Hearing about some acts of bravery really makes me feel small. Like early this afternoon, for example. While I was slaving away for the man in my little cubicle, a 58 year old local mother of young soldier who was killed in Iraq in February, disrupted a Laura Bush rally in Hamilton, NJ, not more than 10 minutes from my office.
Sue Niederer, mother of 24 year old Army 1st Lt. Seth Dvorin and member of the anti-war group Military Families Speak Out, stood up today in the middle of the speech to demand of Mrs. Bush an answer as to why her son had to die. Wearing a shirt that said, "President Bush You Killed My Son," Niederer was quickly shouted down by the right-wing crowd with a coordinated chant of "four more years" -- now the standard Bush rally answer to any protest.
Niederer was arrested outside of the firehall where the speech was taking place, but later released. We should all have that kind of guts.
Getting away from the personal aspect of the story for a minute, let me just remark that the now-standard "four more years" chant of the Bush supporters is really starting to give me the creeps. It's not the sentiment, because I can understand that. It's the coordination of the chant that really makes my skin crawl and its implication as a direct response to the charges being leveled by the protesters.
Think about it this way...
My son died in Iraq! Four More Years!!!
Four more years of kids dying in Iraq?
Fight AIDS, not war! Four More Years!!!
Four more years of people dying of AIDS?
Bush lied, people died! Four More Years!!!
Four more years of Bush lying? Or perhaps people dying?
You can see where I'm going with this. It's all very creepy, and -- dare I drop the F-bomb? -- kinda... well... circa 1930s Germany, if you catch my drift. When confronted with the harshest reality, the Bush crowd do the grownup equivalent of plugging their fingers in their ears and shouting, 'la la la, I can't hear you, la la la'. When confronted with the worst failures of the administration, these people demand more of it!
These are some seriously scary times we're living in.
posted by Scott |
| Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Finally, some of that bipartisan, DC unity Bush has been promising us since some time in mid-1999!
Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee agree: Bush done messed up.
"It's beyond pitiful, it's beyond embarrassing, it's now in the zone of dangerous," said Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., referring to figures showing only about 6 percent of the reconstruction money approved by Congress last year has been spent.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said circumstances in Iraq have changed since last year. "It's important that you have some flexibility."
But Hagel said the shift in funds "does not add up in my opinion to a pretty picture, to a picture that shows that we're winning. But it does add up to this: an acknowledgment that we are in deep trouble."
...the criticism from the panel's top Republicans had an extra sting coming less than seven weeks before the presidential election in which President Bush's handling of the war is a top issue.
"Our committee heard blindly optimistic people from the administration prior to the war and people outside the administration — what I call the 'dancing in the street crowd,' that we just simply will be greeted with open arms," Lugar said. "The nonsense of all of that is apparent. The lack of planning is apparent."
He said the need to shift the reconstruction funds was clear in July, but the administration was slow to make the request.
"This is an extraordinary, ineffective administrative procedure. It is exasperating from anybody looking at this from any vantage point," he said.
Memos or no memos, Purple Hearts or no medals at all, when you get through the smoke and right down to the nitty-gritty of this political season, one thing is clear to everyone with an ounce of common sense: Team W deserves to be fired.
posted by Scott |
I've got this working theory that people previously thought of as a-political, non-political, or just ambiguously political are going to start taking up sides in the Presidential race. It was confirmed a bit yesterday when the Jersey Girls endorsed Kerry. It's been confirmed even further today with Jay Leno's admission to the LA Weekly that he is, as columnist Nikki Finke puts it, "a closet lefty."
Here's the story of his coming out party as Finke tells it...
In less than nine months, I had written two L.A. Weekly columns branding The Tonight Show host a Republican pawn. One expressed outrage at how Leno had partisanly promoted Ah-nuld's candidacy and emceed Schwarzenegger's victory party ["The Right Comic"] and gone soft on W. in his monologues. The second praised David Letterman for having "the brass balls to go where the cowardly White House news corps and corporate suck-up Leno fear to tread: presenting Dubya in all his dumb-ass glory." ["Dave the Brave"].
Ten days after that Letterman vs. Leno column was published on April 30, Jay was on the phone to me. He didn't scream. He didn't lose his temper. But we did have a long and enthusiastic phone discussion about politics, all of which he put off the record. I dared him to give me an on-the-record interview. To my shock, he agreed. To my even greater amazement, on the very next Tonight Show, Leno had taken my bitching at him to heart. I had made the point that, since Clinton's sex scandal was rife with humor, it was just as funny to examine what the heck you have to do in the Bush administration to get fired (since, by that time, no heads had rolled over the missing WMDs, or the war gone wrong in Iraq, or even the prison torture). Leno, in the middle of his monologue, was saying to America the exact words I had used to him: "What the heck do you have to do in the Bush administration to get fired?" Needless to say, I fell out of bed.
I found this story via Drudge, who obviously has it featured as a way to prove some sort of overarching media bias. As such, it's pretty lame. But as an enlightening view into the mind of a man who many consider to be a typical, middle-of-the-road, every-American, it's great stuff.
When you and I were talking on the phone, you said, yeah, maybe because of 9/11, maybe because of the Iraq invasion, there were periods when you gave Bush a pass.
Oh yeah, during 9/11, I gave Bush a pass. And I remember about two months had gone by, and then one day I sensed that maybe people were ready. And I remember I said, "Folks, if you don't laugh at this joke, that means the terrorists have won." And it got a huge laugh. And it wasn't that funny. But they sensed that, now that it looks like the administration is using this as a crutch, it's okay to come in slowly with the jokes and roll them in. I remember that joke was a turning point.
And you admit you gave Bush another pass because of Iraq?
When the war starts and troops go over, you give our president the benefit of the doubt. And then you realize the wool was pulled over our eyes here a little bit. I remember they always said the Vietnam War was over when Walter Cronkite said, "This is wrong." Up to that point, was he a sellout? No, he was just reporting the news as he saw it. For the first few months of the war, the jokes all tended to be rah-rah. Anything other than Bush. Jokes against Osama bin Laden.
What's key there is that Leno, whether he means to or not, is admitting that his coming out as a liberal may have some impact on people. He's a normal guy, a moderate guy, a guy people like and trust -- a lot like Cronkite (to a lesser degree, of course). And just as Cronkite declared about Vietnam, "this is wrong," Leno is now declaring, "the wool was pulled over our eyes."
And Leno doesn't stop there. In addition to copping to reading Mother Jones and The New Republic, Leno seems to be afraid that maybe Kerry isn't far enough to the left.
When it comes to Supreme Court judges, yeah, I really worry. But I'm not sure what Kerry is going to do that much differently in Iraq. He says today he has a plan, but he doesn't want to say what it is. Hello. I remember Nixon was going to end the war.
That isn't conservative or even centrist criticism of Kerry -- that's coming from the left.
But Bush and Kerry aside, Leno saves his biggest slam for the mainstream media.
The media seems to only present the Republican spin and to not present the other side of what's going on.
I believe the media is in the pocket of the government, and they don’t do their job. They have people like Michael Moore who do it for them.
Like I said, it's really enlightening. I strongly suggest reading the whole piece for yourself. One wonders how much hell, if any, Leno is going to catch from this. Personally, I hope the response is overwhelmingly positive.
posted by Scott |
If I can revisit this morning's speech in Detroit for a minute, there are a few other things I wanted to point out.
Our opponents see an America where power and wealth stay in the hands of a few at the top, while everyone else is left to fend for themselves. We believe in an America where we widen the circle of opportunity for every American. An America where anyone with a good idea who's willing to work hard and take a risk can start a business and build success.
Our opponents see an America where more of the tax burden is paid by those who work the hardest and not those who have the most – where a fireman who works overtime to save lives pays higher tax rates than a billionaire who just inherited a fortune. We believe in an America that rewards work with lower taxes and higher incomes.
Our opponents see an America where the powerful and well-connected are the first priority. We believe in an America where the first priority is the great middle-class and those struggling to join it – to be able to save money, create wealth, create the businesses of tomorrow. We want all Americans to have the chance to be millionaires and billionaires.
I'm sorry... who's being vague on what he stands for again? Because it certainly isn't this guy.
Oh wait, you were actually saying that his policy proposals were vague?
I will close the tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping jobs overseas... Under my plan, we'll cut the corporate tax rate by five percent, giving 99 percent of businesses a tax break.
To the small businesses and manufacturers who decide to add more employees to the payroll, we will provide a New Jobs Tax Credit for every person you hire. And to those small business owners who want to hire more employees but cannot afford to insure them, we will give you up to a 50% tax cut on your health care contributions when you cover your workers.
This Administration hasn't enforced our trade deals – I will, because if you give the American worker a fair playing field to compete on, there's nobody in the world the American worker can't compete against.
Under our plan, you will get to pick you own doctors – and doctors and patients, not insurance company bureaucrats will make medical decisions. My plan is not a government plan. It's based on incentives and the marketplace.
To pay for all this, we make sure that 98 percent of all Americans get a tax cut, while rolling back only the tax cuts for those who make more than $200,000 a year.
Our plan will cut the deficit in half in four years by ending tax giveaways that are nothing more than corporate welfare. We will make government go back to a simple rule: pay as you go. We will cut the waste from our government – cutting 100,000 contractors we don't need, cutting more bureaucrats that have been added over the last four years, and cutting government agencies that have outlived their purposes. And we will impose caps so that spending doesn't go faster than inflation.
I'm sorry, but if you still believe the BS from Team W and the media about Kerry not offering specifics, not having a plan, and lacking a cohesive vision, you're just not paying attention.
posted by Scott |
George Bush's record speaks for itself. 1.6 million lost jobs. The first president in 72 years to actually lose jobs on his watch. 8 million Americans are now looking for work. 45 million have no health insurance – 5 million more than the day he took office. 4.3 million Americans have slipped into poverty over the last four years – 1.3 million are children. The average family saw their income fall $1,500, while they saw the cost of health care, child care, gasoline, and tuition rise faster than ever before. 220,000 more Americans did not attend college last year for the simple reason that they could not afford it. This President turned a $5.6 trillion surplus into trillions of debt for our children. George Bush accomplished all this in only four years. Imagine what he could do in another four. I want to be clear: I'm not saying that president wanted these consequences. But I am saying that by his judgments, by his priorities, he has caused these things to happen. And he can't see the error of his ways.
At that convention in New York the other week, President Bush talked about his ownership society. Well Mr. President, when it comes to your record, we agree – you own it.
Hot damn!!! That's more like it, Kerry!!!
I'm not going to reprint the whole speech here -- though I could, it's that good -- so here are a few other choice cuts:
This president has added more to the deficit than every president from George Washington to Ronald Reagan combined.
To George Bush, stubborn leadership is steady leadership. But as far as I'm concerned, George Bush's failures are the result of misplaced values and wrong choices that always give more and more to those with the most and tells the middle-class "you are not the priority."
That's what America was built on – from Ford Motors and the first Model T to IBM and the first computer. We are a country of innovators and optimists. There are possibilities waiting for us and ideas yet to be imagined -- but only if we make the right choices today. This is our challenge. And it's what this race is all about.
Incredible. Right now, I'm so psyched for the debates.
posted by Scott |
One of the things that has bothered me most about the Presidency of George W. Bush is Bush's warm feelings for Russian President Vladimir Putin. In November of 2001, Bush said of Putin, "The more I get to know President Putin, the more I get to see his heart and soul ... the more I know we can work together in a positive way." However, with Putin's record on human rights and democracy, which I've written about in the past, one wonders what exactly it is that Bush sees in Putin's "heart and soul" that he likes so much. Just the other day in fact, Bush referred to the Russian President as "a man who I admire."
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Colin Powell is standing up to this man that Bush admires so much.
In guarded comments that nonetheless amounted to the most explicit criticism of Mr. Putin by the Bush administration in some time and were more critical than the initial White House statement on Monday that his actions were an internal Russian matter, Mr. Powell said he intended to take up the administration's concerns in meetings with Russian leaders, perhaps with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the United Nations next week.
"This is pulling back on some of the democratic reforms as seen by the international community that have occurred in the past," Mr. Powell said in an interview with Reuters. "So yes, we have concerns about it, and we want to discuss them with the Russians."
And John Kerry gets a little bit more explicit -- not to mention a little bit more Presidential -- than anyone in the Bush administration.
I remain deeply concerned about President Putin’s ongoing moves to limit democratic freedoms and to further centralize power. Russia’s emergence as a new democracy was one of the most hopeful and significant developments of the 20th century, and recent infringements on civil society and democratic processes must be reversed. Russia will be a much more effective partner in the war on terror, if its government is transparent, open to criticism, respectful of the rule of law, and protects the human rights of all of its citizens, including those in Chechnya.
Simply looking the other way – as the Bush administration has done – is not in the national security interest of the United States or Russia. President Bush has taken his eye off the ball -- ignoring America's interest in seeing democracy advance in Russia.
The selling out of democracy in one of the world's most powerful nations is not something to be taken lightly. Fortunately, at least John Kerry gets this even if the current President does not.
posted by Scott |
In what has to be the weirdest twist in the Killian Memos story since right-wing bloggers discovered kerning, Marian Carr Knox, Colonel Killian's personal secretary, has told The Dallas Morning News that while the documents passed to '60 Minutes' are in fact fake, the thoughts expressed in the memos accurately represent Killian's thinking at the time.
Mrs. Knox said signs of forgery abound in the four memos.
She said the typeface on the documents did not match either of the two typewriters that she used during her time with the Guard. She identified those machines as a mechanical Olympia typewriter and the IBM Selectric that replaced it in the early 1970s.
She spoke fondly of the Olympia, which she said had a key with the "th" superscript character that has been the focus of much debate in the CBS memos.
Beyond that issue, experts have said that the Selectric and mechanical typewriters such as the Olympia could not produce the proportional spacing found in the disputed documents.
Mrs. Knox said she was sure the documents were not direct transcriptions because the language and terminology did not match what Col. Killian would have used.
For instance, she said, the use of the words "billets" and a reference to the "administrative officer" of Mr. Bush's squadron reflect Army terminology rather than that of the Air National Guard. Some news reports attribute the CBS reports to a former Army National Guard officer who has a long-standing dispute with the Guard and who has previously maintained that the president's record was sanitized.
Mrs. Knox also cited stylistic differences in the form of the notes, such as the signature on the right side of the document, rather than the left, where she would have put it.
Mrs. Knox said she did all of Col. Killian's typing, including memos for a personal "cover his back" file he kept in a locked drawer of his desk.
She said that the culture of the time was that men didn't type office-related documents, and she expressed doubt that Col. Killian would have typed the memos. She said she would typically type his memos from his handwritten notes, which she would then destroy.
So for those keeping score at home, that's a typewriter with a superscript 'th' key, language inconsistent with the Texas Air National Guard, and proof that Killian did actually keep a 'CYA' file.
At this point, my thoughts can best be expressed with a annoyedly frustrated, "who cares?" But a story seems to be coming together that paints a portrait of Killian keeping memos on Bush, someone else within the Guard knowing about the memos, the memos being destroyed, Bush rising to prominence, and the person who knew about the memos, in response to the Swift Vets' ads, recreated the memos.
It's an understandable act of desperate frustration on the part of this figure who clearly knows more than most about the truth about George W. Bush's Guard service. However, that doesn't make it any less wrong. Or any less stupid.
posted by Scott |
| Tuesday, September 14, 2004
A tight-knit group of women who were all widowed on September 11, 2001 have decided to officially endorse John Kerry for President. Beyond just housewives whose families were torn apart by terrorism on 9/11, these women have become a force to be reckoned with even in the highest echelons of Washington power. At a time when the Bush administration was stonewalling the very idea of an independent commission to investigate the 9/11 attacks, these women were mobilizing, reaching out to lawmakers of both political parties, trying to get someone to answer the burning question of why their husbands had to die.
As 9/11 Commission Chairman Thomas Kean told the New York Times, "They monitor us, they follow our progress, they've supplied us with some of the best questions we've asked. I doubt very much if we would be in existence without them."
Another 9/11 Commission member, Tim Roemer, called their actions "an incredible, inspiring story of what you can achieve in our government system when you are devoted and dedicated and tenacious."
I know a lot of Democrats have been nervous about Kerry's chances in November recently, with Bush's poll numbers peaking and the Bush administration seemingly coated in Teflon when it comes to the media. I know we don't have a Karl Rove pulling the strings on our side. But when it comes to powerful allies, I'd much rather have Kristin Breitweiser in my corner any day.
posted by Scott |
| Monday, September 13, 2004
Watching the media coverage of President Bush's media appearances over the last few years, it's hard to imagine that any first-responder wouldn't be an automatic Bush supporter. After all, rows upon rows of them flank W at big campaign stops and he relies on them to give him both toughness and credibility.
Some voters are even surprised when you tell them that the national fire fighters union, the IAFF, and the National Association of Police Organizations, NAPO, have both endorsed and are both actively supporting John Kerry.
One key reason cops are backing Kerry was made clear today. Today was the tenth anniversary of President Clinton's signing of the assault weapons ban. Sadly, it also marked the end of that groundbreaking piece of public safety legislation. President Bush, because of his close ties to pro-gun groups like the NRA, has refused to make a renewal of the ban a priority, despite calls from law enforcement organizations around the country.
In the last week, law enforcement and public safety groups like the Brady Campaign have been rallying around the issue, trying desperately to reach out to the President in an eleventh-hour attempt to get the ban re-instated.
On Friday morning, the White House officially refused to meet with law enforcement leaders about saving the assault weapons ban. The International Association of Chiefs of Police had requested a meeting, offering to send police chiefs to meet with the President on any date that the White House chose. The White House response said the President would not meet with the police due to a "scheduling conflict." (Again, the IACP had not requested any specific date or time for the meeting.)
But law enforcement's support for John Kerry doesn't end with his stance on gun control. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, a close Kerry ally and a longtime partner of the National Association of Police Organizations, laid out the law enforcement case against Bush back in May in a speech at that group's "Legal Rights and Legislative Seminar".
[The Bush administration wants] to spend about $3.5 billion on those "first responder" grants. You would think those would go to you, the true first responders. But how many first responder dollars does the President want to give directly to cops? Zero.
He insists on funneling these dollars through governors' offices. He insists on a "Washington knows best" approach about how you can use the dollars. What do you need most from Washington? Cops I talk to say they need more bodies and more equipment to do their jobs. What does the President's plan do? He says you can't use the money for new shields. You can use it for equipment, but only if your state's governor signs off first.
After a lot of urging from me and others, now you can use the dollars to pay for some overtime expenses. But you need to get Secretary Ridge's approval first. And you still need to rely on the good graces of your governor to funnel the dollars to your departments. They sure don't make it easy for cops to get their money.
I told the President when he set this program up: funnel everything through the state capitals, and the money's going to get bogged down in bureaucracy.
Guess what? Last month, Secretary Ridge's own Inspector General reported to us that the majority of the so-called "first responder" dollars that we appropriated are stuck. They're either stuck in state capitals, or they're stuck right here in Washington.
Earlier this year, the President went before a bunch of angry mayors and pledged to get those dollars "unstuck". Cops are still waiting.
It's no wonder that Bush's website lists 'first responders' as a supporter group rather than cops or fire fighters. As is typical of Bush, he's long on promises, short on results, and needs to fall back on clever language to save himself from complete embarrassment.
Since we're hearing so much from the media these days about how vague John Kerry's plans and proposals are, I figured I'd do my part to help knock down that myth. Released in conjunction with his speech today before NAPO, here are some of the proposals that have won Kerry such overwhelming support from law enforcement officials across the country.
As a former prosecutor, Kerry knows what it takes to put criminals behind bars and keep America's streets safe. He helped lead the fight to put 100,000 police officers on the street, and today, unveiled a plan, fully paid for, that will:
Put More Cops on the Street and Give Them the Support They Need. By restoring full funding for COPS, Kerry and Edwards will enable America's police departments to increase the number of cops on the beat by 10 percent over the next 10 years. They will also support $25 billion in fiscal relief to states and communities, including $15 billion in unrestricted aid that will help to meet the homeland security needs of our police departments.
Keep Guns Out of the Hands of Criminals and Terrorists. As an avid hunter, Kerry supports the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, but he also understands that hunters don't need and don't use AK-47s, but criminals and terrorists do. Kerry will reauthorize the assault weapons ban as well as support John McCain's legislation to close the gun show loophole. Kerry will also enforce the gun laws on the books, as George Bush promised and failed to do, and also create new regional task forces of U.S. Attorneys to battle the interstate trafficking of guns.
Fight Gang Violence. Kerry and Edwards will turn around rising gang violence by supporting a proven, two-part strategy. First, they will crack down on violence by gangs and gang members with a policy of zero-tolerance. Second, they will show young people the way to productive, responsible participation in their communities by expanding opportunities for young people in trouble.
Fight Methamphetamine Trafficking in Rural Areas. Kerry and Edwards will strengthen support for efforts to help sheriffs break up methamphetamine production and sales in 'hot spots' throughout rural America.
Hire 5,000 New Community Prosecutors and Give Prosecutors the Tools They Need. While George Bush has sought to eliminate the community prosecutor program, Kerry will increase support for the program and enable the hiring of 5,000 community prosecutors over the next five years.
Reinvent Probation and Parole. Within the COPS program, John Kerry will fund personnel and technology to track ex-offenders. With modern technology, police departments can send electronic notices to every police car about releases and locations for every parolee.
Impressive stuff, especially when one considers the ways in which Bush, paying lip service to public safety, has squandered nearly every opportunity to take any proactive measures to make the streets of this country safer in the last four years.
posted by Scott |
A 26-year-old Palestinian reporter for the al Arabiya television network was killed yesterday during fighting on Haifa Street in Baghdad. Mazen al-Tumeizi, reporting from the scene of a burning US Bradley fighting vehicle, screamed "I'm dying!" after the truck exploded, and was killed on camera.
Right now, the military is claiming that Tumeizi was killed by debris thrown from the exploding vehicle. Witnesses at the scene, however, claim that Tumeizi was shot by soldiers firing on the crowd from a helicopter.
Either way, the situation is a sad, sad mess.
posted by Scott |
| Sunday, September 12, 2004
A senior US non-proliferation official hinted in Jerusalem Sunday that the US may use force if necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
US undersecretary of State John Bolton, speaking briefly to reporters before meeting Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, said "President [George W.] Bush is determined to try and find a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the problem of Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. But we are determined that they are not going to achieve a nuclear weapons capability."
Remember the last time the Bush administration said they would "try and find a peaceful and diplomatic solution" before going to war? Is there any reason to believe them now?
I certainly don't blame the Bush administration for demanding that Iran not pursue a nuclear weapons program. It is absolutely vital to the stability of the Middle East and the world at large that a huge, anti-democratic theocracy like Iran doesn't get the bomb.
However, how can the United States expect the world to accept that it will seriously and honestly undertake "a peaceful and diplomatic solution" given the Bush administration's record of failed, ham-handed foreign policy?
Alternately, given the massive over-extension of American troops around the world, why should Iran take seriously threats of military action? Many of our troops are in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan, making it a bit more plausible. But you have to ask yourself if even the strongest military in the world, acting virtually alone, can hope to control and stabilize 1,055,070 contiguous square miles of America-hating southern Asia.
With new leadership in the White House and a clean slate, credibility-wise, for American diplomacy, we might have a shot at "peaceful and diplomatic" resolutions to some of the major crises facing the world right now.
posted by Scott |
It's not hard to find reasons not to support the Bush administration these days, even when you aren't looking. My wife, who takes a more-than-healthy interest in Native American issues, pointed out to me this information from the latest issue of National Geographic:
Some powerful lawmakers, focused on casinos, seem to think that every Indian in the country is getting rich -- even the Oklahoma Cherokee, who earn just 3 percent of their income from bingo parlors and casinos, or the Hopi, who have shied away from gaming. The Bush Administration proposes to cut more than 100 million dollars from federal Indian programs in 2005, which will mean health clinics across Indian country will close on the weekends and jobs will be harder to find.
(The full article is not available online, so credit goes to Anna at Pow*Pow*Pa*Chow* for the transcription.)
This has rendered me absolutely speechless. Then again, the facts here speak for themselves, anyway.
posted by Scott |