America held captive

 Posted by at 14:46  Politics
Dec 302003
 

At year’s end, signs of dictatorship abound in Washington

December 30, 2003—As 2003 winds to a close, it is perhaps timely to assess the state of affairs in the nation’s capital. As a long time resident of Washington, DC, it is striking how this city has changed—and not for the better.

The telltale signs of dictatorship and fascism abound in this city on the Potomac. Some of the signs—concrete barricades and 8-foot walls around monuments—are apparent. Others, like video cameras, although more subtle, are every bit as ubiquitous. For those who have never visited Washington, DC, or who traveled here during better times, the city that is suppose to represent the aspirations of the American people is now a hollow shell of its former self.

The White House Ellipse is now a security bivouac. The grassy area that once played host to Frisbee games between dogs and their owners, touch football scrimmages, and throngs of tourists marveling at the south façade of the White House are largely gone. They have been replaced by chain link fences, concrete Jersey barriers, menacing black Secret Service SUVs, squad cars, and security “men in black” armed to the teeth. Sitting in the midst of this security encampment is the National Christmas Tree. Once surrounded by rosy-cheeked youngsters who marveled at its thousands of ornaments and lights up close, the tree is now viewed after dark from afar—its future as endangered as its rooted relatives in the Rocky Mountain and Alaska National Forest and Wilderness areas.

Vice President Dick Cheney sent out thousands of Christmas cards this year that extolled the Bush administration’s international imperial agenda by suggesting God approves it. Taking a quote by founder Benjamin Franklin out of context, Cheney’s card read, “And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?” Fascists, imperialists, and colonialists throughout history have tried to invoke God’s name in justifying their global ambitions. The Bush-Cheney regime is no different and hopefully it will meet the same fate as its fascist and imperial antecedents.

(snip)

There is a chance to try and return the nation’s capital to the American people. Let us hope and pray that next Christmas the White House will be boxing up the Bush family possessions for their shipment back to the Crawford “Ranch.” With a new administration, perhaps, just perhaps, this city will begin to return to better days.

Right now, it is only Washington, D.C. that looks like a fortress. If the Bush regime is allowed another term, every large city in our country will most likely be fortified. Is this how we want to live?

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Big tippers

 Posted by at 14:01  General
Dec 302003
 

The wacky world of pizza delivery

The simple life has rubbed off on hotel heiress Paris Hilton – or so one would think judging by the amount of Domino’s pepperoni pizza ordered in her name.

“Paris Hilton” is the No. 1 fake name used by people calling for pizza deliveries, according to a survey of Domino’s Pizza drivers in Washington, DC, released Monday by the pizza delivery chain. And 38% of those using the name of the socialite model ordered pepperoni topping.

US Attorney General John Ashcroft might want to open an investigation into these findings – he was No. 2 on the list of assumed names used by people ordering pizza.

Of course, given his conservative bent, he probably wasn’t among those answering the door in the nude, who the survey said tend to tip better than people who answer in their pajamas.

According to the survey of 630 drivers, nine percent of people who answer the door in the nude tip more than 20%, compared with 2% of people in pajamas.

Among political pizza findings, people with “Dean for President” bumper stickers on cars in their driveways tipped 22% higher than people with “Bush for President” bumper stickers.

People with “Bush for President” bumper stickers were three times more likely to order meat-topped pizzas than “Dean for President” drivers.

Which all goes to prove one thing — Dean supporters are definitely more generous than Bush supporters!

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Bush: Reckless

 Posted by at 22:40  Election 2004
Dec 292003
 

Dean Labels Bush ‘Reckless’

DETROIT, Dec. 29 — From Iraq to homeland security to public health, President Bush’s “reckless” habit of placing “ideology over facts” has resulted in “the most dangerous administration in my lifetime,” Democrat Howard Dean charged over the past two days.

In Midwest campaign stops and an interview, the former Vermont governor said developments both abroad and at home give credence to his assertion two weeks ago that the United States is “no safer” with the capture of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

“If we are safer, how come we lost 10 more troops and raised the safety alert” to the orange level, Dean said Sunday night in Ankeny, Iowa.

“All the other Democrats pounced on me and beat me up and said how ignorant I was about foreign affairs,” he said. “I think most people in America agree with me today and it’s only two weeks later.”

Dean has rocketed to the top of the Democratic presidential field with his sharp attacks on Bush, especially on the war in Iraq. Far from backing off his earlier comment about Hussein, Dean has broadened the critique, adding mad cow disease, the national deficit, HIV-AIDS and homeland security to the list of safety failures during Bush’s tenure.

“National security and economic security are the touchstones of the election,” he said in the interview after a rally Monday in Green Bay, Wis. “I think the president has been fairly reckless in just about every area I can think of.”

Dean accused Bush of taking “enormous risks” by refusing to negotiate with North Korea, permitting “warlords” to control much of Afghanistan and failing to address the most serious threats to homeland security.

“We’ve made progress” on strengthening defenses at home, he said. “The problem is, on the things that are enormously important to us we have apparently made no progress. That is the ultimate nightmare of the so-called dirty bomb or a terrorist nuclear attack on the United States.”

“We’ve made progress” on strengthening defenses at home, he said. “The problem is, on the things that are enormously important to us we have apparently made no progress. That is the ultimate nightmare of the so-called dirty bomb or a terrorist nuclear attack on the United States.”

As president, Dean said he would initiate bilateral negotiations with North Korea, purchase the entire uranium stockpile held by the former Soviet Union and shift more money into security programs such as cargo ship inspections. “Why aren’t these things being done now?” he said. “Why have we dillydallied for 15 months?”

Dean, leading in many polls in early nominating states such as New Hampshire and Iowa, is also on the verge of setting a Democratic fundraising record of $40 million. Aides announced Monday that the campaign had raised more than $14 million for the final quarter of the year from 280,000 contributors. The total is likely to climb by at least $400,000 before the official closing date with more than 1,300 fundraising house parties scheduled for Tuesday night.

Wesley K. Clark is the only candidate who will come close to Dean this quarter — aides said Monday the retired general will top $10 million. Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) is tapping his own fortune to keep pace with Dean.

Dean received glowing praise Monday from Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and the endorsement of Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), the dean of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“I am proud to state and stand with the man that’s ahead of everybody else, that is raising money from the little guys to the shock of everybody who thought it should always be the big fat cats,” Conyers said at a Detroit rally Monday afternoon.

(Click on the headline to continue reading.)

It is difficult for me to fathom what anybody would not vote for this man. It is even more difficult for me to fathom why anybody would vote for George W. Bush. If anybody thinks that Mr. Bush has lessened the terrorist threat in any way, he or she is definitely living in a dream world.

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“States’ rights”

 Posted by at 08:40  Election 2004
Dec 292003
 

For Howard Dean to Win, He’ll Have to Beat Nixon

In discussing the campaign ahead, Howard Dean has said on several occasions now that the Republicans will “do what they’ve been doing since 1968.” But what exactly is that? As far as I can tell, what they’ve been doing is winning presidential elections. They have won six of the last nine if you count the last one that they did not exactly win.

Of course, that’s not exactly what Dean meant. He meant that for him to win in 2004 he has to defeat a system established in 1968 by Richard M. Nixon. Never one to mince words, Dean has described that system as one of “coded racism.” And its key code phrase was “states’ rights,” an old Southern favorite going back to the right to own slaves.

Nixon, always known more as an opportunist than an ideologue, assessed the political landscape when he ran for president in 1968, a time when Republicans had lost every presidential election since the Depression, except for two by Dwight D. Eisenhower. Like Dean today, he asked why are we losing and how can that be changed?

Nixon saw his opportunity in the decline of the great civil rights movement and the killing of Martin Luther King Jr. He judged that the South, a solid Democratic bloc that had never forgiven Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans for the Emancipation Proclamation, was furious about 10 years of civil rights progress and was ready to turn on the Democrats, who had received faithful Southern support since before the Civil War. In the end, Nixon defeated the Democrats not because of their worst disaster, Vietnam, but because of their greatest accomplishment, civil rights.

(snip)

All Republican presidential candidates since 1968, including George W. Bush, have used the accepted code phrase for anti-civil rights, “states’ rights.”

That is why there was no contradiction in Bush endorsing states’ rights and then, when his election was in doubt, turning to the federal court run by a member of the original team, Chief Justice Rehnquist.

No Democrat since John Kennedy has won a majority of white Southern votes. Dean knows that if he is to run successfully for president he will have to run against Nixon. He knows that if the fight is out in the open, both Nixon and his racist approach are beatable.

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Not transferable

 Posted by at 16:38  Election 2004
Dec 282003
 

Dean predicts backers may stay home if he doesn’t win the nomination

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Howard Dean said Sunday that the hundreds of thousands of people drawn to politics by his campaign may stay home if he doesn’t win the Democratic presidential nomination, dooming the Democratic Party in the fall campaign against President Bush.

“If I don’t win the nomination, where do you think those million and a half people, half a million on the Internet, where do you think they’re going to go?” he said during a meeting with reporters. “I don’t know where they’re going to go. They’re certainly not going to vote for a conventional Washington politician.”

Some of Dean’s eight rivals for the Democratic nomination, as well as other Democratic insiders, have argued that the former Vermont governor is too liberal to run against Bush.

Dean sought to turn the tables Sunday, arguing that his blunt-speaking, Washington-outsider approach has drawn back legions of voters who had been turned off by politics. He warned that many of them are likely to stay home on Election Day, rather than vote for another Democrat, if he is not the party’s presidential nominee.

Dean repeatedly has said he would endorse the eventual Democratic nominee and urge his supporters to do the same. But he said there are limits to the practical impact of his endorsement.

“That’s not transferable. That’s why endorsements are great but they don’t guarantee anything,” Dean said.

While some of Dean’s rivals criticize him for changing positions on issues and warn that he would be a general election disaster, Dean said they are tossing away any chance to build a record that would appeal to voters.

Most of the criticism in the race is directed at Dean, who is in a tight contest with Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt for the Jan. 19 precinct caucuses in Iowa, according to polls. Dean also has built himself a comfortable lead in New Hampshire ahead of the Jan. 27 presidential primary, polls show.

“I think eventually the nomination is going to be won by somebody with a positive agenda,” Dean said. “What’s happening is, in their desperation, those guys have thrown their positive agenda out the window. I can’t imagine it’s going to help them. It might hurt us but it can’t help them.”

What Dr. Dean says in the AP article about our votes not being transferable is absolutely correct. He has motivated a lot of people to get active in this campaign who, if it were not for him, would likely had not become involved at all. These are people who likely would have stayed home on election day, but now they will be voting for Howard Dean.

The point is kind of moot anyway, since Dr. Dean will be the nominee and he will be our next president. But he is right when he says that a lot of his supporters will probably not vote if he is not the nominee. He’s not being pessimistic when he says this, he’s being realistic.

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Doubly noxious

 Posted by at 04:10  Election 2004
Dec 282003
 

Dissing Dean

Petulance is seldom considered a prime presidential attribute. George W. Bush’s smirk notwithstanding, Americans prefer adults as Presidents. That makes the poisonous attacks unleashed on Howard Dean by other contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination doubly noxious. These desperate Democrats are writing the script for Bush’s future TV ads in unfounded assaults on Dean while providing ample evidence to Democratic voters that they are unfit to lead.

The current round of vitriol was sparked by Dean’s statement that the capture of Saddam Hussein makes America no safer. The only thing notable about that statement is its common sense. A top US commander in Iraq had just declared that Saddam’s capture would make no difference one way or another. All sensate observers agree that the war on Iraq has been a distraction from combating terrorism–draining intelligence, resources and political attention. To reinforce the point, the Department of Homeland Security, concerned about chatter implying a new terror assault, has just placed America on high alert for the holidays. Joe Lieberman, John Kerry and Dick Gephardt are scoring Dean for stating the obvious.

Lieberman has issued the most personal assaults. Like the Democratic Leadership Council that he once chaired, Liebermanseems energized only when he is assailing other Democrats. No doubt Lieberman, leading in the polls at the beginning of the campaign, is bitter at his fall. It isn’t surprising that Democrats, including Al Gore, have abandoned Lieberman, the champion of pre-emptive war, trade deficits, stock options and Medicare privatization. Dean has soared precisely by daring to challenge Bush (and thus Lieberman) on the central choices facing America. Surely Lieberman might have chosen a more graceful exit than hurling false charges at his most successful opponent.

Sadly, John Kerry too has become shriller as his stock has declined. Dean displaced Kerry as the liberal standard-bearer by speaking clearly against the war on Iraq. Kerry argued cogently against that war until he voted to give Bush a blank check to wage it. He then spent months struggling to explain his incoherence to voters and seemed depleted from the effort. It is preposterous for Kerry now to indict Dean for being all over the place on Iraq. His jeremiads might better be issued to his mirror.

These politicians are acting like children throwing their marbles at the one who beat them. In this, they display their bitterness not simply at Dean but at the growing legions of Democratic voters who support him. In Washington, the pros worry that these attacks can only help Bush if Dean gains the nomination. But the energy unleashed by the remarkable Dean campaign will continue to grow.

And no matter who gets the nomination, the real question of the election will be whether voters want to fire George Bush or not. Remember, the last insurgent Democrat to win, Bill Clinton, was introduced to most Americans as a man who cheated on his wife, claimed he didn’t inhale, ducked the draft and wore boxers, not briefs. Clinton won because voters wanted to get rid of George the First. And like Clinton but unlike his petulant opponents, Dean will at least remind voters clearly of why getting rid of George the Second is equally necessary.

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Oops!

 Posted by at 03:20  Politics
Dec 282003
 

Bush’s man rejects Blair weapon claim

Tony Blair was at the centre of an embarrassing row last night after the most senior US official in Baghdad bluntly rejected the Prime Minister’s assertion that secret weapons laboratories had been discovered in Iraq.

In a Christmas message to British troops, Blair claimed there was ‘massive evidence of a huge system of clandestine laboratories’. The Iraq Survey Group (ISG) had unearthed compelling evidence that showed Saddam Hussein had attempted to ‘conceal weapons’, the Prime Minister said. But in an interview yesterday, Paul Bremer, the Bush administration’s top official in Baghdad, flatly dismissed the claim as untrue – without realising its source was Blair.

It was, he suggested, a ‘red herring’, probably put about by someone opposed to military action in Iraq who wanted to undermine the coalition.

‘I don’t know where those words come from but that is not what [ISG chief] David Kay has said,’ he told ITV1’s Jonathan Dimbleby programme. ‘It sounds like a bit of a red herring to me.’

If you’re going to be accomplices in a lie, you really should try to keep your stories straight. Lies do have a way of catching up with you, don’t they?

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Casualties up

 Posted by at 23:03  Politics
Dec 272003
 

In Iraq, Pace of U.S. Casualties Has Accelerated

The number of U.S. service members killed and wounded in Iraq has more than doubled in the past four months compared with the four months preceding them, according to Pentagon statistics.

From Sept. 1 through Friday, 145 service members were killed in action in Iraq, compared with 65 from May 1 to Aug. 30. The two four-month intervals cover counterinsurgency operations, far costlier than major combat operations, which President Bush declared over on May 1.

Increases in those wounded in action have been equally dramatic this fall. Since Sept. 1, 1,209 soldiers have received battlefield wounds, more than twice the 574 wounded in action from May 1 through Aug. 30.

Nor have casualties tapered off since the capture of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein on Dec. 13. Through Friday, 12 service members were killed in action and 105 were wounded with Hussein in custody.

I hate to keep repeating this. I guess it might be due to the feeling of victory a child gets when he or she says “I told you so!” But, in spite of the number of people in the media, in the Republican party and even in the Democratic party who said that Howard Dean was wrong when he said that Hussein’s capture was a good thing for the people of Iraq but it had not made America any safer, it appears he was right.

It would be nice if some of those people were big enough to eat their words. They all said that Dr. Dean’s statement proved that he did not have the judgement he needed to be president. Yet, since Hussein’s capture, the terrorist threat in this country has gone to level orange. Whose judgement is in question now?

The latest flap involves a statement made by Dr. Dean in which he said that although Osama bin Laden most likely is guilty of the atrocities of 9/11 and others, we still have to give him a fair trial before passing sentence. I wish somebody would explain to me what is so wrong with that statement. Are we now to throw the Constitution out the window (as the Bush administration would have us do) and just hang him from the highest tree as soon as he is captured?

Sometimes the things I read in the newspapers, hear on the television or the radio, or read on the internet make no sense whatsoever.

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Party of big business

 Posted by at 22:04  Politics
Dec 272003
 

The New Republicans

The Republican Party has been in charge of the national agenda for almost three years now — Democratic majorities in Congress don’t crimp George W. Bush’s style the way they did for his father or Ronald Reagan when they were in office. We have thus had an unobstructed view of what the 21st-century version of the party looks like. It’s very clear this is not the father’s G.O.P.

The most striking thing about the new Republicanism is the way it embraces big government. The Bush administration has presided over a $400 billion expansion of Medicare entitlements. The party that once campaigned to abolish the Department of Education has produced an education plan that involves unprecedented federal involvement in local public schools. There is talk from the White House about a grandiose new moon shot. Budgetary watchdogs like the Heritage Foundation echo the Republican Senator John McCain’s complaint about “drunken sailor” spending.

(snip)

The Republicans’ newly acquired activism, however, has very clear limits. The modern party’s key allegiance is to corporate America, and its tolerance for intrusive federal government ends when big business is involved. If there is a consistent center to the domestic philosophy of the current administration, it is the idea that business is best left alone. The White House and Congress have chipped away at environmental protections that interfere with business interests on everything from clean air to use of federal lands. The administration is determined to deliver on corporate America’s goal of cutting overtime pay for white-collar workers. At the same time, it has been tepid in asserting greater federal vigilance over the developing scandal of workplace safety.

Republicans have always enjoyed their reputation as the champions of business. The difference now is that they no longer couple their business-friendly attitudes with tight-fistedness. Discretionary spending has jumped 27 percent in the last two years; budget hawks complain Congressional pork is up more than 40 percent. Some of that money has gone to buy the allegiance of wavering party members in the closely divided House and Senate, but much of it is directly tied to the demands of big business. Agriculture subsidies to corporate farms have swollen to new heights, while energy policy has been reduced to a miserable grab bag of special benefits for the oil, gas and coal companies. The last Bush energy bill, which passed the House but died in the Senate, seems likely to be remembered most for the now-famous subsidy for an energy-efficient Hooters restaurant in Louisiana.

The two halves of Republican policy no longer fit together. A political majority that believes in big government for people, and little or no government for corporations, has produced an unsustainable fiscal policy that combines spending on social programs with pork and tax cuts for the rich. Massive budget deficits have been the inevitable result. Something similar happened in the Reagan administration. But unlike Ronald Reagan, Mr. Bush has given no hint of a midcourse adjustment to repair revenue flow. In fact, his Congressional leaders talk of still more tax cuts next year to extend the $1.7 trillion already enacted. That would compound deficits, which could reach $5 trillion in the decade.

This, it appears, is what compassionate conservatism really means. The conservative part is a stern and sometimes intrusive government to regulate the citizenry, but with a hands-off attitude toward business. The compassionate end involves some large federal programs combined with unending sympathy for the demands of special interests. If only it all added up.

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