Friday, October 17, 2003
( 12:29 PM )
Well, At Least There Was No Barfing
Bush had dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi tonight (it's already tonight in Japan) and managed to get through it without any regurgitation episodes. So that's one up from his dad. Bush is on an Asian Mission: strong arm the countries into helping us by cripling their own economies. I think it may work - Bush is such a sweet and persuasive guy, after all.
Bush himself made no public comment on
the touchy topic of Tokyo's policy of intervening
in foreign exchange markets to stem the
yen's recent rise against the dollar.
But a senior U.S. administration official told
reporters later: "The president once again
reiterated his support for a strong dollar and
for market-determined exchange rates."
In other words, Bush went over to strong-arm Japan into complying with our economic wishes. It's an interesting tactic, considering Japan is one of the only countries to actually give a LOT of money to our Iraq "problem."
Tokyo spent a record 13.5 trillion yen
($123 billion) in the first nine months of the
year to try to stem the rise of the currency,
which recently hit three-year highs against
U.S. manufacturers say a weak yen threatens
their competitiveness. Japan is worried that a
strong yen could hurt its rebounding economy
by making exports too expensive.
This is unacceptable to Bush. He and his cronies are determined that the "markets" must rule - and so any country that attempts to intervene to protect its own currency is just asking to get on our enemies list right now. Funny thing, how Bush insists that other economies do what we want, even if it means their own struggling countries are hurt by it. Way to make friends and influence people!
"We need a level playing field when it comes
(to) trade and a level playing field will help us
create jobs here in America," Bush said in
California before leaving for Japan on the first
leg of a trip that will also take him to the
Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia
It's all about a "level playing field," which means fair for the U.S., not for anyone else. But this is somewhat confusing. Bush is saying that these countries should make it easier for us to create jobs in our country. But Bush also lauds US corporations that continue to send factories and outsource staff to other countries. So he says one thing but does another? What is this? Oh, wait a minute... this is the Bush administration. It's not about what they do, it's about how well they can obfuscate. Sorry, lost my place on the hymnsheet for a second there.
( 11:32 AM )
Okay, Who's The Wise Guy
This news just on the wire over at Reuters: Two separate Southwest Airlines planes had bags containing boxcutters and bleach in their lavatories last night (in Houston and New Orleans), which were discovered during maintenance today. So now ALL airplanes are going to be searched. What is going on? Here's the cryptic part:
A note in both packages indicated the items
were intended to challenge the TSA checkpoint
security procedures, Southwest said. It
immediately turned over the items to authorities.
Hmmm. Well, in terms of showing the sad state of TSA's "security," the stunt worked. In terms of being stupid and being really, really, REALLY stupid - I wonder if the guy knew enough not to leave fingerprints.
This is just one incident. But it seems like a lot of things are piling up lately to show that all those promises about how we are safer now and that something like 9/11 will never happen again are pretty empty as far as promises go. I just pray something like 9/11 does NOT happen again - and if it does, it better damn well not be something our government could have prevented but for not having enough money to cover all the homeland security needs because of the money needed for Iraq.
( 10:55 AM )
Friday is For Fathers
I know I skipped last Friday - but I'm trying to keep up! I try as much as possible to support the Dad blogs, and especially the Stay-at-Home-Dad blogs since that is a subject close to my heart (and home). I enjoy them all and encourage you to take a look if you get the chance. Here's an update of our Dads-About-Town and what they are up to lately!
Being Daddy celebrates his daughter's first songwriting achievement! And it's a fantastic song! (I especially like it since I always wanted to be on the moon too). Over at Rebel Dad, he's keeping us up with all the links we need - especially regarding how moms in the workplace depend on their stay-at-home hubbies. David, over at Daddy Make a Picture has a fresh new look (and I love his stuff, despite the fact that he's a Yankees fan) - and he has a great post up about the dreadful commercials that I always scream and yell about myself.
One of my favorites, Laid-Off Dad (also a Yankees fan), is enjoying a well-deserved mini-holiday right now. But read his stuff, it's legendary! Over at Frenzied Daddy (also a fellow Oregonian) Russ is dealing with the crap corporate world. But his job as Dad never gets downsized.
Fulltime Father has a great post up about the gender thing - and I like what he has to say, except I think that if a boy wants to wear a dress, well then, a dress it is. Really, can a dress be that much worse than superman tights and a cape?
Over at Fishyshark, our About-To-Be-Dad hasn't posted in a while, but he does have a gorgeous picture of the woman he most likely doesn't deserve (just kidding, Kos!). Elisa looks gorgeous, but I know she's ready to go - I believe the due date is any time now. The next few months are going to be nothing like what Kos expected - but better than he ever dreamed.
Other Blogging Dads that I love to read (that don't necessarily blog about Daddy-dom) are Tom Burka and TBogg.
Finally, a Kudos to my own Dad, who has always been there for me no matter what. He's literally driven thousands of miles to rescue me, he's defended me endlessly, protected me and he even changed his entire life to move across the country and be an on-site Grandad. If you read the post earlier about Dad's fantastic blog (I've taken it down now since it seemed a little negative and I want to be nice - today) you knew how frustrated I was for him earlier, but in the end, it's going to work out (he is now linked from the Blog for America, so that's great), I'm sure. Webpages aside, I'm more proud than anything that he's my Dad. The college kids he teaches, the people he comes into contact with and my entire family are better because of him. I think any political campaign would also be. That's probably why I'm feeling so defensive of him. Well, I'm sure things will work out okay.
Check out these dads - they are awesome, hardworking and very, very cool... In this mama's book anyway.
Thursday, October 16, 2003
( 4:30 PM )
Going Home Early to Torture Myself
At least Dad is coming over to watch the game with me. So I won't be alone in what, based on the karma created last night, will inevitably be misery. Go Sox (sigh).
UPDATE: Yup. I was right. It was the most torturous game ever. Well, on the bright side, Armageddon is on hold for at least a year....
( 3:44 PM )
My Favorite Quote of the Week
Bush told his senior aides Tuesday that he
"didn't want to see any stories" quoting
unnamed administration officials in the media
anymore, and that if he did, there would be
consequences, said a senior administration
official who asked that his name not be used.
You can't help but wonder after reading that bit ... Did Tom Burka write that story? (more indepth on the actual story over at Kos.)
( 3:31 PM )
In Case You Couldn't Find Anything
To Make You Angry This Week
Reading one of my favorites today, I came across this article in Guerilla News Network. Looks like while Bush is asking us for $87billion to modernize Iraq's infrastructure, he's once again giving us... the shaft.
Talk about sticker shock. The condition of the country
was far worse than anyone dared imagine. Engineers
released their findings this September and, using a
grammar school grading system, they assigned grades
to describe the state of disrepair they found.
The country's roads got a D+. Aviation infrastructure
got a D. Schools a D minus. Wastewater treatment
facilities, a D. Dams, a D. Hazardous waste storage
a D+. And, even though the nation is a major oil
producer, the energy sector got a D+.
In all, the experts said it would take more than
$1.6 trillion over the next five years to bring the
country's infrastructure up to modern standards.
Oh, wait. I bet you thought I was talking about Iraq.
No. The report I am citing was released this
September by the American Society of Civil Engineers
and it described the condition of America's infrastructure.
In it, the ASCE warned that America's critical
infrastructure was "crumbling" and ongoing neglect
would add $300 billion a year to the repair bill.
Bush made a big deal in his campaign about how it's not our job to fix the problems of the world. He swept into office on what seemed like a very isolationist viewpoint and lots of people thought he would do a lot of work on domestic issues. But that wasn't the PNAC's plan. So here we are. Our government is using taxpayer dollars to award multi-million contracts exclusively to American companies to improve the infrastructure of Iraq:
So, as you bump your way to work today on
pothole-studded streets understand that the
cost of your new suspension is a small price
to pay for the smooth 1,200-kilometer highway
being built in Afghanistan on a $300 million
contract to U.S. engineering firm Louis Berger
Then there's the $240 million earmarked to
improve Iraq's roads and bridges. And, even
as the Bush administration fights subsidies
for Amtrak, another $303 million in U.S. funds
is going to upgrade Iraq's railroads. Bechtel
will oversee much of this work.
But wait! It's not just roads and bridges where we aren't getting improvement and Iraq is - its in our general safety and security too!
Ten years ago, President Bill Clinton pushed
legislation to put more cops on the street. The
Bush administration has since eliminated all
direct funding for street cops. Now, with money
short and so many military reservists—many of
whom are cops in civilian life—on active duty,
cities and counties find themselves dangerously
short of police, fire and other first responders.
Nevertheless, while American law enforcement
goes begging, the administration has been
generous in letting contracts to rebuild Iraq's civil
and military policing. There is the $2 billion to
build a new Iraqi army and another $470 million to
fund civilian police, judges, courts and related law
enforcement services. U.S.-based DynCorp and its
parent company, Computer Sciences Corp., are the
prime contractors here.
The irony here isn't necessarily that Iraq is getting our money. It's larger than that, this is about the very core issues we as a country are facing right now. Namely, our economy and the basic survival of working people in this nation:
And so we are left to ponder. America's
infrastructure is a mess and getting worse.
Instead of spending the additional $25 billion
needed to repair it, the administration is
handing nearly the same amount in contracts
out to a small number of U.S. companies to
repair Iraq's infrastructure instead. Had that
money been allocated for U.S. infrastructure
the contracts would have been, by law, subject
to open bidding and would therefore have been
divvied up among hundreds of companies, small
and large, across the country. In the old days,
they called that a domestic economic stimulus plan.
So much for this president caring about creating jobs... or caring about this country, period.
( 11:46 AM )
Oregon Fights for Power
...Electrical Power, that is. I've posted on this subject previously, but it's becoming a hotter issue as election day gets closer.
If you're interested, there is a fantastic debate about it on Portland Indymedia . As I've noted before, I am much more inclined towards a publicly owned utility district here for the various reasons that a) I'm basically a socialist, b) Enron has screwed us royally and they're only about to do it again because of the bankruptcy, c) Portlanders will be MUCH better off in terms of rates (PUDs are proven to have lower rates, even here in Oregon), responsivenes, control over their own utility company and in the not-getting-a-corporate-screwing department, and finally, d) I'd just ONCE like the people to win over the corporations!!
Now, all that being said, it's going to be a hard battle. The disinformation swirling around out there about how we're all going to go down in flames if we own our own utility is thick, massive and everywhere. PGE and Pacific Power are spending millions in tv ads (I can't get through an entire episode of Angel without at least two ads per segment from a power company!), print ads, billboards and letters to the editor of the newspaper that are either from PGE executives, or sound like they are from PGE executives. (PGE is going under the astroturf name "Citizens Against the Government Takeover") - funny, huh? The Oregonian's own editorial board (read: "we want to be just like the WSJ Editorial Board!") is against the PUD.
The two biggest arguments from the corporate powers are that: 1) YOUR TAXES WILL GO UP!!! if we own our utility and 2) YOU'LL HAVE TO DEAL WITH ANOTHER CORRUPT LAYER OF GOVERNMENT!!!
Let's review: PGE does not exist anymore - it is a wholly owned subsidiary of Enron. Enron is in bankruptcy and wants to sell off bits and pieces of PGE to the highest (non-regulated) bidder as soon as possible, which will be nice for Enron, but will soak the local customers. Pacific Power is owned by, I think, a Scottish company, so really, they are invested in our local quality of life for sure. The whole argument about taxes going up is about property taxes. PGE screams at us that with a PUD, our property taxes may rise up to "30 percent!" This is a total misrepresentation (a lie). The levy that will be needed to support the PUD will amount to 30 cents on a $100,000 home, 45 cents on a $150,000 home. OUCH! Boy, that's a price to pay for not being under the thumb of Enron or an Enron clone!
Next, that "layer of government" problem. Hmmm. Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver and Eugene all have public utility companies and they all have run well for many years and at a substantially lower rate for their customers than the Enron-owned variety. The PUD is not going to suddenly emerge as some monster beaurocracy that doesn't know what its doing. Obviously, the current employees of PGE and Pacific Power are who will be hired by the PUD and the PUD will take every effort to make it a smooth transition. The entire point of a PUD is that we have a say in it, it is accountable to us through our government. We are not left voiceless and hanging on an electrical wire by a corporation that isn't invested at all in us.
Let's look at some numbers:
$5 million: amount of ratepayer money PGE used to defeat 1992 ballot measure that would have closed the Trojan Nuclear plant at no cost to ratepayers.
1: number of weeks after the measure's defeat that PGE closed Trojan permanently at ratepayer expense.
$569 million: amount PGE has collected from ratepayers for federal and state income tax payments since 1997.
$0.2 million: amount of these collections Enron/PGE has actually paid in income taxes (it kept the other $568.8 million for itself).
$100 million: amount PGE employees lost due to Enron's stock fraud.
$80 million: amount Oregon PERS lost due to Enron's stock fraud.
5: number of pages in Enron reorganization plan needed to list all lawsuits against PGE, most for fraud.
Undetermined: amount these suits may cost PGE ratepayers.
30: number of "restructuring specialists" Enron has hired to help it sell PGE for the best return.
$860,000: amount each "specialist" is paid per year in salary alone.
$300 million: yearly increased cost to ratepayers if sale to an unregulated buyer happens.
0: number of reasons Enron's creditors, the Wall Street banks, have not to dismember PGE in the bankruptcy proceeding.
As someone once said, can you hear me now? Portlanders have a very important decision in their hands this election. PLEASE vote and please consider that voting for a PUD will be better for you and your family in the long run than sticking with the catastrophe of a power system that we now have. We have got to start taking back power out of the hands of greedy corporations that want nothing to do with regulating their outfits to benefit our safety, our pocketbooks or our quality of life. "Free Enterprise" is not at stake here, those of you who worship the Invisible Hand. This is about citizen ownership. You not only have the right to own your own power company, you have a responsibility to do so because otherwise you are ceding your position as a citizen of this city and state and you are not preserving the benefits that are possible for the next generation. That's really what it's all about.
( 8:57 AM )
Regarding the Previous Post
I don't want to talk about it.
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
( 3:51 PM )
Arrgghhh!! I Can't Stand the Tension!!
Come ON Sox!
UPDATE: Darn it - I have to catch the bus home so I'm probably gonna miss the end of the game (I'm only watching the ESPN box scores online and that's stressful enough). As of 4:53 pm pst, the Sox are ahead by one. Maybe it's best I leave now anyway.
~~~~Mama sending pre-game good vibes to Kerry Wood~~~~
Cubs game starts in 1 hour. Mama's warning: Go to the bathroom before it starts, there will be no stops.
( 3:35 PM )
What??!! They LIED??!!
In case you are new to the world, here's a short recap: since George W. Bush was appointed president, almost every word out of his mouth has been a downright lie. Okay, you're caught up. Now you might be forgiven for not realizing this since the American media has done uber-squat to delve into the truth itself. They maybe be picking up speed reporting Bush's falling numbers lately, but I have yet to see ongoing headlines screaming about the misdeeds of this President (which, by the way, don't even require much digging to find). Thus, I'm not feeling all that sorry for them as they go on the defense against the new "GOOD NEWS!" PR assault from the White House this week (see below). Something that might help them is to pay a little attention to this report being circulated by Ambassador Wilson (yes, that guy).
I actually printed out the entire report and read it on my busride home last night (it's an easy 56 pages to get through as most of it is charts and short paragraphs). I will preface my analysis (and sorry if it's a bit long, but the report was pretty detailed) of the report by saying it is HORRIBLY edited. It reads like the first draft of a college paper that hasn't even had its first read-through. It is organized badly and not all that well written - and as I just said, badly needs editing. However, if you can make it through these asthetic issues, I think you might find it very worth reading.
It's called "The Truth from These Podia" and it is written by Retired USAF Col. Sam Gardiner, who has taught strategy and military operations at the National War College, the Air War College and the Naval War College. It is a run-down of the calculated strategy by the US and UK governments to purposefully mislead their citizens in order to gain support for a war they intended to conduct long before they admitted it. Here is a summary of the report from the author:
The United States (and UK) conducted a strategic influence campaign that:
- distorted perceptions of the situation both before and during the conflict
- caused misdirection of portions of the military operation
- was irresponsible in parts
- might have been illegal in some ways
- cost big bucks
- will be even more serious in the future.
He also ads in his summary:
- Clearly the assumption of some in the government is the people of the United States and the United Kingdom will come to a wrong decision if they are given the truth.
- We probably have taken "Information Warfare" too far.
- We allowed strategic psychological operations to become part of public affairs.
- We failed to make adequate distinction between strategic influence stuff and intelligence.
- Message became more important than performance
Gardiner then goes on to show the chain of stories constructed and or molded and then given to the press (who voraciously and unquestioningly devoured them) that made up the molding of the American impression:
• Terrorism and 9/11
• Lt. Commander Speicher
• Mohammad Atta meeting with Iraqi
• Ansar al-Salm
• Chemical and biological weapons
– Delivery readiness
• Weapons labs
• WMD cluster bombs
• Cutting off ears
• Cyber war capability
• Nuclear materials from Niger
• Aluminum tubes
• Nuclear weapons development
• Dirty bombs
• Humanitarian operations
• Attacking the power grid
• Russian punishment
– Signing long term oil
– Night-vision goggles
– GPS Jamming equipment
– Saddam in embassy
• German punishment
• Surrender of the 507th
He goes on to detail this chain of stories and how the governments of the US and the UK, in almost identical styles and even words, used them to deceive their populations.
In addition to the lies and planted stories, the public statements to the American people were psychological operations themselves. The planning for the entire war came out of several sources, and all built upon one central theme: we must deceive to achieve (thanks, I made that one up myself):
In the Pentagon, in addition to the normal public
affairs structure, the Special Plans Office was deeply
involved in this effort, supported (with information)
by the Iraqi National Congress. There was the
Rendon Group, headed by John Rendon who gave
media advice to OSD, the Joint Staff and the White
House. Finally, there were connections to large
The Rendon Group worked for the Government of
Kuwait during the Gulf I. John Rendon proudly
tells that it was he who shipped small American
flags to Kuwait for the citizens to wave as troops
entered Kuwait City. He suggested the same
technique for this war, but the Joint Staff information
operations office turned down the idea.
The Rendon Group worked for both OSD and the Joint
Staff during this war. John Rendon says he was part
of the daily 9:30 phone calls with the key information
players to set themes.
The main thrust of the entire report focuses on this: For the first time in our government and military history, the strategic goal of the military commanders was part and parcel of the government's goal to achieve what it wanted (take over of Iraq) and to manipulate evidence, people's opinions and even the truth in order to achieve that goal:
As far as I am aware, this is the first time a military
commander was given objectives that were about
justifying the war.
And, as I noted earlier, the press was the willing playmate.
I think the materials point to problems in the way
newspapers did their job during the war. Why don’t
they react immediately that they need to do some
self-appraisal? I think one could take the stories
I have highlighted and ask some direct questions. How
was it that the Washington Post took classified
information on the Jessica Lynch story and published
it just the way the individual leaking it in the Pentagon
wanted? Why did the New York Times let itself be
used by “intelligence officials” on stories? Why did the
Washington Times never seem to question a leak they
were given? Why were newspapers in the UK better
than those in the U.S. in raising questions before and
during the war?
I’ve not heard any self-criticism from reporters to
whom I have talked. When I’ve talked to television producers
and reporters my sense is they believe the whole
story is just too complex to tell. That’s sad but probably
We can only conclude that these efforts will be improved on even further by this administration for its next conquest. If anyone stands in its way, watch out.
He (General Gerald Mauer) described a paper called
the Information Operations Roadmap that was being
coordinated in the Pentagon. He said when the paper
was drafted by his office it said that information
operations would be used against an “adversary.”
He went on to say that when the paper got to the
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
(Feith), it was changed to say that information
operations will attempt to “disrupt, corrupt or usurp
adversarial…decision making.” Adversarial…decision-
making will be disrupted. In other words, we will
even go after friends if they are against what we
are doing or want to do.
Pretty damning report. But will anyone read it? After all, we're just a bunch of idiots that would rather be lied to because we can't handle the truth, and even if we could, we would get in the way of our unelected leaders' plans. Better to just let it go.
Now that's what I call democracy!
( 2:49 PM )
Everything Is Going Great,
They Just Aren't Reporting It
The new WH talking points this week are:
1. There are GOOD THINGS happening in Iraq
2. People don't know about them because the Press isn't reporting them
3. People would be more supportive of the President if they knew how great things really were
It's been repeated so many times in the last few days by pundits that it's obvious they all got the same fax from the White House. The blame is once again being pinned on the messengers because the White House can't find anyone else to throw on the fire to distract news watchers.
The Congressional Republicans are getting in on the act as well.
On returning from a trip to Iraq and
Afghanistan, a group of Senate
Republicans said yesterday that the
Bush administration deserves a lot
more credit for successful reconstruction
efforts in those war-torn nations.
As Congress prepares to vote on the
administration’s $87 billion supplemental
request for Iraq, Republican Sens. Mitch
McConnell (Ky.), Conrad Burns (Mont.)
and Craig Thomas (Wyo.) renewed the
argument that despite critical Democrats
and what the Republicans view as
excessively negative press, significant
progress has been made. They cited the
smiles, claps and thumbs-up gestures of
Iraqi youth among other indications that
the reconstruction process is gathering
But evidently, Democrats aren't allowed to go and see for themselves:
Meanwhile, several Senate Democrats complained
that they were denied access to a plane for a
inspection tour of their own.
“For whatever reason, Sens. [Chris] Dodd [D-Conn.]
and others who requested the opportunity to travel
were prohibited from doing so, and I think that
requires a better explanation that the one I’ve been
given so far,” Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said.
The new PR plan launced last week by the White House seems to be going forward full-blast. The GOP has joined with its shills in the non-news and is making enemies of the very people ("journalists") who have so far not kicked up a molecule of investigative dust on this presidency. The PR plan isn't so much more speeches to tout the goodness and sweetness of our occupation of Iraq, but more of an attack on those who no longer are falling in line.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT:
Well, Lou, now the White House is on the
offensive about its public relations offensive.
It was just yesterday that President Bush
complained about his story about the progress
in Iraq was not getting out. He also has said
that the Americans are not getting the truth
when it comes to this story. That's why the
White House went around and bypassed what
he called the national media filter to give
exclusive interviews to five reporters of regional
outlets who normally don't cover the White House.
What has happened now, well, it's opened
an active debate whether the blame-the-media
aspect of this White House strategy is going to
be effective. The White House today made no
apologies about it, White House spokesman Scott
McClellan defending the administration, saying
it's absolutely necessary.
KAREN TUMULTY, "TIME": Well, I must say,
I do find it ironic that the White House was
not complaining about the national media
when they were giving glowing coverage of
our actual -- of our progress during the war itself.
The fact is that the White House laid down
some expectations of what this war would
produce. They suggested we would be in and
out of Iraq within three months. They suggested
that the oil revenues would pay to fix the
damage. None of that has happened. And so I
think the media's doing its job, which is measuring
them against what they, themselves, had promised.
Well, while Bush goes on the offensive against a press that really has hardly done him wrong since he got into office, and the press goes on the defensive trying to 'splain that they are just "reporting the facts, ma'am" -- We can be assured that our elected representatives are getting the story straight for us:
Rep. George Nethercutt said yesterday that
Iraq's reconstruction is going better than is
portrayed by the news media, citing his recent
four-day trip to the country.
"The story of what we've done in the postwar
period is remarkable," Nethercutt, R-Wash.,
told an audience of 65 at a noon meeting at the
University of Washington's Daniel J. Evans
School of Public Affairs.
"It is a better and more important story than
losing a couple of soldiers every day."
Uh, George? Did you seriously mean that? Because if that's how the White House and Republicans in Congress feel, then I think the voters might have something to say about that.
So, in summary: Several soldiers are getting killed per day in Iraq, we don't even know the number of severely wounded there are, bombs are going off every day, and we are making things better by sending Turkish troops in soon. BUT THAT DOESN'T MATTER because people are happy and smiling and they don't even mind that they don't have jobs or money or food - because EVERYTHING is better when the Americans take over!
Did I get that right, Mr. President?
( 2:08 PM )
One for the "We're Making You Safer Every Day!" File
Missing: Secret Information About US Airports
(or "Have You Seen My Laptop?")
Yes, that's right:
The search goes on for a stolen laptop
computer, a computer that contains sensitive
information about security at all the
commercial airports in the U.S. It happened
during an airport security training seminar
at the Embassy Suites near Philadelphia
Police and the FBI have not located that
computer nor have they made any arrests.
I am told it contains sensitive information
about security at the nation's 429 airports.
A source tells Action News they do not believe
this was the job of a professional who knew
what was on the computer, but someone who
thought they might be able to get some
good cash for it at a pawnshop.
Evidently, they were using the computer for training and when they broke for lunch, they left it behind. Nice one. I feel safer already. Thanks, TSA!!
(Thanks to Maru for the link)
( 1:43 PM )
To Daily Kos on his new format - a brilliant switchover, with little pain to the masses and an even more glorious commenting system for all. If only government could be as cool as Kos.
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
( 3:30 PM )
The Supreme Court Pledges its Allegiance
Well, it appears that SCOTUS is set to hear the Ninth Circuit Court case about the "under God" words in the Pledge of Allegiance. But from this article, and from this one as well, it appears they may be specifically planning to rule on the technicality of whether the father even had a legal standing to bring the case in the first place, rather than the substance of the "under God" issue. Also of note, Antonin Scalia has recused himself because of the obviously prejudiced remarks he made earlier this year in a speech where he denounced the Ninth Circuit Court's decision.
So without Scalia, there is a real possibility the Court could rule that the "under God" phrase should be taken out. I personally think that either way it goes will be bad for the Democratic candidate next year. If the Court waits until the June deadline to rule, that will make it especially worse. Either way it is set to be a press bonanza for the GOP conservative right. A ruling for the phrase will set them up as announcing the government being rightfully under a Christian God, and a ruling against the phrase will unleash the dogs of war and the conservative right will pummel democrats and liberals as godless and inhumane. While in my heart of hearts, I hope the court will not uphold the phrase that was not part of the original pledge, I tend to agree with other liberals on this issue: let it lie. It's not a big enough issue for us to chance the presidency over. It does bring up a broader issue though, that I think is important for all parents and people interested in the education of our children.
That there is a "Pledge of Allegiance" at all in our public schools strikes me as a little creepy. And before you go and label me unpatriotic and all that, let's just look at this from a bigger picture. I have several thoughts on this issue:
1. I am not aware of any other free, democratic society that imposes this sort of Pledge or Loyalty Oath on its children. Dictatorships and Theocratic monarchies indeed do impose indoctrination upon their citizens. But a nation that is supposed to be (in theory) run by the people? Does anyone know if other democratic countries impose a pledge? This practice seems more to me like a forced genuflection and not a true representation of what this country is meant to stand for. That being said, public school itself is mostly for indoctrination, so the pledge isn't exactly a non-sequitur there.
2. Why must the children pledge to a flag? If you're going to have an oath of loyalty that children must say, why not to the Constitution? Or better yet, to the first few lines of the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights..." The latter seems much closer to a declaration of what this country stands for (and it even has a nod to the Creator, which might satisfy the conservative right). It also puts the rights of humanity at the forefront of the saying, rather than a symbol (the flag). It is loyalty to a nation-state or some other form of theocratic government that has been the cause of so much trouble and strife in our history - putting the rights of humanity at the forefront of our minds can only serve to give us pause when we are urged to heed the call to state-sponsored war.
3. Saying that the pledge is "voluntary" for children belies the fact that it is in practice required in most school districts and that the child must face terrible peer and teacher pressure if he or she chooses to opt out of the pledge to a flag. It is unrealistic to assume that the "volunteerism" of the pledge of allegiance is anything but coordinated social pressure to do what the state wants you to do.
4. The "Under God" phrase was added in 1954, during the McCarthy era of rooting out all the "godless Communists" that were subverting our pure and good American society. (The pledge itself wasn't even officially recognized by the government until 1924, so this is not exactly a founding fathers kind of thing) The "under God" phrase was NOT part of the original pledge and the law that Congress passed putting it into a pledge that was at the time required in public schools itself was unconstitutional. It reminds this blogger of times very close to home right now when our civil rights are being conveniently put aside in the name of "protecting us" from outside evil that has crept into our midst. Whatever your view on what the Constitutional framers intended by the "separation" clause, having a pledge that requires a child to acknowledge a God in a public school in relation to the symbol of the nation-state is the establishment of a religion.
Now, if the Supreme Court were to declare that the "god" in the pledge is only a symbol, that it does not refer to the "God" (ie, the Christian God), then what is the point of it being in there in the first place? The conservative right would not stand for that interpretation either.
The founding fathers recognized non-Christian beliefs and did in fact write about the need to equally protect the rights of those believers. Most of them were deists who did not believe what today's Christian Conservative Right movement believes, and I don't believe they would agree with the not-subtle slide this country is making towards a theocracy.
The pledge itself is dumb, in my estimation. Kids don't pay attention to what they're saying, it's a very ill-conceived form of indoctrination into patriotism, and there is no true allowance for kids who do not wish to participate. It has nothing to do with a person's loyality, it requires a fidelity to one version of what this country is to its citizens, and it puts an emphasis on a symbol that means nothing more than the representation of the separate parts of this nation (states) that have chosen to come together to govern themselves. It does not belong in our public schools.
That being said, don't make a big deal out of it now - this isn't the time, we have bigger fish to fry in the next 13 months.
P.S. In better news, the Supreme Court has chosen to not take up Bush's attempt to imprison doctors who discuss the benefits of medical marijuana with their patients in states where it is legal. Chalk one up to the good side!
( 2:01 PM )
I read with interest Billmon's post yesterday about why he is un-endorsing Dean. I also read the comments there. I've heard from several other sources sentiments like Billmon has expressed. I thought I'd just comment on it briefly since I have publicly endorsed Dean on this blog.
As I have explained many times before, my endorsement of Dean isn't so much based on Dean himself, but rather the process he is using to run his campaign and the issues that are being raised because of it. I have said it before, I'll say it again, my vote is with whatever Democrat wins the candidacy. But I do read the position papers of the various candidates, I do watch the debates and I do read the press, what little of real reporting there is out there. My support of Dean also exists because while I acknowledge he is far more centrist than I ever would be personally, I do believe he has taken a stand on some pretty progressive social plans he wants to put into action. I very much like his plan for children, his healthcare plan seems to be the most realistic in terms of having success AND giving at least all children universal health care in the near future. I agree with the banning of assault weapons and closing the loopholes on the trade shows, but after that making the gun issue up to the states. That is probably the one issue I am not as "progressive" on.
But the reason Billmon and others I've spoken with have fallen out of support for Dean is his stance on foreign policy as it applies to the middle east. Dean's quasi-luke-warm response to Judy Woodruff on the Syria question was definitely not an exuberant, progressive stance. It looked and smelled like another Democrat bowing to AIPAC's power. But after a lot of thought, I've considered the broader picture. I saw, like everyone else, how Dean got beat to a pulp the last time he intimated that the US should treat Israel and Palestine as an even-handed mediator. He saw the writing on the wall, and thus his not-so-strident remarks since then. From his past comments, his stance on the war, and from his original response about Israel that he got so much heat for, I don't think that he is suddenly caving or selling out. I think he knows what he has to do to win the presidency, but I also don't think he or any democrat will allow Israel the wide berth that's been handed down from Bush.
I don't agree with all of Dean's stands on things. There isn't a candidate I DO agree with about all the issues. That would be impossible. But I do believe he can win because he's shown a populist approach and appeal, he can be both progressive in plan but centrist in speech and he has also shown an ability to look at the facts when presented to him and change his mind and move forward in his education and opinions. I admire that and I do not fault a politician for learning and growing and changing.
He does terribly in the debate formats so far. He needs to perk up his presentation with the press. I hope he will avoid going negative as the primaries approach, though I'm sure he'll get some of that advice. But I think he would fare much better if he tried to remain above the fray. I think his realistic lead is still strong enough. The press don't like him, and if they are allowed the leeway of lies they were with Gore, then he's done with. But if the popular support he and his campaign has worked so hard over the last 6 months to build proves anything, it's that word of mouth and the mobilization of people who are sick and tired of the status quo DOES mean something. And Gore never had those things, so I think Dean is still ahead of the pack in my opinion. What I most hope is that he will be able to show that a president can acheive that office without the helping hand of corporations that want to control him. Now THAT would be refreshing.
Monday, October 13, 2003
( 2:09 PM )
It's all in the Percentages
I was reading October's Harper's today during lunch. A few items on the Index jumped out at me (unfortunately, October's index isn't available on line yet):
Percentage of Americans that believe George W. Bush was legitimately elected president: 54
Percentage who believed this in March 2001: 56
Percentage of Americans who will save less than $100 on their 2006 federal taxes as a result of this year's tax cut: 88
Average amount these Americans will save: $4
Number of U.S. troops who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq in the last two years: 354
Number who died in Vietnam in 1963 and 1964: 324
Number of states that require energy companies to derive a percentage of their output form alternative sources: 13
Number of U.S. senators last year who voted against creating a similar federal requirement to take effect in 2020: 70
Number of Democratic legislators absent for this year's 213-210 vote restricting workers' overtime-pay eligibility: 7
Number of Virginia Republican Party officials fined this year for eavesdropping on Democratic Party conference calls: 3
Years after the Watergate break-in that deputy campaign director Jeb Magruder admitted hearing President Nixon order it: 30
Year in which Donald Rumsfeld gave Saddam Hussein a pair of golden spurs: 1983
But on the positive side:
Estimated market value of the usable body parts of an adult human: $46,000,000.
( 12:10 PM )
Monday Round Up
I'm having a tough time getting started on everything today. But if you're looking for a good round up of news and comment, and downright great blogging, I recommend you start with Tom Burka (it's always good to get the right perspective before reading the news) and move on to Maru's always unique comments on today's stories. Top that off with a visit to the Vet and his list of sound bites from the Administration (hint: the WH has an ever-decreasing enthusiasm for finding those folks they've lost), Daily Kos' thoughts on the very-near primaries, Josh Marshall at TPM on the identical letters to the editor that are popping up everywhere, and finally, Billmon, who explains in detail why he is now un-endorsing Howard Dean (my reaction later).
Now you should be ready to go!
Friday, October 10, 2003
( 3:30 PM )
Maru reminded me that today is National Poetry Day in the UK. To mark the holiday, and because it's Friday, I'm in a rhyming mood:
It's hard to ignore the confession
Of a man with such high moral obsession
But my, poor old Rush;
His brains are such mush;
The pills prob'ly helped his profession
Who leaked the i.d. of Ms. Plame?
Who IS the rascal to blame?
Could it be, maybe
That it was Cheney?
Oh that would be SUCH a shame!
I do, however, recognize that the limerick is not a widely-recognized form of "poetry." So I'll conclude with haiku:
Many men have tried
To lie to me about war
But I am too smart
We are ask'd: believe
We are told: it's true, just wait
Faith does not make truth
This fall seems so sad
Next fall will be much more fun
More than leaves will change
And, just to end the day on a high note:
Roses are red
This week was so bad
Thank God it's Friday
I almost went mad
Oh well, I tried. Have a great weekend.
( 2:09 PM )
This just in. Rush announces to his radio audience that he is, indeed, addicted to pain killers. P just called to tell me that maybe it's now been proven:
Stupidity is Painful.
( 11:07 AM )
Celebrating Women in Sports
You GO Casey!!
Thursday, October 09, 2003
( 4:19 PM )
Clear Your Name Now
MoveOn.org has a new campaign that everyone should be aware of - it's the Help President Bush campaign. If we all send in the letters testifying that we were not the source of the highly criminal leak of the name of Ambassador Wilson's wife to the press, then we can help the President to narrow the search. After all, he's declared publicly that he has no idea who in his administration perpetrated the leak. Let's help him out!
It's a simple process and you can pass it on to your friends and family so they can clear their names too!
I, Bohemian Mama, do hereby attest that on or about the dates of June 1, 2003, through July 14, 2003, I did not contact, whether by telephone, facsimile, e-mail, in person, or by any other means, any reporter, correspondent, journalist, or any other member of the media, with the intent to or purpose of naming former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as an operative for the Central Intelligence Agency.
2. I, Bohemian Mama, further attest that on or about the dates of June 1, 2003, through July 30, 2003, I did not have any conversation, whether by telephone, e-mail, in person, or by any other means, with any reporter, correspondent, journalist, or any other member of the media, during which the employment of Valerie Plame was discussed in any way.
I declare, under penalty of perjury, that the foregoing is true and correct.
There. That's done. Now, how else can I help my poor President who can't seem to tell which way is up... oh! I know! Help him find the door and boot his arse out!
( 3:08 PM )
Iraqi Children Lose Head Start
Looks like Bush gives equal time to all children - while our own lose necessary meals from Head Start, he's decided that the children in Iraq are eating too much as well. In truth, the poor Iraqi children who have been benefitting from the food distribution system provided after our invasion are going to have to find their nourishment elsewhere.
A more substantial assault on Saddam's
legacy is under way in the Republican
Palace, where the occupation authority is
making preparations to dismantle the food
distribution system which gave free rations
of flour, rice, cooking oil and other staples
to every Iraqi.
Described by the UN as the world's most
efficient food network, the system still
keeps Iraqis from going hungry. But the US
civilian administrator of Iraq, Paul Bremer,
views it as a dangerous socialist anachronism.
The coalition provisional authority (CPA) is
planning to abolish it in January, despite
warnings from its own technical experts that
this could lead to hunger and riots.
But evidently, that doesn't go far enough. We need to rub in their faces that we're no longer going to feed them after invading their country, killing their family members and causing massive job losses everywhere. Nope. We need to teach them a lesson.
Behind the mosque five American military
vehicles rumbled through a narrow lane,
scattering children and women, and
announcing through loudspeakers that
demonstrations in support of Saddam were
banned. Leaflets fluttered to the ground
behind them. "Freedom = Responsibility",
the headline said.
Beautiful. If that's not patronizing condecension, I don't know what is. It seems, however, that the leaflets aren't working that well:
A man with a baby in his arms stooped to
pick one up and, staring straight at the US
troops, ripped it in half.
I wrote below about this administration's callous treatment of our own children. So I realize my expectations are far too high if I thought it would treat Iraqi children any better. It only follows, I suppose that Bush's people would use some sort of weird neo-con phobia about socialism to justify not feeding children in Iraq, when it is obvious it is one thing we're doing well at this point. They're not even using the excuse of cost. Nope, it's just not "responsible" to allow the Iraqis to think they can just get free food whenever they want it. Who do those moochers think they are anyway?
(Thanks to Billmon for the heads-up on this topic. And also, check out Not in My America for some more good commentary on it)
( 10:51 AM )
The Path of Destruction Includes our Children
I blogged earlier this week about how the Bush Administration is, indeed, leaving children behind. The "reforms" this president intends wreak upon the education system of this country will not help schools or children and will only further chip away at the opportunities for the most vulnerable of our society. In addition to his uber-force-testing, un-funded Leave No Child Behind mandate, he also intends to dismantle Early Head Start.
Why is Head Start so successful and so important? The Nation article by Jennifer Niesslein gives us good insight.
Those familiar with Head Start attribute its
effectiveness to just how comprehensive it is. A
child in Head Start benefits not only from time in
the classroom but also from required parental
involvement, healthcare screenings and follow-ups
(including vaccinations and dental care), nutritious
meals and help with special needs.
This is an incredible need in this country, especially with the amount of children in poor families, and children without health coverage (a crime, in my estimation, that the government should have to pay for by each and every elected official going without health care coverage until all Americans, at least all children, have it). Head Start is unique because it is so well-rounded and prepares children not only for school, but gives them social nurturing, and sometimes their only solid meals in a day. But George Bush thinks that's dumb. What three year olds need is to READ. All this "taking care of their needs" crap has got to go.
Bush isn't giving up the I-love-the-kiddies rhetoric;
in fact, he insists, his heart is downright bursting with
love and hope for them. "We want Head Start to set
higher ambitions for the million children it serves....
There hasn't been a proper focus on the little children,"
he said. "In my line of work, you see a problem, you
But what problem does George Bush see with Head Start? Could it possibly be a politically motivated bend in the statistics to prove his corporate handlers' case?
John Boehner, chair of the House education
committee, seems to think so. "Head Start's
graduates beginning kindergarten are more than
25 percentile points below in average skills like
recognizing letters, numbers, shapes and colors.
Too many children in Head Start are being left behind."
But if you ask, "Below what? Behind whom?" you'll
find a statistical sleight of hand. While Head Start
grads are not scoring as well as their more affluent
counterparts, they do score higher than kids who
come from the same socioeconomic background
but who didn't participate in Head Start. Simply put,
the program works. And if kids from low-income
families aren't scoring as high as kids in the suburban
middle class, it's because teachers and other services
can only do so much.
The conservatives/republicans in Congress and the White House talk a good game about taking care of this nation's children and finding homes for the homeless kids and food for the hungry kids. But where is the legislation making it easier for homeless families to find homes? Where is the legislation mandating and funding food for all children? Where is the provision for the health care for these vulnerable ones who are our future?
It's double talk at its worst because it hurts the ones who can't fight back. The President has decided unilaterally that it is not the federal government's job to provide services and aid to our children. He has put financial burdens on states until they are almost all bankrupt from the unfunded mandates that have come out of this White House. And yet, he proposes to do the same with Head Start.
A Head Start bill supported by the White House
would essentially do away with comprehensive
services by eliminating the federal role in
administering the program. Through a block grant,
it would give eight states control of running early
childhood programs... Moreover, the language
about what range of services the states need
to provide is vague.
So already struggling states, who are taking away money from the k-12 kids and from the state colleges are going to pay for 3 year olds? Who do you think will get cut first? But all these comprehenisive services and care for children aren't important to Bush. No, what's important is SCHOOL READINESS (translate: STANDARDIZED TEST READINESS). He thinks that three year olds should instead be learning to read and do other educational skills so that they are prepared for kindergarten (where, likely he feels that the 5 year olds should be ready for their first standardized test by then). Literacy for three year olds. That is the goal of dismantling a program for that for years has given children who wouldn't otherwise have had a chance the opportunity to go further than they or their parents could have dreamed. Sure, Head Start like any beaurocratic organization, could use some streamlining and some new and modern operations changes. But do away with it? If this were a logical government or country, we would be doing everything we could to make it better and EXPAND it for all young children who need it (currently it can only support 60% of qualified children).
The real issue here is that despite all the talk
about accountability, Bush conservatives don't
want the federal government to be accountable
for anything, especially anything related to poverty.
About time we changed that, isn't it? I urge you to write to your congressperson or senator and tell them, plead with them, not to pass this Head Start legislation. It will do so much more harm to our neediest of children. It doesn't take long to write a letter or send an email. We are the only ones who can stand up for this issue. The children have no voice. We have to be the voice for them, or what legacy are we leaving our own children?
( 9:02 AM )
Back at the Podiums
Well, tonight is the first Dem Debate in a while (on CNN), minus one of the candidates. Bob Graham dropped out of the race. In other shake-ups, Clark's campaign manager quit yesterday. I don't know how signficant that is for the Clark campaign, though Kos has some good insight into what it may all be about.
I hope in this debate that the candidates will start to really distinguish themselves as leaders and also creative, thoughtful and inventive people who have new and fresh ideas to share with the country. I'm hoping that some of the stump speech stuff will go away in the debate forum as well. I don't have any sense about whether Dean is still going to be the punching bag, but I think now would be a good time for him to regroup and focus on his goals - sort of less Bush-bashing (though leave some of it in there) and more of what he would do as president. I think that some of the key differences between these candidates are trade, healthcare plans and budget goals. The trade question is an especially interesting one because the AFL/CIO is still withholding its endorsement.
Most of all, it will be nice to get back to REAL politics and debate about issues. I would prefer that focus return to the Dem candidates and the Bush white house screw ups so that the voters in this country can begin to form some cogent opinions and thoughts about next year's election. California can deal with its own mess right now. Let's get back to business.
Wednesday, October 08, 2003
( 3:19 PM )
Lowering the Bar Even Further
Subtitle: Come On, Drink the Kool-Aid!
You thought it couldn't be done - finding an even weaker reason to go to war. But alas, we must do away with our expectations of logic from this administration. We now have the most stupid excuse ever for Iraq, via Condoleeza Rice today:
"And let there be no mistake, right up to the end,
Saddam Hussein continued to harbor ambitions to
threaten the world with weapons of mass
destruction and to hide his illegal weapons activity,"
she told the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.
He harbored ambitions to threaten the world??!!! THANK GOD we're sacrificing two soldiers a day to maintain the chaos of military occupation in that country! It is SOOOO worth it!
For greater insight and much better commentary on this, please see Billmon and Daily Kos.
( 12:32 PM )
Who needs computers?
( 12:29 PM )
Of Frogs and Ants
Martin turned 16 months last week and to celebrate has decided to enter puberty early. What is going on? He suddenly bursts out into these emotional wailing and drama-filled attacks at the slightest problem. If he is caught suspended from the third shelf of the bookcase on his attempt to scale the entire 12-foot peak and told very firmly "No Ups on the Bookcase!" and is pulled unceremoniously to solid ground, he does not get angry, no - he bursts out crying like his heart will break. If he cannot have "Mo" edamame as a snack, it's like his best friend died. If the "blo flowa" (that's the dandelion) isn't allowed to be blown inside the house, scattering its seeds everywhere, it's like the worst tragedy of humankind. He hardly ever has anger tantrums or that sort of thing, no, his new thing is DRAMA.
He's going to be a frog for halloween. He knows what they are, so will be able to identify himself (maybe). Also, we didn't have to pay for the costume.
We have ants. P read online that a natural way to get rid of ants without using toxic repellants (not helpful when the house contains a child that likes to lick everything) was peppermint, saffron and catnip. I came home last night and our house smelled like a candy cane. Not unpleasant, but somehow sort of sticky feeling. Amazingly it works. The random ant can now be found trying desperately to flee from Martin as he puts his finger down to try to get it to crawl on to him so he can run around yelling "An! An!" as it crawls up his arm.
Oh, and yesterday he looked at the tv and a picture of Bush came on and Martin said "boob!" He didn't even breastfeed. How could one child be so brilliant?
( 10:29 AM )
Meanwhile In Iraq: BYOB (Bring Your Own Body Armor)
Everyone is talking about California, so I thought today I'd let that subject lie and look over to an ongoing little issue known as Iraq. Lost amongst all the star-gazing and media frenzy over Ahnold these last weeks, is the fact that our soldiers are still getting killed on average of two per day. Just yesterday, three soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were killed, not to mention the others that were injured in those attacks, the two helicopter crashes and other violet upsurges in Baghdad. That was just yesterday.
On Sunday, I read an editorial in our local paper. Its original dateline was September 29. But I haven't seen much mention of this issue - the fact that our soldiers not only have outmoded gear, they are actually buying their own stuff to make up for what they're not being issued. Jonathan Turley wrote the article.
Suzanne Werfelman is a mother and a teacher
who has been shopping for individual body armor.
This is not in response to threats from her
elementary-class students in Sciota, Pa.; it's a
desperate attempt to protect her son in Iraq.
Like many other U.S. service members in Iraq, her
son was given a Vietnam-era flak jacket that cannot
stop the type of weapons used today. It appears
that parents across the country are now purchasers
of body armor because of the failure of the military
to supply soldiers with modern vests.
The greatest shortfall in vests and plates appear
to be National Guard and reserve units, though full-
time soldiers like Byrd also have reported shortages.
Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff, confirmed last week that it would not be
until December before there were enough plates
for all of our people in Iraq.
Murphy's reserve unit, which initially had no modern
jackets, was eventually given some Interceptor vests
weeks after they arrived in Iraq, but even then the
new vests were missing the essential ceramic plates.
That is when Werfelman went out and bought some
plates for $650 - more than her weekly salary - and
sent them to her son so he'd have basic protection.
Workers at one armor company she called said that
they had been deluged with calls from parents trying
to buy vests and plates for their sons and daughters
Of course, many soldiers do not have even empty
Interceptors. When they have received plates from home,
they have reportedly used duct tape to attach them to
the backs of their flak jackets.
Ahem. I was just wondering, where is that $87 billion going? Bush has said time and again that our soldiers are getting the best support possible - yet many of them are not even getting basic protection.
[Bush said] "My attitude is, any time we put one of
our soldiers in harm's way, we're going to spend
whatever is necessary to make sure they have the
best training, the best support and the best possible
equipment." When Bush later taunted gunmen in Iraq
to "bring it on," many GIs must have nervously
tugged at their obsolete flak jackets.
So just what IS this administration spending its defense money on?
the Air Force announced that it had cut a deal with
Boeing to lease airplane tankers for billions more
than it would cost to buy them outright. According to
the Congressional Research Service, the Air Force will
waste almost $6 billion by leasing the planes rather
than buying them. Congress is looking into the deal.
By comparison, outfitting all of the 150,000 soldiers in
Iraq with Interceptor vest plates would cost less than
$97 million at retail prices. Because many have already
been outfitted, the actual cost would be a small fraction
of this amount.
This is frightening and not a little infuriating considering this administration's continued tough-talk. But just a little research shows us that flak jackets aren't our soldiers only liabilities out there in the desert.
Soldiers for the Truth has a long list of equipment that have failed our soldiers. Hackworth's effort to give soldiers voices is providing a new insight for us civilians into what things are really like. It's not so easy for the government to censor the soldiers these days. After action reports coming in list a unconscionable amount of uneccessary dangers that are facing our troops due to inadequate weaponry and provisions. Here are just a few comments from the soldiers on their equipment:
-- The flip-up sight on the M-4 allowed the soldier to engage targets out to 600 meters. However, the plastic grommet that formed the small aperture was prone to falling out. Soldiers "super-glued" the aperture to the sight.
-- Vehicle crewman purchased hand-held laser pointers to orient the fire of more than one platform weapon.
-- Lubricant: Soldiers provided consistent comments that CLP was not a good choice for weapon's maintenance in this environment. The sand is as fine as talcum powder here. The CLP attracted the sand to the weapon. Soldiers considered a product called MiliTec to be a much better solution for lubricating individual and crew-served weapons.
-- Commercial GPS: As is widely known, many soldiers purchase their own GPS systems rather than use the PLGR. The Rhino was provided to the 82nd as part of the rapid fielding initiative. Overall, soldiers were very appreciative of this addition to their MTOE. The Rhino was a vast improvement over the PLGR because of the weight, volume, power consumption and performance - the Rhino consistently acquired satellites faster than the PLGR.
-- Soldiers have no confidence in the ICOM radios. The range was unsatisfactory. Everyone had a Motorola-type hand-held radio that had vastly better range and power performance. Soldiers purchased handsets and longer antennas for their ICOM radios.
-- Boots: Soldiers were generally dissatisfied with the performance of the Desert Combat Boot. The soles were too soft and were easily damaged by the terrain. This seemed to be more of a problem for the boots manufactured by Altima. Many spent their own money to have the boots resoled with Vibran soles with mixed success.
-- Slings: Soldiers are purchasing their own slings because the issued variant does not provide the flexibility or comfort they require. Soldier purchased or fabricated tactical slings for the M-4/M-203 that allowed the weapon to be slung on their back or hung on their chest so they could respond to contact faster.
-- Desert Camouflage Uniform: The most prevalent comment on the DCU was the need for pockets on the sleeves. Soldiers realize they will wear IBA in almost all environments from now on. The pockets on the front of the DCU are all but useless. Many soldiers have already had a tailor sew pockets on their sleeves. A similar suggestion was made for the pant pockets. The current pockets are frequently blocked by the protective mask carrier and the thigh holster. Soldiers suggested moving the pants pockets to the front of the leg. The durability of the uniform was questioned due to the propensity of the thread to give away especially in the crotch area. Soldiers felt that dirt was to blame for the high failure rate. Soldiers did not receive an opportunity to have their uniforms laundered for over 30 days of combat.
--Socks: A very important item of equipment that generated a good deal of discussion especially among the light fighters. Many received the black wool/poly pro blend which were too hot for this environment. Some received the Wright sock (tan outside/white inside), which shrunk too much after washing. Soldiers within 3ID had received the dark green sock that was selected and continued to judge it as superior. Again, soldiers felt if they could just keep their socks clean they could better protect their feet.
-- Gloves: The nomex gloves provided with the rapid fielding initiative were too thick and warm for this environment. Soldiers preferred the air crewmen or mechanic style nomex. Other popular gloves include moto-cross or batting style gloves. Some soldiers purchased HellStorm gloves from Blackhawk.
-- Neck Gator: Many light soldiers told us that this was the single best piece of gear for the desert environment. Unfortunately, it is not flame retardant so the vehicle crewman cannot use it.
--Magazines: Soldiers carried as many as 15 magazines with them for this operation. They local purchased two items to facilitate their ability to manage this amount of ammunition. They purchased several commercial variants of devices to allow for quick magazine changes...They also purchased commercial bandoleers for wear of additional magazines on the chest and upper leg.
* Survivability: Combat identification still relies on methods and technologies used 10 years ago. Our army is extremely lethal - we rely too greatly on the discipline and skill of our soldiers.
* Sustainment: Soldiers still spend too much of their own money to purchase the quality packs, pouches, belts, underwear, socks and gloves they believe they need for mission success and comfort.
-- M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) -- the SAW's are worn out and apparently beyond repair. They have far exceeded their service life. Many Marines are duct taping and zip tying the weapons together.
-- M203 Load Bearing [harness]:Grenade bearing vests don’t hold enough ammunition. Rounds don’t fit into many of the pockets, so grenadiers aren’t able to carry as many rounds as the vest is designed to carry. They aren’t able to fit rounds into all of the pouches. Granadiers are coming up with several different “band-aid” solutions to carry enough ammunition, most of which aren’t working.
-- Drop Holsters and phone dummy chords: Many Marines purchased these items from their own personal funds. Drop holsters …cost approximately $65. Marines would like to see these holsters issued with their pistols. Also, Marines fashioned pistol lanyards from phone chords.
Is this right? As a mother, I probably think about things a little differently sometimes, but come on. Can we truly need $500 million dollars for more weapons inspections when our soldiers can't even get wearable uniforms, workable weapons and dry socks?
Bush and his cronies like to harp on about how pro-military they are, but they are again lying out their teeth. There can be no true support of our soldiers unless we are actually supporting them with the practical items that will help them survive. That they shouldn't have to be in this situation at all seems almost moot to this argument. But if we're going to put them in them in the middle of this dangerous environment, the least we could do is use some of those millions of tax dollars to actually provide for them.
We can talk about getting them practical R&R, not burning them out and actually paying them what they're worth in a different post.
Tuesday, October 07, 2003
( 3:48 PM )
One of Those Days
Ugh. Much posting will be had tomorrow... today, just trying to keep my head above water!
( 12:30 PM )
Before I begin my ranting and raving today, thought I'd do a bit of catch up on the 2004 campaign.
It looks like the Bush/Cheney Campaign has got a blog! It's a little frightening, and not really a blog, but I suppose times are changing. Here's what the leader of Political Campaign Blogs has to say:
Mr. President, I'm a blogger. I know blogs.
Bloggers are friends of mine. And your site,
sir, is not a blog.
We welcome all readers of this new somewhat
blog-like site to use this as an open thread to
discuss what you think of it, because the Bush
folks aren't interested in letting anyone comment.
In other news, Bob Graham has dropped out of the race. According to Dkos, Graham only had $1 million in the bank. Most figured him for the first drop out. While I'd like to see a leaner field of competition, I also don't want to see the likes of Kucinich, Mosely Braun or Sharpton drop out because they provide a much needed pull to the left for the party. Especially now that the Clintons'/DLC's pick is in the race.
Senator Judd Gregg's (R-NH) wife was a victim of abduction and violent robbery this morning, but it appears she is safe. They haven't caught the suspects yet.
It's up to the Californians now. Please don't let that ever be a phrase that is used with regard to anything actually important to the rest of us (just kidding, Californian friends!!).
And once this Californian thing is over, we can all re-focus on the REAL recall, in 2004. There is a Democratic Debate coming up this Thursday. It will be interesting to see how the dynamics are playing out now.
Monday, October 06, 2003
( 4:18 PM )
Please Let it All End Now!
Pat Robertson, who doesn't understand why what Rush said was so wrong:
"He started off playing a chauffeur in 'Driving Miss Daisy,'
and then they elevated him to head of the CIA, and then
they elevated him to president and in his last role they
made him God. I just wonder, isn't Rush Limbaugh right to
question the fact, is he that good an actor or not?"
-- [uttered] on his "700 Club" television show,
using the example of black actor Morgan Freeman to
defend Limbaugh's jab at Philadelphia Eagles
quarterback Donovan McNabb.
And this is one of the major "moral" influences on our president. Aaaaarrrgggghhh!
( 2:59 PM )
A Leap from Mere Hypocrisy to Outright Repulsiveness
The Bush administration has once again pulled one of its "funny coincidences" in timing again. Just like George W. using Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday to announce his non-support of affirmative action at the University of Michigan earlier this year, just like when George W. announced on Mother's Day a bill that he called "family flex leave," but which actually intended to rob working mothers and fathers of overtime pay, he's gone and done it again.
Per the white house's website, Bush has declared "Marriage Protection Week" to start on October 12.
October 12 is the anniversary of the murder of Matthew Shephard. Coincidence? I don't think so. The white house is clear in its intention:
Marriage is a sacred institution, and its protection
is essential to the continued strength of our society.
Marriage Protection Week provides an opportunity to
focus our efforts on preserving the sanctity of marriage
and on building strong and healthy marriages in America.
Marriage is a union between a man and a woman, and
my Administration is working to support the institution of
marriage by helping couples build successful marriages
and be good parents.
Matthew Shephard's death horrified the country. Most of us asked ourselves: what have we become? But the lesson was short lived for some, I guess.
It is not just an attempt at erasure of Matthew Shephard's memory, but it is an intentional acknowledgment of absolute insensitivity and non-caring toward his parents and family and the community that is most threatened by the exact actions that killed Matthew. And still, some Bush supporters want to go even further.
Bush and his conservative right empowerers have been very blunt about their intention to try to outlaw civil unions for gay couples. They swear upon the holiness and sanctity of marriage and that marriage is only between a man and a woman and it must be protected at all costs.
So my question is simple. If it's that important to the fabric of our society, why isn't divorce outlawed? Over 50% of marriages end in divorce in this country... that's marriages between a man and a woman. Yet, committed gay couples who have shown the same or longer committment and haven't split up are not allowed to adopt children, foster children, visit each other in the hospital, have spousal benefits or any of the same things. Why? Because it offends our sense of sanctity. So why should heterosexual couples be allowed to divorce if marriage is the key ingredient to our society surviving? And, by the way, wouldn't an environment that promoted family commitments for gay couples do more to strengthen a family-oriented society than hurt it?
If Matthew Shephard, RIP, had lived to become an adult, an educated man who contributed to our society and who perhaps loved someone and decided to commit to a lifelong partnership with that person and raise children... he would not have been treated equally in our country. Equality is a standard we proudly claim to the rest of the world, and yet, in truth, it's blatantly ignored when it comes to certain people who evidently don't deserve the same rights. By the terms set by this administration, Matthew's right to marriage, children and family committment would not have been protected. Nor are the rights of any other gay man or woman seeking the same thing.
To start this Marriage Protection Week on the same day as Matthew Shephard's death is like throwing it in the face of all gay people and all gay couples that they are not acceptable. Sort of an oh by the way, we think it's awful when you don't get treated fairly (but not really), or you can't visit your partner of 20 years in the hospital (but not really), or you lose your job in the military that you were really good at (but not really), or that you get beaten to death (but not really) - but god forbid if you try to lead healthy, family-centered lives and think you're going to contribute to our sanctified society!
I don't have words to describe my disgust.
(thanks to Atrios for the heads-up)
UPDATE: Strangechord said more about this a few days ago. And Shock & Awe called it for what it is: National Discriminate Against Gay Couples Week.
A further personal comment: While many people feel strongly in their religious beliefs that homosexuality is unacceptable (and though I disagree, I defend their right to their own beliefs), what I find to be unacceptable is my government is presuming to publicly declare an intolerance of some of my own friends and family, and I have no say in that. This - my - government is also making proclamations in accordance with a set of beliefs adhered to by only some of its constituents, and such proclamations directly discriminate against other of its constituents. This government is taking on the role of the church in this issue, and that is wholly unacceptable. It should be unacceptable to church people because it opens the door to the government being able to dictate the beliefs and moralities of all people, and while they allow this president to do this because he shares their beliefs, what will they do if the next president believes something different? A firm line must be drawn between what the government has the right to interfere in, and it should not be the definition of, or the (meaningless) protection of, its version of what is a "good marriage." I find it utterly reprehensible that some people presume to influence this president in a way that discriminates and insults other American citizens, many of which are just as God-fearing and good, and that, in turn, the president bends to that influence in this way. Okay, I'm done. For now.
Okay, I'm back again: In a further update, I note several people commenting on the article by Jennifer Graham today in the National Review. Pandagon and TBogg get it right - I urge you to read their commentaries. I wish that millions of people didn't read the National Review or listen to Rush Limbaugh, but I know they do. What I find so horrifying is that so many in this nation are willing to allow this subtle form of racist bigotry persist. It's this kind of mentality that makes possible things like proclamations declaring a week that boldly discriminates against citizens of this country. Argghh!!
( 11:03 AM )
The Leave No Child Behind Act is terrible in more ways than we can count so far. Here in Oregon, it is hurting our schools far more than it is helping. And now we find out from a teacher who wrote to the paper in yesterday's edition that it's hurting the teachers too:
Last year I was a finalist for Teacher of the Year.
Last year the National Geographic Society awarded
me a $5,000 grant to help build an outdoor classroom
with natural materials. Last year the Portland teachers
association and school board asked me to mentor
new teachers. Last year I trained a group of Portland
teachers in the Tribes process, which nurtures
supportive classroom communities.
Last week letters went home to the parents of my
students telling them I'm not a "highly qualified" teacher.
How can I fall so far in one year? Easy. I've been afflicted
with the No Child Left Behind Curse.
How can a teacher with these kinds of qualifications be labeled as "unqualified"? He explains:
In its push to "leave no child behind" the law disregards
my license, even though it's issued by the state, which
sets some of the toughest standards in the nation. My
'license says I'm qualified to teach English to speakers of
other languages and bilingual education in specified
subjects though grade 12.
But the new law doesn't recognize my qualifications
because I, like other bilingual teachers, was encouraged
to take college courses focusing on bilingual and special
education. That left me without a few teaching methods
courses, but prepared me extremely well for teaching
in both English and Spanish.
As an "under-qualified" teacher I have distinguished
company. One of the few Portland Public School
teachers who reached the highest and most difficult
level of qualification -- a National Teaching Certificate --
also had letters sent home to the parents of her students
informing them of her inadequate qualifications.
This is not even one of the more disturbing aspects of this law. This unfunded mandate, passed with the unthinking bipartisan support of Senate Democrats (who didn't seem to be paying much attention to anything until the last week), is giving schools failing reports based on an arbitrary set of requirements. It forces students to take more standardized (but unequal) tests and labels them as failures too if they don't meet qualifications that have nothing to do with how hard they try, what their potential is and how much they are learning outside of testing questions. And now we find that it's doing the same to our teachers. No wonder the teachers are calling it a Curse.
This is the curse that forces students who haven't
learned to speak and read English as well as students
with severe disabilities to take high-stakes standardized
tests they can't possibly pass. Those scores are then
used to judge school performance.
This is a curse on our public schools. What else can
you call it when arbitrary standards are imposed on
schools, curriculum is twisted and distorted into test
preparation packages, and "failing schools" are subjected
to state takeover and charter status?
The growing emphasis on standardized testing as the measurement of school and student progress and the pin on which school reform turns is not making our schools better or even more accountable. It's in fact hindering true school reform and the ability of teachers to exercise their own, good judgment in teaching their students. In fact, a 1992 study called the Testing in American Schools, done by The Office of Technology Assessment, concluded: "It now appears that the use of these tests misled policymakers and the public about the progress of students, and in many places hindered the implementation of genuine school reforms."
But who continues to push this kind of false "accountability" measures? That's right, the entrenched policy makers and the politicians. Promising a new era for education reform, George W. Bush ushered in the "No Child Left Behind" act, making the motto of the Children's Defense Fund a mockery and hurting, not helping the poorest and most vulnerable schools:
A huge increase in federally mandated testing will not
provide the services and strategies our schools and
students need to improve. Most states and local districts
have already dramatically increased the use of standardized
tests over the past two decades, without solving the
problems of poor schools. Some estimates are that the new
federal law will require states to give more than 200
additional tests at a cost of more than $7 billion.
Not only is the test-obsessed doctrine of Bush harmful, but he's lied to us all with his appointment of Rod Paige as the National director of it all:
He's the Texas miracle man who President Bush
brags turned the Houston schools into a model of
public accountability. The rave was based on the
claim that the dropout rate had fallen to 1.5 percent
in Houston's high schools.
Since Paige became secretary of education, a state
audit of the Houston Public Schools found the school
district under superintendent Paige swapped thousands
of students who should have been listed as dropouts
into other categories such as "transferred" or "moved."
The real dropout rate was nearly 40 percent, which would
have been among the highest in the nation. A New York
Times editorial called this "the educational equivalent of
Enron's accounting results."
It seems this president hasn't just lied to us about national security issues or war. He's made it a habit to mislead us and double talk us regarding our economy, our jobs and the education of our children. I hope that all parents of publicly-educated children will educate themselves about the travesty being wreaked upon our children by the government and not fall prey to the hollow and false calls for fake reform, like vouchers and more testing. Perhaps the accountability for the success of public schools should be on the shoulders of the politicians, not the children. Just an idea.