Thursday, September 30, 2004

Shawn at The Sum of My Parts dispells some popular myths about the electoral college.
2. Myth: The Electoral College encourages campaigning in states that otherwise would be left out. Truth: Candidates don't campaign in every state now. They stop by most states once or twice, but some states don't even see that. How often do you hear of a candidate heading to Alaska, for heaven's sake? Yet, in MI, we've had countless swing-throughs of the candidates, their VP choices, and everyone down to their second cousins. And, the truth is that in this day of mass media, it's much less important than it used to be that each state get personal "whistle-stops." I am not saying such things aren't necessary and desireable, of course. I am simply saying that states with the largest populations and influence, as well as "battle-ground states" (state's with populations that are very closely split between parties, such as MI) are that states that see the most live and TV campaigning now, and that would continue for obvious reasons without the electoral college. Indeed, it may encourage a wider campaign in some areas. People in the states that are already ignored use the Internet and cable/satellite/etc. TV, as well as nation-wide radio stations and the like to get information. Candidates are also using these means to very effectively campaign at lower cost and with less-frequent trips to these outlying areas (see Howard Dean as a good example of this in many ways).

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Shockingly, a new poll shows mistrust of politicians, corporate leaders, and major news outlets has reached epidemic proportions.
Americans' distrust of politicians and business leaders has reached an "epidemic" level, driven by the Iraq war, the disputed 2000 presidential election and financial scandals, a Reuters/DecisionQuest poll revealed on Wednesday.

The nationwide telephone survey of 1,100 adults found 61 percent of Americans had lost faith in leaders and institutions over the past four years.

The poll was conducted last week and had a margin of error of 2.96 percentage points.

The study showed politicians received "C" grades on a scale of A-plus, meaning totally trustworthy, to F, meaning totally untrustworthy. President Bush and Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry, locked in a tight race for the White House, both received C grades.

Amid business scandals ranging from Enron to Martha Stewart, trust in corporate executives was hurt the most, with 63 percent of respondents reporting a drop in confidence in them. Executives, along with lawyers and entertainment celebrities, received the lowest trustworthiness score -- C minus.

Newspaper and television reporters received a "C" grade for trustworthiness. TV reporters are trusted less now than four years ago by 43.8 percent of Americans, while 39.4 percent said their trust in print reporters had eroded.

A number of major U.S. journalism outlets, including CBS, The New York Times, USA Today and CNN, have been tainted in recent years by flawed and false reporting.
The sample for this poll is obviously quite low, but the results seem to accurately reflect what I've observed over the last four years. The question now is, is anyone paying attention, and will this change anything? I'm not holding my breath.
Via Cosmic Iguana, forget about terrorists and the hundred thousand-plus hours of terrorism-related recordings we don't have enough manpower to translate; the greatest threat to our national security is posed linguists! Does that mean we'll be adding a Code Pink to the Homeland Security Alert System?
Confronted with a shortage of Arabic interpreters and its policy banning openly gay service members, the Pentagon had a choice to make.

Which is how former Spec. Glover came to be cleaning pools instead of sitting in the desert, translating Arabic for the U.S. government.

In the past two years, the Department of Defense has discharged 37 linguists from the Defense Language Institute for being gay. Like Glover, many studied Arabic. At a time of heightened need for intelligence specialists, 37 linguists were rendered useless because of their homosexuality.

To discuss this, we are joined by Nathaniel Frank, senior research fellow at the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

AMY GOODMAN: The significance of this, the story just coming out now, and can you explain what is happening?

NATHANIEL FRANK: Well, the story is not just coming out now, but it's been updated since we now have this number of 37 linguists having been fired under the policy at a time of heightened national security. And last year when the story first came out, to take one example, the Army had 84 slots to fill of Arabic translators and could only fill 42 of them. So if you take this number, 37, it's a very high number of slots that could have been filled that the government is deciding shouldn't be filled because it's insisting on enforcing an outdated policy.
At least I can sleep well at night, secure in the knowledge that the overworked Arabic-language translators in our military will not be assisted by homosexuals. How comforting it is to see the government putting it's moronic homophobia ahead of our national security!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Via Atrios, voter registrations in Ohio are being rejected because they were printed on the wrong card stock. As Atrios points out, this violates the 1971 Voting Rights Act.
No person acting under color of law shall -


in determining whether any individual is qualified under State law or laws to vote in any election, apply any standard, practice, or procedure different from the standards, practices, or procedures applied under such law or laws to other individuals within the same county, parish, or similar political subdivision who have been found by State officials to be qualified to vote;


deny the right of any individual to vote in any election because of an error or omission on any record or paper relating to any application, registration, or other act requisite to voting, if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under State law to vote in such election;
Feel free to contact Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell to complain about the illegal action he has taken.

J. Kenneth Blackwell-R
180 E. Broad St., 15th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215

Monday, September 27, 2004

For the Bush apologists who claim that comparisons between the war in Iraq and the Vietnam War are ridiculous because the casualties in Iraq "aren't as high", the Funny Farm has an interesting chart comparing the casualties in the first 18 months of both conflicts. The trends are strikingly similar, but the casualties are MUCH higher for the CURRENT conflict!

Friday, September 24, 2004

It's nice to know that in this election year, such important issues as flag burning and the Pledge of Allegiance are at the top of the priority list for Congress. After all, in this time of war and terrorist threats, flag-burners and atheists are the real threats to this country.
In a vote with election-year consequences, the House sought to assure that God's 50-year place in the Pledge of Allegiance will be safe from federal court challenges.

The bill, approved on a 247-173 vote Thursday, would prevent federal courts, including the Supreme Court, from ruling on whether the words "under God" should be stricken from the pledge.

The legislation drew strong protests from Democrats who said they want "under God" to remain but viewed the measure as an unconstitutional attack on the judicial branch. They said it was meant mainly to force them into a controversial vote just six weeks before the election.

But Democrats said the bill would damage a system of judicial review that has been fundamental to government for 200 years. "We're playing with fire here, we are playing with the national unity of this country," by letting each state make its own interpretation of constitutional law, said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.

"This bill is a dramatic assault on the courts and individual rights, wrapped in phony patriotism," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"This bill has been brought to the floor to embarrass some members, so I respect whatever decisions they have to make in light of the motivations behind it," said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. In the end, 34 Democrats voted for the bill and six Republicans opposed it.

Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., offered an amendment that would have returned the legislation to its original form, under which lower federal courts were barred from ruling on the pledge but the Supreme Court retained its authority. It was defeated, 217-202.

There is no direct precedent for making exceptions to the Supreme Court's appellate jurisdiction, said Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., who backed the original bill and the Watt amendment but voted against the final version.

"The issue today may be the pledge, but what if the issue tomorrow is Second Amendment (gun) rights, civil rights, environmental protection, or a host of other issues that members may hold dear?" she asked.
Personally, I think one of the greatest threats to this country at the moment is ultra-Right-Wing Republicans assaulting our Constitution, our system of checks and balances, and our civil rights. How ironic it is that the people who wrap themselves in the flag and scream so loudly about patriotism are same people who are eroding the very things that make this country so great!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

The next time you get a craving for M&M's or a Snickers bar, consider the forced child labor that made your chocolate fix possible.
The world's largest chocolate maker, M&M/Mars has still refused to endorse Fair Trade chocolate, meaning that it is still the largest purchaser of cocoa from Cote D'Ivoire, where 43% of the world's cocoa is produced. Groups like the ILO, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, and even the U.S. State Department have consistently reported the use of forced child labor in Ivory Coast cocoa farms. A 2002 study by the IITA estimated that 284,000 children, many of them immigrants brought in from countries like Burkina Faso by child traffickers, are working in the Ivory Coast farms. Mars, meanwhile, refuses to agree to minimum price levels and the rest of the Fair Trade chocolate program, which includes prohibitions on child labor. All so that we can have M&M/Mars' shitty chocolate (400 million M&Ms produced every day) at low prices.
I love chocolate as much as the next girl, but the thought of little kids working long hours for almost no pay makes me never want to purchase an M&M/Mars product again. Guess I'll be sticking with the Sundrops from Whole Foods, and other labor-friendly chocolate sources from now on!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Tom over at The Funny Farm points out the interesting correlation between the paths of the recent hurricanes in Florida, and the results of the 2000 Presidential election (by county). Is it merely coincidence, or a higher power trying to send a message?

Friday, September 17, 2004

Via, soldiers in our military are being coerced into re-enlisting under threat of being sent to Iraq.
Soldiers from a Fort Carson combat unit say they have been issued an ultimatum - re-enlist for three more years or be transferred to other units expected to deploy to Iraq.

Hundreds of soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team were presented with that message and a re-enlistment form in a series of assemblies last Thursday, said two soldiers who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A Fort Carson spokesman confirmed the re-enlistment drive is under way and one of the soldiers provided the form to the Rocky Mountain News. An Army spokesmen denied, however, that soldiers who don't re-enlist with the brigade were threatened.

The form, if signed, would bind the soldier to the 3rd Brigade until Dec. 31, 2007. The two soldiers said they were told that those who did not sign would be transferred out of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

"They said if you refuse to re-enlist with the 3rd Brigade, we'll send you down to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which is going to Iraq for a year, and you can stay with them, or we'll send you to Korea, or to Fort Riley (in Kansas) where they're going to Iraq," said one of the soldiers, a sergeant.

The second soldier, an enlisted man who was interviewed separately, essentially echoed that view.

The brigade's presentation outraged many soldiers who are close to fulfilling their obligation and are looking forward to civilian life, the sergeant said.

"We have a whole platoon who refuses to sign," he said.
So much for our "volunteer army"! Especially in light of this event, anyone who thinks Bush won't reinstate the draft if he's re-elected is fooling themselves.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

I don't know how I missed this, but Air America Radio started broadcasting here in Ann Arbor just under a month ago, on AM 1290, WLBY. This is great for me, because now I can listen in my car, or at home without having to use my sh*tty dial-up connection. To the folks at Air America, I say thank you, and welcome to Ann Arbor! Air America is a perfect fit for this town.
Via, Kerry calls Bush out on his excuses.
The president wants you to believe that this record is the record of the victim of circumstances, the result of bad luck, not bad decisions," Kerry said. "Well, Mr. President, when it comes to your record, we agree -- you own it."

"His is the excuse presidency -- never wrong, never responsible, never to blame ... no, it's not our fault; no, there's nothing wrong; no, we can't do better; no, we haven't made a single mistake," Kerry said.
Thank you sir, can I have another!
The National Intelligence Council believes Iraq could be headed for civil war before the end of 2005, contradicting Bush's assertions that the situation there is getting better.
The National Intelligence Council presented President Bush this summer with several pessimistic scenarios regarding the security situation in Iraq, including the possibility of a civil war there before the end of 2005.

In a highly classified National Intelligence Estimate, the council looked at the political, economic and security situation in the war-torn country and determined that — at best — stability in Iraq would be tenuous, a U.S. official said late Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

At worst, the official said, were "trend lines that would point to a civil war." The official said it "would be fair" to call the document "pessimistic."

This latest assessment was performed by the National Intelligence Council, a group of senior intelligence officials that provides long-term strategic thinking for the entire U.S. intelligence community.

Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin and the leaders of the other intelligence agencies approved the intelligence document, which runs about 50 pages.

The estimate appears to differ from the public comments of Bush and his senior aides who speak more optimistically about the prospects for a peaceful and free Iraq. "We're making progress on the ground," Bush said at his Texas ranch late last month.

Disclosure of the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq came the same day that Senate Republicans and Democrats denounced the Bush administration's slow progress in rebuilding Iraq, saying the risks of failure are great if it doesn't act with greater urgency.

"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.

Hagel, Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and other committee members have long argued — even before the war — that administration plans for rebuilding Iraq were inadequate and based on overly optimistic assumptions that Americans would be greeted as liberators.

But the criticism from the panel's top Republicans had an extra sting coming less than seven weeks before the U.S. presidential election in which 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."
It will be interesting to see how Rove and his minions try to spin this, as it confirms what Kerry's been saying for a while now. Kerry had better take advantage of this and hammer it repeatedly along the campaign trail and in the debates.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Via, an update on the story about the woman who was fired for sporting a Kerry sticker on her car. Her former boss had told her she could either work for him or work for John Kerry, and apparently Kerry thought that was a good idea. He called her personally and offered her a job.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

WaPo has Bush engaging in more fuzzy math. (Bold is mine.)
The expansive agenda President Bush laid out at the Republican National Convention was missing a price tag, but administration figures show the total is likely to be well in excess of $3 trillion over a decade.

A staple of Bush's stump speech is his claim that his Democratic challenger, John F. Kerry, has proposed $2 trillion in long-term spending, a figure the Massachusetts senator's campaign calls exaggerated. But the cost of the new tax breaks and spending outlined by Bush at the GOP convention far eclipses that of the Kerry plan.

Bush's pledge to make permanent his tax cuts, which are set to expire at the end of 2010 or before, would reduce government revenue by about $1 trillion over 10 years, according to administration estimates. His proposed changes in Social Security to allow younger workers to invest part of their payroll taxes in stocks and bonds could cost the government $2 trillion over the coming decade, according to the calculations of independent domestic policy experts.

And Bush's agenda has many costs the administration has not publicly estimated. For instance, Bush said in his speech that he would continue to try to stabilize Iraq and wage war on terrorism. The war in Iraq alone costs $4 billion a month, but the president's annual budget does not reflect that cost.

The White House has declined to provide a full and detailed accounting of the cost of the new agenda. The administration last week provided a partial listing of the previously unannounced proposals, including "opportunity zones," that totaled $74 billion in spending over the next 10 years. But there was no mention of the cost of additional tax cuts and the creation of Social Security private accounts. Discussing his agenda during an "Ask the President" campaign forum in Portsmouth, Ohio, Bush said Friday that he has "explained how we're going to pay for it, and my opponent can't explain it because he doesn't want to tell you he's going to have to tax you."

Some fiscal conservatives who are dismayed by the return of budget deficits found little to cheer in the president's convention speech. Stephen Moore, president of the conservative Club for Growth, said that Bush's Social Security plan was money well spent by saving the system in the long run, but he added that Bush "has banked his presidency on the idea that people don't really care about the deficit, and he may be right."

The administration has been secretive about the cost of the war and the likely impact that the bulging defense budget and continuing cost of tax cuts will have on domestic spending next year. The White House put government agencies on notice this month that if Bush is reelected, his budget for 2006 may include $2.3 billion in spending cuts from virtually all domestic programs not mandated by law, including education, homeland security and others central to Bush's campaign.

But Bush has had little to say about belt-tightening and sacrifice on the campaign trail. Nor has he explained how he would reconcile all his new spending plans with the mounting deficit.
Okay, so he's not so much engaging in "fuzzy math" as he is "no math". And how, exactly, does he plan to fulfill his campaign promises to improve homeland security and education while simultaneously CUTTING their funding? Is he smoking crack???
Speaking of Dark Lords, get your "Republicans for Voldemort" t-shirts here.
The General warns that our President, the Dark Lord has stepped up his vigilance against anything that might harm his campaign. So to all the faithful GOP supporters I say, watch your step, or he'll send the Nazgul after you...
Via, a woman in Alabama was fired for having a John Kerry bumper sticker on her car. While her boss is intolerant of employees expressing political opinions contrary to his own, he's not shy about pushing his own opinions on them.
Lynne Gobbell never imagined the cost of a John Kerry-John Edwards bumper sticker could run so high.

Gobbell of Moulton didn't pay a cent for the sticker that she proudly displays on the rear windshield of her Chevrolet Lumina, but said it cost her job at a local factory after it angered her boss, Phil Gaddis.

Gaddis, a Decatur bankruptcy attorney, owns Enviromate, a cellulose insulation company in Moulton.

Though she is unemployed and uncertain if she will get her job back, Gobbell said, she doesn't regret her decision to keep the sticker on her windshield.

"I would like to find another job, but I would take that job back because I need to work," she said. "It upset me and made me mad that he could put a letter in my check expressing his (political) opinion, but I can't put something on my car expressing mine."

She was referring to a flier that she said Gaddis placed in employee envelopes to remind them of the positive impact that President Bush's policies have had on them. An employee at the plant who would not identify himself confirmed the contents of the letter.

Gobbell provided a copy of the flier. It says:

"Just so you will know, because of the Bush tax (cut):

-I was able to buy the new Hammer Mill
-I was able to finance our receivables
-I was able to get the new CAT skid steer
-I was able to get the wire cutter
-I was able to give you a job"

It further says:

"You got the benefit of the Bush tax cut. Everyone did."
The link has the address and phone # for the company, in case anyone would like to contact them to express their disapproval.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Haven't done any of these in a while...

Quote for the Day: "Vote for George W. Bush and give him four more years to FINISH THE JOB HE NEVER BEGAN."--Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, referring to the content of Dubya's RNC speech.

Idiotic Quote for the Day: "I am running for president with a clear and positive plan to build a safer world and a more hopeful America. I am running with a compassionate conservative philosophy: that government should help people improve their lives, not try to run their lives."--George W. Bush, RNC acceptance speech. (Funny, that's completely the opposite of the way he's done things so far!)
Via (in the sidebar), how BushCo's campaign ads would look if he was running against Jesus.
Via Atrios, the Senate may vote on a Constitutional Amendment against flag desecration just weeks before the election. The House has already passed such a measure.
For some Republicans it is the perfect political storm: a Senate vote on a constitutional amendment to protect the U.S. flag that would put Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry, running mate John Edwards and Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle on the spot just a few weeks before the Nov. 2 elections.

The Senate GOP leadership has not scheduled a vote on the proposed amendment, but Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) noted last week that it is a high priority for veterans groups. Other Republicans say a vote is likely before the Senate's Oct. 8 target date for adjournment.

As senators, Kerry (Mass.), Edwards (N.C.) and Daschle (S.D.) have voted against the amendment and are described by colleagues as still opposed to it. But Kerry and Edwards, who rarely leave the campaign trail for Senate votes, are not expected to show up for the flag debate unless it appears their votes would be decisive.

As it appears now, the vote could be close enough to focus attention on Kerry and Edwards if they do not suspend campaigning to return for the roll call or if they do return and their votes turn out to be critical in defeating the amendment. Similarly, if Daschle turns out to cast the make-or-break vote, Republicans will almost certainly use it against him in his close race for reelection in South Dakota.

Some Republicans believe the three Democrats' votes against the proposal -- or absence when the roll is called -- can be used against them effectively at a time of war, terrorism threats and heightened patriotism. If Kerry and Edwards vote against the amendment or fail to show up for the vote, "they're going to have to explain why," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), a key backer of the proposal.
They couldn't renew the assault weapons ban, but they feel flag burning is an important issue. It's SO nice to see Congress is focusing on serious business right now, as opposed to creating election issues that might tip the elections in the GOP's favor.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Via, Dubya is engaging in some "fuzzy math" and blaming Clinton for the economy's woes.
President George W. Bush on Thursday blamed President Bill Clinton's administration for the loss of hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs. Bush warned against backing the Democratic ticket in November because of a "hidden Kerry tax plan."

"In the last six months of the prior administration, more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs were lost. We're turning that around," said Bush, who cited the addition of 107,000 manufacturing jobs this year.

According to the Labor Department, the number of payroll jobs has grown by 1.7 million in the past 12 months, but the economy still has lost 913,000 positions since Bush took office in January 2001.

In manufacturing alone, the number of job losses under Bush stands at 2.67 million, recovering by 107,000 factory jobs since January."
So, according to Bush's screwed-up logic, "turning that around" involved making it ten and a half times worse BEFORE making it better--bloody brilliant! Actually, that does explain a few things, like the way he's "turning around" the education system. And Social Security. And the situation in the Middle East. And the environment. Yep, I'd say it pretty much sums up his entire Presidency.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

White House West is a great site which features America Coming Together (ACT)'s petition to the FCC asking them to require proof of fact for political ads before they hit the airwaves. This only sounds logical to me; we don't allow companies to engage in false advertising for products and services, and we have laws against libel and slander. Why should political ads be an exception? The site also has some amusing political "ads" starring Will Ferrell. (Thanks to Shawn and Rob for the link recommendations.)
Josh Marshall illustrates the dichotomy between Bush's conventions speech claims that the world is a safer place than it was four years ago, and the results of a recent NBC News analysis which indicate the opposite is true.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Working for Change and Mark Fiore bring us The Heavenly Convention, telling good little Christian GOP members how to vote this November. Who wants to think for themselves, when they have such nice, open-minded, compassionate people to do it for them?
Via Turquoise Waffle Irons in the Back Yard, this is how Republican Chickenhawks at the RNC honor our veterans who have been injured in war. My grandfather earned a Purple Heart in WWII, so I take their mockery a bit personally.