Fear of Clowns

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
- H. L. Mencken

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Bush campaign banking on votes from incurious voters 

Bush's campaign site points out,

Since 1989, Kerry Has Raised $1,108,428 From Commercial Banking Employees, More Than Any Senator In That Time Period. (Center For Responsive Politics Website, www.opensecrets.org, Accessed 8/26/04)

So that means Kerry is in bed with bankers, right? The Bush campaign cites opensecrets.org as their source. Watch what happens when you actually go to opensecrets.org:

Top recipients from Commercial Banks, 2004 presidential election cycle:
1. Bush, George W (R) ... $2,834,869
2. Kerry, John (D) ... $891,932

So what they are saying is that since 1989, all of Kerry's campaigns have raised from Bankers well less than half of what Bush has raised for this election alone! They got him there, good!

Via Apostropher via DailyKos

Monday, August 30, 2004

Say anything, Mr. President 

Today, President Bush appearance on the Today Show provided lots of comedy. When asked if he thought the deficit he was presiding over was actually pretty good, he agreed, "Yeah. I do. I do." The guy will just say anything. He also said that removing Hussein from power was not a popular decision in Iraq,

I made decisions on what I think is best for this country and yet the decision to remove the Taliban in Afghanistan was unpopular in Pakistan at the time. And other places it wasn't so popular either I might add ... same in Iraq, there's no question.

The contrast between that and is past statements is so absurd, citing examples is barely needed, but following are a few. In his April 5 radio address, President Bush reflected,

One Iraqi, when the coalition troops arrived, described the emotions of his village: They were waiting for you, he said, and all the people believe that America and Britain have come to liberate them, not to conquer.

Musing on the tone of Iraqi representatives he had just met with on December 15, 2003, President Bush noted,

The thing that struck me about the meeting was the kind of joy that they expressed about being free.

Speaking to military personnel at Fort Lewis on June 18, 2004, President Bush told them,

These are thankful people, because they know what you've done. They've seen firsthand the power of liberation. See, they have seen our mission. We don't come to conquer, we come to liberate.

He also conceded that his war on terror was not winnable,

President Bush: I have never said we can win it in four years.

Lauer: So I'm just saying can we win it? Do you see that?

President Bush: I don't think you can win it.

Again, examples of when Bush has claimed his war on terror is winnable are barely, needed, so here's a short snippet of a January 31, 2004 talk he gave to congressional leaders where he said we'd win it three times within the space of four sentences:

These are historic times, because we're at war - you're a war Congress. And this upcoming year we will continue to make sure our troops have what it takes to fight and win the war against terror. And not only make sure we fight and win the war against terror, but to make sure we continue to promote our values of freedom and, therefore, peace, in parts of the world where people long for freedom and peace, where people are desperate for freedom ... No question, we will win the war on terror by staying on the offensive.

Bonus blast from the past: President Bush reverses his opinion on the importance of UN resolutions within the same press conference.

I don't care what the United Nations has said over a decade; I don't care about all the resolutions passed ... [Saddam Hussein] just treated the U.N. as an empty debating society, as if their resolutions meant nothing.

What you must believe to be a right-winger, Part II 

Continuing form Part I:

  1. Belief: We, as right-wingers, adhere to the constitution as it describes and protects individual rights.

    Reality: The Constitution provides a framework through which our great nation works as a united and harmonious chorus of individuals.

    • The Constitution defines how we together agree to govern ourselves, including guarantees of individual rights necessary to guarantee collective harmony. The first word of it is, in fact, "We",

      We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

  2. Belief: The Second Amendment protects my right to own a gun.

    Reality: The Second Amendment, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, prohibits Congress from making a law infringing upon your right to own a gun, which is granted by the states.

    • For well over a century, the amendment has been applied as only restricting acts of congress, not guaranteeing a right. In the 1875 Supreme Court decision US vs Cruikshank, it was held,

      The right there specified is that of "bearing arms for a lawful purpose." This is not a right granted by the Constitution. Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The second amendment declares that it shall not be infringed; but this, as has been seen, means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress. This is one of the amendments that has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government, leaving the people to look for their protection against any violation by their fellow-citizens of the rights it recognizes, to what is called, in The City of New York v. Miln, 11 Pet. 139, the "powers which relate to merely municipal legislation, or what was, perhaps, more properly called internal police," "not surrendered or restrained" by the Constitution of the United States.

  3. Belief: The Bible forbids abortion.

    Reality: The Bible is mum on abortion.

    • Perhaps the most commonly cited Biblical verse by pro-lifers is Psalm 139,

      For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
      I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
      your works are wonderful,
      I know that full well.
      My frame was not hidden from you
      when I was made in the secret place.
      When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
      your eyes saw my unformed body.
      All the days ordained for me
      were written in your book
      before one of them came to be.

      All that says is that God is involved in the creation of a human; it doesn't say anything close to "life begins in the womb". If one wishes to take the Bible literally, one sees that God created many things which he gave humans full domination over. Conversely, the passage refers to an unborn state as a "frame". Indeed, that's why the verse is presented in a blue frame rather than red.

      The important historical Roman Catholic theologians St. Augustine, St. Jerome, and Thomas Aquinas all held that the soul does not enter the body until on into pregnancy at various certain points - either the formation of a body, or the "quickening". Popes throughout history have gone back and forth on whether a fetus before the quickening has a soul. And the Church's opinion on abortion has likewise varied.

      The reasons various Christian religions differ on abortion - both between one another and with themselves over time - is due to a lack of a clear scriptural basis to support a position for or against abortion.

  4. Belief: "Flat" means "curved".

    Reality: Flat means flat.

    • When arguing for a "flat tax", people typically mean income taxes should be levied at the same rate regardless of income level. Income, however, is not the only thing that is taxed: taxes are additionally levied on property, services, and consumer purchases - and the smaller an income, the larger the proportion that goes to these types of non-income taxes. The result is that when taking into account all taxes, we already have a nearly flat tax - the curve is a subtle inverse bell curve where the middle class shares slightly more of the burden. Accompanying a NY Times essay about "double taxation" (there goes that left wing NYT pretending to be on the right again) was a graphic illustration this phenomena, showing that the total percentage of income for the poorest fifth of Americans in 2002 was 18% whereas the total taxes paid by the richest Americans was 19%. (The last and literally un-graphed "as a percentage of income" column illustrates fairness as "a percentage of income")

      If all levels of income would be taxed at the same level, we could end up with a regressive tax, the poor paying a much higher percentage of their earnings in taxes than the middle class and the middle class paying a higher percentage than the wealthy.

  5. Belief: A "Flat" income tax is a "curved" income tax.

    Reality: A flat income tax is a flat income tax.

    • Tax law recognizes different types of income. Generally, the wealthier a person is the greater amount of income they acquire from capital gains. Capital gain is income from the sale of stock or property held over 1 year as well as stock dividends, and is taxed at a maximum rate of 15%. If you're married and you and your spouse both make just $35K a year each, your base tax rate is already over 16%. This means working people's incomes are already taxed at a higher rate than the incomes of those who make millions of dollars a year by sitting idly and collecting stock dividends.

      A truly flat income tax would require taxing all forms of income as well as all levels of income.

  6. Belief: During the most recent UN mandated inspections, Iraq required the inspectors to provide a daily itinerary of sites to be inspected and/or denied or delayed access to particular sites.

    Reality: Iraq allowed the inspectors unfettered access wherever and whenever the inspectors chose.

    • On January 27, 2003, Hans Blix reported to the UNSC,

      The most important point to make is that access has been provided to all sites we have wanted to inspect and with one exception it has been prompt.

      During a press conference on December 19, 2002, Blix had described why access was not immediately obtained on one occasion:

      This was on a Friday, the Muslim day of rest, and the place was practically empty. There were some doors inside to offices which were closed, so they didn't have the keys. The Iraqis offered to break down the doors, and we suggested no, it might not be a good idea. Instead, we suggested, and they agreed, that we seal the doors until the Saturday morning.

      On November 30, 2002, Hiro Ueki, the Baghdad Spokesman for UNMOVIC and the IAEA explained that all inspections were unannounced unless the teams had requested in advance that Iraq provide assistance with monitoring equipment:

      Um Al Maarik Company, which the IAEA team visited today was notified by the IAEA team in advance that two of their technicians would review the status of the remaining video surveillance. Al Qa Qaa Company, which the IAEA team visited was also requested on Thursday afternoon to provide assistance to facilitate removal of sampler. This type of advance notification is sometimes given to facilitate their work on monitoring equipment. It happened to the above two cases. Except for these types of cases, our inspection teams do not provide advance warning to the Iraqi side, as we have emphasized time and again.

      In summary, Iraq granted access everywhere, including the presidential palaces they had denied access to during the 1990s:

      As reported by the UN 3 December, teams from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency today conducted an unannounced joint inspection of one of the eight Presidential sites in Iraq ... Access to the entire site was provided without difficulty, and the planned inspection activity was completed, the spokesman reported.

      Bob Stevens, a US inspector that was part of the UN teams of the 90s as well as the 2002/2003 inspections described his observation of Iraq's more recent cooperation in the Cleveland Free Times,

      The other striking difference in this trip was how extremely cooperative just about every Iraqi was, even when we inspected the undeclared sites that were targeted based on intel. The Iraqis were running for us (something Iraqi adults don't normally do) and were bending over backwards to cooperate.

Jesus on taxpayer supported welfare programs according to the Gospel of Matthew 

A really good argument for welfare is found in the Gospel according to Matthew. In summary,

When reading the story of Jesus' message, the parts where he speaks of a light within really stand out to me. I believe he was referring to the ability of humans to reason within the context of a universally accessible conscience - in other words, God within all of us. It's clear that humans are not expected to fully understand what is meant by "God", but I readily accept the existence of God as far as I just described my understanding. It's just as clear to me that what Jesus is recorded as saying about how humans should treat one another strikes true to my ability to reason within the context of my conscience. So I think his message is both valid and important.

Jesus' Sermon on the Mount starts at Matthew chapter 5, and represents the beginning of Jesus' ministry. The description of his message start at Chapter 4, and describes him as providing free health care - through miracles, of course, to those who would hear his words. The next 20 chapters presents the entire case. Much of it is repetitive by virtue of it's simplicity - yet it takes me a little over an hour to read. For those who would like their whistle whetted, an abbreviated version appears below as well as short responses to the three possible objections to the notion that Jesus approved of helping the poor and sick through income redistribution. Jesus words as reported in Matthew appear blue.

Matthew 5 - God desires people to be charitable towards one another

These teachings do not replace scriptural law, but expand upon it. By following these teachings, you will already be obeying the law, plus much more. One should love everybody, even your enemies, just as God does not withhold anything from anyone.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, "Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment." But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, "Raca," is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, "You fool!" will be in danger of the fire of hell.

You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 6 - providing welfare is pleasing to God, concern with worldly wealth is incompatible with pleasing God

Give to the needy not to be showy, but because it's the right thing to do and pleases God. Do not be concerned with wordly wealth, as devotion to wealth prevents service God's will.

Be careful not to do your "acts of righteousness" before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

Matthew 7 - it doesn't matter if welfare recipients afford themselves luxury

Don't pass judgement on others, but rather treat them as you would wish to be treated. That, in fact, is a summary of scriptural law.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Much of the story from this point until Chapter 21 tells of Jesus healing the sick and expecting nothing in return and feeding thousands and expecting nothing in return. He did these things because people were sick or hungry, and for no other reason.

Matthew 10 - expect nothing worldly in return for your charitable giving

Jesus sends out his deciples to heal the sick, imploring them to give freely because they have received freely.

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.

Matthew 17 - pay your taxes

You should pay your taxes - even if they are unjust.

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?" "Yes, he does," he replied.

When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. "What do you think, Simon?" he asked. "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes - from their own sons or from others?"

"From others," Peter answered.

"Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him. "But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours."

Matthew 19 - greed and pride are disfavorable in God's eyes

Attachment to wealth puts you out of God's favor

Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"

"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."

"Which ones?" the man inquired.

Jesus replied, "'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"

"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"

Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Matthew 22 - pay your taxes and treat others as you wish to be treated. A regular act of charity alone doesn't cut it

Pay your taxes. The greatest thing one can do it to love God. The second is to love others as you love yourself. Tithing itself is not a replacement for the goals at which charity aims.

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"

"Caesar's," they replied.

Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices - mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law - justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

Matthew 25 - no excuses for not understanding the message

If you've heard Jesus' words and followed his teachings, you will find an infinite reward. If you've heard his words and refused to embrace the message, you're in a heap of trouble.

Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?"

The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

Then he will say to those on his left, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me."

"They also will answer, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?"

He will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."

Now, I'm not the type of person who takes the Bible literally, it was written by men. In fact, I view the vast majority of it as silly. But Jesus had an amazing message and the only place it's recorded is in the Bible. It's impossible to understand and agree with that message and at the same time object to paying taxes for the purpose of working together to feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless and provide health care to those without it.

Incomprehensibly, some self-identifying Christians will object to understanding Jesus' message. The objections come in one of three forms,

  1. This is twisting Jesus' words, the Bible doesn't tell you to make sure everybody else is helping those in need.

    This is an attempted diversion. Asking people to read Jesus' message and compare it to their view of government welfare programs isn't twisting Jesus' words, rather asking that Jesus' message be heard - and spreading that message is indeed something Jesus said to do.

  2. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says "If any would not work, neither should he eat."

    This is taking half a verse and misinterpreting it, or worse, presenting it dishonestly. 2 Thessalonians 3 is in general speaking of the work of spreading the gospel, and the verse cited is a reminder to the Thessalonians of the arrangement Paul had with them: that he worked for his keep while spreading Jesus' message to therm. Paul also emphasizes this in his first letter to the Thessalonians. It's quite obvious that he was addressing a complaint that people were sometimes too busy to help spread the message. In context, it reads,

    We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."

    We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies.

  3. Jesus never said the government can steal my money and give it to someone else.

    The short answer to this objection is that what Jesus said is more important than what he didn't say. The long answer is to also point again to Matthew 22:23 ("... Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.") and further point to Romans 13:

    Romans 13

    Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Jesus was a liberal in the sense that he advocated for personal income redistribution for the purpose of helping those in need, healing the sick and helping those in need, asking no earthly reward for charitable actions, and being happy to pay taxes.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Bush support and the people who support him 

Today, the Wall Street Journal published the results of the new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll in a front page article. The results are not overly favorable to Bush. But the raw data in the PDF linked to in the sidebar present a pathetic view of Bush supporters. The poll surveyed registered voters - here are the results for the question regarding how the participants said they voted in the 2000 election:

45% Voted for George W. Bush
33% Voted for Al Gore
2% Voted for Ralph Nader
1% Voted for Pat Buchanan
1% Voted for other candidate
1% Not sure who voted for
11% Did Not Vote
3% Too young to vote
3% Not Sure/Refused

In the 2000 Presidential Election, only 67% of registered voters cast a vote. 85% of the respondents to this poll claim to have voted. Another way of looking at it is that 33% of registered voters did not vote. The only answers that would be truthful for people in that 33% would be "did not vote" or "not sure", but only 14% provided one of those answers. About 19% of the people in this poll are lying or remembering incorrectly.

Both Gore and Bush got about 48% of the popular vote in 2000. If the sample of this poll was perfect, we would expect 32% of respondents to have voted for Gore and 32% to have voted for Bush. Compare to the actual results: 33% say they voted for Gore, 45% said they voted for Bush. Bush supporters are much more likely to lie or have shoddy memories. Not surprising. The results of the poll are interesting, nonetheless:

Mr. Bush's handling of the antiterror war continues to represent his greatest asset as Republicans gather several miles from the site of the World Trade Center. While the electorate splits on the president's overall job performance -- 47% approve, 48% disapprove -- Mr. Bush enjoys approval by a 53%-to-42% margin on dealing with the war on terrorism.

... While Mr. Bush continues to receive positive marks for his "strong leadership qualities," his 50% approval on that dimension matches the weakest of his presidency. Just 45% of voters rate him highly for "being honest and straightforward," while 39% give him low marks.

More problematic are the ratings Mr. Bush receives on the issues, aside from the broader antiterror war, that have dominated campaign debate thus far. On Iraq, a 51% majority says Mr. Bush needs to change his approach, and a 49% plurality says removing Saddam Hussein from power wasn't worth the human and financial costs. By 51% to 43%, voters say it is appropriate to begin considering troop reductions in Baghdad, which Mr. Kerry recently suggested could begin in the first six months of his presidency.

On the domestic front, the most critical issue is the economy, for which Mr. Hart describes the president's ratings as "dreadful." Some 52% of voters overall disapprove of the president's handling of the economy, and the proportion who say the economy has gotten better in the past year has fallen to 29%. Despite a revival of economic growth overall, voters say by a 2-to-1 margin that circumstances for middle- and working-class families aren't improving.

Those negative assessments span Mr. Bush's handling of a series of issues. By 55% to 38%, voters say the president's tax cuts mostly have benefited the wealthy rather than all Americans. As oil prices hit record levels, six in 10 voters criticize his approach to gas prices. Some 58% of voters want major changes in the president's approach to health care, while 55% say the same thing about his policies on jobs.

In other words, people don't think Bush is doing a good job at anything except for attacking an appropriate number of countries, even if attacking them wasn't worth it, and that alone makes him a good leader, so they'll vote for him anyway! Go Team America! Kerry needs to make people understand that you can't kill or arrest every terrorist, so the focus needs to be on preventing terrorists from being able to do harm.

This poll is also particularly interesting because it shows that Bush/Cheney support is currently much weaker than Kerry/Edwards support. The participants were asked, "Even though you are not supporting [John Kerry and John Edwards / George W. Bush and Dick Cheney] now, what are the chances that you might support them in this November's election - is there a fair chance that you might support them, a small chance, just a very slight chance, or no chance at all you might support them?" 38% of Bush supporters said there was a fair, small or very slight chance they would vote for Kerry, whereas 28% of Kerry supporters said there was a chance they'll support Bush. Of course, Bush has the nominating convention and debates to try to shore up his support, whereas Kerry only has the debates.

The most significant finding isn't interesting, but what is to be expected if you've been paying attention to the results of state level polls:

But the poll also shows the president trailing Mr. Kerry by four percentage points among respondents in 17 closely-contested battleground states.

As a brief end note, today, LA Times polls flipped the latest result in Wisconsin barely into the Bush column and well within the poll's margin of error, and placed Missouri back with Bush exactly at the margin of error.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

How are the horses holding up? 

Yesterday, the LA Times reported that Kerry nationally trailed Bush 46% to 49%, losing his lead of 2 percentage points from late July: "resident Bush heads into next week's Republican National Convention with voters moving slightly in his direction since July amid signs that Sen. John F. Kerry has been nicked by attacks on his service in Vietnam, a Times poll has found."

A new USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll also reported a slip in Kerry's advantage nationally partially due to "a sharp drop in people who said Kerry's military service would make them more likely to support him."

It's been my contention that the Swift Boat Vets for [Bush]'s effort has likely only served to further polarize the electorate and driven voters away from Bush if anything. To confirm the hypothesis, one would have to show that since the group's efforts have become popularized, states in which Bush already lead had seen an increased lead and states who already supported Kerry had shown a like increase.

The method I used is described in detail below the table. In summary, I found the difference between Bush and Kerry preference numbers on a state level and compared them to the change between the most recent poll and the most recent poll on or prior to August 5 - the day Swift Boat Vets for Truth aired their first ad. The polls had to be conducted by the same entity.

There are 31 states for which poll data is available to make the analysis:

In other words, my hypothesis bore out: Bush is generally more ahead in hates which favor him, the same for Kerry. Colorado went from a Bush lead to a tie.

The results of the method of analysis indicate that Kerry may be in trouble in Michigan and California for a total of 72 electoral votes, and that Bush may be in trouble in Florida and Colorado for a total of 27 total electoral votes. California matters lots. If the sharp drop reflected in CA is close to accurate, Kerry should feel quite nervous about the state.

As these numbers only reflect the differences between two polls and that the states which appear to be tossups are close to or within the margins of error, I've put together a page of the same results sorted by different columns. I'll conduct a similar project in the near future if enough state level polls change so as to warrant it. Here are the results sorted by current difference.

State Kerry Bush Current
Net change
last poll - current poll MoE Pollster
MD 53 40 +13 -1 6/9 - 8/15 3.5 - 3.5 Gonzolez Research
IL 52 38 +12 -2 5/24 - 8/16 4.0 - 4.0 Market Shares Corp.
CT 49 39 +10 -11 6/28 - 8/17 3.2 - 3.0 Quinnipiac University
OR 54 43 +9 +2 7/30 - 8/21 3.9 - 3.7 Zogby
NY 53 45 +8 0 6/14 - 8/9 2.6 - 2.9 Quinnipiac University
WA 51 43 +8 0 8/2 - 8/17 4.2 - 4.1 Survey USA
NH 51 43 +8 0 1/30 - 8/21 4.2 - 4.3 Zogby
PA 52 44 +8 +1 7/30 - 8/21 3.2 - 3.3 Zogby
IA 52 45 +7 +5 7/30 - 8/19 4.4 - 4.4 Zogby
NM 44 50 +6 +5 7/26 - 8/21 4.4 - 4.4 Zogby
WI 51 46 +5 +3 7/30 - 8/24 3.9 - 3.9 Zogby
MN 50 45 +5 0 7/30 - 8/21 3.8 - 3.8 Zogby
MI 48 45 +3 -8 8/4 - 8/24 4.0 - 4.3 Survey USA
CA 49 46 +3 -10 7/25 - 8/18 3.8 - 4.1 Survey USA
TN 50 48 +2 +1 7/30 - 8/21 3.4 - 3.5 Zogby
NV 48 46 +2 +3 7/36 - 8/21 4.4 - 4.4 Zogby
CO 47 47 0 +5 4/14 - 8/19 4.5 - 4.5 Rasmussen
MO 49 49 0 +1 7/26 - 8/21 3.2 - 3.4 Zogby
AR 46 48 -2 -4 7/8 - 8/21 4.3 - 4.5 Zogby
FL 47 49 -2 +4 7/31 - 8/24 4.0 - 4.0 Rasmussen
VA 45 49 -4 + 1 7/8 - 8/22 3.8 - 3.7 Survey USA
OH 46 51 -5 0 7/30 - 8/21 4.5 - 2.6 Zogby
NC 45 51 -6 +1 7/26 - 8/15 3.3 - 4.1 Survey USA
WV 42 49 -7 -9 7/30 - 8/21 4.0 - 4.1 Zogby
AZ 39 47 -8 -9 7/18 - 8/22 5.0 - 4.9 AZ State University
SC 42 53 -11 -4 7/12 - 8/18 5.0 - 3.7 Survey USA
IN 40 52 -12 +4 6/24 - 8/18 4.0 - 4.0 Bellwether Research
KY 39 56 -17 -7 7/26 - 8/15 3.8 - 3.8 Survey USA
GA 38 54 -18 -5 8/2 - 8/18 3.0 - 3.0 Strategic Vision
OK 38 57 -19 +7 6/23 - 8/18 3.9 - 4.1 Survey USA
AL 37 58 -21 -2 5/4 -8/23 3.7 - 4.1 Survey USA
  • The numbers compared must me by a polling organization which,
    • Has conducted a poll since August 5, the first day Swift Boat Vets for Truth ran an ad
    • Has conducted a poll on or prior to August 5
    • Is reputable enough in the opinion of RealClearPolitics.com to be included in their compendium of state level polls.
  • The columns labeled "Kerry" and "Bush" reflect the results of the most recent poll.
  • The backgrounds of the "state" column reflect the category the state is in according to Dave Leip's analytical method:
    • If "Strong Bush", it appears red
    • If "Strong Kerry", it appears blue
    • If "Lean Bush", "Slight Bush", "Lean Kerry", or "Slight Kerry", or "tossup", it appears purple
  • The numbers reflected in the "Bush" and "Kerry" columns reflect the result of the most recent poll taken after August 5, 2004
  • The background of the "Current Difference" column appears
    • Blue if Kerry's lead is greater than the most recent poll's margin of error
    • Red if Kerry's net change is less than the most recent poll's margin of error
    • Gray if Kerry's net change is within the most recent poll's margin of error
  • The "Net Change Kerry" column is the sum of the differences between
    • Kerry's gain between the most recent poll and immediately prior poll by the same polling organization, and,
    • Bush's loss between the most recent poll and immediately prior poll by the same polling organization
  • The background of the "Net Change Kerry" column appears
    • Blue if Kerry's net change is greater than the lessor of the two polls' margin of error
    • Red if Kerry's net change is less than the lessor of the two polls' margin of error
    • Gray if Kerry's net change is within the lessor of the two polls' margin of error

For the following states, a pollster has not conducted surveys both on or before August 5 and after August 5:

State Kerry Bush Current net
Net change
last poll - current poll MoE Pollster
MA 60 31 +29 +4 5/31 - 6/30 5.0 - 5.0 Rasmussen
NJ 49 39 +10 -3 8/2 - 9/23 3.1 - 3.3 Quinnapac University
ME 48 44 +4 +3 6/30 - 7/31 5.0 - 5.0 Rasmussen
TX 37 55 -18 -1 5/31 - 6/30 3.0 - 3.0 Rasmussen
KS 36 56 -20 -2 3/4 - 6/28 4.1 - 4.5 Survey USA
UT 22 67 -45 -14 2/19 - 5/12 5.0 - 3.2 Desert News

In the following states only one poll is available:

State Kerry Bush Current net
Net change
last poll - current poll MoE Pollster
DE n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
RI 49 25 +24 n/a 6/14 5.0 Brown University
VT 51 36 +15 n/a 4/30 n/a Research 2000
HI 48 41 +7 n/a 8/3 3.7 Star-Bulletin
LA 38 54 -16 n/a 7/14 4.0 MRI
SD 35 51 -16 n/a 5/22 3.5 KELO
MT 33 53 -20 n/a 5/26 4.0 Mason Dixon
AK 33 56 -23 n/a 6/30 4.0 Dittman Research
MS 30 61 -29 n/a 4/21 5.8 Missippi State University
ID 55 25 -30 n/a n/a n/a Greg Smith & Asc
NE n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
WY n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a

Recent developments in Swiftgate 

Former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland was rebuffed by the Secret Service when he ">tried to hand deliver a letter signed by 9 US Senators who are also veterans. The letter calls on Bush to condemn the content of Swift Boat Veterans for "Truth"'s attack ads. Bush spokesperson Scott McClellan referred to the attempted feat by the triple amputee as a "stunt".

Meanwhile, Swift Boat veteran John O'Neill, who has claimed in his book that Kerry could not have been in Cambodia in 1968 because no Swift boat was in Cambodia, has tried to explain that what he meant when he told Nixon, "I was in Cambodia, sir," was "I was about 100 yards from Cambodia".

The Dallas Morning News revealed that Bob Perry - the Republican allstar fundraiser who provided the bulk of SBVT's seed money and has denied that he's connected to the Bush campaign - is indeed directly involved with Bush's campaign as the co-host of a fundraising event next week. Through his spokesperson, Perry comments "I never approved the use of my name. I'm not going to be there." My analysis: it doesn't matter if you try to hide the fact you're involved, Mr. Perry, you're still involved.

Through his spokesperson, Bush announced his intention to sue 527s to stop their endorsement and attacks on candidates. It's unclear whether he means Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. I doubt it.

The most significant development in the last 24 hours was that in an unspoken admission of collusion, the Bush campaign's chief outside counsel Ben Ginsberg has resigned that position so he can continue to work with Swift Boat Veterans for "Truth" while giving the appearance the efforts are plausibly unconnected.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Living American recipients of the Nobel Prize in Economics who support John Kerry for President 

Today, 10 out of the 27 living Nobel Prize winning economists endorsed John Kerry for President in an open letter to the American public,

We believe that [John Kerry] will restore fiscal responsibility. He is committed to making key investments in human capital, such as helping families meet the cost of higher education. He has a proposal that will address the problem of rising health care costs. We believe that he has both the ability and the commitment to work with our allies and trading partners to promote global growth that lifts up workers around the world.

John Kerry is our choice for America’s next President. We hope that you will join us.

The signers follow, with links to information about each:

Paul Samuelson Endorses Sen. John Kerry
Kenneth Arrow Endorses Sen. John Kerry
Lawrence Klein Endorses Sen. John Kerry
Robert Solow Endorses Sen. John Kerry
William Sharpe Endorses Sen. John Kerry
Douglass North Endorses Sen. John Kerry
Daniel McFadden Endorses Sen. John Kerry
George Akerlof Endorses Sen. John Kerry
Joseph Stiglitz Endorses Sen. John Kerry
Daniel Kahneman Endorses Sen. John Kerry

The positions of the remaining 17 are unknown:

Milton Friedman position unknown
Gerard Debreu position unknown
James M. Buchanan position unknown
Harry Markowitz position unknown
Ronald Coase position unknown
Gary Becker position unknown
Michael Spence position unknown
Robert W. Fogel position unknown
John Forbes Nash position unknown
Robert Lucas Jr position unknown
Robert Merton position unknown
Myron Scholes position unknown
Robert Mundell position unknown
James Heckman position unknown
Vernon L. Smith position unknown
Clive W. J. Granger position unknown
Robert F. Engle position unknown

In June, four dozen Nobel Laureates endorsed Senator Kerry for President in a similar open letter:

Presidential elections present us with choices about our nation's future. We support John Kerry for President and urge you to join us ...

[John Kerry] will support strong investments in science and technology as he restores fiscal responsibility. He will stimulate the development and deployment of technologies to meet our economic, energy, environmental, health, and security needs. He will recreate an America that provides opportunity to all at home or abroad who can help us make progress together.

John Kerry will restore science to its appropriate place in government and bring it back into the White House. He is the clear choice for America's next President.

"I was in Cambodia, sir." 

I don't think I need to add anything to Joe John's report on Aaron Brown other than the quip that Republicans can't run a smear campaign any better than they can occupy a country:

JOHNS: Behind the scenes, Kerry's aides were fighting the swift boat charges with unusual ferocity. They say they have evidence one of the top members of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is an outright liar.

The co-author of the book "Unfit for Command," former swift boat commander John O'Neill said Kerry made up a story about being in Cambodia beyond the legal borders of the Vietnam War in 1968.

O'Neill said no one could cross the border by river and he claimed in an audio tape that his publicist played to CNN that he, himself, had never been to Cambodia either. But in 1971, O'Neill said precisely the opposite to then President Richard Nixon.

O'NEILL: I was in Cambodia, sir. I worked along the border on the water.

NIXON: In a swift boat?

O'NEILL: Yes, sir.


JOHNS: Now, O'Neill may have an explanation for this but he has not returned CNN's calls. What does seem clear is that a top member of the swift boat group is now being held to the same standard of literal accuracy they've tried to impose on John Kerry -- Aaron.

The tie that binds 

and Bush's stool that don't stink

Swift Boat Vets for [Bush] is the same thing as the official Bush campaign. In a post two days ago I wrote:

Swift Boat Vets for Truth are as closely associated to the White House you can get without being on the White House or Bush campaign payroll.

I used the "payroll" image because the Bush campaign has emphasized that Ken Cordier - a man featured in SBVT's latest ad at the same time as advising Bush/Cheney '04 - until the news came out was a volunteer for the Bush campaign and received no monetary compensation for his participation. Here is the Bush/Cheney '04 "volunteer", pictured in the teaser for the ad on the belligerent group's home page:

But that was two days ago. Yesterday, it came out that Benjamin Ginsberg, Bush/Cheney '04's paid lawyer, also renders services for Swift Boat Vets for the Truth. Ginsberg has claimed he's considering billing Swift Boat Vets for Truth for his services. Malarky - Bush/Cheney '04 pays him for his services related to the campaign effort - if his services to the group were separate, he'd be holding up a copy of an invoice. He's a Bush employee - on May 30, 2004, the campaign announced that,

Ben Ginsberg will serve as chief outside counsel, as he did for the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign.

"Outside counsel". Let's examine what an outside council may do. And pay attention to the dates.

Progress for America is a 501c non-profit Republican organization who on their "Who Are We?" page tell us they have reactivated themselves for this election cycle:

Heading into the next legislative session and beyond, it has become apparent that liberal special interest groups are forming organizations whose single goal is to attack and defame the issue agenda of President George W. Bush and other leaders who are working to enact conservative, common sense public policies that benefit all Americans. PFA is an issue advocacy/grassroots organization committed to keeping the issue record straight and serves as a conservative "Issue Truth Squad." It is the only such organization in the country!

On May 29, 2004 the organization reproduced an article from the National Journal in their "PFA Activities" section (The National Journal is the organization who's claim that Kerry is the "most liberal senator" was echoed endlessly by America's army of right-wing media pundits early this year):

Progress for America has also recruited Brian McCabe, a New Hampshire-based grassroots specialist, as its president. According to sources, Progress for America is aiming to raise $40 million to $60 million to fund grassroots work, issue advertising, and "truth squads" to burnish the Bush record on tax cuts, the economy, energy, and other issues. Over the past few months, [Progress for America's] counsel, Ben Ginsberg, who is also the chief outside counsel for the Bush campaign, has been telling potential board members about a game plan that would allow Progress for America to answer liberal advocacy groups.

So far, we have Progress for America (and the National Journal) knowing Ben Ginsberg was the Bush campaign's chief outside counsel before Bush's campaign announced the hire. As a 501c, Progress for America is subject to restrictions that 527s are not. On May 28, 2004, PFA announced their establishment of the Progress for America Voter Fund 527:

"I am excited to announce the establishment of the Progress for America Voter Fund and the addition of our new board members," said Brian McCabe, the President the PFA Voter Fund. "We are confident that this new 527 committee and new board members will dramatically increase our impact on public policy in America," McCabe added.

Way back in November 2003, Progress for America announced that they had reformed by reproducing this report in their PFA Activities page - and look who was involved:

A not-for-profit organization with strong Republican ties has re-formed in recent months with several top GOP strategists at the helm in an effort to counter the proliferation of soft-money groups on the Democratic side.

The group - Progress for America - is a 501(c)(4) membership committee that was begun in 2001 by Tony Feather, a longtime Republican consultant with strong ties to President Bush. Feather recently cut his ties to the group, however, and has been replaced atop the organization by Chris LaCivita, political director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in the 2002 cycle and the top political strategist for NRSC Chairman George Allen (Va.).

Republican lawyer Ben Ginsberg, who specializes in campaign finance and election law, is also closely affiliated with the committee, according to well-placed sources.

Progress for America's daughter 527 organization produced and aired the pro-Bush/anti-Kerry "What If? ad.

It's crystal clear that Ginsberg's job as "Chief Outside Counsel" for the Bush campaign is to work with soft money groups. And he's paid to do it - the fact that campaign finance is one of his areas of concentration likely means that arguments are ready that his activities technically do not contravene the law. Swift Boat Vets for Truth spokesperson Jennifer Webster explained Ginsberg's role, "It was an effort to make sure we were doing everything legal, that's why you hire a lawyer." One can't help but recall the administration's legal contortions to skirt the Geneva Conventions and justify torture. The conspicuous observation here is that advice Ginbsberg gives on behalf of the Bush campaign on plausibly staying within the law is all the evidence any Doubting Thomas needs to be convinced that Swift Boat Vets for Truth and Bush/Cheney '04 are appendages of Bush's coordinated campaign effort. Thanks to Leilani for the "tie that binds" imagry.

The Republicans' strategy is to use the good cop/bad cop ploy: SBVT is a vile mouthpiece while their candidate himself tries to come across as someone above reproach who would never criticize a war hero. If Bush wants to vilify Kerry's service, great, but pretending it's not part of his campaign's strategy makes the childish and non-sensical attacks dishonest as well as repugnant. (Before you think "But wait", remember Kerry has condemned ads that remind America Bush was an alcoholic who probably skipped out on a few months of National Guard service while he was supposed to be protecting Alabama from the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong.)

My own opinion is that on it's own, it doesn't matter that Bush avoided Vietnam by joining the champagne corps, I'd like to think I would have tried to avoid that war myself. He gets a pass from me - and if he'd have been upfront about it in 2000, it would be a closed issue for all. The salient fact is that Kerry volunteered, served honorably as a brave and exceptional commander, and furthermore came around quickly and was unabashedly vocal against war once he saw it for what it was. "My country right or wrong; when right, to keep her right; when wrong, to put her right." - Carl Schultz.

The salient fact about Bush today is that he's happy to perch on a hollow ivory pedestal, hovering over a cesspool of right-wing Republican filth, claiming his stool doesn't stink.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

While I was working ... 

While all that was happening, I was regaining control of a server hijacked by Teutonic hackers who love 50 Cent so much they figured it would be awesome to have two versions of his same album available for their friend's pirating pleasure - the "uppercase" and "lowercase" versions ...

I don't have enough of an ear for rap to speculate on their musical tastes and am too kind to characterize their taste in movies ...

Monday, August 23, 2004

Praise for Kerry from Swift Boat Vets for Truth 

I'll add to this collection in the future. I you have anything else to add, please give a hollar.

Wasn't hard to predict the White House would deflect from questions regarding Swift Boat Vets for Truth ad 

I hadn't seen this White House press gaggle that happened a few hours before I commented earlier today on the fact that the White House and Bush campaign refuses to condemn the false charges put out by Swift Boat Vets for Bush, but only says the President wouldn't make the charges himself, but condems the fact that they're made by a 527 group. Scott McClellan was asked 12 times (twelve times) whether the Presendent condemned the content of specific ads such as Kerry has done regarding MoveOn's ad about Bush's service. His answer to twelve pointed questions was to repeat the deflection that Bush doesn't like the fact that the claims are being issued by a group registered as a 527 and claim that that was an answer to the question.

MR. McCLELLAN: The President has condemned -- well, first of all, the President has called on Senator Kerry to join him in calling for all of these ads and activity by these shadowy groups to stop, and he renewed that call today. The President has condemned all of these ads. And when he says he condemns them all, he means it. He wants Senator Kerry to join him in calling for a stop to all of these ads and activity.

Q But does he condemn the actual charge within the ad?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why I said --

Q Can I assume that, then?

MR. McCLELLAN: He condemns all of these ads --

Q So I can assume he condemns the content.

MR. McCLELLAN: Deb, he condemns all of these ads --

Q -- and the content?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me answer your question. The President condemns all of these ads. And he's been very clear in that. When he says he condemns all of the ads, he means all of the ads. And Senator Kerry should join us --

Q He's condemning the content of the ad, as well?

MR. McCLELLAN: He's calling for a stop to all of these ads. That's what he's -- he's renewed his call today to Senator Kerry: Join us in calling for a stop to all of these ads.

Q So let me just ask you --

MR. McCLELLAN: And activity by these unregulated soft-money groups.

Q You're not making a difference -- you're not distinguishing between the fact that they are 527s --

MR. McCLELLAN: I mean -- go ahead.

Q You're not separating, then, the fact that these are 527s getting unregulated money and the actual content of the ad, that Kerry might have fraudulently obtained his medals, he might have falsified records? You're lumping that all in. When he says he condemns them, he condemns everything.

MR. McCLELLAN: Senator Kerry wants to have it both ways. Let's call for an end to all of these ads by these shadowy groups that receive unregulated soft money. That's what the President has previously called on Senator Kerry to join us in doing, and we renew that call today. He should call for a stop to all of these ads. We thought we got rid of this when we signed -- when the President signed the campaign finance reforms into law. The President has been on the receiving end of more than $63 million in negative attacks from these shadowy groups, these 527s that exist. And that's why he believes that we should stop all of this activity that is going on by these unregulated -- soft money activity. And so I -- let's go and look at all that has happened over the last year, and all the negative attacks that have been aimed at the President, and all the false attacks that have been aired against the President out there.

Q So the content of all of them, he condemns that as well?

Q So can we assume that he's also denouncing the content of the ads?

MR. McCLELLAN: You've heard what he said -- he condemns all of the ads, Deb. He could not be more clear in saying that -- and when he says something, he means it. Senator Kerry can put an end to all of this by -- help put an end to all of this by joining us in calling for a stop to all of these ads. That's what he ought to do.

Q -- charge in the ad.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's what he ought to do. Why has the Kerry campaign been silent for more than a year, and then actually been fueling some of these very false and negative attacks that have been airing against the President of the United States for the last year?

Q But this one was against them.

MR. McCLELLAN: Right, they want to have it both ways. The President has been consistent from the very beginning. When he signed the campaign finance reforms into law, he thought he got rid of all of this activity and these ads. And he believes --

Q So you're condemning these ads, but not --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he believes we should get rid of all of this activity and ads by these shadowy groups.

Q But he's not denouncing the specific charge within the ads?

MR. McCLELLAN: How many times are you going to ask the same question, Deb?

Q You didn't answer.

MR. McCLELLAN: That is the answer: Senator Kerry should join us in calling for an end to all of this unregulated soft-money activity by these shadowy groups. And we call on Senator Kerry again today to join us in calling for a stop to all of these activities. The President condemns all of the ads. That's what he said, just again a minute ago, and that's what he has said previously.

Q Okay, so he would -- in terms of the question that I asked, he would discourage Republicans from supporting --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- we've never questioned Senator Kerry's service, and we won't. This race should be about the future. This race should be about how -- who is in the best position to lead the country, going forward, for the next four years. The President has a proven record of results, and he's laying out an agenda that builds upon that record of results. And we should be talking about how we lead and win the war on terrorism. We should be talking about how we -- the best way to create jobs and keep our economy moving forward. We should be talking about ways to reduce rising health care costs and make health care more affordable and accessible. That's what this election should be about, and instead you have Senator Kerry continuing to engage in false and negative attacks against the President of the United States.

Q Can I ask you a sort of unrelated question, which Dick wanted me to ask for another story?

MR. McCLELLAN: And I would remind you also, Deb, that the false and negative attacks being launched by the Kerry campaign have no basis in fact. They have presented no evidence. But there has been a revolving door between these Democratic front groups and the campaign strategist and the personnel and the strategies.

Q Okay, so you say these have no --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why we need to --

Q -- they're false and baseless, but are the Swift Boat ads false and baseless as well?

MR. McCLELLAN: Deb, this goes to your whole question. These ads are another example of the problem with these shadowy groups, and that receive unregulated soft money activity. And so the President condemns all of these ads. The President, as you heard him say again today, has called Senator Kerry's service "noble."

Q So Republican or Democrat, they're all false and baseless.

MR. McCLELLAN: We should condemn all of these ads, and put a stop to all these ads.

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. McCLELLAN: No, what I was talking about was the claim that the Kerry campaign has now made, which is, all of a sudden -- I think his campaign, the other day, said that Senator Kerry had reached the boiling point. Well, reaching the boiling point shouldn't be excuse to launch into false and baseless attacks against the President. Yet they continue to do so.

Q Can I ask you a separate question about something else? Basically -- I don't know if you saw the University of Maryland poll that shows one in seven people think we went to war under false pretenses. That poll and others --

MR. McCLELLAN: Haven't seen the poll.

Q Ask the campaign. (Laughter.)

McClellan's as well as this White House's rhetoric are eerily easy to predict. Although we didn't anticipate that the 527 aspect of the deflection, on August 5 - the day after Senator McCain condemned the ad - an internet friend and I correctly predicted the White House's response to questions about the ad. Here is the transcript of the future press briefing we came up with:

Q: Senator McCain strongly spoke out against the group of veterans making inflammatory statements about John Kerry's service in Vietnam. What is the President's view of this group and the claims they are making?

McClellan: I think the President already answered questions about John Kerry's service. The President is proud of every soldier, sailor and airman who has served his country with honor.

Q: But the ad?

McClellan : The president wants to take the high road in this campaign, Helen, and he thinks the issues of this campaign are about America's future and ALL THESE INCREDIBLE THREATS that president Bush will SAVE US ALL from.

Q: I'm not asking about terrorism. I'm asking about the ad attacking Kerry and the group that is making these claims. Does the President -

McClellan: This is a issue that the President has already -

Question: This ad just emerged in the last few days. I'm asking what the President -

McClellan: I think it's important to remember that the American people agree with the President that intentions do not always translate into results, and this campaign will allow the voters to examine the President's record and compare it to Senator Kerry's.

Bob Dolt got part of it right 

Every day of his 1996 presidential campaign, Bob Dole wore a Purple Heart lapel pin as a symbol of his devotion to his country. Dole received a debilitating wound during WW II and touted that wound; his campaign gaving prominent attention to his sacrifice and there was nothing wrong with that:

Dole's official campaign video, "Bob Dole: An American Hero," features an "America's Most Wanted"-style recreation of the battlefield scene, with shaky, slow-motion footage of a rifle and an empty helmet rolling on the ground. His convalescence is conveyed with shots of a man from the knees down, shuffling forward.

The Kerry campaign, of course, is indeed featuring his Vietnam service. But anyone that would claim Kerry is making a lot of racket about his Purple Hearts isn't paying attention to John Kerry - they're paying attention to the racket John O'Neill and other Bush surrogates are making about Kerry's medals. O'Neill seems to have Bob Dole's ear more than John Kerry does. On CNN yesterday, Dole bemoaned Kerry's Purple Hearts and service record yet in the next breath made the astute observation that nobody thought to question his own service record and Purple Hearts:

And he's, you know, a good guy, good friend. I respect his record. But three Purple Hearts and never bled that I know of. I mean, they're all superficial wounds. Three Purple Hearts and you're out. I think Senator Kerry needs to talk about his Senate record, which is pretty thin. That's probably why he's talking about his war record, which is pretty confused ...

I said John Kerry's a hero. But what I will always quarrel about are the Purple Hearts. I mean, the first one, whether he ought to have a Purple Heart - he got two in one day, I think ...

I remember in '96, I was the veteran in the race. Bill Clinton avoided the draft. And we didn't have all this trouble over my service versus his non-service. There wasn't much written about it. People accepted the fact that I had a record.

- Bob Dole, August 22, 2004

Indeed. It's the Swift Boat Vets for "Truth" that are confusing Kerry's service record, his record is clear and publicly available to download. Here is how Del Sandusky today responded to Dole's nonsense:

"[Kerry] deserved every one of his medals ... He carries a piece of shrapnel in his leg because he refused to be operated on and (spend) a couple of days in the hospital and leave us on the boat" I was there when he got wounded. I saw the blood. I don't care what Dole said."

Dole, however, is right on the more important count - nobody was low enough to question Dole's record as they are Kerry's, Dole was free to run on it (and lose) in 1996. Here are some excerpts from 1996 Republican Convention floor speeches that nobody had the audacity to smear:

"Bob Dole wears on the lapel of his coat a small pin. The purple heart, a symbol of his devotion to this county."
- Michael O. Leavitt, August 15, 1996

"When his country called - Bob Dole was there - ready to make the sacrifice. America is calling again."
- Kay Bailey Hutchison, August 13, 1996

"Bob Dole himself, bloodied in combat, tested by fire on the battlefield and in the world of politics, has proved his service to his country."
- Former President George HW Bush, August 12, 1996

Dole's wound that was traumatic an affects him to this day. As an important side note that others have observed - Dole has a second Purple Heart for a minor wound, yet, as Dole says "People accepted the fact". Dole described his wound like this in a campaign autobiography:

"As we approached the enemy, there was a brief exchange of gunfire. I took a grenade in hand, pulled the pin, and tossed it in the direction of the farmhouse. It wasn't a very good pitch (remember, I was used to catching passes, not throwing them). In the darkness, the grenade must have struck a tree and bounced off. It exploded nearby, sending a sliver of metal into my leg - the sort of injury the Army patched up with Mercurochrome and a Purple Heart."

- Bob Dole, 1988

If it wasn't for people like Swift Boat Vets for "Truth" making ridiculous claims and people like Bob Dole repeating them, there would be no problem. Although it doesn't seem to be much of a problem as Kerry's preference numbers have since risen in states that could go either way

Here is an especially ridiculous claim by the group for you to chew on: Kerry wrote his own after action reports and embellished them. Their evidence?

See Exhibit 17. KJW identifies the report as Kerry's.

The initials KJW indicate that the report was written by John Forbes Kerry. Dole is right - Kerry's record is confusing - to stupid people.

Bush doesn't say anything new about Swift Boat Vets for Bush ad 

During press availability at his 700 acre Crawford hobby ranch today, President Bush repeated the same position his administration and campaign have always voiced on the Swift Boat Vets for Truth attack ads, that all 527 groups should be banned and that he does not criticize Kerry's service but rather thinks it was honorable. I guarantee that an army of right-wing media pundits will treat it as if he said something new:

Q Some of your supporters are refighting the Vietnam War with their comments about Kerry's war record. Do you think that these attacks of this nature are unpatriotic, un-American, seeing as we're sending young people to war at this time?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I think we ought to be debating who best to be leading this country in the war against terror. And that's what I'll continue to try to convince the American people of, is that I'm the right person to continue to lead the country in the war on terror. I think we ought to be looking forward, not backward. And that's the kind of campaign I'll continue to run.

Q But why won't you denounce the charges that your supporters are making against Kerry?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm denouncing all the stuff being on TV of the 527s. That's what I've said. I said this kind of unregulated soft money is wrong for the process. And I asked Senator Kerry to join me in getting rid of all that kind of soft money, not only on TV, but used for other purposes, as well. I, frankly, thought we'd gotten rid of that when I signed the McCain-Feingold bill. I thought we were going to, once and for all, get rid of a system where people could just pour tons of money in and not be held to account for the advertising. And so I'm disappointed with all those kinds of ads.

Yes, Adam.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. This doesn't have anything to do with other 527 ads. You've been accused of mounting a smear campaign. Do you think Senator Kerry lied about his war record?

THE PRESIDENT: I think Senator Kerry served admirably, and he ought to be -- he ought to be proud of his record. But the question is, who best to lead the country in the war on terror; who can handle the responsibilities of the Commander-in-Chief; who's got a clear vision of the risks that the country faces.


Q Mr. President, some Republicans, such as Bob Dole and some Republican donors such as --

THE PRESIDENT: What paper are you with?

Q I'm with Bloomberg.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good. First time I've seen you ought here. Welcome.

Q Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: No problem. Did you write the story about the Vice President? (Laughter.) Yes, go ahead.

Q That's okay. Some Republicans such as Bob Dole and some Republican donors such as Bob Perry have contributed and endorsed the message of these 527 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads --


Q Do you -- when you say that you want to stop all --

THE PRESIDENT: All of them.

Q Does that mean --

THE PRESIDENT: That means that ad, every other ad.

Q Would you encourage Republicans not to give to --

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. I don't think we ought to have 527s. I can't be more plain about it. And I wish -- I hope my opponent joins me in saying, condemning these activities of the 527s. It's the -- I think they're bad for the system. That's why I signed the bill, McCain-Feingold. I've been disappointed that for the first six months of this year, 527s were just pouring tons of money, billionaires writing checks. And I spoke out against them early. I tried to get others to speak out against them, as well. And I just don't -- I think they're bad for the system.

The issues are that a) Swift Boat Vets for Truth are as closely associated to the White House you can get without being on the White House or Bush campaign payroll and b) that their factual claims are fictional. Kerry has not condemned 527s, but he has specifically condemned the MoveOn ad criticizing Bush's service in the Air National Guard (or more accurately, lack of service) saying "I agree with Senator McCain that the ad is inappropriate."

Kerry Denounces New Ad on Bush's Service in Guard

Senator John Kerry denounced an advertisement by the liberal group MoveOn.org questioning President Bush's Vietnam-era service in the Air National Guard yesterday, a move likely to raise pressure on President Bush to condemn a recent commercial accusing Mr. Kerry of lying about his war record.

Bush has not said the Swift Boat Vet's ad is inappropriate, he is saying he's disappointed the ad is funded by a 527 group.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

FOX News and I are feeling good about November 2 

A day doesn't go by without hearing that this presidential election is neck and neck. In terms of the popular vote as it shows up in preference polls, that's true. But when you look at electoral votes, Kerry is clearly in the lead. In order for things to start looking good for Bush, he's going to have to reverse the trend in several states: over the last two months, Florida, West Virginia, New Hampshire have slid into the Kerry column. If it doesn't make immediate sense how Kerry can clearly be leading with an advantage of only 2-4% nationally, consider how the electoral college works, if it does make sense, jump down this post a bit. Here's an illustrative example of a three state nation that elects their president more or less like we do, with the difference of voting being mandatory. Keep in mind that each state gets two "free" electoral votes regardless ofd population:

Splay that out to find how many people in each state prefer Bush or Kerry:

Add up the votes to see who is ahead in the popular vote nationally and who wins the electoral vote:

When you look at state level polls today, you see something very similar is happening. In the states where Bush is ahead, he's generally ahead by a larger margin than in states where Kerry is leading. Here are a few examples from large states to illustrate:

Looking at only the 132 electoral votes from those four states, we see that across those four states, Bush has 49% of the vote and Kerry has 46% - that's not how we determine the winner of a presidential election. If you get the most votes in a state, you get all the electoral votes: Kerry wins California and Florida for 81 electoral votes and Bush wins Texas and Georgia for 51 electoral votes.

If you do the same thing with every state, you find Kerry has 286 electoral votes and Bush has 233. An easier why of explaining what I just pointed out at length may have been simply to have noted that in 2000, Bush lost the popular vote, but won the electoral vote.

An additional peculiarity I'm anticipating on election day comes from the phenomena of many people desiring "anybody but Bush" to be in the White House. In a typical election, a lot of people are going to not particularly like either of the major candidates and they'll not vote for either, but just stay home from the polls. This election will likely be the same in that way. But also in this election, there are a whole bunch of people that virulently dislike Bush and will be motivated to vote solely to get Bush out of office. There were so many people that showed up to the Democratic caucus in my district and wanted to be delegates for the state convention, special "how to be a delegate" sessions were arranged. In my precinct, people who had been going to the caucuses since they began again during the Vietnam war said there were four times as many people as had showed up ever before. It seems clear to me that the people who are "anybody but Kerry" voters would be voting for Bush anyway.

Pollsters come up with the populations they survey by going off of lists of registered voters - lists which anybody can purchase from secretaries of state. From those lists, they usually poll "likely" voters - a category they come up with by looking at how often the subject has voted in recent elections and asking them a few qualifying questions at the beginning of the interview. If a person hasn't voted since 1992, most pollsters aren't going to consider them "likely", but not pollster uses the exact same criteria. You can see that different pollsters use different criteria by comparing the "likely" numbers to the "registered" numbers - all have Kerry doing better among "registered" voters:

Except for the FOX poll which shows Kerry doing better among "likely" voters:

FOX's poll is the only one that makes sense if you accept the premise that there are a lot of angry voters who will be drawn to the polls by an "anybody but Bush" sentiment (or kept away because they only want to vote for a Republican, but not Bush). FOX's presidential polling sticks out for another reason as well: the president rather consistently has a higher approval rating than in other polls taken around the same time - the president - not "Bush" - FOX had Clinton's ratings higher than the other pollsters as well.

To me, it seems reasonable to believe that the anger at Bush will result in high voter turnout among people that typically vote for Democrats, and that Bush's policies will have brought about low voter turnout among people that typically vote Republican: spending money like there's no tomorrow, expanding the welfare state, having a welcoming attitude towards those south of the border and allowing the size of the federal government to mushroom.

Pollsters don't make such evaluations - their determinations of who is likely to vote are based on questions like "How important you think the outcome of the upcoming presidential election is? Very important, somewhat important, not very important or not important at all?" A better question might be "Are you so angry at Bush that you'd never vote for him in a million years or are you so angry you'd even prefer the idiot is inside that Barney the Purple Dinosaur costume?"

Because new voters do not show up on the voter rolls the pollsters go off of, they are neither "likely" not "registered", there is no way of measuring their influence. So add a lot of new "anybody but Bush" votes to the fact that we already have an angry registered electorate, and Kerry could easily win in a few states which conventional wisdom have until recently considered "safe Republican", but are actually pretty close among the population the pollsters are querying: Missouri, Arkansas, Virginia, North Carolina. Maybe later I'll write about the fact that a few reasonably close states have no senatorial or gubernatorial elections will also work to Kerry's advantage - I have more work to do. Bush says he has a lot more work to do too. He does indeed.

There is a link between Hussein and bin Laden, but no link between Bush/Cheney 2004 and Swift Boat Vets for Truth 

Philip Glass smiles in approval 

About the anti-Kerry rally announced by a suspiciously smoking gun of connection between between Sift Boat Veterans for [Bush] and the Bush/Cheney campaign. More Kerry supporters than Bush supporters showed up, and I couldn't help but laugh out loud at the reported spontaneous work of art that resulted:

For what it's worth, this gun looks smokier. I initially thought it was a bad move for the Kerry/Edwards campaign to file a complaint with the FEC over illegal alleged collusion between the Swift Boat Vets group and Bush campaign - it could be (incorrectly) interpreted as a dispute of the ridiculous allegations of O'Neill's group instead of what it actually was: an accusation of breaking campaign finance law. And note the headline to the story I linked to, "Kerry Files Attack Ad Complaint" does incorrectly imply Kerry was complaining about the nature of the ad. But if an easy to understand connection is to be seen, it was probably a good move to call them on it. It seems there are two easy to understand connections so far.

Keeping the group's desperation in the forefront is good, but that should be done by people completely unassociated with the Kerry campaign - it's too dangerous to allow the appearance of Kerry thinking the charges are worthy to dispute.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Big Horn v. Oakland 

I find the arguments for national gun laws loony. The idea that there can be any one gun law that is appropriate across a nation as diverse as the United States ... is loony. Consider for example Big Horn County, Wyoming versus Oakland, California.

Big Horn County is a huge land area with a population of less than 13,000 and a single hotel. According to these government stats, in 2000, there were 0 Murders, 0 Rapes, 0 Robberies. 0 Aggravated Assaults, 0 Burglaries, 0 Larcenies, and 0 Motor vehicle thefts in Big Horn County. Additionally there were 0 crimes reported and 0 arrests. Guns are not contributing to violent crime in Big Horn County because there is no violent crime.

Compare that to Oakland, Ca - 25,000 "serious crimes" and 5,000 "violent crimes" the same year. Is there a compelling reason to restrict gun ownership in Oakland? I don't know, but I believe the citizens of Oakland and California should be free to answer that question themselves.

It's the "gun rights" advocates who wish to restrict freedoms pertaining to guns: to them, denying people the right to devise gun laws they find appropriate is somehow granting a freedom.

Right-wingers, driven by a semi-theological reverence for the Second Amendment, will offer all sorts of ludicrous arguments that their right to own a gun is absolute. Keeping in mind that the majority of these these same people have a nearly equal semi-theological reverence for "state's rights", read UNITED STATES v. CRUIKSHANK, an 1875 Supreme Court decision which held that the Second Amendment did not prohibit anything beyond Congress infringing on the right to bear arms:

The second and tenth counts are equally defective. The right there specified is that of 'bearing arms for a lawful purpose.' This is not a right granted by the Constitution. Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The second amendment declares that it shall not be infringed; but this, as has been seen, means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress. This is one of the amendments that has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government, leaving the people to look for their protection against any violation by their fellow-citizens of the rights it recognizes, to what is called, in The City of New York v. Miln, 11 Pet. 139, the 'powers which relate to merely municipal legislation, or what was, perhaps, more properly called internal police,' 'not surrendered or restrained' by the Constituton of the United States.

One may earnestly object, "You cannot ensalve a free man, you can only kill him." * To that, I say I can ensalve anyone I want. I might make his hands softer, but I certainly don't have to kill him.

* Actual quote

Friday, August 20, 2004

Electoral vote predictions 

Election Projection starts out with a "baseline adjustment", which makes several errors. Frankly, I can't pretend to understand exactly how this adjustment is arrived at: it is described as allotting 50% of Nader's 2000 numbers to Kerry and 20% to Bush, in which case Gore would have received 50.4% of the vote and Bush 48.4%, yet this "baseline adjustment" starts with 49.085% going to both Bush and Kerry. So, beyond the main error of applying a poll which measured a preference between Bush and Gore four years ago to a preference between Bush and Kerry today, it runs counter to it's stated purpose: instead of handicapping Bush because he lost the popular vote in 2000, it puts Bush on even ground.

Secondly, there is a "national adjustment" applied to state level polls. This obviously runs counter to the effort of determining how people in a particular state will vote. For instance, if 65% of people in Idaho are polled as saying they'd vote for Bush and 40% nationally say so, adjusting Idaho's results towards the national average waters down the 65% who say they'd vote for Bush. In closer state-level races, it could artificially flip the state to the other candidate if the other candidate in ahead nationally.

Electoral Vote Predictor 2004 is a raw report of the most only recent state level poll for each state, which is interesting, but of course does nothing to attempt to predict how a state will vote beyond reporting whatever the most recent poll said. Today it's showing Bush and Kerry within 3% of each other in California, which is more than 10% off from other recent polls. So it does nothing to show a meaningful trend.

Race 2004 assumes that more undecided voters will vote for Kerry (or "against the incumbent", as it's described). 'Nuff said.

Professor Pollkatz projects the vote using regression theory (based on the statistical correlation shown in past elections between every possible pair of states). This, like Election Projection, applies the results of races in past elections to the upcoming election. The facts that both candidates come from states with large populations and that Ross Perot received a significant amount of the right-leaning vote in two recent elections may make the method for predicting results in 2004 less meaningful.

I can't find an explanation of how Dave Leip's US Election Atlas predicts the vote, but it appears to show simple unweighed aggregations of all recent state level polls.

The interesting thing is that every projection - even Election Projection's horribly flawed and desperate attempt to weight the results in Bush's favor - predict a decisive Kerry win.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

They're not all bad 

"I've reached the conclusion, retrospectively, now that the inadequate intelligence and faulty conclusions are being revealed, that all things being considered, it was a mistake to launch that military action ... Knowing now what I know about the reliance on the tenuous or insufficiently corroborated intelligence used to conclude that Saddam maintained a substantial WMD (weapons of mass destruction) arsenal, I believe that launching the pre-emptive military action was not justified ... our country's reputation around the world has never been lower and our alliances are weakened ... Now we are immersed in a dangerous, costly mess, and there is no easy and quick way to end our responsibilities in Iraq without creating bigger future problems in the region and, in general, in the Muslim world ... Left unresolved for now is whether intelligence was intentionally misconstrued to justify military action."

Excerpts from a letter sent to constituents
Republican Rep. Doug Bereuter
1st District, Nebraska

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Trickle-up economics made easy 

This is how capitalistic economies work:

A lot of people buy a little toothpaste from a few people that have a lot of toothpaste and a few people get rich and a lot of people get a little toothpaste. smile

Guilty as charged 

Speaking of silly things right-wingers believe. If, on a webboard, someone makes a cogent point by cutting and pasting from an article or essay, instead of addressing the substance, the act of cutting and pasting itself is harshly derided. If that's not bad enough, I was just told I should be ashamed for cutting and pasting from the fearofclowns.com website. A "complete cut and paste". Well, they really got me there.

Monday, August 16, 2004

What you must believe to be a right-winger, Part I 

  1. Belief: The Second Amendment keeps power in the hands of the people.

    Reality: It didn't keep power in the hands of David Koresh at Waco, TX.

  2. Belief: If it wasn't for liberals, flag burning would be illegal.

    Reality: If is wasn't for conservatives, flag burning would be illegal.

    • The Flag Protection Act of 1989 was passed by a Congress controlled by Democrats and a Republican president refused to sign or veto it in the required time - thus it became law without his signature.

    • Anton Scalia, widely lauded as a model Supreme Court justice by conservatives, cast a decisive vote in the 5-4 ruling which overturned the law on First Amendment grounds.

    • Bonus: Here's another "conservative" who seems to think desecrating the flag is acceptable.

  3. Belief: Katherine Harris didn't try to illegally disenfranchise ex-felons, she was just following the law. Inaccuracies were the fault of the private company the Florida retained to maintain the list.

    Reality: The Florida Division of Elections contravened state law by instructing their contractor to include ex-felons from states which had already restored the felon's civil rights.

    • "The list maintenance contract originally stated that only Florida felony convictions would be used to create an exceptions list ... Following the instructions DBT Online received from the Division of Elections [in 2000], felons convicted in the following states, which have automatic restoration of civil rights, must apply for clemency through the Florida Executive Board of Clemency: Texas, Connecticut, South Carolina, Illinois, and Wisconsin." - US Commission on Civil Rights report to Congress, Voting Irregularities in Florida During the 2000 Presidential Election, June, 2001

    • "Once another state restores the civil rights of one of its citizens whose rights had been lost because of a conviction in that state, they are restored and the State of Florida has no authority to suspend or restore them at that point." - Schlenther v. Florida Department of State, June, 1998

  4. Belief: Everybody from Clinton onward thought they knew Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Even Hans Blix and France.

    Reality: No they didn't.

    • "I expect Saddam Hussein to let inspectors back into the country. We want to know whether he's developing weapons of mass destruction." - President George W. Bush, January 16, 2002

    • "We believe, as Mr. ElBaradei said yesterday, that the inspections are a way for us to be sure of having the best chance of ascertaining whether Iraq has weapons or not ." - France Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Press Statement, January 14, 2003

    • "How much, if any, is left of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and related proscribed items and programmes? To take an example, document, which Iraq provided, suggested to us that some 1,000 tonnes of chemical agent were "unaccounted for". One must not jump to the conclusion that they exist. However, that possibility is also not excluded." - Hans Blix, Security Council Briefing, February 14, 2003

    • "What surprises me, what amazes me, is that it seems the military people were expecting to stumble on large quantities of gas, chemical weapons and biological weapons. I don't see how they could have come to such an attitude if they had, at any time, studied the reports ... Is the United Nations on a different planet? Are reports from here totally unread south of the Hudson?" Hans Blix, June 18, 2002 (original NYT subscription article found here).

  5. Belief: The United States has the best healthcare in the world.

    Reality: Twenty-eight nations enjoy longer average life expectancies and lower infant mortality rates than the US.

    • Andorra, Macau, San Marino, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, Hong Kong, Canada, Iceland, Italy, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Spain, France, Norway, Greece, Aruba, Netherlands, Malta, New Zealand, Belgium, Austria, United Kingdom, Germany, Finland and Luxembourg. CIA World Factbook

  6. Belief: Wealthy people create jobs, particularly when they get a tax break.

    Reality: Demand for labor creates jobs, particularly when people with modest or low income people get tax breaks.

    • If a wealthy person decides to buy 500,000 bicycles with money they would otherwise pay in taxes, yes they would perhaps create some jobs. But most people who would chose to do such a thing already have the ability to do it, and indeed, many of the super-rich are always generous with their money. The types of things a very wealthy person might buy as the result of an income tax reduction are along the lines of a second or third yacht or fourth or fifth mansion. The notion that we should try to improve the economy by building luxury items costing as much as the yearly operating expenses of many school districts is absurd. Particularly when done at a time when many school districts are experiencing budget crises.

      Wealthy people put their money into investments that serve the aim of achieving growth. That only includes creating jobs when they see a demand for labor which will result in increasing their wealth. And that demand is driven by the people who consume the most products and services: moderate and low income people. And moreover, wealthy people expand and build businesses on credit - banks will always loan money to any person who already has a lot of capital.

      It works the same way on every level - let's look at an easy to understand example. Say you have a successful restaurant employing 25 people. You see a market for a new restaurant - maybe a new complex of condominiums has been developed and people are starting to move in. Nearby, there's a couple smokey bars that serve deep-fried food, but nowhere you can go to order a soup and salad or deli sandwich. So you write up a business plan and go to the bank. The loan officer runs a credit check, looks at your assets and debts, and sees that you're already running a successful restaurant. The bank decides you're good for the loan and that they will make money by issuing you credit.

      You get a $250K loan, open up the restaurant and you've created 20 more jobs. But you didn't do it because you paid less taxes this year than you did the last - you did it because you saw a gap in a market and decided you could make money from working that market to your advantage.

      If you paid $2K less in taxes this year than last, you might take out a $248K loan instead of a $250K loan, but you're not going to hire 21 people for your new restaurant instead of the 20 you needed to meet the demand for labor you saw.

      It's no different in concept for the super rich who may have paid $500K less in taxes this year than the last. It's not going to cause anyone to create jobs for 2100 people instead of the 2000 they figure are needed to make their investment work. It just means $500K less comes from a bank and $500K more goes against the government's balance sheet. And someone might decide to buy another yacht and yes, you might spend your tax savings on a down payment for a better car, but your school district is still in a budget crisis and your daughter is still going to spend 4th grade in a classroom with 29 other kids instead of 19.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Bush to commit troops to battleground states? 

There is a decided preference among families of career military personnel to vote Republican. It's reported that the Bush administration will announce tomorrow that it's bringing a significant number of troops back home from overseas deployments, mostly from Europe and Asia. The article states as many as 100,000 "family members" and "support staff" may be moved, other articles state the numbers of actual troops brought back home could be as large as 70,000. It will be interesting to watch how quickly the movement happens and to what states they're moved - at least two states which are spoken of as hanging in the balance - Florida and North Carolina - have large military installations.

Granted, moving even one military family around is a huge and time consuming task, but if the Republicans successfully disenfranchised thousands of minority voters during the 2000 Florida election, they could successfully relocate thousands of military voters as well. Military personnel have can change their state of legal residency by filling out DD Form 2048, which requires only "physical presence in the new State with the simultaneous intent of making it your permanent home and abandonment of the old State of legal residence/domicile." If I had the opportunity to vote in one of two states, I'd go out of my way to cast my vote in the state my favored candidate needed it most. Moving a soldier with legal residency in a heavily Democratic state to a military base in a battleground state and the vote changes from inconsequential to crucial.

Bush had announced that such a move was his desired intention as far back as the 2000 presidential debates:

I am also on record as saying in some point of time, I hope our European friends become the peacekeepers in Bosnia and in the Balkans. I hope that they put the troops on the ground, so that we can withdraw our troops and focus our military on fighting and winning war.

That our troops have been spread thin for quite some time is no secret, and it's well known that the Bush's Pentagon and administration denied that the problem warrants a drastic solution such as they reportedly have now made. My question is this: Why did Bush wait until the last few months of his administration to follow through with an intention he had before he took office and even before he launched the so-called "War or Terror"? Interesting that the delay seems to both allow a factoring in of what states their voter registration is most needed as well as where they or others are most needed after being rotated back overseas.

Secondly, we can take off our tinfoil hats and look at one of John Kerry's campaign promises,

And I will build a stronger military. We will add 40,000 active duty troops, not in Iraq, but to strengthen American forces that are now overstretched, overextended and under pressure.

The rearrangement of deployments would give Republicans ammunition to both:

  1. Criticize Kerry for following through on his campaign promise. "We didn't need them. Kerry cannot run the military."
  2. Criticize Kerry for not following through on a campaign promise. "Kerry hates the military. His promise to build up the military was hot air"

The move may create two artificial problems for a President Kerry.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Watermelon jam: not in the satellite photos 

To my dismay, people continue to criticize those of us who were right in our assessments of what we'd not find in Iraq. I was told yesterday by a friend who still supports the invasion, "You want France and the UN to make the decisions affecting our national interest, I do not. You want to listen to Blix ..."

Indeed some of us did give an ear to Hans Blix while everyone else - including Al Frankin - was making jokes about the "Blixie Chicks". And no matter how much people try to ignore it, the fact remains that we did not find that Iraq was churning out horrible poisons.

At least some of us who showed resolved to stick with the inspections don't want our allies to be responsible for our national interest; that some say we do speaks volumes of how difficult it is to criticize someone for being right. We do wish America to act in our own international interest, however. No matter what position in the world some may try to claim for us, we do need to cooperate with the rest of the world - "co-operate". Without help and resources from a truly broad range of friends across the shining seas, we'd be left with little more than soybeans, paper pulp, weapons, perpetual political campaigns and that old time religion. We live on a sphere too big to steer it's course alone, or even with a select group of willing nations. Facing up to that fact makes our own plains no less fruited, our mountains no less majestic, our cities no less gleaming, our God no less graceful and our patriot's dreams no less beautiful.

Some of us grew up in an America that taught the greatest thing we can do is to think for ourselves and not be afraid to consider an unpopular path into the future. The path some of us saw through the briar patch of Iraq would have taken us through suffering barely a scratch. Instead of being patient in our resolve, we hastily took a short cut, thorns be damned. Today is the 511th day our nation has been rolling in the thicket, getting more bruised and bloodied, and some still claim taking the shortcut was the right thing to do. Incredibly, some even claim it was we who wanted to take the wrong path.

In a nutshell, my protest sprung from a strong conviction that the only moral reason to employ military force is to end a deadly conflict already in progress, and then only as the last option. If there is a God, he lives within all of us equally - solving problems through war is killing God himself. Killing God to be on the safe side is an idea that can only be embraced by those with a pornographic lust for violent solutions.

The question whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or not was barely tangential to the core of my opposition to starting a war. I supported inspections, backed up by the threat of force: it was right to have amassed a presence in the region to show Hussein the world meant business - the rascal was not the easiest to reason with. And as it turned out, he was just a coward in a spider-hole anyway. Nonetheless, using our position of global leadership and power to reach a world consensus on UNSCR 1441 and securing Hussein's cooperation with it are two of the very few Bush administration achievements for which I applaud them. At the same time, I deride them for beginning the debate with talk of "regime change" - it was clear from the start the real intention was to invade Iraq, not to ensure they had disarmed. We were told over and over the problem was "the nature of the regime itself". But the White House did indeed succeed in recommencing inspections, and for that they should be commended. By getting inspectors back in, they undid Clinton's mistake of forcing inspectors out of Iraq in 1998 (and don't believe for a second that Hussein "kicked them out" - the head of the UN inspections team withdrew the inspectors for their safety ahead of Clinton's bombing campaign, Operation Desert Fox - just as the last inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq ahead of Bush's invasion.)

By the time we launced into Iraq, the alleged Iraqi threat was obviously a bunch of garbage smoked through an opium pipe. We were told that the evidence Iraq had begun to build and stockpile weapons of mass destruction was photographic and we were actually shown these photographs. Photos of entire industrial complexes - spreading over acres, at work churning out evil poisons and enriching uranium for nuclear bombs: "We know they're doing it, because we're watching them do it!"

Before weapons inspectors returned to Iraq journalists inside the country reported the facilities weren't used for making weapons. This was before inspectors had returned to Iraq - the first inspections mandated by UNSCR 1441 took place November 27, 2002. Several weeks before, on October 8, 2002, the Department of Defence had held a press briefing to fancifully explain why the photographs President Bush had spoken of the preceeding day were actually weapons factories. Here is a verbatim transcription from a flowchart used to describe the deception, the hasty capitalization retained:

  1. International Org or Foreign Government Releases Satellite Image of Suspect WMD Facility
  2. Iraq Obtains Image & Checks Actual Function of Facility (real WMD or legitimate civilian)
  3. Iraqi Security Personnel Sanitize Facility (if it is a real WMD facility) & prepare facility personnel For visit (WMD or civilian)
  4. Iraqi Ministry of Information Invites Selected Media Representatives to Tour Facility
  5. Iraqis Conduct Scripted & Controlled Facility Tour
  6. Iraqi Official Holds up Image to Discredit Evidence

It was maybe reasonable to believe the explanation for the moment. Journalists don't have the expertise or sophisticated equipment required to detect the infinitessimally small traces of chemicals or spores of anthrax that weapons inspectors do, so on it's own, the explanation was believable. Most reporters probably wouldn't even have a Geiger counter with which to determine if uranium had recently been processed at a location. Maybe Hussein was just tricking some gullible reporters.

What the inspectors saw from the ground

Once inspectors were in Iraq, the moment of suspending disbelief ended. It should be noted that there were many Americans in the UN inspection team, selected by the CIA. Here are some excerpts from the inspectors' public reports:

  • "The most important point to make is that access has been provided to all sites we have wanted to inspect and with one exception it has been prompt." - January 27, 2003
  • "Both teams left the Canal Hotel at 8:30 a.m. and returned in the course of the afternoon. They had no difficulty gaining immediate access to the sites as well as any locations within the sites." - November 28, 2002
  • "The IAEA inspection team was able to conduct the inspection activities, as it had planned and did not face any difficulty with access to the sites and locations inside. The inspection allowed to verify the accuracy of Iraq's declarations related to these two sites and to update the knowledge of the Agency on the activities carried out and the capabilities existing at these sites." - November 30, 2002
  • "There is no indication of resumed nuclear activities in those buildings that were identified through the use of satellite imagery as being reconstructed or newly erected since 1998, nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any inspected sites." - March 7, 2003
  • "Falluja I is storage of farm products and largely deserted." - January 27, 2003
  • "The plant produces tomato products, date syrup, cheese, vinegar, and watermelon jam ... A Mosul-based multidisciplinary team inspected the Arabic Gulf Company in Mosul on 9 March. This company produces letter envelopes." - March 11, 2003

Did the inspectors conclusively verify that Iraq had disarmed and was producing no weapons of mass destruction? No. Why not? Because President Bush had no resolve to follow through with the inspections his administration so fabulously made possible. Instead he "reluctantly" launched "military operations to disarm Iraq".

US reaction to inspectors' initial findings

The US media failed to accurately report what the inspectors were finding - or rather what they were not finding. Instead, the mantra of the march to war remained based on observations from outer space instead of under the same rooftops pictured in the photos. We've maybe forgotten why many people were convinced my the evidence - we've just accepted that they were. The case was photographs which tell 1,000 words each.

Currently Active

Click on the thumbnails for the full slide. These are taken from the Pentagon presentation to the press, on the day after President Bush spoke of the photographic evidence that Iraq was building weapons of mass destruction. First a slide titled "Nuclear Program DECEPTION". The photograph is of the "al Qaim Phosphate Plant & Uranium Extraction Line" and is dated April 1, 2002. Below the photo are the words "Currently active". The presenter noted to the Pentagon reporters for which the presentation was given, "If you look at the picture, you'll see it's an active facility." So there you go. Photographic evidence that Iraq was refining uranium.

Six square miles inside

This is of the "Radwaniyah facility". The presenter noted, "This facility is about 18 square kilometers inside. The rough boundaries of the site are marked in red, and we have superimposed in approximate scale the size of the White House and the White House grounds over this site. And you can make a visual comparison as to its rather enormous size." Eighteen square kilometers is six square miles. Yes, a very big facility indeed. Could hold many weapons of mass destruction. Interestingly enough, after we invaded and didn't find the things we were looking for, we stared hearing "It is important to keep in mind that even the bulkiest materials we are searching for, in the quantities we would expect to find, can be concealed in spaces not much larger than a two-car garage" (Dr. David Kay, testimony to Congress, October 2, 2003)

Astoundingly, the "photographic evidence" of the threat continued to be cited even after we'd been inside the buildings. As the march to war happened two Sopranos seasons prior to this writing, a review of a the literally graphic case that Iraq was building is in order. Each item supported by a (Powell) in the following outline was given by Secretary Powell on March 5, 2003 after we had been examining the buildings from inside for nine weeks. The rest of the information was given in the lead-up to inspections. Everything that's not in quotes is a paraphrasing, links to the source of each claim are found below this synopsis:

We know Iraq is building chemical weapons because we have surveillance photos that prove it.Bush They're shipping these things around through a wear-house at al Musayyib, south of Baghdad. Here are satellite photos of them doing it.Powell Look at the Radwaniyah facility - it's enormous! For comparison, this is how big the White House would look.DoD Saddam Hussein has amassed large stockpiles of chemical weapons, including VX, Sarin and mustard gas.Rumsfeld

Here is a satelite photo of Iraq building biological weapons at Abu Ghraib. Note in the photo that the facility is larger than it was in 1991.DoD The biological weapons program is now active and larger and more advanced than before the Gulf War.Powell Saddam Hussein has amassed large stockpiles of biological weapons, including anthrax, botulism, and other toxins.Rumsfeld

In total, they have 20 industrial plant sized production facilities.White House

They are on a world-wide hunt for materials with which to build a nuclear bomb.White House They're trying to obtain these materials from 11 countries.Powell They are rebuilding facilities to enrich uranium.Bush We know this because we have satelite photos.Bush Here is the photographic evidence.DoD The evidence we have is clear. "We cannot wait for the final proof - the smoking gun - that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."Bush

"Iraq is exploring ways of ... targeting the United States."Bush Right now, on September 19, 2002 as I testify to Congress, Saddam Hussein could kill 2 million Americans. "No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq."Rumsfeld

Powell State Department, Colin Powell's "Remarks to the United Nations Security Council" February 5, 2003
Bush White House, "President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat", October 7, 2002
DoD Department of Defense, "DoD News Briefing", October 8, 2002
Rumsfeld Department of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld's Testimony to the Senate Armed Service Committee, September 19, 2002
White House White House, "Denial and Deception" fact sheet, September 12, 2002

President Bush's explanation

President Bush on July 14, 2003 explained the errors in judgement this way, "It's the same intelligence, by the way, that my predecessor used to make the decision he made in 1998 ... And we gave [Saddam Hussein] a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in." That he seemed to have forgotten he succeeded in getting the inspectors in deserves no comment. On his claim that the intelligence, although flawed, had everybody fooled for a long time - that everybody "knew" Hussein was hording terrible weapons, I'll let someone else respond:

"I expect Saddam Hussein to let inspectors back into the country. We want to know whether he's developing weapons of mass destruction."
- President George W. Bush
January 16, 2002

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Will the liberal media report on Bush's plan to raise taxes? 

Let's examine how the media could report on Bush's comments about a national sales tax yesterday:

In a Q & A session yesterday, Bush revealed that if he wins the election, he may raise taxes by creating a new national sales tax, although the rate had not yet been determined. "You know, I'm not exactly sure how big the national sales tax is going to have to be," Bush said.

To be clear, it has not been reported that way - to remove the context and claim he was saying something he was not would be dishonest. He was commenting on a question querying his thoughts on the wacky idea of levying budget income through a sales tax instead of income tax. He clearly stated "It's an interesting idea," and one that "we ought to explore seriously." He was also speaking of replacing income taxes with sales taxes, although grammatically the claim that tax revenue would be raised through a sales tax accurately portrays Bush's statement.

Just a few words about the idea of a national sales tax itself. Reference the common right-wing observation that because the super rich earn more, they also pay a lot more taxes in numerical dollar amounts. Casting aside the fallacious conclusion that the observation can be used when talking about tax rates, it does show that if taxes were levied as a fixed rate on products and services people consume, raising enough revenue to run our government would eat up a huge portion of incomes of people who spend the majority of it on goods and services. Wealthier people spend an incredibly small portion of their income on things to wich sales tax applies such as food, transportation, housing and health care. Income that a sales tax wouldn't touch would be accumulated tax-free.

Returning to how Bush's comment could be cited, let's compare it to how a similarly careless quote from Howard Dean was portrayed when he commented on ideas other people held. On December 1, 2003, Dean noted during a radio interview that the Bush's stonewalling against the 9/11 Commission served to give rise to conspiracy theories,

There are many theories about it. The most interesting theory that I've heard so far -- which is nothing more than a theory, it can't be proved -- is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now who knows what the real situation is? But the trouble is, by suppressing that kind of information, you lead to those kind of theories, whether they have any truth to them or not, and eventually, they get repeated as fact.

The next day, NewsMax - claimed to the most heavily trafficed website on the Internet - reported Dean "said that President Bush is withholding documents related to 9/11 because they may show he knew what was coming". On the pages of the December 5 Washington Post and everywhere his column was syndicated, Charles Krauthammer literally invoked his professional psychiatric authority, concluding that Dean was "delusional".

Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie issued a press release about Dean's "quite odd" "charge". And taking his cue, Robert Novak incredibly complained that Dean's statement had "received scant media attention".

A month after Dean's interview, Brit Hume did his part to keep the effects of the right-wing media duplicity alive on FOX News, as did Paula Zahn on CNN. Sean Hannity was still at it three months later. Oliver North, Michelle Malkin, and Linda Chavez also did their parts in popularizing the mischaracterization.

Should we expect Paul Krugman, Jim Hightower and the relatively few other liberal news commentators to claim Bush wanted to raise everybody's taxes? Of course not, and they won't. I'd be surprised if they even comment on his stated desire to give the idea "serious" exploration without noting that Bush isn't even qualified to consider such things without guidance from the people around him.

The army of conservative commentators in the media - many of whom are willing to be duplicitous in order to meet their ideological goals - completely drown out the voices of their counterparts with national familiarity. Commentators and analysts tell people what yesterday's news reporting meant and set the agenda for tomorrow's headlines. And most people prefer to get their news through the more entertaining format of opinion than the sober reporting of the facts. Think about it - do most people find it more enjoyable to get news views from watching The Daily Show or listening to Rush Limbaugh, or is it more entertaining to pop some popcorn and sit down with a copy of The New York Times or Washington Times?

Here's a partial list of 56 wildly popular and self-identifying conservatives floating upon the top level of media visibility. These people openly spice their reporting and analysis of events with their proud conservative opinions. As a note, I find some of these people are honest and thoughtful and they have no disrespect coming from me, others are simply hacks. The important point is they all are openly conservativein their views:

Pat Buchanan, William F. Buckley, William Bennett, Neil Boortz, Brent Bozell, Tucker Carlson, Mona Charen, Linda Chavez, Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge, Larry Elder, Jerry Falwell, Steve Forbes, David Frum, Paul Gigot, Bernard Goldberg, Jonah Goldberg, David Horowitz, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, Larry Kudlow, Stanley Kurtz, Michael Ledeen, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Gordon Liddy, Frank Luntz, Michelle Malkin, Mary Matalin, Clifford May, Michael Medved, Dick Morris, Peggy Noonan, Oliver North, Robert Novak, Bill O'Reilly, Richard Pearle, Daniel Pipes, John Podhoretz, Norman Podhoretz, Dennis Prager, Wes Pruden, Ralph Reed, Paul Craig Roberts, Pat Robertson, William Safire, Michael Savage, Laura Schlessinger, Phyllis Schlafly, John Stossel, Cal Thomas, George Will, Walter Williams, Byron York.

Here's a partial list of 23 well known and self-identifying liberal commentators and analysts who enjoy similar levels of popularity:

Paul Begala, Alan Dershowitz, James Carville, Noam Chomsky, Alan Colmes, Phil Donahue, Al Franken, Jeannine Garofalo, Jim Hightower, Arianna Huffington, Molly Ivins, Jessie Jackson, Paul Krugman, Ron Kubi, Anthony Lewis, Bill Mahr, Michael Moore, Bill Moyers, Bill Press, Frank Rich, Randi Rhodes, Al Sharpton, Jerry Springer

56 to 23. If someone wishes to add to or challenge either list, please contact me - I think it's a fair list. Indeed the list of liberals was made with the assistance of some conservative friends - I hadn't even heard of a few of them, but include them here anyway. (I didn't include tha name of the person who was described as "You know - that liberal idiot that always calls Hannity's show".) Even if the right-wing claim of liberal bias in news reporting could be shown true, the domination of openly conservative voices in media commentary causes the sum effect of the media on public opinion to be sharply and clearly conservative.

Are we going to do politics in the DHS? 

On July 8, in answer to a reporter's question about the recently more frequent terror alerts, Tom Ridge revealed that in reaction to the terrorists bombings in Madrid - popularly thought to have changed the outcome of Spain's parliamentary elections - a decision was made to have "periodical" terror alerts - take that for what you will, but to me it sounds suspiciously close to a minimally camouflaged indication that a political decision was made to have more terror briefings:

Question: Secretary Ridge, one question I have deals with timing.  There has been a steady stream of this kind of information coming in since, roughly, March, or so.  Why now?  Why give all of these briefings at this particular point?

Secretary Ridge:  Why?  I'm sorry.  I didn't --

Question: Why give all of these briefings at this particular point and time?

Secretary Ridge:   Well, actually, we started this process several months ago, and I think there was a -- I gave a speech to the National Association of Broadcasters some time ago. I thought that in the post-Madrid environment, it would be very important on a periodic basis to, frankly, just give Americans an update as to where we are and what we are doing, and you can fully anticipate that in the weeks and months ahead, we will ask you to convene again for another update.

He seems to have been thinking of a speech to The Radio-Television News Directors Association as to my knowledge, he's not spoken to the National Association of Broadcasters in some time, but if indeed he was thinking of the talk I just linked to, he mentioned no such thing about regular briefings, although he did go on at length about how the media helped them shape public opinion. The question arises in my mind if he was not somehow acknowledging that the fact that the terror briefings do aim at electoral results. The temptation to utilize them politically would seem irresistible for an administration which cannot improve their public image significantly apart from the public's response to something related to or perceived as being related to terrorism. (Link to Prof. Pollkat's site I just directly linked to a graphic on: Check out the phenomenal work.

His own words seem to belie his more recent claim that "We don't do politics in the Department of Homeland Security." Note however the same article claiming Bush is on mood boosters I referred to below also reports from the Washington rumor mill notes the controversial decision to unveil the threat to the financial sector with much fanfare was made by John Ashcroft over Ridge's objections. And that Ridge says he's out of there in November no matter what happens.

A little bit of knowledge is harmful 

Creationist: Evolution violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

Evolutionist: So when entropy on Earth decreased as God created life, the entropy in God had to have increased, right?

Creationist: God does not have to follow the laws he created.

Evolutionist: Then why are you applying laws of science to what you believe was a divine act?

Creationist: Humans are called upon by God to gain wisdom through the understanding of Creation.

Evolutionist: God forbade us from touching the Tree of Knowledge. Read Genesis 2 and 3.

That was a paraphrasing of an actual exchange I recently had on a webboard. Another poster answered the creationist's last point differently, "And having answered God's call to gain wisdom, we clearly understand the Earth is 4 billion years old, and today's life-forms evolved from a common ancestor through natural selection." Touché.

The correct scientific response the misunderstanding that "Evolution violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics" is that the 2nd Law only applies to closed systems. The Earth's biosphere is not a closed system: it's powered by the Sun. And entropy does not even necessarily describe disorder. Creation science is proof positive that a little bit of knowledge can be a bad thing. And taking the Bible literally in it's entirety is always a bad thing.

Entropy and the 2nd Law are simple concepts that take a while to get used to thinking about as there's no good analogy for the concepts in something that we find familiar from day to day life. Here are a few pages that make good attempt to explain it perchance anyone has become intrigued. Here are many easy to understand laws.

Several pro-choice responses to common anti-choice arguments 

Pro-lifer: Would you have chosen to be aborted if given the choice?

Pro-choicer: It was not my choice to make, as I was unable to make a rational decision at the time.

Pro-lifer: But abortion is unnatural.

Pro-choicer: Many fertilized eggs fail to implant and are spontaneously aborted. That's natural.

Pro-lifer: A fertilized egg isn't a person - it has to implant itself in the uterus first (or "shows brain activity", or "has a beating heart", or any other arbitrary point).

Pro-choicer: If our laws define life to begin at the moment you're invoking, we would be having the exact same debate. The only difference is that you'd be in the pro-choice camp: those who think life begins at fertilization would call you anti-life.

Pro-lifer: So you think a mother can murder her baby up until the point it's born?

Pro-choicer: No, a fetus that's past the point of viability can indeed be thought of as a person if the woman considers it such. But we can't legislate every possible situation. Indeed, states are allowed to make their own laws regarding the third trimester, as long as they protect the life and health of the woman.

Pro-lifer: But we should put that in law, it shouldn't be based on the opinion of black-robed tyrants.

Pro-choicer: I agree. Have you written your pro-life congressional representatives asking them to codify the Roe v Wade decision?

Pro-lifer: But even if there's just a slight probability a fetus could be human shouldn't we err on the side of what is moral.

Pro-choicer: You cannot legally determine something is a crime based on probability. Our standard of proofs for criminal convictions are "clear and convincing evidence" or guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt". You can't criminally convict someone for murder using "probable" evidence.

Furthermore, a lot of people strongly believe allowing the choice to be the woman is what's moral. Your argument assumes everybody shares your morals, which is obviously not the case as if it were, everyone would agree with your opinion on abortion.

Pro-lifer: Your thoughts on abortion are illogical. A fetus is a person.

Pro-choicer: I've never claimed my personal feelings about abortion are based on the rules of formal logic: I can't prove that a fetus isn't a human any more than you can prove it is. However, we do live in a society that respects law, and law does employ logic. We have to accept that the law is mum and decisions default to a matter of individual choice. That's why it's called "choice".

Anonymous thanks to the anonymous fellow users of a web board I frequent for bringing you half of this post.

Unfit to speak 

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

He's slurring his words like he just rolled from out of bed to behind the podium. There was a recent report from the DC rumor mill that Bush is has been taking powerful anti-depressants to control, among other things, erratic behavior. Who could ever imagine he'd need that?

Monday, August 09, 2004


WASHINGTON, DC (Fear of Clowns Wire) - The political right today officially renounced its long standing preference for small federal government. In a shocking press conference, a wide range of right-leaning pundits and analysts unanimously asserted that presidential hopeful John Kerry has not made enough laws given his lengthy tenure in the Senate ...

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Purple Heart junk debunked 

The free downloadable chapter of John O'Neill's anti-Kerry book Unfit for Command proved to be fertile ground for exposing right-wing chicanery. I moved my analysis that would be here to a page standing on it's own, as it took up well over 3,000 words - the claims and misdirection the chapter presents are as frustratingly funny as they are absurd. The words of John O'Neill, Dr. Louis Letson, Grant Hibbard and others seem to claim John Kerry faked his first Purple Heart - evaluated and debunked. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Mystery Science 3000 on the recent press availability 

If the MS3K guys were in Bush's Rose Garden's peanut gallery, which they never promised him ...

Friday, August 06, 2004

About that John O'Neill guy 

John O'Neill is, of course, one of the personalities behind the attempt to discredit John Kerry as someone who volunteered for Vietnam service and came home disillusioned to tell the country what was really going on in Vietnam.

O'Neill starts of as someone who's credibility on his own Vietnam service is less than stellar. He has made guestbook entries here in May 2001. The guestbook allows posters to say how many years thery were in Vietnam. O'Neill claims 3 years:

In a debate with John Kerry on The Dick Cavett Show in 1971, O'Neill states he served 18 months:

I believe O'Neill's furry at Kerry is fueled not by any events in Vietnam, rather what happened after they both were back. Richard Nixon tapped John O'Neill to follow Kerry around and minimize the fallout from the Vietnam Veterans Against the War's revelations and generally try to put a good face on the war. O'Neill was supposed to be a sort of shock absorber for the investigations of dishonorable activities in Vietnam - an effort to paint the atrocities as isolated incidents committed by depraved individuals, without approval from the chain of command (sound familiar?). In an Oval Office meeting Nixon told O'Neill, "I really feel that what you’re doing, you’ll take brickbats, you go on some of these TV shows like the Cavett thing, you’re gonna get banged.". It's quite reasonable to think O'Neill is still bitter about being the whipping boy.

The Kerry/O'Neill debate on the Cavett show is quite interesting, and Kerry really did "bang" O'Neill. O'Neill opened by deflecting from the revelations of Kerry's group with statements like, "We never engaged in mass bombing of population centers, as all nations did in World War II, and the reason we did not is because we are a moral people." As it turned out later, the alleged secret bombing of Cambodia actually happened and was massive - 100,000 civilians died. The Mai Lai Massacre turned out not to be an isolated incident. It had to have been embarrassing for O'Neill to have denied that on National television.

And now, three decades later O'Neill is still trying to "get back" at Kerry. He's resorting to claiming in the sub-headline of a piece that recently ran in the Wall Street Journal, "I was on Kerry's boat" - and ironically, accusing Kerry of war crimes - the exact same thing he was attempting to minimize in 1971!

Following is a synopsis of their debate and one of the parts where Kerry burned O'Neill - a wound that O'Neill is still letting fester to this day:

O'Neill's main point, from his opening statement:

Kerry's main point, from his opening statement:

For context, O'Neil again accused Kerry of slandering the military wholesale and again complained, "you ought to finally produce the depositions after all of us waiting for two months." the debate continued:

Certainly partisanship plays a role in O'Neill's current activities as well - he's part of the Texas good 'ol boy network. John O'Neill is a partner at Clements, O'Neill, Peirce, Wilson & Fulkerson. Marget Wilson is also a partner in the firm. From 1998 to 2000, Wilson served in George Bush's gubernatorial administration as it's General Counsel. Previous to working for Bush, she was at Vinson & Elkins - Enron's main law firm - which was implicated in facilitating Enron's off-balance-sheet partnerships.

No amount of salt can John O'Neil's claims about John Kerry palatable to anyone except those looking for unsubstantiated ways to hate John Kerry more than they already do.

More about that urgent terror alert ... 


The only thing about the story that can be ascertained with certainty is that someone - DHS, the "intelligence community", the media - is gravely under endowed - intentionally or unintentionally. Check this out: Three stories from Friday morning which irreconcilably differ on the matters of who's computer(s) contained the 3 or four year old information and when it was obtained:

Washington Post: computer was Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani's -

CBS: Computer was Abu Talha's (this is an alias of Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan's) -

FOX: Computers were Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani's and Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan's -

BREAKING: Kerry keeper of "Black Orb" 

Sources with intimate knowledge reveal that Senator John Kerry is Keeper of the Black Orb, an alien homing device which will lead "insectoid" extraterrestrials to Earth, enabling them to enslave the human race for the purposes of mining gold and extracting from sea water the exotic elements needed to power the alien's "cold electricity" powered warp drives.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

FYI: Dick Cheney is an unprincipled scumbag 

Yesterday, Halliburton agreed to pay $7.5 million in fines for Enron-like bookkeeping in relation to a Caymen Islands subsidiary. Enron-like bookkeeping while Cheney was the CEO watching Halliburton's bottom line instead of fightin' terror like a Banshee.

Halliburton announced two weeks ago that it had been subpoenaed for information relating to the same Caymen Island unit's business with Iran. This too was before Cheney became Iran's snaggletoothed nighmare.

You see, in 1996, Congress declared US policy was to deny Iran's ability to develop weapons of mass destruction "by limiting the development of Iran's ability to explore for, extract, refine, or transport by pipeline petroleum resources of Iran," and formalized sanctions put in place by Executive Order the previous year. Cheney lobbied against Iran sanctions complaining as recently as June 2000, "We're kept out of there primarily by our own government!"

Democrats bidding on Alaska Purchase 

We've all heard it - Democrats love the welfare state because it buys them votes. I looked into the numbers to see what sneaky shennanigans they might have up their sleeve and I've found something HUGE! They're trying to buy Alaska!

I had to run the numbers myself, but here are the 2001 Federal AFDC/TANF Benefit payments per capita for the top six states (+ DC):

The good news for Republicans is that they're giving up on these states, including 2 "battleground" states:

and they know they have no chance in:

For those without a keen sense of irony, this entire post is sarcastic. Just trying to expose the idiotic right-wing conspiracy theory.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

About that urgent terror alert ... 

On Sunday, Tom Ridge called an emergency press conference to announce sobering and unusually specific intelligence about al Qaeda plans to attack the financial services sector in New York City, Northern New Jersey and Washington, DC. Here are excerpts from that press conference:

"Now while we are providing you with this immediate information, we will also continue to update you as the situation unfolds."

Three. Years. Old.

"... at this time, there is no information that indicates a specific time for these attacks beyond the period leading up to our national elections."*

Three. Years. Old.

"We bring you this information today, and, again, will continue to update you if new specific information becomes available."

Three. Years. Old.

"And so this afternoon, I ask our citizens for their watchful eyes as we continue to monitor this situation."

Three. Years. Old.

"I certainly realize that this is sobering news"

Three. Years. Old.

"The FBI's doing a great job following it, but to date, based on what we know in that investigation, there's no connection between that individual that was apprehended at the border to the information in the targeting that I've discussed with you this afternoon."

Three. Years. Old.

"I think it's very important to point out, most of those sources are related to the extraordinary offensive effort we've taken overseas."

Three. Years. Old.

* Take a close look at "There is no information that indicates a specific time for these attacks beyond the period leading up to our national elections." Even if all the intelligence leading to the alert is three or more years old, nothing Ridge said would be a lie, per se. But there would be no reason whatsoever to mention there was no indication an attack after the election except to give the impression the intelligence indicated an attack before the election. Who knows what else they may have, but this has most of the makings of a scandal: it's easy to understand, emotional, has whistle-blowers, and begs the question, "Who knew what when?" Now all we need is a cover-up.

No matter what happens next, every threat announced in the future is going to bring up the skeptical thought, "Is this really something new, or are you bringing up stuff from years ago just to scare us?"

Sunday, August 01, 2004

The $87 billion and the 87 flip-flopping Senators 

John Kerry and Joe Biden introduced an amendment to roll back tax cuts for the richest Americans to pay for the famous $87 billion emergency funding appropriation. Kerry didn't get his way, but he voted for the Senate's version of the bill anyway, not to do so would be childish and irresponsible - see transcript of his comments on Face the Nation, September 14, 2003. The Senate passed their bill, which would have made part of the funding for reconstruction a loan to Iraq instead of an outright grant.

After the Senate had passed their version, the White House threatened a veto of the bill if it arrived on Bush's desk with any loans in it. In other words, Bush said he'd leave our troops high and dry if he didn't get exactly everything he wanted - the same type of childishness Kerry said would be irresponsible regarding his own desires for the bill.

Congress caved in to the White House's childishness, the House passed a version without loans, it came back to the Senate without loans and it passed. Kerry and a few other principled Senators voted "no" to register their exasperation at the White House's selfish intimidation. If one wishes to say any Senators flip-flopped, it was those who gave in to White House intimidation - all 87 of them.

This is all in the Congressional recordfor everyone to see.

"We are turning the corner!" - GW Bush 

My slide show for Dubya's new stump speech:

"We are turning the corner"

"I have a clear vision on how to win the war on terror and bring peace to the world."

"We are turning the corner and we're not turning back!"

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