31 October 2004

Explaining the remarkable ineffectiveness of the war America is waging

Active senior CIA officer and former head of the agency's Osama bin Laden unit has written a lucid book titled Imperial Hubris that details how badly botched the "war on terror" has been carried out by the U.S..
I believe the war in Afghanistan was necessary, but is being lost because of our hubris. Those who failed to bring peace to Afghanistan after 1992 are now repeating their failure by scripting government affairs and constitution-making in Kabul to portray the birth of Western-style democracy, religious tolerance, and women's rights -- all anathema to Afghan political and tribal culture and none of which has more than a small, unarmed constituency. We are succeeding only in fooling ourselves. Certain the Afghans want to be like us, and abstaining from effective military action against growing numbers of anti-U.S. insurgents, we have allowed the Taliban and al Qaeda to regroup and refit. They are now waging an insurgency that gradually will increase in intensity, lethality, and popular support, and ultimately force Washington to massively escalate its military presence or evacuate. In reality, neither we nor our Karzai-led surrogates have built anything political or economic that will long outlast the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces. Due to our hubris, what we today identify and promote as a nascent Afghan democracy is a self-made illusion on life-support; it is a Western-imposed regime that will be swept away if America and its allies stop propping it up with their bayonets.

On Iraq, I must candidly say that I abhor aggressive wars like the one we waged there; it is out of character for America in terms of our history, sense of morality, and basic decency. This is not to argue that preemption is unneeded against immediate threats. Never in our history was preemptive action more needed than in the past decade against the lethal, imminent threat of bin Laden, al Qaeda, and their allies. But the U.S. invasion of Iraq was not preemption; it was -- like our war on Mexico in 1846 -- an avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat but whose defeat did offer economic advantages. "Disclaimers issued by the White House notwithstanding, this war has not been thrust upon us. We have chosen it," Boston University's Andrew J. Bacevich wrote in the Los Angeles Times. "The United States no longer views force as something to be used as a last resort. There is a word for this. It's called militarism."

Probably the best read of the past six months, a scathing indictment of the U.S. campaigns against Afghanistan and Iraq. All concerned Americans should read this book – agree or disagree with his tenets – it is detailed feedback from someone who has served the U.S. as an intelligence operative and has great knowledge and background regarding Afghanistan and the Muslim world.

One question that immediately popped to my mind was why on earth would the U.S. intelligence brain trust allow him to publish such classified research. But there are no classified documents revealed, and the author repeatedly pounds the point that all of this data is readily available in your local public library and much material is accessible in online repositories. And as part of his agreement to get published, the author was required to not publish under his own name, though I believe he's been outed since.

For lack of a coherent schematic on how to arrange these items, here's a short list of some of the salient points made:

  • The silliness of the notion oft repeated by the administration and its apologists how "they hate us for our freedom and way of life". No, bin Laden has made quite clear his grievances, and they have been available to anybody with access to a web browser dating back many years. In short, they amount to demands that (a) U.S. quit occupation of Muslim lands, (b) cease propping up despots and other non-Islamic, non-popular mandate regimes in the Muslim world, and (c) end support for Israel. Whether these are valid or just mularkey may or may not be open to debate, but to say blindly that they hate us for "our freedom" does a grave disservice and hampers our war effort.

  • In corrolary, the painting of him as a deranged lunatic or an absurd madman foists dangerous misunderstandings. The author illustrates clearly the shrewdness and the high level of strategic savvy bin Laden has employed in carrying out his campaign of worldwide holy Islamic jihad.

  • Treating the "war on terror" as a police manhunt exercise instead of war.

  • As stated, both campaigns have been badly botched – borders were not sealed, buckets of money have been poured over warlords who've taken the money and not acted in contract, al-Qaeda fighters permitted to flee with their armaments to return to fight in guerilla fashion, and focus placed on capturing cities and issuing PR releases boasting victory instead of destroying the enemy. Parallels are drawn with Union civil war commanders Grant and Sherman who recognized that the goal of conquering cities was secondary to crushing the enemy armies.

  • The preoccupation of military planners to fight a "safe war", where keeping U.S. force casualty counts low is given undue importance.

  • The invasion of Iraq was a gift to bin Laden, the second holiest land in Islam where order was kept only by the Baathist barbarity that prevented a long overdue civil war. It would sharpen and consolidate anti-American sentiment as massive numbers of innocent civilians are slaughtered in efforts to root out insurgents. Muslims would see each day on television that the United States was occupying a Muslim country, insisting that made-man laws replace God's revealed word, stealing Iraqi oil, and paving the way for the creation of a "Greater Israel"

  • Expression of intelligence operative backlash against the frequent "leaks" that serve the administration as chest thumping exercises, but severley hamper and handicap the job intelligence agencies are doing.

  • The toady manner of which senior military officials stay mum and refrain from commentary, and blindly follow civilian instruction. This is not so much directed at active officers who, it is acknowledged, must obey orders, but to those stepping out or retiring. The author claims that instead of speaking the truth on matters, many opt for the cushy confines of corporate munition makers, to serve as executives and use their history of interpersonal contacts to secure financial windfalls for new employer suitors.

Read Imperial Hubris.

Worst case of contracting abuse ever

Involving Dick Cheney's company.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' top contracting official on Friday called the government's grant of multi-billion dollar contracts to oil services giant Halliburton the worst case of contracting abuse she has ever seen.

"It was misconduct, and part of that misconduct was blatant," said Bunny Greenhouse, in an interview on NBC's Nightly News program.

Greenhouse has already demanded an investigation into the contracts that last year were granted to Halliburton, the energy services firm run by Vice President Dick Cheney from 1995-2000. According to her attorney, the FBI has since asked her for an interview on the matter.

Waived rules, no-bid contracts, and extra favorable treatment for a Texas firm for an administration headed by two oilmen.

30 October 2004

Scariest Halloween Costumes 2004

A Do-It-Yourself Guide to This Season's Quickest, Least Expensive, and Spooky-Ookiest Halloween Costumes.
The Littlest Prisoner at Abu Ghraib

Your child will be the hit of the neighborhood costume parade in this recreation of the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal's most indelible image. As an added bonus this easy-to-make costume will remind everyone on your child's trick-or-treat route of our national shame! Simply roll a cone from a sheet of 24"x38" black cardstock, making sure to cut out a hole for the face. Drape with two yards of black felt, and add leftover wires from your last lamp-rewiring project. VoilŔ! So easy, so quick, and so terrifying!

Or you can go dressed as a Florida Electronic Touch-Screen voting machine or choose from the others featured there…

Is it permissible to kill animals in the name of art?

I believe this is truly abhorrent.
Most people who see Nathalia's pictures for the first time are impressed by how beautiful they are. It takes a few seconds before you start to wonder how they have been made. A photo-montage? Some kind of digital manipulation? When you look closer, there is something slightly distorted in the rabbit's expression. Something slightly abnormal about the face of the cat. Slowly you realise that the animal is dead, that the animal has died for the sake of the picture. Is this acceptable?

There is nothing illegal in Nathalia's art. She has killed the animals in as humane a way as possible. Has she been guilty of a moral crime? We do not think so. We think that art is of vital importance. What do you think?

Absolutely disguisting.

Networks Refuse to Air Troop Advocacy Ad

Networks refuse to air Operation Truth ad.
At one of those stations, the History Channel, top executives made the decision to refuse to air the ad, saying that when they aired ads by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, it "generated several angry emails and phone calls," according to a representative from the History Channel.

"It is unfortunate that Vietnam Veterans get their say to talk about who may or may not have been in Cambodia 30-plus years ago, but a Veteran of the current war cannot appear on the same airwaves to talk about the war going on right now, and his experience," said Executive Director, Paul Rieckhoff. "Even FOX News Channel, which often gets criticized for slanted coverage, allowed our group to purchase time to speak the truth. Is the ad hard-hitting and graphic? Absolutely. But so is war. That's just the truth, and these stations have a duty to allow their viewers to see the human cost of war, especially if a group is willing to pay for the air time."

View the ad online at Operation Truth website.

Can We Live Without Oil?

As oil supply worries grow, we should seek out solutions to becoming less dependent on foreign oil. Here is a 12 step program that pledges to reduce oil consumption by 86%.

A synopsis?

  1. stay home
  2. walk
  3. cycle
  4. share rides
  5. mass transit
  6. share cars
  7. electric vehicles
  8. hybrid cars
  9. smart cars
  10. biofuels
  11. electricity
  12. smart policies

View the math.

29 October 2004

100,000 excess deaths have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq

Poor planning, air strikes by coalition forces and a "climate of violence" have led to more than 100,000 extra deaths in Iraq.
Violent deaths were mainly attributed to coalition forces - and most individuals reportedly killed were women and children.

Dr Les Roberts, who led the study, said: "Making conservative assumptions we think that about 100,000 excess deaths, or more, have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

"Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most of the violent deaths."

The entire Lancet report is available online.

Thirteenth in broadband adoption

The U.S. may be the birthplace of the Internet, but now it trails 12 others in the adopting of high speed net access.

Honestly, I don't think it's a concern to many Americans, who are suited just fine with basic dial up access, and content to check their email every other day or so. Or perhaps their online experience is limited to paying bills online.

Some have said that the rural population in America makes it difficult to achieve widespread broadband saturation, but what of Canada exceeding the U.S. mark?

And every country other than the USA uses some form of government policy to encourage broadband acceptance.

GOP Trickster Defends Shady Tactics

Nathan Sproul, under fire, for allegedly destroying Democrat registrations.
"It's unethical to not register anyone who comes to you to register," said Karen Osborne, a Democrat who is elections director for Maricopa County, Arizona's most populous county.

Whether the Justice Department is investigating Sproul is unclear. The department did not immediately return a call for comment, but Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller said the FBI has taken the lead on an investigation into claims of voter fraud in his state by a company headed by Sproul.

Sproul is fighting back. After former canvasser Eric Russell of Las Vegas claimed that he saw a Sproul supervisor tear up eight to 10 registration forms completed by Democrats, Sproul hit Russell with a slander suit.

Russell said he managed to grab some of the shredded documents as evidence.

It's a shame when a "Christian" justifies such unethical practices, including adopting a name to purposefully confuse and mislead the public.

Voters Outreach of America — an organization reportedly run by Nathan Sproul, the former head of the Arizona Republican Party — has run registration drives in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida and Nevada. These registration drives are often run under the name "America Votes," which is a problem, since America Votes is an actual nonpartisan political organization.

"Voters Outreach is not in any way, shape or form associated with us. They called themselves America Votes when they were registering voters," said Carrie Sandstedt, the Nevada director of America Votes. "We've actually sent out a letter to Sproul & Associates [Sproul's Arizona-based political consulting firm] asking them to stop calling themselves America Votes."

Salon has published a lenghty piece on the matter, showing that it's not just one "disgruntled employee" telling of impropriety with this RNC funded enterprise.

It should be a slam dunk if Russell indeed saved "shredded paperwork" that includes signed voter registration forms. Of course, lawyers for Sproul can counter that he was the one who destroyed those forms, unless Russell's testimony is collaborated.

And here is a videotape of past Sproul work, in an anti-Clean Elections campaign, demostrating more dishonesty.

28 October 2004

Once again, Southern conservatism is at its core

John Dean, former counsel to President Nixon, is predicting post-election chaos "unlike any we'ver ever known".
It is impossible to get a complete count, but it appears that at least 10,000 - and possibly as many as 150,000 -- attorneys, paralegals and law students will be working as observers, or handling election problems, on November 2-- just in the swing states. They have been trained in the relevant state's election laws, and they will focus on the casting and counting of votes.

With so many legal minds looking for problems and such combative attitudes on both sides, litigation seems inevitable - especially if the November 2 tally is close. And if litigation starts, it won't stop soon: A game of litigation chicken -- testing who will fold first - seems likely, with each party bent on holding out.

27 October 2004

Shame on you, Senator

Bruce DeCell, member of 9/11 Families for a Secure America, shares his conversation with US Senator John McCain after a chance meeting aboard a train.
When I entered the First Class car at the front of the train and took my seat, I was surprised to find myself sitting across from Senator John McCain, one of the leading proponents of S. 2845, the Senate’s legislative response to the 9/11 Commission. The Senator was reading a stack of papers and not paying attention to anyone around him as the train left the station.

I introduced myself to Senator McCain as a 9/11 family member and told him that I had just left the conference committee meeting concerning the 9/11 legislation. I stated that I am a member of 9-11 Families for a Secure America, which supports the immigration provisions in the House bill, H.R. 10. He cut me off and insisted that the House bill will never be passed because it contains provisions that were not in the 9/11 Commission’s report. He said that the 9/11 Commissioners themselves had pointed that out. I told him that I had a chart with me that quoted language from the Commission’s work to support each of the immigration provisions in the House bill. I asked if he would go through it with me. He refused.

I then pointed out that the Senate bill does not address the need for tighter border security. I mentioned the Time magazine article, which said about 4,000 illegal aliens cross the border nightly, and a recent newspaper article about 25 Chechens who crossed illegally from Mexico into the United States. After dismissing the report of the Chechens crossing as unsubstantiated, Sen. McCain went on to say that the issue of people crossing the border illegally is a largely an issue of race. He said that the only way to stop people from coming to work in the United States is to enforce employer sanctions. I agreed that we need to enforce employer sanctions and suggested that our elected officials should provide the funding necessary to do so. He had no comment.

Next, I asked Senator McCain if he thinks that all those who illegally cross the border are coming only to work here. He insisted that American employers need these workers because U.S. citizens won't do the jobs they take. (Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to talk about the fact that these people are being exploited by employers who want cheap labor.) Incredibly, he also said that he doesn’t think that “other than Mexicans” (OTM's) crossing illegally present a security threat to the United States.

It was then that Senator McCain told me he was finished speaking to me and that he had reading to do. I sat back, enraged and frustrated and wondering how our country can possibly survive with “leaders” like Senator McCain.

Another reason to vote for Stuart Starky.

Randy Camacho would be a vigorous, compelling voice for his constituents

Despite their lock-step endorsement of President Bush and incumbents in the remainder of House races, the Arizona Republic is endorsing the Democratic challenger in District 2, Randy Camacho.
Democratic candidate Randy Camacho is the answer in the 2nd Congressional District. He's a pragmatist, someone who will concentrate on getting things done, not on scoring ideological points.

Meanwhile, Franks was glad to sign on as co-sponsor to legislation that clearly violates the constitutional separation of powers: HR 3920 would have allowed Congress to reverse decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Why don't they get new jobs if they're unhappy – or go on Prozac?

That, in essence, is the George W. Bush answer to outsourcing and mass displacement of American jobs to foreign locales. Kerry/Edwards have released their plan to keep high-paying jobs in America.
The Bush Administration refuses to acknowledge the extent of the challenge facing America's innovation-intensive services - a key engine of our 21st century economy. George Bush has even pronounced outsourcing "a plus" and has refused to take measures to defend America's competitive advantage or to help white-collar professionals displaced by the new wave of offshore outsourcing. This is not only insensitive to the needs of American families. It is short-sighted, blunting our competitive edge and putting the futures of even more Americans in doubt.

I have doubts that many of these proposals will have a major impact on the problem (or even be implemented – a Kerry victory may mean nothing but four years of Republican controlled Congress blockade), but at least one side has acknowledged that a problem does indeed exist. As opposed, to Republican appeasement in face of corporate and lobbyist public relations blitzes, that the issue is overblown and insignificant.

26 October 2004

Why have all those GOP publishers abandoned the president this time around?

Republicans playing the "so called liberal media bias" card again.
As the mountain of newspaper endorsements pile up in favor of Sen. John Kerry, including dozens from dailies that backed Bush in 2000, the Bush/Cheney campaign is dismissing the trend as no big deal. "Look, the Republican candidate will never win the contest for editorial board endorsements. The major dailies across the country tend to skew liberal," RNC chairman Ed Gillespie told CNN last week. That spin comes straight out of the GOP handbook that insists the mainstream press tilts to the left, so of course newspapers love Democrats come Election Day.

Only problem is, it's not accurate. In fact, the complete opposite is true. Since 1940 when industry trade magazine Editor & Publisher began tracking newspapers during presidential elections, only two Democratic candidates -- Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and Bill Clinton in 1992 -- have ever won more endorsements than their Republican opponent. That's because newspaper publishers, who usually sign off on endorsements, tend to vote Republican (like lots of senior corporate executives), which means GOP candidates pick up more endorsements. A lot more. In 1984, President Reagan landed roughly twice as many endorsements as Democrat Walter Mondale in the president's easy reelection win. And in 1996, despite his weak showing at the polls, 179 daily newspapers endorsed Republican Bob Dole, which easily outpaced the Democrats' tally by nearly a 2-to-1 margin.

A scorecard of newspaper endorsements showing Kerry up 125-96.

Another interesting tidbit about surveys of newspaper executives and editors.

E&P's results come from industry-wide surveys it conducted among 800 top newspaper executives one week before the election. Asked how they were going to vote in 2000, 59 percent of newspaper publishers signaled they were voting for Bush, compared to just 20 percent for Gore. And even among newsroom editors, Bush won support among 33 percent, compared to just to 24 percent for Gore.

» read more

Doctor and a lawyer turned radio talk-show hosts battle it out

On C-Span The Washington Journal show. It's dated (taped October 13, 2004), but still, it was keen to see Valley radio talkers Mike Newcomb and Tom Liddy on television together.

Watch the video.

According to the On Second Thought newsletter, Dr. Newcomb was flooded with emails in support after the show. I'd like to post a link, but it seems the webmaster there hasn't updated the site in eons.

25 October 2004

An American demands the truth from Bush

Karl Schwarz was a guest on KFNX Charles Goyette this morning, and shared his interesting take on why he, as a conservative Christian Republican, cannot cast a vote for Bush. Here is his "30 Questions" email letter to Bush.
Mr. President,                                                              

I am a Conservative Christian Republican that has no intentions of voting for you in this year's election and many other Conservative Republicans are following me.

America demands the TRUTH and not after the elections; this nation demands the truth from you RIGHT NOW!  This letter and an identical email will be going out to hundreds of thousands by me, millions by others.  The following content was sent to the White House by facsimile earlier today from Ground Zero in New York City.

» read more

What happened to the materials?

Huge cache of explosives vanishes from site in Iraq.
he Iraqi interim government has warned the United States and international nuclear inspectors that nearly 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives - used to demolish buildings, make missile warheads and detonate nuclear weapons - are missing from one of Iraq's most sensitive former military installations.

The huge facility, called Al Qaqaa, was supposed to be under American military control but is now a no man's land, still picked over by looters as recently as Sunday. United Nations weapons inspectors had monitored the explosives for many years, but White House and Pentagon officials acknowledge that the explosives vanished sometime after the American-led invasion last year.

In the chaos that followed the invasion, however, many of those sites, even some considered a higher priority, were never secured.

Consider that the bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988 used less than a pound of the same type of material.

The story treads lightly over a couple of questions that leap to mind:

…whether the explosives in question have played a substantial role in the various suicide bombings, car bombings and sundry other attacks in Iraq over the last year.

They also say little about Pentagon pressure on the Iraqis not to report the disappearance of the explosives to the IAEA.

» read more

22 October 2004

12 reasons why it's not in the Republican Party's best interest to stop the outsourcing of jobs

The Greedy Dozen
Jobs are leaving America at an alarming rate. But rather than try to put a stop to the outsourcing, our current administration encourages it by giving tax incentives to companies that ship jobs to other countries - and Americans are left training the workers that will replace them.

Who are the worst, unpatriotic, un-American perpetrators? We bring you the GREEDY DOZEN - the twelve worst outsourcers in America. Take notice of where their campaign contributions are going...

Another reason to vote Kerry.

20 October 2004

Because blood is thinner than oil!

Bush Relatives for Kerry.
Bush Relatives for Kerry grew out of a series of conversations that took place between a group of people that have two things in common: they are all related to George Walker Bush, and they are all voting for John Kerry. As the election approaches, we feel it is our responsibility to speak out about why we are voting for John Kerry, and to do our small part to help America heal from the sickness it has suffered since George Bush was appointed President in 2000. We invite you to read our stories, and please, don't vote for our cousin!

General Franks Claim Contradicted by News Reports

Media Matters with an informative piece on Tommy Franks contradictions in his comment that "…neither attention nor manpower was diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq".
U.S. intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because intelligence matters are classified, said that as much as half of the intelligence and special forces assets in Afghanistan and Pakistan were diverted to support the war in Iraq.

18 October 2004

State of Talk Radio in the Valley 2004

A belated roundup this year, so many changes to the local talk radio scene, had to wait for the dust to settle and the microphones have swapped around a lot over the past year. KFNX 1100 AM became a major player in the market, grabbing a big share of the Valley audience with a vastly improved all-local talk lineup that bested rival offerings. But then when 1010 AM made the switch to Air America national, progressive talk radio programming, that dumped syndicated talkers Michael Savage from the Phoenix market. Mike Barna and KFNX then jumped at the opportunity to nab Savage, Jerry Doyle and Tammy Bruce, discarding their previously heralded all-local lineup. Bad move I believe, but then again, I'm no fan of nationally syndicated programming and prefer to listen to local talent. KTAR 620 AM was a bit battered by the new competition, it seems, as it said goodbye to longtime talker Preston Westmoreland. Ted Simons assumed Westmoreland's position and Bruce St. James, in turn, was given Simons slot.

While it may rankle the ream of righties that revel in the all-conservative KFYI 550 AM programming, the local shows there will rate at the bottom of my list. The criteria I am applying is simply what appeals to my ears – I like to be intellectually challenged and enjoy listening to intelligent folks share their thoughts. Not that the host has to be a PhD, just that the airing of independent takes is permitted or interesting guests booked. Blindly parroting talking points of another is a quick way to get me to tune out, no matter which partisan side presenting. Engaging dialogue with reason, with thought provoking discourse. I accept that market forces often dictate the converse; more are satiated with Jerry Springer than a CSPAN Booknotes show. Nor does it mean I have to agree with the host and a majority of program callers – again, I desire to be exposed to many different perspectives, potentially bringing light to matters I may have been oblivious to, or overlooked, locked into my own stance. Or maybe just learn about something I didn't know about too much before.

Now, onto the roundup.
» read more

From whence came the brownshirt movement that slavishly adheres to the neocon agenda?

Former Reagan administration assistant treasury secretary Paul Craig Roberts with a harsh denunciation of the neoconservatives and their blind allegiance to Bush.
Bush’s supporters demand lock-step consensus that Bush is right. They regard truthful reports that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and was not involved in the September 11 attack on the US—truths now firmly established by the Bush administration’s own reports—as treasonous America-bashing.

Bush’s conservative supporters want no debate. They want no facts, no analysis. They want to denounce and to demonize the enemies that the Hannitys, Limbaughs, and Savages of talk radio assure them are everywhere at work destroying their great and noble country.

I remember when conservatives favored restraint in foreign policy and wished to limit government power in order to protect civil liberties. Today’s young conservatives are Jacobins determined to use government power to impose their will at home and abroad.

17 October 2004

Huge gaps in points of view between the American populace and American leaders

Courtesy of a Programmers Guild posting from Dr. Norman Matloff.

The October 2 issue of The Economist (page 33) reported on a fascinating survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. The survey found huge gaps in points of view between the American populace and American leaders, where the term "leaders" means "not just politicians and businessmen, but also people from well-meaning institutions such as churches, universities and, er, the press." Here are some of the startling gaps which the poll found:

% saying issue is very important
issue   the public leaders
protecting the jobs of U.S. workers78%41%
controlling illegal immigration 58% 21%
improving the standard of living in developing nations 18%64%

This survey certainly explains one of the causes of the indifference the "leaders" have been showing to the American populace on issues like H-1B and offshoring. From their point of view, for instance, H-1B is good because immigration is good, and offshoring is good because it helps the developing nations. While many Americans may agree that immigration and improved conditions in the Third World are good things, they also feel that there has to be a balance between those things and the well-being of Americans. The "leaders" have no such concept of balance.

16 October 2004

Electoral College Graph

A timeline of the changing electoral vote landscape over the past few months.

Spunkiness and honesty in the face of overwhelming odds

John McCain and Stuart Starky debated eachother in Tucson yesterday in the first of three debates.
Starky, who qualified for the Nov. 2 ballot after crisscrossing Arizona in his Kia, defended gay marriage, called for the decriminalization of marijuana and railed against President Bush's education reform centerpiece, the No Child Left Behind act. The eighth-grade teacher said No Child Left Behind has been an abysmal failure that he's witnessed firsthand.

Libertarian candidate Ernest Hancock was denied participation in the debate.

Starky is indeed a longshot, but he's earned my vote. Still, I doubt that an overwhelming majority of Arizonans are even aware of the identity of McCain's opposition in the 2004 Senate race.

15 October 2004

Firing from over here – Firing from over there – Firing from the boat

ABC Nightline demolishes Anti-Kerry Swift Boat Story.
ABC News Nightline went to Vietnam and interviewed villagers who witnessed the firefight in February 1969 that led to John Kerry being awarded a Silver Star. The incident is a center piece of the allegations made by the so-called 'Swift Boat Veterans for Truth', whose leader John O'Neill has claimed that there was no firefight and that Kerry shot dead a fleeing teenager. Nightline's detailed interviews with the villagers, including former Viet Cong fighters who took part in the incident, verified Kerry's account of events. When confronted by Nightline's Ted Koppel, a clearly rattled O'Neill refused to address the content of the report.

You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show

Jon Stewart makes an appearance on CNN Crossfire and takes on bowtie boy, Tucker Carlson, and he actually called him a dick on national television.
STEWART: It's not honest. What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery. And I will tell you why I know it.

CARLSON: You had John Kerry on your show and you sniff his throne and you're accusing us of partisan hackery?

STEWART: Absolutely.

CARLSON: You've got to be kidding me. He comes on and you...

STEWART: You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls.


STEWART: What is wrong with you?

(APPLAUSE) CARLSON: Well, I'm just saying, there's no reason for you -- when you have this marvelous opportunity not to be the guy's butt boy, to go ahead and be his butt boy. Come on. It's embarrassing.

STEWART: I was absolutely his butt boy. I was so far -- you would not believe what he ate two weeks ago.


Stewart drops the comedy bit and tackles the political pundits.

According to some in attendance at the taping, some heated words were exchanged between commercial breaks and after the show between Stewart and hosts Carlson and Begala. Props to Stewart for calling out those CNN clowns…

MTV story on the brouhaha is titled Jon Stewart Bitchslaps CNN's 'Crossfire' Show.

Video available here.

14 October 2004

Say goodbye to the American software programmer

A dim future lies ahead for those who wish to pursue a career in computer programming.
Some experts think they'll become extinct within the next few years, forced into unemployment or new careers by a combination of offshoring of their work to India and other low-wage countries and the arrival of skilled immigrants taking their jobs.

Although computer-related jobs in the United States increased by 27,000 between 2001 and 2003, about 180,000 new foreign H-1B workers in the computer area entered the nation, calculates John Miano, an expert with the Programmers Guild, a professional society. "This suggests any gain of jobs have been taken by H-1B workers," he says.

Yet while American programmers have been forced out of the profession, US business interests are lobbying to increase the visa cap to allow importing of more foreign workers.

If profiling were allowed, I wouldn't be the one filling out government forms to prove I'm not a terrorist

Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas shares his tale of landing on the airlines potential terror suspect watch list.
I am on a US Airways list of some type that apparently requires airline employees to take my driver's license behind closed doors, have a conference and then stamp my ticket with a code that mandates my person and my carry-on bag be searched. Every time I fly, which is sometimes several times a week. I especially appreciate the crotch grab to make sure I'm not hiding any weapons of mass destruction. How would you like to be the trainer for this procedure?    

The idiocy virus is now spreading to other airlines. It seems someone who shares my name is wanted by authorities. I hope he is getting some of my hate mail. Logic should dictate that once I prove I am not the guy they are looking for, they would take me off the suspect list. But, no, our misnamed Transportation Security Administration is anything but logical.    

US Airways gives me a TSA phone number to call. I am not surprised when a machine answers. The machine promises a ''prompt'' response. I leave a message. There is no response. A few days later, I call again. Same recording, same message, same non-response. I send an e-mail to TSA. This time I receive an ''automated reply,'' assuring me of a prompt response. Two days later, I receive another e-mail informing me I will have to fill out a form to prove I am not a terrorist. This is an interesting twist on the ''innocent until proven guilty'' standard in law.

Is it truly any safer to hop on a flight in the post 9-11 world?

13 October 2004

The moral condemnation of abortion need not lead to the conclusion that criminal prosecution is the best way to limit the number of abortions

This New York Times Op-Ed piece by Notre Dame dean Mark Roche contained an interesting factoid on abortion:
During the eight years of the Reagan presidency, the number of legal abortions increased by more than 5 percent; during the eight years of the Clinton presidency, the number dropped by 36 percent. The overall abortion rate (calculated as the number of abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44) was more or less stable during the Reagan years, but during the Clinton presidency it dropped by 11 percent.

There are many reasons for this shift. Yet surely the traditional Democratic concern with the social safety net makes it easier for pregnant women to make responsible decisions and for young life to flourish; among the most economically disadvantaged, abortion rates have always been and remain the highest. The world's lowest abortion rates are in Belgium and the Netherlands, where abortion is legal but where the welfare state is strong. Latin America, where almost all abortions are illegal, has one of the highest rates in the world.

And here is a column by a Christian ethics professor containing partial numbers from 2001 onward, consistent with the research detailed above.

12 October 2004

The rectangular bulge that was visible under Bush's suit coat during the presidential debates

Casting aside staff dismissals that it's just "a little lump", an expert says it looks like an electronic device he designs and makes.
Now a technical expert who designs and makes such devices for the U.S. military and private industry tells Salon that he believes the bulge is indeed a transceiver designed to receive electronic signals and transmit them to a hidden earpiece lodged in Bush's ear canal.

"There's no question about it. It's a pretty obvious one -- larger than most because it probably has descrambling capability," said Alex Darbut, technical and business development vice president for Resistance Technology in Arden Hills, Minn. Darbut examined photographs of the president's back taken from the Fox News video feed at the first presidential debate in Coral Gables, Fla., as well as 2002 photos of the president driving and working in a T-shirt on his Crawford ranch, which were posted on the White House Web site.

He cheated, and still lost the debate.

Update (04-10-28): NASA physicist says imaging techniques prove the president's bulge was not caused by wrinkled clothing.

How can Nelson be certain there's some kind of mechanical device beneath Bush's jacket? It's all about light and shadows, he says. The angles at which the light in the studio hit Bush's jacket expose contours that fit no one's picture of human anatomy and wrinkled shirts. And Nelson compared the images to anatomy texts. He also experimented with wrinkling shirts in various configurations, wore them under his jacket under his bathroom light, and couldn't produce anything close to the Bush bulge.

"Look, he says, "I'm putting myself at risk for exposing this. But this is too important. It's not about my reputation. If they force me into an early retirement, it'll be worth it if the public knows about this. It's outrageous statements that I read that the president is wearing nothing under there. There's clearly something there."

» read more

The constitution does not permit the government unilaterally to cut off the speech of an independent media outlet

But yet, censorship prevailed in the UK, via order by the FBI at the request of Italian and Swiss authorities. No reason was given for the seizure and the web hosting company eagerly handed over computer equipment.
A US court order forced the firm hosting the material to hand over two servers in the UK used by the group.

Indymedia says it is a news source for the anti-globalisation movement and other social justice issues.

The reasons behind the seizure are unclear but the FBI has reportedly said the action was taken at the request of Italian and Swiss authorities.

A truly chilling act and a blatant reminder that freedom of speech on the internet is a mirage. Some can wane on about the freedom of the new medium, but as this story plainly illustrates, it is a grand illusion.

And why are American resources being used to facilitate search and seizure on foreign soil?

10 October 2004

Gospel of George Bush

And he taught them, saying:
  1. Blessed are the rich, for they have more than they need and still they take with such joy.

  2. Blessed are those who mourn, for their numbers shall multiply.

  3. Blessed are the meek, especially the liberals, for they will not stand up to me.

  4. Blessed are those who hunger for righteousness, for they may wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which one fills the fastest.

  5. Blessed are those who are not merciful, for they shall laugh upon those without health insurance.

  6. Blessed are the pure in ideology, for they shall promote religious fascism.

  7. Blessed are the warmongers, for they shall control the world’s resources.

  8. Blessed are those who persecute, for they shall trample upon the First Amendment.

  9. Blessed are you when you are an abject failure, yet people still think you’re doing a fine job.

  10. Blessed are you when you base your policies upon a fundamentalist interpretation of scripture. You violate the consciences of millions of Americans. But they’re going to Hell anyway.

  11. Blessed are the undecided and those who don’t vote, for you allow me to get away with murder.

  12. Blessed are the Americans, for God loves us better than anyone else.

  13. Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But I tell you, do unto others before they do unto you. And be sure to use cluster bombs.

  14. If you are offering your gift at the altar, and then remember that your brother has something against you, have your friends run as many untruthful TV ads as they can. And do not fear to lie, for if you do it often enough, you shall be believed.

  15. And if anyone oppose you, yea even if they wear an insulting T-shirt, shake the dust of your shoes in their face, have them arrested, fire them from their job and confine them in a pen called a free speech zone where they may enjoy their freedom in security. Also make certain your friends in the TV media ignore their point of view.

  16. Jesus said, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” But I say that is ridiculous, for it means I’m as bad as those awful homosexuals. Jesus didn’t say anything about them. Perhaps that’s a gap in the record, like my National Guard service.

  17. Jesus said if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well. But I say to you, tell the lazy bum to get three minimum wage jobs. That’s why we have three shifts.

  18. Lay up your treasures on earth, for if you have a lot, you will be eligible for a big tax cut. And I shall let you keep your money for your own benefit, not give it to a bunch of stupid old people on Social Security. I may even figure out a way you can take your treasure to heaven with you, if Dick Cheney tells me what it is.

  19. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Do you ever wonder if Jesus was smoking some of that stuff I got hold of back in the ’70s?) But I say, “Bring ’em on!” Bring on all the Arabs and the U.N. and the cowardly French and Germans and Russians and the Canadians and the wimpy liberals and even the New York Yankees! Who cares if they hate us as long as they fear us! Veni, vidi, vici! (Bet you didn’t think I know Latin.)

  20. You, therefore, must be perfect, as I am perfect. As I said in a recent press conference, I can’t think of a single mistake I’ve made. And I thank my Father, who makes sure that no matter what I do, I get away with it.

Corruption at its Worst

A company with no previous experience in the security industry gets a no-bid $16 million dollar contract to provide security at Baghdad Airport. Now, according to employee whistleblowers, Custer Battles then proceeded to bill the government for fraudulent charges to the tune of $50 million.
Lawyers for the two men suing Custer Battles say the firm's fraudulent charges amounted to $50 million. Federal law allows fines against companies that defraud the government in an amount equal to three times the fraudulent proceeds.

The Pentagon, Justice Department and other federal agencies are investigating several cases of alleged fraud among contractors in Iraq. Internal watchdogs at the Pentagon and CPA have said U.S. contracting officials did not follow proper procedures on many of those contracts.

And how about the treatment dished out to the whistleblowers.

Isakson and Baldwin say in the lawsuit they were fired when they objected to Custer Battles' business practices. When he was fired as the company's country manager for Iraq, the lawsuit says, Custer Battles employees held Isakson at gunpoint, disarmed him and sent Isakson and his 14-year-old son in a taxi from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan.

Some more reading on the Isakson Iraq odyssey.

Every day, the notion that military privatization saves money is thoroughly debunked with accounts like these.

9 October 2004

Unfortunately, for the Iconoclast and its publishers there have been threats — big ones including physical harm

Disagreeing with conservatives has gotten to be a physically dangerous undertaking in the present political climate. We've seen incidents of arson and vandalism directed at Democratic campaign offices, assaults on protestors at Bush/Cheney appearances and outright political thuggery. Then there was this story about vicious personal hate filled diatribes delivered via greeting card inserts in response to lawn signs in support of John Kerry.

The Lone Star Iconoclast, the hometown newspaper of President George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas, is embroiled in reader repercussions for its endorsement of Senator John Kerry in the presidential race.

We expected that perhaps a few readers might cancel subscriptions, and maybe even ads, but have been amazed at a few of the more intense communications, some of which bordered on outright personal attacks and uncalled-for harassment.

We have been told by several avid Bush supporters that the days when newspapers publish editorials without personal repercussions are over. As publishers, we have printed editorials for decades, and have endorsed candidates, both Republican and Democrat. When Bush was endorsed four years ago, the Gore supporters did not respond with threats, nor did Democrats when we endorsed Reagan twice. Republicans did not threaten us personally or our business when we endorsed Carter and Clinton for their first terms.

It seems the endorsement of Kerry generated a firestorm of feedback, though most of the emails were supportive.

And these events are no surprise to me, given the level of hate spewed by some of the extremist right wing media voices like Ann Coulter who recently said "a baseball bat is the most effective way these days" to talk to a liberal or Michael Savage who commends prison abuses and claims Democrats are to blame for beheadings. Or Savage's remarks on Bill Clinton's recent heart surgey that "hell was full".

8 October 2004

Bush and Kerry are cousins

Not just fellow Skull & Bones members, but ninth cousins twice removed, too, according to genealogist Gary Boyd Roberts.
Genealogist Gary Boyd Roberts has revealed that President George Bush and his presidential rival John Kerry, are actually cousins.

According to The Sun, Roberts claims that the forefathers of Kerry and Bush hail from Wickford in Essex, and the link between them dates back to the 1600s in form of their common ancestor named Edmund Reade, who was reportedly a minor member of the town's gentry.

7 October 2004

The world has lost Iraq's oil

2 million barrels a day.
The costs and benefits of America's occupation of Iraq vary, according to proponents and opponents, except when it comes to oil exports. The U.S.-led invasion has resulted in the loss of an average of 2 million barrels a day of Iraqi oil from world markets. That is a significant number with huge consequences for economies around the globe.

Instead of rosy promises by the neoconservatives of the Bush administration who pushed for the invasion — partly on the premise that they would turn it into America's private gasoline-pumping station — the contrary has occurred.

Indeed, we really didn't need that excess oil… …yeah right, and it probably has nothing to do with the record price of oil right now…

Sensible and farsighted economic management requires true discipline, compassion, and courage – not just slogans

An open letter to President George W. Bush:
As professors of economics and business, we are concerned that U.S. economic policy has taken a dangerous turn under your stewardship. Nearly every major economic indicator has deteriorated since you took office in January 2001. Real GDP growth during your term is the lowest of any presidential term in recent memory. Total non-farm employment has contracted and the unemployment rate has increased. Bankruptcies are up sharply, as is our dependence on foreign capital to finance an exploding current account deficit. All three major stock indexes are lower now than at the time of your inauguration. The percentage of Americans in poverty has increased, real median income has declined, and income inequality has grown.

The data make clear that your policy of slashing taxes – primarily for those at the upper reaches of the income distribution – has not worked. The fiscal reversal that has taken place under your leadership is so extreme that it would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. The federal budget surplus of over $200 billion that we enjoyed in the year 2000 has disappeared, and we are now facing a massive annual deficit of over $400 billion. In fact, if transfers from the Social Security trust fund are excluded, the federal deficit is even worse – well in excess of a half a trillion dollars this year alone. Although some members of your administration have suggested that the mountain of new debt accumulated on your watch is mainly the consequence of 9-11 and the war on terror, budget experts know that this is simply false. Your economic policies have played a significant role in driving this fiscal collapse. And the economic proposals you have suggested for a potential second term – from diverting Social Security contributions into private accounts to making the recent tax cuts permanent – only promise to exacerbate the crisis by further narrowing the federal revenue base.

6 October 2004

We simply ask that corporations stop demonizing a perfectly good legal system that they regularly utilize

Businesses in the U.S. file four times as many lawsuits as do individuals represented by trial attorneys.
American businesses file four times as many lawsuits as do individuals represented by trial attorneys, and they are penalized by judges much more often for pursuing frivolous litigation, according to a report issued today by Public Citizen.

The survey of case filings in two states (Arkansas and Mississippi) and two local jurisdictions (Cook County, Ill., and Philadelphia, Pa.) in 2001 found that businesses were 3.3 to 5.8 times more likely to file lawsuits than were individuals.  This comes as businesses and politicians are campaigning to limit citizens’ rights to sue over everything from medical malpractice damages to defective products. By way of comparison, the number of American consumers (281 million) outnumbers the number of businesses in America (7 million) by 40 times.

The report also found that businesses and their attorneys were 69 percent more likely than individual tort plaintiffs and their attorneys to be sanctioned by federal judges for filing frivolous claims or defenses. The report, Frequent Filers:  Corporate Hypocrisy in Accessing the Courts, is available by clicking here.

The draft – which will include both boys and girls this time around – is a no-brainer

America's most decorated military veteran says that a return to a draft is inevitable, given current foreign policy path pursued by Bush/Cheney.
Recently, when John Kerry brought up the possibility of a return to the draft, SecDef Donald Rumsfeld was quick to respond that Kerry was full of it.

But my take is that Kerry is right on the mark. Not only because Rummy has been flat wrong on every major military call regarding Iraq, but because this is a war that won’t be won by smart weapons or the sledgehammer firepower we see every night on the tube.

Right now – with both our regular and Reserve soldiers stretched beyond the breaking point – our all-volunteer force is tapping out. If our overseas troop commitments continue at the present rate or climb higher, there won’t be enough Army and Marine grunts to do the job. And thin, overworked units, from Special Forces teams to infantry battalions, lose fights.

2 October 2004

McCain cares more about corporate money from lobbyists than his constituency

John McCain is no friend of the American worker as his voting record makes quite clear. I actually received a letter from McCain in a similar light, verifying his brazen indifference to the plight of American workers. Basically, Senator McCain feels that corporate entities should be able to replace American workers for cheaper imported non-immigrant visa workers. He made reference to fictitious protections for American workers but did not address the factual evidence presented to him that there is no protection, according to the letter of the law, for a worker who is replaced by visa worker and that even if there was such a stipulation in effect, there are no provisions for verification and/or enforcement of such measures.

Arizona voters have a better choice in the 2004 Senate race, and his name is Stuart Starky. Starky is the Democratic contender for McCain's seat which will be decided at the Arizona polling spots next month. Starky, in stark contrast to Mr. McCain, received a 100% rating from

McCain agreed to debate Starky, then backed out, but now has agreed to honor his commitment for scheduled debates with his challenger. Three debates are scheduled for October, with the first one slated for October 15 in Tucson.

The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back into a bottle

Wall Street Journal reporter Farnaz Fassihi shares what day to day life in Iraq is like in an email to friends
It's hard to pinpoint when the 'turning point' exactly began. Was it April when the Fallujah fell out of the grasp of the Americans? Was it when Moqtada and Jish Mahdi declared war on the U.S. military? Was it when Sadr City, home to ten percent of Iraq's population, became a nightly battlefield for the Americans? Or was it when the insurgency began spreading from isolated pockets in the Sunni triangle to include most of Iraq? Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to 'imminent and active threat,' a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come.

Iraqis like to call this mess 'the situation.' When asked 'how are thing?' they reply: 'the situation is very bad."

What they mean by situation is this: the Iraqi government doesn't control most Iraqi cities, there are several car bombs going off each day around the country killing and injuring scores of innocent people, the country's roads are becoming impassable and littered by hundreds of landmines and explosive devices aimed to kill American soldiers, there are assassinations, kidnappings and beheadings. The situation, basically, means a raging barbaric guerilla war. In four days, 110 people died and over 300 got injured in Baghdad alone. The numbers are so shocking that the ministry of health -- which was attempting an exercise of public transparency by releasing the numbers -- has now stopped disclosing them.

Doesn't appear to me that things are improving…

1 October 2004

Presidential Debate Bingo!

Belated, but perhaps the game sheeets can be used for the remaining debates.

How to play: Print out a page for each person you'll be watching the Presidential Debate with. (You may wish to print out several pages if you plan on playing more than one round.) Be sure to refresh this page every time you print, as the squares are assigned randomly each time.

If President Bush or Senator Kerry say the phrase, bring up the topic, or do the action marked on a square, mark off that square. The first person to mark off an entire row (either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally) and shout BINGO wins. It's fun and edumacational!