God tells me to copy and paste, so you can't stop me. -- Kate

"You know, I could run for governor, but I'm basically a media creation. I've never done anything. I've worked for my dad. I worked in the oil business ..." -- G.W. Bush

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use. -- Galileo Galilei

Thursday, September 30, 2004

From the Gotta go Change My Pants Now Department

Bear ransacks kitchen, steals chocolate

DENVER, Colorado (Reuters) -- It's a tale of man against nature. A paralyzed man in Aspen, Colorado, lay helplessly in bed for two hours while a black bear known as "Fat Albert" went through his kitchen breaking dishes and looking for a tasty snack.

"I had 4 pounds (2 kg) of chocolate from a ski trip. He ate it all -- it's war," Tom Isaac said, recounting with a sense of humor how the 500-pound (230-kg) bear made himself at home at his house on September 20.

"I could hear things breaking for two hours," he said of the bear's "visit" to his home.

Isaac's bedroom was only about 10 to 15 feet (3-5 meters) from the kitchen, and he feared the bear would come in and attack him.

This time of year bears are busy fattening up before going into hibernation and residents in mountain towns often recount stories of rummaging bears.

In fact, Isaac, who has been paralyzed since a skiing accident in the early 1980s, says his home has been invaded nearly a half dozen times by the bear Aspenites call "Fat Albert."

"The next afternoon the wildlife agents found him sleeping in my dining room," Isaac said.

Isaac, who holds elective office as the Pitkin County assessor, said he does not want to see the bear shot, but he is worried about how the needs of residents can be balanced against the needs of wildlife.

A friend of mine complained some time ago about how the winners of the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes always seemed to live in single homes. Turns out that the majority of people in the country live in a single home, assuming I’m reading this chart correctly.

Census Bureau Selected Housing info for 2000.

Total housing units ----- 115,904,641 ----- 100.0
1 unit, detached --------- 69,865,957 ------ 60.3
1 unit, attached ------------6,447,453---------5.6
2 units --------------------- 4,995,350 ------- 4.3
3 or 4 units ----------------- 5,494,280 ------- 4.7
5 to 9 units ----------------- 5,414,988 ------- 4.7
10 to 19 units ------------- 4,636,717 ------- 4.0
20 or more units -------- 10,008,058 ------- 8.6
Mobile home -------------- 8,779,228 ------- 7.6
Boat, RV, van, etc. ---------- 262,610 ------- 0.2

I’m thinking that if a 1-unit detached is a single home, a 1-unit attached is a twin or row home and the various multi-units are apartment buildings. That would mean that 60.3% of U. S. citizens live in a single home. So odds are if you live in a single some you have a better chance of winning assuming that an equal percentage of people from each home type enter the contest.

So, viola! No conspiracy.

This doesn't explain why so many people on COPS are in the Mobile home, and Boat, RV, van, etc categories.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

What is wrong with President Bush? Doesn’t he know that he has an MBA? Doesn’t he realize that business management IS NOT the the same as training in war planning? Why the heck doesn’t he make use of the experts around him? Why doesn’t he support the troops???

Prewar Assessment on Iraq Saw Chance of Strong Divisions

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 - The same intelligence unit that produced a gloomy report in July about the prospect of growing instability in Iraq warned the Bush administration about the potential costly consequences of an American-led invasion two months before the war began, government officials said Monday.

The estimate came in two classified reports prepared for President Bush in January 2003 by the National Intelligence Council, an independent group that advises the director of central intelligence. The assessments predicted that an American-led invasion of Iraq would increase support for political Islam and would result in a deeply divided Iraqi society prone to violent internal conflict.

One of the reports also warned of a possible insurgency against the new Iraqi government or American-led forces, saying that rogue elements from Saddam Hussein's government could work with existing terrorist groups or act independently to wage guerrilla warfare, the officials said. The assessments also said a war would increase sympathy across the Islamic world for some terrorist objectives, at least in the short run, the officials said.
I remember reading about this stuff in the paper before President "I rarely read the stories" [in the paper] started the war. Doesn’t Bush read or pay attention to anything or anybody?!? Is he really surrounded by a bunch of wimpy yes-men that just keep Prince W. happy instead of informed? It sure looks that way.

Monday, September 27, 2004

I feel the need to slog into the fray about Kerry and his personality and how it will play with the American people during the debates. I’m beginning to feel a bit uneasy about Kerry’s chances. People don’t seem to care so much about what someone says and does, they pay attention to intangibles; clothing, body language, tone of voice, eye contact, how fast or slow a question is answered. Content is ignored. The current theory is that Kerry is losing a lot of voters because of intellectual answers that few understand or care to try and his inablility to perform in a particular way.
Sometime in the 1980's political coverage began to confuse itself with drama criticism. The word "performance" started showing up frequently in debate analyses, and reporters started citing Samuel Beckett in their front-page articles.

By 2000, front-page articles were saying the language that mattered was "body language," and that the candidates offered "the distilled ether of two very different personalities," while reporters' efforts to correct the debaters' claims on tax plans and patients' rights were buried inside the newspaper. And even those fact-checking efforts were constrained by an effort to balance one candidate's big mistakes against the other's minor errors. Strategy and color do belong in the report, but only after telling how Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry propose to govern, and how much of what they say makes sense. “

I do agree to a point about body language but I find it more help in determining whether someone is lying or dodging a question. If the media want to do the body language thing correctly then they should hire experts in the field not just have reporters and journalists who make guesses at the meaning of a glance that may just mean a momentary wandering attention, not discomfort.

Like so many other bloggers and commenters not in the political play, I feel the need to say what I think John Kerry needs to do during the debates. I’ve been thinking about this for a few days now since reading some articles and headlines that say that Kerry is losing people by not being more personable. It seems that there are people who want a president that they can sit down with and drink a beer with. It doesn’t matter to these people that W. would never have a beer with most of the people in this country; at least not without a background check, a signed loyalty oath and a good reason to believe that it would help his re-election bid, i.e. big donation.

There are people who want a buddy-president. Me, I want a president who’s smarter than me, knows the arena, the players and the game. I also want a president that I feel won’t play favorites, unless he’s playing favorites with the majority of Americans, unlike a certain President.

John Kerry needs to get past this perception thing. The way I see it, the first chance he gets he needs to look directly into the camera and say, “This is who I am. I am a stoic looking stone-faced New Englander and I want to be your president. I will will do right by you. I will do right by the American people. I may not look pretty but that’s not what you are hiring me for. You are hiring me to do a job and I will do it right and make you proud that you hired me.”

He needs to repeat this or some form of it every chance he gets along with his plans to make America proud. People like honesty, especially when there is a bit of self-deprecation involved. This may just get people to stop and listen to what he has to say instead of just looking for a friendly pretty face to have a beer with.

This is an article about Catholic Church policy based health plans.

U.S. Health Plans Include One With Catholic Tenets
But Jeff Koch, a spokesman for OSF Health, said that it was "a good thing for federal employees to have the option" of a plan that would adhere to Catholic Church policy.
Can’t Catholics trust themselves to follow the rules on their own? Let me guess, someone will accidently have an abortion just because it’s available and no one said you can’t do that.
Krugman strikes again.

Let's Get Real
Published: September 24, 2004

Never mind the inevitable claims that John Kerry is soft on terrorism. What he must address is the question of how his policy in Iraq would differ from President Bush's. And his answer should be that unlike Mr. Bush, whose decisions have been dictated at every stage by grandiose visions and wishful thinking, he will get real - focusing on what is really possible in Iraq, and what needs to be done to protect American security.

Mr. Bush claims that Mr. Kerry's plan to secure and rebuild Iraq is "exactly what we're currently doing." No, it isn't. It's only what Mr. Bush is currently saying. And we have 18 months of his administration's deeds to contrast with his words.

The actual record is one of officials who have refused to admit that their fantasies about how the war would go were wrong, and who have continued to push us ever deeper into the quagmire because of their insistence that everything is going according to plan.

There has been a lot of press coverage of the administration's failure to do anything serious about rebuilding Iraq. Less attention has been given to its parallel failure to take the security problem seriously until much of Iraq had already been lost.

Long after it was obvious to everyone else that we were engaged in an escalating guerrilla war, Bush appointees clung to the belief that they were fighting a handful of dead-enders and foreign terrorists.

As a result, they casually swelled the ranks of our foes - remember, Moktada al-Sadr was never going to be our friend, but he didn't have to be our enemy. They even treated Iraqi security forces with contempt, not bothering to provide them with adequate training or equipment.

In an analysis titled "Inexcusable Failure," Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies details how the U.S. "failed to treat the Iraqis as partners in the counterinsurgency effort." U.S. officials, he declares, are "guilty of a gross military, administrative and moral failure."

That failure continues. All the evidence suggests that Bush officials still think that one more military push - after the U.S. election, of course - will end the insurgency. They're still not taking the task of fighting a sustained guerrilla war seriously.

"Three months into its new mission," The New York Times reported, "the military command in charge of training and equipping Iraqi security forces has fewer than half of its permanent headquarters personnel in place."

At the root of this folly is a continuing refusal to face uncomfortable facts. Confronted with a bleak C.I.A. assessment of the Iraq situation - one that matches the judgment of just about every independent expert - Mr. Bush's response is that "they were just guessing." "In many ways," Mr. Cordesman writes, "the administration's senior spokesmen still seem to live in a fantasyland."

Fantasyland extended to the Rose Garden yesterday, where Mr. Bush said polls asking Iraqis whether their nation was on the right track were more positive than similar polls asking Americans about their outlook - and he seemed to consider that a good sign.

Where is Mr. Bush taking us? As the reality of Iraq gets worse, his explanations of our goals get ever vaguer. "The security of our world," Mr. Bush told the U.N., "is found in the advancing rights of mankind."

He doesn't really believe that. After all, he continues to praise Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, even as Mr. Putin strangles democratic institutions. The subtext of Mr. Bush's bombast is that because he can't bring himself to admit a mistake, he refuses to give up on his effort to turn Iraq into a docile client state - an effort that is doomed unless he can figure out a way to come up with a few hundred thousand more troops.

We don't have to go there. American policy shouldn't be dictated by Mr. Bush's infallibility complex; our first priority must be our own security. And in Iraq, that means setting realistic goals.

On "Meet The Press" back in April, Mr. Kerry wasn't as forthright about Iraq as he has now, at long last, become, but he did return several times to a point that shows that he is on the right track. "What is critical," he said, "is a stable Iraq." Not an Iraq in our image, but a country that isn't a "failed state" that poses a threat to American security.

The Bush administration has made such a mess of Iraq that even achieving that goal will be very hard. But unlike Mr. Bush's fantasies, it's still in the realm of the possible.
What can we expect from a President who declares a war and sends his own troops out without adequate epuipment then blames Congress for not voting for it. What can we expect from a President who doesn’t listen to his own advisors and who declares expert information a guess or opinion if it doesn’t agree with his own beliefs. We really need a human being for President not some guy who thinks he is all-seeing and all-knowing and seems to prefer a dictatorship over the Democracy he grew up with.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

GM grass pollen has long reach
Pollen from a genetically modified grass has been shown to travel up to 21km away from the site where it was orginally planted.

This may be the longest recorded distance travelled by any GM pollen, US researchers have claimed.

They tracked the spread of genes from creeping bentgrass engineered to resist popular herbicides and which could be used on golf-course putting greens.

Details appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Lidia Watrud and colleagues at the US Environmental Protection Agency tracked the flow of creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera L) pollen from an area containing an experimental crop in central Oregon, US.

After the pollination season, they gathered and raised seeds from wild and potted "sentinel" plants growing several km around the test plot.

Seedlings that had survived exposure to the herbicide Roundup were then checked to determine their genetic signatures.

The researchers found that plants growing within about 2km of the test plot were extensively contaminated with genes from the GM grasses.

But the team also found evidence of transgenic seed formation up to 21km downwind in potted sentinels and up to 14km away in wild plants.

The results are likely to heighten concerns about the unintentional spread of genes from GM crops.

You know, I can’t really think of what to say about this. I kind of remember that genetically modified plants weren’t supposed to be able to spread. Something about them being incompatible with the unmodified plants. Silly me for believing that.

A line from the movie Jurassic Park keeps going through my head, “Nature finds a way.” Makes me wonder what else nature will find a way for.

World 'wants Kerry as president'
A new poll in 35 countries suggests that people around the world would prefer Democratic challenger John Kerry as US president over George W Bush.

Global research company GlobeScan Inc and the University of Maryland found clear leads for Mr Kerry among those polled in 30 of the countries.

Only Filipino, Polish and Nigerian respondents clearly backed Mr Bush.

Most said Mr Bush's foreign policy had made them feel worse about the US since his election in 2000.

Meanwhile, a new survey of American and European public attitudes also suggested there had been a dramatic leap in the latter's criticism of US foreign policy.

More than three-quarters of Europeans surveyed in 10 countries by the German Marshall Fund of the US said they disapproved of President Bush's international actions, 20% more than two years ago.

The survey also showed sharp differences in how governments should respond to potential threats from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

More than 80% of Americans thought war could achieve justice - more than twice the proportion of Europeans.

Traditional allies

The GlobeScan/Maryland poll, of 34,330 people, was conducted mainly in July and August.

Because of access difficulties, polling was restricted to metropolitan areas in 11 of the countries.

"Only one in five want to see Bush re-elected," said Steven Kull, the director of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA).

"Though he is not as well known, Kerry would win handily if the people of the world were to elect the US president."

Mr Kerry scored best in traditional US allies, such as Canada and Western European countries.

The highest margin was in Norway, where 74% of respondents backed Mr Kerry compared with just 7% for Mr Bush. The strongest negative views about US foreign policy appeared to come from Germany, where 83% said their view of the US had got worse.

Respondents in all the Latin American countries polled, including neighbours Mexico, also went for the Democrat, with the biggest majority - 57% to 14% - in Brazil.

The picture was more mixed in Asia. Only respondents in the Philippines clearly backed Mr Bush, but there was an almost even divide in India and Thailand.

Organisers of the poll attributed the Philippine result to US aid to a military campaign against Islamist rebels in the south of the country.

I want to know about the countries whose totals don’t add up to any where near 100%. Mexico only adds up to 56%, what about the other 44%? Are they undecideds, don’t cares or don’t knows or do they have someone else in mind who wan’t covered in the survey?

Norway: 74%-7%
Germany: 74%-10%
France: 64%-5%
Italy: 58%-14%
Spain: 45%-7%
UK: 47%-16%
Canada: 61%-16%
Mexico: 38%-18%
Brazil: 57%-14%
China: 52%-12%
Japan: 43%-32%
Indonesia: 57%-34%
India: 34%-33%

Philippines: 32%-57%
Nigeria: 33%-27%
Poland: 26%-31%
Thailand: 30%-33%

Source: GlobeScan Inc/University of Maryland PIPA

Now there’s a question, is the chance of sex enough to get a guy to scrub the toilet.

Real Men Don't Clean Bathrooms

. . .
The more men participated in the care of children, housework and daily conversation, he found, the more the wife increased her level of satisfaction and sexual intimacy.

Man hunt intimacy. Man clean bathroom.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The Right Ear Is From Mars

This would explain why I keep putting the phone to my right ear no matter how uncomfortable it gets.
Published: September 14, 2004

Belting out a few notes on key might take years of practice, and perfect pitch the right genetics, but when it comes to something as simple as telling noise from symphony, speech from music, all ears are created equal - or so it was once thought.

But in a new study, scientists have found that the left and right ears process sound differently. From birth, the right ear responds more to speech, while the left ear is more attuned to music, according to the study, published in Science on Sept. 10.

The findings could have substantial implications for deaf people who need cochlear hearing devices, which are implanted in only one ear, said Dr. Yvonne Sininger, a visiting professor of head and neck surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles and lead author of the study.

While the idea that the left and right ears are not identical is new, scientists have known for decades that the two sides of the brain sort out sound in different ways. Speech is processed primarily in the left hemisphere of the brain, while music is handled largely by the right, hence the tendency to associate creativity with "right-brain" dominance and analytical thinking with "left-brain" supremacy.

But until now, most researchers overlooked the possibility that differences in auditory processing originated in the ear. "I think everyone just assumed that the two ears were essentially interchangeable," Dr. Sininger said.

With help from researchers at the University of Arizona, Dr. Sininger tested hearing ability in thousands of infants using miniature microphones that emitted sounds in the subjects' ears and measured amplification. Tiny cells in the ear respond to sound by expanding and contracting to enhance vibrations, which are then converted to nerve impulses that travel to the brain. But some of those vibrations bounce back in the opposite direction, allowing scientists to analyze the extent of amplification, a measure of how well the ear is responding.

Dr. Sininger found that a series of rapid clicks - resembling the rhythm of speech - produced a greater response in the right ear. The left ear seemed more attuned to tones representing music.

In other studies, researchers have found that children with hearing loss in the right ear tend to have more problems in school than children who are deaf in the left ear. The new findings suggest that the right ear is critical for learning situations.

Don’t know what to say.
Makes sense though that Bush would claim one thing and the outcome end up being totally different from what he says.

A Great Tax Plan (for Accountants)
Published: September 14, 2004

As a tax guy, I found myself chuckling quietly when President Bush said in his speech at the Republican National Convention that he would "lead a bipartisan effort to reform and simplify the federal tax code." Before long, I was howling with laughter. Sorry, folks, but efforts to "simplify" the code always bring clients streaming through my door. And the president quickly went on to show why: he wasn't able to offer simplification without adding two levels of complication within the next two minutes.

O.K., the president said, I'm going to lead an effort to simplify. But I'm also going to "create American opportunity zones" in which "we will provide tax relief." Thank you, sir, and please add Form AOZ to Forms 1116, 2106, 6251 and all the others we now have. Next came a "tax credit to encourage small businesses and their employees to set up health savings accounts." Please add Form TC-HSA.

I did get a little nervous, however, when Mr. Bush directed listeners to his Web site for more details. Would it explain how he planned to reconcile these new exceptions and credits with his promise of simplification? I needn't have worried: regarding simplification, it said only that "President Bush will work to make the tax code simpler for taxpayers, encourage saving and investment, and improve the economy's ability to create jobs and raise wages."

As a bonus, the site included some proposals not mentioned in the speech. One was for an "above-the-line tax deduction that individuals could claim for long-term-care insurance premiums" (add Form LTC). Another was an "additional tax exemption for home caregivers of family members" (add Form TEHCFM).

And, trust me, should the president really "simplify" things, an avalanche of other deductions and exemptions would be sure to follow.

Form M: Let's get serious. Somebody making $100,000 a year and spending half of it on round-the-clock care for a seriously ill spouse says, "Hey, how come I pay the same tax under simplification as the guy who makes a $100,000 and doesn't spend anything on medical care?" Let's make an exception for catastrophic medical problems.

Form DTUUC: The United States was founded on a revolt against unfair taxation. You can't have a guy in New York City paying about $10,000 in state and local taxes on his $100,000 income and also paying federal taxes on the same income. Shouldn't he at least be able to deduct the taxes he paid to New York to get closer to a level playing field with people in no-tax states like Florida, New Hampshire and Texas? (The DTUUC stands for double taxation unfair under the Constitution.)

Form M (No, make that Form I, we've already used M for medical): A man's/woman's home is his/her castle. And that castle was built with a mortgage. Don't pull the rug out from under the indebted baby boomers just as they reach retirement age and are worrying that Social Security won't be around (see budget deficits). The mortgage-interest deduction stays.

Form C: For charity, so people can give money to the groups running those faith-based initiatives that are filling in for the social-service programs the administration is so intent on cutting.

Form E: For the expenses of the self-employed and others who, unlike salaried workers, need to spend a lot of money to make their money.

Of course, it's not that simple. We would need to put some limits on the exceptions. For example, catastrophic medical deductions could be limited to expenses over 7.5 percent of income; mortgage interest could be limited to two personal properties and to the first $1 million of mortgage debt plus $100,000 home equity debt; gifts to certain charities could be no more than 50 percent of income, while others would have 30 percent or 20 percent limitations. Looking forward to that paperwork?

Well, the president has one thing right: doing away with the old forms and having a lot of new ones would at least give the appearance of change. So if he wins in November, you can make your appointment with my office at any time. Thanks to his plan to "simplify," you're going to need the help.

Jim Weikart is a partner in a tax preparation firm and the author of "Harry's Last Tax Cut," a novel.
Found this on the Fafblog! comment window.
Please sign the petition. These men and thier families deserve recognition and some help.

Mariners were "First to Go and Last to Return," with 240 killed before the attack on Pearl Harbor, and countless numbers killed after V-E and V-J Day due to mines.
. . .
These services were part of the World War II Armed Forces who were responsible for the Supply and Logistics that supplied U.S. and Allied Forces.

During World War II, mariners delivered troops and vital supplies to all fronts and took part in all invasions from Normandy to Iwo Jima. It took up to 15 tons of supplies to support one soldier for one year, and so the availability of merchant shipping was the most critical factor in Allied military planning.

Merchant ships faced danger from submarines, mines, armed raiders and destroyers, aircraft, "kamikaze," and the elements. Mariners suffered the highest rate of casualties of any service, with 1 in 26 killed, while the ratio for all other services combined was 1 in 55 killed.

The need for mariners was so desperate, the recruiting age for the official training organization, the U.S. Maritime Service, was dropped to 16 years old.

When he signed the GI Bill in 1944, Franklin D. Roosevelt stated: "I trust Congress will soon provide similar opportunities to members of the merchant marine who have risked their lives time and time again during war for the welfare of their country."

But President Roosevelt died, and Congress failed to pass a similar bill for mariners, because of opposition by powerful lobbying groups who spread irresponsible rumors and lies.

Mariners were denied the following benefits which other services received:

52 weeks unemployment benefit at $20 per week
Free college education, which led to higher earning capacity during their lifetime
Low-interest, low-down-payment home loans
Disability benefits for life (mariners who were totally disabled received a maximum of $7,500)
Veteran Affairs medical benefits for life
Job preferences for veterans
Priority for small business loans
Shopping savings at PX (post exchange)
Mustering out pay
Priority for purchase of surplus government equipment
World War II mariners, many of whom were high school dropouts, never recovered economically from the sacrifices they made for their country.

Petition for 'Belated Thank You to the Merchant Mariners of World War II
Gee, I wonder why Sen Jeffords would say this . . .

"I expect the Bush administration to continue their assault on regulations designed to protect public health and the environment. I expect the Bush administration to continue underfunding compliance and enforcement activities. I expect the Bush administration will go down in history as the greatest disaster for public health and the environment in the history of the United States."

Senator James M. Jeffords, the Vermont independent who is the ranking minority member on the Environment and Public Works Committee
Maybe it has something to do with the administrator of the EPA saying this . . .
"There is no environmental progress without economic prosperity, Once our competitiveness erodes, our capacity to make environmental gains is gone. There is nothing that promotes pollution like poverty."

Michael O. Leavitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
Wow, I’ve never seen pollution equated with poverty, competition and business before.

Can’t help but think of the Industrial Revolution. Lots of people made money, there was lots of competition and there was lots of pollution. How does Leavitt explain that.

Republicans have a weird idea of how poverty, pollution, competition and the environment are connected. A very imaginative group those Republicans.

Bush Record: New Priorities in Environment

Monday, September 13, 2004

Krugman, as usual, is very good and to the point.

The Dishonesty Thing
Published: September 10, 2004
It's the dishonesty, stupid. The real issue in the National Guard story isn't what George W. Bush did three decades ago. It's the recent pattern of lies: his assertions that he fulfilled his obligations when he obviously didn't, the White House's repeated claims that it had released all of the relevant documents when it hadn't.

It's the same pattern of dishonesty, this time involving personal matters that the public can easily understand, that some of us have long seen on policy issues, from global warming to the war in Iraq. On budget matters, which is where I came in, serious analysts now take administration dishonesty for granted.

It wasn't always that way. Three years ago, those of us who accused the administration of cooking the budget books were ourselves accused, by moderates as well as by Bush loyalists, of being "shrill." These days the coalition of the shrill has widened to include almost every independent budget expert.

For example, back in February the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities accused the Bush administration of, in effect, playing three-card monte with budget forecasts. It pointed out that the administration's deficit forecast was far above those of independent analysts, and suggested that this exaggeration was deliberate.

"Overstating the 2004 deficit," the center wrote, "could allow the president to announce significant 'progress' on the deficit in late October - shortly before Election Day - when the Treasury Department announces the final figures."

Was this a wild accusation from a liberal think tank? No, it's conventional wisdom among experts. Two months ago Stanley Collender, a respected nonpartisan analyst, warned: "At some point over the next few weeks, the Office of Management and Budget will release the administration's midsession budget review and try to convince everyone the federal deficit is falling. Don't believe them."

He went on to echo the center's analysis. The administration's standard procedure, he said, is to initially issue an unrealistically high deficit forecast, which is "politically motivated or just plain bad." Then, when the actual number comes in below the forecast, officials declare that the deficit is falling, even though it's higher than the previous year's deficit.

Goldman Sachs says the same. Last month one of its analysts wrote that "the Office of Management and Budget has perfected the art of underpromising and overperforming in terms of its near-term budget deficit forecasts. This creates the impression that the deficit is narrowing when, in fact, it will be up sharply."

In other words, many reputable analysts think that the Bush administration routinely fakes even its short-term budget forecasts for the purposes of political spin. And the fakery in its long-term forecasts is much worse.

The administration claims to have a plan to cut the deficit in half over the next five years. But even Bruce Bartlett, a longtime tax-cut advocate, points out that "projections showing deficits falling assume that Bush's tax cuts expire on schedule." But Mr. Bush wants those tax cuts made permanent. That is, the administration has a "plan" to reduce the deficit that depends on Congress's not passing its own legislation.

Sounding definitely shrill, Mr. Bartlett says that "anyone who thinks we can overcome our fiscal mess without higher taxes is in denial." Far from backing down on his tax cuts, however, Mr. Bush is proposing to push the budget much deeper into the red with privatization programs that purport to offer something for nothing.

As Newsweek's Allan Sloan writes, "The president didn't exactly burden us with details about paying for all this. It's great marketing: show your audience the goodies but not the price tag. It's like going to the supermarket, picking out your stuff and taking it home without stopping at the checkout line to pay. The bill? That will come later."

Longtime readers will remember that that's exactly what I said, shrilly, about Mr. Bush's proposals during the 2000 campaign. Once again, he's running on the claim that 2 - 1 = 4.

So what's the real plan? Some not usually shrill people think that Mr. Bush will simply refuse to face reality until it comes crashing in: Paul Volcker, the former Federal Reserve chairman, says there's a 75 percent chance of a financial crisis in the next five years.

Nobody knows what Mr. Bush would really do about taxes and spending in a second term. What we do know is that on this, as on many matters, he won't tell the truth.

I can’t stop myself from copying and pasting the whole editorial. I know that shortly the NY Times will archive it and then I’ll have to pay to see it again so I copy and paste away.
How many high-powered Washington types does it take to have a debate?
A whole lot, obviously.

Campaigns Enlist Big Names to Set Debates' Details
WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 - In the Kerry corner there are two of the most powerful lawyers in Washington, Vernon E. Jordan Jr. and Robert B. Barnett, not to mention the sitting governors of Michigan and Arizona, Jennifer M. Granholm and Janet Napolitano.

In the Bush corner there is a former secretary of state, James A. Baker III, not to mention the hard-knuckled lobbyist turned governor of Mississippi who once headed the Republican Party, Haley Barbour, and one of the party's sharpest media personalities, Mary Matalin.

The campaigns of President Bush and Senator John Kerry are putting forward their most seasoned and formidable proxies to take part in the quadrennial face-off over establishing the particulars of the presidential and vice-presidential debates. Never have the presidential debate teams been this big or this prestigious, say officials at the bipartisan commission planning the debates, the first of which is scheduled for Sept. 30.
Our fearless, posturing, game playing President has NOT EVEN AGREED TO ANY DEBATES YET. Paying these folks better be coming out of the Republican Party’s pocket.
For all their negotiating talent, the debate teams are likely to be able to affect only so much. The bipartisan commission has said it will not negotiate its selections of moderators, locations and dates, meaning that except for a few issues like how many debates the candidates will actually participate in, the assembled power brokers could spend much of their time arguing over camera angles and lighting.
. . .
Mr. Kerry named the leader of his team, Mr. Jordan, a close friend of former President Bill Clinton, back in June, as a way to show he was ready to debate whenever Mr. Bush was. Mr. Bush, on the other hand, did not name his team until this week, a signal that he will take his time in granting Mr. Kerry time on the same stage as him.

When Mr. Kerry's team noticed this week that Mr. Bush's new team included Karen P. Hughes, the longtime Bush confidante and message maestro, it added the former White House press secretary and message guru Mike McCurry to its team. Campaign officials acknowledged that they brought in Mr. McCurry in large part to send a signal to Mr. Bush's campaign that it was ready for a battle in the news media, if there needed to be one.

The posturing is incalculably frustrating to officials at the commission, who have been planning the debates for nearly two years. They are still waiting for Mr. Bush to join with Mr. Kerry in agreeing to the schedule, format and moderators it announced weeks ago.

"If they want to get in each other's faces and do the little playground routine, O.K.,'' said one person involved in the debate preparations, "But there's an event waiting to happen.''

The commission's first debate is set for Sept. 30 at the University of Miami, with the PBS anchor Jim Lehrer as moderator; it is to focus primarily on domestic policy. Two more presidential debates are to follow soon after: a town-hall-style meeting in St. Louis with the ABC News anchor Charles Gibson as moderator and a traditional debate in Arizona focusing primarily on foreign policy, with the CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer as moderator. A vice-presidential debate is scheduled for October in Cleveland, with Gwen Ifill of PBS as host.
. . .
Officials with Mr. Bush's campaign said that though some strategists had made it clear they would like the president to participate in no more than two debates, the decision would ultimately be made by Mr. Bush and Mr. Baker. Mr. Baker did not return calls seeking comment.

"Most people that are discussing this will not be the ones deciding this,'' said Reed Dickens, a Bush campaign spokesman. "And the people who are going to decide have just begun discussing this.''
I find it no surprise that the President would like to avoid the Town Hall debate. Understanding an unanticipated question then thinking and talking about it at the same time is not his strong suit.
Democrats say they do expect the debate negotiators - primarily Mr. Jordan and Mr. Baker - to go to the mat on some issues. Mr. Kerry's campaign aides say they are girding for Mr. Bush's team to try to shorten the proposed debates to 60 minutes from 90 minutes and perhaps to bypass the town-hall-style debate, at which the candidates are to field questions from undecided voters from the St. Louis area picked by the Gallup polling organization.

"If there's one debate they want to avoid it's the town-hall setting,'' Stephanie Cutter, a spokeswoman for Mr. Kerry, said of the Bush campaign. "He's been on the campaign trail for close to a year and he hasn't had to answer one tough question about Iraq, health care and the economy.''
. . .
Still, one Republican official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the perception that Mr. Bush was ducking the debates did serve a purpose, by helping to lower expectations for Mr. Bush, who exceeded all expectations in his debates with Al Gore in 2000.
Silly me, I thought all the game playing, posturing and ignoring the issues and questions went on during the debates not before.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

How cool are these guys! It’s very tempting to get a computer in a toaster.

A Digital Generation's Analog Chic
. . .
A more homespun effort is being undertaken by Andrew Fader, 15, and Karthik Seshan, 16, two high school students in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y. The pair recently founded Facade Computer, which builds modern computers into retro casings.

Consumers can order desktops or laptops while customizing specifics like the size of the hard drive and memory. After ordering the components wholesale - Mr. Fader estimates that such customized computers would cost $500 to $1,000 depending on the specifics - the students build the parts into the customer's retro casing of choice.

"The idea is to get the aesthetics of older technology and mix it with the functionality of newer technology," Mr. Fader said. "Companies today like to make you think that cases that are sleek and gray and beige look good, but they don't, really. It's things that look more natural, that go with your house and are made of wood, that are more appealing."

The pair's first conversion, at their Web site (facadecomputer.com), is of a computer built into the mahogany casing of a 1937 Emerson 215 tube radio that they rescued from Mr. Fader's attic. Other possibilities for casings include old briefcases, typewriters and televisions. "The idiom 'one man's trash is another man's treasure' really applies here," Mr. Fader said. "There's a lot of stuff that people really don't realize the value of."
. . .

Check it out: facadecomputer.com

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

I figure there are OB/GYN’s all over the nation cringing at the latest Bush gaffe. I'm not making this up, it's on the White House website. I hope The Daily Show has some fun with it.

President's Remarks at a Victory 2004 Rally in Poplar Bluff, Missouri
Ray Clinton Park, Poplar Bluff, Missouri
Released 6 Sept 2004

But let me tell you what else we need to do. We need to do something about these frivolous lawsuits that are running up the cost of your health care and running good docs out of business. (Applause.) We've got an issue in America. Too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country. See, I don't think you can be pro-doctor and pro-patient and pro-hospital and pro-trial lawyer at the same time. (Applause.) I think you've got to make a choice. My opponent made his choice, and he put him on the ticket. (Applause.) I made my choice. I'm for medical liability reform now. (Applause.) In all we do to improve health care, we will make sure that health decisions are made by doctors and patients, not by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
I’m fine with doing something about frivolous lawsuits but I still don’t understand how medical liability reform is pro-patient. The way I see it, get rid of the small percentage of lousy doctors that cause about 95% of the lawsuits then most of the lawsuit go away. Let doctors who know what they are doing do what they know and boot the goof-ups.

Let’s face it, if you or I botch-up our job we get canned, why shouldn’t lousy doctors. If I make a mistake, tanspose a number all that’s messed up is a spreadsheet and I can go back and fix it. Doctor’s mistakes can leave someone disabled or dead.

And why do the Republicans keep whining about Edwards? Can anyone honestly say that a lawsuit against the manufacturer of a defective hot tub that sucked the intestines out of a 7 year-old and left her disabled for life is frivolous? Trial lawyers exist because there is a need. When doctor and business negligence ends, the trial lawyers will no longer have a job.

Can I have some applause too?

I’ve been wanting to know this and now I finally found an answer. I stole this comment from Atrios.

I would love for once....just ONCE to hear Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, or Bush for that matter actually explain to the American people what 'liberal' actually means and why LIBERALS are so evil.

for those who do not know, Liberal is not a noun, it is an adjective used in reference to interpretation of laws. It means having an open-minded interpretation rather than a conservative or strict interpretation. Liberals look at the Constitution for instance as a living, ever-evolving document and not just a document written 200 years ago that should never be modified. Liberals believe that as times change and attitudes change, that our society should change. It is due to liberals and 'activist' judges that we no longer have slavery, women and minorities are allowed to vote, and Congress was able to pass into law certain social programs like social security, the GI bill, Medicare, etc. If it were up to the conservatives, we would never have had a Bill of Rights to begin with because the conservatives of that era did not want to ammend the Consitution. If it is evil to be liberal, then I stand right with John Kerry and John Edwards.

Webslinger | Email | Homepage | 08.16.04 - 5:44 pm | #

I’ve been thinking this for awhile, that my brothers and father like Bush because they like war. I guess I was right.

A Mythic Reality

The best book I've read about America after 9/11 isn't about either America or 9/11. It's "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning," an essay on the psychology of war by Chris Hedges, a veteran war correspondent. Better than any poll analysis or focus group, it explains why President Bush, despite policy failures at home and abroad, is ahead in the polls.

War, Mr. Hedges says, plays to some fundamental urges. "Lurking beneath the surface of every society, including ours," he says, "is the passionate yearning for a nationalist cause that exalts us, the kind that war alone is able to deliver." When war psychology takes hold, the public believes, temporarily, in a "mythic reality" in which our nation is purely good, our enemies are purely evil, and anyone who isn't our ally is our enemy.

This state of mind works greatly to the benefit of those in power.

One striking part of the book describes Argentina's reaction to the 1982 Falklands war. Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, the leader of the country's military junta, cynically launched that war to distract the public from the failure of his economic policies. It worked: "The junta, which had been on the verge of collapse" just before the war, "instantly became the saviors of the country."

The point is that once war psychology takes hold, the public desperately wants to believe in its leadership, and ascribes heroic qualities to even the least deserving ruler. National adulation for the junta ended only after a humiliating military defeat.

George W. Bush isn't General Galtieri: America really was attacked on 9/11, and any president would have followed up with a counterstrike against the Taliban. Yet the Bush administration, like the Argentine junta, derived enormous political benefit from the impulse of a nation at war to rally around its leader.

Another president might have refrained from exploiting that surge of support for partisan gain; Mr. Bush didn't.

And his administration has sought to perpetuate the war psychology that makes such exploitation possible.

Step by step, the fight against Al Qaeda became a universal "war on terror," then a confrontation with the "axis of evil," then a war against all evil everywhere. Nobody knows where it all ends.

What is clear is that whenever political debate turns to Mr. Bush's actual record in office, his popularity sinks. Only by doing whatever it takes to change the subject to the war on terror - not to what he's actually doing about terrorist threats, but to his "leadership," whatever that means - can he get a bump in the polls.

Last week's convention made it clear that Mr. Bush intends to use what's left of his heroic image to win the election, and early polls suggest that the strategy may be working. What can John Kerry do?

Campaigning exclusively on domestic issues won't work. Mr. Bush must be held to account for his dismal record on jobs, health care and the environment. But as Mr. Hedges writes, when war psychology makes a public yearn to believe in its leaders, "there is little that logic or fact or truth can do to alter the experience."

To win, the Kerry campaign has to convince a significant number of voters that the self-proclaimed "war president" isn't an effective war leader - he only plays one on TV.

This charge has the virtue of being true. It's hard to find a nonpartisan national security analyst with a good word for the Bush administration's foreign policy. Iraq, in particular, is a slow-motion disaster brought on by wishful thinking, cronyism and epic incompetence.

If I were running the Kerry campaign, I'd remind people frequently about Mr. Bush's flight-suit photo-op, when he declared the end of major combat. In fact, the war goes on unabated. News coverage of Iraq dropped off sharply after the supposed transfer of sovereignty on June 28, but as many American soldiers have died since the transfer as in the original invasion.

And I'd point out that while Mr. Bush spared no effort preparing for his carrier landing - he even received underwater survival training in the White House pool - he didn't prepare for things that actually mattered, like securing and rebuilding Iraq after Baghdad fell.

Will it work? I don't know. But to win, Mr. Kerry must try to puncture the myth that Mr. Bush's handlers have so assiduously created.

Friday, September 03, 2004

From the How Sad is This Dept.
Why are the Republicans so angry? One reason is that they have nothing positive to run on (during the first three days, Mr. Bush was mentioned far less often than John Kerry). >
Krugman at the NY Times

I thought the Conventions were there to promote that Party’s candidate.
I’ve read it over and over again, the Republican party has nothong to promote so they promote lies and disinformation.
Hmmm, they seem to be talking like the bumper stickers I've seen, "Anybody but Bush!"

Thursday, September 02, 2004

I just have to say that you can find some of the most amazing stuff when you Google the words Bush and dictator .

How come the media here doesn’t talk about any of this?

The Bush Dictatorship Revealed: L'etat C'est Moi
You think I'm exaggerating, comparing this totalitarian philosophy of government with those of the Stalinist or Hitlerian states? Just read for yourself the ##52-page memo (http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/WO0406/S00129.htm ) on the sordid justifications the Bush Administration lawyers thought up to allow for, even facilitate, the torture of suspecets in custody.

Now the Bushies will claim that those were just working drafts, or philosophical speculations by government attorneys, never adopted into official policy, never turned into orders or laws. And, in the narrowest sense -- even though government actions to date have mirrored what was laid out in those documents -- they may be correct that Bush never explicitly signed a written order that said "go thou and torture."

But underlings understand what is being communicated by their bosses, based on their demands for information, their body language, the many discussions that have been held on the topic in question, the tone of voice in their wanting certain conclusions to be reached, etc. Hitler, for example, never had to authorize in writing the genocide of six million Jews and Gyspies and homosexuals. He didn't have to: the philosophy of maltreatment and destruction had been hammered out over the months in memorandums and discussions around tables. The word filtered down the chain of command. Everyone knew what they were supposed to do, with no written orders necessary.

In the case of prisoner-torture and abuse at Guantanamo and in Iraq and elsewhere, the memoranda commissioned by the Justice and Defense Departments (with, per usual, only the ##State Department objecting) ( http://americanassembler.com/newsblog/index.php?p=754 ) laid out the attitude of this radical, extremist Administration: Find us a way that we can extract information from prisoners in our custody that will not amount to war crimes under the various conventions and treaties about torture.

The most excellent fake news show ever.

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."
-- George W. Bush Dec 18, 2000

A statement like this, made during an unguarded stress-free moment, tends to hold the most truth about what a person believes. This is a scary thing for a person running for the President of the United States to say, very scary.

I wonder if George knows that the dictator is going to be Cheney?

Update: Oopsie, by the time Bush said this he was, gag, President (sort of) elect Bush
Sometimes you really can look to the past to get an idea of what the future may look like.

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."
-- Frederick Douglass, August 4, 1857

How much injustice and wrong can we endure?

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
-- Arthur C. Clark

I guess we’re supposed to believe that electronic voting without an audit trail is sufficiently advanced technology and abracadabra! we still have a democracy.

I’ve been kinda feeling this way lately.
"Where am I, and what am I doing in this handbasket?"

Excellent quote.

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has
endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo
their use."

-- Galileo Galilei

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Who woulda’ thought there would ever be a stampede at an Ikea in Saudia Arabia. Philly just had an Ikea open, no problems here as far as I heard.

Three die in Saudi shop stampede
A stampede of hundreds of shoppers in western Saudi Arabia has left at least three people crushed to death.

A Saudi man and a Pakistani man were among those killed, officials in the port city of Jeddah said.
The incident occurred after shoppers rushed into a branch of Ikea to claim a limited number of credit vouchers being offered to the public.

More than 8,000 people had gathered near the store for the $150 vouchers, some of them having camped overnight.

The nationality of the third person killed was not given. Sixteen people were injured.

When the doors opened at 1000 local time (0700 GMT), the crowd surged forward, causing the stampede.

One shopper among the crowd said barriers had broken and security guards were unable to cope. He likened the scene to crowds at a rock concert and said he'd never seen anything similar in the country before.

Saudi press reports said the vouchers offer was part of a major revamp of Ikea in Saudi Arabia, with two brand new stores opening simultaneously in Jeddah and the capital Riyadh.

Reports say the new showrooms have 200% more space than the old stores.

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