3/26/2004

The Impending Doom

A co-worker forwarded this website to me. It looks to be the definitive site regarding mass extinction, and from what I've gathered, things don't look so good. "If present trends continue one half of all species of life on earth will be extinct in 100 years."

The Impending Doom

A co-worker forwarded along this website to me. It looks to be the definitive site regarding mass extinction, and from what I see, things don't look so good. "If present trends continue one half of all species of life on earth will be extinct in 100 years."

Bush and Sudan

Here's a must read. Sudan has been one of the few places where Bush's policies have had a positive effect. For years, the country has been consumed by a brutal civil war that's largely divided along geographical (North/South) and religious (Muslim/Christian) lines. The policies supported by fundamentalist Christians sometime intersect with humanitarian causes, and Sudan happens to be one of those cases. Conservative Christians, who see the Sudanese conflict as a Muslim-led jihad against oppressed Christians (an accurate interpretation), have been pressuring Bush to bring about a resolution. And as Kristof notes, "To his credit, President Bush has already led the drive for peace in Sudan, doing far more to achieve a peace than all his predecessors put together. Now he should show the same resolve in confronting this latest menace."

If you have the time and you have computing capabilities, check out the New York Times' interactive piece narrated by Kristof called "Is There Any Hope for Africa?" Kristof says he's cautiously optimistic; I agree with him.

Republicans for Kerry

A few days ago, a reporter with Salon asked for an interview with Republicans for Kerry (an organization that I'm a member of) for a piece they were writing on Kerry's support among moderate Republicans. I don't think we ever responded to the request, but the article now appears as Salon's top story of the day. It's a basic analysis on the ideological split that's developing within the Republican party. The most visible example of the split is the modest support that both John McCain and Chuck Hagel have offered Kerry. But, as the article points out, this internal fracture extends much further into the Republican's infrastructure.

I would in no way consider myself to be a Republican. However, I support many of the causes advanced my moderate Republicans. And the authors of this piece do a good job at summarizing those points:

"Moderate Republicans are often fiscal conservatives but social liberals -- in many ways, the exact opposite of this administration. They believe in balanced budgets, environmental conservation and a foreign policy that's strong without being needlessly belligerent. They see themselves as the heirs of former President Teddy Roosevelt, the avid conservationist and trustbuster, and former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, the philanthropist, statesman and governor of New York. The party they joined was staid and dignified. It was the other party that seemed shrill and radical."

The Bush administration has abandoned those Republicans, and I believe, those voters will jump ship this election for Kerry. Here are some of the other key points mentioned in the piece:

"It's a quandary afflicting many moderate Republicans, who feel alienated by their party's rightward lurch and economic irresponsibility, and who fear that another four years of Bush will consolidate the power of the party's most hard-line conservative elements. Even as moderate Republicans make gains in liberal states like New York and California, they're feeling squeezed by their own party. Elements of the Republican right have declared jihad on the values party moderates hold dear, and though the White House claims to embrace all Republican factions, for most moderates there's little doubt where its loyalties lie.

Few politicians want to admit the split, but it's getting almost impossible to ignore. Former Bush counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, a Republican who has served four administrations -- three of them Republican -- slammed Bush this week for a weak response to the threat of terrorism before the Sept. 11 attacks. Now he's being savaged by fellow Republicans who have, in essence, accused him of working to aid the Democrats. McCain, the Arizona senator, along with Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, have made headlines by openly defending Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, a fellow Vietnam vet, against Bush campaign charges that Kerry is weak on national defense. The White House is incensed.

McCain and Hagel insist they still support Bush for reelection. The same holds for the Republican Main Street Partnership, a group of GOP moderates that includes Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, Gov. George Pataki of New York, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California; all of them claim to avidly support the president's reelection.

But there's little doubt that behind the scenes, some moderate Republicans are rooting for the other side. If Bush wins, one aide to a moderate Republican says privately, "that would be the worst possible situation."

More than anyone else, DeLay is a symbol of what moderates hate about the direction their party is going in, and he revels in displaying his power over his less zealous colleagues. As Nick Thompson wrote in Salon in September, DeLay has used the allocation of committee chairs to punish those who swerve even a little bit from his party line. "This is why moderate Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., who generally supports DeLay, was blocked from becoming chair of the Government Reform Committee, a move even he says he knew would be a consequence of his support for campaign-finance reform," Thompson wrote. "Rep. Marge Roukema, R-N.J., simply left Congress after DeLay boxed her out of several positions. In several primaries, DeLay has also worked against several moderate Republicans in favor of less electable conservatives, showing that the Texan would sometimes rather lose with a conservative than win with a moderate."

It's not surprising that some moderates are starting to feel similarly uncompromising. After all, old-fashion establishment Republicans have made a tactical alliance with fundamentalist right-wing revolutionaries like DeLay, but few want to see his vision of America realized."

That Bin Laden, What a Laugh Riot...

Bush, who's known for his sense of humor, failed to hit that funny bone Wednesday night at a black-tie dinner for the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association. During his speech, Bush presented a slide show, which gave a "humorous" account of daily life within the White House. The BBC reports:

"One pictured Mr Bush looking under a piece of furniture in the Oval Office, at which the president remarked: "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be here somewhere."

After another one, showing him scouring the corner of a room, Mr Bush said: "No, no weapons over there," he said.

And as a third picture, this time showing him leaning over, appeared on the screen the president was heard to say: "Maybe under here?"


For the families of those serving in Iraq, these sorts of joke, I'm sure, are not appreciated. The administration pointed to the weapons of mass destruction as the leading cause for war. And now Bush laughs at it. I hope that speech writer is fired.

3/25/2004

The Atlantic has taken it up a notch. First, the New York Observer has reported that the magazine will run a mammoth piece by Howell Raines, detailing his account of the Blaire disaster. The piece--a preview of Raines' book--is expected to be over 20,000 words.

And now the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz discusses Dean pollster Paul Maslin's upcoming Atlantic article on the relationship between Kerry and Dean. The two don't seem to be the best of friends, and "during the campaign and the two New Englanders were 'like oil and water.'"

Everyone has tried to point to a specific point and said, "There, that's where Dean lost it." My opinion is that the Gore endorsement was the turning point. But Maslin seems to emphasize the issue over sealing the gubernatorial records. Here's what Kurtz has to say:

"Paul Maslin also reveals that Dean was so adamant about keeping his Vermont gubernatorial records sealed that he told his staff in December: "I'd rather end the campaign than have the world see everything." Although Dean maintained he was acting to preserve the principle of confidentiality, the real reason, Maslin says, is that the candidate was sure he had insulted important Democrats and liberal interest groups in the documents...

Maslin quotes then-campaign manager Joe Trippi recounting a meeting with Dean after the staff insisted he release the Vermont records: "He just lost it in here. He basically told me that he never thought he'd be in this position. Never thought he could ever win. . . . He was just about in tears, and for once, I really feel for him. He said, 'I don't know why I say the things I do.' "

"Seldom," writes Maslin, "have I seen someone on the brink of political success more conflicted about it."


And today, Dean is expected to endorse Kerry.

Too Good to be True

The blog Political Animal cites Roll Call on a rumor of some exciting talks within the Republican leadership. Apparently House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) is discussing the possibility of stepping down from his post:

"House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has begun quiet discussions with a handful of colleagues about the possibility that he will have to step down from his leadership post temporarily if he is indicted by a Texas grand jury investigating alleged campaign finance abuses.

...Republican Conference rules state that a member of the elected leadership who has been indicted on a felony carrying a penalty of at least two years in prison must temporarily step down from the post."

3/24/2004

The Oh-So-Wise Richard Clarke

I first came across Richard Clarke in my research for my senior essay. The essay discussed America's policy towards Rwanda before and during the genocide, and as part of my research, I looked at some of the explanations offered by Bush and Clinton officials. Clarke had intelligent comments to make, and his book was an important source for my notes on Bush-era policies.

His recent comments on the Bush II administration are extraordinary. I just finished re-watching Monday's interview with Charlie Rose, and the claims he makes are much bolder than those he made on "60 Minutes." With Rose, Clarke delves deeper into the underlining failures of Bush's policies. Perhaps the most convincing claim he made relates to Afghanistan. Clarke argued that, had Bush committed more troops and more resources to the region during the war instead of building up our presence in the Persian Gulf, we could have caught most of the al Qaeda leadership. From there, we would have gathered more valuable intelligence. And from there, we'd be in a much better situation today. Plenty of people have made similar arguments in the past, but Clarke explains it such with clarity that it sounds completely new.

Here's the Times' take on today's 9/11 panel proceedings.

Just Can't Get Enough of Tom DeLay

Congressional ethics may become a hot topic this election year. A few months ago, it came out that Rep. Nick Smith (R., Mich.) had been offered bribes on the House floor for his vote on the Medicare Bill. Here's the Associated Press account:

"The Justice Department said Thursday it would review complaints from political watchdog groups that Republican House leaders tried to bribe Rep. Nick Smith (R., Mich.) to vote for a Medicare bill.

Rep. Smith voted against the bill despite what he described as threats against his son, Brad Smith, who is running for the House seat his father is vacating.

Rep. Smith said his own party's leaders offered money for his son's campaign if he voted for the bill and that they threatened to support other GOP candidates for the seat if the congressman voted against the legislation."


As the Hill points out, the "seven-year ethics truce in the House seems to be unraveling." The Washington Post, and the now the Hill, have reported on Majority Leader Tom DeLay's (R-Texas) recent ethics troubles. Two watchdog groups--Democracy 21 and Common Cause--have issued complaints against the Majority Leader, citing his involvement with a certain cherity group, Celebrations for Children. The organizations claim: "DeLay plans to use the charity improperly to fund political activities in New York City during the 2004 Republican National Convention." OK, the organization is named Celebrations for Children, and it's being used to host parties, or celebrations, for Republicans...that'll be great material for the comedians.

Tom DeLay's New Hit Makes it to #3 on TRL

Historically, the Democrats have been known to invest more in voter registration than the Republicans. It only makes sense for Democrats to try to get disenfranchized voters to the polls, as those voters (typically blacks, youth, poor) would most likely support a Democratic agenda.

This year, however, the Republicans have initiated a major campaign to increase Republican-sponsored voter registration. The most visible sign of this effort is Reggie the Registration Rig, a 56-foot 18-wheeler, featuring a soundstage, computer terminals and a multimedia center. The rig will be making appearances around the country until election day.

One upcoming stop for the rig is MTV's TRL. According to this Associated Press report, "RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie will be on hand, espousing the youths' right to vote for the right wing."

The effects of voter registration are questionable. Once you get citizens to register, how do you get them to the polls? And how do you make sure they vote for your party? It's unclear, but the Republican registration campaign should be closely monitored.

Eliminate Those Chipmunks

Want to get rid of those pesky rare species in the Pacific Northwest? Well, Bush has the right idea. Yesterday, the administration completed a rules change that would allow forrest managers to begin logging without having to check for rare plants and animals. Environmentalists expect this will "double logging on federal land in the region and have disastrous consequences for rare species." CNN has this report on the situation.

White House Janitor Fired for Suggesting the Use of Softer Toilet Paper

The Bush White House is known for running a particularly tight ship. Reporters rarely find leaks, and those within the administration who speak out against certain policies face severe retribution. The Center for American Progress has put together a list of White House threats entitled "White House Intimidation: A Brief History of Threats and Defamation."

Here are some of the highlights:
"Clarke is only the latest victim of the White House's smear machine which has been deployed against anyone who tells the truth. As Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) noted yesterday, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill was attacked for his honesty, economic advisor Larry Lindsey was fired for being honest about the cost of war, government actuary Richard Foster was threatened with termination if he told Congress the truth about the Medicare bill, and Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife's CIA cover was exposed by Administration operatives after he debunked the President's Iraq/uranium charge"

And I Only Make $256K a Year?

The New York Daily News is reporting that Peter Kann, CEO of Dow Jones, and his wife, Karen Elliott House, who is the publisher for the Wall Street Journal, received major pay hikes last year. Kann saw a 58% increase in 2003, up to $2.1 million, and House got a 32% raise. And Dow Jones chief operating officer Richard Zannino's salary rose 45%, to $1.6 million.

This all comes while the union is struggling to hammer out a contract with management. Dow Jones union members haven't had a contract for over a year, and Wall Street Journal employees are being offered what many consider to be an insufficient contract.

3/23/2004

Interested in which campaign your neighbor is giving to? And how much? Go to this site.

My parents in Tampa are surrounded by a core of Democratic supporters, but as you expand outwards, it's a mix. In my New York neighborhood, it's a liberal stronghold. The rest of New York can be found here.

One blogger Tim Blair has compiled a list of celebrity donors. Here what we've got: Kelsey Grammer, Mary Hart, Arnold Palmer, and Pat Boone are Bushies; Charlize Theron and Jennifer Garner like Kerry; Don King has supported Carol Mosely Braun; and Bonnie Raitt backs Kucinich. The list goes on.

3/22/2004

The Attacks Have Begun

Oh no, they found the dirt: Richard Clarke teaches a class at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government with Kerry adviser Rand Beers. It's all there. He's a Kerry operative. If you're interested, check out the class' syllabus.

There's one thing I don't understand about the Bush counterattack. Bush defenders have portrayed Clarke as a former bureaucrat, offended by his demotion in the early part of the administration. Here's my question: Why was Clarke demoted in the first place? Isn't his demotion evidence of a weak stance on terrorism in the pre-Sept. 11 period? If I were a Bush strategist, I avoid this line of attack like the plague.

Here's one of the most comprehensive sites relating to September 11. At times, the organization's left-leaning agenda takes over. But it's an astounding site and the amount of information compiled here is impressive. Take a few minutes (or hours) to look it over.

Stay Home, Nader

The wack jobs on the far left are as dangerous as those on the far right. Up on the New Republic's website is a report on this weekend's anti-war protests in New York. As was expected, the protests served as dress rehearsal for this summer's protests during the Republic convention. The author of this piece suggests that the fringe radicals could attract a good amount of attention during the convention, and potentially hurt Kerry's standing among moderates and swing voters. Here is the section I found most unsettling:

The New York rally was called "The World Still Says No to War," and held on the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, but for the dozens of speakers before and after the march, Iraq ranked a clear second to the issue of Palestine, whose four-color flag was the march's dominant symbol. Indeed, the Iraq war competed for attention with an astonishing range of causes, like Khan's "heroism" (in Iqbal's estimation) and a long list of countries supposedly suffering under the American boot. A banner over the stage at the start of the rally read, "End the Occupation of Iraq, Palestine, Haiti, and Everywhere!" and each speaker added a nation: U.S. Out of Puerto Rico! The Philippines! Bolivia! Pakistan! The Balkans!

Picking out anti-American whackos on the fringe of an antiwar protest is a cheap, unsporting form of journalism, and one I hadn't planned to indulge in. But Saturday, they weren't on the fringes--they were on the podium. Of course, the antiwar movement was, in its infancy, hijacked by the hard left. And on Saturday, despite the efforts of a more traditional left-wing group, United for Peace and Justice--they sympathize with Castro, but not Milosevic--to control the stage, the group leading off, and setting the tone, was Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER). ANSWER is a remnant of a totalitarian left that it's hard to believe still exists. The group's sympathies run to Kim Jong Il, and its website says the antiwar movement "must give its unconditional support to the Iraqi anti-colonial resistance."

All of which could be safely ignored if this was just another protest. But this was also a dress rehearsal for a moment that could affect the outcome of the election in November. "This is run-through for the convention, for us and for the cops," said David Lerner, a publicist working with United for Peace and Justice. Everyone expects the demonstrations at the Republican National Convention to be far bigger--organizers are touting them as the biggest since the Vietnam War. And few expect them to be as peaceful. The Manhattan District Attorney recently presented an inflated budget request, noting that he has been told to be ready for 1,000 arrests a day during the Republican convention.

In August, New York City will be flooded with people like Teresa Gutierrez, a squat woman in a red beret and sunglasses who faced the crowd squarely to deliver an important message: "One of the corporations that we hate so much is Coca-Cola," she told the protesters. "Never ever drink Coca-Cola again. Drinking Coca-Cola is like drinking the blood of Colombian workers." If these people didn't exist, Karl Rove might have to hire actors to play them. Come August, when Bush is inside the convention, surrounded by men in suits and hugging black people, he's going to look like a pretty sane, dare one say, wise, alternative to the anti-Coca-Cola brigade.

The mass of demonstrators, who streamed in a 40-block loop around the grottier southern chunk of Midtown, weren't all as hard core as their leaders. But the crowd has changed, and shrunk, since the huge protests last spring. Last year there were more parents with children, more neatly dressed forty-somethings, more mainstream city Democratic politicians. Saturday, from Madison Square Park to Times Square, I only saw one Dean for America fleece and one Kerry button on the thousands of protesters. More common was a Star of David, connected with an "=" sign to a swastika. One woman handed a flier to a reporter I know. Then she looked at the reporter's press pass and asked, "Are you from the Daily News?" Yes. "Are you Jewish?" Yes. "Oh, that's not going to help me," the woman said, and took the flier back.

A rap trio, Movement in Motion, who began the rally waving a Palestinian flag, seemed in tune with the mood: "We're going to open this up by dedicating it to the Democrats and the Republicans and all the rich warmongers," one rapper said. "Stay the fuck out of our city, Republican National Convention." Then he led a call and response: "Bush?" "No." "Kerry?" "No."

I wouldn't normally cover this sort of news, but Courtney Love is too ridiculous to not notice. I attended her Thursday night show, which is going to be a strong contender for Worst Show of the Year. Someone is now claiming that they were injured during the show:

"A photographer says she was hurt when Courtney Love dove off a stage, less than a day after the rocker was arrested for allegedly throwing a microphone stand at an earlier performance that injured a fan. Freelance photographer Dara Kushner says she was injured when Love bodysurfed through the crowd during her performance at a Manhattan music venue late Thursday night. Kushner was treated for a bruised and swollen neck. It wasn't clear if Kushner would press charges."

I hate to defend Courtney Love, but injury claims from rocks shows are dubious. You attend a show, expect to get roughed up a bit, especially if you choose to stand close to the stage.

3/21/2004

Two months ago, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill told the public that the Bush administration had recklessly pursued Iraq. The accusations were damaging, but the Bush administration survived.

Tonight's "60 Minutes" interview with Richard Clarke, the top counterterrorism official in the White House until February 2003, could be more difficult to handle. Clarke charges the administration with dropping the ball on terrorism. Not only did they fail to act on the urgent warnings sent out by Clarke, but they immediately began to look at Iraq as a target after September 11. Clarke is convinced that our policies are counter-productive. And even worse, he believes that we're fueling the anti-American hatred that exists throughout the Middle East

Former Clinton officials will be testifying next week before the September 11th commission. It's expected that they'll tell the commission that they warned the Bush administration of the urgent threat posed by al Qaeda.

Politically, this is going to be rough for the Bush re-election team. They've already set the "War on Terrorism" as the center of the campaign. With all of this damaging evidence, the Bush team will have to come up with some clever explanations.

The blog Carpetbagger Report has posted a list of some of the more subsantive scandals that have come out during the Bush presidency. Cronyism is going to be a weak spot for the Bush campaign, and looking over this list, it looks as though Kerry will have a lot of ammo to work with. Here is the list, and go to the site if you wish to view the links.

* Cheney's secretive Energy Task Force was investigated by the GAO and the case is currently pending at the Supreme Court.

* The Plame Game is under investigation by the Justice Department.

* Bush's Medicare scam and the circumstances that led the administration to lie to Congress about the cost of the legislation is under investigation by the HHS inspector general's office.

* The massive intelligence failure that led Bush to lie to the world about the Iraqi threat is under investigation by a congressionally-authorized independent commission (which Bush fought the creation of).

* Bribes offered on the House floor to Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) in exchange for his vote on Bush's Medicare plan are under investigation by the House Ethics Committee and the Justice Department.

* Attorney General John Ashcroft was under investigation by the Federal Election Commission for violating campaign finance laws in 2000, and the FEC concluded that Ashcroft accepted $110,000 in illegal contributions.

* An investigation into House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's criminal fundraising schemes in Texas -- which allegedly used corporate funds to help state GOP lawmakers -- is already before a Texas grand jury.

* Republican staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee were investigated for stealing thousands of confidential memos from Dem computers, a matter that has now been referred to the Justice Department for a possible criminal probe.

* Republican Connecticut Gov. John Rowland is under a criminal investigation (and an impeachment investigation) after he lied about prominent state contractors and several government aides paying for refurbishments to his lake-front cottage.

* The Pentagon launched a formal investigation into well-armed evangelist and three-star General William "Jerry" Boykin, Bush's pick for deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, and his record of extreme religious rhetoric.

* The circumstances that led to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 are under investigation by a congressionally-authorized independent commission (which, again, Bush fought the creation of and then later resisted cooperating with).

* And honorable mentions should go, of course, to investigations into Halliburton (Dick Cheney's former company) and Enron (George Bush's biggest corporate supporter).

Letters Home

Senator Kennedy mentioned these letters during his appearance today on "Meet the Press." Written by soldiers killed during the Iraq occupation, these heart-wrenching letters reveal what life is like for the American troops. Todd Bryant, a twenty-three-year-old, West Point graduate, writes to his wife a month before he is killed: "Being here has made me appreciate so many things, it's funny — little things like going to Wal-Mart or IHOP. I love you so much, Jen, and I miss you more than anything. I really don't want to spend another day away from you as long as I live. I guess when I get out in three years and nine months I'll have to find a job with no business trips ever."