March 2004 Archive
March 31, 2004
The White House Caves...
Yesterday the White House climbed off another stone wall as regards the 9/11 Commission. First, Bush opposed the establishment of the Commission. Then, Bush resisted turning over documents critical to the investigation. Bush initially wanted to restrict the Commission's access to him, Cheney, and Rice. Then, after delaying the Commission's work, Bush opposed extending the Commission's deadline to file its report. Yesterday, they agreed to allow Condoleezza Rice to testify publicly, under oath. Lost in the hoopla over Rice's testimony are the terms of the concession over Bush's interview with the Commission. Bush most recently had said he would only be interviewed by the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Commission, with no staff members present or recording of the interview. The newest Bush position is that he will be interviewed privately by the whole Commission, with one "note-taker". The catch is that Bush insists that he and Cheney be interviewed together.
The question now is: Does Bush not have enough confidence to be interviewed alone or do his handlers (Karl Rove and his gang) not trust Bush without Cheney there to actually answer the questions?
March 30, 2004
(Note: I tried to find a picture of Ed Bradley playing softball to illustrate this rant but, alas, we will have to settle for the mental metaphor.)At a May 16, 2002 press conference, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said, "I don't think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile."
In July 2001, the Administration was told that terrorists had explored using airplanes as missiles. On August 6, 2001, the President personally "received a one-and-a-half page briefing advising him that Osama bin Laden was capable of a major strike against the US, and that the plot could include the hijacking of an American airplane."
Ed, don't you think this was worth a question?
(This is a rhetorical question. I don't think Ed Bradley reads The Daily Rant - yet.)
Chris Rock: "You know the world is going crazy when the best rapper is a white guy, the best golfer is a black guy, the tallest guy in the NBA is Chinese, the Swiss hold the America's Cup, France is accusing the U.S. of arrogance, Germany doesn't want to go to war, and the three most powerful men in America are named 'Bush', 'Dick', and 'Colon'. Need I say more?"
March 29, 2004
Shock of the Day
Reading that Richard Clarke was born in 1951, the same year as I. I would have put him in his mid-60's.
Note to Condoleezza Rice
You need to check out the aphorism on www.aphorism.us:
"It’s easier to be credible when you are telling the truth." -- R. Katz
I am a huge fan of Johnny Hartman. His 1963 album with John Coltrane is widely regarded as one of the greatest jazz vocal albums ever.
I have been familiar with the name of Kevin Mahogany but have never heard any of his recordings. Last night, I attended a concert of the University of Miami School of Music Jazz Vocal Group with special guest Kevin Mahogany. Mahogany may just be the reincarnation of Johnny Hartman. Wow!
I saw Monsieur Ibrahim on Saturday night. The critics generally gave the film a B grade in their reviews. It wasn't all it was cracked up to be. I'd give it a C. The one pleasure in the movie was seeing Omar Sharif, whose acting was excellent, albeit in a subdued role which was not written or directed to require much range.
The problem was with the script. Sharif's character repeatedly says, "I know what is in my Koran." If you haven't seen Monsieur Ibrahim but intend to, I don't want to ruin the story for you. If you have seen the movie, click here to read my comment on the story.
March 28, 2004
March 27, 2004
Happy Birthday, Alex!
Needle in the haystack?
No winners yet, but political strategist James Carville promised a copy of his book to the first person to find proof of President Bush, Vice President Cheney or NationalSecurity Advisor Condoleezza Rice saying the words "al Qaeda" or "bin Laden" between the time they took office and 9/10/01.
Medicare Discount Drug Cards are coming - invest in insurance companies!
The theory behind the discount cards is that companies "will have
greater bargaining power with drug makers" the more Medicare beneficiaries they
enroll. But why use a middle man? Bowing to pressure from the powerful pharmaceutical lobby, which feared for
its bottom line, Congress specifically banned Medicare from using bulk purchasing power to
negotiate lower prices. Instead, the Medicare population was splintered into these smaller groups
run by private companies, thus giving them considerably less influence.
The law does not require the drug card companies to pass the savings along to customers instead of keeping profits for themselves. They don't even have to guarantee a specific level of savings for seniors. And drug companies have gone out of their way this past year to ensure their profits will stay nice and fat: The WSJ reports companies jacked up prices for drugs most popular with the elderly "nearly 3˝ times faster on average than overall inflation" in the past year since the cards were announced, already eroding any potential savings.
AARP - Watchdog for Seniors?
So where has the AARP been during all of this? Although the AARP is ostensibly a group dedicated to protecting the rights of seniors, the group shocked its members when it supported the drug legislation last November. Now it turns out there may have been a financial windfall in play: AARP is affiliated with – and receives "marketing royalties" from - United Health Care, one of the major companies the Administration included in the drug card program.
Source: The American Progress Report
March 26, 2004
Another shameless appeal for money...
I have been an interested observer of politics since 1960 and an activist at several specific times in my life. However, before this year, I have never contributed to a presidential campaign.
Why is this election year different from all other election years?
I'm not going to tell you that there has never been an election which mattered as much as this year - I had pretty strong feelings about the Nixon - McGovern race in 1972. Make no mistake. This year matters big time. Just look at my rant of 2/23/04 about the appointment of William Pryor to the Federal Court of Appeals, realize that in all probability there will be at least two Supreme Court appointments in the next presidential term, and you will understand what is at stake. Look at the alienation of the traditional allies of the United States - including Mexico and Canada - and you will understand what is at stake. Look at the cancer-like deficit which will cause our children and grandchildren to endure financial chemotherapy and you will understand what is at stake. Look at health care, jobs, and the polarization of our population ("I am a uniter, not a divider.") and you will understand what is at stake.
Bush already has some $120 million more than Kerry to spend in the next seven months. Yet, my sense is that Bush will need every bit of that and more to stem the rising tide of distrust and dissatisfaction. We have a chance here.
Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Donate some money even if you have never done so before. Take every opportunity (and make opportunities) to convince your friends and relatives that now is the time to rise up and help take back our country. This year's election looks to be a very tight contest. As we all learned so painfully four years ago, we can make a difference.
Statement by manager at Ruth's Chris Steak House in Ft. Lauderdale: "Sir, we can't make a steak any rarer than that."
Bill Maher: "The President is having a little trouble keeping the coalition together. The President of Poland, one of our key allies, said that 'We were taken for a ride on the weapons of mass destruction. ' Wow. Now I know that Bush and Powell and Cheney are still trying to make the case for war, but you know what, when the Polish figure out the gag..."
Jay Leno: "Some people are criticizing Kerry for going on vacation this week right when he needs to distinguish himself from President Bush. In the newspaper, they printed the titles of the four books he's going to be reading in the five days of his vacation. Hey, just reading four books in five days distinguishes him from Bush right there."
March 25, 2004
Happy Birthday, Julie!
The 2004 No-CARB Diet
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Georgia Sen. Zell Miller, a Democrat who has endorsed President Bush, took the reins on Wednesday of a "Democrats for Bush" group...
March 24, 2004
What were they thinking?
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Virgin Atlantic Airways on Friday scrapped plans to install bright-red urinals shaped like women's open lips at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, saying it had received complaints they were offensive. "Virgin Atlantic was very sorry to hear of people's concerns about the design of the 'Kisses' urinals to be fitted into our clubhouse at JFK Airport. We can assure everyone who complained to us that no offense was ever intended," Virgin spokesman John Riordan said in a statement. Riordan said the British company received several dozen complaints from people and groups including the National Organization for Women after its plans for the urinals had been made public. "I don't know many men who think it's cool to pee in a woman's mouth, even a porcelain one," said NOW President Kim Gandy.
March 23, 2004
This is a riot!
The White House has been circulating to journalists a letter from Col. William Campenni (Ret.), a National Guard pilot who flew with George W. Bush. Campenni compares Bush's military service to that of Kerry (who received a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three awards of the Purple Heart for his service in Viet Nam combat):
"While most of America was sleeping and Mr. Kerry was playing antiwar games with Hanoi Jane Fonda, we were answering 3 a.m. scrambles for who knows what inbound threat over the Canadian subarctic, the cold North Atlantic and the shark-filled Gulf of Mexico."
If I didn't know better, I would have guessed that this was an op/ed piece for the Saturday Night Live News.
This is not!
When Bush is on the defensive, the White House goes into an attack mode.
Last summer, a "highly placed source" told conservative columnist Robert Novak that Joseph Wilson's (the former ambassador who blew the whistle on Bush's claim that Iraq had bought components for nuclear weapons from Niger) wife was a CIA operative.
In January, when former Treasury Secretary went public with Bush's obsession with Iraq from the first days of his presidency, the White House claimed that many of the documents shared by O'Niell with an author were classified and that the disclosure was a felony. Yesterday, after an investigation, O'Niell was cleared of any wrongdoing - the classified documents in question had been screened by the Treasury Department after O'Niell's departure and given to him without any classification.
Yesterday, the White House attacked Richard Clarke, the former terrorism expert under four presidents (three Republican and one Democrat). Clarke was attacked on everything from his knowledge of terrorism to his absence at certain meetings to the fact that he was giving a speech on cyber-security on 9/11.
"Take no prisoners."
The population of Iraq is about 25,000,000. In the past 12 months, the U.S. has spent $150 billion in Iraq. That is $6,000 for every Iraqi man, woman, and child.
The population of the United States is about 290,000,000. In the past 12 months, the U.S. has spent $150 billion in Iraq. That is $517 for every American man, woman, and child.
March 22, 2004
Let me get this straight...
No, I'm not ranting again about the Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment again.
Richard Clarke, a White House terrorism advisor to Presidents Reagan, the first Bush, Clinton, and the second Bush, gave an interview yesterday to 60 Minutes, in advance of the release of his book about George W. Bush's handling of terrorism, both before 9/11 and since. Clark said:
"Frankly, I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism.... I think he's done a terrible job on the war against terrorism."
Clarke says that, as early as the day after the attacks, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was pushing for retaliatory strikes on Iraq, even though al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan:
"Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq. And we all said ... no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld said there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq. I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.' Initially, I thought when he said, 'There aren't enough targets in-- in Afghanistan,' I thought he was joking. I think they wanted to believe that there was a connection, but the CIA was sitting there, the FBI was sitting there, I was sitting there saying we've looked at this issue for years. For years we've looked and there's just no connection."
Clarke also related that he was pressured by Bush to find a connection between Iraq and 9/11:
"The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this.' Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this."
Clarke's revelations come less than two months after Bush's former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Niell stated on 60 Minutes that "from the very beginning [of the George W. Bush presidency], there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go." O'Neill also stated that the president was determined to find a reason to go to war and he was surprised that nobody on the National Security Council questioned why Iraq should be invaded. "It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it," said O'Neill. "The president saying 'Go find me a way to do this."
Last July, former ambassador Joseph Wilson was quoted in a New York Times article that he was sent by the CIA to Niger in February 2002 to investigate accusations that Iraq tried to buy uranium. Wilson said he told the administration in 2002 the allegations were probably false.
"Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."
A year ago, Bush finally began the war against Saddam Hussein which he had been itching for the first two years of his presidency. After months went by without finding the WMD's which were his justification for the months leading up to the war, Bush started telling the world that it was all about liberating the Iraqi people.
The rest of the world didn't need Richard Clarke or Paul O'Niell or Joseph Wilson to convince them that George W. Bush is dishonest as relates to Iraq. However, a significant number of Americans either are not yet convinced or don't care.
And the Republicans impeached President Clinton for lying about an affair with a consenting adult...
March 21, 2004
MAD Magazine's Glossary to the War on Terror
"ANOTHER VIETNAM": A ridiculous assertion made by the war's opponents, who don't comprehend the very significant differences between the Middle East and Southeast Asia: you can sell a barrel of oil for much more than a barrel of rice.
COLLATERAL DAMAGE: The official military explanation as to why there are so many empty seats lately in Umm Quasr's 4th-grade classrooms.
FREEING THE IRAQI PEOPLE: White House catch phrase #3, when it turned out "weapons of mass destruction" and "link to al-Qaeda" didn't work.
BROADBASED INTERNATIONAL COALITION: 139,000 US troops and a guy from Bulgaria.
"MISSION ACCOMPLISHED": The White House definition of knocking over a statue.
SMALL POCKET OF PROTESTERS: The continent of Europe.
INTELLIGENCE FAILURE: Calling the war a "crusade", declaring the fighting "over", inviting motivated killers to "bring it on . "
"BRING IT ON": W's taunt to America's enemies, apparently meant to intimidate the sort of people who already blow themselves up with a smile.
NATION-BUILDING: Something you sort of have to do after bombing a nation into jillions of teeny pieces.
DEMOCRACY: A hypothetical form of government promised to the people of Kabul, Baghdad and Miami.
"HEARTS AND MINDS OF THE IRAQI PEOPLE": That stuff splattered all over the Iraqi rubble.
Bill Maher: Lay off Rumsfeld and his 9/11 momento. Yes, Donald Rumsfeld took a piece of the airplane that hit the Pentagon. But he kept it for a good reason - to remind himself of who did this to us. Otherwise, we might have retaliated against the wrong country.
March 20, 2004
On the anniversary of the War in Iraq...
No ties to al Qaeda
Loss of international respect and credibility even among traditional allies
Fueled resolve of terrorists
576 dead U.S. soldiers (and counting)
2868 U.S. casualties (and counting)
$150 billion (and counting)
Thanks, George. How can we ever repay you?
Jay Leno: "Have you seen any of President Bush's ads? They are really starting to get vicious. We've finally found an American job Bush is willing to fight for: his own."
"At a speech yesterday at the Reagan Library, Dick Cheney says John Kerry doesn't have the judgment to be president. And Cheney's seen firsthand what can happen when a guy doesn't have the judgment to be president."
March 19, 2004
Bush - A Friend to Vets?
In 2000, Bush pledged to improve veterans benefits and eliminate the backlog of men and women seeking health care at VA facilities. His platform emphasized that the GOP is "the traditional advocate of America's veterans."
Bush's fiscal 2005 budget promises a nominal increase of about $520-million in veterans spending over the current year. However, this "increase" actually amounts to a $273-million cut because it does not keep up with rising expenses. The Department of Veterans Affairs has estimated it needs an average annual increase in funding of 12 percent to 14 percent to keep pace with rising costs. Instead, the president is recommending an increase of just 2 percent.
Further, much of the promised increase would be
funded by a $250 user fee on middle-income veterans. It also would be funded
by an increase in co-payments for prescription drugs from $7 to $15, which Congress is not likely to approve.
Without that income, veterans benefits will have to be even smaller.
Even before the 2005 budget cuts take effect, there is a long waiting period for many who are seeking medical care in veterans hospitals because of previous budget cuts. Some Iraq veterans may also be deprived of vocational rehabilitation and employment as a result of the president's budget cuts, which propose to eliminate hundreds of VA personnel who assist in these departments.
Veterans Secretary Anthony Principi said his agency is already caring for 9,700 people who served in Iraq and about 1,400 who served in Afghanistan. He indicated the administration intends to handle the increased workload not by spending more money, but by making his department more efficient. "The president, I know cares deeply. . . .," Principi said.
The vets can take comfort.
Craig Kilborn: "President Bush has unveiled a new campaign slogan: 'Safer, Stronger, Tested.' I'm confused, are we talking about a re-election or a condom?"
March 18, 2004
Last night's rant closed with this statement:
Our current policy, coupled with our world-be-damned war in Iraq, will continue to fuel the fires of terrorism assuring that that war will go on and on.
Today, The Pew Research Center, an independent opinion research group that studies
attitudes toward the press, politics and public policy issues, released its latest in a series of international surveys by the Pew Global Attitudes Project. It was conducted from late February to early March in the United States and eight other countries, with fieldwork under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Some excerpts:
A year after the war in Iraq, discontent with America and its policies has intensified rather than diminished. Opinion of the United States in France and Germany is at least as negative now as at the war’s conclusion, and British views are decidedly more critical. Perceptions of American unilateralism remain widespread in European and Muslim nations, and the war in Iraq has undermined America’s credibility abroad. Doubts about the motives behind the U.S.-led war on terrorism abound, and a growing percentage of Europeans want foreign policy and security arrangements independent from the United States.
There has been little change in opinion about the war in Iraq – except in Great Britain, where support for the decision to go to war has plummeted from 61% last May to 43% in the current survey... Among the coalition of the “unwilling,” large majorities in Germany, France and Russia still believe their countries made the right decision in not taking part in the war. Moreover, there is broad agreement in nearly all of the countries surveyed – the U.S. being a notable exception – that the war in Iraq hurt, rather than helped, the war on terrorism.
Jay Leno: They say that President Bush's war in Iraq has cost the Spanish Prime Minister his job. Bush must be branching out. Before Bush had only been losing jobs for Americans.
March 17, 2004
The War on Terrorism
President Bush has built his popularity in this country (he has no popularity outside of this country) on pandering to the conservative end of the political spectrum and his macho, no-nonsense response to terrorism after 9/11. Unfortunately, the war on terrorism is a war that can never be definitively won. As long as there are handfuls of people motivated to lash out, civilized society will be vulnerable. For example, in 1989, a small band of Chilean dissidents laced several packages of grapes with cyanide causing the U.S. to embargo Chilean grapes with an estimated cost to the Chilean economy of $300 million.
I don't take issue with the U.S. response to 9/11 and its efforts to dismantle al-Qa'eda - except when we diverted our attention and resources from that war to the war in Iraq. However, since 9/11, there has been no public discourse on the reasons that there is so much hatred of the United States in so many parts of the world. This lack of public discourse is not just a criticism of President Bush. No Democrats are going there either. Social Security is not the only "third rail" of politics in this country.
What is this "third rail"? It is nearly 50 years of unflinching support for Israel with total indifference to the plight of the Palestinian people. The violence of the PLO and even more radical Palestinian groups has been a convenient justification for ignoring the predicament which propels and perpetuates the violence.
The reason for this indifference is not a blanket lack of concern for oppressed people in far away lands. Indeed, there have been many occasions in which the United States has used its diplomatic, economic, and military might to benefit the oppressed. No, the reason here is the bi-partisan unwillingness to incur the wrath of the American Jewish voters, a group whose political and economic impact far exceeds their numbers in the U.S. population.1 (Cuban-Americans have heeded this lesson and, since Detente, have dictated U.S. policy toward Cuba).
Unfortunately, I don't see a politician on our national scene with the courage to lead our country toward a more moderate, neutral policy in the Mid-East. Our current policy, coupled with our world-be-damned war in Iraq, will continue to fuel the fires of terrorism assuring that that war will go on and on.
1 Jews have the highest percentage voter turnout of any ethnic group. Though the Jewish population in the United States is roughly six million (about 2.3% of the total U.S. population), roughly 89 percent live in twelve key electoral college states. These states alone are worth enough electoral votes to elect the president.
The disproportionate influence of the American Jewish population is in direct contrast with the electoral involvement of American Arabs. There are approximately 1.2 million Arabs in the United States, and roughly 38 percent of them are Lebanese, primarily Christians, who tend to be unsympathetic to the Palestinian people. Fewer than one-fourth of all American Arabs are Muslims. About half of the Arab population is concentrated in five states — California, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York — that are all key to the electoral college. Still, the Arab population is dwarfed by that of the Jews in every one of these states except Michigan.
Source: Jewish Virtual Library
March 16, 2004
"The idea that you have to be so macho that you alienate everybody else in the world while being strong isn't correct. I think you can be strong and bring everybody else along." -- Senator Charles Schumer
The "L" Words
George W. Bush is campaigning for reelection. The two themes of his campaign are positive, promoting himself as a strong leader, and negative, framing Kerry as an unprincipled liberal.
Bush is a strong leader. The problem is where he is leading the country - deeper in debt, eschewing ties with other countries, failing to fund education, eroding civil liberties...
Kerry is a liberal. But the liberal label - which used to automatically be preceded by "tax and spend" - should not now carry the same negative connotation in the middle of the political spectrum. Starting with Bill Clinton, liberals have redefined what it means to be a liberal. Liberals have successfully led the fight for balanced budgets and have embraced welfare reform.
Kerry's success this year will depend greatly on his ability to articulate the meaning of liberalism to those in the middle.
Jon Stewart: If you're keeping score at home, our war in Iraq has produced a police state in that country and Socialism in Spain.
David Letterman: John Kerry said that foreign leaders want him to be elected president but that he isn't at liberty to name them. That's OK. President Bush can't name them either.
President Bush has shot up in the polls since he announced the capture of Martha Stewart.
Jay Leno: President Bush was in Ohio last week touting his economic record. This is a state which has lost 225,000 jobs since he took office. If Bush wants to tout his record, he should do it somewhere where the Bush economy has created jobs - like India or China or Thailand.
John Kerry said today that he wants to debate President Bush once a month. Good luck. Bush couldn't show up for the National Guard once a month. He's not going to show up for this.
March 15, 2004
Where's the outrage?
As you read this, think about the hearings and investigations which would have been conducted in the Republican Congress if this had happened when Clinton was president.
Last November, the Bush Administration triumphantly pushed through Congress a Medicare reform bill which, among other things, will provide some prescription drug coverage to some seniors. The vote was narrow - five votes in the House. At the time the bill was being debated, the Administration stuck by its $395 billion cost analysis of the bill. In January, news came out that more "recent" cost analysis showed that the bill would cost some $100 billion more than originally estimated.
It has now come out that last summer, Thomas A. Scully, then the director of the Medicare office, ordered Richard Foster, the chief Medicare actuary in the Department of Health and Human Services, to withhold from Congress his study which put a $551 billion price tag on the Administration's Medicare plan. This week, Knight-Ridder News obtained an e-mail sent last July by Foster to colleagues complaining about having been silenced regarding his projection of a $551 billion price tag for the Administration plan:
"This whole episode which has now gone on for three weeks has been pretty nightmarish. I'm perhaps no longer in grave danger of being fired, but there remains a strong likelihood that I will have to resign in protest of the withholding of important technical information from key policy makers for political reasons."
In an interview with Knight- Ridder, Scully, a former health-industry lobbyist deeply involved in the administration's campaign to pass the drug benefit, denied the assertion that he'd threatened to fire Foster. He said he curbed Foster on only one specific request, made by Democrats on the eve of the first House vote in June, because he felt they'd use the cost estimates to disrupt the debate:
"They were trying to be politically cute and get (Foster) to score (estimate the cost of the bill) and put something out publicly so they can walk out on the House floor and cause a political crisis, which is bogus."
At a Ways and Means Committee hearing last month, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson all but repudiated Scully's tactics:
"I may have been derelict in allowing my administrator, Tom Scully, to have more control over it than I should have. ... And maybe he micromanaged the actuary and the actuary services too much. ... I can assure you that from now (on), the remaining days that I am secretary you will have as much access as you want to anybody or anything in the department. All you have to do is call me."
Democrats asked Thompson on Feb. 3 and March 3 for a complete record of Foster's estimates. They've yet to get it.
March 14, 2004
Choose a Leader of the Free World
Bill Maher: This week's news tells us that President Bush puts up some of his big donors in the Lincoln Bedroom just like Clinton. And do you know what? I still don't care.
Bush has to stop complaining about "Washington Insiders". When you are given the authority to write checks from the Federal Reserve, you are a Washington Insider.
John Kerry married the Heinz heiress - the Ketchup lady. Which explains why sometimes he has to hit her on the bottom to get her to come.
Tina Fey: DirecTV has sued O.J. Simpson for pirating its signals. In an unrelated story, DirecTV has been stabbed to death.
March 13, 2004
The Commission on Presidential Debates was established in 1987 to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to the electorate.
Is the intelligence of a presidential candidate a legitimate factor for the electorate to consider?
I propose the establishment of a Commission on Presidential Intelligence to administer, on an independent, nonpartisan basis, standardized IQ tests to each candidate for president. The results would then be announced publicly.
Just as it is left up to each voter to weigh the performance and positions of the candidates in the debates, it will be left up to each voter to decide what, if any, weight to give the IQ of those who would be president.
Wouldn’t you want to know?
March 12, 2004
More on the Bush Environmental Policy
The President's proposed budget would slash more than $600 million, or 7.2%, from the EPA and $1.9 billion, or 5.9%, from all environmental programs compared to last year. Taking into account inflation and other cost increases, the President's budget falls $3.2 billion short of last year's funding.
The President's proposal funding for clean water infrastructure would drop from $2.6 billion to $1.8 billion. The programs slated for reductions include "sewage treatment plants, water purification facilities, and targeted pollution-prevention investments." A 2002 EPA report concluded that the nation has $450 billion in long-term clean water infrastructure needs.
The President says that, when it comes to the environment, "we need to employ the best science and data to inform our decision-making." The President's budget plan would slice $93 million, or 12%, from scientific research on air, water and toxins.
Bush pledged during his campaign to clear the maintenance backlog in National Parks by providing $4.9 billion in new funding. Thus far the President has only provided 7% of the money he promised.The EPA under Leavitt is planning to clean up 40 Superfund sites in the next fiscal year (more than 1200 toxic waste sites around the country are slated for clean up). An average of 87 sites were cleaned annually during the second term of the Clinton administration.
The Administration's budget assumes revenues from oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The President's tax cuts have left the government so strapped for cash that the Administration has had to resort to assuming revenue from an activity that is illegal under current law.
George Stephanopolis: You referred to the time when you ran against President Bush in 2000. You refused to say that President Bush ran an honorable campaign and called it savagery. Does John Kerry have to worry that the Bush team will do to him what they did to you?
John McCain: Yes.
March 11, 2004
Bush's recent stump speech: "One very important part of this war is intelligence-gathering, as Senator Kerry noted. Yet, in 1995, two years after the attack on the World Trade Center, my opponent introduced a bill to cut the overall intelligence budget by one-and-a-half billion dollars. His bill was so deeply irresponsible that he didn't have a single co-sponsor in the United States Senate. Once again, Senator Kerry is trying to have it both ways. He's for good intelligence, yet he was willing to gut the intelligence services. And that is no way to lead a nation in a time of war."
Let me get this straight. The intelligence budget was not cut and either (a) we got bad (but expensive) intelligence about WMD's in Iraq which caused us to start a war that has cost well over 500 American lives and thousands of American casualties, or (b) good intelligence was deliberately disregarded or misrepresented to justify starting a war that has cost well over 500 American lives and thousands of American casualties.
Conan O'Brien: Over 20 members of Iraq's governing council made history by signing a temporary constitution. President Bush said he is thrilled because although the constitution isn't perfect, it bans gay marriage."
March 10, 2004
I have been seething since reading in the Miami Herald on Monday that Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer, a Democrat, is supporting the re-election of George W. Bush. The following is an e-mail (now an open letter) sent to Mayor Dermer yesterday:
March 9, 2004
I was shocked and appalled to read in yesterday's Herald that you, a Democrat, are supporting the reelection of President Bush. Without addressing issues such as the deficit, education, jobs, and the war in Iraq, every American who respects the separation between church and state - particularly non-Christians - should be horrified by Bush's recess appointment of William Pryor to the federal bench.
Consider the following excerpt from www.thedailyrant.us (which I publish):
“Right-wing Zealot is Unfit to Judge”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution (May 6, 2003)
What caused the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and many others to reach this conclusion about William Pryor? A look at Pryor's public statements and actions as Attorney General of Alabama make it clear.
Pryor has bitterly criticized Supreme Court rulings upholding "the so-called wall of separation between church and state." - October 16, 1997 speech to the Federalist Society.
Pryor insisted that the First Amendment does not mandate "the strict separation of church and state." - October 19, 1999 debate in Dallas.
"The American experiment is not a theocracy and does not establish an official religion, but the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States are rooted in a Christian perspective of the nature of government and the nature of man. The challenge of the next millennium will be to preserve the American experiment by restoring its Christian perspective.... On January 22, 1973, seven members of that Court swept aside the laws of fifty states and created – out of thin air – a constitutional right to murder an unborn child. Last year, the Court swept aside the vote of a majority of the people of Colorado to end any preferences or special privileges for homosexuals in their state. Recently, lower federal courts struck down laws that prohibit assisted suicide. The most important decisions of our time and our country are not being made by the people or their elected representatives. The Supreme Court has restructured our political community without the consent of our people in my judgment, and has violated the Christian understanding of tranquillitas ordinis [the tranquility of order]." - 1997 speech at Mobile, Alabama school.
"God has chosen, through his son Jesus Christ, this time, this place for all Christians – Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox – to save our country and save our courts." - Pryor, April 13, 1997, The Birmingham News.
Pryor said "the state has no position on whether Moore’s right to pray and have a religious display in his courtroom extends to people of other faiths. Pryor said he did not know whether the rights of non-Christians would be violated if they were barred from praying in Moore’s court." - AP, April 4, 1997.
At a federal court hearing on the public display of the Ten Commandments, Judge Ed Carnes, a conservative jurist appointed by the first President Bush, asked Assistant Attorney General Titus (a lawyer from the Christian Coalition specially appointed by Pryor to argue this case) whether it would be constitutionally permissible for a state Supreme Court judge such as Moore to "decorate the Supreme Court with a mural depicting the life, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ? In big block letters behind his bench, for all the lawyers and everyone else to see, he could spell out ‘What Would Jesus Do?’" Titus replied that such actions would be constitutional because they "would not amount to a law establishing religion."
Pryor "was the only attorney general in the country to file a friend-of-the-court brief before the U.S. Supreme Court opposing the Violence Against Women Act, which allowed rape victims to sue their attackers in federal court." - May 25, 2003, Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Pryor also testified before Congress in 1997 against a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which requires approval from Congress before state voting procedures which guarantee minority access to voting booths. Pryor said the federal provision was an "expensive burden that has far outlived its usefulness."
Pryor derided the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade as "the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history" and warned that he would "never forget Jan. 22, 1973, the day seven members of our highest court ripped the Constitution and ripped out the life of millions of our children." - "Save the Commandments" rally, May 21, 1997, The Wall Street Journal.
Pryor excoriated Roe and Miranda v. Arizona (the Supreme Court decision requiring that criminal defendants be informed of their right to remain silent) as "the worst examples of judicial activism." - July 11, 2000 event sponsored by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation.
In early 2003, Pryor was one of only three state attorneys general to file an amicus brief supporting a Texas sodomy law. The brief proclaimed that "the States should remain free to protect the moral standards of their communities through legislation that prohibits homosexual sodomy... A constitutional right that protects ‘the choice of one’s partner’... must logically extend to activities like prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia (if the child should credibly claim to be ‘willing’).... Even legislation that is largely symbolic and infrequently enforced... has significant pedagogic value. Laws teach people what they should and should not do, based on the experiences of their elders. The States should not be required to accept, as a matter of constitutional doctrine, that homosexual activity is harmless and does not expose both the individual and the public to deleterious spiritual and physical consequences."
"As a law enforcement official, I know crimes are caused by criminals, not by the gun industry. Indeed, by providing good-quality firearms at reasonable prices to law-abiding citizens and lawmen, the gun industry helps reduce crime."
"I’m probably the only one who wanted it [the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bush v. Gore] 5-4. I wanted Governor [George W.] Bush to have a full appreciation of the judiciary and judicial selection so we can have no more appointments like Justice Souter."
I urge you to reconsider your support of Bush.
I was busy yesterday. I also sent an e-mail to MoveOn.org (an organization I support) disagreeing with their petition drive to have Secretary of Education Rod Paige fired for referring to the NEA as a "terrorist" organization.
WASHINGTON (AP) February 24, 2004 - At a White House conference of state governors, Education Secretary Rod Paige called the nation's largest teachers union, a "terrorist organization" Monday, taking on the 2.7-million-member National Education Association early in the presidential election year. Paige said later in an Associated Press interview that his comment was "a bad joke; it was an inappropriate choice of words."
I don't support firing Paige for his bad choice of words, a mistake for which he promptly and publicly apologized. The real problem with Paige is policy and, sadly, Paige is merely implementing Bush's policies. Bush is the one who needs to be fired.
Jon Stewart: After decades of tyranny, democracy has come to Iraq - if by democracy you mean a temporary set of guidelines signed by unelected members of a U.S. appointed governing body.
Jay Leno: Attorney General John Ashcroft has been hospitalized. He is suffering from homophobia. No, actually, it was just gallstones, but when they gave him the hospital gown that opens in the back, he refused to wear it, he thought it was a gay wedding dress.
March 9, 2004
Corporate income taxes in fiscal 2003 accounted for 7.4% of all federal tax receipts, down from a post-war peak of 32% in 1952. With one exception (1983), last year’s percentage is the lowest recorded since data was first published in 1934. Even so, tax breaks for corporations (and their investors, particularly large ones) were a major part of the Administration’s 2002 and 2003 initiatives. If class warfare is being waged in America, my class is clearly winning. Today, many large corporations... pay nothing close to the stated federal tax rate of 35%. -- Warren Buffett 2/27/04
Bush's public rationalization for cutting taxes - as opposed to the cynical view that he is rewarding wealthy Republicans (the biggest beneficiaries of the Bush tax cuts) who bankroll his campaign - is that money left with taxpayers will be spent and invested and that will stimulate the economy. Unfortunately, this economic theory has short term limits and long term costs.
Businesses have an incentive to distribute profits to shareholders (rather than retool, rehire, or otherwise reinvest) because the belief is that corporate and individual taxes will never be lower. Moreover, because nothing is being done to solve the fastest growing expense for business, health care, businesses are reluctant to hire and we are stuck in a "jobless recovery".
More importantly, cutting taxes when there are already revenue shortfalls (deficits) is irresponsible. We are rapidly growing a deficit which will be repaid, with interest, by our children and grandchildren. Had we stayed the economic course set by Clinton in the 90's, the balanced budgets (surplusses, actually) would have led to retiring the deficit within two decades. Then, the gift to future generations would have been permanantly lower taxes because the expense of interest on the debt would be gone.
We can't afford four more years of a Bush presidency and an aiding and abetting Republican Congress.
Jay Leno: President Bush wants voters to ask themselves: "Is the rich person you are working for better off now than he was four years ago?"
Jon Stewart: John Ashcroft once again proving victorious in his war against charisma.
March 8, 2004
New Feature for
The Daily Rant
I will regularly include a few pearls from the Will Rogers of our time. Today, to catch you up on the recent political humor, I am featuring a larger collection. Enjoy.
Bill Maher: John Ashcroft is in the hospital being treated with antibiotics for an obstruction in his bile duct. Ashcroft's infection probably emanated from wiping his ass with the Bill of Rights.
Jay Leno: After failing to win a single state on Tuesday, John Edwards described his campaign as The Little Engine That Could. Afterward, Bush called him and said, "You're not going to believe this, but I'm reading that book right now."
There are rumors that Cheney will be replaced, but President Bush is very loyal. ... He's standing by him, but I don't know how sincere that is. I understand every day, Bush buys Cheney a large cheese and pepperoni pizza.
A new poll says that if the election were held today, both John Kerry and John Edwards would beat President Bush by double digit margins. The White House is so worried about this, they're now thinking of moving up the capture of Osama Bin Laden to next month.
David Letterman: President Bush's daughters are going to work in his campaign when they get out of college. That's a pretty good move. In this economy, they won't be able to find real jobs.
The Bush campaign for re-election has officially begun. They're actually running television commercials. Have you seen any of the television commercials? In one of the commercials, you see George Bush for thirty seconds. In another commercial, you get to see George Bush for sixty seconds — kind of like his stint in the National Guard.
President Bush's dog Spot passed away ... so they took Spot back to the ranch in Texas ... and buried him next to, I believe, 10,000 Al Gore ballots.
Craig Kilborn: The election is in full-swing. Republicans have taken out round-the-clock ads promoting George Bush. Don't we already have that? It's called Fox News.
You may have heard this, that NASA discovered water on Mars. ... When he heard about the water on Mars, President Bush said, 'Is it regular or unleaded?
Jon Stewart: Bush's proposal for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage? Some see the move as an attempt to preserve traditional values, while others see it as a cynical ploy to ensure that Vice President Dick Cheney will never have to pay for his gay daughter's wedding.
March 7, 2004
"In America, anyone can become president. That's one of the risks you take." -- Adlai Stevenson
A few more thoughts on Martha Stewart's conviction...
Her attorneys are being criticized for not putting Martha on the stand to testify. Based on my experience as a prosecutor, Martha's defense made a well-reasoned decision to keep her off the stand because they knew that the prosecution had documents and/or statements by Martha, not used in their case in chief, which would have been devastating to Martha on cross-examination or in rebuttal to any testimony she would give. Moreover, if she took the stand and lied, that fact would be an aggravating circumstance in sentencing.
How hard must it be for Martha to have to sit and be judged by people to whom she feels so superior? How hard must it be for Martha not to outwardly display the contempt she feels for the jury and the whole trial?
Close your eyes
and conjure this mind picture - Martha slinging hash in a prison cafeteria.
We attended a Willie Nelson "concert" last night in Boca Raton.
The concert started on time - to the minute. Doesn't this violate some cardinal rule for musicians?
I missed my nap yesterday afternoon and amazed my wife by catching up on my sleep during the rock band which opened for Willie (we were in the fifth row directly in front of the speakers on the side of the stage). I told her that the sound level of a rock concert was nothing compared to 31 years of sleeping through her snoring.
Willie's performance (yes, I was awake) was a delight. He performed nonstop (with very little conversation) for almost two hours. What is absolutely clear is that even after many decades of touring, Willie still loves his music and still loves sharing it with his fans.
A big-venue concert is more of an event than a concert. I don't begrudge the people who are so into the happening that they feel compelled to dance, sing along with the performer, scream their encouragement and adoration, smoke assorted substances, etc. However, after taking in Simon & Garfunkel in December and Willie Nelson last night, I have decided that these events are not good opportunities for people like me who want to enjoy the music without the distractions. My standards of decorum are different for music than for sporting events. I'll just have to be more discerning about the concerts I attend in the future.
Following up to yesterday's Rant that had Bush replacing Cheney on the ticket with Elizabeth Dole - I just saw Rudy Giuliani on Meet the Press...
March 6, 2004
Martha Stewart -
Guilty - It's a good thing!
The thing about this case that intrigues me is why so many Americans (myself included) are deriving so much glee over Martha's comedown. This is a woman who, through her hard work and perseverance, has built a huge company largely based on her own charisma and capabilities. If we think that her public persona is really a thin veneer over a ruthless, greedy bitch, why has her selling of this persona been so successful? Perhaps, like George W. Bush, the public is incredibly polarized about Martha - a large segment of the market adores and admires her while an equally large segment considers her to be insipid and venal. What I do know is that because I can't satisfy my urge to smack the smug expressions off the faces of Martha Stewart and Steve Spurrier, I'll have to settle for the gratification that their smirks are now persona non grata on my TV.
Good Bye Dick Cheney?
Yesterday, a friend made a scary prediction. Notwithstanding Bush's reaffirmation of his choice of Cheney as his running mate this fall, in an effort to revive the struggling ticket, Cheney will have a mild cardiac episode in mid-July and withdraw from the ticket for health reasons. Bush will then replace Cheney on the ticket with Elizabeth Dole in a move to bridge the gender gap.
Yet another reason to donate money and work our tails off for the Kerry campaign to take back America.
March 5, 2004
Universal Health Care? Surprise! It's a Bush Priority.
How times change. Consider this excerpt from the October 11, 2000 Presidential Debate:
LEHRER: Some people are now suggesting that if you don't want to use the military to maintain the peace, to do the civil thing, it's it time to consider a civil force of some kind that comes in after the military that builds nations or all of that? Is that on your radar screen?
BUSH: I don't think so. I think what we need to do is convince people who live in the lands they live in to build the nations. Maybe I'm missing something here. I mean we're going to have kind of a nation-building corps from America? Absolutely not.
This week, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson returned from Iraq and defended the Bush administration's plan to spend nearly a billion dollars to establish universal health care for Iraqis:
"Even if you don't have health insurance, you are still taken care of in America. That certainly could be defined as universal coverage. Every American's health care is far superior to what the health care is in Iraq."
The problem with living your life in a country club whose membership is all Republicans is that you think that everyone drives a Lincoln or a Cadillac and that those people who don't - after all, someone has to mow the fairways and pick up the towels in the locker room - don't matter.
There are 44 million Americans who are either uninsured or underinsured for health care. Underinsured? How about my friend, an attorney in his 40's with an HMO for his wife and himself, who had to file for bankruptcy after his wife's two-year losing battle with cancer left him hopelessly in debt. I'm sure he'll feel much better knowing that because of the United States, no Iraqi will share his experience.
March 4, 2004
"Never argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel and paper by the ton."
I did a Google search on this quote to verify its attribution - it is attributed to Tommy Lasorda and/or to Mark Twain - and found a number of alternative versions on the same theme:
Is there anyone left to argue with (with whom to argue)?
- Never argue with someone about their politics, their religion, or their latest multi-level marketing get-rich-quick product or plan.
- Never argue with someone when they say they owe you money.
- Never argue with someone who may be packing an Uzi.
- Never argue with someone who argues for a living and charges you for it.
- Never argue with someone whose neck is bigger than your head.
- Never argue with someone about: 1) their religion, 2) their politics and 3) their vitamin supplements.
- Never argue with someone with dementia.
- Never argue with someone for whose opinions you have no respect.
- Never argue with someone with a badge and a gun.
- Never argue with someone who has a flamethrower.
- Never argue with a fool - people may not be able to tell you apart.
- Never argue with a woman when she is tired -- or rested.
- Never argue with the bouncer.
- Never argue with someone who packs your parachute.
- Never argue with someone who cooks your food.
- Never argue with someone who thinks you're brilliant.
- Never argue with someone you're giving your car keys to.
March 3, 2004
Last Man Standing - John Kerry
Rest in Peace
The choice this November...
Supreme Court Appointments
Freedom of Choice
Stem Cell Research
If you think that this choice is critical to our future, you have eight months to be an activist for change. Talk about the issues with friends, neighbors, and family. Urge those who agree with you to become activists. Donate money even if you never donate money to political causes. Urge people to vote. Turnout on November 2 will make the difference.
March 2, 2004
9-11 Commission - the Stonewall Continues
Remember the 9-11 Commission (the subject of an extensive Rant on 1/31)? Highlights:
The Commission was originally opposed by Bush.
After creation of the Commission, it has been stonewalled by Bush and his Administration.
The stonewalling forced the Republican-led Commission to ask for a 60 day extension of its May 27, 2004 deadline to issue a report.
The Administration originally opposed the extension.
Even after the Administration changed its position on the extension, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert refused to allow the extension to be voted on in the House.
Senators John McCain (R) and
Joseph I. Lieberman (D) declared that unless the House agreed to legislation pushing back the deadline, they would hold up a highway bill needed to avoid the furlough of thousands of federal workers beginning today.
Hastert capitulated on the extension.
Now, although the Commission will get its extension, it is still battling the Administration for access to information.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney refuse to meet, even in private, with the 10 member bi-partisan panel. Instead, Bush and Cheney insist on meeting only with Chairman Thomas H. Kean and Vice-Chairman Lee H. Hamilton. Moreover, Bush and Cheney will restrict their meetings with the commissioners to just one hour.
The 9-11 Commission has struggled with the White House for access to the "Presidential Daily Brief" (PDB), a document presented to the President each morning with that day's intelligence. Only these documents can answer questions about what the Administration knew. The White House has denied most of the Commissioners access to the PDBs – only recently, after being threatened with a subpoena, has the full Commission been granted access to even a summary of their contents.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is refusing to testify in public before the Commission "at the recommendation of administration lawyers" who cited separation-of-powers issues. Her refusal comes as questions still swirl around what she and the Administration knew before the attacks. For instance, Rice has claimed that no one predicted "that [terrorists] would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile." But ABC News reported that "White House officials acknowledged that U.S. intelligence officials informed President Bush weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks that bin Laden's terrorist network might try to hijack American planes." Rice's refusal is also questionable, considering such concerns have not prevented two other members of the executive branch – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell – to agree to testify before the Commission in public.
Bush spent "at least four hours" with Bob Woodward discussing the 9/11 attacks and its consequences for Woodward's book "Bush at War." Woodward was given extensive access to the PDBs for his book.
Recognizing that Bob Woodward was granted far more extensive access to documents than it has been, the Commission has "tried to learn the details" of important documents "by obtaining access to White House transcripts of interviews that senior officials gave to [Woodward]." The White House "did in fact turn over the transcripts" but, apparently, the most important information was not given to Woodward "in the taped interviews that were transcribed by the White House secretaries."
Bush to the 9-11 Commission (and the American public):
"You want to know the truth? You can't handle the truth."
March 1, 2004
Just finished watching the Oscars - yawn. There was a lot of hype about how this year's show was going to be more entertaining. Wrong. Every year I endure the three plus hours of the award show to catch the few nuggets which will be the water cooler fodder for the next few days. This year's nuggets were but a few flecks of dust. There was Crystal's trademark innovative opening and a few shots at Bush. Billy Crystal likened his four-year absence from hosting the Oscars to serving in the Texas National Guard. Addressing another first-time Oscar nominee in the audience, 13-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes, Crystal recalled that he first hosted the Oscars 13 years ago. "Things were so different then. You know how different it was? Bush was president, the economy was tanking and we'd just finished a war with Iraq."
I appreciated the tributes to Bob Hope, Katherine Hepburn, Gregory Peck, and Blake Edwards (Blake was there to enjoy his).
How in the world did the make-up artists who transformed Charlize Theron in Monster escape even nominations for an Oscar? I don't get it. I did get Lost In Translation - we saw it on DVD two nights ago. It wasn't bad but if Sofia Coppola was not the daughter of Francis Ford, this movie never would have been made.
Finally, Lord of the Rings. It was nominated in 11 categories and won 11 Oscars. Pretty damn impressive. Didn't see the movie. Don't want to see the movie. Don't like fantasies or science fiction, whichever it is.
P.S. Memo to Art Department: You're fired!