Tuesday, August 26, 2003

A Tale of Two Pities...

Both of these headlines were one on top of the other on Yahoo/ Reuters today:

Congress Forecasts $480 Billion Deficit

The U.S. Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday forecast a federal budget deficit of $480 billion in 2004, a record shortfall that could pose problems for President Bush as he seeks re-election.

- This one speaks for itself. We'll have to wait for a while to see how bad it is. If the economy takes off because of the tax cuts then it will be something of a miracle. But then we'll still have the debt.... Does anyone out there run a business like this?

Postwar U.S. Iraq Deaths Exceed Toll During War

A total of 138 U.S. troops died from the start of the war in March until May 1. Since the beginning of the operation, 277 U.S. troops have died -- 178 in hostile fire and 99 in non-hostile incidents, the Pentagon said.

- This one proves that the war is really not over. If we are serious about this struggle to bring Iraq into the civilized world then it's time to swallow our pride and bring in the UN and other countries to lend a hand.

Monday, August 25, 2003

What's the score...

The New York Times has a critical piece, by Jessical Stern, on the Bush Administration's actions in Iraq:

How America Created a Terrorist Haven

Of course, we should be glad that the Iraq war was swifter than even its proponents had expected, and that a vicious tyrant was removed from power. But the aftermath has been another story. America has created — not through malevolence but through negligence — precisely the situation the Bush administration has described as a breeding ground for terrorists: a state unable to control its borders or provide for its citizens' rudimentary needs.

---
I believe Paul Bremmer and many of those inside Iraq are doing all they can to make the situation better and come up with a workable plan. However, the Bush Administration seems to be sitting back without any plans to send more troops or get help from the UN.

Obviously the perception in Iraq is important too; The NY Times piece goes on:

According to a survey this month by the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, nearly half of the Iraqis polled attribute the violence to provocation by American forces or resistance to the occupation (even more worrisome, the Arabic word for "resistance" used in the poll implies a certain amount of sympathy for the perpetrators).

---
We cannot really do anything about public sentiment with regards to what has already happened. But if we are serious we have to find a way to turn the perception in out favor. The biggest problem is that the longer it takes to get Iraq up and running the more time it will take the terrorists to build their own network of support.

Meanwhile Rumsfeld will not send more troops to stabilize the country.

I didn't support our military strike against Iraq but now that we are there and have overthrown the government it behooves us to get the job done with the support from a good number of other countries.

What's more Rumsfeld compares the attacks to those of Nazi's after World War II. In other words he is taking an 'ignore it; it will go away' attitude. But the situation between Post War Germany in the 1940's and Iraq today is far, far different. (Check out this site).

Not to mention that international terrorists groups like Al-Quada were not around to use Germany as a breeding ground. Plus Germany had a governmental infrastructure that was in place much quicker.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Weekend Review...

Unfair and Unbalanced news not so good

Republican businessman Bill Simon dropped out of the race for California governor on Saturday, boosting the campaign of actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in the October recall vote.

There is no question he was strongly pressured to get out of Arnold’s way.


Fair and Balanced News that's good.

Calling the motion "wholly without merit, both factually and legally," the judge, Denny Chin of United States District Court, said that a person would have to be "completely dense" not to realize the cover was a joke, and that trademark protection for the phrase "Fair and Balanced" was unrealistic because the words are so commonly used.
(…)
Fox also objected to the use of a picture of Bill O'Reilly, one of its prominent news personalities, on the cover, claiming that it could be mistaken as an endorsement of the book.

But these arguments were met by laughter in the crowded courtroom....

One round of laughter was prompted when Judge Chin asked, "Do you think that the reasonable consumer, seeing the word `lies' over Mr. O'Reilly's face would believe Mr. O'Reilly is endorsing this book?"



It's good to see some Judges out there have both common sense and a good sense of humor.



Friday, August 22, 2003

Thou shalt watch this...

How ironic is it that the same week there is a brouhaha over the 5300lb Ten Commandment slab in the Alabama Courthouse that Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski’s ten part Decalogue series gets released by Facets Video on DVD?

I think it’s a sign.
Okay maybe not, but while I cannot speak for the people who want the slab to stay I can say plenty about The Decalogue.

Here are ten good reasons to watch the Decalogue written by yours truly.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Health costs...

Health costs in America far exceed health costs in Canada.

Thirty-one cents of every dollar spent on health care in the United States pays administrative costs — nearly double the rate in Canada, according to a new comparison that sees colossal bureaucratic waste in the American system.

RESEARCHERS WHO prepared the comparison said Wednesday that the United States wastes more money on health bureaucracy than it would cost to provide health care to the tens of millions of uninsured Americans.

Americans spend $752 more per person per year than Canadians on medical administrative costs alone, according to the study by investigators from Harvard University and the Canadian Institute for Health Information that was published in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine.
(…)
The study found overhead costs for U.S. insurance companies — mostly for underwriting and advertising — ate up 11.7 cents of every health care dollar, compared to 1.3 cents for Canada’s government-run system and 3.6 cents for the U.S. Medicare system for the elderly.


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Over 40 million Americans (9 million children) are uninsured in this country.

More info can be found here.

And here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Texas...

Only in the Lone Star State.

Students in Texas public schools will be required to recite a pledge of allegiance to the Texas flag beginning in the 2003-2004 school year.
A new Texas law mandates that students recite the Texas pledge after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag.
The new law will also cut into school district budgets. Every classroom will be required to display the Texas flag.


Here it is:
"Honor the Texas flag, I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one and indivisible."

Okay, it's not a whole bunch of words. But did they really need to pass a law requiring students to recite this?
Deficit...

Congratulations to the Bush Administration for the soaring deficit.

The year-to-date deficit, still with August and September to go in the budget year, rose to $323.98 billion, Treasury said in its monthly budget statement. July's deficit, at $54.24 billion, was close to expectations and wider than in July 2002, when it was $29.16 billion.

The 1992 budget year holds the record for the largest annual shortfall, at $290 billion. The 2003 is gap is expected to easily surpass that by coming in above $400 billion.


----

Meanwhile, in the state where Republicans actually care about the deficit, Arnold announced his plan.
Actually he just struck a pose flanked by his high powered advisors and said nothing much.
He kept everything general but vowed not to raise taxes.
"Additional taxes are the last thing we need to put on the books of the citizens and businesses of California,"

Fine, but how can he possible pay the deficit without taxes? He said programs will be cut but failed to be specific. Although he mentioned education will not be cut.
There is not much more that can be cut without seriously crippling programs like health care in the state.

Calpundit chimes in:

Once you remove education, there's about $50-60 billion left in the budget, and it needs to be cut about $25 billion or so to get into balance. Even the Terminator can't pull that off.

He was fine at first in his prepared remarks, striking a very Bush-like tone: "I will not raise taxes," he said firmly. But later, questioned by reporters, he sounded more like Bush Sr.: "Never say never — but I am in principle against taxing."


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The biggest problem with this recall is that Arnold is ahead based on his star power. He can be as vague as he wants on the issues and most voters will simply just cheer him on and then ask for his autograph.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Worst in American History...

Right Wing News asked both Left and Right Wing blogs to choose the 20 worst figures in American History.
Here are the top tens. As you look at these top tens tell me which list is more questionable.

The Left top ten worst are:
1) Joseph McCarthy (26)
2) Richard Nixon (25)
3) J. Edgar Hoover (16)
3) Nathan Bedford Forrest (16)
3) Timothy McVeigh (16)
6) John Wilkes Booth (14)
6) Henry Kissinger (14)
6) Benedict Arnold (14)
9) George W. Bush (13)
9) Jefferson Davis (13)
11) Andrew Jackson (12)
12) George Wallace (10)
13) Ronald Reagan (9)
14) Strom Thurmond (8)
14) Charles Coughlin (8)
14) Lee Harvey Oswald (8)
14) Richard Mellon Scaife (8)
18) Robert McNamara (7)
18) George Lincoln Rockwell (7)
(Rush Limbaugh had 5 votes)

The Right Wing top ten worst are:
1) The Rosenbergs (15) & Julius Rosenberg (5)
2) Benedict Arnold (19)
3) Bill Clinton (15)
4) Jimmy Carter (14)
4) Jesse Jackson (14)
6) Noam Chomsky (13)
7) Alger Hiss (12)
8) John Wilkes Booth (10)
8) Hillary Clinton (10)
8) Lyndon Johnson (10)
8) Timothy McVeigh (10)
12) Charles Manson (9)
12) Al Sharpton (9)
14) Aaron Burr (8)
14) Richard Nixon (8)
16) Aldrich Ames (7)
(Michael Moore had 5 votes)

On both lists note that murderers like Timothy McVeigh and Charles Manson aren't considered as bad as some American Presidents.
On the Right Wing list I have no idea why Carter is there. He may not have been a great president but calling him worse than Charles Manson or George Lincoln Rockwell (American Nazi party founder) is odd.
The Right Wing list has a lot of people the Right hate - like the Clintons, Jesse Jackson, Noam Chomsky and Al Sharpton - but these are not really bad characters. The Left list is certainly more historical although I'm not sure George W is that bad...yet.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Military Blues...

Doesn't this just beat all?:

The Pentagon wants to cut the pay of its 148,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, who are already contending with guerrilla-style attacks, homesickness and 120-degree-plus heat.
(...)
The Defense Department supports the cuts, saying its budget can't sustain the higher payments amid a host of other priorities. But the proposed cuts have stirred anger among military families and veterans' groups and even prompted an editorial attack in the Army Times, a weekly newspaper for military personnel and their families that is seldom so outspoken.


In a recent editorial The Army Times concluded by writing:

The bottom line: If the Bush administration felt in April that conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan warranted increases in danger pay and family separation allowances, it cannot plausibly argue that the higher rates are not still warranted today.

---------
Some of us who opposed the Iraqi war get all kinds of hysterical criticism for our position.
Yet opposition to the war does not mean you don't supported our troops.

One could now argue that the Administration really doesn't care about the men and women of the military; except as soldiers with a duty.
It's a sick and nasty business.
Let's hope the right wing critics can turn their heat from the left and point it toward the Administration got a bit.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Fair and Balanced day...

The Fox News Allstars!

Fallacious O’Reilly
Arrogant Hannity
Insufferable Greta
Ridiculous Geraldo

Boneless Colmes
Alarming Ailes
Loopy Dhue
Annoying Snow
Naïve Cavuto
Conceited Hume
Erroneous Barnes
Dingy Rita

There's more out there in blogland:

Neil Pollack tells of his encounter with one of the Fox allstars in an elevator during the blackout. Truly inspired stuff.

Uggabugga does good work with the letters of ‘fair and balanced’

No More Mister Nice Blog has 'fair and balanced' all over the place.

Silt is doing it like I am.

Atrios has a whole list of blog rascals.

And then my definition of 'Fair and Balanced':
1) A term used to disguise bias. 2) A term used by various presumptuous organizations and/or persons to rationalize the foisting of a (political or social) belief system on a gullible public. 3) Distortion and deception: (See also Fox News).

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Recall...

Here’s what I’ve noticed in the past couple of elections. The difference between Democrats and Republicans is that if Democrats don’t like the results they challenge it until the results are official; then they walk away angry but determined to win in next election cycle. However, if Republican’s don’t like the results they wait until it’s official and then they get their millionaire friends to help recall the Democrat so they can run a special election that significantly favors them.

Jesse Ventura brought up a good parallel on MSNBC's Hardball the other night. He said:

[It’s] like this-Oakland got slaughtered in last year’s Super Bowl. Now, putting out a petition to the Oakland Raider fans asking them to sign it so we can replay the Super Bowl again because the results weren’t right-the first [time], we were unhappy with them.

They just had the election. They elected Gray Davis. And the point of the matter is, — here’s the part that gets me. […] Republicans are making the deficit the major issue, correct? Yet, nationally, President Bush is cutting taxes. He’s increasing spending by 14 percent, and he’s creating a larger national debt. That’s OK to do that nationally, but let’s take a governor out at [the] state level for the identical issue.


--------
Let me just add that really it is more like Oakland fans want a replay but there will be only one 15 minute quarter played and the first team to score wins – and Oakland gets the ball first.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Censorship etc...

Lesson Number One: If you want to prevent people from reading books or watching movies that you don't like then don't make a big fuss out of it because (duh!) it only helps market the product or work that you oppose.

Case in point 1: Al Franken's book leaped merrily from a ranking of #558 to # 1 in two days thanks to the Fox News lawsuit over the title.

Case in point 2: Mel Gibson's 'The Passion' a film about the death of Christ has many people and almost all of the media aflutter.

Personally, I am not a big fan of Franken since, like Michael Moore (and that blond haired ultra-Conservative - what's her name?), he goes for simple arguments against his adversaries. There's ultimately more finger pointing and humorous barbs than real indepth criticism.

Although to be fair, Franken is usually pretty good with the facts (and he makes me laugh) so I won't grind him too hard.

The controversy over Gibson's movie reminds me of the same thing that happened with Martin Scorsese (The Last Temptation of Christ) and Kevin Smith (Dogma). As soon as artists start dealing with people's Gods in art or mainstream entertainment they are asking for trouble.

Remember this one?

Or this one?

Of course, this time the tables have turned a bit; the same crowd that opposed Scorsese (and the examples above) are now in favor of Mel.

But the same principles apply. If you let these works come and go without the media hype most people will not make a fuss - much less protest.

Another principle – that gets lost in the swirl – also applies. And that is the nature of true debate. Scorsese’s movie was misunderstood by everyone who didn’t see it. And I can’t help but think Gibson’s movie is getting the same simple-minded treatment. But, in fact, this is a great time to have a real debate about religion, about Christ, about Jews and what all this means to people.

Anyway, I'm not convinced that a movie about Christ will suddenly make non Anti-Semites into Anti-Semites nor fuel more Anti-Semitic behavior. But the one thing that is inevitable is that more people will now go and see the movie - once it gets picked up by a distributor.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Cost of Government...

This is interesting.

This PDF file Graph shows another reason to be concerned about the Bush Administration and the neational debt.

The graph shows the total days worked to pay for Government spending is up to 192.5 days; a considerable leap from just 3 years ago.

That includes the total of State Regulations (24.1 days), Federal Regulations (38.6 days), State / Local spending (42.8 days) and Federal Spending (87 days).

The spending was on a steady decline through the Clinton years and reached a low in 1999 and 2000 of 174 days. It has been on an incline since Bush took over.
And it hasn't been this high (192.5 days) since 1992 and 1993 in the waning days of Bush One.

Another graph shows that Americans must work 10 more days a year since 2000 to pay for Federal spending. And remember this is in an era when welfare and social programs are waning.

Conservatives are always criticizing Democrats for Federal spending yet the Republicans run the show at the Federal level.
Yes, we had a war.
But who chose to have this war?

Check it out. The page has plenty of other remarkable graphs.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Confusing the issue...

Condoleezza Rice makes a nonsensical comparison

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice likened Iraq's halting path toward self-government to black Americans' struggle for civil rights in the 1960s, imploring black journalists Thursday to reject arguments that some people are incapable of democracy.
"We've heard that argument before, and we more than any should be ready to reject it.
"The view was wrong in 1963 in Birmingham, and it is wrong in 2003 in Baghdad and in the rest of the Middle East," she said.


- First let me just say that this completely deflects the issue at hand in Iraq today. There are few critics I know of who say that the Iraqis can’t handle self government. (Although a few KKK members may). But it is true that if a good democratic system is not in place then it is pretty tough to have a true democracy. That’s common sense, right?
- Second the potential Iraqi leadership is not leaning toward a Jeffersonian style democracy no matter how much the Bush Administration wants to believe that they are. The Iraqi government most likely will develop something similar to Iran – where the religious leaders run everything even though ‘secular’ leaders hold public office, which are determined by elections.
- Third the black American / civil rights argument is way off base because Condoleezza seems to forget that America had a solid Constitutional governmental system in place that blacks could – granted through tough struggles – position themselves to take advantage of: mainly through the courts. Iraqi’s on the other hand are in a totally different position. They have to start from scratch (or ground zero, if you will) and that is not only far, far different but much more difficult due to the religious leadership that is prepared to take over.

So the real question is what is the Bush Administration doing to ensure that a self governing democracy gets in place that can truly be the voice of the Iraqis? As opposed to a puppet government that follows our lead?

Will the U.S accept a true democratic government in Iraq? One that could (one day) potentially oppose our actions there?
I would guess not.

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Emma over at Notes on the Atrocities says Rice is being cynical by essentially comparing the anti-war crowd to the KKK.
Ahnold Effect...

Well it’s official. The California Recall election is now akin to a Fellini film. We have - to name a few - a pornographer, a midget, a bad comedian, a body builder/ movie star, a punk singer, a millionaire car salesman, a 99-year-old 99 Cent Store candidate and a prostitute all running to save the Golden State. All we need is a messianic figure.

(Some are listed at the bottom of this article)

And the list is long.

Yesterday at a press conference Arnold said that he is going to Sacramento to clean up all the special interests. He crowed that we can trust him because he has his own money and he doesn’t need special interest money. Yet, of course, he is running as a Republican, which means the Republican party will support him; the very same party who are up to their necks in special interests.

If Arnold were serious he would follow Arianna Huffinton's lead and run as an Independent.
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Obviously, the biggest issue is California’s fiscal crisis brought on by an overwhelming $38 billion debt. Arnold will try to clean that up. But how? As we at Rashomon see it there are primarily four ways to deal with the debt.

1) Raise Taxes – Something Arnold will most likely not do.
2) Cut spending on Governmental programs – Arnold likes to talk about ‘the children’ and how important they are. Yet Government spending cuts on programs like education and health care are imminent under Republican leadership.
3) Continue to borrow on the debt – Which is very likely for a while.
4) Bring big businesses back to California to help earn revenue – This is what Arnold will push as his initiative and this is by far the best case scenario. But it’s not like Davis has not tried to do this. Will Arnold be more appealing to business?

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Lieberman blues...

David Corn over at The Nation talks about 'The Lieberman problem'.

When grassroots Democrats gather to talk about the crowd of candidates for the party's nomination, there is plenty of disagreement about the merits of the various contenders, but the activists invariably come around to saying, "Of course, I'd support anyone against Bush." Then, as an afterthought, they add, "Except Lieberman."

While Lieberman likes to claim that his center-right politics make him the surest Democratic prospect for 2004, the reality is that he is the prominent Democratic contender who would have the hardest time uniting the party.
(...)
Harry Truman warned that, when given a choice between a Republican and a Democrat imitating a Republican, voters would not hesitate to vote for the real thing. Lieberman has positioned himself as the pale imitation of Bush that grassroots Democrats fear will depress turnout.


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Lieberman doesn't really have a chance. But he represents a problem with the current Democratic party, which is that they distinguish anyone who leans left of the center/right as a Liberal leftist.
Let's not forget the lesson that the unwitting Dukakis taught us: do not be afraid to call yourself a Liberal.
1:45 a.m. on August 6, 1945...

Counterpunch remembers the 58th Anniversary

So does Eric Alterman who takes on a few of the neo-cons assumptions about the historians position on the subject.
Poetic search engine...

Try Haikoo as opposed to Yahoo.

(Okay, you won't really find much except 17 syllable fun)

Monday, August 04, 2003

Dean Success...

Daily Kos has a good article on the success of Howard Dean.

Lieberman attacks Dean. Kerry attacks Dean. The DLC attacks Dean.

And yet Dean only gets stronger, on the cover of all three major US newsweeklies (Time, Newsweek, and US News), and making leaps and bounds in ALL the polls. His Meetup numbers continue to defy gravity, as does the campaign's signup list. These are all facts, not spin. Whether you love or hate Dean, you have to admit that he has been the center of attention in this race for the past few months, and by all objective methods has got the most solid results.
(...)
The formula to Dean's success is simple: He speaks like a Democrat, particularly the part about opposing Republicans. That resonates with those of us who saw DLC-types lead our party to disaster in 2002.


--------
It's still early yet but there is no doubt that the DNC better not only take Dean seriously but they best look at his strategy and see why he is appealing in ways that Kerry, Lieberman and the rest are not.

Obviously, it is because Dean doesn't come across as a hypocrite when talking out against Bush's policies with regards to the Iraqi war.

Personally, I can understand Kerry and Lieberman's views against the current Iraqi situation but since they are in the position of having to qualify their answer each time with a, 'yes I voted for the war but...' they lose a lot of Democrats.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Yes, Bush said this...

Bush’s latest press conference yielded much.

Even though he took responsibility for the 16 words in his SOTU he still passes the buck on other issues.

When asked about the sputtering economy Bush responded.

THE PRESIDENT... First of all, let me -- just a quick history, recent history. The stock market started to decline in March of 2000. Then the first quarter of 2001 was a recession. And then we got attacked in 9/11. And then corporate scandals started to bubble up to the surface, which created a -- a lack of confidence in the system. And then we had the drumbeat to war. Remember on our TV screens -- I'm not suggesting which network did this -- but it said, "March to War," every day from last summer until the spring -- "March to War, March to War." That's not a very conducive environment for people to take risk, when they hear, "March to War" all the time. [italics mine]

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Yes, Network Television is to blame. How could we not have thought of this?
New words...

Merriam Websters has a page of New Words and Senses Sampler.

Some we’ve used for years and others are slang; but either way they are now official - so use them with authority.

agony aunt . . . . noun (1975) chiefly British : a columnist who writes an agony column

bogart . . . . transitive verb [probably from Humphrey Bogart died 1957 American film actor] (1966) 1 : BULLY, INTIMIDATE 2 : to use or consume without sharing

cack-handed . . . . adjective [English dialect cack, keck awkward] (1854) 1 British : LEFT-HANDED 2 British : CLUMSY, AWKWARD

cheesed off . . . . adjective [origin unknown] (1942) chiefly British : ANGRY, IRRITATED

dead-cat bounce noun [from the facetious notion that even a dead cat would bounce slightly if dropped from a sufficient height] (1985) : a brief and insignificant recovery (as of stock prices) after a steep decline

dot-commer . . . . noun (1997) : a person who owns or works for a dot-com

Frankenfood . . . . noun [Franken- (as in Frankenstein) + food] (1992) : genetically engineered food

phat . . . . adjective . . . . [probably alteration of 1fat] (1963) slang : highly attractive or gratifying : EXCELLENT [a phat beat moving through my body - Tara Roberts]

MacGuffin or McGuffin . . . . noun [coined by Alfred Hitchcock] (ca. 1939) : an object, event, or character in a film or story that serves to set and keep the plot in motion despite usually lacking intrinsic importance