Before the 2004 US Presidential Election
Tue Nov 02
My polling place opened at 6 a.m. I was there at 6:15. They did not have computers; they had the old reliable punch cards. I overheard a couple of the officials saying that turnout was already brisk - and by 6:20 they had seen more voters than showed up all day of the last primary.
Going into the polling place, I felt a wave of emotion, a mixture of sorrow, pride, anger, hope, and patriotism. Voting in previous elections was not like this. The sense of connection with a process much greater than myself, with generations past and present striving for freedom and decency, was almost disorienting in its intensity.
Regardless of the outcome, there is a long struggle ahead. Win or lose, we need to promote a determined, unified, positive approach to the challenges facing us: hope, not fear; tolerance, not isolation; opportunity, not elitism; science, not superstition.
Mon Nov 01
Get out there tomorrow and vote! Vote as early in the day as you can.
If you live in Wisconsin, you can register on Election Day at your polling place. See the Wisconsin State Elections Board website, section AT THE POLLING PLACE ON ELECTION DAY for what you need to take to the polling place in order to be registered.
Naked in Baghdad.
I just finished reading Naked in Baghdad by NPR reporter Ann Garrels. One of the refreshing things about this book is that is pretty much apolitical. It is essentially a diary of Ann's days in Baghdad during the prelude and earliest days of the U.S. invasion of the city. There is an afterword added to the paperback addition that has a little more in the way of summary and interpretation than the body of the book, but essentially you will form your own conclusions. For that reason, I don't want to say too much about my reactions, except that I believe it's important not to sanitize the reality of war nor to oversimplify the challenges faced by our occupying army.
As things are wrapping up I thought I'd mention a couple of my favorite resources, especially since I haven't seen them get much mention elsewhere.
First is what I think is the most inclusive and best-documented book on the Bush Administration through the start of this year, The Book on Bush, by Alterman and Green. It is not as entertaining or easy to read as books by Franken or Ivins (which are also very good), but it is encyclopedic in scope.
Second, I think the clearest, most exhaustive, and most moving speech about the Bush administration is Al Gore's address at Georgetown University. Catch the streaming video on C-span while it is still available, if you can. See below for links.
Sat Oct 30
Missing Explosives - Larger than Al Qaqaa
A couple notes from Friday night's PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer.
Mark Thompson, Time magazine's military correspondent, put the Al Qaqaa explosives issue into perspective in this interview (audio stream):
There are some 10,000 weapons caches that have been found in Iraq, and in the wake of the invasion many nights we had helicopters up and guys on board with night vision goggles watching these ammo dumps being looted. There were simply not enough troops across that country to protect and secure these explosives and this ammunition. I mean, I don't think that what happened at Al Qaqaa is any different than what happened at all of the other sites across Iraq.In the Shields and Brooks analysis, David Brooks pointed out that the 400 million tons or so of Iraqi munitions destroyed by U.S. troops accounts for maybe 0.1 percent of what is in Iraq.
Bin Laden Tape
Tue Oct 26
Not a lot of time to flesh these out, but I'll at least post the links.
Student Loans - the Guaranteed Interest Boondoggle
Dude, Where's My Pension?
Cheney, Halliburton, and Dresser-Rand
Thu Oct 21
Today Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) released a report of an inquiry conducted by the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Minority Staff, the Report on Pre-War Intelligence. By my reading of the report, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and his staff provided an intelligence "analysis" asserting an operational Iraq-al Qaeda relationship. This conclusion was not supported by the reports from the Intelligence Community; but Feith's staff used other sources of dubious veracity. Bush, Cheney, and others in the administration repeatedly echoed this bogus analysis to justify invading Iraq to Congress and the American people.
Life and death decisions are based on the accuracy of intelligence. When intelligence is distorted or exaggerated to support the policies of an administration, it jeopardizes our nation's security and the lives of the men and women of our armed forces. This report provides compelling evidence of the importance of objective, independent intelligence upon which to base major policy decisions. It demonstrates how intelligence relating to the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship was manipulated by high ranking officials in the DOD to support the Administration's decision to invade Iraq when the intelligence assessments of the professional analysts of the Intelligence Community did not provide the desired compelling case.The Common Dreams News Center has more here.
Tue Oct 19
Al Gore's Summation
Yesterday, Al Gore spoke at Georgetown University. The topic was nominally Iraq, but in fact he gave the best single, comprehensive indictment of the Bush administration I have seen: transcript streaming c-span info.
Bush has stolen the symbolism and body language of religion and used it to disguise the most radical effort in American history to take what rightfully belongs to the citizenry of America and give as much as possible to the already wealthy and privileged, who look at his agenda and say, as Dick Cheney said to Paul O'Neill, "this is our due."
The history's actors quote is one for the history books; from an encounter reported by Ron Suskind with a White House aide in 2002:
We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.
Sat Oct 16
I just read George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant. He explains how dialogue on issues can be dominated or derailed by how the issues are framed. Framing on the political scene has evolved into a deadly sort of gamesmanship. An example is the Luntz Memo on the Environment, coaching Republicans on how to promote their agenda re increasing arsenic limits in water, pretending that global warming is not a problem, and so on. According to Lakoff, there is no dialogue if parties have disparate frames. Facts bounce off if they don't fit the listener's frame. This framing effect is an inescapable part of human cognition.
Fri Oct 15
I swear, I couldn't tell immediately afterward who "won" any of the debates for president or vice president. In fact, I resent the attempt to reduce what should be presentation of worthy opposing arguments to some sort of sporting event, something that can be summarized in a closing score, winner and loser.
Thu Oct 14
Bush and the Black Congressional Caucus
Last night, during the third presidential debate, John Kerry said, "This is a president who hasn't met with the Black Congressional Caucus". President Bush said he did meet with them. That is clearly the case, but the conditions are interesting and might explain how Kerry would get the wrong idea. Here's an excerpt from a Sep 21, 2004 USATODAY Op/Ed:
During a meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus
just days after he took office, Bush assured the group's members
that they would see a lot of each other.
Voter Registration Forms Destroyed
It seems this election is becoming even nastier than the last one. Or are we just more aware of things? This story, Investigation into Trashed Voter Registrations regarding destruction of registration forms by a firm funded by the Republican National Committee, appears to be part of a larger pattern of dirty tricks. A month ago, this SCAM ALERT was posted to the WOMENLIT Listserv at www.nifl.gov. The Daily Kos has this summary.
A conscientious man would be cautious how he dealt in blood. - Edmund Burke
Tue Oct 12
Coming soon: a look at the $137 billion in corporate tax breaks just passed. Mary Landrieu's filibuster starts here: CONGRESSIONAL RECORD SENATE S10791 October 8, 2004.
Frontline Special on the Candidates
Tonight, the PBS show Frontline offered an excellent historical perspective of both presidential candidates The Choice 2004. Transcript and streaming audio and video are available online at the link given. It will be rebroadcast on WTTW October 14, 2004 2:30am. Check your local PBS affiliate for listings.
This show is the closest thing I've seen to an in-depth nonpartisan comparison of the two men. It went a long way to answering my questions regarding Kerry and Vietnam, Kerry and Iraq, and what Bush is about.
Special Order Speeches, Mon Oct 04 2004
I finally got some time to catch up. Oct 4 was a good night for special orders. See the Thomas portal House and Extensions pages for this date.
In INFLUX OF WOUNDED STRAINS VA (item 63, pages H8003-H8004), Ted Strickland (D-Ohio) pointed out that while Bush's 2005 budget calls for cutting the Department of Veterans Affairs staff that handles benefit claims, there is already a severe backlog:
... this system that provides services for about 5 million American veterans, has been overloaded for decades. We know that. The current backlog consists of more than 300,000 claims.
In U.S. FOREIGN POLICY PLAGUED WITH ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER (item 69, page H8004) Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said
Now, the President said several weeks ago that the Taliban is gone, that the Taliban does not exist anymore. That is completely and utterly false.
In THE NATIONAL DEBT (item 71, pages H8009-H8015) John Tanner (D-Tennessee), with assists from Charles Stenholm (D-Texas), Jim McDermott (D-Washington), and Gene Taylor (D-Mississippi), gave a short but alarming update on our rising indebtedness. Here are some highlights from the presentation - there's more, but the excerpt below is already too long:
I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just. - Thomas Jefferson
Fri Oct 08
On NPR's Morning Edition today, there was a segment reporting that persons with Kerry stickers, buttons, or T-shirts have been ejected from Bush/Cheney rallies, and have even been handcuffed and taken to jail if they complain. This has occurred not only at privately-funded Republican events, but at taxpayer-funded presidential rallies. The segment also included a sound bite from a Kerry rally where Bush supporters were heckling; Kerry thanked them for coming and helping to stir up enthusiasm against Bush.
Morning Edition, October 8, 2004. Some would-be attendees at President Bush's campaign events say they're being asked to leave for wearing clothes or stickers that support the president's opponent. At Sen. Kerry's rallies, the presidential hopeful ruefully acknowledges the presence of the opposition. NPR's Nina Totenberg examines the rights of campaign event planners and attendees.Audio is here. Transcript is not online.
If we're in danger from Cat Stevens, then we're screwed. - Salman Rushdie
Sat Oct 02
I just received an email copy of E. L. Doctorow's The Unfeeling President, from the East Hampton Star, September 9, 2004. He refers to worldwide protest against the war in Iraq as the appalled understanding of millions of people that America was ceding its role as the last best hope of mankind.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
The Common Dreams website has this Rolling Stone reprint: Crimes Against Nature, by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Here's an excerpt:
Bush's Environmental Protection Agency has halted work on sixty-two environmental standards, the federal Department of Agriculture has stopped work on fifty-seven standards, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has halted twenty-one new standards.
Freedom to Read Protection Act of 2003
An attempt to reign in the excesses of the PATRIOT act, H.R.1157
To amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to exempt bookstores and libraries from orders requiring the production of any tangible things for certain foreign intelligence investigations, and for other purposes.was the focus of a contest of wills between a majority in the house and the Bush administration. This August interview in Bookselling This Week with Congressman Bernie Sanders tells how the rules of the House were bent to facilitate bringing added pressure to bear on Republicans who favored the amendment. what happened with H.R.1157 Amendment on July 8, 2004, was "a frightening example of the un-democratic tendencies that we're seeing from the Republican leadership". Discussion of H.R.1157 on July 8 leading up to the vote is in the Congressional Record starting on page H5348.
Fri Oct 01 - Two Testimonials
These are links I picked up after the first presidential debate.
Why We Cannot Win by Al Lorentz, a career soldier stationed in Iraq.
Because the current administration is more concerned with its image than it is with reality, it prefers symbolism to substance: soldiers are dying here and being maimed and crippled for life.
Why I will vote for John Kerry for President by John Eisenhower. The son of Dwight D. Eisenhower was Republican "for 50 years, through the election of 2000".
I celebrate, along with other Americans, the diversity of opinion in this country. But let it be based on careful thought. I urge everyone, Republicans and Democrats alike, to avoid voting for a ticket merely because it carries the label of the party of one's parents or of our own ingrained habits.
Tue Sep 28 - The Soros Tour
Today, at the National Press Club in Washington, George Soros launched a nationwide tour to talk to America about the war in Iraq. From the George Soros website:
This is the most important election of my lifetime. I have never been heavily involved in partisan politics but these are not normal times.
Mon Sep 27 - Senator Edward Kennedy on the State of the War in Iraq
Today, in a speech given at George Washington University, Senator Kennedy blasted Bush and his administration for mishandling the war in Iraq, listing thirteen ways in which America is less safe. You can find the text of his speech on the senator's website, but there's more impact if you view the streaming video. Here's an excerpt:
The President's handling of the war has been a toxic mix of ignorance, arrogance, and stubborn ideology. No amount of Presidential rhetoric or preposterous campaign spin can conceal the truth about the steady downward spiral in our national security since President Bush made the decision to go to war in Iraq. If this election is decided on the question of whether America is safer because of President George Bush, John Kerry will win in a landslide.
Mon Sep 20 - Kitty Kelley
Last night I saw Kitty Kelley on BookTV talking to the Washington Independent Writers about her book, The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty She appeared cool, professional, and gutsy.
During the Q&A, Ms. Kelley pointed out that George Herbert Walker Bush had given 141 press conferences by this time in his first, and only term. George W. Bush has held only 12 press conferences to date. - from politicalpuzzle.org archives.
Sat Sep 18 - Special Order Speech
The Congressional Record is on line. Here's one example, a Special Order Speech by Representative Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey), with some help from Corinne Brown (D-Florida), from September 13, 2004: THE REPUBLICANS' COZY RELATIONSHIP WITH CORPORATE INTERESTS. To view the transcript, go to the Thomas Congressional Record Portal, September 13, House, and take Item 72. The speech can also be found here on pages H7041-H7047.
The topic sounds general and polemic, but there were plenty of particulars on current issues before the House and some heated if one-sided discussion of what is going on.
Mr. Pallone pointed out:
Republicans are hoping the American people forgot that while their own Medicare director was negotiating a final Medicare prescription drug bill, he was interviewing for jobs with the very pharmaceutical companies that benefit from the new Republican Medicare law. This same director, Tom Scully, illegally kept critical information about the costs of the Medicare bill from Congress, which most likely would have killed the controversial bill before it became law.
Ms. Brown noted that the new Medicare bill prohibits negotiation on the price of drugs
And now this administration, with their lies and misleading people about this Medicare bill, this bill that prohibits the Secretary from negotiating the price of the drugs. We on the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, along with the Department of Defense, insist, insist that they negotiate the price of the drugs so we can keep the costs down for our veterans, for our people, military families. No one can explain it. There is no discussion. When we raise that issue, they give us a blank stare, because the pharmaceuticals wrote those provisions.
The account on page H7044 of the passing of the Medicare bill is fascinating: at one point there were 218 votes against the bill - then the arm-twisting began.
Thu Sep 16 - Cost of the War in Iraq
According to the Free Online Encyclopedia:
The cost of the [1990-1991] war to the United States was calculated by Congress to be $61.1 billion; two-thirds of that amount was paid by Kuwait, Japan and Saudi-Arabia.In contrast, the U.S. is paying upward of 90% of the cost of the present war. While John Kerry is using the number 200 billion dollars, the cost to date may be closer to 120 billion - see the article at factcheck.org, but the present war is far from over.
Wed Sep 15 - Senate Committee on Foreign Relations - Iraq
"The insurgency is growing and becoming more lethal. The number of attacks against our forces increased from 700 in March to nearly 2700 in August" - from Joe Biden's opening statement.
Today there was a hearing before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Accelerating U.S. Assistance to Iraq. Opening statements by chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Indiana) and ranking minority member Joseph R Biden Jr. (D-Delaware) are here. Both statements are brief, informative, and to the point.
This hearing gives insight into what is going on in Iraq. Chairman Lugar read a letter he received from a Marine in Iraq (the text is in his opening statement), making this point:
This war is one that cannot be won by Marines and soldiers. The only thing we can do is keep a lid on it and buy time. We chase the Mujahadin around, and in so doing catch and kill a few or at least deter their actions. However, in a society with no jobs, a faltering economy, and little to no infrastructure there is plenty of incentive to fight.
From Senator Biden's opening statement:
... we acted quickly to give the President the funds he requested. But through negligence or incompetence, or both, more than 10 months after that bill became law, only 5 percent of the $18.4 billion has been spent.Biden reminded us that, while it is well publicized that the number of American deaths in Iraq recently exceeded 1,000, there is also a toll in American casualties - more than 1,000 in the past month. Senator Biden told of a briefing he received during one trip to Iraq, telling of Sadr City where garbage is piled 12 feet high and humvees drive through sewage up to their hubcaps. Ronald L. Schlicher, one of the witnesses from the Department of State, talked of restructuring priorities so that some basic water treatment facilities are postponed to 2007.
C-span's website has a streaming video of the hearing, well worth watching. Viewing suggestion: start with Senator Biden's diatribe against incompetence in handling funds already allocated, around 5 minutes and 30 seconds into the hearing; once that has your attention, rewind to the opening for full context.
Tue Sep 14 - Scowcroft report still suppressed - why?
Regarding the March, 2002 Scowcroft Report, which contains recommendations for intelligence reform post 9/11, last night the Senate voted to table an amendment (S.AMDT.3626 to H.R.4567) which would have required making the report public. In a completely partisan vote, the Republicans (and Miller) closed ranks behind Bush to continue suppression of the report.
Mon Sep 13 - Cheney energy task force
Congressional speakers reminded us tonight of Cheney's energy task force at the start of Bush's administration and Cheney's repeated refusal to disclose the names of the participants. The Sierra Club and Judicial Watch filed suit to open the records. At that time, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia refused to recuse himself despite the fact that he and Cheney are, according to CBS news, longtime friends.
Ultimately, 13,500 heavily censored pages - many of them completely blank - were released to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The sample documents at the NRDC link below show how the Bush administration incorporated text provided by energy lobbyists into executive orders.
To Read Before the Election
For further study.Finishing 2004