Thursday, April 29, 2004

Pennsylvania primaries

Kerry - 578,811 - 73.5 percent - 142 delegates.
Dean - 79,353 - 10.1 percent.
Edwards - 76,614 - 9.7 percent.
Kucinich - 30,216 - 3.8 percent.
LaRouche - 22,040 - 2.8 percent.
Uncommitted - 24 delegates.

Bush - 858,490 - 75 delegates.

In the Republican U.S. Senate primary, which got national media play, incumbent and moderate Sen. Arlen Specter won a squeaker against rightwing Congressman Rep. Pat Toomey, 525,003 to 512,400.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Asking tough questions

Here is my column this week from The Winchester Star:

"If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention"
- bumpersticker

A few months back, I heard about a Northampton-based group, The National Priorities Project, that used census data to figure out the amount of federal tax dollars cities and towns were contributing to the invasion of Iraq. The group posted the figures on its Web site,, and then requested other towns to analyze. So I asked about Winchester's share and the amount was staggering: $31.8 million. That's more than the fiscal year 2005 school budget! This is just one town's "contribution" to the invasion effort. It is a significant statistic in light of the events of recent weeks. So, do you think the money is being well spent?

Last week, the public finally got a chance to see a bit more of the bad side of war.

Tami Silicio, a cargo worker stationed in Kuwait, took pictures of some of the flag-draped coffins of American soldiers being shipped back to the states. Silicio sent the pictures to The Seattle Times and was subsequently fired for doing so. Covering the injuries and death of soldiers is an important part of any war story that needs to be told. It is also one of the main reasons we should be more careful when sending soldiers off to fight and die. But why did this take so long to get into the papers?

There was another story last week that was pretty shocking and probably missed by a lot of people.

It was a small piece in The Saratogian about New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton introducing legislation to increase the amount of education money for developing nations an additional $300 million to $2.5 billion by 2009. This is on top of the $31.5 billion already earmarked for foreign aid in fiscal year 2005. So while the federal government is crippling cities and towns like Winchester by refusing to pay for its "No Child Left Behind" legislation, it is handing off billions of our tax dollars to educate kids overseas. It just doesn't seem right, does it?

There has been a lot of talk about the budget crunch in Massachusetts. However, the problem seems to be that they are always trying to find new revenue in the wrong places.

Take Rep. Robert Spellane, a Democrat from Worcester, who, for whatever reason, can't take "no" for an answer. He filed legislation to raise the income tax back up to 5.95 percent - retroactively to January. Not only would residents be taxed more at the state level but they would have to cough up an additional $325 on next year's tax returns! Thankfully, the bill was defeated earlier this week.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not someone who believes there shouldn't be any taxes. We all know the state needs money. But if you want to pay more in taxes, you can. On the state tax returns, there is a check-off that allows filers to choose to pay the higher rate. Shockingly - or not so - few people take advantage of the check-off. The Boston Herald recently reported that only 734 out of 2.1 million tax returns showed taxpayers opting to pay the higher rate. So is it fair to force everyone to pay for higher taxes when those people who want them don't bother to pay them?

The larger problem with the current state income tax is not that the rate is too low; it is that there are all kinds of entities that are currently paying very little in income tax.

For example, most people don't know that some banks and financial institutions in our state pay the minimum state income tax of $456. The average Winchester resident pays six or seven times that amount. A billion dollar bank pays almost nothing while ordinary folks struggling with higher property taxes pay many times more. Then there is the single-sales tax law set up to benefit some defense contractors. They've escaped paying over $400 million in the last seven years.

Where is the fairness?

We all know there is waste of one kind or another at the state and federal levels. Currently, the Legislature is reported to have a travel budget of about $21 million. The money is used to fund junkets so the governor, the speaker, their minions and their friends in the business community can go to exotic lands and dig up business for Massachusetts companies. But does it really yield any new jobs?

Then, there is the money used to boost the staffers of elected legislators, rumored to be over $1 million annually. These funds were created to give incumbents more money to play with in light of the Clean Election funds that challengers might receive. But guess what? Speaker Tom Finneran and his cronies killed the Clean Election law in 2002 - yet kept the extra staffing funds. Nice of them, huh? Wouldn't all this money be better spent educating our children?

The desire for good government isn't ideological. Numerous stories have been written about waste, fraud, and abuse by different sectors. From the Big Dig project on down, from foreign aid to peso bailouts, the problem remains that elected officials refuse to fix these issues for the betterment of all of us. Sometimes, it can all appear so overwhelming.

But is it safer just to ignore the problems, never ask questions, and put blinders on so we don't have to see or deal with any of this? Are ordinary folks powerless to change anything? What can one person do anyway? Let's be honest: These are tough questions. But reform in any of these areas could make all our lives much easier. Isn't that something we should all be trying to accomplish?

Monday, April 26, 2004

How Bush could slaughter Kerry

I don't subscribe to the New York Times but thankfully someone sent me this post: ["The Multilevel Marketing of the President"]. Great. Just what we need to hear. The Republicans are using the Amway method to win Ohio. If they are doing this in Ohio, they are doing this everywhere. And if they are doing this everywhere, John Kerry is doomed.
But let's be honest here: Is anyone surprised? Sure, I am waiting for Kerry to pick his VP but I have to say I am pretty disappointed in his campaign so far. He has done nothing to defend himself against the very powerful ads revealing his flip-flops. Of course, what can he do? The ads are basically true. And the ads are doing surgical damage to Kerry. It is almost as if the Bush folks couldn't wait for Kerry to win even though they were telling everyone that they were actually hoping for Dean!

The body bags of American soldiers being shipped from Kuwait back to the states. Posted by Hello

Also, the body bags are finally being shown shipped from Iraq. Kerry should be out there saying something about it. Of course, I forgot, he voted for the invasion, what can he do? I am on the Kerry and DNC email lists and I have to say that I am just not impressed. It is still early ... but if I were a Kerry fan, I would be getting a bit worried right about now.

Speaking of Kerry ...
There are two good pieces in The Progressive this month about John Kerry. One, by Howard Zinn, asks a very relevant question: ["What Do We Do Now?"] and the other, by the adorable Ruth Coniff, nails it right on the head: ["When Kerry Was Liberal"] . While the pissants at The Nation keep kneecapping Nader, The Progressive keeps telling it like it is.

Disaster movies!

Everyone is all a tizzy about this one. A global warming disaster movie! Wow. ["NASA Curbs Comments on Ice Age Disaster Movie"]. I can hardly wait for this one. Although, it might not be that good. There were other disaster movies of late that I thought might be pretty good but weren't. Those two meterorite movies were only OK. I thought "Deep Impact" might be a good one, especially when I saw the preview with Morgan Freeman playing a president who had to choose which citizens would be saved. At the time, I thought this might inspire a deeper discussion about these types of disasters and who, if anyone, should be saved. Then, during the Sept. 11 attacks, we find out that all the "important people" were huddled off to bunkers around the country. What if it were a more serious attack? How were they planning on continuing the human race? They weren't. They were just saving their own asses.

How come Kelley's race isn't discussed?

The Miami Herald's Leonard Pitts has a great column about the Jack Kelley plagarism issue over at the USA Today and how the media has [or hasn't] addressed the issue: ["An open letter to my colleagues in the news business"]. Pitts' sarcasm - and very important points about the double-standard in how some issues are dealt with in the media - is very relevant.
However, there is a small difference. Kelley wasn't allowed to repeatedly falsify stuff over and over and over again like Jayson Blair was. Kelley admitted to repeatedly lying about his stories but it doesn't appear as though USA Today's editors covered his ass like the editors at the NYT did with Blair. Maybe Kelley was just better at covering things than Blair was. I don't know. Now, it may later be revealed that Kelley was protected and if that is the case, Pitts column - and criticism - is even more relevant.
But as it stands right now, this is the difference between the two plagiarism cases and how they have been handled. It is clear from what has been said about the Blair case that he was given a pass at the Times because of his race. I doubt a white guy pulling those kinds of stunts would be kept on.
Regardless of race, all this stuff really ticks me off. These guys had great opportunities to travel, see different places, tell people's stories, etc. That was their job ... just like I try to do every day at my newspaper job. And they sloughed it all away by lying. It's pathetic. Most of us would give our right arms to work at the Times or USA Today and have their jobs ... okay, not our arms, we couldn't type then. But you get the point. And they just pissed it all away.

Demakis' sneaky exit
Rep. Paul Demakis, D-Back Bay, recently decided not to run for reelection - just weeks before signature papers were due for any potential major party candidates. The Boston Herald broke the story last week ["Demakis to bow out of Legislature"] and the Cambridge Chronicle had a story about his exit ["Demakis to step down"]. At the same time, Demakis has pretty much set up his own heir to the seat by prepping Democratic Back Bay activist Marty Walz to succeed him.
This is typical of Demakis who has a history of not being upfront with his constituents despite his pretty good left-of-center political leanings. He came out in support of a Red Sox megaplex even though most of the residents in his district didn't want a new stadium. He had an aide from Dorchester take his place at the IPOD rezoning study group for the Fenway - instead of someone from the neighborhood. The IPOD later rezoned the neighborhood for a new stadium. And despite all the complaints about the lack of funding for government programs, Demakis voted to approve $125 million in infrastructure payments for the megaplex while at the same time telling people that he was standing up for the regular folks in the neighborhoods. Then, there is the Clean Elections funding, which Demakis said he supported - but only for Democratic candidates.
In other words, Demakis could sometimes be a total hypocrite.
Because of his problems with rightwing Democrat House Speaker Tom Finneran, Demakis' district was shifted around pretty badly and extended all the way up into Cambridge [5 precincts]. The redistricting led Demakis into a face-off with the very impressive Cambridge City Councilor Marjorie Decker. Demakis, unfortunately, cleaned her clock and Decker has reportedly moved out of the district.
The Chronicle states that Boston City Councilor Mike Ross is thinking about jumping into the race which would be very interesting. The likeable Ross would easily put up a well-funded and active race against Walz. A Cambridge candidate or two might make things interesting. And there might be a Republican in the race. Tom Massimo and that other kid named Christopher something who ran in 1998 [Caputo or something, I can't remember his name but he seemed like a nice guy]. Neither Massimo nor the kid live in the district anymore.
Either Ross or Walz would be good candidates to succeed Demakis. Walz cares about neighborhoods and has been very active with the Neighborhood Association of Back Bay and the historic district commission. Ross has been a pretty decent city councilor despite fears that his inexperience and ties to Mayor Tom Menino would get in his way.
In the end, the Back Bay will get better representation with Demakis' exit, no matter who wins.

Kansas Caucuses
Kerry - 289 - 71.9 percent - 32 delegate.
Kucinich - 41 - 10.2 percent.
Edwards - 35 - 8.7 percent.
Dean - 27 - 6.7 percent - 1 delegate.
Uncommitted - 7 - 1.7 percent - 7 delegates.
Clark - 3 - 0.7 percent.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Will freedom be curtailed?

It is very interesting that Congress is so worried about how they will continue in the wake of another serious attack: ["House OKs Speedy Elections if Attacked"]. And then there is this: ["Red alert? Stay home, await word"]. Hmm. How about this line:
"A red alert would also tear away virtually all personal freedoms to move about and associate."
Is there an "October Surprise" coming? Is Gen. Tommy Franks Constitution-ceding nuclear attack coming? No one really knows.
But what we do know is that the FBI can't keep up with the secret surveillance warrants requests: ["FBI said buried by security demands"]. Americans are being spied on so often now that they can't keep up with the demand for warrants! Isn't this shocking?
Lastly, I find it so hilarious that the rightwingers are calling anyone who might even suggest worrying about these actions "Black Helicopter Democrats." Unfortunately, some of the things they said about the Clintons during their reign are still fresh in my mind. Nothing that is being said now is any more offensive than what was said then. And frankly, what the "Black Helicopter" crowd said then and what they say now are still very relevant. Freedom is more than the ability to go shopping at WalMart or watch "Entertainment Tonight."
Freedom is about being left alone, being able to read what you want, being able to say what you want, being able to preach or pray what you want, being able to assemble whenever and wherever you want, being able to believe what you want. Freedom - not a controlled consumer slave state - is the American way. There should be no fear of freedom ... and that is exactly what the people currently in control fear.

Why are people still giving to Dean?

John Kerry has been unable to get his campaign kicked into gear despite clinching the nomination last month [Dennis Kucinich is still campaigning - as if the thing hasn't been won yet - showing that he might be a bit of a crackpot after all]. While watching Kerry, I still can't help but think that he isn't the Democrats' best choice. Sure, he is breaking Democratic fund-raising records. He did in Boston last week and then again in New York City, with thousands of people holding checks while lined up outside the doors. But he is also losing the youth vote: ["The Vanishing Kerry Youth Vote"]. However, people are still throwing money at Howard Dean too: ["Contributions still flowing into Dean's campaign coffers"]. This is shocking. Now, a call did go out to help pay the leftover bills - which was strange since Dean blew through over $40 million. But still giving millions? This is amazing!
And the VP choice is still looming over Kerry. Pick your own here: ["Veep-O-matic 2004"]. A lot of the activists have been waiting to see who Kerry will pick. But some are worried about the Clinton influence on Kerry: ["What am I doing indoors?"]. It also seems like everyone speaking for Kerry on the talking head shows is a former Clintonite, from limited foreign policy Jamie Rubin, to Wall Street gambler Robert Rubin, the manufacturing jobs-destroyer Mickey Kantor, economic advisor Gene Sperling, on down. While this may be good thing for former Clinton supporters, it isn't good if you are a candidate trying to bring in the volatile swing voters needed to win the White House. At the same time, CNN's Carlos Watson noted recently that Kerry's campaign lacks diversity: ["Kerry's inner circle lacks color"]. In the end this won't matter since most blacks march in lockstep with the Democrats despite efforts by the GOP to bring them into the fold.

Why has it taken so long to see the body bags?

Over the last few days, pictures of the flag-draped caskets of dead soldiers have been posted on the Web. We have Tami Silicio to thank for these pictures and she has subsequently been fired: ["Woman loses her job over coffins photo"]. Her family sees her as a heroine: ["Family sees photographer as 'mom to fallen boys'"]. Drudge has more posted here: ["Dover"].

Does Nader still matter?

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader is safely embedded in the low single digits in national campaign polls in his campaign but state by state numbers show he could still be a factor. In most states, Nader is taking more potential votes from Kerry than Bush, in the two to one range ["The Nader effect"]. However, Nader is taking votes from Bush, just as he said he would. Recent polls in New Hampshire and West Virginia show this reality. In N.H., it doesn't help Kerry. In W.V., it does. It is still early but down the road this may matter. Nader and Kerry are supposed to be meeting soon. Nader has three times the money he had at this point in 2000 ["Big-Bucks Nader Mocks 'Liberal Intelligentsia,' Goes on Taxpayers' Dole"] - a shocking revelation considering the "anybody but Bush" thing going around like a bad flu virus.
But beyond polls, younger voters, and money, here is why Nader still matters - he is talking about infrastructure: ["Fifth Grade Students at a Crumbling Chicago Elementary School Challenge Political Indifference"] ... he is warning people about the draft: ["Nader's draft talk sends chill"] ... he is calling for the troops to be brought home: ["Withdraw U.S. troops"] ...

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Marshall and NAFTA

Just when you thought Chief Justice Margaret Marshall and the gay marriage ruling were the biggest controversy, along comes this: ["Nafta Tribunals Stir U.S. Worries"]. Quite frighteningly, Kerry was clueless:
"When we debated Nafta, not a single word was uttered in discussing Chapter 11. Why? Because we didn't know how this provision would play out. No one really knew just how high the stakes would get."
This is a lie. Many of us who were against NAFTA talked about Chapter 11 and Chapter 16 and many other terrible things hidden inside this treaty. We weren't senators. We weren't aides to senators. We were ordinary folks who bought the treaty and looked it at. We listened to the Ralph Naders, Jerry Browns, Ross Perots, Jesse Jacksons, Pat Buchanans and the public interest research groups who saw this stuff plain as day. We read the treaty. We educated ourselves. And, we warned our leaders.
Millions of jobs later, secret tribunals later, billions in trade deficits and peso bailouts later, our nation and its workers are worse off. Where the hell were you, John Kerry? Nowhere to be found, that's where.

North Carolina Caucuses
Edwards - 9,093 - 51.1 percent - 56 delegates.
Kerry - 4,844 - 27.2 percent - 30 delegates.
Kucinich - 2,175 - 12.2 percent - 4 delegates.
Dean - 1,009 - 5.7 percent.
Sharpton - 582 - 3.3 percent.
Uncommitted - 106 - 0.6 percent.

Colorado Caucuses

Kerry - 4,730 - 63.7 percent - 39 delegates.
Uncommitted - 1,454 - 19.6 percent - 10 delegates.
Kucinich - 964 - 13 percent - 4 delegates.
Dean - 182 - 2.5 percent
Edwards - 66 - 0.9 percent.
Clark - 25 - 0.3 percent.
Sharpton - 3

Isn't it amazing that almost 40 percent of the caucus-goers in Colorado didn't vote for the Democratic nominee? Isn't it interesting that almost 75 percent of North Carolina voters didn't vote for Kerry either. Granted, it is Edwards' home state. But still ...

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

A better way with taxes

Here is my column this week from The Winchester Star:

"Our Constitution is in actual operation; everything appears to promise that it will last; but in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes,"
- Ben Franklin

Once again, I waited until the last minute to do my taxes this year. There was no reason for me to wait. I just dread doing them. However, the annual April 15 deadline and some discussions about the tax system in general got me to thinking about the issue and wondering if there isn't a better and more equitable way to address the tax issue.

Since 2004 is an election year, you would think there might be some serious discussion about taxes beyond what we have heard so far. President George W. Bush has cut taxes twice since 2001. Presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry says he would repeal the top bracket tax break and use the money to balance the budget. Bush attacks Kerry for voting to raise taxes hundreds of times; Kerry attacks Bush for being on vacation during the economic slide. Yawn.

Why does there never seem to be a serious discussion about taxes? Where are the big ideas to make taxes fairer? In a down economy, shouldn't we be figuring out ways to put money in people's pockets so they can grow the economy? Instead, partisan demagoguery always seems to get in the way of any substantial discussion or changes.

In my mind, the key to any revision of the tax code should start at the bottom, by exempting the lower tier tax rates altogether.

According to the 2003 tax rate schedules, people earning anywhere from $7,000 to $28,400 pay 15 percent of their income in taxes. People who earn under $7,000 pay 10 percent. It seems almost criminal to tax someone in this bracket. Most of these people are probably living paycheck to paycheck. Exempting the first $20,000 of earnings for everyone would be the fairest way to offer a tax break. Millionaires would get a tax break, families earning $75,000 would get a tax break and the guy sweeping floors for minimum wage wouldn't be taxed at all.

From there, you would have to work on the rate which could be progressive, tiered or flat.

If exemptions are taken away in the wake of lower rates, a progressive rate would probably have to be implemented. But a relatively low flat rate might work too. The myth forwarded about the flat tax is that "the rich" will pay less than they do now. Generally, this just isn't true. Few, if any, millionaires pay a 35 percent tax rate. They have accountants and CPAs find loopholes in the code to get their percentages as low as possible.

I tried to make the flat tax case to friends in 1992 when the liberal interest group Citizens for Tax Justice was attacking Jerry Brown's 13 percent proposal as "regressive" and "unfair." That year, incumbent President George H. W. Bush earned about $2.3 million and paid 9 percent in taxes, way below the 40 percent tax rate at the time. With a simple work sheet, the size of a postcard, Brown showed how most folks would pay thousands less in taxes while people like Bush would pay slightly more, with no deficit to the federal coffers. However, CTJ and others attacked Brown's plan and helped sink the idea.

Conservative politicians have also proposed flat taxes of anywhere from 17 to 25 percent. But they always have to wreck the idea by not exempting the lower tier wage earners. The conservative flat tax plans also don't allow for fair deductions and don't tax unearned income.

Others have proposed federal sales taxes with exemptions for necessities which is another idea that might be worth studying. But since our economy has moved from a manufacturing economy to a consumer economy, a sales tax would probably crash the economy.

In researching the subject of taxes, I was shocked to find out that there wasn't an income tax until 1917 and that the entire federal government was financed by tariffs on imported goods and corporate taxes. Almost a century later, personal income taxes fund 43 percent of the federal budget. I was even more surprised to hear that top tier earners were taxed at a rate of 72 percent - and that was during Republican administrations.

While no one would ever dare propose such high income tax rates ever again, it might be time to rethink the tariff angle. A tariff - in the wake of lost revenue, the result of exempting first $20,000 of earnings - would replace government funds. The myth about tariffs is that it affects consumer prices. But a small tariff - say, 10 percent - wouldn't affect prices at all. The money, however, would replenish the thousands of dollars given back to tens of millions of people.

In the end, the problem with fixing the tax code is that none of the people in Washington - Democrats, Republicans, lobbyists, bureaucrats, etc. - can be trusted to do it properly. A group of ordinary Americans could easily sit down in a room and fix the tax code in 30 minutes, making it beneficial for most people, but it will never be done that way.

Currently, there is a Republican-controlled White House, House, and Senate. Before, there was a conservative Democratic president and Republican-controlled houses of government. For the last two-plus decades, there hasn't been anyone you could trust down there to create a fair tax code. Which makes you wonder: Is this a case where leaving a bad system in place is better than risking any more changes the people in power might make?

Kristina's letter to Kerry
The Star's reporter Kristina Arvanitis has a great letter to John Kerry on her blog today: ["An Open Letter to John Kerry"]. I was thinking about doing this myself but she beat me to it. Maybe I will have to follow up with something in a week or two.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Thought for the day

As posted on a Daily Kos diary this morning:
"Why is it that not knowing the time, place, and means of attack is justification for Shrub & Co. to have done nothing about the 9/11 threats, but discredited intelligence about WMDs and an al quaeda connection were sufficient reason to go to war with Iraq?"

Friday, April 9, 2004

Presidential Leadership Quiz

This was posted in a diary on Daily Kos. It is both funny and sad:

1. Pretend you're the elected President of the United States.

2. Imagine that you receive multiple warnings from long-time allies concerning a coming terrorist attack which may use hijacked airliners to attack American symbols of commerce. Do you:

a) Take a month-long vacation.

b) Keep your staff off commercial airlines.

c) Finally deal with that pesky cedar brush on your new ranch.

d) a, b, & c.

e) Contact the FBI and CIA and order them to share resources to co-ordinate a national airport security clampdown while expediting a search for known terrorists who have entered the country.

3. On August 6th, just days into your vacation, your National Security Advisor gives you a briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US." Do you:

a) Take the rest of the day off.

b) Go fishing on your man-made lake.

c) Take the longest Presidential vacation in thirty-two years.

d) a, b, & c.

e) Act like the elected President of the United States and return to Washington to ensure the safety of the nation.

4. Having successfully ignored countless warnings, you return from vacation. On your way to a slow-pitch photo op, you learn that an airliner has crashed into one of Twin Towers. Do you:

a) Continue to your very important photo-op at a Florida elementary school.

b) Later claim you watched the first crash on television even though that film was not shown until that evening.

c) Fail to make any connection between the crash and the near-constant terrorist warnings of the past month.

d) a, b, & c.

e) Act like the elected President of the United States by dropping the children's book and hurrying to Air Force One to direct the country's defense.

5. Though you've already shrugged off anything resembling competence, when an aide whispers in your ear that a second plane has crashed into the second tower, do you:

a) Read a book about goats to second graders for seventeen minutes while thousands burn to death.

b) Delay an order for fighters to defend the White House and the Pentagon.

c) Later claim to be in bed by ten that night, sleeping soundly while the rest of the nation sat up, dumb-struck, horrified by the human loss.

d) a, b, & c.

e) Upon hearing of the first airliner strike, immediately order fighters up to defend the second Tower and the Pentagon and, later, have the common decency not to sleep a wink.

6. In the days following the disaster, you learn that the attack was planned by a wealthy Saudi named Bin Laden and that fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were also Saudis. Do you:

a) Have a friendly photo op with a Saudi business friend of your father even before you bother posing on the burning rubble of lower Manhattan.

b) Allow a private jet to collect a hundred wealthy Saudis, including fourteen Bin Laden relatives, and fly them out of the country over the protests of the FBI.

c) Round up hundreds of innocent immigrants and imprison them without trial in order to appear to be engaged.

d) a, b, & c.

e) Throw your family's substantial business interests to the side in order to detain and question wealthy Saudis and so discover that some financed terrorists in the months before the attack.

7. It was bound to happen. Bi-partisan traitors in Congress have the audacity to push for an Independent Commission to investigate the massive intelligence and security failures that led to 9-11. Do you:

a) Grant the Commission a mere fifteen million dollars -- less than one fourth the amount spent to investigate the last President's adultery.

b) Stipulate that any testimony you give be off-the-record.

c) Announce that pressing Presidential-type duties leave you with less than an hour to spend before the Commission -- despite the fact that in the last year you've played over one hundred and forty hours of golf.

d) All of the above.

e) Save your country time and money by proceeding directly to a six-by-six wire suite in Guantanamo.


Welcome to the soft prejudice of dumbed-down expectations! Question one is a freebie -- just like Florida! Give yourself a bunch of points! Questions two through seven demand a little more cunning. If you answered a, b, or c, you were close.

If you answered d to all of them, congratulations! You've flunked, but those were the President's choices! You're just as much a leader as the steely-eyed rocket man himself! And you did it without oil money! FYI, if you chose e for any of the answers, you are a French toast-eating, terrorist-loving traitor.

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Mercenaries vs. Children

A lot has already been said about the mercenaries who were dragged through the streets of Fallujah last week.
There was the discussion of the media censoring the photos. There were the headlines [like the Boston Herald's "SAVAGES!"]. There were the attacks on Democratic bloggers for basically asking the question, What's the big deal? We invaded their country. What did we expect them to do? There was the fact that the mercenaries were called "civilians" by the media and not identified properly as "mercenaries" - which is exactly what they are. There is the issue of how terrible it is that they were killed in the first place and wondering what the hell they are doing there in the first place.
But there is one thing the media hasn't covered - the 52 Iraqis who died during the same firefights, including these children here: ["Aljazeera Pictures Falluja"].
This is the whole reason we don't go to war over silly things like oil. How many more mercenaries must die? How many more children must die?

The Psychedelic Furs and the citation

Who says all the hacks on Beacon Hill aren't cool? State Sen. Robert Hedlund, a Republican, and state Rep. Kevin Honan, a Democrat, both rock and roll fans, issued a citation to the Furs for the band's "years of dedication to music and entertainment": ["LOVE THEIR WAY"]. The Herald's "Inside Track" has a bit more information - and a picture: ["'80s music is cool for Hard Rock-ing pol"].

Nader and Oregon

Well, the media is spinning - Nader fails his first big test: ["Nader Fails to Make Oregon Ballot"]. Gee, do you think Howard Dean spanking Nader a few hours before had anything to do with the fact that the turnout was "only" 741? Please. At the height of the 2000 campaign, a day before Election Day, Nader had a few hundred more than that at a rally at UNH. Getting over 700 people this early in the campaign is pretty good. So, he has to go about it the hard way - getting 15,000. Big deal. Then, there is this "analysis": ["Nader effort caught in a double dribble"].
Plus, is it time to impeach Bush? Nader thinks so: ["Nader Calls for Bush to Be Impeached"]
Nader's site has a great letter attacking the people who run the site: ["An open letter..."].

What's with all the raping?
A week or two ago, I posted a story about American servicemen raping their female counterparts. But how about this bozo, the producer of "Girls Gone Wild!": ["Producer accused of rape"]. Then, there was this about local rock guy Howie Day: ["Singer jailed after show"]. Since when do rockers have to allegedly force groupies to do anything? Pretty pathetic.

Saturday, April 3, 2004


Over the past three weeks, I have been pretty busy and unable to post a lot here at Politizine. However, I have collected a bunch of links of stories and other stuff that I have wanted to post.

* What did Bush know and when did he know it?: ["'I saw papers that show US knew al-Qa'ida would attack cities with aeroplanes'"]. Intelligence? What intelligence? These are the same people who didn't know the Berlin Wall was going to fall. These are the same people who didn't know the Soviet Union was collapsing. Why are we not surprised that they knew about this but didn't do anything to stop it? And where was the Air Force?: ["Where Was the Air Force? The Real Question on 9-11"]. This has always puzzled me, being an Air Force brat. Why the gaps in time? What took them so long? Are we really as safe as we might think? Combine this with the other story and we obviously have some serious safety problems. But Kerry isn't safe from criticism either: ["Official: Kerry failed to act on pre-9/11 tip"].

* This kind of stuff infuriates me: ["He killed my dad and knocked up my sister"]. Is it any wonder why our military is hated throughout the world? It isn't bad enough that our servicemen are raping our own servicewomen ["Military Sex Assault Likened to 'Friendly Fire'"] but then we have to see this kind of stuff.

* Congress moves to make downloaders criminals: ["House panel approves copyright bill"]. Copy machines are next folks. Then there is this: ["File Downloads Don't Affect Sales of CDs, Study Says"]. So, there really isn't a problem after all. Pathetic.

* Air America silences blacks: ["Air America Will Displace Black Talk On WLIB"]. This is very interesting. The much heralded liberal talk radio network changes programming and eliminates black voices from the airwaves. Well, OK, they have Chuck D on their network. But is that a replacement for a full day of programming targeted towards blacks? This smacks of the elitism that is seen so often with liberals: We know what is best for you, blah, blah, blah. Then, there is Randi Rhodes' vicious attack on Ralph Nader during the first day of programming: ["transcript"]. Totally out of control! Nader is right: "Hot Air America" indeed.

* The religious beliefs of some neocons: ["Why won't anyone say they are Jewish?"]. It is clear that a deeper conversation about these issues needs to occur without people being targeted as "anti-semites." People blithely attack others they consider "the Christian right," "the secular left," or "the Islamo fascists," etc. So, why can't we have an open conversation about the influence of Judaism and the protection of Israel at all costs in our foreign policy?

* Kerry's VP: There has been a lot of speculation and debate about who Kerry's VP should be. Personally, I'm praying for Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur. Unfortunately, Kerry wouldn't have the guts to make such a bold pick. Kevin Drum of Washington Monthly thinks it will be Rep. Dick Gephardt: ["GEPHARDT FOR VEEP?...."]. Then, there are the McCain rumors: ["McCain: I'd 'entertain' Democratic VP slot"]. Very unlikely, but interesting to say the least.

* Where is the best place to pick up babes in Boston? The Blue Line? Yikes: ["Soul mate searching? Some are turning Blue"]. Oh yeah, right. Bug shield hairsprayed townie chicks from "Reverze," "Lynnz" or "Saw-gis," takin' the train into their downtown jobs. A magnet for babes? Jeez, I don't know. Oh, alright. I'm being too harsh. There are some very nice women in East Boston and the North Shore.

* Noam Chomsky is blogging!: ["Turning the Tide"].

* Life on Mars? Yeah, we sent it there: ["Life on Mars - but 'we sent it'"].

* No Preference, Salzman win Mass. Green Party presidential primary: ["2004 Results"] but the Greens allege ballot problems: ["Mass Greens allege ballot irregularities"].

* Dean's downfall: ["The Front-Runner’s Fall"].

The latest on Nader

It looks like Nader is targeting liberal states after all: ["Making use of unusual rule, Nader targets the Oregon ballot"].
Nader to Kerry - Relax: ["Nader advises Kerry to loosen up"].
This story really got the liberals in a tizzy: ["GOP Donors Double Dipping with Nader"]. Of course, none of them said word one when it was revealed that Kerry's donors from big business were also giving to Bush. No, that's okay. But Nader can't get any funds. Nope, not a one. Ugh.
The Concord Monitor tore Nader a new asshole so Green Party member Bill Grennon wrote this great letter: ["Nader's candidacy offers the only hope"].
The younger voters: ["Ralph Rocks the Vote"].
Will Nader be a factor? Possibly: ["Surge in support for Nader spells trouble for Kerry"].

Friday, April 2, 2004

The FCC indecency obsession

The Federal Communications Commission has been on a real tear lately in the wake of Justin Timberlake ripping Janet Jackson's top and having her boob flop out during the Super Bowl half time show.
Other offensive material during that broadcast - like those Cialis commercials which now run non-stop on TV, at all hours - seem to have gotten by the FCC. Maybe they all have erectial dysfunction problems or something, I don't know.
The FCC has also targeted Howard Stern for I think - good reasons, coming from a First Amendment advocate like myself. If Stern's show were on late night instead of the early morning, it wouldn't be such a problem. But when he tells a woman that he is so hot for her that he wants to cut off her head and rape her neck socket [an actual statement I heard Stern say once], I think it might be time to look at Stern's programming hour.
Sidebar: Strangely, the FCC isn't upset about a statement about raping a woman's neck socket - which he said a year or two ago - they are upset about the nudity and sex talk, which says a lot about the FCC's current tirades. IMHO, the nudity is amusing to watch on E! but annoying to listen to on the radio. Stern is currently threatening to go to one of the pay-to-listen satellite radio networks where he assumes he would be free from "censorship."

But now, the FCC is branching out - looking at the soap opera industry: ["FCC leader to stay tuned to racy soaps"] and maybe it is about time. Daily serials or soap operas are very racy indeed: rape, murder, and adultery, are all regular occurences on the daytime soaps. I know - I'm married to a "General Hospital" fan and when I was in high school, I was a regular watcher of both "GH" and "One Life to Live" [Yeah, I know, pretty pathetic. But it is similar to my fascination with pro-wrestling and the drama and plot lines, etc.].
However, maybe it is time for them to start looking at soaps. If Stern is fair game and a tassled Jackson tit is an outrage, they should turn on the daytime serials. And yeah, they should also look at how "Oprah!" has discussed some of the same sexual subject matters. Some of these shows are so over the top. And while they are at it, maybe the FCC should look at country music too! During the record labeling phase of the 1980s - when Tipper Gore was abusing her husband's power in the senate to flail against Twisted Sister, the Dead Kennedys and Frank Zappa - almost nothing was said about country music's offensive lyrics about adultery, murder, revenge, violence, etc. Country music was just as violent and "immoral" as punk rock or metal was. And we all know why Tipper didn't say word one about country music but attacked "violent" punks and metalheads [and later rap]: Country music fans are a more potent voting bloc!
I'll admit, I have mixed feelings about what the FCC is doing.
On the one side, there are some seriously offensive things on TV and radio right now which are regularly exposed to children and can easily be contributing to our accelerated violent society. But it isn't just the sex stuff, which the FCC seems obsessed with. It is violence. It is also commercials and consumerism bombarding the minds of kids. And there is almost no discussion about the corporatization of media interests into a few hands - which has clearly limited the voices on the airwaves to those who can afford to own them.
On the other side, there are the more libertarian-minded who say the government shouldn't limit any speech and people like Stern are unfairly being targeted by religious zealots. There is some truth to this. People can just shut off the radio. But some balance between the two is what is needed. There is a fine line between infringing on the First Amendment and keeping severely harmful material away from children. Frankly for the same reasons we wouldn't trust Clinton's FCC we shouldn't trust Bush's FCC either. The politization of the media is what makes it all dangerous. The Bush FCC is clearly motivated by preserving its religious base - similar to what Hillary Clinton tried to do by attacking the "vast rightwing conspiracy" - which pleased the liberal base.
In the end, we must remember that these are the people's airwaves. Currently, the people are being ruled by Bush and his misguided religious conservatives who wouldn't know the path of Jesus Christ if they tripped over it. They are going to try and get smut off the air. And some of this is good. The key will be to keep a very close eye on what they go after - and make sure it doesn't fringe on a broadcaster's political rights.