Marriage is love.
(And thanks to The Mad Prophet for pointing me to this bit of code.)


Put another Bush on the fire

Tom Toles is simply smoking in the run-up to Election Day:


God save the Queen!

As soon as I finish typing this post, I'm heading out to the back deck to look skyward. I think I might be treated to the sight of a few pigs flying.

According to a report in today's edition of the Guardian, Her Majesty has exercised her constitutional right to warn her prime minister. Not much new there.

But get the topic of the warning:

The Queen has made a rare intervention in world politics to warn Tony Blair of her grave concerns over the White House's stance on global warming.

She is understood to have asked Downing Street to lobby the US after observing the alarming impact of Britain's changing weather on her estates at Balmoral in Scotland and Sandringham in Norfolk. The revelation gives an unusual glimpse into the mind of the monarch, who normally strives to stay above politics.

I think we may safely conclude that the Lying Disaster Monkey is unlikely to be invited to Windsor Castle any time soon. And I wouldn't want to have to be Tony Blair when he delivers the queen's message to Chimpy.



Look at what we've done

This has been an election like no other in my memory. Indeed, I think I can confidently say that even the nuttiest wingnut would agree with me, as would the most extreme liberal, that this election is without precedent in American political history. In many respects, I hope it does not set the precedent for elections to come, though there are a lot of things I'd like to see a lot more of in the future.

One of the more obvious innovations this cycle has been the role of the blogosphere. After the flap over CBS' inaccurate documents, the loss of more than $100 million in share value thanks to an Internet-organized and -promoted boycott of Sinclair and its advertisers, and the last-minute pulling of a Bush campaign ad after it was revealed the images in it had been digitally altered, there can be little doubt that the community of bloggers can be a force that must be reckoned with.

We don't hit it out of the park each and every time, that's true. And most of us (although there are a few who do) don't do our own investigative reporting: we still depend on the traditional media for much of that--and we yell like hell when they fall asleep on the job or fail to show up for it in the first place. But what we can do, and do very well, is spread the stories and generate ideas. If two heads are better than one, then 25,000 heads are better still. There are some truly incredible people on the blogs right now--from every age group, from every racial or ethnic group, from every level of education, sophistication, culture, religious background, and what have you. Together we represent this enormous resource of knowledge and passion that has been missing from our national debate for too long--at least in my estimation.

I remain firmly committed to the belief that, as is graven into the limestone above the main entrance to the Main Library on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, "The hope of democracy depends upon the diffusion of knowledge and wisdom." The more people know, the better choices they can then make--at least if they act upon that knowledge. For too long, politicians of both the right and the left have played upon our fears and our emotions, with no one to say "boo" to them, especially as the news business became more of a business and less an independent investigative force that dared to speak truth to power. I believe I may safely say that those days are now officially over.

Another thing we've done this year is demonstrate the power of the individual, acting in concert. Look at how much money the Kerry/Edwards campaign has been able to raise this year through the internet--and also through the blogs. I would be much happier if presidential campaigns didn't cost half a billion dollars to run, and if anybody who wanted to run got federal funding, a certain amount of free air time, and therefore could not accept campaign donations from anyone. But until we reach that probably utopian plane, I'm happy to know that the Democratic Party has found a way to match--and beat--the corporate money machine that has so long fueled the Republicans. It began with Howard Dean and blossomed from there. It simply amazes me to visit sites like Atrios and Daily Kos (and the Liberal Coalition's very own Dohiyi Mir) and see how much they have raised--most of it in small donations that don't even make a blip on the FEC's radar.

Early indications suggest that this year's turnout is going to be fucking HUGE, and I couldn't be happier about that. Part of it is, of course, the fact that high turnout spells doom for CheneyBushCo. But most of my euphoria at the increased interest in presidential politics is simply that people have woken up to the fact that their votes do matter. I can't remember (and I'm too lazy right now to go do the research to find out) the last president who actually won election with a plurality of the population, as opposed merely to the plurality of those who bothered to haul their asses down to a polling station. It may have been Kennedy. And that's just a crying shame.

Sure, sure. "If God had intended us to vote, we'd have been given candidates!" Welcome to my world, boys and girls. I was a year too young to vote against Ronald Reagan the first time he ran for president; I had to wait until the second time. In the intervening quarter-century, and counting this year, I will have had exactly three chances to vote for a candidate I truly wanted to see elected. That's the way the cookie sometimes crumbles--but it's better to vote than not in my book. I hope the surge we've seen in new voter registrations continues well into the future--and is reflected by a concomitant rise in the number of people voting. If we can only get them out every four years to vote for president, so be it. But I'd be thrilled if we could rouse up a new generation of responsible voters who turned out for each and every election, be it city, state, or federal. There's a lot of crap that goes on in school boards and county boards, city councils and state legislatures, folks. Just because we kick the Shrubbery out of the White House doesn't mean there aren't more dirty pols in need of a swift kick in the pants.

That's another thing I hope to see continuing. A Kerry win on Tuesday is only the beginning of the race. It isn't the end, not by a long shot. In all likelihood, President Kerry will have a Republican-controlled House of Representatives to contend with, and his margin in the Senate is not likely to be veto-proof. There will be plenty more fights to fight on the federal level--to say nothing of the rest of the nation.

We seem to have found our voices, our hearts, and our passion. Now let's keep putting them to good use--both throughout the last two days of this year's election cycle, and well beyond. Eleven-two: that's the day we're taking our country back!


Take me zum Klo

Who knew?

It seems that the tradition of reading on the throne is older than we might have thought. In fact, it's possible that the spark of the Protestant Reformation may have been ignited while Martin Luther sat pensively and fruitlessly upon his commode, which archaeologists recently found.

Apparently Luther famously suffered from constipation (which somehow was never featured in any of the biographies or histories about the man that I've encountered) and spent hours each day upon the seat of ease. No ordinary throne for the reformer, either. It was an advanced model for its day, and was found in a room nine meters (or ca. 30 feet) square, where archaeologists also "found the remains of a floor heating system — an advanced feature that might have made Luther's time in the lavatory a bit more comfortable."

To quote Charlie Pierce on this morning's broadcast of the NPR news quiz "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me," one wonders whether the 95 Theses were nailed to the church door in roll form.



Visualize winning

You have got to see this:

Visualize Winning.

Go, already! Why are you still here?


Signs of the time

As I was driving around town this afternoon, doing errands after work, I caught sight of a couple of very interesting things. The second one, which I'm going to talk about first, was a hawk of an indeterminate variety. It was perched, just as neat as you please and apparently without a care in the world, atop a fire hydrant in what is, at present, still a farm field. Within a few years, it will undoubtedly have sprouted a couple of housing developments, but for now it's at the outer fringe of the city where urban environment blends with rural.

Still, I can't say as I've ever seen a hawk perching in this town before, and I've lived here virtually all of my life. That he did so in broad daylight, just yards from a busy road, made it all the more amazing. I wish I'd had my friend AnnE in the car, because she could have told me exactly what kind of hawk it was, and everything I ever wanted to know about it--without getting any more than the same five-second glimpse I got as I drove on past. I can tell you it was buff-colored with darker brown markings, but that's about it.

The other sight was more mundane, but also one that gives me a little hope as a denizen of a largely Republican county in reliably Democratic Illinois. Earlier in my trek, I was driving down one of the streets that borders the university where I work. As I began pulling closer to the car in front of me, I noticed it was sporting two bumper stickers. The one in the middle of the rear bumper, sadly, was for CheneyBushCo. But, off to the left side (how appropriate), the car was also sporting an "Obama for Senate" sticker. I'm sure that juxtaposition had more to do with the fact that the Maryland Carpetbagger is just a hopeless loser of a candidate. But maybe, just maybe, the occupant/owner of that car can be wooed away from the dark side if we try hard enough.

As the skinny kid with the funny name himself said, it's all about the audacity of hope. Now let's get out there and put that audacity, and that hope, to work electing John Kerry the next president of the United States.

Four more days!


My prediction

Courtesy of Electionatlas.org, the following is my prediction of the outcome of Tuesday's voting:

NOTE: In this image, red=Democratic votes! (That's the way it was set up at the predictor, and I wasn't about to tempt fate by filling in all those Repug numbers just to make them turn blue on my map.)

In short, I'm predicting an electoral landslide for Kerry, anywhere from 328 to 366 votes. I'm giving us West Virginia because I think we can sneak it out with GOTV. I'm hoping we might win Virginia proper as well, but I'm less confident there. New Mexico looks reliably Democrat, and there are good signs coming out of Arizona, too, though there, again, I wouldn't be surprised to see it go the other way. No way Kerry is losing Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, or Minnesota. I'd like to think he can win in Iowa, too, but that might flop the other way. Ohio is ours, and the signs are looking good in Florida. According to this morning's Chicago Tribune, the race in New Hampshire is neck-and-neck, but I'm leaving that one Republican for now. I don't buy the BS polls coming out of Hawaii, so I'm keeping that one in Kerry's column, too. I think we can do it in Colorado--we're almost certainly going to pick up that Senate seat, and I think that might be good enough for a Kerry pickup. If it isn't, well, 9 electoral votes isn't going to hurt us any. I left North Carolina Republican, though we might eke out a win there on the strength of John Edwards' homestate advantage.

Now remember, this isn't going to happen unless we get our butts out there and vote! And push your friends and family members and coworkers and neighbors to do so, too. Here's my handy list of things voters should know (And I'm happy to say it's been linked from Rock the Vote's blog. Wish it were getting more hits, though: This is important shit!)

Four more days! Four more days!



I smell a rat

I happened to catch the tail end of a story on NBC's nightly news program tonight, which I see the Associated Press has also gotten hold of. Seems the FBI has begun an investigation into whether or not the Pentagon improperly awarded billions of dollars' worth of no-bid contracts to Halliburton and its subsidiaries for work in Iraq. NBC promised additional details in its newscast tomorrow night. Yes, that was probably a ploy to get more viewers to tune in tomorrow, but it will also keep this story hot over the weekend and possibly until Election Day itself.

Which is why this story, posted by Agence France Presse just 20 minutes ago, seems a tad, well, fishy. ABC News has gone public (apparently, or so says the WaPo, under pressure from the Shrubbery) with a controversial tape it says it acquired last Friday "from a source known to have Taliban and Al-Qaeda contacts in the tribal region of Pakistan. ABC said it paid the source 500 dollars in transportation fees."

On the tape, which according to a CIA source consulted by ABC bears the hallmarks of other tapes that have come from al Qaeda in the past, a masked man identified as "Azzam the American" speaks in English and threatens a terrorist attack on American soil "at any moment." ABC reports that the neither the FBI nor the CIA has been able to authenticate the tape, however, which was one reason the network had been sitting on it for nearly a full week.

But, bowing to pressure fueled by the Screaming Queen in the fedora, ABC caved and released the tape. Conveniently for the Bushoviki, it did so just in time to scare some of the more credulous of our fellow citizens right before they step into the voting booths on Tuesday.

I was betting against a last-minute heightening of the FearCon level. Now all bets are off. It wouldn't suprrise me, though it would piss me off something fierce, to see No-Neck Ridge come out of his hole tomorrow and jack up the rest of the country to the Bert Ernie level that has dogged New York and Washington for the last month or more. That we happen to be having a presidential election next Tuesday is, of course, sheer coincidence.

I swear, just when you think the bastards in the Shrubbery can't possibly get any lower, they go and prove you wrong in spectacular fashion. Let's kick the bastards out!

Update, 1809, 29.x.04. My bad. It's been so long since I watched Sesame Street that I forgot. Bert is the yellow one, and Ernie's the orange guy.


The Votemaster speaks truth

Riffing on Ellis Henican's column yesterday in Newsday, the Votemaster at Electoral-Vote.com asks a pertinent question which I'm sure we are not alone in wanting to see answered:

...the banks execute millions of ATM transactions every day, giving the customer a printed receipt if requested, and get them all right all the time. Not a margin of 1%, no recounts, but 100% right all the time. Why can't we make a voting system that is 100% right all the time? It would seem to me that the right way to do this would be a touch screen machine that asks the voter to make choices for the various offices in a language chosen by the voter (with audio output if desired), and when all done prints a paper ballot the voter can personally verify and deposit in the ballot box. The computer total would be available instantly after the polls close but in the event of a challenge, these paper ballots could be optically scanned or even hand counted. I can't believe a system like this is infeasible and it would certainly help restore faith in the electoral process.

I would only add to this suggestion that whatever technology is adopted for this voting system, it should not be purchased from any corporation that currently makes voting machines. Nor should any company be allowed to bid on the contract for making the machines if it makes political contributions to any candidate from any party at any level. And one of the bid requirements should be that the successful companies (it shouldn't be just one) must allow open and independent verification of the process at every step--just as manufacturers of slot machines must do if they want their products to be licensed for use in Nevada.

It's that simple. If banks can process our financial transactions accurately and in a timely fashion, and if I can drop a quarter in a Vegas slot machine and have no doubt that it will perform as it is supposed to, then there is absolutely no reason in the world why I shouldn't be able to step up to an electronic voting machine that works accurately 100% of the time, that provides me with a receipt proving that I voted and for whom I cast my votes, and guarantees that my vote will be recorded and counted accurately. Because when you get right down to it, getting the votes right is a hell of a lot more important than making sure the slots don't cheat me.


Ka-ching zing!

Tom Toles is zeroed in on the Shrubbery:



This gun is smoking!

A story in the Independent (UK) reports that "Secret plans for the war in Iraq were passed to British Army chiefs by US defence planners five months before the invasion was launched, a court martial heard yesterday."

It isn't clear from the story what documents the allegation is based on. But if they're genuine, Bush's well-done goose just got burned to a crisp:

Lt Col Warren said US planners had passed on dates for which the invasion was planned. The hearing was told Army chiefs wanted the training for the Army to start at the beginning of December 2002. However, due to "sensitivities" the training was delayed.

The court heard the training for the TA [I believe that's short for Territorial Army--ed.] began two months late and for the regular Army one month late. Lt Col Warren was asked what the sensitivities were. He replied: "Because in December there was a world interest. If the UK had mobilised while all this was going on that would have shown an intent before the political process had been allowed to run its course."

But of course Commander Codpiece did everything in his power to prevent the war. Not!



Let the street rioting commence

I. Have. Officially. Had. It. With. The. Bushoviki.

The BBC reports that a new Florida vote scandal is feared. Seems an investigative reporter obtained a secret document from the Shrubbery's Florida headquarters. According to the lede, it "suggests a plan--possibly in violation of US law--to disrupt voting in the state's African-American voting districts."

CheneyBushCo? Violate the election laws? In Florida? That could never happen, right? Oh, wait. It already did.

Here's more:

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

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

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

We simply have to get these mofos out of office. Yesterday, if possible. If you've got cash you can spare, give to the DNC or to ACT or to Election Protection. If you haven't got money, donate your time if you can. If you can't do either one, then make damn sure you vote next Tuesday, that you know your rights as a voter, and please think good thoughts for the next week.

Every vote cast must be counted, and every Democratic vote must be cast this time. We're mad as hell and we're taking our country back, you fuckers!


Is our children learning?

Not according to Kos, who's just posted an e-mail from the campaign trail in Wisconsin:

A friend with a child in the Richland County,WI high school where George Bush appears today reports the following. Students were told they could not wear any pro-Kerry clothing or buttons or protest in any manner, at the risk of expulsion. After a parent inquired, an alternative activity will be provided, probably a movie being shown in an auditorium. (The school secretary reportedly said that students had the choice of just staying home if they didn't want to attend the Bush rally, but the principal subsequently offered an alternative.)

Funny. Maybe it's just my evil librul Commie fag upbringing coming out in me, but I always had this quaint idea that the purpose of sending children to school was for them to learn things--not to serve as an animated backdrop to a staged campaign event. And what the hell does this restriction--if true, I have to add--teach tomorrow's leaders about the meaning of democracy and how politics works in America? That dissent cannot be tolerated in any form?

I guess now we know what "No Child Left Behind" really means.



The mask is slipping

When you hear Karl Rove's voice on the radio, you know it can't mean anything good. Except that in this case, I think it does--for the Democratic Party and for our next president, John Kerry.

Unca Karl was on NPR this morning, trying to divert attention from the way his boy has been performing lately by making fun of President Clinton, who joined Senator Kerry yesterday for a huge campaign rally in Philadelphia, and other stops. (I'm sure Rove would sell his soul to the Adversary--if he had one left to sell, that is--to get the kind of crowds that turned out to see Kerry and Clinton yesterday, by the way.)

According to this story in the Boston Herald, Rove taunted Kerry "for having to roll Bill Clinton 'off the operating table' onto the campaign trail in order to boost his shaky Democratic base."

"It says they don't have a candidate strong enough to make it on his own," [Rove] said.

But Rove confidently declared conservatives "united, motivated and ready to get out" the vote in swing states.


Rove said Bush's surrogates, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rudy Giuliani, have been working to "expand beyond our base" with independent and swing voters.

Your base hasn't expanded all year, you idiot, and it isn't going to be enough even to allow you to try to steal your second straight presidential election. You couldn't get 100,000 people to show up if you put Ah-nold and Rudy together. And I love how he conveniently forgot to mention that while he was trotting out the "moderates" in an attempt to woo the swing voters with his left hand, his right hand was pulling the strings attached to the national security adviser and the director of homeland security, who are conveniently making "lecture tours" in battleground states. The fact that they're out ratcheting up the FearCon level among the electorate, in precisely the states where Bush seems to be trailing in the polls a week before the election (instead of staying in Washington and doing the jobs that we pay for them to do) is, we are somehow supposed to believe, purely a coincidence.

Yeah, right. That lie and a buck-fifty will get you a ride on Mayor Daley's subway system.

Clinton didn't look as bad as he did when I caught a glimpse of him on the news Sunday night. But he's up and moving around, which is more than I can say about Bush's chances of winning the election next week. And Clinton sure as hell knows a lot more about how hard it is to be president, and what it takes to do the job properly, than Rove ever will. It's perfectly appropriate for him to be doing what he can to help elect our next Democratic president.

(Editor's note: I changed the time-stamp on this post because Blogger seems to think I've now moved to the Eastern time zone.)



"Liberal media" my ass!

I sense a freeping. The Washington Post has announced the results of its contest for "best political blog," and, except in the "Class Clown" category, every winner was a right-wing site. And since I'm not familiar with ScrappleFace, for all I know, that's a wingnut blog as well.

Consider a few of the highlowlights:

  • Most likely to last beyond Election Day: InstaHack (honorable mention: Talking Points Memo)
  • Best international blog: Little Green Snotballs (honorable mention: Oxblog)
  • Best Democratic Party coverage: National Review/The Corner (honorable mention: Daily Kos)
  • Best outside the Beltway: InstaHack again (honorable mention: Eschaton)
  • Most original: Lileks (honorable mention: Little Green Snotballs)

Incredible. Literally in-credible. The day the Corner has better Democratic Party coverage than dKos is the day I quit blogging. And unlike InstaHack, Josh Marshall actually produces original work. Mr. Reynolds only wishes that he could. Lileks, original? Please. And the snotballs at LGF are about as original as Lynne Cheney's lesbian romance novel: in other words, they're cheap, formulaic, boring, forgettable, and ultimately irrelevant.

A pox upon their houses, all.


I have to say it

The irony gods appear to have smiled hugely on Commander Codpiece's failing campaign to hold on to the White House. It's bad enough that the New York Times broke a story today (which was on the web last night) that when U.S. forces invaded Iraq last spring they failed to secure a known cache (380 tons' worth) of super-high explosives that had been known about and tagged by the IAEA for nearly a decade. In a rally this morning in Dover, New Hampshire, our next president slammed Bush for having committed a "great blunder" in Iraq.

I can't help but smile a wry smile when I recall that the facility at which these explosives were stored is named "al Qaqaa." Unless I'm wildly out in left field, that Arabic name would be pronounced "all kaka," which is exactly what the Shrubbery has given us in its Iraqi quagmire--and elsewhere--during the last few years. That's also where I'd rate the Lying Disaster Monkey's chances of winning the 2004 election--kaka.


The Supreme Court just got hugely important

Chief Justice Rehnquist has thyroid cancer. According to a statement just released by the court, Rehnquist is at Bethesda Naval Hospital after undergoing a tracheotomy.



GOP thinking the unthinkable?

Yes, it's from the New York Times. But that is not, in and of itself, sufficient reason to dismiss this piece from their "Week in Review" section. (Though the fact that it drips from the pen of Elisabeth Bumiller is not entirely comforting, given her general level of cluelessness.)

Her starting question is "What happens to the GOP if ...Bush loses on Nov. 2?" She begins by pointing out that the Repugs don't want to talk about that much, but that "the question is already an awful thought not so far back in their minds."

Given the way the race has been going, and given Bumiller's fawning adulation for the Goopers, I suspect the picture may well be darker even than she paints it here. One of her premises begins "Assuming that the [Republican] party hangs on to the Senate..." and concludes that Bill Frist "...would emerge as one of the most important Republicans in the country." I find neither of the counterfactuals in that hypothesis even remotely credible. First and foremost because the chances that the Republicans will hang on to the Senate are minuscule--and growing smaller by the hour. But even assuming, argumentis causa, that the GOP pulls off a minor miracle and hangs on to the Senate I find it difficult to credit that Frist will be any bigger of a cog in the machine than he is now.

Frist has been little better as Senate majority leader than Tom Daschle. There's been a lot of pissing and whining on his watch, but not a lot of legislation. He hasn't been able to keep his dogs on their leashes, and he has a propensity for opening his mouth, inserting both of his feet, and chewing vigorously that is dangerous--if not fatal--in national Republican politics. The real seat of power under the Bushoviki has been in the White House (or the undisclosed locations that have played host to Big Dick, if you want to be technical). Congress has been a mere sideshow. John McCain has been far more visible as a leading Senate Republican than has Bill Frist, and he's generally more credible when he speaks.

But on the central question of whether a loss would shift the party more to the center, Republicans say no. Yes, there would be a huge fight over Iraq. Yes, there would be bigger fault lines between the tax-cutters and deficit hawks. And yes, the party would experience a massive depression as it picked itself up from the loss. But Republicans say that a defeat of Mr. Bush would not usher in a moderate new era.

"I don't think we have to overhaul the Republican party under any circumstance,'' said Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, who is writing a book on America in the 21st century. "We have the governors of the four largest states, we have the House, we have the Senate..."

That last is a pile of steaming Bushit--and just consider the source. Newt Gingrich has zero credibility on the future direction of the Republican Party. He has yet to admit that the so-called "Reagan Revolution" is over, and still thinks that the Contract with on America was a good idea whose time has come.

When Bush loses the election, I think the Republican Party will, indeed, form a circular firing squad and begin to blast away every bit as wildly as they have been blasting Senator Kerry this election cycle--and, I hope, with about as much effect. The longer they are engaged in fighting amongst themselves for the soul and the future of their party, the less time they will have available for making life difficult for President Kerry and his administration.

And what, exactly, does it mean that the GOP has "the governors of the four largest states"? The governors of California and New York certainly have an R after their names, but their policy positions are far closer to those of Senator Kerry than to the current leadership of their party. Both are fiscal conservatives and social moderates who support a woman's right to choose, who support gay rights, and neither one is in thrall to the so-called Christian right.

Moreover, George Pataki in New York seems unlikely to win another term, especially if his opponent is either Eliot Spitzer or Charles Schumer, both of whose names have been bandied about as possible Democratic candidates in opposition to Pataki. It's not clear that the Gropenführer will win another term in California, either, once the novelty wears off and the economy continues to slump. Governor Perry Goodhair in Texas has had a rough patch lately as well. I'm not sure which other state Gingrich had in mind (Alaska would win on area, but either Ohio or Florida could get the nod on population and political importance), but all three governors have had problems to contend with, and none of them has really had any kind of national visibility--or at least none that they wanted.

I find it highly unlikely that the Republicans will retain control of the Senate, and there seems to be at least a reasonable chance that they may lose the House as well. Even if they retain nominal control of the latter body, their margin seems likely to decline, especially if the recent spate of endorsements of Democratic opponents of vulnerable House Republicans leads to a few seats' changing hands.

But let's assume, again argumentis causa, that they do manage to hang on to both houses of Congress. That will not, I believe, be enough to keep them happy and contented after they have lost the p(R)residency. The entire GOP campaign has been built around the idea that keeping Emperor C+ Augustus in the White House is vital to our national security, that his policies are absolutely right for this country (if not divinely inspired), that we have to "stay the course" and should not change horses in mid-Apocalypse.

When those roseate dreams are resoundingly rejected by the American electorate a week from Tuesday, what will the Republican Party have left to stand for? Therein lies the flaw of their electoral strategy. They've left themselves no alternatives in case of a defeat that grows likelier by the hour. Tax cuts? Useless and will be rescinded. Patriot Act? Dangerous overreaction affecting vital civil liberties and will be curtailed if not eliminated. War on Terra? Poorly conceived and even more poorly executed, will be totally revamped. Iraq? Stupid move that left us bogged down in a quagmire that will forever be a blot upon the escutcheon of the Bushoviki. We'll be getting out as quickly as possible consistent with securing our national interests. Axis of Evil? Stupid concept that actually hurt our diplomacy. Junked.

What will be left for the Republicans? "Keeping America safe from the excesses of the Kerry administration"? I'm sure they'll try it, but I'm not sure how effective it will be at firing up the troops. The bigger question is just how effective they will be at the strategy itself, given the likelihood that they will lose the Senate and that their majority in the House is likely to decrease, if in fact it doesn't vanish altogether.

I think Gingrich has his head up his ass if he really believes there isn't going to be a war for the soul (and control) of the Republican Party within a week of George W. Bush's rejection at the polls on November 2. There are already far too many formerly reliable conservatives carping about Bush's irresponsibility on the budget, on national security, on the size of government, on his abandonment of true conservative principles, etc., for me to think that they're simply going to lie back and think of America while the wingnut fringe tries to stick it to them yet again. I hope they won't take it anymore, and I hope they win the fight with the wingnuts. We need a rational opposition party again.



'W' is for Wimp

"If you won't play my game, could'ja at least not embarrass me until after the election?"

I have no proof that Emperor C+ Augustus actually used those words to the Legal Committee of the U.N. General Assembly, which is considering writing a treaty on the question of human cloning. But that's his position in a nutshell.

The Bushoviki want the U.N. to ban cloning for any purpose. Britain, Japan, South Korea, India, Turkey, and other nations are pushing for a treaty that would only ban cloning of human beings for reproductive purposes, leaving open the possibilty of therapeutic cloning. According to the Reuters report I linked to above, support for the Bushoviki's stance is "faltering" in the committee (which writes U.N. treaties), and the Shrubbery is concerned that such a tremendous loss on the international stage right before the election would be a serious embarrassment for the preznit.

Personally, I feel his entire foreign policy since stealing office nearly four years ago is the embarrassment, to say nothing of his idiot war in Iraq. Losing on the cloning treaty (where he doesn't really have a coherent position in the first place) would only be the turd icing on this shitcake. And the extra-large dung-berry on top of the whole putrid mess is the fact that Bush is apparently more concerned about his public face and winning re-(s)election than he is about doing what is right or allowing the United Nations to perform its duties as it was designed to do.

But remember: IOKIYAR. Or not.


Eight Nine things voters should know

The following is adapted from this comment at Daily Kos, which is in turn based on advice given on NPR by Dr. R. Michael Alvarez, Cal-Tech/MIT Voting Technology Project:

  1. If you are newly registered or if you have moved recently, call ahead of Nov. 2 and make sure that you are on the list of registered voters and make sure that you know where you are to vote.
  2. Get a sample ballot. Call your county or state election official to request it. Or, check your state's election website to print one out - especially if your ballot is going to be complex (many referenda) or if you will be using a new voting technology/machine. Study the sample ballot beforehand. Complete the sample ballot with your choices - slowly, quietly and carefully in the privacy of your home or office.
  3. Take your sample ballot with you to the polling place. You may bring it with you. This will help you assure that you are voting for whom/what you think you want to vote.
  4. Do not vote early morning or evening hours at your polling place. Avoid long lines and crowds -- especially in battleground states. Vote mid-day: 10 AM - 4 PM.
  5. Know your rights. Every state is required to provide a list of voter's rights on the sample ballot and at the polling place. If you need help with your voting machine or ballot at your polling place, ask for it You must be given help if you request it. If you have a paper ballot and you make a mistake, call for help immediately from a poll official. You have the right to receive another ballot and to destroy the ballot with the mistake.
  6. If your name is not found on the registered voters list at your poll on Election Day or if anything else comes up that prevents you from being able to step into the voting booth, demand a Provisional Ballot. Demand it! You have this right!!! Your Provisional Ballot may be counted after your registration problem/voter challenge has been cleared up.
  7. Take the time to check your ballot before completing your vote. Give a second reading to your ballot before you cast the ballot. If you spot a mistake, call for a poll official.
  8. Carry this telephone number with you to the polls: (866) OUR-VOTE [(866) 687-8683]. If you have any problems at the polling place, call the Election Protection hotline at (866) 687-8683. Election Protection is a nationwide program to safeguard your right to cast a ballot on Election Day.
  9. Mail or deliver your ballot personally. If you are voting by mail or using an absentee ballot, mail it yourself or hand it in yourself. Don't, under any circumstances, give it to someone else.

Updated to add ninth point.


These people have no shame

Republican officials said they had no intention of disrupting voting but were concerned about the possibility of fraud involving thousands of newly registered Democrats.

"The organized left's efforts to, quote unquote, register voters - I call them ringers - have created these problems," said James P. Trakas, a Republican co-chairman in Cuyahoga County.

That was from this story in today's New York Times on a huge Repug effort to "challenge the qualifications of voters they suspect are not eligible to cast ballots" in Ohio. Their justification? They feel they have to "guard against fraud arising from aggressive moves by the Democrats to register tens of thousands of new voters."

The Repugs have proclaimed their innocence of any attempt to disrupt the voting process or interfering with legitimate voters, but I'm calling Bushit. You don't sign up 3,600 people (at $100 a pop) if you don't plan to get something out of it. And I'd be interested to know exactly how these Repug poll-watchers are going to tell whether or not a given voter is "legitimate." My suspicion is that anyone whose skin isn't white, or who doesn't live in one of the "right" parts of town (or both), is going to find a Repuglican in his/her face at some point along the journey from the car to the voting booth.

And that pisses me off. I think having more voters registered to participate in the democratic process is a wonderful--and a necessary--thing. Of course I want only legitimate voters, legitimately registered in their proper precincts and voting therein, to participate: we do have rules for such things, and we do want to follow them. But the Repuglicans seem to feel that every new voter is illegitimate until proven otherwise. It's as if they feel they are entitled to power and public office, and they feel it's a damn shame they have to actually run in and win elections to get it.

To which I say, "Tough shit, boys. That's how we play our little game in this country." The fact that Republicans are apparently a minority of the American people (and the wingnuts who are running things in the GOP these days represent an even smaller minority) and therefore depend on low voter turnout to remain in office and retain power is just too bad. There is no provision in the Constitution or the United States Code that guarantees them a certain proportion of public offices: if they want to hold them, they'll have to run in elections like everybody else. If they can't convince a majority of those voting in such elections to vote for them, well, it's just too bad.

I have long been embarrassed at the abysmal levels of voter turnout in U.S. elections. I remember corresponding with a Norwegian friend, not long after finishing my library degree nearly 15 years ago. They had just completed a parliamentary election in Norway, and my friend was chagrined that only about two-thirds of the voters had participated. I wrote him back to say that many U.S. politicians would sell their mothers into slavery and their souls to the Adversary to guarantee a 66% voter turnout. I can't even remember the last election when we had participation anywhere near that level.

Voting is one of our most basic civil rights, and I simply can't understand the fussy, whiny excuses many people give for not bothering to register, much less actually exercise their franchise. It takes a minimum of effort to register to vote, and once one is registered, it takes even less effort to maintain the registration. The county clerk or other responsible official will even do most of that work for the voter, for crying out loud!

As far as voting is concerned, polling places are usually located within reasonable proximity to one's home, and are required by law to be open long enough so that anybody who wishes to do so may vote there on election day. It is not, regrettably, a federal requirement, but many states require employers to allow their employees reasonable time off work to vote if they need it. And if for whatever reason one cannot make it to the polls on Election Day proper, one can always request an absentee ballot and vote that way. Some states ofer a vote-by-mail option. Come on, people, we're bending over backwards to make this happen--won't you play along?

Although it reminds me a little of Saki's story Hermann the Irascible: The Story of the Great Weep, I confess I am beginning to find the Australian electoral model more and more attractive. To quote from the Australian Electoral Commission:

Enrolment on the Commonwealth Electoral Roll has been compulsory since 1911. Eligible citizens include all Australians citizens who are 18 years of age or over. There are some exceptions, for example in relation to some prisoners, and people of unsound mind. Anyone who fails to enrol may be punished on conviction by a fine of up to $50 (section 101).


Voting at federal elections has been compulsory since 1924 for all citizens on the Commonwealth Electoral Roll. Anyone who is unable to provide a valid and sufficient reason to the Divisional Returning Officer for failure to vote at a federal election may be required to pay an administrative penalty of $20 (section 245).

If an elector who has failed to vote refuses to pay the $20 administrative penalty, then the matter may be referred to a Magistrates Court, where a fine of $50 plus costs may be ordered on conviction. Anyone who chooses not to pay the court-ordered fine will be dealt with by the Court accordingly, and this may involve community service orders, seizure of goods, or one or two days in jail. The penalty in such circumstances will be a decision for the local Magistrates Court and not the Australian Electoral Commission.

"But there's no one I want to vote for!" I hear you cry. Tough beans. I'm sure, regrettably, that there will almost always be someone you want to vote against. Certainly that has almost always been my motivation for dragging my butt out of bed early on Election Days past, to get to the polls before I go to work. In a perfect world we wouldn't have to cast protest votes, or hold our noses and vote for someone we really don't like--but whose opponent we like even less. Welcome to the real world, and the real world of American politics in particular.

Fundamentally, our votes are our one real chance to affect the course of our nation and its policies. Most of us will never in our lifetimes win federal elective office, or even have the opportunity to try. Most of us don't have the kind of clout, money, or both, that would cause such an official to seek us out and ask our advice or our opinions. All we have is that precious right to step into a private booth and mark our ballots in the way that seems best to us, consulting whatever sources of information and inspiration we feel to be appropriate. If you can't be bothered to make that minimal effort to exercise a right that thousands of men and women have suffered and died to guarantee, well, then, I happen to think you should also lose your right to criticize or complain about the government and the policies that result.

Don't like the government we have? Then vote to throw the bums out. Don't like the candidates on the ballot? Then write in one of your choice. But don't throw away your chance to be heard. Don't stay home out of spite or despair or frustration. Get out and vote!



The bronze rat

A bit of election-home-stretch humor, offered to lighten the spirits and refresh the energy as we work our way to taking our country back on 11/2.

A tourist walks into a Chinese curio shop in San Francisco.

While looking around at the exotic merchandise, he notices a very lifelike, life-sized, bronze statue of a rat. It has no price tag, but is incredibly striking. The tourist decides he must have it. He takes it to the old shop owner and asks, "How much for the bronze rat?"

"Ahhh, you have chosen wisely! It is $12 for the rat, $100 for the story," says the wise old man.

The tourist quickly pulls out twelve dollars. "I'll just take the rat, you can keep the story."

As he walks down the street carrying his bronze rat, the tourist notices that a couple of real rats have crawled out of the alleys and sewers and begin following him down the street. This is a bit disconcerting so he begins walking faster.

A couple blocks later he looks behind him and sees to his horror the herd of rats behind him has grown to hundreds, and they're all squealing. Sweating now, the tourist trots toward the bay. Again, after a couple blocks, he looks around only to discover that the rats now number in the millions, and are squealing and coming toward him faster and faster.

Terrified, he runs to the edge of the bay and throws the bronze rat as far as he can into it. Amazingly, the millions of rats jump into the bay after the bronze rat, and all are drowned.

The man walks back to the curio shop.

"Ahhh," says the owner, "You come back for story?"

"No," says the man, "I came back to see if you had any bronze Republicans!"

(No actual rats--or Republicans--were harmed in the telling of this joke or the creation of this post.)


Get out there and do it!

I am waiving my copyright on the following image. Please feel free to post it on your blog or other web page (but please don't link to it here: download it and store it on your own server!), print it out and use it as a flyer, put it on a T-shirt, or what have you. Spread it far and wide. All I ask if you do use it is an acknowledgement of where you found it, and that you go to the polls and vote on November 2.

The idea came to me last night. A local business owner is a collector of World War II posters, and he's showing a selection from his collection at a local gallery. One of them, which I'd never seen before (and which he said was the only one he'd ever seen of its type), featured an arm giving the Nazi salute, with a swastika on the palm. Rendered in an eerie, glowing green (think of every cheesy horror movie you've ever seen), the type said "We salute your absence. Absence makes the fight go longer."

That got me thinking. What you see above is the result. Use it in good health, and remember: 11/2 is the day we take our country back!



Tom Toles hits it out of the park. Again:



The Rude Pundit strikes a chord today:

Yesterday, the Rude Pundit was talking to a group of people, as he does from time to time in his Clark Kent guise, and one was a large, beefy young man with a buzz cut hair-do and camouflage pants. The Rude Pundit asked if he was in the military. "No," the young man answered (let's call him "Rob," for the sake of clarity). "But my brother's a Marine and he's gettin' sent to Fallujah the day after tomorrow."

"What's Fallujah?" asked a stupid person in the group.

The Rude Pundit answered, "Imagine the most fucked-up, violent place on earth. Now bomb the shit out of it." Rob hung in there for a few minutes, tears streaming down his face, until he finally walked away and into the light rain that was falling.

After a moment, the Rude Pundit turned away from the group and headed over to Rob, sitting on a bench, his head down, sobbing. "When did you find out?" he asked Rob.

"Just a couple of days ago." Rob paused for a minute, staring at his big hands, just trying to stop his large frame from shaking from the wracking tears. "I don't know what I'll do if I lose my brother. I don't know what I'll do." Rob talked about how his brother was in an accident at the base a few months ago and nearly died, but he was patched up "with 500 stitches" and was now ready to head to Fallujah with his unit to prepare for the great and grand invasion that we've all been promised after the election. "I don't know what I'd do without my brother. I'm sorry. I don't wanna talk about this anymore."

The Rude Pundit had no words of wisdom, no way to say to Rob how fucked up the world is right now. Rob knew that. Rob didn't give a shit about politics, Kerry, Bush, or Saddam. Rob only knew that his brother was being sent to die for a cause that provided no comfort whatsoever. These were not the cries of someone who was proud of what his brother was doing, someone who believed in the rightness of the mission. It was simply the cry of someone who has learned that he has no control over circumstances, over who says how his brother lives and dies.

The Rude Pundit did exactly what he should have done, ineffective though it probably was--on both sides. "Rob" was likely not significantly comforted by it, and the Rude Pundit clearly feels powerless in the face of "Rob's" grief. But that's the sucky thing about being human. We don't have a magic wand that can wave away the terror that strikes us when we realize something really bad is coming down the pike and there's not a damn thing we can do to stop it in time. The best thing we can do is to stay around and help pick up the pieces afterward, and display a little simple human kindness.

As I was reading the Rude One's post, I developed an "ear worm," the tune to a hauntingly beautiful hymn by renowned Celtic composer Fr. Liam Lawton. (You can hear a snippet of it here--it's track 2 on the album.) It's probably going to stay with me all day, especially since it's grey and damp outside, and doubly so because I have a funeral to attend this evening, for the mother of an old family friend.

Fr. Lawton's refrain asks a couple of questions that I'm sure "Rob" would like to have answered in the affirmative:

Who will come and share my sorrow,
Hold my heart 'til wake tomorrow?
Is there time that I could borrow?
Oh, oh, the silence and the sorrow.

Would that it were so, "Rob." My thoughts and prayers are with you and with your brother. God grant that he--and all our men and women in uniform in that hellish quagmire--can come home safely, quickly, and in peace.



We've got a two-fer!

Boy, I can hardly wait to see what the poll numbers look like a week from now, after this little tidbit from tomorrow's New York Times has had a chance to percolate through the blogosphere, the mainstream media, and around a few office water coolers:

U.S. Has Contingency Plans for a Draft of Medical Workers


WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 - The Selective Service has been updating its contingency plans for a draft of doctors, nurses and other health care workers in case of a national emergency that overwhelms the military's medical corps.

In a confidential report this summer, a contractor hired by the agency described how such a draft might work, how to secure compliance and how to mold public opinion and communicate with health care professionals, whose lives could be disrupted.

On the one hand, the report said, the Selective Service System should establish contacts in advance with medical societies, hospitals, schools of medicine and nursing, managed care organizations, rural health care providers and the editors of medical journals and trade publications.

On the other hand, it said, such contacts must be limited, low key and discreet because "overtures from Selective Service to the medical community will be seen as precursors to a draft," and that could alarm the public.

In this election year, the report said, "very few ideas or activities are viewed without some degree of cynicism."

You think?

Call it selfish, but I tend to react with cynicism when some numb-nuts not only plunges us headlong into a useless and unnecessary war, runs up a huge debt in so doing, and so completely screws up our military that he has to send the one elite training unit we have left over to get shot at, bombed, and otherwise destroyed. That he is also screwing over our nation's medical system by letting monied special interests run rampant, while he obligingly blocks anything that even remotely resembles real progress, does nothing to lessen that cynicism.

And now, on top of all those other screwups, he's having his military planners planning to "[deliver] about 36,000 health care specialists to the Defense Department if and when a special skills draft were activated." It just boggles the mind.

As Senator our next President, John Kerry, remarked today in Florida:

George Bush’s answer to our health care problems is to tell the American people: stop whining.


My friends, when it comes to health care, George Bush just doesn’t get it. And if there was any doubt before, his response to the shortage of flu vaccines put it to rest. With senior citizens standing in line for hours and mothers frantic about how to protect their children, the President gave the public his solution: don’t get a flu shot. And just today we learned that a town in New Jersey is being forced to use a lottery system to decide who will get a flu shot. So now, George Bush is telling us you have to get lucky to get health care.

Ladies and Gentlemen, here’s the Bush Health Care Plan: Don’t get a flu shot, don’t import less expensive drugs, don’t negotiate for lower prices, and most of all, don’t get sick.

We can now add to that last clause "Don't expect there to be doctors and nurses around to take care of you if George Bush's faith-based health care plan fails you."

It was only a few months ago that I listened in stunned silence to a report on NPR about the critical shortage of nurses in California--to such an extent that if you had an R.N. and were willing to relocate to one of the shortage areas and work the hard-to-fill shift slots, they were offering things usually only associated with professional sports contracts: signing bonuses, company cars, free health insurance (not that it's likely to do them any good now, of course), triple overtime for holiday work, houses and apartments....The list just went on and on.

And CheneyBushCo really thinks they're going to be able to attract medical personnel to the military with "bonus pay and other incentives"? Any doctor (and probably any nurse, medical technician, radiologist, lab worker, or what have you) in private practice could probably make five to six times what the military can afford to pay her, even with "bonus pay and other incentives" thrown in--and they don't usually have to get shot at to collect their paychecks.

And that's going to be a significant factor in the equation, given the age range we're talking about. The plan calls for 3.4 million "male and female health care workers ages 18 to 44" to "register with the Selective Service."

On average, a doctor is around 26 years old by the time she's finished with medical school. There are then several more years (typically a minimum of four, but often more, particularly in the demanding specialties that the military is likely to need, like surgery) of internships and residencies to get through before the candidate is ready to take the examinations necessary for board certification in a specialty or hang up a shingle and go into private practice on his own. By the time that blessed day arrives, there's almost always a mountain of debt--probably in excess of $100,000--to be paid off, just from the tuition and fees required to get all that quality education. That doesn't even address the costs of buying equipment, renting an office, hiring support staff, and attracting a patient base.

So why does the Shrubbery think that our young doctors are going to be happy about being sucked into the quagmire that is Iraq? They'll be ripped out of their homes and away from their families (just like everyone else in uniform), at a time when they have huge bills to pay and probably not a great deal of income. Whatever income they do have will see a significant decline when they exchange their civvies for government issue and a government paycheck. They aren't likely to get the latest medical journals while they're in a war zone, so assuming they do make it back alive, they're going to be behind everyone else in just the kinds of skills they need to remain competitive in their highly competitive and rapidly changing field of expertise.

But never mind. Paging the Selective Service!

And meanwhile, what are those of us back at home doing for health care? Can we look forward to lotteries and rationing systems (above and beyond those we already have in place, in the form of copayments, insurance deductibles and premiums, and the like) for not just flu shots but routine doctor's visits?

Methinks my nose detects the unsubtle stench of burning toast on the wind. And unless mine eyes deceive me, the name burnt into that toast reads "George W. Bush."

Let's give him his two weeks' notice, shall we?


(Didn't Know I Was) Unamerican

True Majority has a bitchin' flash movie of Ian Rhett's song of the same name up. Go have a look, tell a few friends, and then get your butts back out there and show Georgie the door in 15 days.

Seriously. What are you still doing here?


Vulture culture redux

In one of those ironic twists in the fabric of space-time, I happened to be listening to the Alan Parsons Project's 1985 cut Vulture Culture when I clicked onto Ezra's latest at Pandagon. As everyone knows who's been paying attention, for most American workers, wages have been stagnant--or on the decline--for years.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the opposite is true if you're a member of the CEO/investor class:

If ordinary workers' annual pay had risen at the same rate as CEO pay since 1990, a report by the Institute for Policy Studies points out, they would be making $75,338 today—instead of the $26,899 they are taking home. Adjusted for inflation, that's only marginally more than what they made in 1980.

...According to the Congressional Budget Office, between 1979 and 1997 the richest 1% of American families--those who had an annual income of at least $677,900 in '97--saw their incomes more than double. But for families in the middle, income grew by only 10%. For the lowest 20%, it actually fell. That helps explain why the number of Americans living below the poverty line swelled by more than 1 million last year.

"Living off the fat of the land," indeed. Methinks 'tis time they started sharing a little of that wealth with the rest of us.

I don't think we should be ripping up the streets to form barricades, unfurling red banners, and learning the words to the "Internationale." But I do think that perhaps the executives--and the stockholders--should learn to make do with a little less. If they were willing to drop their profit levels from the obscene to the merely greedy, they could afford to pay their workers something at least a little closer to a living wage, they could cover health care costs for every worker, and offer pension plans that had a realistic chance of providing a secure future after the working life is over--especially important if something isn't done about Social Security in the next few years.

But as long as executive pay and incentives are tied to the stock price, the executives are going to do whatever it takes to keep that price on the rise--even if it means cutting quality, outsourcing jobs, cutting benefits, or raising prices. Or some combination of all of the above, which seems to be the latest option.

The problem isn't entirely with the execs, however. They're answerable to the shareholders, which in this day and age is virtually everybody. And shareholders all seem to think that stock prices can just keep going up and up and up, exactly like they did in the 1990s. As long as they continue to be able to buy low and sell high, and those dividend checks come rolling in, they aren't going to be too finicky, I suspect, about whatever the corporate honchos decide to do--even if they're metaphorically cutting their own throats in the process.

Let's face it, folks. Capitalism may be the best of the economic systems we know, but it is far from perfect. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and you can't have stock prices that rise infinitely. There has to be a balance point. I would like it if we could find what we in chemistry call a "triple point," where all three phases of matter (solid, liquid, and gas) can coexist in a thermodynamic equilibrium.

In economic terms, that would mean, roughly, that the interests of workers, stockholders, and corporate executives were all equally sustainable, and where a rise in one parameter would be balanced in the other two. It's obvious that all three parameters cannot be continuously on the rise (that's uncontrolled reaction, not equilibrium), but I'd settle for a steady-state condition where wild fluctuations in any of the parameters was dampened by the other two factors and everybody could at least live on what they were taking home, reasonable profits could still be made, and the investors would get a fair and reasonable profit on their investment.

Sounds like economic justice to me. I just don't see any way of getting there if we keep the same vulture culture of rapacious profit-seeking that characterizes American capitalism à la CheneyBushCo.



The goose may just have laid the golden gaffe of this election. No, I'm not talking about Mary Cheney or anything related to her.

Seems that CheneyBushCo have been using the song "Rock And Roll Part 2" at campaign rallies and events for weeks. The song was allegedly chosen, according to spokesman Danny Diaz, because it pumps up the CheneyBushCo faithful:

The campaign chooses music that creates the right mood for its events. The choice of music is pretty consistent. It's music that speaks to the vast majority of people.

Hold that thought. Because I rather doubt that "the vast majority of people" would want that tune to "speak to" them, knowing that it's the signature tune of Brit-pop star Gary Glitter--who was convicted, in 1999, of possession of literally thousands of pieces of violent child pornography. (Scroll down almost to the end for the information; I tried the link to the Industry Standard, but it isn't working.) Some of the 4,000 images found on his computer's hard drive included the brutal rape of boys and girls as young as 2 years old.

Predictably, the response from the Shrubbery when informed of the gaffe was "We didn't know." Except that they did, because the same thing happened in 2000. In fact, the latest flap occurred exactly four years after the first one: October 13, 2000.


Now let's hope the last vestiges of CheneyBushCo in public life fade a hell of a lot faster than Gary Glitter ever did.


A big headache in Texas

In what can only be described as a significant blow to an already-reeling Tom DeLay, the Supreme Court today refused to rubber-stamp the DeLay-approved, DeLay-engineered redistricting gerrymandering of Texas electoral districts.

You may remember the drama from last year when most of the Democratic contingent of the Texas legislature decamped to neighboring states to deny the required quorum to conduct business when Governor Perry Goodhair twice called them into special session with the sole intent of passing this gerrymandering plan. You may also remember the flap when Tom DeLay asked some of his good buddies in the federal government for help in tracking down the missing Texas state legislators, the better to force through his gerrymandering plan, in an attempt to make the Texas delegation to the United States Congress even redder than it already is.

No word on how they're going to handle un-gerrymandering things in time for the election we're fixin' to have in about two weeks' time...



Please tell me this is an elaborate hoax

The Chicago Tribune has, predictably, endorsed Dumbyanocchio for president. As Mustang Bobby remarked, this is hardly an earth-shattering revelation. Had the Trib endorsed Kerry, "Col. McCormick would have risen out of his grave to wreak havoc over downtown Chicago."

Looking at the actual endorsement, however, I am put more in mind of a brilliant satire that might grace the pages of The Onion than the normally staid and conservative prose that is the usual product of the Tribune's editorial board. In fact, if we were in the custom of holding our elections on April 15 instead of paying taxes that day, I might suspect today's endorsement of being a wry April Fool's joke. Consider the following:

This year, each of us has the privilege of choosing between two major-party candidates whose integrity, intentions and abilities are exemplary.

I would never dream of using the word "integrity" in any sentence referring to George W. Bush--unless it were qualified by a strong negative. To call his intentions or his abilities "exemplary" suggests to me either a significantly diminished mental capacity or an utter lack of attention to events on the world stage and here at home over the last four years--either of which is enormously troubling to find in the editorial board of a major newspaper.

There is much the current president could have done differently over the last four years. There are lessons he needs to have learned. And there are reasons--apart from the global perils likely to dominate the next presidency--to recommend either of these two good candidates.

But for his resoluteness on the defining challenge of our age--a resoluteness John Kerry has not been able to demonstrate--the Chicago Tribune urges the re-election of George W. Bush as president of the United States.

Resolution is normally a good quality in a leader. But what Bush has displayed since he came back from his summer vacation in 2001 has not been resolution, it has been bullheaded, blinkered tunnel vision. Any thinking person, and certainly any leader worthy of re-(s)election, does not plunge headlong down a path that has repeatedly proven to be the wrong course: s/he recognizes that circumstances have changed, and changes direction accordingly. This is a skill that Commander Codpiece has apparently never learned--and one of the main reasons that millions of furious voters have for wanting to toss his sorry ass out of the White House. For the Tribune to fail to recognize this salient fact is, again, deeply troubling.

Bush, his critics say, displays an arrogance that turns friends into foes. Spurned at the United Nations by "Old Europe"--France, Germany, Russia--he was too long in admitting he wanted their help in a war. He needs to acknowledge that his country's future interests are best served by fixing frayed friendships. And if re-elected, he needs to accomplish that goal.

But that is not the whole story. Consider:

Bush has nurtured newer alliances with many nations such as Poland, Romania and Ukraine (combined population, close to 110 million) that want more than to be America's friends: Having seized their liberty from tyrants, they are determined now to be on the right side of history.

Kerry is an internationalist, a man of conspicuous intellect. He is a keen student of world affairs and their impact at home.

But that is not the whole story. Consider:

On the most crucial issue of our time, Kerry has serially dodged for political advantage. Through much of the 2004 election cycle, he used his status as a war hero as an excuse not to have a coherent position on America's national security. Even now, when Kerry grasps a microphone, it can be difficult to fathom who is speaking--the war hero, or the anti-war hero.

Yes, Bush has "reached out," if you can call it that, to nations such as Poland. But he has not succeeded in keeping them on our side. Even as I type this, Poland is planning to pull its troops out of Iraq. And Bush has also reached out to nations that we really have no business being in business with. Leaving aside the obvious elephant in the room (the Saudis), we are yet again propping up tinpot dictators in several of the former Soviet republics, feeding their paranoia and aiding their despotic rule in return for concessions such as basing rights, oil and natural gas leases, and pipeline routes. Bush's "with us or agin' us" strategy has gotten us entangled with régimes every bit as illegitimate as his own, and from whose clutches we will escape only with difficulty.

And if the Tribune is going to castigate anybody for "serially [dodging] for political advantage," they had better start with their man Shrub. When he was campaigning in 2000, Bush asserted that he did not want the United States to be adventuring abroad and getting entangled in nation-building. That changed quickly once he was in office. In the aftermath of the terror attacks, Bush opposed the creation of an independent commission to investigate them, until that stance proved politically costly. He subsequently flip-flopped on allowing his handler-minions to appear before the commission once it was established, and on whether and how he and his puppet-meister would appear as well. Bush also opposed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (which Kerry favored, by the way), until he changed his mind and supported it--and then tried to use it as a vehicle to bust a few government unions along the way.

George W. Bush is, in my estimation, a dangerous, if not lunatic then certainly monomaniac. His belief that he has been appointed by God to lead this nation is troubling at best and delusional at worst. His régime's denigration of what they call the "reality-based community" (about which I blogged yesterday) is not only disquieting but potentially ruinous. His deep and abiding willingness to do anything to anything in order to get or retain power borders on the criminal. His multitudinous connections to monied special interests have had a disturbing and detrimental effect on our nation's public policy. Several members of his cabinet, and of the Republican leadership in Congress, are under federal and/or international investigation for high crimes and misdemeanours for which they should, if found guilty, be liable to be impeached.

In short, there is no good reason to return George W. Bush to the White House for another four years. If we were lucky, such a reckless course of action would only result in four more years of the same kind of malaise and malapropisms that we have seen in the four years since the Shrubbery stole power via the Supreme Court. But the next four years could look a hell of a lot worse than the last four did, especially considering what is at stake.

Kerry is the only way. Fortunately, a majority of the American people already seem convinced of that fact.



This is troubling

In a piece appearing in tomorrow's New York Times Magazine, Ron Suskind profiles the preznit thus:

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

So if people like us are in the "reality-based community," where does that put the Shrubbery? In Fantasyland? And what are they basing their decisions on--decisions which affect not just 225 million Americans but the whole world with its nearly 7 billion people--if it isn't empirically based reality? And most troubling of all, when did we become an empire, and who the hell made the decision? I sure don't remember voting on amending the Constitution to permit the establishment of a monarchy.

I'll give the spokesman for the Shrubbery this much. We do indeed create reality by the choices we make. Not to say that we can bring about world peace simply by thinking it so, but we absolutely interact with the world around us and the other people in it, and the choices we make obviously affect that external reality.

What worries me is that the last remaining superpower is being run, de facto if not de jure, by leaders who not only do not base their policy decisions consistently on the empirical facts on the ground, but denigrate those who do. George W. Bush and his handler-minions have every right as private citizens to believe as they see fit. But under our system of government, they do not have the right to impose their beliefs on the rest of us, or to base public policy on a private revelation.


Will he, or won't he?

Commander Codpiece made another strategic blunder on the campaign trail in Florida today. After warning the media to expect some "new language" in the stump speech, the Dipshit-in-Chief had a little trouble remembering the message he was supposed to stay on:

"Our all-volunteer army will remain an all-volunteer army," Bush began, to cheers from supporters here in Florida, the richest prize among the dozen or so states up for grabs in the November 2 election.

"My opponent seems to be willing to say almost anything he thinks will benefit him politically," he said. "After standing on the stage, after the debates, I made it very plain we will not have an all-volunteer army."

"And yet this week..." he continued, before suddenly realizing the gaffe and shouting: "We will have an all-volunteer army."

Pot, meet kettle. For Bush to castigate anyone for changing positions in response to the shifting winds of politics is like asking Jack the Ripper to take out your appendix.

My suspicion is that this was just another one of Bush's catastrophically successful gaffes. I don't think he has any plans to reintroduce the draft--yet. But bitter experience has taught me that Bush is perfectly capable of reversing course flip-flopping at the drop of a hat if one of his core goals is threatened. If he manages to win steal the 2004 election, and if the Iraq war nightmare takes another turn for the worst, I don't think Bush (or the rest of the Shrubbery) would hesitate for as long as a nanosecond before ordering up a draft to get the troops they needed to work their evil ways. Same thing if they decide it's time to invade liberate another member of the Axis of Evil.

Wait a minute. We want to re-(s)elect this boob why?


This is happening way too often

First the Mars Climate Orbiter (lost because engineers on the project forgot to convert from English units to SI). Then the Mars Polar Lander (lost when a bum sensor caused its descent motor to cut out too soon). And now the Genesis Project capsule (lost, apparently, because engineering drawings were done backwards, resulting in a misplacement of the switches that controlled the opening of the capsule's parachutes).

What do all these NASA failures have in common? They were all associated with Lockheed Martin Astronautics.

I'm sorry, and I hate to see people lose jobs in this economy, but as the saying goes, once is chance; twice is coincidence; three times is conspiracy. I'm not suggesting that Lockheed Martin is deliberately sabotaging NASA projects that it works on. But I do think perhaps this is an instance--when hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are involved--when baseball's "three strikes and you're out" rule should apply.

Lockheed Martin has flubbed three consecutive projects for NASA. Given how tight their budget is, do they really want to keep spending money with a company whose employees apparently went to the George W. Bush School of Engineering, with post-graduate work at the Wrong-Way Corrigan College of Design?

On the other hand, perhaps they could get jobs with Bush/Cheney 2004? I think I'd like that outcome quite a lot.




Checking my site statistics, I see I've been getting tons of traffic from a link in this dKos diary, where the commenter thought highly of my post from last night about the difference between the Bush and Kerry healthcare plans.

Even nicer was this link from the official Kerry-Edwards blog. The commenter there liked my post from this morning on the latest stupid quote from Dumb-ya.

And to think I was happy just because (a) it's Friday, and (b) I've made my flight reservations for my research trip to France in January. I think some wine and celebration is called for!


If it weren't so serious, this would be a real howler

Listening to NPR's "Morning Edition" as I got ready for work this morning, I caught a snippet from one of Commander Codpiece's campaign rallies yesterday. (Note to NPR: Where the hell is that audio file?) Fortunately for me, I had just finished brushing my teeth, or else I'd have had to spend some time cleaning toothpaste off the mirror.

I couldn't find the audio file on NPR's site, but it appears the line that had me sputtering over the sink is a regular part of the Dipshit-in-Chief's stump speech. The Arizona Republic also quoted the line, back in September:

If America shows uncertainty and weakness in this decade, the world will drift toward tragedy. This will not happen on my watch.

At least in the sound byte I heard on NPR, there was not the slightest trace of irony in Bush's voice as he pronounced those words. From that I can only conclude either that the man has no moral compass whatsoever apart from winning this election by any means necessary, or else that he is completely out of touch with reality. It could be both.

Note to Bush: the world doesn't need to "drift toward tragedy." It's already sitting smack in the middle of it, and it has been for at least the last three years, thanks in large part to your policies, your actions, your stupidity, your short-sightedness, and your rhetoric. It's already happened on your watch, you moron! That's but one of the myriad of reasons we want your sorry ass out of Washington.

We want to deracinate the Shrubbery that never met a war it didn't like, that talks blithely about spreading freedom and democracy around the world even as it does everything within its considerable power to suppress it here at home. We want to boot out a man who claimed he wanted to be a "uniter, not a divider," but who has presided over--and relished doing so--the greatest polarization of the body politic (and the institutions of our government) in our nation's history. We want to demote a commander-in-chief who yammers on and on about how he makes us safer when he fell asleep at the switch while on vacation and 3,000 of our people died in a single day. Since that time, his martial blunderings have cost us more than a thousand dead soldiers, thousands more wounded, tens of thousands of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan--and there are now more terrorists fighting against us than there were four years ago, and more joining the jihad every day.

You are a walking disaster area, Dumbya. You yourself accurately described your watch as a series of "catastrophic successes," the likes of which this nation has never seen before--and I fervently pray we will never see again. We don't want you, or your brand of "leadership." It's literally killing us.



I thought that number sounded odd

At one point in last night's debate debacle, Emperor C+ Augustus was ragging on Senator Kerry's proposed healthcare plan, saying that it would cost the government $7,700 per family. "If every family in America signed up, like the senator suggested," Bush said, "it would cost us $5 trillion over 10 years."

No sooner had those words left Bush's mouth than I was screaming at the TV set, "Yeah? And what are we paying NOW, asshole?" I went looking for some figures, but couldn't find anything in the amount of time I was willing to spend on it. (I didn't want to miss too much of the debate, especially if Chimpy made an election-ending gaffe.)

Thanks to Atrios, I've got that number now. The Congressional Budget Office put 2002 healthcare costs at $5,450 per person. Multiplying that by the Census Bureau's latest projection of the U.S. population (294,517,604) and then by 10, I come up with a total cost of more than $16 trillion over 10 years.

In other words, the system we have now costs us, on average, three times as much as the system that Senator Kerry is proposing. And we wanted to keep the status quo why?

Sure, there would likely be some changes made in the system. But I'm not convinced they're necessarily bad ones. Something else that Chimpy was blathering about last night was the rising cost of medical care. He kept talking about all these doctors having to practice "defensive medicine," by which he meant ordering needless tests just to ward off the possibility of lawsuits. His solution: capping damage awards in malpractice suits and making it harder for ordinary citizens to sue for negligence.

But wouldn't it make more sense to cut out some of the parasitic middlemen who have been taking profit from both suppliers and consumers first? And I don't know about you, my legions of faithful readers, but I'd be willing to forego the opportunity to get a PET scan of my brain on demand, if it meant that I could get one with no hassles whenever I actually needed one.

Case in point: About a year ago, I was diagnosed with a herniated disc in my cervical spine. The orthopedic surgeon to whom I was referred made the diagnosis on the basis of my history, a physical exam, and an X-ray that had been taken when I came in to the urgent care clinic a week earlier, thinking I had just pulled a muscle. He discussed the diagnosis with me and told me I had three treatment options:

  1. I could start a brief course of physical therapy;
  2. I could undergo an MRI to confirm the diagnosis and then start the physical therapy; or
  3. If neither #1 or #2 worked out, we might have to try steroid injections.

He gave me the option. My insurance plan would have covered the cost of the MRI if he had ordered it, at no cost to me. But I told him I didn't see any point in ordering an $800 test if the treatment course was going to be same regardless of what the test showed. Had the problem not resolved by the end of the six weeks of therapy (it did, by the way; my left arm is as good as new), or had the clinical picture changed in any way, hell, yes, I'd have gone back to the doctor and said, "Let's do the test and see what's really going on in there." That's just common sense, at least to me: simply because the technology is available and the insurance will cover it is not a good enough reason to do a test.

And I like my insurance. It's a PPO plan with a local clinic. I pay a ridiculously low premium every month, and the State of Illinois picks up the difference between that premium and the cost of the plan. In return, as long as I stay in-network, I can see a doctor for $10. If I need a prescription, my co-pay is $5 for generics on the approved list, and slightly higher for name-brand drugs. My annual physical (when I get one) is free, as are any immunizations I need. They paid 100% of the cost for six weeks of physical therapy (3x/week for four weeks, and 2x/week thereafter, after I'd seen my doctor for a follow-up)--which came if memory serves, to around $100 per visit. Yes, I have to pick a primary physician. And yes, I have to stay in-network. But my main provider is a clinic practice, and I can see any of the docs there at need. I can also go in to the urgent care clinic and bypass my primary physician if I feel I need treatment before I could get a regular appointment. I consider that a small price to pay for a reasonably priced plan that lets me do whatever I need to take care of my health, and at minimal cost to me--and to my insurer, my employer, and, ultimately, the taxpaying citizens of Illinois, including me.

So sign me up for John Kerry's health care plan, at least if it looks like the one I've got now. It can't be any worse, it might be better, and it's probably cheaper for all concerned. Sounds good to me!



Kerry goes 3-for-3

Bush was never even in this one. We got to see all of the faces of Dumbyanocchio tonight: Furious George, Incurious George, Medicated George, Absent George. And most importantly, Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire George. Bush had no coherent answers, when he bothered to answer questions at all. He kept trotting out the same old tired tags: "tax-and-spend Massachusetts liberal," "no record," "global test," blah, blah, blah.

Kerry's gaining in the polls. That's going to continue. CheneyBushCo is going to go into full attack mode, and it's only going to backfire on them.

Sing it with me now, me hearties: Bush is toast! Bush is toast! Bush is toast!

There. That was your last break for the next three weeks. We've got to get our asses out there and fight like hell, because this one's for all the marbles. The Shrubbery and their pals in the RNC are going to throw everything at us they can get their hands on. This time they haven't even waited for the voting to start to try to interfere with the democratic process, and we have to do everything we can to stop that shit before it gets started.

If you have money that you can spare and you're not maxed out on contributions, donate to the candidate of your choice. If you have time, volunteer for the campaign, or to be an election judge, or a vote watcher. If you can, help contact people on Election Day and remind them to vote, or help take them to the polls.

We ARE going to win this thing. But that doesn't mean we can sit back on our laurels and wait for it to happen on its own. Give these assholes an inch, and they'll take a country. Not gonna happen on our watch, right?

We're mad as hell, and we're taking our fucking country back!


Kerry should move to the edge of the stage

Because I think Georgie is skirting perilously close to blasphemy of the sort that used to call down lightning bolts from on high. He stood there, with a reasonably straight face, and asserted that it was just such a great thing that you could be an American whether you worshiped "an Almighty" or not. So when the fuck was he planning on telling that to the people in his party, who think it's just fine and dandy to make Muslims listen to Christian prayers in our public schools, and some of whom have explicitly advocated the restriction of citizenship and civil rights to those who are believing Christians?

And the lies just keep on coming. Bush baldly asserted that veterans were getting great health care under his régime. Somebody apparently forgot to tell the veterans:

FACT: Veterans of Foreign Wars assailed the president’s 2005 budget, saying, "This deplorable budget will do nothing to alleviate the many thousands of veterans who are waiting six months or more for basic health care appointments with VA...This is inexcusable.” [Veterans of Foreign Wars, 2/2/04]

FACT: According to leading veterans’ organizations, President Bush’s 2005 budget shortchanged veterans health-care facilities by $2.9 billion. [National Priorities Project, May 2004]

FACT: President Bush’s 2005 budget would increase prescription drug co-pays from $7 to $15 for many veterans.” In 2002, the co-pay more than tripled, jumping from $2 to $7.” [Sources: Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/7/04; WP, 2/19/03]

(Thanks to the Center for American Progress)

Same thing on Dumbyanocchio's claim that most of his tax cuts went to the middle class:

In 2004, Top One Percent Will Receive Average Tax Cut Of $35,000; Middle Class Will Receive Average Tax Cut Of $647. The benefits of Bush’s tax cuts primarily benefit the rich. The top one percent of households will receive tax cuts averaging almost $35,000--or 54 times more than middle-class families. Households with incomes above $1 million will receive tax cuts averaging about $123,600. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4/14/04]

George Bush's Plan Shifts the Tax Burden to the Middle Class. In contrast, under the Bush plan the "Tax Burden Shifts to the Middle" according to a Washington Post headline, and "middle America - average annual income $75,600 - saw its share of the federal tax burden increase from 18.7 percent to 19.5 percent." In addition, George Bush has imposed a tax of thousands of dollars on families through higher costs for health care, gasoline, college tuition, and state and local taxes. [Washington Post, 8/13/04]


Flip. Flop. Flunk.

Bush is trying to paint Kerry as weak on the use of force because he voted against Gulf I. Quoth Dumbya, "There apparently is no test that will pass in his vision of the world."

So how do you explain the fact that, as you yourself have hammered home in the past as evidence of Senator Kerry's "flip-flopping," he voted for the authorization to use force in Iraq last year? Ooops.

And Bush totally evaded the question as to why he failed to push for a renewal of the assault-weapons ban. Bush's excuse: "The Republicans and Democrats in Congress weren't going to move on the bill." Given that Schieffer asked why Bush hadn't pushed for the bill to be renewed, that's not exactly a responsive answer.


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