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July 24, 2004
Bits and Pieces

Bush's re-election hopes hang on Al Qaeda's ingenuity

So in this looking-glass world of backhanded ironies, Republicans are covertly supporting their most extreme opponent, Ralph Nader, because he will take votes from John Kerry, and Al Qaeda terrorists will be backing Bush, because he's their best recruiter. But can they do anything to affect the outcome of an American presidential election? Of course they can. A major terrorist attack on the American homeland a few days before November 2 would almost certainly not have the effect that the Madrid pre-election bombing had, sending swing voters to the anti-war opposition.

But that's not true. There is no "anti-war opposition." Kerry is being very, very careful not to be the anti-war opposition.

In any case I think that if Bush keeps trumpeting about how much "safer" he's made us, and then terrorists attack on our soil again, I think people can add 2 + 2 and figure out that Bush has not, in fact, done anything to keep us safe.

In fact, I'm hoping like heck they do believe that, and that Kerry or someone in his campaign at least has the sense to mention the possibility.

From the 9/11 Commission Report (which I have no intention of trying to find time to read) in the Denver Post:

Thomas H. Kean, the panel's chairman and the former Republican governor of New Jersey, said at a news conference that "an attack of even greater magnitude is now possible and even probable - we do not have the luxury of time."

The people in the Middle East mostly want us out of their countries, out of their region, and out of their lives. As long as we persist in demanding we have some "right" to interfere in their business, "they" are going to continue to hate us. That's why we're still in 'danger' at this point.

I feel a bit better about Colin Powell after reading this and seeing the paragraph below.

It was revealed in late April/early May 2003, that US Secretary of State Colin Powell had written a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld complaining of the indefinite detention and lack of progress on the determination of the status of detainees there. It was also revealed that the detainees included also "one 13-year-old, one 14-year-old, two 15-year-olds, one 16-year-old, an 88-year-old, and a 98-year-old".

Not that I should care. He said he'd be loyal until it killed him and he's paying the price for having that kind of loyalty to a bunch of nuts, but maybe he doesn't really care.

Also, in the moneymoneymoney department, remember how I was pondering, in an earlier post, over the military funding for "construction" projects that wasn't for base or soldier housing, and wondering what the DoD was constructing?

According to a May 2, 2004 report in the Washington Post ("Guantanamo -- A Holding Cell In War On Terror" by Scott Higham, Joe Stephens and Margot Williams), about $118 million was being spent per year to run the prison facilities and other related operations. Additionnally[sic] contracts worth $110 million and $14.5 million had respectively been awarded to KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton Co. and Dick Corp.; the latter for the construction of a criminal investigation task force headquarters facility.

I'd forgotten about that. The DoD isn't "constructing" anything, not themselves. It's money for Halliburton contractors to construct things. Or...something. This article doesn't actually say what Halliburton's subsidiary, KBR, is getting $110 million for.

Okay, aside from me cherry-picking a couple of quotes to suit my own purposes, the linked article is not anti-war or anti-military or anti-anything, not really. It's actually a very interesting, balanced look at Camp Delta and well worth reading.

And how about the CIA? Well, there's this:

To understand why the Central Intelligence Agency’s Directorate of Intelligence – or DI – failed so miserably to analyze the evidence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, one has to look back almost a quarter century to when ideological conservatives decided to deconstruct the DI’s tradition of objective analysis.

In the heady days after Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980, conservatives took dead aim at the CIA’s analytical division for not agreeing with the Right’s preferred assessment that the Soviet Union was a rising superpower with both the capability and intent to overwhelm the United States militarily. The incoming Reagan administration wanted an alarmist assessment of the Soviet Union to justify a major arms buildup.

The problem is that there's a lot of disagreement on why the fall of the Soviet Union wasn't foreseen by the CIA. CIA critics usually say it was because the CIA had too much invested (like...it's entire existence) in a strong and dangerous Communist enemy. The CIA was created specifically as a counter-communist force.*

This article takes the opposite tack - that the CIA was being sensible but Reagan's Administration didn't want to hear about it. I doubt that's true, okay? The CIA got most of its information from the inside of the Soviet Union from former Nazi regime members who made a deal after Germany fell. They'd spy on the USSR and provide "intelligence" to the UsofA in return for their lives and freedom. They were the ones with a strong motivation for portraying the decaying Soviet Union as a vital and dangerous foe that the UsofA needed to pay them to keep an eye on.

At least, that's what I read.

(* Actually, it's rather lucky for the CIA that the Middle East suddenly became a hotbed of anti-democratic forces, isn't it? They might have had trouble justifying their continued existence and their massive, although secret, budget.)

In any case, the next paragraph of the linked article talks about the CIA seeing a more "nuanced" situation in the USSR than Reagan's Administration wanted to hear about, which sounds familiar to us today.

It's an interesting article.

Posted by AnneZook at 05:28 PM | Comments (8)
July 23, 2004
Friday Musing

First up, stats question!

For those of you smarter than me (which includes most of you), and for those of you who might know something about AWSTATS, can you tell my why my site shows three "authenticated users" I've never heard of? What is an authenticated user?

I'm sorry I started looking at the stupid stats program. It gives me a headache. There are "visits" and "pages" and "hits" and I read the instructions and I still don't understand the difference. I wouldn't care except they all show an astonishing range of numbers and it offends the obsessive-compulsive part of my soul that I can't mentally pigeonhole them.

I'd abandon AWSTATS in favor of one of the simpler programs that show up on my MT site, but the others don't offer the one stat I do find interesting, namely the search keywords.

Not surprisingly, the link to that Onion story ("American People Ruled Unfit To Govern") remains number one on this month's parade.

I do have to say that the sad soul who sought "argument that make men more intelligent that wemen" might want to consider, oh, I don't know, maybe wising up? You can't be smarter than us if you can't even spell us.

I don't think I've ever posted an "epistemological conundrum" although I used to be very fond of them. In my wild and crazy youth, of course.

To the person seeking information on "24 hour virus health" I'd like to point out that the health of a 24-hour virus is purely theoretical since there's no virus I'm aware of with a 24-hour lifespan. Aside from that grammatically pedantic kick in the shins, I'd suggest that any time you find yourself explaining to your boss that you had a, "24-hour virus" on Monday, which caused you to miss that critical deadline, you need to understand that what you probably had was a minor case of food poisoning.

There. Don't say I never learnt you anything.

Someone desperately wanted information on "origin of the phrase chitty chitty bang bang". Check the book or movie.

Although, to be pedantically correct, it was the noise the car made.

There are an astonishing number of people searching the web on information on how to say they're sorry for something. Let me offer some assistance.

"I'm sorry" is generally a good choice. There's no need to get complicated.

If you wish to express sorrow while disclaiming any personal responsibility for the situation, then say, "I regret...."

"I regret that you fell off the deck while drunker than a skunk and squished your cactus garden. I'm sorry I laughed hysterically and called you Pincushion Boy."

A look of sad sincerity helps. Flowers are good, too. (Or a pair of tweezers and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, as appropriate.)

Always glad to help with these little conundrums, non-epistemologically speaking.

Another searcher wanted to tell "houston i like that commercials mcdonalds". I'm not sure how they ended up telling me, but for the record, I don't remember ever liking a McDonald's commercial. I do like the cheese commercials, though. Have you seen the one with the chicken talking to the cows? Funny stuff.

I don't even know what "boys clothing desexualized" means, but I'm pretty sure I've never linked to or written about the topic.

I applaud the thirst for knowledge revealed by the search for "article 92 of ucmj". If I knew what it was, I might be able to direct you to a more appropriate site.

It's possible someone wanted to "purchase smallpox needle". If it was a private citizen, I hope not. And yet...I'd like to think it wouldn't be a medical professional, either.

If you really need "pictures of how people wash their clothes" you need more help than I can offer here. I suggest trying a Laundromat in your neighborhood. It's a really easy skill to pick up. (Although, if it was the same person who wanted information on "wash day in 1930" then maybe I don't understand the scope of the problem.)

There was what I can only assume is a prurient interest in pictures of men talking while undraped. No such illustrations can be found on this blog. Nor any shower illustrations.

As far as that goes, there are no illustrations of bare knees, either.

Someone googled, "i m not saying this again" but the one thing you know for sure about me is that I'm going to repeat myself.

Probably ad nauseam.

(There have been a lot of foreign words in this post. I expect erudition points.)

I sympathize with the person searching for "how to pronounce ad hominem tu quoque". I wish I could help them, but when I read the word "hominem" I always think about hominy. Then I think about the color yellow which leads me to sunshine, which makes me think of a sunny day in the part which reminds me it's Friday afternoon and then suddenly I realize I'm hungry because I haven't had lunch yet so even though I didn't bring any hominy, I'm going to go eat.

My promise to you. I have never blogged on "bayonet drills" and I never will.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:38 PM | Comments (5)
Issues and Education

I think that by now most of us have figured out that protecting the environment isn't big on the Bush Administration's agenda. That makes it all the sweeter to read stories about individual states stepping up to the plate on the issue.

Is the situation in Taiwan heating up? It could be a spot to watch.

94 cases of confirmed prisoner abuse in Iraq and 39 deaths. It's still painful to read those headlines.

Army Calls Abuses of Detainees 'Aberrations'.

The study cites 94 cases of mistreatment, but incidents at Abu Ghraib are considered a single offense. Some senators doubt its thoroughness.

An Army investigation disclosed Thursday that it had reviewed nearly 100 cases involving prisoners in U.S. hands who were abused or died in custody in Iraq and elsewhere, but described the misconduct as "aberrations" committed by a few soldiers — not a systemic failure.

The report on the five-month investigation, the first of 11 inquiries sparked by sexual abuse and humiliation of war detainees in Iraq, was greeted with skepticism by Democrats and some Republicans in Congress who had expected a more critical look at the military prison system.

Some lawmakers privately questioned the timing of the report, which was released on the day the findings of the Sept. 11 commission dominated the news.

Although the investigation by Lt. Gen. Paul T. Mikolashek, the Army's inspector general, made 52 recommendations for preventing abuses in the future, it blamed the abuses on "unauthorized actions taken by a few individuals, coupled with the failure of a few leaders to provide adequate monitoring, supervision, and leadership over those soldiers."

The whole thing has the stink of something being swept under the rug. The soldiers involved, the ones who were directed to behave in this way by their officers, deserve better. The tens of thousands of other enlisted people in our armed forces deserve a lot better.

However, the total number of abused prisoners is likely to be considerably higher. The report, for example, counts multiple incidents of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad as a single case.

It's difficult to be certain, but I think this is saying that, outside of what we heard about at Abu Ghraib, there were 93 other documented reports of prisoner abuse. I wonder where the other 93 happened?

But it does clarify that we're not talking about 94 total people abused...we're not being told how many individuals are involved. There were just 94 "incidents." If any other "incidents" were on the scale of Abu Ghraib (and even if they weren't), the fact that there were 94 incidents speaks to a helluva lot more than "a few soldiers" committing "isolated acts" of torture.

While regressive forces in the USofA fight to institutionalize discrimination against gays, in Germany, Out is OK. Even for politicians.

"Progressive Patriotism" is a nice start, but like most discussions of "who we oughta be" it merely (in my eyes) lays out the obvious without addressing any real mechanism for change. On the other hand, the article is enough to tempt me to buy the book.

Cliopatria's Jonathan Dresner entertains and educates. What's not to like?

And I disapprove of the Bush Administration's "No Child Learns Nothing" or whatever that mess of a piece of legislation was called.

I disapprove of privatization, I disapprove of 'standardized' testing (as though children are assembly line products), and I disapprove of vouchers.

The bottom line is, the problem with our educational system has been with us for decades and it's not going to get fixed until individual people vote "yes" when confronted with ballot initiatives to support school spending, until states put in decent systems of monitoring and funding schools, and until the Federal government cares about education all the time, not just when it's an election year.

The Bush Administration just got $417.5 billion dollars to use for killing people.* Imagine what just a few of those billions would have done for education in this country.

(* Okay, I know that's unfair. The military does more than kill people. Sometimes it works hard not to kill people. But they wouldn't miss a billion dollars, not out of a $417.5 billion dollar budget. Just think what could be done in some inner cities with that kind of money.)

I want to live in the kind of country when a school having to sell advertising space to Coke and Sony so it can afford to buy textbooks is just unthinkable. And entirely unnecessary.

And, speaking of money for the military and Iraq and all of that stuff, I meant to discuss this before. Billions for bullets, but why is the money we allocated for aid and, you know, reconstruction in Iraq not being spent?

Is it now that Congress has limited the Bush Administration's ability to shuffle money among military accounts to a measly $2 billion, and demanding accountability for any other shuffling, they're hoping we'll forget about the remaining $18 billion in unspent "aid" money, so they can play games with it? Admittedly that's a paranoid, cynical perspective, but of all the money we spent in Iraq, that $18.4 billion for aid and reconstruction was the only money I really approved of. I'm bitter and angry and it's not being used the way it was intended.

Ahem. That's enough for now.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:53 AM | Comments (15)
Hundreds Of Billions Of Dollars

Congress approves $417 billion defense bill

Actually, it's $417.5 billion. Billion! I mean, we're talking hundreds of billions of dollars.

Sounds like a lot of bullets money when you see it all at once, doesn't it?

And a ten billion dollar "military construction" bill which, whatever else it covers, apparently won't be covering expanded housing for military families.

The bill cuts funds for NASA, environment and science programs and increases veterans health care to $30.3 billion -- still $1.3 billion less than veterans' groups want. By voice vote, lawmakers added more than 1,100 home-district projects to the measure, including $250,000 for Banning, California, to build a municipal pool and $900,000 for work on the Salvador Dali museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

For a moment I was speechless. Then of course I remembered that pork has always been a part of these budget bills. $900,000 sounds like a lot of money to a real person, but it's chump change to the government.

Dropped was House-passed language requiring the Pentagon to reveal the private security contractors it hires for work in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba -- an outgrowth of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.

Well, that scandal didn't last very long, did it? I'm glad they didn't inconvenience themselves by actually pushing through some kind of reform or something.

It also rejected, 29-26, a Democratic proposal to bar Treasury contracts for companies that have avoided some U.S. taxes by moving their offices overseas.

Yeah, because I totally want my tax dollars pouring into the coffers of countries that don't pay taxes thmselves.

And, just to round out the picture of a government going rapidly off the rails, we also learn that Congress is keeping the infamous "School of the Americas" alive.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:41 AM | Comments (6)
July 22, 2004
Speaking Of....

Speaking of prisoner abuse, although most of the media doesn't seem to be any more, the number of reported cases is up to 94. For those keeping score, that's an increase from the last estimate and I don't suppose we've heard the whole story yet.

Speaking of prisoner abuse, remember when I posted yesterday about those 'vigilantes' being tried in Afghanistan (for prisoner abuse) and said I thought they were probably CIA?

U.S. Says It Got Afghan From Vigilantes "U.S. Acknowledges Receiving Prisoner From American Vigilantes Being Tried in Afghanistan"

Independent 'vigilantes.' Yeah.

Whatever.

Police Question N.J. Amtrak Passengers "Police Question Passengers on N.J. Amtrak Train, Checking Identification of Each Passenger"

Dunno what's behind it. No one is commenting and the FBI is "investigating."

Just for the record, there's no word of anyone being taken prisoner and abused at this point.

In Praise of Unruly Women

Arianna Huffington, AlterNet

When it comes to spicing up the political dessert tray, Teresa Heinz Kerry is one of the most flavorful and compelling public figures to hit the national stage in decades. Why are the media out to get her?

Am I the only one who sees the sexism implicit in that? I mean, can you even imagine seeing, "In Praise of Unruly Men" as a headline?

And, speaking of sexism, if a USofA politician had announced he thought women should "spend more time cleaning behind the refrigerator"...well...I shudder to think.

The women of the European parliament today took revenge on Godfrey Bloom, the Ukip MEP, when they thwarted his attempt to join a committee devoted to women's rights.

Mr Bloom caused uproar on Tuesday - his first day in Strasbourg - by attacking maternity rights, saying pregnant women should resign from their jobs. He then added that women should spend more time "cleaning behind the refrigerator".

He said he wanted to join the committee to "promote men's rights" and "Yorkshire women, who always have dinner on the table when you get home".

And, speaking of jobs, this Sales Clerk, Ph.D headline reminds me of an interview I heard on NPR this morning. Morning Edition was interviewing some state's governor (missed the introduction, but it's not really relevant) who said, paraphrasing, that their state's economy was beginning to show signs of improvement, including increased jobs but was "lagging" in producing "high-wage jobs," the kind that come with benefits.

That confused me. Is it that, today, simple health and vacation benefits are considered perks only of "high-wage" jobs or was this woman a Republican and merely trying to avoid saying that the only new jobs her state was seeing were part-time or temp jobs? Sometimes you miss vital clues to a story's meaning by missing the introduction.

Oh, by the way, the Hightower column I linked to above is about the cheery job growth news. Under the theory of "fair use" I'm reprinting here the projection for, "Jobs with the largest growth between now and 2010":

1. Food preparer, $16,000 – On-the-job training
2. Customer service rep., $26,000 – On-the-job training
3. Registered nurse, $48,000 – Two-year degree
4. Retail sales clerk, $18.000 – On-the-job training
5. Computer support specialist, $39,000 – Two-year degree
6. Cashier, $15,000 – On-the-job training
7. Office clerk, $22,000 – On-the-job training
8. Security guard, $19,000 – On-the-job training
9. Computer technician, $55,000 – Bachelor's degree
10. Waiter/Waitress, $14,000 – On-the-job training
11. General manager, $68,000 – Bachelor's degree
12. Truck driver, $33,000 – On-the-job training
13. Nursing aide, $19,000 – On-the-job training
14. Janitor, $18,000 – On-the-job training
15. College teachers, $52,000 – Doctoral Degree
16. Teacher assistant, $19,000 – On-the-job training
17. Home health aide, $18,000 – On-the-job training
18. Freight haulers, $19,000 On-the-job training
19. Computer engineer, $70,000 – Bachelor's degree
20. Landscaping worker, $20,000 – On-the-job training

Those from academia reading the blog will be happy to see the College "teacher" is #15 on the list.

And Stephen S. Roach from today's NYTimes, also on jobs.

And, speaking of money

War Funds Dwindling, GAO Warns

Pentagon Needs Billions More This Year in Iraq, Afghanistan

The U.S. military has spent most of the $65 billion that Congress approved for fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and is scrambling to find $12.3 billion more from within the Defense Department to finance the wars through the end of the fiscal year, federal investigators said yesterday.

The report from the Government Accountability Office, Congress's independent investigative arm, warned that the budget crunch is having an adverse impact on the military as it shifts resources to Iraq and away from training and maintenance in other parts of the world. The study -- the most detailed examination to date of the military's funding problems -- appears to contradict White House assurances that the services have enough money to get through the calendar year.

Sorta makes you wonder what "training and maintenance" we're doing around the world doesn't it? And where, precisely, are we doing these things?

Already, the GAO said, the services have deferred the repair of equipment used in Iraq, grounded some Air Force and Navy pilots, canceled training exercises, and delayed facility-restoration projects. The Air Force is straining to cover the cost of body armor for airmen in combat areas, night-vision gear and surveillance equipment, according to the report.

The Army, which is overspending its budget by $10.2 billion for operations and maintenance, is asking the Marines and the Air Force to help cover the escalating costs of its logistics contract with Halliburton Co. But the Air Force is also exceeding its budget by $1.4 billion, while the Marines are coming up $500 million short. The Army is even having trouble paying the contractors guarding its garrisons outside the war zones, the report said.

Hmmm....

And speaking of Halliburton war, how about this:

Profits of War

Halliburton has become a byword for the cosy links between the White House and Texan big business. But how did the company run in the 90s by Dick Cheney secure a deal that guaranteed it millions in profit every time the US military saw action? In this exclusive extract from his new book, Dan Briody reveals how the firm made a killing on the battleground

It's not a smear job, in spite of the sensationalist opening. It's an overview of just exactly what the complex, multi-tentacled Halliburton does to support "the war effort" wherever it may be.

It's important that we bear in mind that Dick Cheney's Halliburton, his employer for many years and the source of his millions, thrives when the USofA is at war.

Kind of gives a whole new slant to the idea of a "war presidency" doesn't it?

Don't miss the bit about the Cheney-Rumsfeld alliance history.

Still speaking of money, "Capitol Hill Republicans" may have been astonished by this, but they shouldn't have been. Anyone watching the polls knows why Bush would reject a two-year tax cut extension compromised and demand a five-year extension, instead.

For those who need things in simple words, it's because he's not going to be in office two years from now.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:07 PM | Comments (7)
A Mixed Bag

Support Our Troops!

The Committee on the Present Danger inexplicably reminds me of the USHomeGuard site.

There are a lot of nuts in the world, I guess it's only natural that a few of them are in positions of power.

Running scared is the headline. The lead paragraph is even more interesting.

Bin Laden was captured long ago, Reagan's death was hushed up and the coming election has been fixed. Jonathan Raban on how the White House's obsession with secrecy has turned America into a nation of conspiracy theorists

It looks like a joke but read it. It's a serious column about a serious subject - the Bush Administration's obsession with secrecy.

Further, it tries to explain the popularity of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911 as the product of a society desperate for information, any information, about what the government is up to. I dunno about that.

Not that the column is without humor.

A bumper sticker, popular among the sort of people I hang out with, reads: Bush-Cheney '04 - The Last Vote You'll Ever Have To Cast.

Moving on, I haven't written about the Sandy Berger story, have I?

So, the man took copies of documents. I'm just so not astounded by the criminality involved. I mean, speaking as someone who does a lot of library research, those of you who apparently don't read would be just amazed at how easy it is, packing up your stuff at the end of the day, to stack something that's not yours in with your own mass of papers and books.

I'm not saying he didn't do wrong. I'm saying I'm withholding judgment until we figure out of this is a real story or yet another desperate attempt of the Bush Administration's to distract the public from their abysmal record.

The only amusement value the situation has provided so far is the constant repetition, on the few right-wing blogs I frequent, of Berger as a "former Clinton" advisor. The Right is still so obsessed with Clinton-bashing that the Kerry connection takes second place to the idea that the many (gasp!) associated with The Evil Clinton!

To be fair to the Right, they're just parroting what they see in the media. The ABC site headlines the story on their front page as, "Berger Quits Kerry Campaign After Document Incident Revealed" but if you click the link, you get, "Ex-Clinton Adviser Berger Says Document Incident 'Honest Mistake,' but GOP Calls for Answers" and:]

Former national security adviser Sandy Berger says he regrets the way he handled classified terrorism documents, calling the whole thing "an honest mistake." Republicans say the matter raises questions about whether the former Clinton administration official sought to hide embarrassing materials.

Maybe the media just still sees Clinton as a better headline than Kerry, I don't know.

That's all the news I've had time for so far today. I spent most of my pre-work time this morning deleting comment spam.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:38 AM | Comments (2)
July 21, 2004
Moving On....

It's not just Colorado or Florida. All states need to worry about voting fraud, from voter lists on down through the entire process. Just because Florida got most of the press in 2000 doesn't mean we should ignore other states with voting/vote recount problems.

This one requires an annoying registration (registrations are annoying when they demand your mailing address) but is about the Bush Administration deciding not to push for a recount in Wisconsin.

Gov. George W. Bush's campaign announced Wednesday he won't seek a recount of the presidential vote in Wisconsin, which Democrat Al Gore carried by less than 6,000 of the 2.6 million votes cast. "The race was indeed close, but Governor Bush will do his part to help bring this election to a conclusion," Bush campaign Chairman Don Evans said in a prepared statement.

Bob Hopkins, a Bush campaign aide, said in an interview, "It's time to move on, get the legal wrangling over with and let the votes speak for themselves."

Bush campaign officials and Republicans in Wisconsin had complained that allegations of voter fraud and irregularities at Milwaukee polling places could have affected the outcome. Those claims included allegations that scores of Marquette University students had voted more than once and that Gore backers bribed homeless men with cigarettes to vote for Gore.

But after an intensive investigation into those claims, Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann said Wednesday prosecutors had been unable to confirm a single instance of multiple voting.

With no leads identifying which students supposedly voted multiple times, investigators have been poring over voter registration cards of students from hometowns outside the Milwaukee area as a starting point but have not found any who voted more than once, McCann said.

And then:

Gov. Tommy G. Thompson on Wednesday backed requiring voters to show a photo ID before they cast ballots, even voters who are already registered, as a method to prevent fraud. He joined several key Republican lawmakers in advocating the change, which has been strongly opposed by Democrats as too restrictive and a tactic aimed at restricting minority voter turnout.

"You show a photo ID for just about anything else you do in our society," Thompson said. "Why not show a photo ID for elections?"

To be honest, I couldn't figure out any reason why not to ask for ID.

Thompson told reporters in Madison that he had hoped Bush would agree to a recount in Wisconsin and said he didn't think it would be hard for Republicans to find enough votes to overturn Gore's victory here. Gore's 5,707 vote margin was about 0.2 percentage points.

That's pretty blatant.

This one doesn't require any registration and addresses the ID question again.

This was the first election for the state's controversial new Voter ID law, as well as the first presidential election for the state's Motor Voter Law, which allows Virginia voters to register to vote at branches of the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

"There are a lot of bugs in [the Voter ID] law," said a State Board of Elections employee who asked not to be named, "and there's a lot of confusion about the law that's causing problems across the state."

Passed earlier this year by the General Assembly, the Voter ID law requires Virginians to show identification at the polls. The law's supporters say it will stem election fraud, but Democratic legislators bitterly opposed the law, saying it will create barriers to voting, and would intimidate black voters who recall the Jim Crow days of poll taxes and literacy tests.

However, a provision of the law states that if a citizen doesn't have identification, they are supposed to be allowed to sign an affidavit affirming their identity, and then they can vote.

I suppose that's possible. The fears about showing IDs, I mean, but it seems to me that these people must be in the habit of showing their ID when they write a check at the grocery store and if they use a debit card to buy gas at the gas station, and for a hundred other things. I just find myself wondering if the fear exists. (It's not impossible that the mere fact that this is a government-related activity would frighten people.

Another thing that occurs to me is that we need better training for the people who staff the polls, but that's a different issue, I guess.

Moving on....

Bush is still obsessing over whether or not other people can get married, trying (in my opinion) desperately to make a campaign issue out of it so people will stop asking him about Iraq and the economy.

During a swing through Michigan, Bush promised to protect homeland values from the latest big threats: gays and Hollywood entertainers who support Democrats.

Maybe Marquette, Mich., is "God's country," as Detroit Lions Coach Steve Mariucci announced when he introduced George W. Bush there last week. Presumably San Francisco, where Mariucci previously coached the 49ers, is the devil's own playground – given that city's enthusiasm for gay marriage, which Bush blasts obsessively.

Of course, if Michigan is God's country, that reflects poorly on Dubya: He lost the state in 2000 to Al Gore.

Hee. Hee.

The article goes on to tell how Dennis Miller continued the new Republican tactic of (not) subtly implying that Kerry and Edwards are gay.

I think I have an idea for a new campaign slogan . . . 'Hey, Get a Room,'"

To be fair, I should point out that I've never found Miller funny.

Moving on....

Afghans Try Americans on Torture Charges

Three Americans accused of torturing Afghans in a private jail during a freelance counterterror mission went on trial Wednesday, with their ringleader denying any wrongdoing and claiming U.S. government support. Jonathan K. Idema, Brett Bennett and Edward Caraballo were arrested when Afghan security forces raided their makeshift jail in a house in Kabul on July 5. American and Afghan authorities say they were vigilantes posing as U.S. special forces and had no official backing.
I am, at best, dubious. It's no use acting like random USofA vigilantes can just buy a plane ticket and stroll into Afghanistan, because it doesn't work that way.
Appearing before a three-judge panel in a national security court, the trio listened quietly to the charges - including hostage-taking and torture, and as three of their ex-detainees described how they were beaten, doused with boiling water and deprived of food.

The Americans didn't testify. But Idema said afterward that the abuse allegations were invented. He also said he was in regular phone and e-mail contact with Pentagon officials "at the highest level."

Idema named a Pentagon official who allegedly asked the group to go "under contract" - an offer they refused.
"The American authorities absolutely condoned what we did, they absolutely supported what we did," he told reporters crowding round the dock.

The trial comes at an awkward time for American officials trying to contain a widening scandal over abuse in official U.S. military prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I smell spooks, don't you? This has CIA written all over it.

CBS covers the story as U.S. 'Vigilantes' On Trial with no mention of the Afghan connection until you click on the story. When I was skimming headlines this morning, the story didn't appear on ABC's front page, CNN's home page, the NYTimes front page, or the Washington Post front page. I guess they've decided the prisoner abuse scandal is passé

Moving on....

I probably don't have to tell you guys that Nader's reasoning for accepting tens of thousands of GOP signatures to get his name on Michigan's ballot is badly flawed.

Yes, he's right in saying that everyone is a "spoiler" for everyone else, and that there's no reason this country has to restrict itself to a two-party system, and that he's entitled to run. All of that is quite true.

On the other hand, there are moral issues and if I were Ralph Nader, I don't think I could live with myself if, after realizing that not enough people wanted to vote for me to get me on the ballot, I decided to accept signatures from people I'd vilified all my life. And I can't imagine wanting on a ballot so desperately that I'd gratefully accept signatures from people who wouldn't vote for me if I were running unopposed. My conscience wouldn't let me.

Apparently Ralph's moral sense isn't telling him any of these things.

Moving on....

Stephen Hawking

Famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking said Wednesday that black holes, the mysterious massive vortexes formed from collapsed stars, do not destroy everything they consume but instead eventually fire out matter and energy "in a mangled form."

Hawking's radical new thinking, presented in a paper to the 17th International Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation in Dublin, capped his three-decade struggle to explain an elemental paradox in scientific thinking: How can black holes destroy all traces of consumed matter and energy, as Hawking long believed, when subatomic theory says such elements must survive in some form?

Hawking's answer is that the black holes hold their contents for eons but themselves eventually deteriorate and die. As the black hole disintegrates, they send their transformed contents back out into the infinite universal horizons from whence they came.

Previously, Hawking, 62, had held out the possibility that disappearing matter travels through the black hole to a new parallel universe — the very stuff of most visionary science fiction.

I'm glad he changed his mind. That "alternate universe" thing was always ridiculous (scientifically). The amount of matter that's required to sustain a "universe" far exceeds whatever amount every black hold in our universe has ever "gobbled up." At least, that's how I understand it.

Moving on....

Poor Relations With Iran Turning Worse

It sounds like an Iraq summer rerun: Weapons of mass destruction. Support for terrorism. Talk of U.N. Security Council action. Hints of a push for regime change. This time, however, the fuss is not over Iraq but about that country's next-door neighbor, Iran. Recent developments have been unsettling.

Iran's ruling mullahs recently announced resumption of activities that could lead to development of a uranium-based bomb, apparently violating commitments they made to three European countries last fall.

And now comes word that the bipartisan commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks has concluded that Iran gave al-Qaida hijackers safe passage through the country after training in Afghanistan.

A White House spokesman said Monday there was no evidence that Iran had prior knowledge of the 9/11 plot. The reported commission finding would appear to reinforce the administration's long-held view that Iran is the world's most active state sponsor of terror.

Presumably they mean, "besides the USofA" since a lot of the reading I've done recently indicates that we're pretty outstanding in the ranks of states that sponsor terrorism.

Moving on....

Bush Plans No Rest in Next Month; 2nd Term Agenda Near

Before you get to feeling too sorry for him, let me point out that he has two vacations scheduled for this month, so the fact that he's apparently planning to work for four solid weeks shouldn't strain him unduly.

I found some amusement value in the story.

Earlier this month, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge warned of a heightened period of alert for a terrorist attack, given the upcoming election and assessments indicating Muslim extremists might want to disrupt the democratic process and influence the outcome.

The president, meanwhile, has been claiming that America is "safer" under his leadership — not 100 percent safe, but safer.

Moving on....

More consideration of Bill Cosby's recent speeches. AS the same publication points out, race is resurfacing as an issue in this country.

Moving on....

Alaska Needs Wimmin!

Posted by AnneZook at 07:50 AM | Comments (6)
July 20, 2004
It's Big Ball Of Cheese Day
*It was on this day 203 years ago that President Thomas Jefferson was presented with a 1,235-pound ball of cheese.

From QuickTakes, of course. Today's entry also offers us this gem:

News Item: Bush-Cheney campaign organizes Republican Vietnam vets who served with John Kerry to speak out against him.

Nothing wrong here. The Kerry-Edwards campaign would do the very same to President Bush.

If it could find anyone who served with him.

Heeheehee.

The thing about politicians is that so many of them lie and they cheat and they steal. Repeatedly.

Is the press finally stepping up to the plate?

The birth of the modern media political campaign.

War is expensive. Spending money killing people instead of spending money on education or healthcare or something else sensible is stupid. Buying bullets costs money that could be better spent elsewhere. The manpower could be better used elsewhere, as well.

Peace talks in Darfur didn't go well and the story of the region remains murky.

What I think when I read something like this isn't about the possible fraud...it's that it's stupid and McCarthyesque to make someone sign a "loyalty oath" in the first place.

More prisoner abuse allegations.

I'm disturbed by the story that the new Iraqi PM personally executed six prisoners but from what I read of it online, there was a certain amount of confusion, even contradiction, in the story. I'm withholding judgment.

Confused by the news? The next generation of journalists is, too.

Check it out. Apparently one of the things the site is going to be offering is downloadable copies of government documents. You know the kind of thing, it's available on-line, but finding it is a nightmare. These folks aim to change that.

And in case anyone is interested in my opinion, I'm against the creation of a cabinet-level "intelligence czar" post.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:35 AM | Comments (11)
July 19, 2004
No News Today

No headlines here, sorry. First, my internet access is still unreliable. I just don't need the frustration of having to hit every news site fifteen times over a three-minute interval before I can actually view the page. Second, and probably more importantly, I should be working anyhow, right?

I'm still working on The Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist, of course. While I'm not trying to memorize the books (and don't need to retain minute details for a test), they're not the kind of thing you can skim in an afternoon. I'm reading a lot of other stuff as well and while nothing I've read has changed my mind (I'm still on the side of the Federalists), I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that our checks and balances are badly out of balance in the federal government today.

I've also been doing some research on the southern part of this country, trying to figure out why a few states have this weird fixation on an imaginary glorious heritage. What I've finding is both instructive and amusing and I'll be posting on that later this week, but at the moment it's enough to say that "delusional" goes a long way toward explaining why some southern states in the USofA think they're special.

In addition, I keep finding myself wondering how this country or that country got into the mess it's in today so I finally decided to just pick one and do some research. (If you find yourself suspecting that this blog is just an excuse for me to buy books, you won't be far wrong.) Anyhow, what with one thing and another, I finally chose Haiti. It's a country that's been in the news, off and on, for as long as I can remember, so I figured there would be plenty of material out there to look at. "The rest of the story" on that one turned out to be...disturbing. That's another post that will be showing up later this week.

I'm focusing on weeding down my "to be read" pile, so expect to see reviews on Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them and Bushwhacked and The Emerging Democratic Majority and Jews For Buchanan and The Great Unraveling before long. (Franken, Ivins, Judis/Teixeira, Nichols/Deschamps, and Krugman, respectively)

It's all "jam tomorrow" on this blog, isn't it?

Posted by AnneZook at 01:09 PM | Comments (2)