Sunday, September 28, 2003

BIG quarter coming up for people-powered Howard...

With the 3rd quarter ending, it's clear my guy for prez, Howard Dean, is going to clean the clocks of the other Dem candidates in terms of dough raised. As of 3pm today, the total figure was $12.5 million on the Dean bat.

On Monday, I'll be volunteering to help tally some of the mailed-in checks in order to get the numbers as high as possible before the end of the month (though the official deadline for reporting is October 15). I was told that there are thousands of checks that need to be counted, so lots of volunteers are going to be burning the midnight oil.

So as impressive as the numbers are now on the Dean blog, they're about to go much higher. $15 million is not out of the question, and that should finally quiet some of the more reasonable critics who concern themselves over Dean's electability.

He's gonna have about $15 million worth of that by the month's end.

Friday, September 26, 2003

It's not just you...

Atrios caught this press release the government tried to bury by releasing it on Friday.

"According to the official poverty measure, about 1.7 million more people were in poverty in 2002 than in 2001... "

Hope it gets in the news today.

update at noon

It's now on the front page of, along with this quote:

" Even before the data was made public, House Democrats charged the Bush administration was trying to hide bad economic news by releasing the numbers on a Friday when people are paying more attention to the upcoming weekend. In previous years, the estimates were released on a Tuesday or Thursday.
“Sounds like they’re trying to bury the numbers where people won’t find them,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. “This is another clear example of political manipulation of data by the Bush administration to avoid the glare of public scrutiny about the country’s worsening economy.”"
Let's keep an eye on this, because who knows how long we'll see THIS story?

Sen. Frank Lautenberg has stated VP Dick Cheney still has financial ties to Halliburton, though Cheney denied this on "Meet The Press" last week.

With this investigation ongoing, do you still feel like giving Bush and Cheney $87 billion without a full itemized list, Congress?

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Oh, this is not good...

Remember that incident in Fallujah two weeks back where American soldiers accidentally killed 8 Iraqi policemen (that the Americans trained) and one Jordanian? Well, a military investigation has cleared the soldiers, and I don't see how this isn't going to cause more problems for the troops, especially since Fallujah has been a hotbed of soldier/resident tensions ever since riots in the summer were quelled by gunfire. Being cleared of all wrongdoing, even it is entirely true, in only two weeks just screams "cover-up", and it seems unlikely that the foreign press will be as neutral about this story as it has been in America.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Knock ME over with a feather...

Can we call President Horatio Cokesnorter a liar NOW? PLEEEEEEEEZ?

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Economics 101..... IN LOONY-LAND!
(My views on the current Jabberwocky) reports on Treasury Secretary John Snow's presentation to the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Surprisingly, they managed to report this without a hint of sarcasm or any bursts of laughter. Why do I scoff? Come down the rabbit hole with me.

...Snow told global bankers and economists worried about the tide of red ink in Washington that the massive U.S. budget deficit would be halved by the end of 2008... He called the budget deficit an "understandable" consequence of the recent recession, and told delegates from 184 countries that it would be tamed through "ample growth" and "disciplined spending," having earlier ruled out any tax increases as "counterproductive." ...He offered few other details on how the United States would reduce the deficit, which the Treasury department has said reached $400.5 billion in the first 11 months of the 2003 budget year twice the total for the same period a year earlier. IMF managing director Horst Koehler acknowledged that the "sharp swing" in public spending in the United States had helped stimulate growth after the slowdown a point Snow also made, calling it "Economics 101."

WHAT??? WHAT??? I haven't read nonsense this good since "The Hunting of the Snark". Am I missing something? Is the whole world in on some sort of crazy contrariwise drinking game? (While watching these international broadcast is someone supposed to tell me, "Okay, this is the part where Snow will say the OPPOSITE of what is happening and that means we all take a swig. Oh man, look at the British. I think they're buying his story!!")

My suspicion is that this is all supposed to distract us from what is really happening. The rich have been getting richer (and paying less taxes) for at least a decade, probably more, and they are getting tax CUTS now. Am I sure that the rich are getting richer? The IRS put out a fascinating little report on the most Fortunate 400 in the United States. Oh, the lucky few. These are not the SAME 400 every year, just each year's top 400 in AGI (adjusted gross income). So keep in mind that this isn't the list of top asset holders, but income earners. The report covers the tax years of 1992 to 2000. During those 8 prosperous years the people jockeying for the top 400 increased their take by a net $30 billion (adjusted to 1990 dollars for comparability) which was just over a 190% increase. Meanwhile, all returns increased by $2.1 trillion, about a 90% increase. Let's break that down. $30 billion divided by 400 is an increase $74 million per return. $2.1 trillion divided by 125 million (an approximate number - feel free to check out and to quibble) is an average of $17,188 per return.

Meanwhile, what was going on in tax land? The Fortunate 400 had a tax increase of of $7 billion while overall the taxpayers increased their payments by $504 billion. But what was the comparison of taxes against income? In 1992 the Fortunate 400 had 29% of their income eaten by taxes (~$4.6 billion divided by ~$15.7 billion) and in 2000 it was down to 26% (~$11.8 billion divided by ~$45.7 billion) which is a CHANGE of a 11.9% REDUCTION. Meanwhile overall as a Nation experienced an increase from 20% to 22% which although a 2% net increase means a CHANGE of a 8.6% INCREASE. From a CHANGE perspective that is quite a gap, don'tcha think?

I'm thinking that according to the Economics 101 that I took in college, we need to get the workers (i.e., taxpayers) of America BACK to work so that we CAN experience growth. Are you listening corporate America? Stop sending our jobs overseas or eventually we - the richest country in the world - won't be able to afford to buy our own goods anymore. (An economy is a system, remember? If you took Econ 101 certainly your professor demonstrated how all of this worked.) And we DON'T need to CUT taxes OR see such a widening gap in the portion of income paid in support of our country by the "haves" and "have-mores". (My logic is that if we can pay taxes we don't qualify as "have-nots".)

Unless your endgame ISN'T to have the American economy recover. For the Snark was a Boojum you see... If you'll pardon me I need to go polish my vorpal sword. Snicker-snack, snicker-snack.
I've tried to add comments to the blog. Try to tell me if I was successful!

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Consider it Broughten

More soldiers have died in Iraq. The U.N. is no longer irrelevant. And, despite the fact that 70% of Americans believed it, W says that Saddam had no connection to 9/11.

That last bit proves, if nothing else, that W really doesn't listen to the 'focus group' of the American public whether it is in his favor or not. In March he told we 30% that we were wrong to question the attack on Iraq, and now he's telling the 70% who thought it was justified that they are wrong, too. Now that we are in too deep, losing too many casualties, and stretched thinly enough with both troops and equipment to keep logistics officers mumbling in their sleep at night.

My opinion? What is happening is that reality is finally crashing down. The unreality started with 9/11. It was beyond our scope. Things like that don't happen here. But that sense of being detached from reality was, for me at least, definitely extended with events like the passage of the Patriot Act. Any one of our Founding Fathers would have denounced it as the UN-Patriot Act since it clearly violates so many of the founding documents of our country. (Oh, you know, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution - tell me if any of these ring a bell for you....) By September of 2002 I wouldn't have been fazed if the news had announced, "Santa Claus is having an affair with the Tooth Fairy. Film at 11." It was all so freaking weird anyway.

But oh, how the mighty have fallen. There will be no aircraft carrier landings today. No swaggering declarations to, "Bring 'em on!" The reality of the world has quite clearly said, "Consider it broughten."

(For those of you who aren't fans of cheesy teen films like I am, the title of today's post is from the movie "Bring It On".)

Friday, September 19, 2003

Survival of the Misfittest

It had to happen eventually. After watching so many disasters and crises on TV while they were happening to others - floods, storms, blackouts - I knew I had to get mine eventually. Hello Isabel. The odd thing to me is that after living on the Gulf Coast on and off for over 10 years I was never there for a hurricane. Perhaps having noted that oversight the tropics sent a nice storm straight up through Central Virginia. Yesterday about this time my power failed. My husband is a Red Cross volunteer so he was out racing around preparing for the worst. I was home in charge of the pets and supplies and lucky enough to have a friend come over who refused to be ruffled by the whistling wind. ("It's just going to be a big rainstorm.")

Once the power went out we creaked open the old game chest and selected RISK, one of my childhood standards. As the rain continued and the sun went down, we lit candles and earnestly continued our game. I observed that from what I could see it was basically like a Louisiana spring storm. Odd for here, but not scary. We secured the pets in the basement, checked in with the Red Cross on when the eye would come through, and braced for the worst. It was about this time, around 10pm, that I really started to get the tingle. A current racing through my body that screamed, "I want to watch CNN and the Weather Channel". Just as throughout the night we laughed at ourselves for our Pavlovian response of automatically flipping light switches as we walked through rooms WHILE CARRYING FLASHLIGHTS (d'oh!), I could tell that in my mind 'emergency' and '24-hour news channel' are inextricably linked. Somehow it didn't "feel" like an emergency if I wasn't hearing the play-by-play commentary, seeing the fancy graphics (perhaps spinning the storm on it's path or projecting rain fall by color coding), and all while logged in to the internet to cross-check their data with the National Weather Service.

By midnight I said to my friend, "I'm starting to feel like play time's over and I want my power back." I wasn't overly upset, but jonesing for my modern conveniences. It made me realize how much the texture of my life has changed in the past 10 years. Although I was concerned about everything in my freezer melting or the batteries for the radio running out, what obsessively occupied my mind was how I could check on the emergency. I've become an information junkie, strung out on sound bites and color coded charts. Back in the day, Thomas Jefferson was quoted as saying, "I cannot live without books." I'm thinking that if ole TJ were alive today he would say, "I cannot live without the Internet." Information, communication, inter-relation all across our nation; the Internet is a book without covers, without a final chapter, without boundaries. And, some would point out darkly, a book without an editor.

So I lapsed into withdrawal without my CNN and internet connection. I remembered all of the times at work when we would laugh and say, "Gosh, I wonder what we used to do before all this technology!" Now I was thinking, "Egads, what will we do without all of this technology!" I still had telephone service, water pressure, and my cell phone battery was fully charged. I had canned food, a week's supply of water, and a gas grill for cooking. On so many levels it couldnt' even have been called "roughing it". It lasted a few minutes less than 24 hours. My friend had gone home at first light, so I was playing RISK solo and fighting out the struggle for world domination among yellow, green, and blue when the magical sound of the house turning on occured. In a split second my mind frame went from, "You know, I think I can see why I played this game as a kid" to "Oh boy! I can get online now!" Pavlov's dog never drooled so well...

So what I've learned from Hurricane Isabel is that the real crisis I just experienced was the realization of how dependent I have become on modern technology. It wasn't enough to reach out and touch someone (on the phone), I wanted to see their hurricane tracking radar and listen to their 'experts'. But once I logged in, I quickly saw that I was not the only one. One news story reports that, "Richard Staublein, 42, drove his family 13 miles for their first meal in a day, a breakfast at McDonald's in a Richmond suburb - and waited 50 minutes in a line that spilled into the parking lot. Many in line had not eaten because they lost power and were unable to cook. 'I left the house around 8 a.m. and when I got here the line was already a killer,' Staublein said." Thank God, I thought, I'm not the only one. And if a bigger emergency happens I might develop a nervous tic and mumble about leading expert's opinions on the color coded charts, but at least I will be able to feed myself.

Now, if you'll excuse me I've already set the four clocks in this room (microwave, coffee maker, stove, and VCR), but there are at least another seven in the house blinking away. And I would like for things to get back to normal as quickly as possible.

(For those who were ACTUALLY affected by the crisis of Hurricane Isabel, my prayers go out to you and your family.)

Thursday, September 18, 2003

The Witches of Baghdad

I have to agree with Hans Blix that there is some witch hunting afoot. You would think that we are more advanced than that. But the amusing thing about history is that each era thinks that it is more advanced than the previous, while the whole of human history can best be summarized as, "The more things change the more they stay the same..."

But how do we know that it is witch hunting? Because it was the rhetoric and emotion that moved people to support the attack on Iraq. The facts were sketchy and the logic non-existant. My bottom line back in March was that we were ignoring the United Nations and our traditional allies. (Ok, England was in, and I still wonder about their motivations. British Petroleum interests?) I don't like war, but if the international community had agreed with our administration that war with Iraq was necessary I would have accepted it. After 9/11 my prayers soon concentrated on not having our nation act too hastily or with too much anger. Our pursuit of Bin Laden and strike against Afghanistan were fairly much accepted and supported by the international community, so I accepted it. But Iraq? It seemed to me that the Bush administration was taking advantage of their carte blanche license to make war as the emotional dust from 9/11 was still settling.

So how goes the witch hun- er, war? Most news stories agree that we are over committed and taking continuous casualties while we try to rule over a fractured society that seems equal parts terrorized and terrorist (I think that depends on how they take the current occupation and anarchy - whether it scares them or pisses them off). So for a war that we "won", keeping the "peace" is proving difficult - and expensive in the lives of both Americans and Iraqis. I'm sure I can rest easy that the oil wells are safely guarded, however, and that all the gas-swilling automobiles of the West can continue their daily banal errands.

Speaking of history, by the way, Michael Barone writes in this week's US News and World Report that we shouldn't be worried about how long it is taking to stabilize Iraq because everyone has always sucked at it. He says:

"...the Allied leaders who gathered at the peace conference in Paris were largely clueless about how to reconstruct the defeated nations after World War I. Jean Edward Smith's biography of Gen. Lucius Clay reveals that the first time he read the government's plans for post-World War II Germany was on the flight over there to take charge. William Manchester's American Caesar shows that Douglas MacArthur, however knowledgeable about the Far East, did not have clear ideas on how to rule postwar Japan. Clay and MacArthur improvised, learned from experience, made mistakes, and corrected them, adjusted to circumstances. It took time: West Germany did not have federal elections until 1949, four years after surrender; the peace treaty with Japan was not signed until 1951."

He says this after admonishing us that "those inclined to make straight-line extrapolations from the events of a few news cycles should read some history". Well.... Isn't that what our leaders should have done in preparation of invasion? Read some history? THAT old saying goes, "Those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it." That would be the point of learning about all the mistakes we made in the past - that we can do BETTER now. So all that Barone is really saying is, "Well, here we go again...."

In closing, GB Shaw remarked: "Hegel was right when he said that we learn from history that man can never learn anything from history." Sounds like there will be witch hunting...
The blogs are agog over Bush's brazen admission that despite the constant implications by his administration, there was no Saddam-9/11 connection. Still, I don't see this outrage going anywhere, since Bush can still use the "well, Saddam is still a bad man" argument to justify his war. Though many are saying that misleading Congress on a war resolution is an impeachable offense, ultimately 2/3 of the Senate decides what an impeachable offense is, so that's not going to happen. But if Drunko the Clown is really that interested in coming clean to the American people maybe Peaceful Tomorrows should start calling him.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I can see that this might start to sound like a "He Said, She Said", but I have similarly noticed Clark's entry into the race and I've got to say that I quickly became downright disappointed. He was interviewed on CNN this morning (by those obnoxiously perky pretty people they have working there at 7am). It turns out that he "doesn't remember" who he voted for in previous races. Do whaaaaa?

Ok, either he's been so amazingly UNinterested in politics to this point that I shouldn't trust him to have a clue about what is going on - and therefore I won't vote for him. Or he's LYING to me (which I assume) about something rather minor that he could as easily handle by saying, "I don't discuss that" like the guy from NBC news (good ole what's-his-cookie, the one replacing Brokaw) - and therefore I won't vote for him.

Yes, yes, I know. There are no honest politicians. Heck, I even think that there are times when it is politically important TO lie. That's that old thing we call National Security. Which means stuff more important than worrying about what the definition of 'is' is, I'll grant you, but is also a higher standard than the justifications used to do Easter egg hunts for weapons of mass destruction in the foreign countries of our choice. But even if there are no honest politicians, by definition, there should at least be politicians with enough sense to know WHEN to lie. I realize that sounds pretty sad, but think about it. We are really 'hiring' a president to act in our interests. Personally, I want my president to be intelligent, wise, judicious, and have a little of that uncommon commodity COMMON SENSE. I think that this "I don't remember who I voted for" line is completely lacking in sense. That said, I'm sure that if all of the candidates were suddenly stuck by the 'curse' afflicting Jim Carrey's lawyer in "Liar, Liar" it would be hard to say which politician would come out worst. Well, ok, W would come out a clear winner but after him....

Speaking of W, and his henchman Karl "Wormtongue" Rove, of course Clark isn't safe. McCain got run over like possum on the half shell during the last election. Say what you will about McCain, he's got military 'cred'. So the military angle won't do much for Clark. Darth Sidious and his minions will dig, cajole information, and if all else fails insinuate and gossip-monger on their way to smearing anyone who stands between them and the White House in 2004.

Alright, I'll go now. I definitely give points to Senator Edwards for fulfilling his promise to Jon Stewart and officially announcing his candidacy on The Daily Show. But in the end I still say GO DEAN!!!!
Well, it's official. Clark's in. As a Dean supporter, I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little nervous about it, but still I think it's a good thing for the Democrats if he gets involved. I don't agree, however, with the idea that being a 4-star general will somehow make him immune from Mr. Rove's spin machine. If Jesus was running for president and started turning water into wine and shooting cinnamon rolls out of his ass Rove would still probably find a way to paint him as soft on national security. Let's see how Clark responds to the inevitable attacks; right now his entrance just makes Graham look a little harder at his Senate benefits package and hastens Lieberman's inevitable demise.

But the presidential race DID just become a little more interesting.

Monday, September 15, 2003

I didn't think anyone still wondered why the U.S. was hated around the world, but fortunately Congress still has money left in its coffers to answer the question.

"The Bush administration spends $1 billion a year trying to polish the United States' image around the world, yet polls show anti-Americanism rising to record levels, especially in Muslim and Arab nations where the government is concentrating its efforts.

Now, a new report from Congress' General Accounting Office explains why the federal government's efforts at "public diplomacy" have been such a failure.

The report, released Sept. 4, concluded that the State Department's efforts have been scattershot and uncoordinated, foreign service officers charged with promoting the nation's image too often get stuck filling out paperwork, and one in five foreign service officers who are supposed to be helping America's image aren't fluent enough in the language of the country in which they're stationed. "

Oh, the reason we're hated abroad has nothing to do with the xenophobic disrespect evident in the Nimrod administration's foreign policy, it's because the foreigners aren't doing their job correctly.

Maybe I walked through a looking glass last week and didn't notice...

Friday, September 12, 2003

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I had a funny thought the other night and just have to share. Check this out - if you use some of the alternate definitions of "Fair and Balanced" (the FoxNews slogan) then you have "White and In Our Right Minds". Is this alternate meaning really what they are trying to say? I submit that it is. That's the crazy, disturbing mind-set of the neo-cons. I'm just pointing it out....
A couple of weeks ago there was a story of how Bush was cutting pay raises for federal workers to 1.5-2 percent. I guess one could argue that the huge deficits Bush created meant there was no money for pay raises...

Oh, wait, Bush said "Such cost increases would threaten our efforts against terrorism ..." [quote from above article]

Fine. After about a 45-second search on the FDA website, an organization that will have to deal with this salary issue, I found this page called Countering Bioterrorism

"The President's initiative on Countering Bioterrorism is comprised of a number of essential elements for which [the FDA] plays an integral role. One such element is the expeditious development and licensing of products to diagnose, treat or prevent outbreaks from exposure to the pathogens that have been identified as bioterrorist agents. These products must be reviewed and approved prior to the large-scale productions necessary to create and maintain a stockpile. Staff must guide the products through the regulatory process, including the manufacturing process, pre-clinical testing, clinical trials, and the licensing and approval process. Experts in these areas are needed to expedite the licensing and approval process for these products. This process is extremely complex and early involvement by staff is crucial to the success of the expedited review process."

So in order to save money to fight the war in terror, funds must be cut for fighting the war on terror. Maybe this makes sense to Bush...

BTW, about a week later Congress approved a 2.2 percent pay raise for themselves.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I see today that six Republicans joined the Dems in the Senate to block the House's bid to change overtime rules. You'd think that by now certain rules for dealing with workers would be accepted, such as the 40-hour work week. I wonder what the Repubs in Congress will come up with next...

"By preventing legislation giving hard-working business owners the right to hire barefoot street urchins, the Democrats and unions are costing Americans valuable jobs in the up-and-coming horsewhip and gruel manufacturing industries. Oh, and we'll lose the war on terror, too."

Monday, September 8, 2003

Greetings to all, and thanks to Sue for inviting me!

I guess, like every other political-minded person, the thoughts stuck in my head revolve around the unmitigated nerve of President Nimrod Q. Idiot and his stand-up performance last night. (That's "stand-up" as in COMEDY, not "stand-up" as in honorable.) Probably too much to expect a mea culpa from him (too bad, I had LOTS of material ready were that the case) but to challenge the opposition party here and countries around the world to clean up his mess, how nervy can you get? Of course, the dolt is relying on the general human desire to alleviate suffering to keep the world from calling him on this and allowing him to stew in the mess he made, but are we EVER going to see this man held accountable for his criminal performance as President? EVER??????

Sue would perhaps vouch that I'm actually a good-natured soul. But LORD is this guy getting harder and harder to take...

This made me laugh, however... I think the doll is lifesize...

Oooo, a new blog entry! My adoring public insisted on more words. This week should see MANY more words from new team members for Thougths That Get Stuck. If thoughts get stuck in YOUR head, send them to me in an email and they might get posted here! :) If you want to see our Thoughts That Get Printed on T-Shirts check out The Pith Stop.