Thursday, December 30, 2004


From Zorn's Tribune column:
He spent the year staking out pusillanimous, poll-tested positions, picking fights with fellow Democrats and borrowing against tomorrow to avoid making hard budget decisions today.

His prescription drug importation plan enrolled only about 2,000 subscribers; his Dolly Parton-inspired notion to give babies a book a month went bye-bye; his demand that lawmakers penalize sales of violent video games to minors revealed yet again his flimsy grasp of the Constitution; and his idea to import flu vaccine now looks as if it may cost us $2.5 million.

The irony is that all of Blagojevich's populist grandstanding appeared aimed at positioning himself for a run for president or vice president, and while he was playing the angles, Obama -- whose candidacy Blagojevich had neither the courage, independence or foresight to get behind early -- streaked past him onto the national stage.

Tomorrow's "I Told Ya So" today: Obama's future is all exclamation points; Blagojevich's has become one fat question mark.
Be sure to read the entire column -- including EZ's use of the word "dawg".

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


During the bustle of Christmas Eve, you may have missed the Sun-Times column of Andrew Greeley:

One must support the troops, I am told. I certainly support the troops the best way possible: Bring them home, get them out of a war for which the planning was inadequate, the training nonexistent, the goal obscure, and the equipment and especially the armor for their vehicles inferior. They are brave men and women who believe they are fighting to defend their country and have become sitting ducks for fanatics. Those who die are the victims of the big lie. They believe that they are fighting to prevent another terror attack on the United States. They are not the war criminals. The ''Vulcans,'' as the Bush foreign policy team calls itself, are the criminals, and they ought to face indictment as war criminals. ***

One of the criteria for a just war is that there be a reasonable chance of victory. Where is that reasonable chance? Each extra day of the war makes it more unjust, more criminal. The guilty people are not only the Vulcans but those Americans who in the November election endorsed the war.

Emphasis added.


From Jay Marvin's blog:
Effective today Jay Marvin is no longer a member of the WLS on-air staff. For the past two-plus years, Jay has co-hosted the 9am-11am program. We wish Jay the best and thank him for his contribution. Eileen Byrne will continue to host the time slot. John F. Gallagher President and General Manager WLS-AM 890/WRDZ-AM 1300 Chicago IL 60601
Congrats to NewsTalk 890 for dropping their token liberal and for being openly less fair and balanced than even FoxNews.

It is truly an achievement to be proud of.

Thursday, December 23, 2004


Rolling Stone interviews Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in its big People of the Year issue.
When the writer suggests that Obama "peaked too early," the senator asks, "Are you saying I'm set for a fall?"

"No ... but the media likes to burn through their heroes quickly."

Obama counters: "I don't mean to insult you, but media can only drag you down if you take it seriously."

Via the Baltimore Sun

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


As we all know, in Einstein's theory of general relativity time and three-dimensional space are treated together as a single four-dimensional pseudo-Riemannian manifold called spacetime.

And under general relativity time and space are interchangeable, i.e. time can be exchanged for space and vice versa, e.g. by traveling at one mile per hour for one hour, you exchange an hour of your life for moving one mile in space.

But by twisting these principles beyond their breaking points -- we've got leather seats and a flux capacitor as options in the Volkswagen -- this evening I will travel 750 miles west and thereby travel back in time -- back to the age of the dial-up internet connection.

My voyage through time will last until January 4, 2005, so my postings until then may be sporadic at best.


In the Food section of today's Sun-Times, Michelle Obama makes a shocking revelation that could sink her husband's potential presidential aspirations:
"Barack doesn't like cheese," Michelle said with a laugh.
Can Barack Obama ever hope to win the Presidency without Wisconsin?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


From Salon:
Unless there's a dramatic turnaround in public sentiment between now and Jan. 20, Bush will be sworn into office with the lowest job-approval rating -- barely 50 percent -- of any president in the last 80 years, or since modern-day presidential polling began.
To be fair, most Bush voters didn't know that sacrificing Social Security to Wall Street fat-cats was the price for "staying the course."

Monday, December 20, 2004


It seems to me that if I ran a publishing concern, lets say a newspaper, I would consider the issue of prior restraint by the federal government to be a front-page story.

From page 6 of the Tribune (emphasis added):
In an apparent reversal of decades of U.S. practice, recent federal Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations bar American companies from publishing works by dissident writers in countries under sanction unless they obtain government approval.

The restriction, condemned by critics as a violation of the 1st Amendment, means that books and other works banned by some totalitarian regimes cannot be published freely in the United States, a country that prides itself as the international beacon of free expression. ***

Violations carry severe reprisals--publishing houses can be fined $1 million and individual violators face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. ***

The regulations have led publishers to scrap plans for volumes on Cuban architecture and birds, and publishers complain that the rules threaten the intellectual breadth and independence of academic journals. ***

In a further wrinkle, even if publishers obtain a license for a book--something they are loath to do--they fear the regulations bar them from advertising it. ***

Officials from the U.S. Treasury Department, which oversees OFAC, declined to comment on the lawsuit, but spokeswoman Molly Millerwise described the sanctions as "a very important part of our overall national security.""These are countries that pose serious threats to the United States, to our economy and security and our well-being around the globe," Millerwise said.
Apparently the Bush administration want to apply their much beloved free-market principles to Social Security, but not to petty trifles like books and ideas.


From Editor and Publisher (emphasis added):
In his first public account of last week’s controversy, Spc. Thomas Wilson says that he came up with the now famous armor question for Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld on his own, without the help of oft-criticized reporter Edward Lee Pitts. And he adds, "If this is my 15 minutes of fame, I hope it saves a life."

The account appears in next week’s edition of Time magazine.

Wilson, who serves with Tennessee’s 278th Regiment in the National Guard, tells Time that he befriended Pitts, an embed for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, at California's Fort Irwin, where his unit trained. Later, in Kuwait, after Pitts learned that only soldiers could ask questions at the upcoming town hall meeting with Rumsfeld in Kuwait, he urged Wilson to come up with some "intelligent questions."

After his convoy arrived at Camp Arijan in Kuwait, Wilson found hundreds of fully armored vehicles promised to another unit months down the road. Wilson says he asked if the 278th could use them in the meantime, and was told no. That inspired his question about the shortage of armor, which he showed to Pitts.

The reporter, far from being the protagonist, suggested that he find “a less brash way of asking the question," but Wilson “told him no, that I wanted to make my point very clear."
It seems the wing-nuts were wrong to consider Spc. Wilson a pawn of the liberal media. He's actually a pawn of the Bush administration -- just like all the other troops in Iraq.


From Time:
“Michael Moore’s got to be the worst for me,” former President George H.W. Bush tells TIME’s Hugh Sidey when asked about the low point of his son’s first term. “I mean, he’s such a slimeball and so atrocious.
  • Not the loss of millions of jobs
  • Not the squandering of a huge budget surplus
  • Not the creation of a huge budget debt
  • Not the failure to capture or kill Osama Bin Ladin
  • Not the schism between the U.S. and its traditional allies
  • Not the failure to find WMDs in Iraq
  • Not the moral stain that is Abu Ghraib
  • Not the 9,765 U.S. troops wounded in Iraq
  • Not the 1,200 troops killed in Iraq
  • Not 9-11 -- the most massive security failure in U.S. history
Nope -- Poppy says that the worst part of Junior's first term was the fat, hairy guy in the baseball cap that dared talk about other things.

And there is this little jem from Barbara:
On the rules of Parenting a President and a First Lady: "He knows we're the only two people in America who are awake at 6 in the morning," Barbara Bush tells Sidey.
Unless Geo. Sr. has been delivering all the papers and picking up all the garbage while Barbara bales all the hay and milks all of the cows in the nation*, I am fairly certain that there are quite a few people in America who are awake -- and working pretty damn hard -- at 6 in the morning.

But you shouldn't expect the First Family of Kennebunkport to think about those little people -- God knows their son doesn't.

*Neil, no doubt, would man the all-night tattoo parlors and porno shops.


Could it be that the Chicago Tribune has heard that more of the coveted demographic of hip, swinging youngsters get their news from Comedy Central's The Daily Show than any other source? Is the Trib editorial board planning to become the Chicago press' version of Jon Stewart's program? Is that why they endorsed Geo. Bush for President -- so that they would be guaranteed a steady supply of absurd headlines?

That would certainly explain these Onion-worthy "More Inside" bullet-headings from the front page of this morning's Trib:
  • Christmas all but canceled for Iraqi Christians. Page 11
  • Rumsfeld will stop using machine to sign letters to dead soldiers' kin. Page 13

But when it comes to making a joke out of covering the day's awful news, they will have a hard time ever matching-up with this periodical.

Sunday, December 19, 2004


In its cover-story, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter examines Barack Obama's work to help the Democrats identify its moral core. And it is clear that Mr. Obama thinks that there is more to it than Dems just getting their Jesus on.
After thanking his family in his victory speech, Obama next mentioned his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., of the Trinity United Church of Christ on the South Side, the African-American minister and community leader who first introduced Obama to "the audacity of hope." "That said it all," [Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid] concludes. "People don't know where he stands on issues, but they know he's an honest, God-fearing man."

It wasn't always so in the Obama family, as chronicled in his lyrical (if, by his own admission, overly long) 1995 memoir, "Dreams From My Father," now reissued and a best seller. Barack's paternal grandfather, a Luo tribesman who was raised wearing nothing but a goatskin loincloth, worked as a servant for British colonialists in Nairobi and converted to Islam before returning to farm on the shores of Lake Victoria. But the new senator's father, Barack Sr. (the name means "blessing from God"), had no discernible religious convictions. After growing up herding goats, he became the first African student at the University of Hawaii, where in 1959 he met an 18-year-old white girl from the mainland, descended from Cherokees, Baptists, Methodists, Kansas abolitionists and, indirectly, Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy.

Over the objections of their families (the white side was more accepting), they married, but when Obama was 2, his father left Hawaii, first for Harvard, then back to Kenya, where he worked for the government and was later killed in a car accident. He returned to Hawaii to see his son only once, when Barack was 10.

Barack, often called "Barry" inside his family, was raised in a secular home: "My mother saw religion as an impediment to broader values, like tolerance and racial inclusivity. She remembered churchgoing folks [in Kansas and Texas] who also called people niggers. But she was a deeply spiritual person, and when I moved to Chicago [after graduating from Columbia] and worked with church-based community organizations, I kept hearing her values expressed in the church." That tapped into "the hurt and pain" he felt as a fatherless biracial child and spoke to his sense of "the fragility and power and mystery of life."

The Democrats, Obama believes, need to speak to that power and mystery, too. He stops short of calling for a "religious left" to counter the political power of the religious right, but he wants the party to reconnect to what he sees as its roots in a moral imperative: "This shouldn't be hard to do. Martin Luther King did it. The abolitionists did it. Dorothy Day [of the Catholic Workers] did it. Most of the reform movements that have changed this country have been grounded in religious models. We don't have to start from scratch."

*** Obama remains concerned about how some Democrats may go about finding religion. "It's dangerous to try to engineer this in some synthetic way through the party. If it's not organic, it comes off as phony. People can sniff it out," he cautions. "Democrats have to say to themselves, 'What are the values we care most deeply about?' then do the hard spiritual work ahead of time. You can't every once in a while just throw in the word 'God'."
The article is also filled with Obama trivia like this (emphasis added):
[W]hen Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. decided not to run for the U.S. Senate, Jackson became one of Obama's earliest supporters. (Jackson's sister Santita was a bridesmaid for Michelle.)
It also contains another classic Michelle Obama quote:
Michelle's got it all figured out: "Giving a good speech doesn't make you Superman."
She's right of course, but the themes in that speech can guide the Democrats in their "never ending battle for truth, justice and the American way."

Saturday, December 18, 2004


The Honolulu Star-Bulletin covers Barack Obama's speech to high-schoolers:
"Think big about what you'd like to do with your life," said Obama, a 1979 graduate of Punahou. "If you want to be a doctor, dream about finding a cure for AIDS. If you want to be a musician, pursue it with the passion of writing a song that will be a No. 1 hit on the Billboard charts."
Far be it from me to disagree with Mr. Obama, but I think that those kids should aspire to write a better song than Snoop Dog's Drop It Like It's Hot, which is currently at the top of the Billboard chart.

Friday, December 17, 2004


From your Chicago Sun Times:

U.S. Sen.-elect Barack Obama, who saw a book he wrote a decade ago jump onto best seller lists after his keynote address to the Democratic National Convention this summer, has landed a three-book deal worth $1.9 million.

Crown Publishing Group and Random House Children's Books, both divisions of Random House Inc., announced Friday that Obama will write two books for adults as well as a children's book he will work on with his wife, Michelle, and their two young daughters.

"Writing is something that Senator Obama obviously enjoys as a hobby, and I think he looks forward to continuing to share both his story and his beliefs with people who are interested in reading those books," said Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Obama will receive an $850,000 advance for each adult books and a $200,000 advance for the children's book. All proceeds from the children's book will go to charity, Gibbs said. He said the recipient had not yet been determined.


The first book, scheduled for publication in spring 2006, will focus on Obama's political convictions and his journey from law school to community activism to elected office.

"Today, when I see the divisions in this country, when I see unfairness and injustice, when I see misunderstanding or the enormous empathy deficit that damages so much of our politics, I have to do something about it," Obama said in a statement. "It's a lifetime journey and it is the basis for this book."

The big issue is what effect will this have on the value of Oneman's book collection.

So-Called "Social Security Crisis"

Kevin Drum at Political Animal has something to say about the "social security crisis":
Nothing is going bankrupt, benefits will continue to be paid forever, and future funding problems are both modest in size and not that hard to deal with.

Unfortunately, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and now George Bush, each for their own reasons, have found it politically convenient to use Social Security as a useful bogeyman for scaring the public.
The fact of the matter is Geo. Bush's plan to "reform" social security is nothing but a scheme to borrow (more) money from our children so that his fat-cat buddies can play with it on Wall Street.

A grossly overstated problem whose solution just happens to enrich Bush's cronies -- gee, where have I seen that before?


Barack Obama is visiting his grandmother and his sister and her family in Hawaii . It's a family vacation so controversy couldn't possibly arise... right?:
The state's Democrats fawned over newly elected Illinois Sen. Barack Obama at a fund-raiser last night, proudly embracing him as Hawai'i's "third senator."
Uh oh...
For his part, the Hawai'i-born civil rights attorney and lecturer-turned-political celebrity told reporters: "Obviously, my primary responsibility is to the people of Illinois who elected me, but there's no doubt that I'm going to be sympathetic to certain issues that face the Hawaiian Islands — the situation regarding Native Hawaiians, the situation regarding the environment and how that impacts the treasure that is Hawai'i."
Phweew! That was a close one.

Mr. Obama did have this to say about his birth state:
"The essence of Hawai'i has always been that we come from far and wide, that we come from different backgrounds and different faiths and different last names, and yet we come together as a single 'ohana because we believe in the fundamental commonality of people," Obama said. "We have a sense that beneath the surface of things, all of us share a common set of hopes, a common set of dreams and a common set of values. That's what the Islands have always been about."
If you replace "Hawai'i" with "Democratic Party" -- and figure out what in the world "'ohana" means -- you would have a damn good framework for Dems to build a 21st century identity upon.

Mr. Obama also used the fundraiser to remind President Bush where the buck should stop with regard to "going to war with the army you have":
Illinois Senator-elect Barack Obama says he holds President Bush responsible for the actions and words of his Cabinet members, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Attending a fund-raiser thursday night in Waikiki, Obama was asked whether he felt Rumsfeld should step down. Obama said only that when Rumsfeld speaks, he holds the president responsible.
Mr. Obama will be sworn in on January Fourth.

Thursday, December 16, 2004


From today's Tribune story on Blagorgeous' call to criminalize the sale of naughty video games to the children:
The new initiative by Blagojevich fits a pattern the politically ambitious Democrat has established of trying to create a national buzz for himself by championing causes with surefire headline appeal.
So let's take a look at our Blagorgeous leadership check lists:
  1. A cause "with surefire headline appeal" -- protecting children from images of violence and graphic sex in video games -- Check!
  2. Action required of a non-Blago entity -- the proposed legislation "make[s] it a misdemeanor for retailers to allow anyone younger than 18 to walk out of their stores with violent or sexually explicit video games" -- Check!
  3. A press release -- From the Tribune story:
    Blagojevich is scheduled to formally unveil his video game proposal at a news conference in Naperville, where more than a dozen mothers of children in middle school will serve as a backdrop. Officials with a Naperville school district said the governor's office asked them to arrange the event for Wednesday but then postponed it for a day, in part to accommodate more national media coverage.
    -- Check!
  4. The win-win Blago-bonus -- A) If the Governor's bill passes constitutional muster, a threat of up to a year in prison or a $5,000 fine will keep merchants from selling objectionable games to kids, and B) If the bill is found to violate the 1st Amendment -- U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner in Chicago, who found that video games, like books, are protected by the 1st Amendment, says trying to pass laws to protect children from violent descriptions is wrongheaded. "It would leave them unequipped to cope with the world as we know it." -- Blagorgeous will still have stood against the filth, smut, horror, etc. that has corrupted our society. Once again, no matter the outcome, Gov. Rod Blagojevich is protector of Illinois' boys and girls -- Check!

The Governor has done it again. His cry of "What about the children?!?" will be heard across the nation. But it looks like folks are starting to catch on.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Like the Dan Brown bestseller, The Democrats' Da Vinci Code by David J. Sirota is not without flaws. But unlike Brown, Sirota didn't crib his central thesis -- that the electoral impact of GOP-friendly wedge social issues can be checked by redefining the values debate in economic and class terms-- from Holy Blood, Holy Grail.

Regardless, Sirota's seven lessons from the 2004 election are worth considering:
  1. Fight the Class War -- progressives are making inroads into culturally conservative areas by talking about economic class *** It is us-versus-them red meat, straight talk about how the system is working against ordinary Americans *** focus [on] unfair trade deals and taxpayer givaways to the wealthy
  2. Champion Small Business Over Big Business -- at the grass-roots level, small-business people are far less uniformly conservative, especially as the GOP increasingly helps huge corporations eat up local economies *** entrepreneurs don't like high taxes and regulations, they also don't like government encouraging multinationals to monopolize the market and destroy Main Street. *** out-of-state corporations [are] using loopholes to avoid paying taxes, thus driving up the tax burden on small in-state companies *** focus on small manufacturers
  3. Protect Tom Joad -- [oppose] the Republican-backed "Freedom to Farm Act" *** [call] it the "Freedom-to-Lose-Your-Shirt" bill *** the new subsidies would primarily go to large corporations, encourage overproduction that depresses prices, and reward big farms over small ones *** the GOP is digging in, already planning to repeal country-of-origin labeling laws that help small farms differentiate their products from larger corporate producers
  4. Turn the Hunters and the Exurbs Green -- the GOP's willingness to side with private landowners and developers is now putting the party at odds with these constituencies *** [promise] to prevent the state from selling off public land *** many of the Bush administration's plans [go] 'against what nearly every local elected official on both sides of the aisle has asked for.' *** [transform] environmental advocacy from a potential "liberal" albatross into an asset in conservative areas.
  5. Become a Teddy Roosevelt Clone -- [claim the] law-and-order mantle *** [realize] the political benefits of fighting white-collar crime, big-business rip-offs, and corporate misbehavior *** Though opponents labeled [New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer] anti-business, he countered that he was pro-business because he was protecting the integrity of the market *** [fight] to prevent companies from illegally reducing their pensions *** corporate traitors *** [push] legislation to prevent taxpayer subsidies from going to companies that ship jobs overseas *** the GOP's reliance on corporate money means it cannot muddle the issues by pretending to meet progressives halfway
  6. Clean Up Government -- Republicans' obsession with narrow cultural issues while the state's looming fiscal crisis was ignored [has driven] a deep wedge between fiscally conservative live-and-let-live Republicans and the neo-conservative extremists with an agenda
  7. Use the Values Prism -- successful red-region progressives are using economic populism to define their cultural solidarity with voters *** populism culturally connects these leaders to their constituents *** plans to protect hunting access not only attract votes from outdoorsmen but also project a broader willingness to fight for Joe Six-Pack and the state's way of life *** [translate] translating legislative fights into values language at home *** question whether America should provide huge tax cuts to the wealthy while its schools decay *** about out-of-state media conglomerates pumping obscene radio shows into [a] culturally conservative market *** [make Enron's] antics a values commentary on the problem of unethical corporations

Read the whole thing -- it's worth your time.

Sirota closes asserting that "having the guts to stand up for middle America -- even when it draws the ire of corporate America -- is as powerful a statement about morality and authenticity as any of the GOP's demagoguery on 'guns, God, and gays.'"

Gee, it all looked so simple... and then he called for Democrats show some guts.


How short-handed is the United States' military?

So depleted that -- for the first time since the Toys for Tots campaign started in 1948 -- the 24th Marines reserve infantry batallion is asking civilians to help sort and deliver the donated gifts while the reservists are at war in Iraq. The Sun-Times' Debra Pickett tells the story:
Maj. Rick Coates, a Marine reservist now on active duty with the 24th, is, in civilian life, a logistics manager for Sears. One of only a few members of the battalion still in Chicago, he is faced with a mountain of toys that have been dropped off at Toys for Tots collection points, at places like Jewel and Harris Bank, and now must be sorted through and matched to the needs of the churches, charities and social agencies that request toys for the children they serve. Coates says he is very concerned about getting all the work done in time.
So why aren't other local Marine units picking up the slack?
"The few Marines we do have on hand are either doing Toys for Tots or funerals," said Master Sgt. Beth Piccolo of the Great Lakes Naval Base.
You can call (773) 539-7393 to get information on helping the Marines sort toys -- but I'm afraid this may not be the last time that the demands of the Iraq war force our military to turn to civilians for help.


This item from Robert Feder is much more disturbing than any of Lynn Sweet's travelgate stories:
Three Clear Channel Radio stations are sending U.S. Senator-elect Barack Obama off to Washington with a party fit for a political rock star. WGCI-FM (107.5), WVAZ-FM (102.7) and WGRB-AM (1390) will sponsor the star-studded celebration from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Dec. 30 in the grand ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

Hosting the bash will be WGCI's "Crazy" Howard McGee; V-103's Ramonski Luv, Joe Soto and Roy "Tornado" Little, and Gospel Radio 1390's John Hannah. All three stations will broadcast live from the site, starting at 2 p.m.

"As a U.S. senator, Mr. Obama will be at the forefront of issues affecting African Americans in this country [and] more importantly, issues affecting African Americans in Illinois," said Angela Ingram, the three outlets' station manager.
Of course, if I should receive an invite to this shindig, my faith could be restored.

Monday, December 13, 2004


The next time Illinois Republicans import an out-of-state candidate to run for Senate against Barack Obama, can I suggest this fellow:
Steve Rocco, the reclusive candidate who has had Orange County voters scratching their heads since his unexpected election to a local school board last month, broke his silence Friday. ***

Political observers and voters were stunned when Rocco defeated a heavily favored candidate Nov. 2 for a seat on the Orange Unified School District board without ever handing out a campaign flier or making a speech. After his victory, he holed up in the house he shares with his mother, drawing widespread attention from the news media and stirring intense speculation among district residents.

Rocco is a frail man, with a pale, gaunt face covered partly by a scruffy beard. During Friday's interview, held at his lawyer's Santa Ana office, he wore large glasses with clip-on sunglasses attached. A frayed piece of black fabric tied around his left arm, he said, was to memorialize his father, who he said died Nov. 9. Rocco periodically scribbled notes on a piece of paper, meticulously noting the time each entry was made. He refused to be photographed. ***

When asked to explain his message, however, Rocco faltered. He said he has no particular issues that he hopes to address as a trustee, but said he cares deeply about education and would diligently prepare for the district's monthly meetings.

But his election, Rocco said, also would give him a platform to counter what he believes is a 25-year conspiracy against him. Rocco said a cabal of county politicians, judges and officials — "the partnership" — have been trying to silence him as he works to uncover a tangled trail of corruption and scandal.
He doesn't seem any nuttier than Keyes...

And his apparent aversion to the media would be a welcomed change.

"It bends towards Justice"

The AP offers up this good news for fans of Democracy and Justice in the Western Hemisphere:
Gen. Augusto Pinochet was indicted Monday for the kidnapping of nine dissidents and the killing of one of them during his 1973-90 regime, and the former dictator was placed under house arrest. ***

"This a historic decision that must be celebrated by all democrats," said Viviana Diaz, member of an organization of dissidents who disappeared under Pinochet. ***

The 14-9 decision by justices on Santiago's Court of Appeals opened the possibility Pinochet could stand trial for the bombing that killed former army chief Gen. Carlos Prats and his wife, Sofia Cuthbert, in Buenos Aires.

Prats, a former chief of the Chilean army, had opposed the 1973 coup that put fellow general Pinochet in power, and was among the first of an estimated several thousand people killed during Pinochet's rule.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Retired Army colonel, 70, sent to Afghanistan

From Gannett:
Dr. John Caulfield thought it had to be a mistake when the Army asked him to return to active duty. After all, he's 70 years old and had already retired - twice. He left the Army in 1980 and private practice two years ago. *** He is one of about 100 over the age of 60 known to be serving.
You go to war with the Army you have had 24 years ago.

UPDATE: Tom Toles

Thursday, December 09, 2004


From Bloomberg
Armor Holdings Inc., the sole supplier of protective plates for the Humvee military vehicles used in Iraq, said it could increase output by as much as 22 percent per month with no investment and is awaiting an order from the Army.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday the Army was working as fast as it can and supply is dictated by "a matter of physics, not a matter of money.''

Jacksonville, Florida-based Armor Holdings last month told the Army it could add armor to as many as 550 of the trucks a month, up from 450 vehicles now, Robert Mecredy, president of the company's aerospace and defense group said in a telephone interview today.

"We're prepared to build 50 to 100 vehicles more per month,'' Mecredy said in the interview. "I've told the customer that and I stand ready to do that.''
When I was in the Army, they had a little saying: "Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining."

Someone tell Rumsfeld: The troops know it isn't raining.


"Dimebag Darrell" Abbott, guitarist for Pantera and Damage Plan, was one of at least four people killed during a bizarre shooting at a concert in Columbus. more

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


"I hope you don't forget about us"


Have you ever had... a friend... who joined a record club, using a fake name, in order to get "12 CDs for free" right before he moved to a new address?

Me neither.

But if I had, I would encourage him to sooth his conscience by visiting Choose the Blue:

Company: Columbia House; % to Dem: 0%; % to Rep: 100%; $ to Dem: $0; $ to Rep: $22,000

And if I had wanted the "Selection of the Month," I he would have ordered the "Selection of the Month."


From Salon:
On June 15, 2003, Sgt. Frank "Greg" Ford, a counterintelligence agent in the California National Guard's 223rd Military Intelligence (M.I.) Battalion stationed in Samarra, Iraq, told his commanding officer, Capt. Victor Artiga, that he had witnessed five incidents of torture and abuse of Iraqi detainees at his base, and requested a formal investigation. Thirty-six hours later, Ford, a 49-year-old with over 30 years of military service in the Coast Guard, Army and Navy, was ordered by U.S. Army medical personnel to lie down on a gurney, was then strapped down, loaded onto a military plane and medevac'd to a military medical center outside the country.

Although no "medevac" order appears to have been written, in violation of Army policy, Ford was clearly shipped out because of a diagnosis that he was suffering from combat stress. After Ford raised the torture allegations, Artiga immediately said Ford was "delusional" and ordered a psychiatric examination, according to Ford. But that examination, carried out by an Army psychiatrist, diagnosed him as "completely normal."

A witness, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Marciello, claims that Artiga became enraged when he read the initial medical report finding nothing wrong with Ford and intimidated the psychiatrist into changing it. According to Marciello, Artiga angrily told the psychiatrist that it was a "C.I. [counterintelligence] or M.I. matter" and insisted that she had to change her report and get Ford out of Iraq.


Col. C. Tsai, a military doctor who examined Ford in Germany and found nothing wrong with him, told a film crew for Spiegel Television that he was "not surprised" at Ford's diagnosis. Tsai told Spiegel that he had treated "three or four" other U.S. soldiers from Iraq that were also sent to Landstuhl for psychological evaluations or "combat stress counseling" after they reported incidents of detainee abuse or other wrongdoing by American soldiers.

I'll bet Joseph Stalin wished he had thought of "combat stress counseling".


Ever wonder what it would be like if the corporate media-stars paid to ask the administration questions ever actually earned their fat checks? This citizen-soldier shows 'em how it's done:

Some of soldiers, however, had criticisms of their own - not of the war itself but of how it is being fought.

Army Spc. Thomas Wilson, for example, of the 278th Regimental Combat Team that is comprised mainly of citizen soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard, asked Rumsfeld in a question-and-answer session why vehicle armor is still in short supply, nearly three years after the war in Iraq.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense.

Rumsfeld hesitated and asked Wilson to repeat his question.

"We do not have proper armored vehicles to carry with us north," Wilson said after asking again.


Now that is speaking truth to power. But Rumsfeld had to know that he might get a brave question from these brave men and women, so how did the architect of the Iraq invasion answer the soldiers' charge?

Rumsfeld replied that, "You go to war with the Army you have," not the one you might want.
Oh, now I understand...
  • You don't let WMD inspectors do their job; "you go to war with the Army you have."
  • You don't exhaust non-military options; "you go to war with the Army you have."
  • You don't make serious efforts to build a serious, broad-based coalition; "you go to war with the Army you have."
  • You don't make certain that the personnel staffing Iraqi prisons are properly trained and supervised, "you go to war with the Army you have."
  • You don't adequately equip the troops for foreseeable threats; "you go to war with the Army you have."
  • You don't send sufficient military resources to secure the battlefield; "you go to war with the Army you have."
"You go to war with the Army you have." Well, that certainly explains a lot.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


From the Tribune
Democratic leaders are keen to use Obama's rising profile as a public face for their foreign-policy positions, Democratic congressional aides said.

That said, there was a clear sign in the list of committee assignments sent to senators by incoming Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that Obama remains very much a newcomer in Washington.On the list, Obama's first name was consistently misspelled as Barak, omitting the "c."

Monday, December 06, 2004


The L.A. Times quotes Obama:
"I figure there's nowhere to go from here but down," he said. "So tonight, I'm announcing my retirement from the United States Senate."
Sen. Barack Obama cracked wise at the Gridiron Club Saturday night:
The senator-elect teased about his big victory over GOP candidate Alan Keyes, saying that he received 70% of the vote statewide "and 102% in Chicago. Our voting system is so advanced that the folks in Florida are coming up to study it."

He said Illinois and Chicago were ahead of the times. Referring to the fact that House Republicans had passed a rule allowing leaders to stay in their jobs even if indicted, he said, "we had that years ago" in Illinois.
The Tribune has more:
The senator-elect said a year ago, the pundits "said you can't win in a year like this with a name like Obama. There was quite a bit of confusion at first, but it did get me free airtime on Al Jazeera."

Saturday, December 04, 2004


Barack Obama is currently discussing his book on C-SPAN2/Book TV's Public Lives. The program will be reboadcast on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Chicago-time.

Set your VCR.

UPDATE: Watch until the very end and check out the woman hustling Sen. Obama for a job while he tries to sign her book.


Just one more post on the topic I first addressed here and here and I promise that I won't post on this subject again...
for at least a week.

In today's Sun-Times, the Blagovernor returns to the first page in his playbook, this time as a response to the ST investigation into why Illinois' wounded soldiers are receiving some of the lowest disability pay in the country:
Gov. Blagojevich also sent a terse letter to [Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi] demanding a plan to address "this intolerable situation."
So let's take a look at our Blagorgeous leadership check lists:

1) A cause that no one could be against -- disability pay for wounded veterans -- Check!
2) Action required by a non-Blago entity -- a demand that the V.A. craft a plan to address "this intolerable situation" -- Check!
3) A press release -- an open letter to the V.A. Secretary -- Check!
4) The win-win Blago-bonus -- A) Action by the V.A. means a moral victory for Blagorgeous, and B) inaction by the V.A. means Blagorgeous stood up for Illinois military men and women, so no matter what, Rod Blagojevich is the champion of wounded soldiers -- Check!

Hat's off to the Governor, for yet another heroic press release!

Friday, December 03, 2004


Josh Marshall thinks Democrats need to get a jump on the GOP and frame the battle against Social Security "privatization":
In the coming Social Security debate, Democrats should dust-off Clinton's 'mend it, don't end it' rhetoric. ***

I'm not saying the phrase should be adopted intact without any adjustments or that it's a perfect fit. But this debate is a classic case where framing the issue is key -- the strategic choice that determines who wins the battle before it even begins.

The strength of the Republican privatization argument -- and all their rhetoric and strategy point to this -- is the contention that privatization is just a reform, a way to improve or save Social Security, or to put it simply, a way to make sure people get their checks when they retire. But what this is really about is abolishing Social Security; and that fact needs to be taken as granted -- not even a subject of debate -- in the way Democrats frame the debate and how they talk about the subject.

To look at this debate in any other way is to be willfully ignorant of history. Republicans -- particularly the party's conservative wing which now entirely dominates the party -- have wanted to abolish Social Security for half a century.
"Privatized" Social Security is neither "secure" nor "social" -- it's actually a fungus.

UPDATE: The folks at the Rockridge Institute, the mecca of framing, are also thinking about Social Security abolition privatization.

Thursday, December 02, 2004


Boing-Boing, the world's greatest Directory of Wonderful Things, is keeping tabs on Microsoft's free hosted blogging platform,
Reader Paul Pellerito says, "MSN Spaces User asciident notes that at the bottom of every MSN Space is (c)2004 Microsoft Corporation. And according to their terms of use:
For materials you post or otherwise provide to Microsoft related to the MSN Web Sites (a "Submission"), you grant Microsoft permission to (1) use, copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, modify, translate and reformat your Submission, each in connection with the MSN Web Sites, and (2) sublicense these rights, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law. Microsoft will not pay you for your Submission."
So if your goal is to produce intellectual property for a multi-billion dollar, multi-national corporation, and not get paid for it, I highly recommend MSN Spaces.

UPDATE: Boing-Boing examines MSN Spaces auto-censor in a post featuring "World of Poop," "Corporate Prostitute Chronicles," and "Tits for Tats."

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Looks like Illinois' new Senator is seeing some country before settling down in D.C.

Via Channel 7 in Omaha:
Illinois Senator-elect Barack Obama has wasted no time in getting advice from the top. In Omaha earlier this week, it seems he was getting some from Omaha's own billionaire investor Warren Buffett.
and via KPUA AM670 in Hilo:
A Punahou School graduate who recently was elected to the U-S Senate in Illinois will return to Honolulu next month to speak at a Democratic Party fund-raising event.

Barack Obama will be honored at the December 16th event at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Coral Ballroom.

The following morning, the 43-year-old Obama is expected to visit Punahou School, where he graduated in 1979, to speak to students. School president James Scott says Obama has been asked to talk about his own personal journey and why he has selected a life of public service.
I hope that Robert Gibbs told Lynn Sweet about these trips.


What does Neil Steinberg think of Public Radio listeners? A quick Lexis-Nexis search of his columns provides the answer:
"NPR-addicted graduate students" -- August 9, 2002

"gray-haired NPR radicals" -- January 17, 2003

"lemon-faced NPR liberals" -- April 11, 2003
And the same search gives us insight into Steinberg's thoughts on Public Radio hosts:
"Hmm," murmured the host, inevitably, as all NPR hosts do no matter what wild, sky-is-brown bit of palaver they're being spoon fed. -- January 16, 2004
But, lo and behold, today's Steinberg column closes with the following announcement:
"Friday morning at 9:30, Neil Steinberg will discuss his new book, 'Hatless Jack,' on WBEZ-91.5 FM." -- December 1, 2004
So Steinberg is going to try to pitch his book to Chicagoland's "lemon-faced liberals"? Although one can hope for a Terry Gross v. Bill O'Reilly style confrontation -- "You didn't ask Eric Zorn these types of questions when he was on the show did you? Did you?!? This interview is over!" -- I suspect it will be more like the following:
Steinberg: The hat’s demise has over time been credited to President Kennedy, or “Hatless Jack,” due to his reluctance to be photographed wearing a hat for fear it made him look old. But one president alone did not make or break a trend.

Host: Hmmm.

Steinberg: In my quirky social history, I trace the evolution of the hat over centuries, as a costly but necessary investment, as a symbol of social status, and masculinity, and as a global industry.

Host: Zzzz.
You can purchase "Hatless Jack; The President, The Fedora, and The History of American Style" here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004


The International Committee of the Red Cross says that the U.S. military has used psychological and physical coercion "tantamount to torture" on prisoners in Gitmo:
The team of humanitarian workers, which included medical personnel, also asserted that some doctors and other medical workers at Guantanamo helped plan interrogations in what the report called "a flagrant violation of medical ethics."

Medical personnel conveyed information about prisoners' mental health and vulnerabilities to interrogators, the report said, sometimes directly but usually through a group called the Behavioral Science Consultation Team, or BSCT. The team, known informally as "Biscuit," is made up of psychologists and psychological workers who advise the interrogators, the report said. ***

The report said investigators had found a system devised to break the will of the prisoners at Guantanamo, who now number about 550, and make them wholly dependent on their interrogators through "humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions."

"The construction of such a system, whose stated purpose is the production of intelligence, cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture," the report said.

It said that in addition to the exposure to loud and persistent noise and music and to prolonged cold, detainees were subjected to "some beatings."
Now, can someone explain why the Chicago Tribune buried this story on page 11?

Monday, November 29, 2004


Because I am a vocal proponent of George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant, several people have directed me to Political Animal Kevin Drum's negative critique of the book at his Washington Monthly blog.

While I regularly read -- and usually agree with -- Drum, his comments regarding the book, e.g. "[Lakoff] fails to provide very much compelling advice for liberals," disappoint me due to their lack of perspective. Lakoff's book is not a complete solution and I don't think it claims to be. The book is just a tool and so are the ideas contained therein.

Drum seemed to think that the book would/should contain a comprehensive list of magic words and phrases with which the Democrats could bewitch the U.S. populace. I guess: 1) I didn't expect that much for 10 bucks, and 2) I'd like to think that most Americans aren't vulnerable to a set of magic words.

For example, Drum says that framing taxes as "wise investments in the future" and a "membership fee in America" "aren't really as snappy as 'tax relief'." Well, not delivered like that. Drum is just exchanging an uninspiring list of programs for a uninspiring list of catch phrases.

A certain amount of the work that Democrats need to do is sales. "Tax relief" didn't mean anything the first time it was said, but GOPers said it time and again and associated it with related themes, i.e. big government and waste.

Drum also says that the "ten word philosophy for liberals", i.e. Stronger America, Broad Prosperity, Better Future, Effective Government and Mutual Responsibility, aren't "as zingy" as the GOP philosophy and that the list almost put him to sleep.

But when Barack Obama built his keynote address around the same themes they were pretty damn "zingy." They lit a freaking fire under Americans beyond traditional Democrats. And "street smart framers like Newt Gingrich and Frank Luntz" weren't laughing, they were shaking in their boots.

But Drum doesn't seem to want to make the effort of applying the contents of the book to anything outside it. He wants the book to have "The Answer." Well, The Answer is "Work" and the book is a useful tool in that work.

The job ahead of Democrats is to communicate the values of the Democratic party in an appealing way. Lakoff recognizes that we can only accomplish that by changing the language we use.

While describing the broad appeal of Sen. Obama to In These Times, Rep. Jan Schakowsky put her finger on the type of language Democrats need to use:
He has found the language to connect with everyone, to inspire people, to take on the cynicism of the political arena, and speak of unity and hope. To express that we don't have to always be pitted against each other, racially, economically, geographically, in terms of our sexual orientation. You asked "Why don't Democrats go harder after Republicans?" and as things are I think we have needed to and may still need to. But ultimately I think the answer is to elect candidates and leaders like Barack Obama, who are going to lead us away from that, make us feel proud and good about ourselves. The people who supported Barack Obama felt a sense of pride in his primary victory and now feel good about themselves, not just good about Barack, but good about themselves to be supporting him.
Lakoff's ideas are tools that Democrats can use to take back the language, the context of the discussion and make Americans feel good about supporting Democrats. But because Lakoff's book is one of the first such tools, many of its critics, including Kevin Drum, seem to think it purports to be the only tool.

Sunday, November 28, 2004


A follow up to last week's discussion of Blagorgeous' public relations magic, this time a letter to the editor in the Chicago Sun-Times:
Flu vaccine on hold

On behalf of the most vulnerable residents of Illinois, New Mexico and New York City, we strongly urge you [David Williams, CEO of Aventis Pasteur Inc.] to cooperate with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and provide them the records and data about your flu vaccine that they need in order to allow us to provide European-made flu vaccine to the people in our cities and states who desperately need it.

Over the last month, since we learned about the severe shortage of flu vaccine in the United States, we have purchased vaccines made by Aventis Pasteur and GlaxoSmithKline from licensed suppliers in Europe. The FDA agreed to review the vaccines expeditiously, and on Oct. 29, following a meeting with officials from the State of Illinois, acting FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford contacted Aventis to request information needed to approve the vaccines. That was more than three weeks ago. While GlaxoSmithKline has already agreed to provide the FDA with the information to evaluate the vaccine, we understand that Aventis has yet to cooperate, putting hundreds of thousands of senior citizens and young children at serious risk.

The flu season already has begun, and the shortage of flu vaccines threatens the health of the most vulnerable members of our population. We have no doubt that you have read about, or even witnessed, the long waits and desperate measures many senior citizens in the United States are taking to try to find flu shots. Through our own contacts, we were able to locate additional flu vaccine in Europe. However, we cannot provide the vaccine to our citizens without FDA approval, and the FDA cannot move forward without your cooperation.

We're not asking Aventis to manufacture more flu vaccine. We're not asking for a discount on the price. We solely request that Aventis start cooperating with the FDA immediately so we can fulfill our obligations to the sick, elderly and children we have been elected to serve and protect.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich;
Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico
So let's check our Blagorgeous score card...

1) A cause that no one could be against -- "the health of the most vulnerable members of our population" -- Check!
2) Money outside the state's budget responsiblity -- "that Aventis start cooperating with the FDA immediately" -- Check!
3) A press release -- an open letter to the president of Aventis -- Check!

Even the Blago-bonus applies in this case: The Guv has brilliantly positioned himself so that 1) action by the drug company means an apparent victory for Blagorgeous, and 2) if the flu becomes an epidemic Blagorgeous can say he saw the looming threat and tried to stop it. Either way Rod Blagojevich is the champion of "the most vulnerable members of our population".

Once again, it's all upside and no downside.

Saturday, November 27, 2004


The following strip was replaced with a substitute from 2002 which bore this explanation: "Today's Get Fuzzy strip does not meet our standards for taste"

While I did not find the above strip funny -- the primary consideration for a comic strip -- I think it is odd that the Tribune would ban it on those grounds when the Tribune continues to publish Out of the Gene Pool where "taste" doesn't seem to be a high priority.

UPDATE: A deep thinker has suggested that the Trib's "standards for taste" were violated, not by whatever actions are taking place below the second panel, but by gratuitously using the "Thumbs Up" catch-phrase of Sun-Times columnists Ebert and Roper.

Sneedlings . . . This theory will be tested next week when Blondie is scheduled to deliver the Upshot, Buckshot, and Backshot from Tipsville.


The AP reports on something to keep in mind when the Bushies trot out their "ownership society":
A third or more of the government property Halliburton Co. was paid to manage for the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq could not be located by auditors, investigative reports to Congress show.

Halliburton's KBR subsidiary ''did not effectively manage government property'' and auditors could not locate hundreds of CPA items worth millions of dollars in Iraq and Kuwait this summer and fall, Inspector General Stuart W. Bowen reported to Congress.
Remember, in the early days of the Iraq invasion, when we were told that Cheney's Halliburton was handed all of those no-bid contracts because it was the only company that capable of handling the scope of the post-war reconstruction?

I'm pretty sure that I could have lost that government property for just a fraction of what KBR charged.

Friday, November 26, 2004


The Trib has a partial transcript of Obama's appearance on "The Late Show With David Letterman." The interview airs tonight at 10:30 p.m. on WBBM-Ch. 2.


Rich Miller of the Capital Fax -- it makes a great gift -- was good enough to forward the following press release from the Governor's office regarding possible Pell Grant cuts:
Gov. Blagojevich calls on U.S. Department of Education to stop proposed changes in Pell Grant funding that could force 52,000 Illinois students to pay more for college

Action would strip $7 million in Pell Grants for state students

CHICAGO – In response to the proposed changes that would slash college aid, Gov. Rod Blagojevich sent a letter today to U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige urging him to stop attempts to make a college education more expensive by altering the way the federal government funds the Pell Grant program, which greatly impacts Illinois students and their families.

"The investments that give our young people the opportunity to earn a college degree pay tremendous economic dividends not only for the students but also for our entire society. It would be shortsighted and cost ineffective to cut back on this investment. I hope that by working together we can find a solution that does not require slashing these important federal education dollars," Gov. Blagojevich wrote.

Gov. Blagojevich also highlighted that more than 52,000 of the Illinois students who are eligible to receive Pell Grants would lose either all or a portion of their grants as a result of the new federal changes, based on initial estimates. This means $7 million in lost Pell Grants for Illinois students."Illinois has one of the largest need-based financial aid programs in the nation, the Monetary Award Program (MAP), which serves families with average incomes of $29,000. The new federal changes will put further stress on our statewide program, which helps fill the ever-increasing gap between college costs and federal resources," Gov. Blagojevich said.

Pell Grants and the state-supported MAP funds represented more than 50 percent of the total scholarship and grant funds for Illinois undergraduates in fiscal year 2002-2003. Spending bills that were approved by both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives on Saturday would allow these unfortunate changes to move forward.
As I said to Mr. Miller, this an excellent example of the Blagorgeous magic in action.

It combines: 1) A cause that no one could be against -- college education -- plus
2) Money outside the state budget -- federal education funds -- plus
3) A press release -- with a "Chicago" dateline rather than "Springfield."

And as a bonus, the problem addressed in the press release may never actually come to fruition. The spending bills authorize cutting Pell grants, they don't mandate it. That's why the press release is ambiguous about the threat: "Action would strip $7 million in Pell Grants for state students."

The Guv has brilliantly positioned himself so that 1) inaction by the Dept. of Ed. means an apparent victory for Blagorgeous, and 2) if the Bushies decide to cut Pell Grants, he can say he saw the looming threat and tried to stop it. Either way Rod Blagojevich is the champion of college education in Illinois. It's all upside and no downside. (It probably won't even get him into trouble with the US Dept of Ed because the letter was addressed to the outgoing secretary, Rod Paige, not Margaret Spellings, the presumptive new Sec of Ed.)

I still think that Blagorgeous is a disappointment, but he could teach Democrats a thing or two when it comes to choosing and framing issues.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Stephen Roach, the chief economist at investment banking giant Morgan Stanley predicts:
America has no better than a 10 percent chance of avoiding economic "armageddon.''


Roach sees a 30 percent chance of a slump soon and a 60 percent chance that ``we'll muddle through for a while and delay the eventual armageddon.''
The chance we'll get through OK: one in 10. Maybe.
In a nutshell, Roach's argument is that America's record trade deficit means the dollar will keep falling. To keep foreigners buying T-bills and prevent a resulting rise in inflation, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan will be forced to raise interest rates further and faster than he wants.
The result: U.S. consumers, who are in debt up to their eyeballs, will get pounded.
I miss the 20th century...


Illinois State Sen. Barack Obama says there is no clear understanding of what the national Democratic party stands and that has to change:
We tend to talk more in policy terms and we've got our 10-point plans, but we don't have a narrative, I think, of what it means to be a Democrat. ***

I think that if you ask the average person on the street, 'What does it mean to be a Republican,' whether they agree with the Republicans or not, they have a clear sense of what the Republican Party stands for, and we're going to have to, I think, do some intellectual work to make sure we understand what it means to be a Democrat.
Sen. Obama also discussed his drug and alcohol use as a young man:
I went through a period when I was a teenager, where I was rebelling against everything, and I think embracing a lot of the exaggerated stereotypes of what it means to be an African-American.

But, fortunately, I had some wonderful mentors and teachers who, I think, pulled me out of it. I had the love of my mother to stabilize me. And part of the reason I wrote about that period in my life in the book was to make clear that there are all kinds of young African-American males out there who are as talented as I am, as energetic as I am, but also as confused and they may not have the same margins of error that I did.
Video of the entire interview is available at CBS.

Monday, November 22, 2004


The Rockridge Institute is a group of distinguished scholars and researchers working to help achieve a just, democratic, environmentally sustainable, and humane society. And they wish you a happy Thanksgiving:
To help you through those sometimes difficult family conversations, we're posting a chapter from George Lakoff's recent book, Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate. Try out these tips and approaches with family members and guests you'd like to enlighten.
What have you got to lose?

Unless you actually enjoy all that yelling...


The Nation features an essay by George Lakoff, the author of Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate:
Moral values at the national level are idealized family values projected onto the nation.

Progressive values are the values of a responsible nurturant family, where parents (if there are two) are equally responsible. Their job is to nurture their children and raise them to be nurturers of others. Nurturance has two aspects: empathy and responsibility--both for yourself and your children. From this, all progressive values follow, both in the family and in politics.

If you empathize with your children, you will want them to have strong protection, fair and equal treatment and fulfillment in life. Fulfillment requires freedom, freedom requires opportunity and opportunity requires prosperity. Since your family lives in, and requires, a community, community building and community service are required. Community requires cooperation, which requires trust, which requires honesty and open communication. Those are the progressive values--in politics as well as family life.

Take protection. In addition to physical protection, there is environmental protection, worker protection and consumer protection, as well as all the "safety nets"--Social Security, Medicare and so on. Equality means full political and social equality, without regard to wealth, race, religion or gender. Openness requires open government and a free, inquiring press. Progressive political ideals are nurturant moral ideals.


Democrats in Congress need to understand this. They must hold their ground, be positive and be aware that moving to the right is a double disaster. It will only help the radical right's agenda, break with values that unify us and make it harder to awaken our values in swing voters.

The only way to trump their moral values is with our own more traditional and more patriotic moral values. Proclaim them and live them, and we will find that there are many more than 55 million of us.
FYI: Amazon is offering Don't Think of an Elephant at 25% off the cover price -- which makes final total $11.49 after shipping.

You can't afford to not order one.


From the Tribune:
Alan Keyes will relocate at least some of the operations of his Washington, D.C.-based foundation and a companion political action committee to Chicago following his recent decision to leave his Calumet City apartment for a downtown condominium.


The former candidate has been meeting with staffers and is expected to move at least some of the operations of his Declaration Foundation and his Declaration Alliance PAC *** The foundation is an educational organization dedicated to popularizing the interpretation of the Declaration of Independence. The alliance lobbies for Keyes' interpretation of the First and Second Amendments, against abortion and in favor of a national sales tax to replace the income tax, among other issues.
That's going to make it a bit harder for Steve Rauschenberger and Dave Syverson to put the stench of the Keyes draft behind them.


"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
-- George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905

The AP notes the inclusion of a presidential yacht in the GOP controlled Congress' $388 billion spending bill :
A potential boon for Bush, $2 million for the government to try buying back the former presidential yacht Sequoia. The boat was sold three decades ago, and its current owners say the yacht is assessed at $9.8 million and are distressed by the provision.
Since you and I are going to pay for the presidential yacht, I took a visit to the Official Homepage of the U.S.S. Sequoia Presidential Yacht, where I learned that the U.S.S. Sequoia is a meticulously restored, 104-foot, 1925 Trumpy-designed yacht that has served Presidents since Herbert Hoover.
Herbert Hoover promoted his use of the Sequoia during the Depression in a misguided effort to elevate the spirit of a starving public. *** A starving American public did not care that Hoover was using a 104-foot yacht instead of a 318-foot yacht. The public saw Hoover's use of the Sequoia as an example of a President who was out of touch with the needs of a poor populace.
Imagine that -- a President who was out of touch with the needs of the American public...

Sunday, November 21, 2004


The AP reports on a poll of 400 registered voters in Massachusetts that was conducted Sunday and Monday with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points:
Fifty-nine percent of the respondents in a WHDH-TV/Suffolk University poll said no when asked "Should John Kerry run again for President in 2008," while 33 percent said yes.


Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., was the top choice for president in 2008 among Massachusetts Democrats with 25 percent, followed by Kerry (14 percent), former Kerry running mate John Edwards (4 percent), and new Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (4 percent).
Well, he did deliver quite a speech in Boston.


The New York Times tells us that our GOP controlled government is cutting back on higher eductation funding for lower income students:
The government moved to change its formula for college aid last year, but was blocked by Congress. Now, however, no such language appears in the appropriations bill lawmakers are considering, clearing the way for the government to scale back college grants for hundreds of thousands of low-income students.

Nearly 100,000 more students may lose their federal grants entirely, as Congress considers legislation that could place more of the financial burden for college on students and their families.


The exact impact of the new rules is difficult to predict, but had the new formula gone into effect last year, it would have prevented about $270 million from being spent on Pell grants, the nation's primary scholarship program, the Congressional Research Service found. Many students, perhaps more than a million, would have received smaller grants, many education experts estimated. And about 84,000 students would have lost their Pell grants altogether, the research service reported.
So the Republicans are slashing the nation's primary scholarship program. And just where are our GOPer masters spending your tax dollars? Let's ask Reuters:
The Senate voted 65-30 for the legislation late on Saturday that sets aside funds for a range of priorities including a presidential yacht, foreign aid and energy. It is one of the final pieces of work for the 108th Congress and they may return to finish a spy agency overhaul before the end of the year.
Once again, I don't think that our Red State brothers and sisters planned on exchanging their children's educations for a presidential yacht when they went into the voting booth.

Saturday, November 20, 2004


From Josh Marshall:

This weekend Congress was working on a massive $388 billion omnibus spending bill that will cover all manner of federal spending. But at the request of Rep. Ernest Istook of Oklahoma, chairman of the House Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee, a special provision was inserted into the bill which allows the Chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees or their "agents" to review any American's tax return with no restrictions whatsoever.

Specifically, none of the privacy law restrictions -- or the criminal and civil penalties tied to them -- would apply when the Chair or anybody he or she designates as his or her "agent" looked at your tax return.


Sen. Stevens of Alaska, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, originally blamed the provision on a 'staffer'. But later, according to the AP, Sen. Frist and "congressional aides" said it was inserted at the behest of Rep. Istook.

Let's hope the GOPers will get their story straight in time for the Sunday shows.


I was lucky enough to watch the controversy over this unfold live on C-SPAN2 (yeah, I lead a full and exciting life). The staff of Sen. Conrad (D - N.D.) performed a heroic service by finding and revealing this Orwellian invasion of privacy. Sen. Durbin did a great job framing the story of this malfeasance:
Hereafter, notwithstanding any other provision of law governing the disclosure of income tax returns or return information, upon written request of the Chairman of the House or Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service shall allow agents designated by such Chairman access to Internal Revenue Service facilities and any tax returns or return information contained therein.
(emphasis added)

That "any" includes my tax returns and information -- as well as yours. And the provision also prohibits any civil or criminal penalties for any misuse of the information gathered from the IRS.

Josh Marshall:
The key is that the privacy rights provisions, and criminal and civil penalties that go with them, don't apply for the appropriations committees. *** The Republicans are acting like it was all an innocent mistake. And it seems clear that there are Republican senators who didn't know anytihng about it and are pissed. But clearly this was no accident, unless provisions have started to write themselves.
He also links to this AP story.


Get this casting director an Academy Award!

Dubya the Movie.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


"I call on every man and woman of good will all over America today take a stand on this issue. Tomorrow may be too late. The book
may close. Don't let anyone make you think that God chose America as
his divine messianic force to be, a sort of policeman of the whole
world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and
it seems that I can hear God saying to America 'You are too arrogant!
If you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of
your power! And I will place it in the hands of a nation that doesn't
even know my name. Be still and know that I am God.'"

-- Martin Luther King, 4 April 1967


When your employer decides that it can no longer afford to provide you and your family with health insurance, you can be thankful that the Bush administration shielded your baby's capital gains from taxation.

From the Washington Post:
Instead the administration plans to push major amendments that would shield interest, dividends and capital gains from taxation, expand tax breaks for business investment and take other steps intended to simplify the system and encourage economic growth, according to several people who are advising the White House or are familiar with the deliberations.

The changes are meant to be revenue-neutral. To pay for them, the administration is considering eliminating the deduction of state and local taxes on federal income tax returns and scrapping the business tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance, the advisers said.
Somehow, I don't think that our Red State brothers and sisters planned on exchanging their health insurance for tax-free dividends when they went into the voting booth.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


While I have tried my best to flush all things Keyes from my mind for the last two weeks, many have asked the gloomy question, "What will be the legacy of the Alan Keyes Senate candidacy?"

Although it will no doubt be grand and multi-faceted, especially with respect to his poisoning of the Illinois Republican party, the bilious aspect of his legacy that I have noticed of late is that Keyes appears to have opened wide the door to questioning whether Barack Obama a "true Christian" or even a "true American."

There was a time, not so long ago, when one's statements regarding one's own spiritual beliefs went unchallenged. Politicians and pundits did not deign to challenge the legitimacy of another's relationship with God, church or other "things not of this world." Such lofty matters were left to be confirmed or denied by a qualified Higher Authority.

And most of us took it for granted that, in our nation of immigrants, citizens who sought public office -- and were statutorily qualified -- were sufficiently "American." To challenge the authenticity of someone's "Americanism" based on their ethnicity was viewed not only as the pinnacle of tackiness, but as a violation of the central tenets of our country.

But no more.

Alan Keyes took it upon himself to judge the soul of Barack Obama -- and by extension those that supported him. Keyes' supremely arrogant, condescending pronouncements on the state of Barack Obama's Christianity were unprecedented, but nevertheless have paved the way for others to follow.

For example, this p.o.s. fellow declares that Mr. Obama is "a black uber-liberal socialist Muslim, supposedly now Christian Democrat." That sentence alone would likely cause Keyes to beam with satisfaction, but it is merely a small part of a larger whole:
[Obama] is gifted at twisting his verbiage in such a way as to deform the truth. In his speech at the Democratic National Convention, he spoke of "... measuring up to the legacy of our forbearers." While that may sound good, there is a discernable difference between "forbearers" and the Founding Fathers of our country.

Obama's forbearers are Kenyan, and it is alleged his grandfather was a slave owner. His reference to "forbearers" had nothing to do with those who sacrificed their lives life to establish a free society based on equality.

His statements were code omitting same, referencing instead an Afro-centrism and Pan Africanism. It was a deliberate attack against the foundation of our country and what we represent.
It is truly an amazing piece of baseless mudslinging.

But note that it bears so many hallmarks of the Keyes campaign: the arrogant questioning Obama's faith ("He's not really a Christian, he's a Muslim"), the baseless questioning his heritage ("He's not really an American"), and the shocking return of the "slave holder mentality" charge. How charming that the author frames the smear-by-association as an unsourced allegation against his paternal grandfather -- a man Barack Obama never met.

It is all so loathsome that it can only be described as "Keyesian".

In his keynote speech, Mr. Obama spoke of "the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes." In light of the "anything goes" Keyesian attacks on him, Mr. Obama's words appear nothing less than prophetic.

And while such attacks on Mr. Obama still shock the conscience of thoughtful citizens, Mr. Obama and his supporters should expect to see this Keyesian brand of slander reoccur with greater frequency -- and in more mainstream fora -- as Mr. Obama continues his assent in the national spotlight.

Monday, November 15, 2004


Jeff Jarvis used the Freedom of Information Act to discover that
the latest big fine by the FCC against a TV network -- a record $1.2 million against Fox for its "sexually suggestive" Married by America -- was brought about by a mere three people who actually composed letters of complaint. Yes, just three people.


I examined the complaints and found that all but two of them were virtually identical. In other words, one person took the time to write a letter and 20 other people then photocopied or merely emailed it to the FCC many times. They all came from an automated complaint factory like the one I write about here. Only two letters were not the form letter.

So in the end, that means that a grand total of three citizens bothered to take the time to sit down and actually write a letter of complaint to the FCC. Millions of people watched the show. Three wrote letters of complaint.

And on the basis of that, the FCC decided to bring down the heavy hammer of government censorship and fine Fox an incredible $1.2 million for suggesting -- not depicting but merely suggesting -- sex on a show that had already been canceled because the marketplace didn't like it anyway.
Don't forget: The Republican party is the party of smaller government and free-markets... for some reason, people sometimes forget that.

Sunday, November 14, 2004


ANTI-OBAMA BLOG: Unfit for Publication (pdf)

One of the most vile smear peddlers of the 2004 election has found a new target.

Jerome Corsi just published a new book full of rehashed distortions and the same old lies about Barack Obama, and the right-wing noise machine is in full gear promoting it.

In 2004, Corsi helped launch the Swift Boat smear campaign with a book of distortions and lies he wrote about John Kerry.

It’s up to you to spread the truth, so here it is. We’ve posted some of the facts about Corsi and his desperate fabrications on this page, but there’s even more in our (PDF)PDF: Unfit for Publication.


LIE: “The year 1995 was a banner one for Obama. He had just married Michelle and the couple bought a Hyde Park condo, the first home Obama ever owned.”[p 145]


10/3/92 Obama And Michelle Robinson Were Married. [Chicago Sun-Times, 10/3/07]

1993 Obama Bought a Condo for $277,550. [Chicago Sun-Times, 1/22/06]


LIE: “Senator Obama could claim to be a citizen of Kenya, as well as of the United States. Obama can trace his heritage back to his mother, who was born in the United States and was an American citizen when he was born, and to his father, who was born in Kenya and was a Kenyan citizen when Obama was born.” [p 103]


Kenya Does Not Allow Dual Citizenship Applications for People Over 21 Years of Age. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management writes of Kenya, “DUAL CITIZENSHIP: Not recognized except for persons under 21 years old.” [U.S. Office of Personnel Management]

The Kenyan Constitution writes, “A person who, but for the proviso to section 87 (1), would be a citizen of Kenya by virtue of that subsection shall be entitled, upon making application before the specified date in such manner as may be prescribed by or under an Act of Parliament, to be registered as a citizen of Kenya: Provided that a person who has not attained the age of twenty-one years (other than a woman who is or has been married) may not himself make an application under this subsection, but an application may be made on his behalf by his parent or guardian.” [Kenyan Constitution]

Even if Obama Had Applied for Dual Citizenship Before He Was 21 — Which He Did Not — It Would Have Expired. ”A person who, upon the attainment of the age of twenty-one years, is a citizen of Kenya and also a citizen of some other country other than Kenya shall, subject to subsection (7), cease to be a citizen of Kenya upon the specified date unless he has renounced his citizenship of that other country, taken the oath of allegiance and, in the case of a person who was born outside Kenya, made and registered such declaration of his intentions concerning residence as may be prescribed by or under an Act of Parliament.” [Kenyan Constitution]


LIE: “Christopher Hitchens noted on that Michelle announces in her Princeton thesis that she has been influenced by the definition of ‘black separatism’ given by Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton in their 1867 book Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America.” [p 232]


The Thesis Used Carmichael And Hamilton’s Definition Of Black Separationism In Her Study But Did Not Suggest She Was “Influenced” By It. Michelle Obama wrote in her thesis, “Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton’s (1967) developed definitions of separationism in their discussion of Black Power which guided me in the formulation and use of this concept in the study…Thus, Carmichael and Hamilton define separationism as a necessary stage for the development of the Black community before this group integrates into the “open society”. The idea of creating separate social structure and cultural structures as suggested by these authors serves to clarify definitions of separationism/pluralism as they function in the dependent variable which tries to measure the 26 respondents’ ideologies concerning political and economic relations between the Black and White communities.” [Michelle Obama’s Thesis]


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