong will the capture of Saddam be in the minds of Americans? The press also has a short memory and has all but stopped asking where the WMDs are.

For some answers, let’s start with a discussion of what’s on the table now for Iraq? Remember the plans to privatize the Iraqi economy? Well that’s on the backburner. From the Washington Post, have an excerpt and a link:

The United States has backed away from several of its more ambitious initiatives to transform Iraq's economy, political system and security forces as attacks on U.S. troops have escalated and the timetable for ending the civil occupation has accelerated….

….With goodwill toward Americans ebbing fast, Bremer and his lieutenants have also concluded that it does not make sense to cause new social disruptions or antagonize Iraqis allied with the United States. Selling off state-owned factories would lead to thousands of layoffs, which could prompt labor unrest in a countrywhere 60 percent of the population is already unemployed.

Insurgency Forces Bush Agenda To Backburner

If in fact the Bush Administration felt that privatizing the Iraqi economy was the right thing to do for the Iraqi people, and in fact if Bush felt that we would indeed “stay the course, do what’s right,” then why are these agenda items being shoved under the rug? The answer is so obvious it is not even funny. All this huffing and puffing about doing the right thing for the Iraqis and creating a democratic government does not reconcile itself to having a hand-off date by July 1st.

That begs the questions of why there is a hand off date. If the next election were to be held in 2005, there would be no hand off date. Like everything else in this administration’s agenda, it’s all spin and shadows. Everything is about staying in power. So there are no hard decisions. Whatever will help you win the election, whether it’s paying back your contributors or running from the Iraqi theatre, that’s the path most often taken here.

We know that all the things-are-going-great spin doesn’t hold water when Americans continue to lose life and limb, I think it’s fair to say that it won’t be much better when the campaign is really hot.

From MSNBC, Have an excerpt and a link.

The number of U.S. service members killed and wounded in Iraq has more than doubled in the past four months compared with the four months preceding them, according to Pentagon statistics.

From Sept. 1 through Friday, 145 service members were killed in action in Iraq, compared with 65 from May 1 to Aug. 30. The two four-month intervals cover counterinsurgency operations, far costlier than major combat operations, which President Bush declared over on May 1.

Attacks Are Doubling

So what to do?

Well? We could draw troop levels down to 50,000 or so and keep them behind razor wire and walls. That would certainly reduce the number of casualties.

It would also create a vacuum of power that would most certainly be filled by angry Sunnis who don’t want to share rule with Shiites; and hopeful Shiites who want a say so in their own governance, and even maneuvering Kurds who have been looking for a homeland for decades. In other words, like the death of Tito resulted in four major Balkan wars, the removal of Saddam, followed by a removal of US troops is likely to lead to a bloody civil war in Iraq. If that happens, even the Ministry of Oil won’t be safe. We have already seen it start. Sunni assassins are killing Shiite clergymen, and Shiite assassins are killing each other’s mullahs. This is not just the result of insurgents creating chaos, it’s a low level war, barely reported, under the noses of the occupational forces.

My guess is that if we stay at current troop levels, that will be an albatross around the President’s neck. And if we draw down the troops and a bloody civil war results, that will make Mission Accomplished and even bigger embarrassment to the Pres. And if Bushco’s friends couldn’t reap the oil they sought, well….Christ what’s the Republican party minus a few billion dollars?

The only way for this to play into the hands of the President is for the Iraqis to take over and successfully rule themselves and for the deaths of Americans to abate. That might happen. Perhaps with enough spin and a lazy enough press it might seem to have happened.

Let’s visit again next Summer.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Palm Beach County News on Rush 

Boy, even the locals think he is full of shit.

Rush Limbaugh took to the airwaves this week to rail against the Palm Beach County prosecutor’s office for “violating” his rights by seizing his medical records in its investigation of whether he violated state prescription laws. Yes, that’s the same radio host who has staunchly defended the Bush Administration’s Patriot Act, which allows for secretive surveillance of individuals and warrant-less searches of personal records—whether it be an investigation into terrorism or not.
The Patriot Act has been criticized as overreaching and a violation of personal privacy and members of Congress have demanded to know how it’s being used. But Limbaugh doesn’t care when the federal government peers into other people’s windows—he just wants them out of his medicine cabinet. Everyone else in the country can be poked and prodded with no warrant and without their knowledge, but some investigators obtain a warrant for an investigation in the public sphere and Limbaugh is suddenly a crusader for personal liberties—at least his own.
Limbaugh and his attorney called the investigation “a fishing expedition” and accused the state attorney of leaking information about the case to the media as part of some sort of liberal agenda.
“The Democrats in this country still cannot defeat me in the arena of political ideas, and so now they are trying to do so in the court of public opinion and the legal system. I guess it’s payback time,” Limbaugh said on his program.
Does Limbaugh really think liberals control the State Attorney’s Office? That’s as delusional as him saying that quarterback Donovan McNabb (now leading an 11-4 team) was overrated because he is black.
Hey Rush, were liberal’s responsible for that earthquake in California too? Why don’t you stop blaming others and take responsibility for your own actions for once?
And Rush, you might want to reconsider your support for the Florida law that strips voting rights from convicted felons.

24 Coalition Soldiers Killed Since Saddam Hussein Was Captured. 

My fear is the US and it's coalition of the willing, which I think includes Bulgaria and the Seychelle Islands will make the same mistake that the Russians made in Afghanistan. The Islamic insurgents don't care if your national news media reports that everything is getting better and the rebellion is under control. They will keep up the insurgency because they have an endless supply of ammunition with which to fight it: Rage. The more they hate you, the more they will fight you. The more you make arrests and show the film of Saddam, the more his supporters will either participate in attacks on Coalition soldiers or support the attacks. Today's attack that killed four Bulgarians in Karballa and injured two dozen US troops reveals something about guerilla tactics we should certainly know- they are unpredictable. When we are quelling the insurgency in Samarra, they attack in another place. When we add to our prisoner role with nightime raids, they simply recruit angry Islamic youth from another area.

My wife asks me why I support the Israeli soldiers. Because they have nowhere else to live. They are defending their homes.

When the US invades and creates a total mess, that is our fault. We had no right to conflate Iraq with a greater war on terrorism and we had no right to lie to the American people about reasons that led up to the war. The idealistic men and women who bought this shit- and the ones that don't, are paying with life and limb for this debacle. we should get out as soon as possible and stop this wet dream of creating democracy in a place that has never known it, nor really ever asked for it. The neo-cons would be better off if they did not confuse not wanting to live under a dictator with wanting a parlamentary representative government.

I know how to end this line of thinking: enlist every Heritage Council member in the Army, suit them up and send them on patrol. There. they'll learn the different between playing soldier and the reality of invading and occupying.

The capture of Saddam, they tell us, has given us intelligence that will lead to the edn of the insurgency. I am pessimistic about this. The end of this insurgency will only follow the end of this occupation.


Excuse the spelling of the president of Pakistan if it indeed is incorrect. my opinion, of course, is absolutely correct.

There have been two major suicide bombing attacks on Pakistan's pro US President in the last 11 days. This on top of the already tenuous rule he holds over Pakistan's predominantly anti- American pro Islamist population. That's not good news for our 'wah on terrah'. In fact, it punctuates the euphemism for Operation Iraqi Freedom: Operation Kick The Bee Hive. Invading Iraq only made Arabists and Islamic fundamentalist more determined to undermine America and American interests in the region.

If Musharef falls, the war against the Taliban, already going badly, will be worse for us. We have about 20,000 soldiers stretched thin against a taliban Army that has already turned several provinces back to strict sharia and Taliban rule.

What this boiles down to an indictment on the whole Iraq venture. Ahghanistan is where our Army should be, not Iraq.

The Top Eleven Hypocrites of 2003.  

To be re-released and embellished anytime I wish.

Strom Thurmon Here is a man who strived his whole life to keep Black people from voting, sitting at the front of the bus, from using the same restrooms as you and I and having the same services we white people enjoy. Then he committed statutory rape and got a young Black woman pregnant. She was left with few choices, since few choices existed then for women OR Black women. She had and raised her child and he went on like he had never done anything but been a 'law abidin' citzen'. Thurmon was a bigot, plain and simple and the people who supported him and still do are bigots of the worst sort. He received a lifelong moment of grace in a woman and her daughter who refused to expose him. I would say they did us no favors by helping to keep his sin hidden. And he went to his grave without having to face the music.

I don't know if there is a heaven or a hell. I think if there is a God, Strom should be in a place where he has to raise his mixed race daughter in a segregated south.

John Ashcroft. Ashcroft could be the top hypocrite of all times. Any red-blooded American who supports the Patriot Act must hate what America stands for. He wins the top ten nomination just for one point here. In 1998, Ashcroft was on Evans and Novak and demanded that there be an independent counsel to investigate which telephone Al Gore used from the White House to ask for contributions. Yet, when Novak exposed CIA agent Valerie Plame while she was in the field, he then felt that an independent counsel was going too far.

BTW, with the passage of the Patriot Act, hiow hard would it be to find out who called Novak?

William Bennett. Here is a guy who must weigh 500 pounds and lost $8 MILLION IN VEGAS AT A CRAP TABLE. Yet, he lectures Americans about controlling their appetites.

Rush Limbaugh. Here is a guy who said on his own show that the drug problem in America was exacerbated courts are lenient with White defendants. Then he buys narcotic pain relievers in a Denny’s parking lot, putting his own housemaid in danger without all his millions to protect her. He also made a statement that the Constitution does not guarantee a person’s right to privacy. Today he is fuming that his privacy is being violated because the Palm Beach County Police want his medical records.

George W. Bush. First, he sought an appointment to a National Guard Unit to avoid being drafted into Vietnam, and used political connections to get this appointment to the Guard well in advance of thousands of other young men even though he had the lowest possible score you could possibly make before not being allowed to fly. Many of these other young men were drafted and many died in Vietnam. Then he disappeared from his unit with the Texas Air National Guard from November 1972 until October 1973; He also fell 200 hours short of getting his full flight qualifications. Then he sends 130,000 men and women into something he basically avoided: combat.

Dick Cheney. Took the oath of office and then violated it by accepting dividends from his holdings of Halliburton, Bechtel and KB&R. In clear violation of Federal conflict of interest law, Cheney, one of the authors of the war in Iraq then made sure those companies he still partly owns got no bid exclusive development contracts in Iraq. Cheney owns 433,000 thousand shares of Halliburton.

Ann Coulter. This “woman” (I mean, she has an Adam’s apple) says she is into traditional Christian values. But apparently has never heard or read the following excerpts from the Bible: “There but not for the grace of God go I”; “Love thy neighbor”; and “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” She claims to support Christian values but trashes real patriots, gossips, lies, smears, dresses like a three-dollar whore and is rumored to get more ass than a toilet seat

Bill O Reilly. - A) He swears that if WMDs are not found in Iraq, he will denounce the war. Well, no WMDs were found, the inspections are pretty much over and he is pretty much hoping this disappears. B) Let’s not forget that he denounced France for not supporting the war but ordered copious amounts of French wine at dinner. C) He claims to support the First Amendment, except for Al Franken.

Colin Powell. -A brilliant and honorable man who once had the respect of so many, he swore he would never lead us into a war without a clear goal and a clear reasons and a clear exit strategy. Then he drank the cool-aid and read to the UN a plagiarized graduate student’s 10 year old thesis to support the WMD theory, told us that Iraq could deliver WMD in remote controlled Czech and French aircraft. He sold this war along with the rest of the neo-cons and hasn’t the courage to call it what it is: a quagmire.

Robert Novak. He exposed a US agent in the field and hid behind his “Journalists anonymous sources cover”.

Joseph Lieberman. Claims to be a Democrat but voted for the Bush tax cuts, the war in Iraq and the pork barrel Medicare bill.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Even The Wall Street Journal Noticed The Fact Distortion 

From Nick Confessore at the American Prospect

ORWELL WATCH. Once again, the Bush administration is rejiggering official government data to make things look better than they really are. The Wall Street Journal reports:
The Bush administration released a pair of much-awaited reports on the quality of American health care, after extensive revisions that made the findings more upbeat than some experts thought justified.
The two studies, produced by a research arm of the Department of Health and Human Services, went through numerous drafts and were exhaustively reviewed within HHS, officials said.

In several cases, language included in drafts prepared this summer was toned down, emphasizing improvements or challenges rather than problems that afflict the quality of care in public and private health systems in the U.S.

For example, early versions of the National Healthcare Quality report warned that the U.S. health system "is not capable" of preventing or managing diabetes, while the final report said the health system "must respond in order to prevent and manage" the disease. Both versions of the report acknowledged diabetes as a growing problem in the U.S.

The second report, the National Healthcare Disparities Report, was released simultaneously, and dealt with differences in levels of health care according to race, ethnicity and income. Both were requested by Congress for the first time this year and annually thereafter, and were supposed to be delivered by Sept. 30.

Some people familiar with the evolution of the reports say that the office of planning and evaluation within HHS played an active role in making suggestions and editing changes to the report. A spokesman for HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said Monday that, "I don't know how heavy their hand was," but he added that the planning and evaluation office "was involved, as they should be."

Some outside health-care advocates suggested that the two studies were toned down and delayed until after the Medicare overhaul and prescription-drug bill passed Congress for fear Democrats might seize on the reports to press for greater funding for quality initiatives, possibly complicating Republican efforts to pass the bill.

This is a far more serious form of corruption, I think, than most people realize. The Bush administration's systemic distortion of government-produced data undermines the entire policy process and compromises honest debate. If you don't have a handle on what problems exist, you can't have a worthwhile debate about fixing them.
I suppose that for a party which, intellectually at least, doesn't seem to believe that government should be in the business of solving problems, this state of affairs is perfectly acceptable.

More Compassionate Conservatism 

When I grew up in an America with Democrats in power, we were always the first nation to offer aid to those in need.

The US offers no help to the Iranians who may have lost 20,000 people in a devastating earthquake.

No wonder, we don't have the money anymore. We're too busy fucking invading third world countries.

Imagine how far it would go to win hearts and minds to help the Iranians.

19 Dead, Since Saddam Was Captured. 

OK, so we heard that Saddam's capture would take the air out of the insurgency that is killing our men and women. It looks as if the exact opposite is true.

19 US soldiers dead in 12 days and 120 wounded.

As Steve Gilliard puts it, there will be no elections if we cannot provide security. In fact, it is reported in Reuters that an RPG was fired into Green Zone. That is the most highly defended area in Baghdad. An RPG is a relatively short range, high explosive weapon. You COULD fire a mortar into the Green Zone from almost a mile away. But an RPG, fied into the air would have be about a football field or two away.

That's not good.

I don't care how many schools Bechtel paints, that's not a secure area. And all the liberation in the world is no liberation if you are afraid to walk out the house.

This post war Iraq will not play into the hands of Bush. It will be a mess a year from now.

I'm sure the spin machine will be on full RPMs. It will have to be.

The Top Ten Hypocrites of 2003. 

To be re-released anytime I wish.

John Ashcroft. Ashcroft could be the top hypocrite of all times. Any red-blooded American who supports the Patriot Act must hate what America stands for. He wins the top ten nomination just for one point here. In 1998, Ashcroft was on Evans and Novak and demanded that there be an independent counsel to investigate which telephone Al Gore used from the White House to ask for contributions. Yet, when Novak exposed CIA agent Valerie Plame while she was in the field, he then felt that an independent counsel was going too far.

BTW, with the passage of the Patriot Act, hiow hard would it be to find out who called Novak?

William Bennett. Here is a guy who must weigh 500 pounds and lost $8 MILLION IN VEGAS AT A CRAP TABLE. Yet, he lectures Americans about controlling their appetites.

Rush Limbaugh. Here is a guy who said on his own show that the drug problem in America was exacerbated courts are lenient with White defendants. Then he buys narcotic pain relievers in a Denny’s parking lot, putting his own housemaid in danger without all his millions to protect her. He also made a statement that the Constitution does not guarantee a person’s right to privacy. Today he is fuming that his privacy is being violated because the Palm Beach County Police want his medical records.

George W. Bush. First, he sought an appointment to a National Guard Unit to avoid being drafted into Vietnam, and used political connections to get this appointment to the Guard well in advance of thousands of other young men even though he had the lowest possible score you could possibly make before not being allowed to fly. Many of these other young men were drafted and many died in Vietnam. Then he disappeared from his unit with the Texas Air National Guard from November 1972 until October 1973; He also fell 200 hours short of getting his full flight qualifications. Then he sends 130,000 men and women into something he basically avoided: combat.

Dick Cheney. Took the oath of office and then violated it by accepting dividends from his holdings of Halliburton, Bechtel and KB&R. In clear violation of Federal conflict of interest law, Cheney, one of the authors of the war in Iraq then made sure those companies he still partly owns got no bid exclusive development contracts in Iraq. Cheney owns 433,000 thousand shares of Halliburton.

Ann Coulter. This “woman” (I mean, she has an Adam’s apple) says she is into traditional Christian values. But apparently has never heard or read the following excerpts from the Bible: “There but not for the grace of God go I”; “Love thy neighbor”; and “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” She claims to support Christian values but trashes real patriots, gossips, lies, smears, dresses like a three-dollar whore and is rumored to get more ass than a toilet seat

Bill O Reilly. - A) He swears that if WMDs are not found in Iraq, he will denounce the war. Well, no WMDs were found, the inspections are pretty much over and he is pretty much hoping this disappears. B) Let’s not forget that he denounced France for not supporting the war but ordered copious amounts of French wine at dinner. C) He claims to support the First Amendment, except for Al Franken.

Colin Powell. -A brilliant and honorable man who once had the respect of so many, he swore he would never lead us into a war without a clear goal and a clear reasons and a clear exit strategy. Then he drank the cool-aid and read to the UN a plagiarized graduate student’s 10 year old thesis to support the WMD theory, told us that Iraq could deliver WMD in remote controlled Czech and French aircraft. He sold this war along with the rest of the neo-cons and hasn’t the courage to call it what it is: a quagmire.

Robert Novak. He exposed a US agent in the field and hid behind his “Journalists anonymous sources cover”.

Joseph Lieberman. Claims to be a Democrat but voted for the Bush tax cuts, the war in Iraq and the pork barrel Medicare bill.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

No Christmas in Iraq 

Pundits who hang onto a few days of reduced attack levels are left wondering 'what happened?' In the last 36 hours, a string of bombings has left dozens wounded and four more GIs dead. Part of the everything-is-going-great-in-Iraq argument comes from people who live in cushy neighborhoods and watch Faux News and act like they understand insurgencies and terrorism and freedom fighting, because Sean Hannity and Bill O Reilly told them so.

How many times have we been told things are getting better there?

Here are the facts: electrcity, and basic services are still spotty and hardly available.

The Streets are far less safe in Iraq than they were when it was ruled by a horrible dictator.

While the economy is up, the general population is also much more fearful of the future and many women won't even venture out of their homes.

An insurgency has pitted not only militants againts US forces, it has pitted Iraqi vs. Iraqi and a low level civil war between Shias and sunnis may be starting.

While the Iraqis are technically free now, they are also almost wholesale becoming more impoverished. Because the once highly centralized economy will take years to shift to a market based economy, which itself denies the dynamics of an economy that once was based on klan loyalty.

The US troops mostly are guarded and live behind walls and razor wire except when they are on patrol and not a day goes by when dozens of attempts are made on our soldiers.

I only hope somehow Bush loses the election and the next president brings an international presence there and makes that more important than cronyism and oil profits. then, our troops can come home and we can stop paying for their liberation while we become a police state.

Beagle isn't barking 

The Beagle 2 Mars lander has failed to emit a tracking signal after having landed on mars this morning.

My fingers are crossed good Queen.

CalPundit Puts It Perfectly 

Kevin Drum, one of my favorite bloggers puts it perfectly. The neo-cons were cut from the same cloth as the anti-communists of the 60s and 70s. They were single minded trying to stop Communism and ended up enabling another, even greater threat: Islamic Fundamentalism. Instead of making us safer, they have kicked a hornet's nest and justify it with a good vs. evil argument that simply doesn't hold up if you look at the world beyond the story book portrait they have painted.

After all, this is the same group that spent much of the 70s and 80s so intent on interpreting everything as part of a war of civilizations between the West and a resurgent communism that they ignored — or in some cases actively encouraged — the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East. (Remember Afghanistan and Iran-Contra?) The very single-mindedness that neocons are famous for blinded them to the fact that they were contributing to the rise of an even bigger problem, one that had nothing at all to do with communism.

A more expansive approach to the Cold War would almost certainly have worked nearly as well — after all, communism was rotting from within and the Soviet Union was never as strong as the neocons insisted it was — and might have left room for a more democratically inclined Mideast policy as well. But instead of learning this lesson the neocons have simply shifted their familiar monomania to the very fundamentalism they helped midwife into creation. Even the methods are familiar: proxy wars around the world, domino theories, demonization of the left, and an insistence on huge military buildups. The old hatred of Europe is back too, this time even more virulent than before.

Having failed so spectacularly in the 80s to understand the consequences of a single-minded foreign policy, they are now asking us to give them another chance against a different enemy. But wouldn't it be better, instead, to try a cure that hasn't already been proven worse than the disease?

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Merry Christmas, Soldiers. 

Happy, wingnuts?

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Thursday, Dec. 25 — As Iraqis and occupation soldiers began their Christmas celebrations on Wednesday and early Thursday, guerrilla fighters unleashed a string of intense rocket and bomb attacks across the country, killing at least four American soldiers and six Iraqi civilians and wounding dozens of people, military and government officials said.

The Beagle Has Landed 

The British Mars Lander, The Beagle 2, has landed on the surface and is extending its high gain antenae and awaiting a pass from the Mars Global Explorer to send a signal back.

Congratulations Britian.

God save the Queen.

Merry Christmas 

(Kind of funny seeing Merry Christmas from a Jew. But I don't think it matters. Christmas is my favorite holiday. People take the time to give.)

I don't really know who reads this blog- although we have had thousands of page views and thousands more visits.

But I want to say quite sincerely, I hope your holidays are wonderful and I hope God brings you your heart's desire.

You too Trajan.

What’s A Little Pristine Wilderness When You Consider How Much We Need More Developers? 

Fuck the fact that 600 scientific studies supported the No Development clause in the Tongass National Forest.

Fuck the fact that the once bipartisan Congress supported the protection of the forest.

Fuck the fact that this is just another way to get his developer/campaign contributor paid off without allowing the American people a say so in whether they want more golf courses.

Here’s just another reason to vote Democratic this Fall.

Have an excerpt.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 — The Bush administration announced on Tuesday that the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, the largest in the country, would be exempted from a Clinton-era rule, potentially opening up more than half of the 17 million-acre forest for more development and as many as 50 logging projects.

The decision stems from the settlement of a lawsuit between Alaska and the federal government over the so-called roadless rule, which prohibited the building of roads in 58.5 million acres of undeveloped national forest across the country.

Environmental groups attacked the administration for the settlement in July, saying it was an underhanded strategy for circumventing the regulation. Conservation groups said the administration had failed to defend the roadless designation adequately.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Limbaugh’s Foot In His Own Mouth. 

What a fucking hypocrite.

Rush Limbaugh in his own words: “I agree with the view, best articulated by Judge Robert Bork, that there is no basis in the Constitution for the privacy right which was announced as the foundational basis for the constitutional right to abortion. “

Rush Limbaugh in his own words: “There is no right to privacy specifically enumerated in the Constitution. “

Rush Limbaugh in his own words: “It's not up to me to prove my innocence by giving up my right to privacy. I have to give up my right to privacy now in order for the state who is, in effect, just casting a line out there, hoping to net something. They've got to invade my privacy to do this. “

Boy you know Republicans are in power when they threaten The Netherlands. 

Another way to look at this is that the neo cons believe that the United States needs no other nations permission for anything. This has led us into the current quagmire in Iraq. This has offended nations who otherwise might have helped the American taxpayer pay for this debacle. It also shows that Bush and his cronies feel that Americans are above the law.

Have an excerpt and a link.

U.S. officials today sought to allay concerns among Dutch politicians after the Senate approved a measure authorizing use of force if a U.S. citizen is held by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Some Dutch politicians reacted with dismay at the Senate's action to authorize the president to use "all means necessary" on behalf of U.S. detainees…..

…."It will probably not get to the point where the U.S. will actually invade the Netherlands, but it is serious in the way that it is a warning the U.S. under no circumstances wants a trial of U.S. citizens" at the court, said Tom van der Lee, a spokesman for the Green Left party.

linked text

More Corrupt Republicans. (Is that redundant?) 

Yet another right wing media baron has insider conflict of interest ties to top Republicans.

Why is this no surprise? I tell you, the corruption in the Republican party is beyond the pale.

From the master- PAUL KRUGMAN. Have an excerpt and a link.

Last August, in a moment of supreme synergy, Mr. Perle, wearing his defense-insider hat, co-wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed praising the Pentagon's controversial Boeing tanker deal. He didn't disclose Boeing's $2.5 million investment in Trireme. [ ed.-Tireme is Perle’s company]

Sure enough, Hollinger also invested $2.5 million in Trireme, which is advised by Lord Black. In addition, Mr. Perle was paid more than $300,000 a year and received $2 million in bonuses as head of a Hollinger subsidiary. It's good to have friends.

The real surprise, though, is that two prominent journalists, William Buckley and George Will, were also regular paid advisors to Hollinger. Now, I thought there were rules here. First, if you're a full-time journalist, you shouldn't be in that kind of relationship. Second, whoever you are, if you write a favorable article about someone with whom you have a personal or financial connection — like Mr. Perle's piece on the tanker deal or Mr. Will's March column praising Lord Black's wisdom — you disclose that connection. But I guess the old rules no longer apply.

More Conflict Of Interest

Took Long Enough For Someone To Admit. 

Rumsfeld, running a pharmaceutical company in 1984, traveled to Baghdad to make an overture to Saddam Hussein forr the Reagan Administration. This was despite the fact that we knew Hussein used gas on the Kurds.

Here’s what this really means. It means you cannot with a clear conscience call for pre-emptive war and use the gassing of the Kurds to back it, when you knew about it and it never bothered you until you got your Karl Rove talking points. If it didn’t disgust you when you were smiling and shaking his nhand, don’t act like it disgusts you on Meet The Press.

As Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive says : "Shaking hands with dictators today can turn them into Saddams tomorrow." And THAT’S THE FUCKING POINT. All this disingenuous contempt for Saddam’s use of chemical weapons evaporates in the sunshine.

Have an excerpt and a link.

Mr. Rumsfeld, who ran a pharmaceutical company at the time, was tapped by Secretary of State George P. Shultz to reinforce a message that a recent move to condemn Iraq's use of chemical weapons was strictly in principle and that America's priority was to prevent an Iranian victory in the Iran-Iraq war and to improve bilateral ties.

During that war, the United States secretly provided Iraq with combat planning assistance, even after Mr. Hussein's use of chemical weapons was widely known. The highly classified program involved more than 60 officers of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who shared intelligence on Iranian deployments, bomb-damage assessments and other crucial information with Iraq.

The disclosures round out a picture of American outreach to the Iraqi government, even as the United States professed to be neutral in the eight-year war, and suggests a private nonchalance toward Mr. Hussein's use of chemicals in warfare. Mr. Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials have cited Iraq's use of poisonous gas as a main reason for ousting Mr. Hussein.

Rumsfeld turns a blind eye

Monday, December 22, 2003

MAG: Wolfowitz Expected To Leave Administration Sometime In 2004 

Mon Dec 22 2003 12:06:28 ET

TIME mag reports in new editions: "If Rumsfeld is the face, mouth and strong right arm of the war in Iraq, [Deputy Defense Secretary Paul] Wolfowitz -- the intellectual godfather of the war -- is its heart and soul. Whereas Rumsfeld talks about Iraq like a technician, Wolfowitz sounds more like a prophet. Says a close associate of the deputy's: 'Paul asks himself every day how he can limit suffering by toppling another dictator or by helping people to govern themselves.' Rumsfeld offered Wolfowitz his current post with an invitation to serve as his intellectual alter ego, a senior aide says. Their offices are a short walk apart along the Pentagon's E-Ring.

"Wolfowitz frequently slips down a back hallway, peers through a peephole into his boss's suite and, if Rumsfeld is alone, walks right in. ... They talk half a dozen times a day, on matters small and large." Wolfowitz "is more ideological than Rumsfeld, which has suited both men for different reasons. Wolfowitz often ventured way ahead of the rest of the Administration on foreign policy matters over the past two years, and Rumsfeld frequently let him go.

"That allowed Wolfowitz to push the whole Bush team to the right, which also let Rumsfeld align himself with that crowd when it served his purpose to do so." Time adds, "The Rummy and Wolfie show may soon go off the air. It is widely believed in national-security circles that Wolfowitz may leave the Administration sometime in 2004. He has become too controversial for Bush to promote to Defense Secretary; Wolfowitz believed that U.S. troops in Iraq would be greeted with rose petals. He remains unbowed about the postwar effort."


The Queen Goes To Mars 

On Christmas Day the British will attempt to land a probe on the surface of Mars in a plane called Isidis Planitia, in a prolonged experiment that will hopefully reveal clues to whether or not life exists or ever did exist on Mars.

The Beagle 2 landing craft is named after the ship that Charles Darwin traveled on whilst developing evolution theory. The orbiting vehicle, Mars Express, was so named because it was developed faster than any other space craft. The Express will orbit mars and make passes over the high gain antennae of the Beagle 2 and relay experimental data all the way to a receiving station in Perth, Australia.

The landing craft assembly is brilliant. The Beagle 2 will approach the thin Martian atmosphere at approximately 12,000 miles per hour. A chute will deploy and begin to bring the speed down. After a few hours, radar altimeters will find the ground, and begin inflating air bags that surround the craft and will bounce it on the surface. It will then right itself, discard of the bags, and deploy instrumentation such as the high gain antennae, the mole, a device that will burrow in the ground and take samples, and a robot arm that will aid in the experiment.

The craft was launched by the Soyuz 2 which first launched in 1963 and has since sent 1500 payloads into space. The best part, go to the link below and follow the mission.

follow the mission

Dean Was Right. 

Howard Dean has taken plenty of criticism when he mentioned that America was no safer because of the invasion. And now we see that there are major threats against America. Looks like he was correct. There is now a high threat warning of attacks in the US.

Conservatives just don’t understand this. First, you cannot win a war on International Terrorism by invading a country. The fact is there is Arab nationalism. Arabs are angry that we invaded and the more extreme members of those constituencies are only going to come after more vigorously.


Federal officials said yesterday that because fresh intelligence suggests al Qaeda is planning multiple catastrophic terrorist attacks in the United States, they were raising the national threat alert status to "high risk," or code orange, a step administration officials previously had said they were reluctant to take except in the most unusual circumstances.

Some of the worrisome new intelligence indicates al Qaeda operatives are exploring security vulnerabilities on commercial or cargo flights originating overseas and flying into U.S. airports, officials said. It suggests the terrorist network is preoccupied with repeating its Sept. 11, 2001, tactic of hijacking aircraft for use as missiles against U.S. targets, they added.

"The strategic [intelligence] indicators, including al Qaeda's continued desire to carry out attacks against our homeland, are perhaps greater now than at any point since September 11th," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said at an impromptu news conference yesterday. "Information indicates that extremists abroad are anticipating near-term attacks that they believe will rival, or exceed, the attacks in New York [and] at the Pentagon."

Howard Powered 

Frank Rich’s latest columns is an eye-opener. He compares Dean’s success on the internet with FDR’s fireside Chats and Kennedy’s televised campaign debates. This could possibly be one of the best examples of why one should never underestimate an opponent.

Have an excerpt and a link.

…the rise of Howard Dean is not your typical political Cinderella story. The constant comparisons made between him and George McGovern and Barry Goldwater — each of whom rode a wave of anger within his party to his doomed nomination — are facile. Yes, Dr. Dean's followers are angry about his signature issue, the war. Dr. Dean is marginalized in other ways as well: a heretofore obscure governor from a tiny state best known for its left-wing ice cream and gay civil unions, a flip-flopper on some pivotal issues and something of a hothead. This litany of flaws has been repeated at every juncture of the campaign this far, just as it is now. And yet the guy keeps coming back, surprising those in Washington and his own party who misunderstand the phenomenon and dismiss him….

….Should Dr. Dean actually end up running against President Bush next year, an utterly asymmetrical battle will be joined. The Bush-Cheney machine is a centralized hierarchy reflecting its pre-digital C.E.O. ethos (and the political training of Karl Rove); it is accustomed to broadcasting to voters from on high rather than drawing most of its grass-roots power from what bubbles up from insurgents below.

For all sorts of real-world reasons, stretching from Baghdad to Wall Street, Mr. Bush could squish Dr. Dean like a bug next November. But just as anything can happen in politics, anything can happen on the Internet. The music industry thought tough talk, hard-knuckle litigation and lobbying Congress could stop the forces unleashed by Shawn Fanning, the teenager behind Napster. Today the record business is in meltdown, and more Americans use file-sharing software than voted for Mr. Bush in the last presidential election. The luckiest thing that could happen to the Dean campaign is that its opponents remain oblivious to recent digital history and keep focusing on analog analogies to McGovern and Goldwater instead.

Dean’s Internet Strategy

Sunday, December 21, 2003

We Got Him. No, WE got Him. 

Kurds captured saddam

Saddam Hussein was captured by US troops only after he had been taken prisoner by Kurdish forces, drugged and abandoned ready for American soldiers to recover him, a British Sunday newspaper said.

Saddam came into the hands of the Kurdish Patriotic Front after being betrayed to the group by a member of the al-Jabour tribe, whose daughter had been raped by Saddam's son Uday, leading to a blood feud, reported the Sunday Express, which quoted an unnamed senior British military intelligence officer.

The newspaper said the full story of events leading up to the ousted Iraqi president's capture on December 13 near his hometown of Tikrit in northern Iraq, "exposes the version peddled by American spin doctors as incomplete".

A former Iraqi intelligence officer, whom the Express did not name, told the paper that Saddam was held prisoner by a leader of the Kurdish Patriotic Front, which fought alongside US forces during the Iraq war, until he negotiated a deal.

The deal apparently involved the group gaining political advantage in the region.

An unnamed Western intelligence source in the Middle East told the Express: "Saddam was not captured as a result of any American or British intelligence. We knew that someone would eventually take their revenge, it was just a matter of time."

Run for the border 

This was jus posted on Bets of Blog by Groom lake

A couple of days ago I drove a friend who is blind to Mexico to get some dental work done. Post and crown: $180. It was cold that morning; 37 degrees. We stopped in a café in downtown Nogales where we warmed up with platters of machaca, a Sonoran specialty of chopped marinated beef, eggs, chopped green chile and onions, and mugs of Mexican chocolate flavored with almond and cinnamon. Over the meal he told me he had one more duda. He needed to stop at a drug store to cop a stash of generic viagra.

Stateside at major drugstores, football shaped 100mg Viagra tablets retail for about $11.50 a pop at major drug stores (with prescription of course). Otro lado, in the border towns of Mexico, generic sildenafil 100mg tablets (round and lake blue in color) are sold in bottles of ten for $45.00. You don’t need to take the Kaplan SAT brush-up to do the math. With prices like that, all those NASCAR dads who thought Shrubby was cool for pushing his “prescription benefit” Medicare bill through Congress like shit through a goose are going to start to think twice. That vast expanse of America that Jim Baker said only cares about “cheap beer and dollar gas” will cross over and vote for the Dem if they can find a cheaper way to ride their pogo stick all the way to Tulsa…

Joe Lieberman, Please Shut Up. 

Joe Lieberman is probably the worst Democrat in the Senate. He voted for the Bush Tax Cut and he voted for the war in Iraq and he voted for the Medicare Debacle. I don't care if he voted Democratic on every other issue, because on those issues he was a Republican.

Now he is attacking Dean and telling people Dean will drag us down.

Well, Joe, nothing drags a party down worse than when they eat their own children. This infighting is to be expected sometimes, but your all out attacks on the obvious frontrunner also puts you in league with every one else who is attacking Dean: the Republicans. Why don't you do what's best for your party and drop out of the race and put your full support behind Dean? Because you are a sore loser. It's been a bad week for you. You lost Gore's support and were surprised by it. Now the only thing you can think to do is attack Dean.

If you by ANY stretch of the imagination win the nomination, I would vote for you because even you would be a better candidate than Bush. I think if you continue to run you should do one of three things. Attack Bush, not Dean. Don't attack Dean at all. Or step aside and drop out of the race.

Total Casualties: 11000 

The total number of wounded soldiers and medical evacuations from the war in Iraq is nearing 11,000, according to new Pentagon data provided in response to a request from United Press International.

The military has made 8,581 medical evacuations from Operation Iraqi Freedom for non-hostile causes in addition to the 2,273 wounded -- a total of 10,854, according to the new data. The Pentagon says that 457 troops have died.

The Pentagon's casualty update for Operation Iraqi Freedom listed on its Web site, however, does not reflect thousands of the evacuations.

It is a toll the country has not seen since Vietnam, said Aseneth Blackwell, former national president of Gold Star Wives of America, Inc., a support group for people who lose a spouse from war.

11000 casualties

Wesley Clark Has Been There 

"We've got a president who will go halfway around the world for a photo opportunity but won't go halfway across town for a funeral for an American serviceman.

"I've been to those funerals. I've comforted families. ... I don't think you can make good policy at the top if you don't understand the impact at the bottom of your organization."

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Perfect Assessment of US in Iraq 

From the New Yorker

Issue of 2003-12-22 and 29
Posted 2003-12-15
Friday, December 12, 2003

One day late last summer, as the tally of bombings, shootings, and acts of sabotage against the American occupation in Iraq took on the unmistakable profile of a war of guerrilla insurgency, the office of Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, at the Pentagon, designed and distributed e-mail flyers with a cautionary headline: “how to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas.” The e-mail invited those involved in the “wot”—the war on terrorism—to a private screening of the Italian Marxist director Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 masterpiece, “The Battle of Algiers.” The movie, which will be rereleased in theatres next month, is surely the most harrowing, and realistic, political epic ever filmed. It depicts the conflict between Algerian nationalist insurgents and French colonial forces in the late nineteen-fifties, or, as the flyer put it: “Children shoot soldiers at point-blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound familiar?”

For all the differences between France’s fight to keep Algeria—a country it had occupied since 1830—and America’s current dispensation in Iraq, the parallels between the drama of insurgency and counter-insurgency in “The Battle of Algiers” and our present Iraqi predicament are as clear and as depressing as the Pentagon film programmers promised. The ugly truth that Pontecorvo lays vividly bare, as his camera tacks back and forth between the Algerian guerrillas and the French paratroopers, is that terrorism works. For, although the film focusses on a chapter in the Algerian struggle when France succeeded in crushing the rebel movement, the final moments of the movie show how within a few years the French were forced to accept defeat and retreat, an outcome that in retrospect appears historically inevitable.

Such is the bind that the Bush Administration has led us into in Iraq. Appalling, intolerable—in all senses, maddening—as the terrorist tactics of the Iraqi insurgents may be, their truck bombs, donkey-cart missile launchers, and sniper rifles are tactical political instruments that have steadily and systematically succeeded in isolating American forces in Iraq. They have effectively driven the United Nations, the international staff of the Red Cross, and other aid groups from the country, and—more disastrously—they have fostered a mutual sense of alienation between the American forces and the Iraqi people they are supposed to be liberating. Triumphalist pronouncements from Washington notwithstanding, our occupying forces are now clearly on the defensive. And the more aggressive their defense becomes, the more it serves the insurgents’ purposes. When an American adviser in Iraq speaks of a new strategy of “terrorism versus terrorism,” as Seymour M. Hersh reported in these pages last week, and an American lieutenant colonel tells the Times, “With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them,” one may be forgiven for concluding that the enemy is defining the terms of the fight to his advantage.

In “The Battle of Algiers,” there comes a moment when the commander of the French paratroopers, Lieutenant Colonel Mathieu, realizes that, despite a spate of strategic successes against the insurgency, he is losing the larger battle for public opinion. At a press conference, reporters confront him with allegations that his men have tortured Algerian informants. Mathieu reminds the reporters that the press had originally been unanimous in calling for the suppression of the rebellion. “That’s why we were sent here,” he says. “And we’re neither crazy nor sadistic. . . . We are soldiers. Our duty is to win. Since we’re being precise, I’ll now ask you a question. Is France to remain in Algeria? If your answer is still yes, you must accept all the necessary consequences.”

President Bush has consistently assured us that America will “stay the course” in Iraq, but what he means by that—what that course is—is not clear. Just as the official reasons for the war keep shifting, so does the Administration’s proclaimed objective. For now, we are in Iraq because the President and his most influential advisers wanted to go to war there. Having made a misleading case for the war, the Bush team drastically mismanaged the crucial early period of the occupation, and has recently responded to the Iraqi insurgency by scrapping its original plan for political revitalization in favor of a hastier schedule of “Iraqization.” With Bush’s attention turning ever more urgently to holding on to the White House in next year’s election, he is pushing for the election of an Iraqi transitional government by the middle of next year. “We’re going to get out of there as quickly as we can, but not before we finish the mission at hand,” Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, explained the other day.

Unlike the French mission in Algeria, Washington’s goal in Iraq is not to prevent the people from governing their own country but to help them to do so. Presumably, the insurgents—about whose politics, allegiances, organization, and objectives shockingly little is known—also want to see Iraqis in power, if not the same ones that Washington might favor. The question “Is America to remain in Iraq?” would ultimately receive the same negative answer from the occupiers as from the guerrillas. But, as the Bush Administration pushes for speedy elections and a speedy exit, Algeria’s example is again worth bearing in mind. In the early nineties, an Islamic fundamentalist party won elections in that country by a solid majority but was prevented from taking power by the secular military, which refused to accept the democratic election of an anti-democratic government. As a result, the country descended into a civil war that is reported to have claimed a hundred thousand lives.

Right now, there is no Iraqi state and, in the absence of an Iraqi leader, President Bush holds power. Of course, Iraqis won’t get to vote for him when they do eventually go to the polls, and for that, at least, he can be grateful. His apparent impatience to get out of the country suggests that he recognizes how difficult it will be to maintain the claim that he is that country’s liberator even as he serves as Commander-in-Chief of an increasingly relentless counter-insurgency campaign. The President cannot afford to lose Iraq. What is less obvious, with the guerrillas setting the agenda, is what the price would be to win it.

— Philip Gourevitch

Democrats Rap GOP Over Jobless Benefits 

In Weekly Radio Address, Democrats Criticize GOP for Failing to Extend Unemployment Benefits

The Associated Press

BALTIMORE Dec. 20 — Republicans failed to take care of American families by not extending unemployment benefits, Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland said Saturday in the weekly Democratic radio address.
Mikulski stressed the need of benefits for jobless people, saying it is the right thing to do and is good for the economy.

"When you put money in the hands of people who need it, they spend it," she said. "That's what you call an economic stimulus."

She said the American people need to feel the federal government is on their side.

"Federal unemployment assistance is an important bridge to bring them through the hard times helping to pay bills and put food on the table," Mikulski said. "Yet last month, the Republican leadership in Congress failed to extend unemployment benefits."

The GOP-controlled Congress, saying the benefits were not necessary because unemployment is declining, adjourned for the year without approving a new extension of the benefits.

An average 90,000 jobless workers each week who exhaust their state benefits won't get the extra 13 weeks of federal aid that others have received since March 2002, when Congress first approved the help. Most states provide up to 26 weeks of aid to people who lose their jobs.

Mikulski also said the country needs to invest in science, technology, education and infrastructure. And she said the federal government should spend more on education to have "a world-class work force."

Rising stock prices are good news, Mikulski said, but "we need to make sure jobs and family incomes go up with the Dow" Jones average.

well what did you expect?

Federal Judges Just Don't Like Bush 

A federal judge yesterday struck down the Bush administration's decision not to protect Puget Sound orcas under the Endangered Species Act, chastising federal officials for failing to consider the "best available science."

The U.S. District Court ruling was a major victory for environmentalists.

The National Marine Fisheries Service had justified its June 2002 decision by saying that even if orcas that reside in the Sound and nearby waters disappeared, their place could be taken by far-ranging transient orcas that sometimes visit.

The fisheries service's decision rested on the contention that only one species of orcas exists worldwide -- a finding that Judge Robert Lasnik noted dates to 1758 and that modern scientists consider "outdated and inaccurate."

More Prevaricating 

If you thought Ari Fleischer could dance, you ought to see Scott McClellan:

Q Scott, the Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, Governor Kean was quoted today as saying that 9/11 was preventable, that some officials in the government failed to prevent it, and that some of those people who failed are still in positions of authority. Any reaction to that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, I would remind you of something that the President has repeatedly said, the best way to prevent something like September 11th from ever happening again is to take the fight to the terrorists. And that is exactly the kind of decisive action that this President is taking to protect the American people. And as to the specific news report, I did see that, as well. I saw the Chairman's comments, and I would just say that I don't think I quite walked away with the same impression that you did.

Q How so? How so? How do you mean that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that there were some comments made, and then the report may have gone a step further. I'm not going to speak for Chairman Kean, but you might want to ask him.

Q Well, I have talked to his office, and they're saying that he was quoted accurately. But he did say, apparently there's no question about it, he did say it was preventable. He did say, when asked specifically, are there people who failed to prevent it who are still in authority, his answer was, yes, and we'll find out who those people are.

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't seen any further comment from him. But when I looked at his comments, I didn't quite take that same impression. But I would reiterate that the President strongly supports the work of the commission. If there is something that we can learn that can help prevent a terrorist attack like September 11th from happening, we want to know about it. And that is why at the direction of the President, we are working very closely with the commission to help them complete their important work. Both the chairman and co-chairman have publicly applauded the assistance of the White House in helping the commission. So that's where things are. But the commission is continuing to do its work.

Q What's the status of the commission's access to the intelligence briefings that it was seeking? Has that process begun now? Have they --

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, yes. That process began shortly after all the agreements were reached.

Q What impression did you get from what Kean said?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I don't want to speak for Chairman Kean, but I just didn't quite walk away with that same impression that Ken described.

Q Has the commission officially notified the White House of these claims, or are you learning of it just from this --

MR. McCLELLAN: Of which claims?

Q That there were problems and that there are people in place who possibly could have prevented September 11th?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, the commission is continuing to do its work. And it's important that they complete their work. And that's why we're working closely with them, to help them complete their important work. I don't want to do anything that would get in the way of them completing their work. I mean, I think I'll let them describe, in terms of where they are in conducting their work and completing their work.

Q In the cooperation that the White House has shown with the commission, have any of your people found any similar evidence to match what Governor Kean has suggested?

MR. McCLELLAN: Which part of what he suggested?

Q That there were problems that could have possibly been prevented.

MR. McCLELLAN: As we have previously said, there is nothing that we have seen that leads us to believe that September 11th could have been prevented. We previously said that. That still stands.

Technically, Trajan you're wrong 

This is for my partner in the blogging world, Trajan, who posted a comments a few weks ago that technically Bush didn’t say America was in imminent danger of being attacked by Saddam Hussein. And yes, Trajan, you are technically right. Except that when you look at the full court press that members of his administration executed along with the President, it becomes one single message pounded over and over again.

Saddam is developing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and is in cahoots with our terrorist enemies.

Of course, there were a number of reasons the President wanted to go to war. One was WMDs. Then it was resolution 1441. Then it was Saddam is a torturer. Then it was we never ended Gulf War one.

Good for them. Because the WMDs turned out to be bullshit. Not that any journalists in America give a shit.

For a reminder of what the spin machine actually spun, and hat tip to Lunaville, a gentle reminder.

How the United States should react if Iraq acquired WMD. "The first line of defense...should be a clear and classical statement of deterrence—if they do acquire WMD, their weapons will be unusable because any attempt to use them will bring national obliteration."
Condoleeza Rice, US National Security Advisor
January/February 2000 issue of Foreign Affairs

We are greatly concerned about any possible linkup between terrorists and regimes that have or seek weapons of mass destruction...In the case of Saddam Hussein, we've got a dictator who is clearly pursuing and already possesses some of these weapons.. A regime that hates America and everything we stand for must never be permitted to threaten America with weapons of mass destruction.
Dick Cheney, Vice President
Detroit, Fund-Raiser

Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.
Dick Cheney, Vice President
Speech to VFW National Convention

There is already a mountain of evidence that Saddam Hussein is gathering weapons for the purpose of using them. And adding additional information is like adding a foot to Mount Everest.
Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
Response to Question From Press

Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.
George W. Bush, President
Speech to UN General Assembly

Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons. We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons -- the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have
George W. Bush, President
Radio Address

The Iraqi regime . . . possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas.
George W. Bush, President
Cincinnati, Ohio Speech

Iraq could decide on any given day to provide biological or chemical weapons to a terrorist group or to individual terrorists,...The war on terror will not be won until Iraq is completely and verifiably deprived of weapons of mass destruction.
Dick Cheney, Vice President
Denver, Address To Air National Guard

If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.
Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
Press Briefing

We know for a fact that there are weapons there.
Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
Press Briefing

Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.
George W. Bush, President
State of the Union Address

We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more.
Colin Powell, Secretary of State
Remarks to UN Security Council

We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons -- the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have.
George W. Bush, President
Radio Address

In Iraq, a dictator is building and hiding weapons that could enable him to dominate the Middle East and intimidate the civilized world -- and we will not allow it.
George W. Bush, President
Speech to the American Enterprise Institute

If Iraq had disarmed itself, gotten rid of its weapons of mass destruction over the past 12 years, or over the last several months since (UN Resolution) 1441 was enacted, we would not be facing the crisis that we now have before us . . . But the suggestion that we are doing this because we want to go to every country in the Middle East and rearrange all of its pieces is not correct.
Colin Powell, Secretary of State
Interview with Radio France International

So has the strategic decision been made to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction by the leadership in Baghdad? . . . I think our judgment has to be clearly not.
Colin Powell, Secretary of State
Remarks to UN Security Council

Let's talk about the nuclear proposition for a minute. We know that based on intelligence, that [Saddam] has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He's had years to get good at it and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.
Dick Cheney, Vice President
Meet The Press

Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.
George W. Bush, President
Address to the Nation

Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly . . . all this will be made clear in the course of the operation, for whatever duration it takes.
Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
Press Briefing

There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. And . . . as this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them.
General Tommy Franks, Commander in Chief Central Command
Press Conference

One of our top objectives is to find and destroy the WMD. There are a number of sites.
Victoria Clark, Pentagon Spokeswoman
Press Briefing

I have no doubt we're going to find big stores of weapons of mass destruction.
Kenneth Adelman, Defense Policy Board member
Washington Post, p. A27

We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat. Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
ABC Interview

Obviously the administration intends to publicize all the weapons of mass destruction U.S. forces find -- and there will be plenty.
Robert Kagan, Neocon scholar
Washington Post op-ed

I think you have always heard, and you continue to hear from officials, a measure of high confidence that, indeed, the weapons of mass destruction will be found.
Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
Press Briefing

But make no mistake -- as I said earlier -- we have high confidence that they have weapons of mass destruction. That is what this war was about and it is about. And we have high confidence it will be found.
Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
Press Briefing

Were not going to find anything until we find people who tell us where the things are. And we have that very high on our priority list, to find the people who know. And when we do, then well learn precisely where things were and what was done.
Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
Meet the Press

Friday, December 19, 2003


Robert Novak, the columnist who exposed a CIA operative in the field also bears some criticism for the Bush administration. Apparently the next two people who will help run the CPA want the spin and everything-is-beautiful PR stints overwith.

Even the most negative observer concedes that Hussein in captivity devastates the morale of the guerrillas. That transcendent development coincides with the assignment of two new deputies to chief U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer to bring order out of chaos. Really ''winning'' the war in Iraq remains a massive undertaking, but hardheaded officials now regard prospects as better than at any time since President Bush on May 1 declared the collapse of Iraqi military resistance.

The Bush administration has spent a lot of time saying how well things have gone in Iraq, contending the happy truth has been obscured by negative news media coverage. This is privately described by officials as the ''smoke and mirrors'' technique. Nobody has recognized that more clearly than Jerry Bremer. He was not summoned to Washington when he volunteered for a brief visit Nov. 11. He wanted to tell the president personally just how bad things really were in Iraq and, in fact, got a rare one-on-one meeting with Bush.

The inadequate, unrealistic planning for the occupation of Iraq will never be admitted publicly, but it is common knowledge at high levels of the administration. The notion that Iraqi exiles could step in to run the country, pressed on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by his civilian advisory board, was a chimera. Bremer, bearing credentials as an anti-terrorist expert, was brought in May 7 with the U.S. occupation already in disarray.

Paul Krugman Puts It Perfectly 

Mr Krugman knows that Americans really are somewhat troubled by the lies that this war were predicated upon.

from this morning's New York Times:

The war's more idealistic supporters do, I think, feel queasy about all this. That's why they lay so much stress on their hopes for democracy in Iraq. They're not just looking for a happy ending; they're looking for moral redemption for a war fought on false pretenses.

Paris Hilton edges George Bush  

Proof that Americans are either outraged with politics or thoroughly bored with it.

From the Chicago Tribune

Paris Hilton was a bigger television draw than President Bush this week. So, for that matter, was Mark Harmon.

ABC's interview of the president by Diane Sawyer, telecast Tuesday, only two days after the capture of Saddam Hussein was announced, was seen by 11 million people, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Meanwhile, Fox's The Simple Life, with Hilton terrorizing an Arkansas town, was seen by 11.9 million, Nielsen said Thursday. During the half-hour where the two shows competed directly, ABC's Bush interview had 11.3 million viewers.

Meanwhile, the CBS drama Navy NCIS starring Harmon had an audience of 12 million.

Bush can console himself with the knowledge that he was more popular than a Whoopi rerun, which had 7.3 million people watching on NBC.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

The Other Economic Indicators 

Bob Herbert reminds us today that jobless numbers and shareholders dividends and tax returns and stock price are only half the measurement for economic success. I mean, when poverty is up, and homelessness is up, how can we look at 4th Quarter performance and rest assured everything is OK.

This is probably why I feel more like a socialist than a capitalist and more a Democrat than a Republican. Why should a country as rich as America spend money on invading other countries and allow millions of Americans to sleep in the streets? Why are we more concerned with liberating Iraqis than employing Americans? Why are Iraqi schools being painted while American schools closing? Take the X-50A Dragonfly, being developed by DARPA. It is sort of a hybrid airplane and helicopter. The two rotors lift the vehicle vertically and then lock into one piece and become a wing. We have spend $35 billion developing it. No one even knows if it will ever see the light of day. But if it is important to build this weapon to protect Americans why is it not OK to insure Americans?
Surely if we can spend black box money on guns we can spend a little on butter.

The problem is, if you peel away the headlines and look more closely at reality, you'll see some things that aren't so amusing. In New York City, which is just now emerging from the recession, there are more homeless people than at any time since accurate records started being kept in the late 1970's.

Each night more than 39,000 people — nearly 17,000 of them children — seek refuge in the city's shelters. "It's the greatest number of homeless since the Great Depression," said Patrick Markee, a policy analyst with the Coalition for the Homeless.

The faces of the destitute are changing as more and more families with children — in New York and across the nation — find themselves without the money necessary for food or shelter.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors released a report yesterday showing that over the past year hunger and homelessness continued to rise in major American cities. A survey of 25 cities showed an increase of 17 percent in requests for emergency food assistance and an increase of 13 percent in requests for emergency shelter….

….The categories that worsened in the latest index were children in poverty, child abuse, average weekly earnings, affordable housing, health insurance coverage, food stamp coverage, the gap between rich and poor, and out-of-pocket health costs for those over 65.

Two indicators reached their worst levels on record, food stamp coverage (which correlates with increases in hunger) and income inequality.

How The Other half Lives


Lydi Howell from Pulse of the Twin Cities points out that we spent $100 million investigating Whitewater and only $3 million on 9/11

Medicare Bill Could Go From Swan to Albatross 

This is what happens when you push bills through, behind closed doors, and cajole and threaten and bribe. You get a bill that upon closer examination, does not hold up.

From the Washington Post

Even before Bush's ink on the bill was dry, the two political parties prepared to make the issue a focus of the 2004 elections. Bush, who defied conservatives in the Republican Party by backing a massive increase in a federal program long championed by Democrats, heralded the act as a strengthening of "compassionate government." And Democrats, calling the legislation inadequate and harmful to many seniors, drafted substantially more generous prescription coverage and vowed to "take back our Medicare."

A new poll shows public opinion up for grabs on the subject, with large numbers of Americans saying they did not pay attention to the legislation and still had no opinion about it. The Washington Post-ABC News poll also found that a plurality of Americans near or beyond retirement age disapproved of the new law.

When asked whether they approved or disapproved "of the Medicare changes voted on by Congress last month," the public broke roughly into thirds: 38 percent said they disapproved, 32 percent approved, and 30 percent did not yet have an opinion. But these proportions mask real partisan divides on the subject: Republicans with an opinion favor the bill 2 to 1 (49 percent vs. 23
percent), while Democrats oppose it roughly 2 to 1 (52 percent vs. 22 percent). Political independents leaned toward opposition.

Episcopalians Split 

Pittsburgh Bishop Robert W. Duncan announced plans to run a program inside the Episcopalian Chruch that denounces gay marriage. This will no doubt, officially split the church. OK, maybe not officially, but de-facto. It's indeed the same fault line that the Bush Administration continues to hammer away at. This issue will continue to split Americans even further between those who feel that Freedom of Religion means freedom to have it everywhere in our lives and those who think it means Freedom From Religion.

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