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Vladimir Putin is living John Ashcroft's wet dream: using fears of terrorism to seize the media, suppress dissent and centralize political control.

Muslim politicians and priests in India and Nigeria have prevented immunization of their communities' children for polio, on the cusp of world-wide eradication success. This has resulted in the spread of polio to several other countries where it had been eliminated. Should we rename polio to "the Muslim disease"? Probably not - that term should be reserved for the obsession in which Muslims think they are special and the world wishes them ill.

I check the stats for my web site every few days, to see what people are looking at. The most popular ones for the last year have been the home page, the 1890 Massachusetts Gazetteer, my quotes page, the bibliography of author Joseph C. Lincoln and a copied page with lyrics to Billy Joel's We didn't start the fire. All of a sudden though, the most popular item has become a GIF image I created:

impeach Bush

September 14, 2004 NYT

Junking Science
    The Bush administration has from time to time found it convenient to distort science to serve political ends. The result is a purposeful confusion of scientific protocols in which "sound science" becomes whatever the administration says it is. In the short run, this is a tactic to override basic environmental protections in favor of industry. In the long run, it undermines the authority of science itself.
    The latest example concerns the marbled murrelet, a small seabird listed as a threatened species that lives along the coast from Northern California up to the Aleutian Islands. ...
    This administration seems to make no accommodation for anything besides humans' economic desires. Any creature in the way may find itself legislated, litigated or regulated out of existence.

It's way past time:

Massacre Draws Self-Criticism in Muslim Press
By John Kifner. September 9, 2004
BEIRUT, Lebanon, Sept. 8 - The brutal school siege in Russia, with hundreds of children dead and wounded, has touched off an unusual round of self-criticism and introspection in the Muslim and Arab world.
    "It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims," Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, the general manager of the widely watched satellite television station Al Arabiya said in one of the most striking of these commentaries.

On the Intelligence czar idea:
William Safire, 9-8-2004, NYT
    The proposal to be railroaded into law would concentrate power in one unelected official. It would eviscerate the coordination function of the national security adviser, invite budgetary rivalry with the homeland security secretary and guarantee operational clashes with military officers in the field. Disagreement between the president and the new boss of all covert bosses could paralyze the nation at a moment of crisis.
    This pre-election panacea not only demolishes the barrier between information provider and policy maker, but also undermines analytical conflict and institutionalizes the "groupthink" it professes to cure.
    After dangerously marrying the law officer and the spy, it sets up a soothing and toothless Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board likely to be as feckless as the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
    Call me unduly cautious - call me soft on terror - but have we thought through the downside of this brilliantly publicized, timorously debated, posterior-covering legislation? Don't we trust ourselves to elect a responsible president and Congress to deal with this soberly only a few months from now?

I know what he thinks he's threatening, but of course it's more likely that the world will blow up with him and the Smirking Chimp at the US helm:

"It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States." - Dick Cheney

This is an amusing list/appalling list making the email rounds. Feel free to pass it on.

" If you don't send it to at least 10 other people, we're likely to be stuck with Bush for 4 more years."
 Friends don't let friends vote Republican.
 Things you have to believe to be a Republican today:
  •  Saddam was a good guy when Reagan armed him, a bad guy when Bush's daddy made war on him, a good guy when Cheney did business with him and a bad guy when Bush needed a "we can't find Bin Laden" diversion.
  •  Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.
  •  A woman can't be trusted with decisions about her own body, but multi-national corporations can make decisions affecting all mankind without regulation.
  •  Jesus loves you, and shares your hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton.
  •  The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.
  •  If condoms are kept out of schools, adolescents won't have sex.
  •  Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing health care to all Americans is socialism.
  •  HMOs and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart.
  •  Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.
  •  A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense. A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.
  •  Government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet.
  •  The public has a right to know about Hillary's cattle trades, but George Bush's cocaine conviction is none of our business.
  •  Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness, and you need our prayers for your recovery.
  •  You support states' rights, which means Attorney General John Ashcroft can tell states what local voter initiatives they have the right to adopt.
  •  What Bill Clinton did in the 1960s is of vital national interest, but what Bush did in the '80s is irrelevant.
  • yeehaw

  The government still hasn't arrested anyone for the home-grown anthrax attacks, but it's pressing felony charges against scientist Robert Ferrell,  for providing harmless bacteria to artist Steven Kurtz, and against Kurtz, for using the bacteria in an "installation" whose topic was biotechnology.

How They Could Steal the Election This Time - Ronnie Dugger

Neocon Riots Rock DC - Eric Kenning

Bush in a Box pretty much summarizes the level of analysis coming from the left these days. You know the line: The White House has been hijacked by a shady gang of zealots who are either insane or stupid or both. Vote Kerry and return the country to sanity.  But the zealots in Bush's White House are neither insane nor stupid nor particularly shady. Rather, they openly serve the interests of the corporations that put them in office with bloody-minded efficiency. Their boldness stems not from the fact that they are a new breed of zealot but that the old breed finds itself in a newly unconstrained political climate. - Naomi Klein, The Nation

go Cheney yourselfvote KerryRepublicans suck

Note to Kerry:
arrow The bumper sticker on my car, for all of this year, has been "any other whore in 2004." I've been looking for a reason to change it to "Kerry-Edwards," and I sure don't see it. Why? Because you come across as nearly as boring as Gore, you actually support Bush's war despite his lies, you don't seem to address the issues of oil-wars, Texas oil-men and energy independence with more than boilerplate, and your vague proposals on taxes-entitlements-deficits are unconvincing and pandering. What do I want to see? Denounce the chicken-hawks, oil-robbers and evangelists. Explain that Bush's tax polices have indebted us all for decades and that we need to pay it down. Come up with better ideas for energy policy than gasahol pandering and no-Yucca-Mountain. Explain that veterans and old people are no more entitled to cheap drugs than anyone else. Stop pandering!

Well, it isn't Churchill, but it gets the points across, I think. Actually got back a semi-relevant response in a day. That's a big change for Kerry - usually there's been no answer, or something vague after several months. The answer had links to position papers--vague crap.

August 6, 2004
  Senator Is Described as a Likely Source of Intelligence Leak
By Sherly Gay Stolberg, NYT
WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 - A two-year investigation into how the news media obtained classified intercepted messages has found that Senator Richard C. Shelby, the Alabama Republican and former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was almost certainly a source, a government official familiar with the inquiry said Thursday.

  NYT editorial: There is no bigger and more urgent threat to the security of every American than the possibility of nuclear bomb materials falling into the wrong hands. That is why it is astonishing, and frightening, that the Bush administration is now pushing to strip the teeth from a proposed new treaty aimed at expanding the current international bans on the production of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium. With talks on the new treaty set to begin later this year, the administration suddenly announced last week that it would insist that no provisions for inspections or verification be included.

Clever if ridiculous bumper sticker: sore
There are still some Bushie fascists with this on their pickups in 2004, but of course Bore graciously conceded, and has been absurdly silent about the stolen election. What did happen to the pledges to revamp the electoral system?

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." - George W. Bush

arrow The predictably ungrateful, bloody-minded Iraqis are demonstrating that we can't impose democracy on people without the concept. And even if it were possible, the Bushies have just botched the whole shebang. According to the reports, the abuse of Iraqi prisoners has further inflamed anti-American feelings across the Arab world. Never mind that torture is standard in most of those countries, and Saddaam's regime was beyond awful even by those standards.  They seem to know that Western democracies are held to higher standards than their own governments, even while the priests rant about our decadence and immorality.
    They seem to believe in a Western-Zionist conspiracy against them, and as in all good conspiracy theories, any and all evidence can be interpreted to support that. They are self-centered, as most of us are, and think the West puts great thought and effort into destroying them. Actually though, we don't give a shit about them: if  every Arab vanished today, we'd wonder, and celebrate for a week, then go on about our business.  On the rare occasions we do think about them, what comes to mind for most of us are just bloody-minded and ugly murderers, or, to those of us with a longer historical perspective, they're pirates, slave traders and rug merchants.  If we really cared, we'd spend lots of money and effort to replace the petroleum industry (despite the best efforts of our own extractive-industry environmental rapists, personified to me by Bush Lite and Cheney.)

It being an election year, the culture war is raging. Mrs Grundy is outraged that Janet Jackson exposed a tit at the Super Bowl half-time show. I think she's so outraged because it's a sacred/patriotic event. And I hear that lots more skin is common on daily soap operas, but Mrs Grundy can pretend not to watch them. Yet she's flocking to see Christ brutalized in The Passion of the Christ.

  adam evechristian love

 If you suck on a tit the movie gets an R rating. If you hack the tit off with an axe it will be PG. - Jack Nicholson   

Or, to quote myself, from 9/18/00:     

 It's not news that the far right has a problem with Hollywood. The far right has had a problem with all entertainment for centuries. But this election season all the pols are jumping on the "trash Hollywood" bandwagon, with the right generally upset at the sex, and the left obsessed with violence. The assumption is that showing an activity encourages that activity. On the other hand, the right complained for years about glorification of drug use in the 60's and 70's, conveniently oblivious to decades of film heroes who drank like fish and smoked like chimneys. This pandering to Mrs Grundy makes no sense to me. As the movie industry points out, the crime rate is down dramatically in the last few years (and so is the teenage pregnancy rate). Nobody is forcing audiences to watch the stuff, and it isn't addictive. The government has had no problem co-opting the movie industry to produce propaganda films for several decades, whenever it suited the government.

  Our Congressman, Jim McGovern, isn't a strong supporter of Constitutional rights, but he looks like ACLU material compared to the redneck carpet-bagger who's planning to run against him. Ron Crews was too extreme even for Georgia. There is a mild descriptive site, labeled parody, that our right-wing local columnists call "nasty." Somehow, cognitive dissonance perhaps, they don't notice that the main-stream right-wingers have been calling the Democrats immoral traitors and murderers for years.
    Our local head bigot is Laurie LeTourneau, who also has a commentary site dedicated to her.

State and federal courts issued 1,442 surveillance warrants in 2003, the [Washington] Post writes, while Washington's secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court issued over 1,700, an 85 percent increase since 2001. Provisions in the U.S.A. Patriot Act, as well as a 2002 decision by a--yes--secret court, allows investigators to apply for an intelligence warrant even when the investigation's primary goal is criminal prosecution rather than intelligence gathering. Such warrants have a longer duration and wider scope, the paper reports, and do not need to meet probable cause. - Slate

Just how does that square with this:
    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized.
--The Fourth Amendment, Constitution of the United States of America

  Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.
    "War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes. And armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.
    "In war, too, the discretionary power of the executive is extended. Its influence in dealing out offices, honors and emoluments is multiplied; and all the meaning of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war and in the degeneracy of manners and morals, engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."
    --James Madison

Times are weird when whack job Patrick Buchanan makes more sense than the President, even if the "President" is George W. Bush:
   By threatening war against Iran, Iraq and North Korea in his now-famous "Axis of Evil" address, the president painted himself into a corner. Either Bush now goes to war against one of these regimes, or he will be humiliated and exposed as a bellicose bluff.
    Let me say it again: Whoever fed Bush those lines, or did not argue against his delivering them, disserved the president. For that speech has blown our coalition against terror to smithereens.
    --Patrick Buchanan
Worldnet Daily News, 2/19/2002

So, apparently, if you are a pre-sentient mass of cells, this country will protect you and your rights to the n-th degree. If you have made the mistake of becoming an Iraqi citizen, apparently we can just drop bombs on you with impunity.
--Janeane Garofalo

2 amy 2004

  26 Apr 2004chickenhawks
In 2000, the Bush camp ran a vicious "whisper campaign" which questioned whether John McCain was mentally stable after his service as a Vietnam POW.1 In 2002, Bush surrogates ran a TV ad against Max Cleland, a Democratic Senator who lost three limbs in Vietnam, that attacked Cleland's patriotism and faded his face into Osama bin Laden's.2 Now, the Republican National Committee and the Bush/Cheney campaign are pushing a story that John Kerry was not injured badly enough in Vietnam to deserve one of his three Purple Hearts. Given the gaping holes in Bush's own record of service, the attack is absurd. - Moveon.org

  WASHINGTON, April 13 — The F.B.I. came under withering criticism on Tuesday from the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, with its chairman describing new staff reports on the bureau's performance before and after the attacks as an "indictment of the F.B.I."
    "It failed and it failed and it failed and it failed," the chairman, Thomas H. Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, said of the bureau at a public hearing of the 10-member panel. "This is an agency that does not work. It makes you angry. And I don't know how to fix it."
    There were sharp contradictions between the sworn testimony of Mr. Pickard and Mr. Ashcroft, with Mr. Pickard testifying that Mr. Ashcroft had not made a high priority of counterterrorism issues before Sept. 11 and had told Mr. Pickard that summer that he no longer wished to discuss terrorist threats during regular F.B.I. briefings.
    One of the staff reports said that Mr. Pickard "told us that although he initially briefed the attorney general regarding these threats, after two such briefings the attorney general told him he did not want to hear this information anymore."

  Uses and Abuses of Science, Science February 23, 2004
Although the Bush administration is hardly the first to politicize science, no administration in recent memory has so shamelessly distorted scientific findings for policy reasons or suppressed them when they conflict with political goals. This is the nub of an indictment delivered last week by more than 60 prominent scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates. Their statement was accompanied by a report published by the Union of Concerned Scientists, listing cases where the administration has manipulated science on environmental and other issues.


Dan Quayle...
Mr. Quayle denied receiving preferential treatment, but he didn't quibble about what making it into the guard meant at that time. "Obviously, if you join the National Guard, you have less of a chance of going to Vietnam," he said on "Meet the Press" some time later. "I mean, it goes without saying." That's presumably what Colin Powell had in mind in "My American Journey" when he wrote, "I am angry that so many of the sons of the powerful and well placed . . . managed to wrangle spots in Reserve and National Guard units."

But in the current furor about George W. Bush's military record it seems to be taken for granted that Mr. Bush got into the so-called Champagne unit of the Texas Air National Guard through influence. The stories begin by saying he was jumped over a 500-man waiting list. Then they quickly go on to investigate the details of his sojourn in Alabama. Using influence to get into the guard and therefore out of Vietnam is no longer disqualifying for "sons of the powerful"; it's assumed. Or could it be that Dan Quayle is judged by stricter standards than other politicians?

That possibility makes it worth taking another look at his academic record. When Mr. Quayle finally authorized the indirect release of his marks, for a long Washington Post profile by Bob Woodward and David Broder — a profile, I should mention, that was much more favorable than people had expected — it turned out that he'd had a C+ average. George W. Bush had a straight C. Dick Cheney flunked out of Yale twice. Nobody accuses them of not being able to spell potato. I bring up these matters not to embarrass the president and the vice president. They have enough embarrassments as it is. But fair's fair. -- Calvin Trillin, NYT

After 3 years as pseudo President, with all the resources of the federal government behind him, plus the hundreds of millions of $ from the vast-right-wing-conspiracy, Bush still can't show he properly served in the National Guard! Not even a general memory of his presence from a generally right-wing bunch of guys that did actually serve there. Bring on the flight suit!

Using this week's White House budget methodology, I can project that if you just keep reading this column, your assets will increase by $28,581 and you will lose 12.42 pounds. And this column is projected to end after just one paragraph. - Nicholas D. Kristof, NYT,  February 4, 2004

The Child Molesters Union, aka the Catholic priesthood, is frantically organizing opposition to gay marriage in Massachusetts. While the news today was that as the churches gradually report in, even the media and victims groups had far underestimated the amount of abuse. The right wing complaints about judicial fiat are particularly hypocritical given the Bush election by the US Supremes.

Apparently one tactic Bush/Rove will use in a campaign against Kerry is to scare the rest of the country with visions of liberal Massachusetts perverts (to be redundant). I looked up statistics, comparing crime rates in Massachusetts vs. Texas, and divorce and teenage birth rates too, as some proxies for conventional morality:

The FBI published numbers for overall major property crime and violent crime stats for 2001:  Texas being 8th in property crime and 13th in violent crime, vs. 44th and 21st for Massachusetts.

The firearm murder rate in 2001 was 3.9 per 100,000 in Texas, and 1.5 in Massachusetts. The FBI estimates that 67% of murders involve a firearm, but doesn't have firm numbers on other methods. Legal executions in Texas, since 1974: 313 (none in Massachusetts). Not exactly evidence that capital punishment is a deterrent, is it? Incarceration rates in 1999: 704 per 100,000 for Texas, 252 for Massachusetts.

The US Dept HHS stats for age 15-19 birthrates per thousand in 2000: Texas 69.2, Massachusetts 27.1, national 48.5. Are Mass. teens so much smarter than Texans in using reliable contraception, or just "more moral"?

The 1994 divorce stats: Texas was number 16, with 5.4 per thousand, while Massachusetts was lowest, number 51, with 2.4, and the national average was 4.6. (1994 was the last time the feds collected  the data.)

Other potential data: induced abortion rates, % tobacco abusers, per capita alcohol consumption, education achievement levels...

Landover Holiday CampLandover Baptist Church is a hilarious, politically incorrect parody of Fundamentalism. There is an anti-Landover site, supposedly run by outraged Fundies, but it's a subtler version of Landover (I think). It makes me think about the nature of humor, but I don't have any answers. And there's the  Skeptics annotated Bible - interesting, if you think the book is worth taking seriously.

  "Patriotism" is a word; and one that generally comes to mean either my country, right or wrong, which is infamous, or my country is always right, which is imbecile. - Dr Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander, p 173. Patrick O'Brian. 1970

  Rumsfeld Made Iraq Overture in '84 Despite Chemical Raids
WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, NYT  — As a special envoy for the Reagan administration in 1984, Donald H. Rumsfeld, now the defense secretary, traveled to Iraq to persuade officials there that the United States was eager to improve ties with President Saddam Hussein despite his use of chemical weapons, newly declassified documents show.

One more political hairball: "General Wesley Clark has proven himself a quick study on the stump, if this ... is any indication: "Asked how he would pay for his ambitious AIDS plan, Clark pointed to a bunch of red, white and blue balloons. 'I can bring this country together,' he said. 'I believe we can come together on this, because I believe in this country. I love those colors; I love the flag.'" in Slate

Best reason to move to Canada: "You can be a social conservative in the U.S. without being a wacko. Not in Canada." - CHRIS RAGAN, McGill University economist. NYT

This month it's the Chinese turn to get bashed by the government/media, over its economic policy. A few months ago it was the French, for not agreeing with Shrub. Remember when the Japanese were the evil supermen, buying up all our landmarks? In my memory it's been the Japanese and Germans for producing high-quality cars, the Arabs (including the Nigerians, Venezuelans and Indonesians) for pricing oil at market levels... "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence and memory span of the American public." And then there were those pathetic, pointless invasions of Grenada and Panama.

Gay marriage in Massachusetts - a hot-button issue for the conservatives and gays. I wrote a letter to the Boston Globe (they didn't print it):
     Thomas Paine wrote, in Rights of Man, "How strangely is antiquity treated! To answer some purposes it is spoken of as the times of darkness and ignorance, and to answer others, it is put for the light of the world." I'm going to do both.
     The Puritan founders of New England distinguished religious from civil affairs, and they had the opinion that marriage, birth and death were civil events, important largely for the British obsession with property rights. Divorce was legal, though rare. Town meetings and religious services were held in the same meeting-houses (not called churches), because the settlers were poor and economical, and did not see any bits of architecture as being "sacred."
     Town clerks were called upon, from the earliest days, to record births, marriages and deaths - they were not recording baptisms, weddings and funerals, nor religious affiliation. The major public acknowledgment of 16th-18th Century British marriages was at the signing of the marriage contract, with the wedding itself being a small family affair. For example, the duties for the Eastham clerk in 1646 were: "You shall fairly and fully serve in the office of a Town Clerk in the town of Eastham, for the present year; and as long as by mutual consent the town and you shall agree, during which time you shall carefully and faithfully pen all such records you shall be intrusted withall; and shall record all town acts and orders, and shall enter all town grants and conveyances. You shall record all births and marriages and burials that shall be brought to you within the town; and shall publish all contracts of marriage, you shall be required to do, according to the order of the Court." Many weddings were civil, and the officials and ministers kept their own records, sometimes submitting them to the town clerks later.
     The point is that there was a distinction between the civil and religious aspects of marriage in Massachusetts nearly 400 years ago. Would the Puritans have supported gay marriage? No, of course not: they were intolerant people who executed real Quakers and supposed witches. On the other hand, they didn't go searching for homosexuals to persecute.
     More recent sects have tried to blur that distinction between church and state spheres of authority, as well as claiming that buildings and acres of soil with religious affiliation are "sacred," with special rights. I reject those ideas. Similarly, if, in the 21st Century, the informed citizens decide it is fair that homosexual couples should have the same property rights allowed to heterosexual couples by virtue of legal marriage, then the state should allow it. Religious institutions can set any rules of their own they like about weddings, of course, but they should not impose their opinions on the rest of us.

I sent it to several politicians, as well: State Rep. James Leary, State Sen. Harriette Chandler, Gov. Romney, Sen. Kerry, Congressman McGovern. Leary wrote back quickly and personally, Romney and McGovern had automatic email acknowledgments, zip from Chandler, and Kerry wrote 6 weeks later to waffle.

Today, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that same-sex couples can marry, and given the Legislature 6 months to work it out. The shit will hit the fan now - in fact, the politicians are shoveling the pander with all their might already.

  Perhaps Congressman Jeff Flake, a conservative Republican from Arizona who has been a leader in the fight to lift the travel ban [to Cuba], best explained the lamentable politics behind the week's antics: "For the same reason we will never have a rational farm policy as long as presidential campaigns begin in Iowa, we will never have a rational Cuba policy as long as presidential campaigns are perceived to end in Florida." in Slate or NYT

Iraq: The classic peasant mentality in full force: any change is bound to be for the worse. Exacerbated by the mullahs and Sadaamists and probably Iran and Syria. Bush and Co. of course lie about what is going on, but if they are doing anything right, we don't hear about it. And the news media have the same low-brow "if it bleeds, it leads" mentality of the 11 o'clock news at home, with an exaggerated sense of their own worth, bravery, creditability and efforts. If it truly is a few organized and violent fanatics and mercenaries, then we should blast them to hell, and help the rest to peace and even democracy (fat chance for democracy). If it's the whole population opposed to change, then we should just leave them to their inevitable civil war, and maybe try to make deals with Turkey and Iran about it. At the moment, it looks like the Bushies are trying to "declare victory and go home."

Sure it would be nice to have the world living in democracies, but the neo-cons trying to overthrow all the bad guys haven't a clue or the stomach or the wallet for the real work And why is it that we are supporting the Saudi dictatorship against the radical reformers, anyway? Because in the real world, oil always trumps human rights.

If only his son could read...
  Trying to eliminate Saddam...would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible.... We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq.... there was no viable "exit strategy" we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War
world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. - George H. W. Bush, A World Transformed, 1998.

  The rich world has a poor conscience, and many people liked to alleviate their own unease by sending money to a woman who seemed like an activist for "the poorest of the poor." People do not like to admit that they have been gulled or conned, so a vested interest in the myth was permitted to arise, and a lazy media never bothered to ask any follow-up questions. Many volunteers who went to Calcutta came back abruptly disillusioned by the stern ideology and poverty-loving practice of the "Missionaries of Charity," but they had no audience for their story. ...We witnessed the elevation and consecration of extreme dogmatism, blinkered faith, and the cult of a mediocre human personality. Many more people are poor and sick because of the life of MT: Even more will be poor and sick if her example is followed. She was a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud, and a church that officially protects those who violate the innocent has given us another clear sign of where it truly stands on moral and ethical questions. - Christopher Hitchens in Slate

  In its own small way, the snowmobile issue demonstrates once again that when it comes to public lands the administration is always willing to sacrifice public good for private interest. NYT

Ted Kennedy can't run for President, so sometimes he gets to be the honest bomb-thrower: he accused Bush/Cheney of cooking up the Iraq war to further Republican interests. Dummy's retort was to call Kennedy "uncivil," which is supposedly some kind of deadly political insult. Uncivil? After decades of Republican vilifying of Kennedy, after the near lynching of Clinton for jay-walking, all he can say is that Ted is uncivil. Has he ever actually listened to the vulgar venom spewed by Tom Delay?
Saddam and his kinsmen are bloodthirsty monsters, but that doesn't seem to bother many Americans (or others). Bush lied about Iraqi "Weapons of Mass Destruction," failing to persuade to world they existed, sending hundreds of Americans to their deaths, killing thousands of Iraqis (on top of the tens or hundreds of thousands killed by the sanctions that simply enriched Saddam's clique.) Death among the poor cannon-fodder have never mattered much to the politicians, and now there seems to be a weird alliance of left and right wings forming, to prevent any serious money going to rebuild or even stabilize Iraq - the right as usual won't spend any money that won't quickly end up in their own pockets, the left won't spend this money, to discomfort Bush. The US, especially its Republican subset, despite its promises, always deserts the foreign civilians. The burghers of Hamelin always cheat. The world notices.

The California recall election: The economy tanked, Enron stole billions and billions, and the shit hit the fan while Gray Davis was governor. So the Republicans get all the loot and political control as well. The Terminator is smarter than Ray-gun (so is a potato), but why does California keep electing professional liars? At least Arnold can't be President. It will be interesting to see him deal with a $20B deficit while repealing the $4B car tax - so far the only plan I've heard is that he'll beg in Washington. Glad I won't be living there.

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."

It didn't strike me at the time it happened, but a current political issue is that senior White House staff deliberately exposed the identity of an undercover CIA officer because she is the wife of someone who embarrassed them. Ambassador Joseph Wilson was sent by the White House last year to investigate the allegations of uranium sales from Niger to Iraq, and he found the claim was bogus, and said so to the government, and said so publicly when the Bush trolls puffed the sale tale anyway. Exposing Mrs Wilson is a major felony, potentially putting many lives at risk, so will anyone admit doing it? Not likely, and their pet "journalist," Robert Novak, won't squeal. Repeating a theme: what would the uproar be if this had happened in the Clinton White House?

Apparently the right-wingers are blaming the Iraq situation and the Trade Center attack on Clinton! There was a news story this week about T-shirts being sold at a Republican conference blaming Bill for that. Hey you morons, remember George I and Gulf War I and arming Iraq against Iran and April Gillespie giving Saddam the green light for Kuwait?

I submitted a proposal to my State Rep, James B. Leary, to control vehicular noise pollution. Let's see whether he responds.

He did, very promptly, with a bland acknowledgment and comment that the city was working on the issue.

  Iraqis have to prove that they really can work together and are willing to sacrifice for the chance to rule themselves. (Why are we offering them $55 million in rewards for finding Saddam and his sons? They should be paying us!) We don't need U.N. or French troops in Iraq right now. We need more Iraqis who want to sacrifice to be free. - Thomas Friedman, NYT, 7-30-2003

  Senate majority leader Bill Frist thinks gay marriage is unholy. He also used to trap and dissect stray kittens. - Maureen Dowd, NYT

  Those who want to send a message to the president must now navigate as many as nine Web pages and fill out a form that asks if they support White House policy. - NYT headline

Sen. Orrin Hatch wants anti-piracy software installed on all computers that will fry your computer if you download unauthorized files. (He has somehow made several thousand dollars as a musician.) Yet he and all his Western buddies have supported the wholesale theft and corrupt conversion of public resources, land, and minerals for a century. Not to mention the passive genocide of and active theft from the natives for the same time.

  6/19/2003 - Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT, said he was drafting legislation to require devices in PCs permitting the destruction of hardware used for wide scale copyright infringement by sending a secret command to the remote computer. A copyright holder would be required to offer two warnings before the "kill switch" was activated and the computer destroyed or permanently disabled, Hatch said.
   A senior executive at Intel Corporation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, called Hatch's comments "nutty, ludicrous, and beyond the pale." - AP report

   The Republicans impeached Clinton, ostensibly because he lied about his sex life. Why haven't the Democrats impeached Shrub, for lying about the evidence against Iraq? Because they know he's as clueless as Reagan was? Because they're so spineless and disorganized? Because they voted for the Iraq war?
   The story about the Niger uranium fraud has had a degree of political and press attention for the past week or so, yet I believe I read about it weeks before the State of the Union address in which Shrub lied about it.

Bush lied; people died.


 *Bush's EPA pick oversaw rise in Idaho pollution *
WASHINGTON - Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, President Bush's top candidate to head the Environmental Protection Agency, has cut his state's environmental budget three times and sharply reduced enforcement of environmental regulations.
During Kempthorne's 41/2-year tenure as governor, Idaho's pristine air has gotten dirtier, more rivers have been polluted, fewer polluters have been inspected and more toxins have contaminated the air, water and land, according to a Knight Ridder analysis of Idaho pollution data from EPA and state records.

It was almost nostalgic to see a John Birch "get US out of the UN" bumper sticker yesterday. I'd like to believe the Birchers saw the errors of their paranoid ways, or died off in antediluvian irrelevancy, but I actually suspect they are now the middle of the Republican Party, and not because they changed.

Recent bumper stickers I like: 

You don't pray in my school and I won't think in your church Mitt Romney for Governor
of Utah
Bush sucks  Let's not elect him in 2004, either. Any other whore in 2004

I'm pleased to read that the town meetings in Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet and Provincetown rejected Bush's Suppression of Liberty Act.

Brewster voted also rejected it this fall.

Our Congressman, James McGovern, votes against it (good), yet votes for superstitious, anti-democratic things such as the "Flag Burning" Constitutional amendment and the "Pledge of Allegiance." When I e-mailed him recently, condemning those votes (again), his response (again) was a packet of paper demonstrating how he panders to the veterans' lobby.

2 may 2003


...Meanwhile, aren't the leaders of a democratic nation supposed to tell their citizens the truth?

One wonders whether most of the public will ever learn that the original case for war has turned out to be false. In fact, my guess is that most Americans believe that we have found W.M.D.'s. Each potential find gets blaring coverage on TV; how many people catch the later announcement — if it is ever announced — that it was a false alarm? It's a pattern of misinformation that recapitulates the way the war was sold in the first place. Each administration charge against Iraq received prominent coverage; the subsequent debunking did not.

Did the news media feel that it was unpatriotic to question the administration's credibility? Some strange things certainly happened. For example, in September Mr. Bush cited an International Atomic Energy Agency report that he said showed that Saddam was only months from having nuclear weapons. "I don't know what more evidence we need," he said. In fact, the report said no such thing — and for a few hours the lead story on MSNBC's Web site bore the headline "White House: Bush Misstated Report on Iraq." Then the story vanished — not just from the top of the page, but from the site.

Thanks to this pattern of loud assertions and muted or suppressed retractions, the American public probably believes that we went to war to avert an immediate threat — just as it believes that Saddam had something to do with Sept. 11.

Now it's true that the war removed an evil tyrant. But a democracy's decisions, right or wrong, are supposed to take place with the informed consent of its citizens. That didn't happen this time. And we are a democracy — aren't we?  - Paul Krugman, NYT, Apr 29 2003

Why are we seeing yellow ribbons as symbols of support for both the US troops in Iraq and for Bush's war on Iraq? The yellow ribbons became famous during Carter's Iranian hostage crisis. They were tokens of remembrance for the hostage diplomats - they certainly were not support for Carter and his Iranian policy. Is there some underlying realization that our troops are hostages of Rummy and Dummy?

Surprisingly, some of Dubya's buddies are caught, but will they pay?
AP story
WASHINGTON - Federal energy regulators said yesterday that their investigation found widespread manipulation of natural gas and electricity prices and supplies in California.
Pat Wood, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said that as a result of the manipulation California would receive more than the $1.8 billion in refunds recommended by a FERC judge in December.
The FERC singled out seven subsidiaries of bankrupt Enron Corp. and five other companies for taking advantage of a dysfunctional market and reaping millions of dollars in unjust profits.

The right-wing is bewailing Hollywood's ambivalence about their war, saying the actors have no standing to speak out. Yet B-list actors Ronald Ray-gun and NRA "God" Heston are their heroes.

If Washington is Hollywood for ugly people, Hollywood is Washington for the simple-minded. - John McCain

And meanwhile, the US media fell for the "easy war" bullshit from the White House, so, as that is proving to be false, they portray every US and Brit injury as a catastrophe. And the rest-of-world media and Moslems see the whole thing as naked aggression, mostly ignoring the millions of people killed by Saddam. Yet no country is running to help Saddam, and Iran, in particular, seems to be quiet.

Shortly after writing this, the Iraqi defense did utterly collapse, yet the US war planners were completely unprepared to assert control and get services up and running.

Imagine the furor if Rachel Corrie had been killed by Palestinians, instead of by the Israeli army. But she was run over by an Israeli bulldozer, so she's only in the the back pages.

DeCSS is the program developed by Norwegian teen Jon Lech Johansen in 1999 that allows some copy-protected DVDs to run on machines they were excluded from running on. The movie industry freaked out, with gross exaggerations about the "problem," and untrue claims that it allowed copying. He was prosecuted, but acquitted in 2003. Did you know that it's a felony to even possess any software or hardware that overcomes copy protection for software, videos, etc? Big Brother is watching, John Asscroft is snooping, and you can (theoretically?) spend hard time in prison for attempting to watch Titanic in a format that isn't Approved. I wonder how many hits there will be when I name a random file DeCSS? Answer: It got thousands of hits, but apparently because it was actually a file with the lyrics to Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire.

Bush Lite gave a short speech yesterday to justify his war. It was actually well done, addressing the Iraqi listeners (assuming there are some) and the rest of the world as well as the US, except for his continued lies about the Iraqi terrorist connection and WMDs (weapons of mass destruction). And after all, he is the one (supposedly) in command of thousands of nukular bombs, with (deliberately?) leaked scenarios to use them on North Korea and on deep Iraqi bunkers.

Why, of course the people don't want to go to war, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders... All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country. - Herman Goering, at the Nuremberg trials (quoted by John R MacArthur, Boston Globe, 3/9/2003)

Senior American diplomat John Brady Kiesling resigned from the US Foreign Service with an eloquent letter to Colin Powell, condemning the Administration's selfish, ignorant and short-sighted policies.

I watched the Salem Witch Trial mini-series on TV this week, which was well done. I was reminded again that; 1.) hysteria happens, and watch out when there's self-interest behind it; 2.) I have not heard that even the worst current American politicians and priests are calling for witchcraft and blasphemy trials (but even now the politicians are too cowardly to repeal "blasphemy" laws, and who knows what the really awful priests are working on, far away from the sunlight); 3.) I worry that such things will get much worse before they get better, with power in the hands of Asscroft and his fundy nut-case colleagues, sanctioned by Scalia and his medieval cohort.

Bush makes me gag


Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children... This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from an iron cross. - Dwight Eisenhower, 1953 (quoted in Boston Globe)

Governor Clean gets dirty quickly:

BOSTON - Gov. Mitt Romney, who has targeted patronage and waste since taking office in early January, will not propose any changes to the state's much-criticized police bonus system as part of the 2004 budget proposal unveiled this week.
Labeled an ineffective "cash cow" by a Board of Higher Education report in late 2001, the so-called Quinn Bill gives police officers salary increases for earning degrees in criminal justice. - AP

July 2003 - Despite an economy in the toilet, and his eagerness to cut social services, and even the Legislature's willingness, Gov Hypocrite won't cut the Quinn pork


...For months both major U.S. cable news networks have acted as if the decision to invade Iraq has already been made, and have in effect seen it as their job to prepare the American public for the coming war.

So it's not surprising that the target audience is a bit blurry about the distinction between the Iraqi regime and Al Qaeda. Surveys show that a majority of Americans think that some or all of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqi, while many believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in Sept. 11, a claim even the Bush administration has never made. And since many Americans think that the need for a war against Saddam is obvious, they think that Europeans who won't go along are cowards... - Paul Krugman, NYT


War on Iraq seems inevitable. Senator Byrd had a great speech denouncing it. My opinion is that obviously overthrowing the monster Saddam Hussein is a great idea, and it was mistake of George I not to have done it in the first Gulf War, and no country except the US is willing to do it. But the motives of the Bush chicken-hawks are completely corrupt, and therefore illegitimate, but sometimes good things get done for bad reasons, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but some things are true even if George Bush believes them, but, but... Their evidence and conclusions are most likely lies and exaggerations, propaganda to feed a lazy and pliant media and sway the gullible public. The push for a war by these people is at least partially designed to give a spurious legitimacy to its Supreme Court-elected regime. It's clearly designed to distract us from the failure to find bin Laden -- in fact polls show the Bush regime has succeeded in so confusing the public that most of us either think Saddam = bin Laden, or that Saddam was the main backer of bin Laden. It's to distract us from their looting the Treasury, mismanaging the economy, and trashing the environment. These are the same Republicans who wouldn't support an intervention in disintegrating Yugoslavia despite the genocide. These are the same Cold Warriors who actively aided Saddam and Iraq when it was seen as a buffer to Iran, the same realpolitikers who encouraged rebellion in post-war Iraq, promised support and instantly abandoned the rebels to be slaughtered, the same Cold Warriors who stirred up civil war in Angola (millions dead!) and Nicaragua, the same industrialists who want high oil prices and maintenance of the status quo for extractive industries at home, the same industrialists who supported the Mobutu kleptocracy in Congo, and police states around the world for generations...

It is legitimate to pick one's fights carefully, and even the US Empire can't run the whole world. If the US role in history is to promote peace, democracy and human freedoms, what are Bush Lite and his owners doing about the dictators running Saudi Arabia and China and most of the former Soviet republics? Cozying up to them. And ignoring all of sub-Saharan Africa. (Why is Castro's Cuba a special case? Right-wing Florida voters.) If the role of the US is to mind its own business and just defend itself, we have no real reason to be invading Iraq. I don't know what's really going on in North Korea, and maybe neither does the Bush regime, but North Korea is obviously a hugely greater danger to world peace than Iraq. The Navy should have been quietly ordered to sink the freighter of SCUD missiles going from North Korea to Yemen recently.

And whatever happened to the US anthrax attack investigation? The only successful biological attack was more than a year ago, apparently by a US government insider, and no one has been arrested. Yet the Bush regime wants to give Gestapo powers to the secret police to spy on ALL of our transactions, through an agency run by that felon John Poindexter. (It stills bemuses me that a disloyal perjurer like Oliver North is a right-wing hero.)

The Administration is playing a cynical bad cop-good cop game: "The sky will be falling - buy duct tape and plastic sheeting" says the designated scaremonger, "Keep calm, no reason to panic, " says Bush, the designated President.

Republic of Fear
It's hard to know whether to scream or laugh reading the government's guidelines on how citizens should prepare for a possible terrorist attack...Buy duct tape and plastic sheeting, they advise, to seal the house against chemical or biological attack. Duct tape? As if this were some kind of handyman project for lowering heating bills?... The conflicting mental images freeze the brain, making one feel suspended somewhere between London during the blitz and a Tom Lehrer concert...- Boston Globe editorial, 2/13/2003

Security at Logan a windfall for police. Antiterror effort boosts overtime.
Five officers earned at least $200,000 last year and a dozen were paid more than $100,000 each in overtime alone. - Boston Globe, p 1

concerning the budget debate and bill, "I ought to nominate some of my colleagues, both Democrat and Republican, for the hall of fame for pork, but I'm afraid they would fund it." - Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.


assertion: "45 percent of all of the dividend income goes to people with $50,000-or-less incomes, family incomes. Nearly three-quarters of it goes to families with $100,000 or less family income." —White House senior adviser Karl Rove, discussing the Bush tax proposal in a meeting with reporters, as reported by Dana Milbank in the Jan. 28 Washington Post.

facts: "Not exactly. It is true that 43.8 percent of tax returns with dividend income are from households with less than $50,000 in income and 73.8 percent of such returns are from households with less than $100,000. But that doesn't mean the little guy earning less than $50,000 gets '45 percent of all the income' or that the Main Street earners below $100,000 get 'three-quarters' of dividend income.
"In fact, those earning less than $50,000 get 14.7 percent of dividend income, and those earning less than $100,000 get 32.7 percent, according to a Brookings Institution/Urban Institute analysis. The former would get 6.8 percent of the benefit of Bush's dividend plan, while the latter would get 20.9 percent."
—Milbank, in the Jan. 28 Washington Post. quoted in Slate's Whopper of the Week: Karl Rove Poor-mouthing the Bush tax plan. By Timothy Noah
January 31, 2003


An argument for local control or axing deadwood or abolition of civil service: the Massachusetts Dept. Education. The office I needed simply doesn't take phone calls, with a phone message feeble excuse, nor is it among the offered e-mail contacts! It has an elaborate web site with internal help links that don't do anything, misleading map links, unexplained login pages, irrelevant contact forms and outdated information.

Detroit--The Bush administration's economic plan would increase by 50 percent or more the deductions that small-business owners can take right away on the biggest sport utility vehicles and pickups. The plan would mean small businesses could immediately deduct the entire price of SUVs such as the Hummer H2, the Lincoln navigator and the Toyota Landcruiser, even if the vehicles were loaded with every available option. - from NYT via Worcester Telegram, p.1

So we're to sacrifice our civil liberties for the "war" effort, but not rein in our arrogance, guns, or greed.


Really local politics: We disposed of our Christmas tree at the Worcester DPW yard: one guy huddled in his truck jerked his thumb vaguely to direct us, and another stayed in the garbage truck until we were done. Sometimes privatization seems like a good idea.

Home owners and tenants are supposedly required to clear their sidewalks promptly after a snow storm. We've had more snow than usual, so far, and there have been the usual letters to the editor, complaining about non-enforcement, followed by the usual reassurances from city officials that THIS time they're working on it. But, driving around yesterday, many days after the last storm, the majority of residential sidewalks are not cleared at all, even near the schools. Intersections are particularly awful, due to the intersecting piles of ice pushed there by the city snowplows. I get to feel outraged because I'm one of the dutiful shovelers and snowblowers.


President Bush will propose eliminating taxes on corporate dividends paid to shareholders, a measure that could cost the government $300 billion over 10 years. "Let's see if we have this right. President Bush plans to propose a stimulus plan the centerpiece of which will have little or no stimulative effect. And at a time when some people badly could use help, Mr. Bush's tax cut mostly will help those who need it least." Washington Post editorial


William Bulger, current president of the University of Massachusetts, former President of the Massachusetts Senate, refused to talk to Congress about his contacts with his fugitive brother, Whitey, supposedly on the FBI's 10-most-wanted list. The dictatorial, vastly corrupt, chip-on-his-shoulder bigot won't help track down a major organized crime boss, accused murderer of 19 people, and yet there is no move afoot to remove him from an important position of moral influence. The newspaper columnists chattered about it for 2 days, no one rose to the challenge (especially among the UMass directors), and the issue died.

August 2003 - a cheer for Gov. Romney, for pressuring Bulger out of his sinecure.

12/2002 source unknown, but sung at Worcester's Holden St. UU Church, to the tune of "If you're happy and you know it"

If You're Unhappy and You Know It, Bomb Iraq.WWJB

If we cannot find Osama, bomb Iraq.
If the market's hurt your Mama, bomb Iraq.
If the terrorists are Saudi
And the bank takes back your Audi
And the TV shows are bawdy, BOMB Iraq!

If corporate scandals are growing, bomb Iraq;
And your ties to them are showing, bomb Iraq.
If the smoking gun ain't smoking,
We don't care and we're not joking
That Saddam will soon be croaking, BOMB Iraq!

Even if we have no allies, bomb Iraq.
From the sand dunes to the valleys, bomb Iraq.
So to hell with the inspections,
Let's look tough for the elections,
Close your mind and take directions, BOMB Iraq!

While the globe is slowly warming, bomb Iraq.
While the clouds of war are storming, bomb Iraq.
If the ozone hole is growing,
Some things we prefer not knowing,
(Though our ignorance is showing,) BOMB Iraq!

So here's one for dear old Daddy, bomb Iraq.
From his favorite little laddy, bomb Iraq.
Saying no would look like treason,
It's the Hussein hunting season.
Even if we have no reason, BOMB Iraq!

Liberal tripe?

You are a suspect
WASHINGTON — If the Homeland Security Act is not amended before passage, here is what will happen to you:
Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend — all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as "a virtual, centralized grand database."
To this computerized dossier on your private life from commercial sources, add every piece of information that government has about you — passport application, driver's license and bridge toll records, judicial and divorce records, complaints from nosy neighbors to the F.B.I., your lifetime paper trail plus the latest hidden camera surveillance — and you have the supersnoop's dream: a "Total Information Awareness" about every U.S. citizen.
This is not some far-out Orwellian scenario. It is what will happen to your personal freedom in the next few weeks if John Poindexter gets the unprecedented power he seeks. - William Safire, New York Times, Nov. 14 2002 http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/14/opinion/14SAFI.html

     Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter, 66, is the force behind the Total Information Awareness project, a system being developed by the Pentagon that seeks to scan information on billions of electronic transactions performed by millions of people here and abroad each day, analyze them and flag suspicious activity for possible investigation.
     He is being vilified by civil liberties groups, Democrats in Congress and even some Republicans as the personification of a new type of Big Brother.
     “From the beginning, Poindexter has been a technocrat involved with the manipulation of information,” said Dr. John Prados, a military historian at the National Security Archive, a research organization in Washington.
          As the national security adviser, he clashed with civil libertarians over a variety of initiatives, including a 1984 national security directive that gave agencies broad authority to control “sensitive but unclassified information” in addition to the classified variety. And he is battling civil liberties groups again over the Total Information Awareness concept.
      It was Poindexter's technological expertise that permitted him to create a back door, named “private blank check,” in the e- mail system to circumvent normal [Reagan] White House channels. The system made it possible for the admiral to oversee the illegal activities of Col. Oliver North. Poindexter's legal troubles later stemmed in part from the 6,000 messages he destroyed with North. He was convicted on five felony counts, including lying to Congress, destroying documents and obstructing Congress in its investigation, but his conviction was overturned on appeal.
     “Clearly Poindexter consciously manipulated the system to act in a way to hide information,” David A. Wallace, a specialist in electronic records said. “When faced with a system of checks and balances, he decided to act illegally. What does this say about the person who we are putting in charge of designing the most comprehensive surveillance system on U.S. citizens ever?”

Monday, January 20, 2003
By John Markoff

Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events. - Winston Churchill

Patriotism, n. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name. - Ambrose Bierce, 1911

San Francisco - A former Enron trader accused of masterminding a scheme to drive up energy prices during California's power crisis pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Timothy Belden, the former head of trading in Enron's Portland, Ore., office, admitted to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He faces up to five years in prison and must forfeit $2.1 million.
U.S.Attorney Kevin Ryan said the guilty plea demonstrates once and for all that the rolling blackouts and huge price increases that rocked California last year were the result of illegal conduct. - Worcester Telegram & Gazette 10/18/2002, p. E2

To be sure, the fatuous hypocrisy of the Bush case for war is no reason to let Saddam Hussein drop a nuclear bomb on your head. Iraq may be an imminent menace to the United States even though George W. Bush says it is. You would think that if honest and persuasive arguments were available, the administration would offer them. But maybe not. - Michael Kinsley, Slate 9/26/02

"This is a grim comedy of mutual condescension," says Leon Wieseltier, the Jewish scholar and literary editor of The New Republic. "The evangelical Christians condescend to the Jews by offering their support before they convert or kill them. And the conservative Jews condescend to Christians by accepting their support while believing that their eschatology is nonsense. This is a fine example of the political exploitation of religion." in Maureen Dowd, NYT 10/6/02

The politics of acceptable discrimination:
Age discrimination is generally illegal, except when it favors old people. It seems to me that the current situation, where most stores and services give "senior discounts" is a hold-over from the times two or three decades ago when there was lots of hoopla about poor old women eating cat-food. They now have relatively strong pensions, much better health and health care, and discriminatory laws passed for their extra protection from criminals. They vote, no one wants to look like an ogre for criticizing their benefits, and most of us expect to be old ourselves sometime.
Now a huge discussion about drug costs, all sound and fury, is going on and on. Drugs that didn't exist for previous generations are now seen as entitlements. The Depression generation has the severe "gimees" as much as any younger generation, in stark contrast to its mythology.
Politicians and police also claim extra legal protection. With what justification? No one forced them into those professions. The police are paid reasonably well (by my standards), undergo training for the profession, routinely ignore petty laws themselves but selectively enforce them for others, and get to retire early and live well at public expense. Without reams of special protection laws for the politically connected, juries and judges would be able to provide case by case decisions as they see fit, as they did for centuries. Selective enforcement, selective prosecution and selective punishment to fit the situation are facts - not always good facts - but at least we would start off more nearly equal.
Even worse are the military veterans, vociferously demanding a free ride everywhere. They make it sound like every single one of them went slogging ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day, when most actually served in peacetime and never went overseas. Anyone injured or wounded in defense of the country deserves our respect and support, but as for the rest: Stop whining - you've had decades of free education, cheap housing, extra medical care, major government job preferences and drunken AmVet conventions.
I think veterans should complain about the blatant unconstitutionality of the military draft, that put many of them in harm's way. But they don't - After all, they're done with it, and survived, so the next generation should face the same deadly hazing.

The ban on political assassination is another example of politicians protecting themselves: otherwise, why not kill a handful of politicians instead of thousands of civilians, if that would effect desired change? It would be cost-effective and morally preferable. (I'm not making any judgments about which changes are desirable, or whether murder is ever justified.)

Thinking about how we treat crimes committed by different classes, or in different ways:

if you stick up a gas station for $500, you'll be sentenced to several years in prison; if you steal a billion $ from a public company, you'll have a bad reputation with a few wimpy liberals.
If a rich guy stuck up a gas station, he'd get psychiatric treatment; if a poor guy stole a pile of money from a corporation, it would be fiction.

My bumper-sticker politics:

Democrat politicians look for problems, hire bureaucrats to enforce/prohibit the solution/problem, and blame Society. Republicans first deny there are real problems, then their solution is always to give money to the rich and jail the poor.

And the Republican "free marketeers" are giving $180 billion in subsidies to bribe farmers for votes, knowingly thereby causing severe disruptions in the 3rd World farm economies, and ordered protection of the steel and timber industries from foreign competition -- utterly exposing themselves as the worst hypocrites. This got a little media play before the church-sex scandal, corporate-corruption scandal, Ted Williams death-scandal and stock market crash pushed it out of the news.

Just why does anyone other than his family give a shit about Ted Williams? His illnesses were front page news for years in Boston, and his death and family squabbling have been an order of magnitude worse. He hadn't played ball for 40 years or so, and he was long-known even then to be foul-mouthed jerk. I hear his neighbors in Nova Scotia amused themselves by burning down his cottage, repeatedly, as punishment for his boorishness.

The stock market has crashed, or is still crashing. The corrupt buffoons in Washington have conveniently forgotten their corrupt idea of privatizing Social Security. I had been opposed to it on several grounds: Congress would inevitably have micromanaged it for its own ends, the brokers would have made $ zillions churning accounts with no competent oversight, superstitious moron citizens would have invested in thousands of variants of the "Church of Prayers for High Returns" (on religious freedom grounds, expecting ludicrous returns, fattening only the charlatans, leaving the rest of us to pay the real bills.) I never suspected massive fraud (from the corporations) as another problem.

No, it hasn't been forgotten! Paul Krugman, NYT column, July 26 2002, details Shrub's continued push for it, with much greater depth of reasoned speculation than mine about Shrub's reasons and the likely beneficiaries (guess what? it ain't the middle class). As he has explained, the scheme is "based on the claim that 2 - 1 = 4, that you can divert the payroll taxes of younger workers into personal accounts and still pay promised benefits to older workers."

Whatever happened to the threat of militias and "free men"? We found new (foreign) enemies? Now Asscroft and Cheney want to repeal the Posse Comitatus Act, to give police powers to the military. My understanding is that the act was passed during Reconstruction, at the behest of the resurgent racists of the Confederacy, in order to prevent the occupying Union Army from enforcing federal civil rights laws. Now it is still seen as a powerful symbol of respect for states rights, but even more as a leash on the security state, a leash that Asscroft wants released. Do they or don't they have any idea what dangerous forces they're playing with?

It has been awful to see my anti-clerical prejudices justified for months and months. It's become as awful to see the religious sex scandal as front-page news week after week, to the exclusion of other matters. But why is everyone so surprised? "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely." I've complained before about the superstition, gullibility, and pack mentality of the media. Why are the exposed cases mostly so old, though? Are the current rapists still threatening their victims? It seems unlikely the system has weeded out the bad priests more recently. I note that this exposure has been occurring in other countries too, and strongly suspect it is most frequent in poor and patriarchal countries.

And there's the silly symbolic matter of the "Pledge of Allegiance": a brave judicial decision, which has been sometimes deliberately, but mostly ignorantly distorted by the media and politicians (apparently including all the local crop). I sent notes to Sens. Kennedy and Kerry, condemning their immediate surrender to Mrs Grundy, and have not heard back (and don't expect to.) Rep. McGovern isn't worth writing to - he always goes for Mrs Grundy.

I pledge my support to the Constitution of the United States of America.

11/14/2002 The House affirmed its cowardice and superstition.

Boogie men for Republicans: Sadaam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, the Muppets:

Boston Metro, Reuters - Washington DC - Republicans are worried about plans to introduce an HIV-positive Muppet to the "Sesame Street" gang, Daily Variety reported yesterday. Friday, a day after show executives said they would develop the as-yet-unnamed character for audiences in AIDS-ravaged South Africa, five members of the House Energy and Commerce committee said the Muppet would be unwelcome on American TV. The letter to PBS President Pat Mitchell was sent by committee chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La) and Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas), Richard Burr (R-NC), Charles Pickering (R-Miss), Cliff Stearns (R-Fla) and Fred Upton (R-Mich), the paper said. The five gave Mitchell until Friday to answer such questions as the amount of money PBS gives to "Sesame Street," how much is being earmarked for the new Muppet and whether she will be introduced to the United States.


The NYT's Tom Friedman sends a message to the White House in the headline of his column: COOL IT! "Let's make a deal," he says. "We won't criticize the administration for not anticipating 9/11 if it won't terrorize the country by now predicting every possible nightmare scenario, but no specific ones, post-9/11."- Slate

Latest threat-of-the-week: Strong warnings about vague threats to US symbols, and assertions that attacks are certain to happen "sometime." It seems no surprise that these warnings are issued as Shrub is under fire for not doing something more about the Al Qaeda threats last summer. I accept, so far, that the threats were real but too vague to specifically thwart. But imagine if the World Trade Center attack had happened while Clinton was President: from the Moon you've have heard the right-wing roar of Appeasement, Incompetence, Treason !
Meanwhile, Shrub continues to kiss up to the American-Cuban right, despite the hypocrisy and failure of the 40-year Cuban embargo, but ignore most of the oil dictators except Saddam and the Iranian mullahs.

7/02 Even Jeff Jacoby, the Boston Globe's right-wing Rottweiler, criticizes the Cheney administration for cozying up to myriad tyrants.

Meanwhile back in Massachusetts there is a major discrepancy between anticipated Commonwealth revenue and authorized spending, with doomsday scenarios from the Dem pols and the usual eagerness of the Republicans to cut social services. No one discusses where the money actually goes, nor where limited money should be spent. We have a race for Governor under way: Reich and Romney both claim they will seriously study priorities, but assuming that were true, could they do anything about changing them? Why don't they already have some ideas they'll tell us. The bureaucracy is apparently bloated, the police in particular have way too much political power, there are always stories of union-protected crooks and incompetents. I can directly see the waste from incompetent construction projects (smallish scale transportation projects, at the Burncoat St/I-290 ramp in Worcester and the Grafton commuter rail station). Why does it apparently take 2-3 times more money to build a unit of low-income housing than a middle class family pays for a home? There is no one to put a foot down and say, Enough! And I'm not about to become a Republican (motto: Screw everyone but me). The Libertarian platform is that of a sick and spoiled adolescent: no schools, no taxes, no environment, lots of guns. A columnist recently wrote that the politicians have finally figured out that there is no budget line-item for Waste & Fraud. Too bad the voters or newspaper letter scribblers haven't.

The mid-East is boiling again. We can choose between the pathetic Arabs, with no concept of democracy, freedom of thought or the outside world, or the self-righteous Israelis, who practice apartheid and steal land for settlements at gun point and pen point. Or we could say, "To hell with all of them." No one within a hundreds of miles of there thinks honesty, truthfulness and abiding by agreements are virtues to live by. "Honor" there is only justification for millennial feuds, murder and oppression. It's so tempting to say, "Nuke 'em all!" How about giving every side a few tactical nukes, with devices that won't let them be used outside the mid-East?
The US public supports Israel for mixed reasons: Holocaust guilt, fundie nuttiness, American Jewish political power, rooting for the small guys, with a legacy of Cold War antagonism thrown in (which I never hear commented on.) And Israeli spokesmen speak good English and wear suits. Versus a population of losers that whine about their lost desert land, thickly accented blowhards threatening to destroy Israel, with a thousand years' history of attacking outsiders and a universal refusal to get on with life, and the vocal support of a nasty cadre of dictators with incompetent armies.

Capitalism undoubtedly has certain boils and blotches upon it, but has it as many as government? Has it as many as marriage? Has it as many as religion? I doubt it. It is the only basic institution of modern man that shows any genuine health and vigor. - HL Mencken

Capitalism at work, big and small:

Big: ENRON...

    Thousands of employees and investors saw their life savings evaporate as the Enron fraud unfolded. Millions of power customers paid exhorbitant rates as Enron and its allies gamed the system.

This American system of ours, call it Americanism, call it capitalism, call it what you will, gives each and every one of us a great opportunity if we only seize it with both hands and make the most of it. - Al Capone

February 20, 2002
small: 'Horror movie' unfolds in Georgia
Families anguish as more corpses are unearthed at crematory
NOBLE, Ga. - As the ground around Tri-State Crematory yielded more corpses, residents in three states faced the horror of planning funerals for loved ones they had long believed were resting in peace. Forensics teams yesterday had recovered 149 bodies left to rot outside the northwest Georgia crematory, finding skeletons sealed in vaults and bodies that had been dragged into a shed.

Followup, early 2005: The cemetery operator has been sentenced to several years in prison. The Enron trials are just beginning, will drag on for years, and I think none of those criminals will face hard time.

"A diabolical scheme for injecting terror into American culture and causing 3000 deaths on American soil is enough to set off war in Afghanistan, threats of expanded wars, and bellicosity around the globe. Yet few Americans blanch at their nation's annual toll of 40,000 highway deaths or the thousands mentally crippled by exposure to lead or mercury distributed knowingly by industries.
Greed--supported by persistent mendacity on the part of industrial interests that are frequently, if not usually, defended by governments--has produced a chemical corruption of the globe that affects human conception, embryogenesis, fetal development, birth, and life thereafter. For DDT, radioactivity, mercury, lead, the polychlorinated biphenyls, and various by-products of the plastics industry, research has amply elaborated sources, movement through the environment, and physiological mechanisms of damage in humans. Steingraber observes that while sensitivity to the extent of the general contamination of Earth with noxious wastes leads many of us to scorn tap water in favor of bottled water, we expose ourselves in our showers to large quantities of tap water and thus potentially absorb more of its noxious burden than we would drink. The safety offered by bottled water is an illusion, and she argues correctly that there is no alternative to keeping water supplies and the world clean." - George Woodwell, Science 295:803 (review of Sandra Steingraber book)

To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic, but is morally treasonable to the American public. - Theodore Roosevelt. (thanks, G.B. Trudeau)

If Bush gets the defense budget increase he asked for in his State of the Union address, U.S. defense spending will equal the defense budgets of the next 15 highest countries -- combined. - Thomas L. Friedman, 2/12/2002 column

For a time, which probably hasn't ended, the government has been coming up with the terrorist threat-of-the week. Reports are, that from Al Qaeda documents recovered, they had no concept of biological weapons being within their ability to develop or deploy until the US government claimed that they were working on them, that they were easy. So when the anthrax was finally assumed, by all except the wackos, to be domestic, we then had the small-pox scare. Billions of dollars will be spent for vaccines, when there is no genuine evidence of a threat, just vividly imagined scenarios. I don't see that it's likely they'd get far along in developing biological weapons, when the germ theory of disease is a new concept for most of them. (Caveats always - who knows what the spies, secret police and terrorists are really doing, what they really know?) Then we had the rumors that Al Qaeda was building a "dirty" nuclear bomb. Evidence? None.

Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor with the cry of grave national emergency... Always there has been some terrible evil to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant sums demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real. - General Douglas MacArthur

Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves. - William Pitt

It does not appear to me that the police are seriously investigating the anthrax case. What are the resources involved, compared to the Oklahoma City bombing? If we don't have a serious suspect, we can present a facade of unity to the world, and Shrub benefits from the perception.

The people at Logan airport have been getting blamed for the terrorist hijacking, at all levels. Why? I can't see that anyone there failed their jobs. The box-cutters were not illegal, and the security companies and airlines had no reason to watch for these particular men. The terrorists were careful to appear non-threatening, booked flights separately, arrived separately or in pairs. Whatever the secret police knew, it was not relayed to the airlines. Security at Logan was about the same as at every other US airport, which may or may not be sufficient, but it wasn't a travesty. The security chief's claim for the job was that he'd been Paul Celluci's driver, and the head of MassPort, Virginia Buckingham, was previously a press aide for Weld or Celluci. Which means they didn't earn their jobs by having clear qualifications, but neither did their lack of experience have anything obvious to do with the hijackings. Firing them for being useless, along with a large fraction of the bloated patronage army there, would be justified at any point, but blame shouldn't attach. These points don't seem to have made it to public consciousness - similar points have been made only by newspaper letter writers (those silly cranks), but not by the columnists or editors.

Here in Washington, DC, we do anything we please and get away with it... Why? Because the average American voter doesn't even read a newspaper anymore and has the attention span of a cocker spaniel... You don't care, so we don't care! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha... - Wiley, Non Sequitur, 9/24/2000

It's been a busy year politics-wise. Sometimes I'm too lazy, sometimes too appalled to add to this page.

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
are full of passionate intensity.
Yeats - "The Second Coming"

At the moment the country is engaged in a security riot, and it may get worse. There's a ridiculous lock-the-barn mentality: for example, taking away all sharp objects from airline passengers - thousands of pins, fingernail clippers, sewing scissors, pocket-knives - despite decades of safety and the unlikeliness of a box-cutter hijacking happening again. Seems as if some of the usual gun nuts are the loudest voices for this (are they the same ones who advocate letting passengers be armed with guns?). If there's going to be more bin Laden-inspired terrorism, it will be something telegenic, dramatic and probably unforeseen. National Guard troops pawing thru grandma's underwear at the airport are not doing anything useful, and maybe giving us a false sense of security. I hope the government is doing something more useful behind the scenes to prepare, but I fear that with Shrub and Co. in charge, they aren't.

What can they possibly imagine terrorists doing to Quabbin Reservoir that requires troops to keep everyone away from it? (Ditto for hundreds or thousands of other sites around the country.) It's too big to simply poison; the water takes weeks to reach Boston from it, so there's time to check and correct and dilute any problems; the water is filtered and disinfected and tested continually. If anyone seriously wanted to poison the water, the would do it after the normal testing. Anyway, Al Qaeda seems to go for big splashy telegenic explosions, not subtle agonizing industrial murder.

The secret police see this as a time to push for lifting of restrictions on their activities, and have their media/political shills pushing hard for it. The fact that they have been incompetent is overlooked by nearly everyone. (There were far-right pols demanding high-level spy heads right after the hijackings, but we haven't heard from them since. Because the spies and police are inherently right-wing themselves?) Even the liberals, in general, have been going along with giving the spies more range, tho the opponents have been strange bedfellows. I have, as suggested by PFAW, asked Kennedy and Kerry to make sure the added police powers expire in a finite amount of time, with no response (as usual).

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. - James Madison

There's a government-inspired, media-driven panic about anthrax - lots of misinformation and hype. The feds have certainly let up on the attempts to make a bin Laden connection, however, because they suspect (but won't say) that the anthrax comes from our own right-wing nut cases. Is the media and public completely incapable of understanding infection and statistics? Apparently. There are semi-official statements that X thousands of spores must be inhaled to cause the disease. The media just accept and repeat this idiocy, then can't imagine how the elderly woman in Connecticut, and the New York hospital clerk, came down and died from anthrax when the mail was slightly contaminated. Hello? These are germs. They multiply, given a chance. One spore has a small but not zero chance of causing infection. It's not rocket science.

Of government, at least in democratic states, it may be said briefly that it is an agency engaged wholesale, and as a matter of solemn duty, in the performance of acts which all self-respecting individuals refrain from as a matter of common decency. - HL Mencken

Gore has conceded the stolen election, in a gracious but astoundingly superstitious speech. If he'd been as lively on the stump and at the "debates", he'd be president-elect. But there were no riots, tanks, tears or coup rumors despite the dishonesty - so, rest of world, sit on your thumbs! The placidity is, as I see it, partly due to the majority's ambivalence about Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee in the first place.

One good thing to come out of the election: Pat Buchanan self-destructed by being irrelevant. I consider the possibility that he deliberately destroyed the Reform Party. Ross Perot was often blamed for shifting the Bush-Clinton contest to Clinton, so there has been right-wing anger at his party.

Some of my coworkers are Army personnel, quite right-wing. They seem to feel Gore is the jerk for contesting the election their guy "won", without giving more than a trace of lip service to the idea that Gore had every right, even obligation, to fight for official victory in Florida. Bore and Dubya had similar positions on the military, Bore has a real record (unlike Dubya) of being pro-military as Senator and VP, Bore was actually in Vietnam during the war (unlike Dubya), yet our wonderful military insists that only Republicans are genuinely on their side.

The "strict constructionists" of the US Supreme Court really contorted themselves this time, grabbing power from state election systems and state courts. Gore was certainly right in that respect then - the Supreme Court in Republican hands is a grave danger to civil rights. Margaret A. Burnham has an interesting analysis of some of those Constitutional points in the Boston Globe on 12/14/00. Relatively little attention has been paid to the clear civil rights violations during the election in Florida, which probably had far more effect on the results than the uncounted ballots (see Robert Kuttner, Boston Globe, 12/10/00). Perhaps this will all lead to progress, but I won't hold my breath. Nomination battles for Supreme Court justices in a Shrub administration should be interesting.

"Another reason the U.S. war machine is in Somalia is that it needs an enemy, it needs a mission. General Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, called the operation in Somalia, "a paid political advertisement" for maintaining the current military budget."- Slate [?]

"I am no fan of Bill Clinton's politics, but unlike most of his critics, I snipe from the Left. I have no more use for the corporate-compromised, conscience-free trade initiating, welfare-reforming, Pentagon-growing, bombing-people-at-the-drop-of-his-pants policies than the next self-respecting political southpaw. But when reactionary crackpots accuse him of everything from treason to complicity in the Lindbergh kidnapping, I can't help but feel some sympathy for the enemy of my enemies." - Barry Crimmins


Slate : *In case you have accidentally swallowed poison, please read this item repeatedly.* The WP's Lloyd Grove reports that Wednesday night (12/13/00), Dick Cheney partied with Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy.

"The USAT editorial urges President-elect Bush 'to push aggressively for nationwide election fixes.' Today's Papers thought he'd already done that." - Slate

I was e-mailed a list of "You're a REAL Democrat if...", the usual small-minded right-wing stuff. I eventually came up with a liberalish alternative. Please read.

12/1/2000 letter to galaxy streetmail (from me)
Yes, the Electoral College is an anachronism that should be replaced. Replaced with what, though? There is at least one better option than just simple direct voting, which is to vote for all candidates one finds acceptable. This mostly eliminates "strategic voting"- that is, voting for the lesser of 2 evils because that lesser evil is more electable. But any direct election scheme will have to have provisions for run-off elections, since it is common for there to be no candidate with more than 50% of the votes. The multi-vote scheme is equally suited for elections other than presidential ones. Also, there should be provisions to vote for "none of the above" when there are competing candidates, and to disqualify those candidates in run-offs if "none of the above" wins.

I saw a political bumper sticker, "Vote freedom first". That sounded like an interesting and worthwhile principle, but when I did a web search on the slogan, I was amazed and appalled to find that it's a gun-nut slogan. Gun nuts are hardly a monolithic group, but my impression is that the "right to bear arms" is the only part of the Bill of Rights that they feel strongly about.

Bush is "unusually incurious, abnormally unintelligent, amazingly inarticulate, fantastically uncultured, extraordinarily uneducated, and apparently quite proud of all these things." - Christopher Hitchens

"Of Bush's credentials as an economic conservative, there is no question at all-he owes his political life to big corporate money; he's a CEO's wet dream. He carries their water, he's stumpbroke-however you put it, George W. Bush is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America. We don't think this is a consequence of political calculation; it is more a consequence of his life experience, political thinking, and party affiliation. We can find no evidence that it has ever occurred to him to question whether it is wise to do what big business wants. He is perfectly comfortable, perfectly at home, doing the bidding of big bidness. These are his friends, and he takes care of his friends-sign of a smart politician." - Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose, Shrub

If Cheney was brought into Shrub's campaign because he is a counterweight to the perception of Shrub as dim, does that mean the campaign strategy is "Dick for brains"?

Politicians have been running against the tax code for generations, railing about the complexity of it all, fulminating about the IRS. The IRS doesn't write the tax laws, of course - the pols do, with an infinite array of goodies for their friends.

It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress. - Mark Twain

Suppose two-thirds of the members of the national House of Representatives were dumped into the Washington garbage incinerator tomorrow, what would we lose to offset our gain of their salaries and the salaries of their parasites? - HL Mencken


Oil, not ethanol getting tax breaks

Critics slam the huge petroleum incentives, as renewable fuels become an important campaign issue in the Midwest.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS WASHINGTON - Federal tax breaks for the oil industry totaled almost $150 billion over the last three decades, far exceeding the $11.5 billion since 1979 for the corn-produced additive ethanol, congressional investigators reported yesterday.

Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods. - HL Mencken

Clinton exploded during an April 1993 meeting with aides: "I hope you're all aware we're all Eisenhower Republicans," he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "We're Eisenhower Republicans here, and we are fighting the Reagan Republicans. We stand for lower deficits and free trade and the bond market. Isn't that great?" - Bob Woodward, in The Agenda: Inside the Clinton White House

Gore-Bush make me Ralph.

 The so-called debates are boring and annoying, with Bore-Gush vaguely trying to distinguish their shades of flannel gray. Both are wildly pandering to old people with their drug plans. Both are wildly pandering to the military and its associates. Free drugs for old people, but lock up or kill more young drug users, here and in Colombia.

"When the government reduces taxes on the rich, the rich call it 'tax reform', but when their taxes are increased they call it 'class warfare'".

Gore sucks too Shrub, of course, is trying to give billions of dollars to the rich. Among his dishonest ploys (not that he invented it) is harping on the "marriage penalty" in the tax code, which concept is a crock. Pols have yapping about this for decades, left and right, and done nothing, because when any of them actually look into it they find it's much more complicated than they thought.

The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with an average voter. - Winston Churchill (On "majority rule")

Democracy is the theory that holds that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard. - HL Mencken

Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage. - HL Mencken

The national budget must be balanced. The public debt must be reduced; the arrogance of the authorities must be moderated and controlled. Payments to foreign governments must be reduced. If the nation doesn't want to go bankrupt, people must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance. - Marcus Tullius Cicero, 55 BC

A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it's real money. - Sen. Everett Dirksen

Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.- P.J O'Rourke (1947-

 Shrub has an energy policy, of sorts - pump out everything we have, immediately - no thought for the future or the environment. Gore is just vague, making some "correct" noises, tho at least he's not repeating Shrub's "we need more research" while Rome burns and his cronies get richer.

GOP = Grand Oil Party.

 The only issue that might get me to strategically vote for Gore (over Nader) is the potential for Supreme Court appointments. Shrub speaks highly of the troglodyte trio - Thomas, Scalia, & Kennedy.

I was never a Republican, because those gentlemen, distinguished as they are, have only one real interest, and that is the making of special laws in order to protect their fortunes. I also know they have no compassion for the masses of the people in this country who are without money and who are, many of them, without food or houses. I have always thought that only as a Democrat, reflecting Jefferson and Jackson, could justice ever be done the people because, at this moment in history, ours is the only party which is even faintly responsive to the force of ideas. - Samuel Tilden, Democratic candidate for President in 1876

 It's not news that the far right has a problem with Hollywood. The far right has had a problem with all entertainment for centuries. But this election season all the pols are jumping on the "trash Hollywood" bandwagon, with the right generally upset at the sex, and the left obsessed with violence. The assumption is that showing an activity encourages that activity. On the other hand, the right complained for years about glorification of drug use in the 60's and 70's, conveniently oblivious to decades of film heroes who drank like fish and smoked like chimneys. This pandering to Mrs Grundy makes no sense to me. As the movie industry points out, the crime rate is down dramatically in the last few years (and so is the teenage pregnancy rate). Nobody is forcing audiences to watch the stuff, and it isn't addictive. The government has had no problem co-opting the movie industry to produce propaganda films for several decades, whenever it suited the government. Assuming it's true that ads for R-rated movies are partly aimed at kids who shouldn't be seeing them, so what? The ads are not R-rated and it isn't illegal to build up a potential clientele. It has also been argued that the rating system actually increases the sex and violence content, because extra dollops are thrown in just to get an R-rating, since teens tend to shun PG movies. But the pols are all ready to trash the first amendment for a few votes, despite their coziness with the industry.

Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech. - Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

Those who call for censorship in the name of the oppressed ought to recognize it is never the oppressed who determine the bounds of censorship. - Aryeh Neier

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion. - Robert H. Jackson, US Supreme Court Justice

 Dubya Bush is claiming that his administration will put an emphasis on Latin America, thus pandering to the Latino vote. The Latin countries must be pretty anxious about that - their recent memories of American Republican interest will include RayGun's war on them in Nicaragua, support for the military governments in Guatemala (with its decades of enormous atrocities), support for the death squads in El Salvador, the invasion of Panama, and US backing of right-wing coups in most of their states in the last generation. Not that the Dems are innocent, either.

In this world of sin and sorrow, there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican. - H.L. Mencken

 The selection of Joseph Lieberman as Gore's VP candidate means that all of the candidates are flaunting their superstitions. All, that is, except for Nader, who makes just about all the noises of a populist preacher. He just invokes corporate hegemony instead of hellfire as his bogeyman. So, where does that leave us secularist voters? Dunno.

 Whether the differences between the Democrats and Republicans seem significant depends on how close you are to them, and I'm undecided. It's easy to dismiss Buchanan - his mind is its own straitjacket. And Bush/Cheney are outright members of the MIC (Eisenhower's military-industrial complex), fully owned by and invested in it. Perhaps Gore/Lieberman are just rented by the MIC, but I don't count on it. Will they oppose that idiot and dangerous Star Wars system? No, far from it. Clinton hasn't dared cancel it. But Star Wars and its later incarnations are just a GOP political cudgel, not a real military project - the Pentagon doesn't seem to be pushing for it. Funny how the sacredness of treaties and rule of law are overlooked by conservatives whenever they want something, tho they're the ones who are rabid whenever they conceive some other government has not kept its word. But then this is the same government that has apparently never kept an Indian treaty. Nader rants, but I haven't heard positive proposals from him, and some of his supporters are just Luddites.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. - Dwight David Eisenhower, Farewell Address

More political quotes.

 The Republicans like to invoke Ronald Reagan and his administration as admirable role models, which seems mighty peculiar to me. My memories of the RayGun/Bush years are:

a dimwitted minor ex-actor smarmily lying to us, before he became too senile to half understand what he was saying,

the first divorced president preaching "family values",