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Saturday, September 18, 2004

Vote For Change

The Vote For Change tour will launch at the end of this month. On Oct. 1, Pearl Jam, Death Cab for Cutie, Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M., Ben Harper, James Taylor, and others will have shows all across Pennsylvania. From there, they branch out to battleground states like Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida. John Prine will perform with Bonnie Raitt and Keb Mo' at a Oct. 6 show in Des Moines. For updated ticket and schedule information, check out the MoveOn.org website.

Friday, September 17, 2004

The Elephant In the Room

"Yes, Kerry is rightly pointing out in his stump speech that the war in Iraq is a deadly distraction from the very real fight to prevent Al Qaeda and like-minded groups from committing more atrocities. But it seems the veteran senator is too much of a gentleman to point out the elephant in the room, the obvious flaw in the Republican Party's claim that it is the only party that knows how to keep us safe: After all, it was Cheney and George W. Bush who were on watch when 19 poorly trained hijackers were easily able to breach the nation's security apparatus and commit mass murder despite frantic, prescient warnings from the CIA. Yet, not only has this administration not held anybody accountable for this mind-boggling dereliction of duty, it shamelessly milks the tragedy for political gain... [T]hey are the ones who gave us Abu Ghraib but not Bin Laden; 1,000 American dead but no peace in Iraq; fiery speeches at the Republican convention in New York but no on-the-record testimony to the 9/11 commission."
-Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times

Bush's National Guard absence still unexplained

"A months-long investigation, which includes examination of hundreds of government-released documents, interviews with former Guard members and officials, military experts and Bush associates, points toward the conclusion that Bush's personal behavior was causing alarm among his superior officers and would ultimately lead to his fleeing the state to avoid a physical exam he might have had difficulty passing. His failure to complete a physical exam became the official reason for his subsequent suspension from flying status. "

Sidetracked by the debate about whether CBS broadcast a forged memo has been the substantive issue: just what was Bush doing in 1972 and 1973 as many of his fellow Americans were dying over in Vietnam?

It begins with an interesting historical note: the year Bush skipped his physical and disappeared for months at a time was also the year the National Guard began widely administering drug tests to its pilots, according to investigative journalist Russ Baker.

In an article for the Nation, Baker asks a lingering question: Did Bush abruptly take off for Alabama because he was in trouble in Texas? The circumstantial evidence to suggest this may have been the case is strong.

First, in the weeks before he left for Alabama, Bush was suddenly unable to fly a plane.

Baker notes, "Last week, in response to a lawsuit, the White House released to the Associated Press Bush's flight logs, which show that [George W. Bush] abruptly shifted his emphasis in February and March 1972 from his assigned F-102A fighter jet to a two-seat T-33 training jet, from which he had graduated several years earlier, and was put back onto a flight simulator. The logs also show that on two occasions he required multiple attempts to land a one-seat fighter and a fighter simulator."

Second, Bush's arrival to assist with an Alabama campaign was evidently a surprise both to campaign staff members and to Bush's friends back home.

Baker writes, "Campaign staff members say they knew nothing of Bush's interest in participating until days before he arrived in Montgomery. Indeed, not one of numerous Bush friends from those days even recalls Bush talking about going to Alabama at any point before he took off. "

Third, Linda Allison, widow of campaign manager Jimmy Allison, says flat out that Bush fled to Alabama to escape trouble back home.

Baker reports: "Allison said that the younger Bush's drinking problem was apparent. She also said that her husband, a circumspect man who did not gossip and held his cards closely, indicated to her that some use of drugs was involved. 'I had the impression that he knew that Georgie was using pot, certainly, and perhaps cocaine,' she said. "

Fourth, Bush was known as a wild hell-raiser.

Baker writes, "The family that rented Bush a house in Montgomery, Alabama, during that period told me that Bush did extensive, inexplicable damage to their property, including smashing a chandelier, and that they unsuccessfully billed him twice for the damage--which amounted to approximately $900, a considerable sum in 1972. Two unconnected close friends and acquaintances of a well-known Montgomery socialite, now deceased, told me that the socialite in question told them that he and Bush had been partying that evening at the Montgomery Country Club, combining drinking with use of illicit drugs, and that Bush, complaining about the brightness, had climbed on a table and smashed the chandelier when the duo stopped at his home briefly so Bush could change clothes before they headed out again."

As CEO of Halliburton, Cheney endorsed trade with terrorist regimes

In a damning new report, The American Prospect Wednesday accused Vice-President Dick Cheney of secret trade with Iraq and terrorist regimes in the Middle East during the 1990's.

The American Prospect reports:

"While [Dick Cheney] claimed during the 2000 campaign that, as CEO of Halliburton, he had 'imposed a ‘firm policy’ against trading with Iraq,' confidential UN records show that, from the first half of 1997 to the summer of 2000, Halliburton held stakes in two firms that sold more than $73 million in oil production equipment and spare parts to Iraq while Cheney was in charge. Halliburton acquired its interest in both firms while Cheney was at the helm, and continued doing business through them until just months before Cheney was named George W. Bush’s running mate.

Perhaps even more troubling, at the same time Cheney was doing business with Iraq, he launched a public broadside against sanctions laws designed to cut off funds to regimes like Iran, which the State Department listed as a state sponsor of terrorism. In 1998, Cheney traveled to Kuala Lumpur to attack his own country's terrorism policies for being too strict...."

Furthermore, "Two years later, Cheney traveled to another country to demand America weaken restrictions on doing business with Iran’s petroleum industry, despite Clinton administration warnings that Iranian oil revenues could be used to fund terrorism. 'We're kept out of [Iran] primarily by our own government, which has made a decision that U.S. firms should not be allowed to invest significantly in Iran,' he told an oil conference in Canada. 'I think that's a mistake.'"

According to The American Prospect, Halliburton is now the subject of a Treasury Department investigation into past trade links with Iran.

For more details, visit www.prospect.org.

Hijacking Catastrophe

"Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire examines how a radical fringe of the Republican Party used the trauma of the 9/11 terror attacks to advance a pre-existing agenda to radically transform American foreign policy while rolling back civil liberties and social programs at home.

The documentary places the Bush Administration's false justifications for war in Iraq within the larger context of a two-decade struggle by neoconservatives to dramatically increase military spending in the wake of the Cold War, and to expand American power globally by means of military force.

At the same time, the documentary argues that the Bush Administration has sold this radical and controversial plan for aggressive American military intervention by deliberately manipulating intelligence, political imagery, and the fears of the American people after 9/11."

Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear and the Selling of the American Empire is now available on DVD.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Homeland Security on a Shoestring

"At $40 billion, the [Dept. of Homeland Security budget] sounds impressive at press conferences and allows the president to say that he is spending big bucks not just in Baghdad, but at home as well. But that number is somewhat misleading. For one, about a third of that total doesn't go to DHS, but to other agencies such as the Pentagon. And most of the remaining $27 billion is not new money--as opposed to the $150-plus billion that has been spent toppling Saddam Hussein. Much of it simply lumps together the pre-existing budgets of the 22 federal agencies that make up the department. Between them, the Coast Guard, Customs, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Lawrence Livermore National Lab alone accounted for $19 billion in federal spending before 9/11. The Transportation Security Administration and its roughly $5 billion annual budget are new expenditures, but most of the other agencies have received only marginal increases since being folded in DHS...

The financial crunch is most keenly felt by the people on the front lines--at ports and borders, among firefighters and hospitals, transit authorities, biohazard labs, and rail hubs--who are invariably understaffed, underfunded, and ill-equipped. Just to properly outfit emergency personnel with radios that work at the same frequency, and prevent the tragedy that occurred when firefighters and police at the World Trade Center could not warn one another of the buildings' impending collapse, $6.8 billion is needed, according to a study by the Council on Foreign Relations. But not only are first-responder programs slated for large budget cuts in 2005, the Bush administration and the FCC are considering giving the radio frequencies earmarked for the public safety communication spectrum to private telecommunication companies, a $5 billion gift."

-from Fortress America by Matthew Brzezinski

But fear not. Brzezinski reports that the DHS is hiring a $136,466/year director for their "Entertainment Liaison Office in Hollywood." The department may not have enough money for police radios, but at least they'll look good in the movies.

Political Action Figures

Bill Hillsman, who directed television ad campaigns for Paul Wellstone, Jesse Ventura, and Ralph Nader, had this to say during a recent interview with Mother Jones:

"If you're running a properly planned campaign, you don't need to worry that much about attack ads. If you've done a good job of targeting, if you've done a good job figuring out how many votes you need to win the coming election, and if you're running your own game plan, you're going to be successful just running that plan. It doesn't matter what the competition does. I know people think this is absolute heresy, but we did it in Ventura's campaign, and to a large degree in Wellstone's first campaign. I think you should generally ignore those kinds of attacks, because all they do is siphon attention and money away from the job you have to do. Attack ads are effective not because of the attack they're making on the candidate, but because the campaign overreacts, takes resources that are badly needed and diverts them to fight on a different field, on somebody else's turf.

If you're a challenger, if you're not the incumbent, you almost have to use contrast ads. I think the difference between attack ads and contrast ads is that in a contrast ad you present a fair picture, and give a factually fair comparison between positions on issues between the two candidates. It becomes an attack ad when you're really stretching the truth and you're doing these ad hominem, slash-and-burn, exaggerated ads – everything to play off the negative emotional cues. I actually don't think those work that well; I think you could prove there's a greater backlash to them than effectiveness. Oftentimes, attack ads "work" simply because they hold down voter turnout. If you're the campaign that stands to benefit from lower voter turnout, you go on the attack, because it makes people who are not that enamored of the political process anyway just stay home. "

Mother of soldier killed in Iraq is arrested for interrupting Laura Bush speech

A grieving mother was arrested today after she interrupted a speech by First Lady Laura Bush. Sue Niederer stood up during a New Jersey rally today wearing a t-shirt stating "President Bush you killed my son" and holding up a picture of her son, Army 1st Lt. Seth Dvorin, who was killed in Iraq last February while trying to dismantle a bomb, the Associated Press reported. Niederer was promptly escorted out by the Secret Service as the crowd chanted "Four More Years." She was handcuffed and placed in the back of a van.

Niederer was later charged with defiant trespass and released, the AP reported.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Michael Moore undercounts Congressional sons in Iraq; other data holds up

In the movie Fahrenheit 9-11 Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson is the only member of Congress with a child serving in Iraq. But according to an article in today's San Diego Union-Tribune, at least two Republican Congressmen also have children serving in Iraq. Apparently, the information Moore used in the movie was outdated; on his website Moore cites a May, 2003 article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In May, 2003, it might or might not have been true that only one member of Congress has a child in Iraq, but it is certainly not true today.

On the other hand, Moore has been able to substantiate most of the other claims made in the movie. Moore's critics should note that the documentary gadfly has been able to provide a list of sources for the following claims.

1) Fox was the first network to "call" the 2000 election.

2) A key figure working at Fox's election desk was John Ellis, a first cousin of President Bush. Ellis was in phone contact with George W. Bush and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush during the moments he was making the election "projection" for Fox, according to CNN. John Ellis' role in deciding the outcome of the election has also been confirmed by PBS, CBS, and other news organizations.

3) George W. Bush spent 42 percent of the first eight months of his Presidency, leading up to Sept. 11, on vacation (the source Moore attributes this to is conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer. The Houston Chronicle published a similar figure... but for all of Bush's presidency through April 11, 2004. As of last April, Bush had made 33 trips to Crawford, Texas, 78 trips to Camp David and five to the family compound in Maine, according to the Chronicle.

4) The White House secretly arranged for 142 Saudis–including 24 members of the bin Laden family– to fly out of the U.S. between Sept. 14 and Sept. 24, 2001.

For a full list of Fahrenheit 9-11's sources, go to Michael Moore's website. Moore's investigation into Bush's murky business past--and it's relationship to current business in Iraq--is well worth a read. You'll also find a ton of information about intelligence failures during the Bush administration--too much information for me to try to summarize on this blog.

CIA effort against bin Laden understaffed, officer says

The New York Times reports today:

"Three years after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency has fewer experienced case officers assigned to its headquarters unit dealing with Osama bin Laden than it did at the time of the attacks, despite repeated pleas from the unit's leaders for reinforcements, a senior C.I.A. officer with extensive counterterrorism experience has told Congress.

The bin Laden unit is stretched so thin that it relies on inexperienced officers rotated in and out every 60 to 90 days, and they leave before they know enough to be able to perform any meaningful work, according to a letter the C.I.A. officer has written to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. "

For full article, click here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Bush forgets to mention $3 trillion price tag for his tax cut agenda

For the past month, George W. Bush has been heckling John Kerry on the campaign trail with a claim that Kerry's proposals would increase spending by $2 trillion. It turns out that the impact of this purported $2 trillion is small potatoes to the shortfall President Bush's own plan would create.

Bush's plan, which includes both spending increases and steep tax cuts for the wealthy, would come with a whopping $3 trillion price tag, the Washington Post reported today.

This $3 trillion would come as a result of tax cuts and changes to Social Security proposed by Bush. It does not include the cost of the Iraq war, which is currently running up a tab of $4 billion a month.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Bush's flip-flop on assault weapons

The above Tec-9 was used by Dylan Klebold to shoot 55 rounds during the Columbine massacre.

During the 2000 Presidential campaign, George W. Bush promised he would strictly enforce the ban on assault weapons. On Monday, Bush quietly allowed the ban to expire. As a result, Uzis and Tec-9's (the gun used in Columbine) will once again hit U.S. streets.

Here's what Bush had to say about Columbine during the 2000 Presidential debates:

"But let me say something about Columbine. And listen, we've got gun laws. He says we ought to have gun-free schools. Everybody believes that. I'm sure every state in the union's got them. You can't carry a gun into a school. And there ought to be a consequence when you do carry a gun into a school. But Columbine spoke to a larger issue and it's really a matter of culture, it's a culture that somewhere along the line we've begun to disrespect life. Where, for a child can walk in and have their heart turn dark as a result of being on the Internet and walk in and decide to take somebody else's life.

And so gun laws are important, no question about it. But so is loving children and character education classes and faith-based programs being a part of afterschool programs. Somebody, some desperate child that needs to have somebody put their arm around him and say we love you and so there's a, this is a society of ours that's got to do a better job of teaching children right from wrong. And we can enforce law, but there seems to be a lot of preoccupation on, not necessarily in this debate, but just in general in law, but there's a larger law: Love your neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself. And that's where our society must head if we're going to be a peaceful and prosperous society."

With that in mind, Bush believes, let the public go out and buy all the semi-automatic handguns they want.

Kerry's testimony

In an effort to distract voters from a stalled economy and a quagmire in Iraq, the Bush campaign, by way of its minions, has been attempting to increasingly refocus this year's election on the question of John Kerry's service in Vietnam.

John Kerry's valor in Vietnam remained unquestioned for 30 years and I will not lend any space on this website to debating those who attempt to tarnish it now in the context of a presidential campaign.

What I would like to do is address the real source of their anger: John Kerry's testimony before the Committee on Foreign Relations in 1971. The content of this testimony has been distorted beyond belief by the Republican party. To read the full testimony, go to C-Span.

The media has played and replayed the following clip from Kerry's testimony:

"They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, tape wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country."

What the media NEVER bothers to include is the two paragraphs that precede this quote, in which Kerry explains that his description is a paraphrase of testimony provided at a Detroit veterans' meeting several months earlier.

Instead of Kerry summarizing an event, the media makes it look as if this quote was an indictment of every soldier who served in Vietnam.

The above quotation is also only a minute part of a hearing that went on for two hours and touched upon many other issues, a few of which bear comparison to our present situation in Iraq.

Below are some key excerpts from Kerry's testimony:

"In our opinion, and from our experience, there is nothing in South Vietnam, nothing which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America. And to attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom, which those misfits supposedly abuse, is to use the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart."

"We found most people didn't even know the difference between communism and democracy. They only wanted to work in rice paddies without helicopters strafing them and bombs with napalm burning their villages and tearing their country apart. They wanted everything to do with the war, particularly with this foreign presence of the United States of America, to leave them alone in peace, and they practiced the art of survival by siding with whichever military force was present at a particular time, be it Vietcong, North Vietnamese, or American."

"We are asking Americans to think about that because how do you ask a man to be the last man to dies in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

Sunday, September 12, 2004


NBC host Chris Matthews asked the following question today: Why is President Bush suddenly complaining about the press now?

Matthews answers: "It may be the news itself that's bothersome. We're losing more soldiers now than before the official handing over of authority... and it's getting worse."

Scared Stupid

"Our beloved land has been fogged with fear—fear, the greatest political strategy ever. An ominous silence, distant sirens, a drumbeat of whispered warnings and alarms to keep the public uneasy and silence the opposition. And in a time of vague fear, you can appoint bullet-brained judges, strip the bark off the Constitution, eviscerate federal regulatory agencies, bring public education to a standstill, stupefy the press, lavish gorgeous tax breaks on the rich...

The Union is what needs defending this year. Government of Enron and by Halliburton and for the Southern Baptists is not the same as what Lincoln spoke of. This gang of Pithecanthropus Republicanii has humbugged us to death on terrorism and tax cuts for the comfy and school prayer and flag burning and claimed the right to know what books we read and to dump their sewage upstream from the town and clear-cut the forests and gut the IRS and mark up the constitution on behalf of intolerance and promote the corporate takeover of the public airwaves and to hell with anybody who opposes them."

-from "We're Not In Lake Wobegon Anymore" by Garrison Keillor