Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Flip Flop

"We have a clear vision on how to win the war on terror and bring peace to the world." -- George W. Bush, July 30th, 2004.

“I don’t think you can win it [the war on terrorism].” -- George W. Bush, August 30, 2004.

"We are winning and we will win." -- George W. Bush, August 31, 2004.

Who’s Paying for the Party’s Parties?

Corporate sponsors are shelling out $20,000 or more to host politicians who can scratch their corporate backs after the election. (Newsday)

Fuzzy Math

President Bush’s ads first said Senator John Kerry voted 350 times to raise taxes. His latest ads say Kerry voted 98 times to raise taxes. So which is it? Neither. FactCheck.org analyzes the ads and says the Bush camp is fudging the numbers. (FactCheck.org)

Pleasure Boat Captains for Truth

I’m sure FactCheck.org would have a field day with these guys. Check out their book, Unfit for Cancun.

"Beer Drinkers for Kerry/Edwards.”

That's the most popular of the 160,000 buttons a small Ohio company supplied to the DNC. They’re back for the RNC this week with 50,000 buttons for the GOP. In 2000, they accidently delivered 100 “Bush” buttons to a woman who ordered “Gore” buttons. She refused to touch the Bush buttons. A neighbor had to come over and ship them back – wearing rubber gloves, no doubt. (AP)

Sticker Shock

Jon Peterson an RNC delegate from Delaware, Ohio, is probably the only one in New York this week with a John Kerry bumper sticker on his car. He drove all the way to the Big Apple as an unwitting rolling billboard for the Democratic nominee. His neighbor, a Democrat, slapped the bumper sticker on Peterson’s car right before the delegate left for the convention. (AP)

Hijacked Government Computers, Sleeping Air Marshals, and Doubting We Can Beat the Terrorists

Using Uncle Sam to SPAM You. Hundreds of Defense Department and US Senate computers were hijacked to blast America with spam. Federal authorities found viruses and worms on the government computers that let spammers take them over. They’ve made around 150 arrests so far. (USA Today)

Feel Safer Yet? Federal air marshals -- the people supposed to protect you from hijackers -- have been caught flunking drug tests, sleeping on the job, and losing their weapons. The Homeland Security Department’s Inspector General logged more than 700 problems in eight months with air marshals in a new report. (USA Today)

Would You Settle for a Tie? President Bush says he doubts the US can win the War on Terror. His goal, he now says, is to simply make terrorism less acceptable around the world. (NYT)

Are You Better Off Today, Than You Were Four Years Ago. It’s hard to tell. The economy is full of mixed messages. MSNBC offers an analysis. (MSNBC)

Civics Lessons. College Kids are being told they can’t vote in college towns. The reason? College addresses are “temporary.” Obviously the election officials out there never met some of my classmates on the 10 year plan. (CNN)

Party Time. Campaign finance and ethics rules have virtually no bearing on political conventions. Just like at the Democratic Convention, big money and powerful lobbyist groups are wining and dining the people at the Republican National Convention this week. The parties for the Grand Old Party also show how much of a crossover there is between lobbyists and the people running campaigns. (NYT)

Quiet on the Set. Delegates to modern political conventions are little more than window dressing for the TV cameras. The job of steering their parties they once had are long gone as they turn into extras on the set of a political commercial. (USA Today)

The Protestors Lean to the Right of Atilla the Hun. “Giuliani, Pataki, Schwarzenegger. They're the poison to the party.” The latest batch of protestors at the Republican National Convention are Republicans. They don’t like all the “liberals” speaking at the convention. (FOX News)

Adding Insult to Injury. Some of the RNC delegates wore band-aids with Purple Hearts on them. A jab at Senator Kerry and the Swifties’ claims that his wounds were superficial. (FOX News)

POLITICS -- All We Have to Fear is the Next 63 Days

Swift Turn. Rear Adm. William L. Schachte Jr claims he avoided talking to the media for months about John Kerry’s service record. Last week, he came down on the side of the anti-Kerry crew of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- challenging whether Kerry deserved one of his three Purple Hearts. Now it comes out that Schachte not only is a long time Bush contributor, but also a lobbyist who’s client recently won a $40 million dollar federal contract from the federal government. The Kerry camp says $40 million can do a lot to a man’s memory. (WashPost)

What Ethical Problem? Journalists covering the Republican National Convention are seeing New York City’s softer side -- free of charge. The city lined up free services and created a place called “The Spa” to pamper journalists with massages, manicures, and the like. The idea is the reporters will provide some nice comments -- translating into free advertising for the city. (WashPost)

Monday, August 30, 2004

Leave the Country for Tax Breaks -- Get Government Contracts, Too

Those tricky off shore expatriates. First, they don’t pay taxes. So you get to pick up their slack. Then they have an edge to get contracts paid for with your tax dollars. The GAO has found that companies incorporated in overseas tax havens have a competitive advantage at getting government contracts. (GCN)

Paying Twice

Your tax dollars help pharmaceutical companies create new drugs. But you don’t get much of a return. Take the cancer drug, Taxol. Uncle Sam gave Bristol Myers Squibb $484 million of your money to help develop it. The company now charges $10,000 for a year’s supply. They’ve made $9 billion (with a B) on Taxol since releasing it in 1993 – including $687 from Medicare. But Washington has only gotten $35 million in royalties for it. (from a Rep Peter DeFazio (D-OR) Op-Ed column)

Foreign Pharmacies and Questionable Quality

The high price of drugs has forced many patients to turn to the Internet. But the General Accountability Office says that may not be safe. The GAO says eight of the 21 samples it got from foreign pharmacies came questionable return addresses – including an Argentine shopping mall and private homes in Pakistan.

Political Spam

What do you get when you cross a list of every registered voter with multiple lists of e-mail addresses? Political spam. Political consultants have combed registration files to provide candidates with 25 million e-mail addresses to add grief to your inbox from now until election day. (WashPost)

Well, They're not with the Liberal Media

The Republicans are rolling out the red carpet for Al Jazeera. After the Democrats asked the Arab news network to take down their banner during the Democratic National Convention, the GOP are making them feel right at home. (The Hill)

How Big A Bounce

When you figure past presidents have gotten about half the bounce of challengers out of their conventions, President Bush can expect only about a 1% rise in the polls after the party in New York. Larry Sabato is a poli-sci guru at the University of Virginia and has crunched those numbers. They’re not much for the expense of the four- day long commercial.

And How Many Miles to Go Before He Sleeps?

How’d George W. Bush do on the promises he made in his last convention acceptance speech? NPR looks back on the four key issues he mentioned then: education, Medicare, taxes and Social Security. He gets high marks on keeping his promises on the first three. But has done virtually nothing on Social Security. The President is expected to talk about Social Security privatization again at this convention. He wants a lot of that money invested in the stock market. And surprises of surprises – Wall Street firms just happen to make up 40% of the donors to this convention. (NPR)

The Party’s Over

Are political conventions about extinct? With scant prime time coverage on the major networks for either of this year’s political conventions, the parties could soon be forced to fold their big tents. The cost of the extravaganzas, which have turned into little more than four day TV ads, could be directed at more effective advertising efforts.

Damage Control Parties

Violent protests during the Republican National Convention could cause problems for either Democrats or Republicans depending on how people view them on TV. Neither party is taking chances. Both have damage control plans if the demonstrators get out of hand. (SFGate.com)

Hat's Off

It wouldn’t be a convention without silly hats and outfits. (from Yahoo! And Reuters)

Full Speed Ahead

Bouyed by the Swift Boat ads, other conservative 527 committees are coming out of the shadows to cash in on their success. Expect them to play an increasing role in the rest of the campaign, but they still lag well behind the liberal 527s in fundraising. (The Hill)

The Positive Aspects of Negative Ads

Negative ads are here to stay. Politicians use them because they work. They motivate the ‘base,’ the people who will support a candidate no matter what, but may not get around to voting for him. In other words, they stir people up, make them want to talk up their candidate and go out and vote for him.

Repeat Buyers in the Buying of the President

Independent pollster John Zogby says his polls don’t show as much brand loyalty for the GOP as Democrats this year. While 96% of the people who voted for Al Gore in 2000 plan to vote for John Kerry this year, only 86% of Bush supporters in 2000 plan a repeat performance at the polls. Zogby says the President will have to boost his number to 95% by November. (USNews -- third item)

Flip-Flop Flip-Flops

Republican Convention delegates are staying on message. If fact, they’re putting their foot down to stay on message. Republicans have accused Senator Kerry of flip-flopping on issues. The Pennsylvania delegation is wearing flip-flops with the Senator’s face on them.

Speaking of Flip-Flops

The Democrats are running radio ads reminding voters President Bush opposed the Department of Homeland Security before he supported it. FactCheck.org says the ad is “mostly” accurate.

Sober Brawl Splits the Prohibition Party.

Seems that getting the presidential nomination of a political party that doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance would be enough to drive you to drink. Unless it’s the Prohibition Party. Yes, Prohibition -- 18th Amendment, Volsted Act, no alcohol at all.

But the fight over the top spot on the obscure political party’s ticket was so fierce; it split the splinter party into two factions -- each with its own presidential and vice-presidential nominees.
While most Americans are focused on non-issues like Vietnam service records of the two major party candidates, the Prohibition Party was torn with real non-issues. They were fighting like drunken sailors over campaign buttons and whose living room would host the national convention.

The 2000 elections -- which gave the rest of us plenty of cause to drink -- were the party’s worst showing in 130 years. The Prohibition Party got only 208 votes nationwide. Well, actually only in one state. That’s the only ballot they made.

Knowing When to Say When

Heading their ticket was National Chairman Earl Dodge. He’d been the on the ticket seven times since 1976. Each election had turned out worse than the last.

This had led to the creation of a dissident faction within the Prohibition Party. Led by members of the Partisan Prohibition Historical Society, they charged Dodge was running the party as a tool to benefit his business -- selling campaign buttons. This faction expended massive time, money, and energy to depose Dodge and take over the political apparatus that had garnered roughly one vote for every 1.3 million Americans in the last election.

The Old, "Hold-the-National-Convention-at-My-House" Trick

Ahhhh…but the plot thickens. Dodge cut off his opponents by holding the party’s national convention in his living room. Securing the nomination once again.

Meanwhile, his opponents had nominated GENE AMONDSON of Alaska. Amondson earns a living in show business. He’s a Billy Sunday impersonator. Billy Sunday being a fire and brimstone turn of the last century evangelist. Amondson is especially proud of his rendition of Sunday’s “Sermon Against Alcohol.” Obviously.

Now, both sides were poised to go to court. In what promised not to be the biggest political lawsuit since the Florida election, the sides apparently sobered up to the fact that the court case would probably be more expensive than their entire campaign budget. Fortunately for both sides, they stumbled into a new solution.

The “Concerns of the People Party” couldn’t find anyone who wanted their nomination, so they offered it to Amondson. He took it.

Crisis averted, two unknown parties both now stagger out into the world, drunk on power, looking for a state or two to put them on the ballot.
Think They’ll Want Something in Return? Wall Street firms are paying for much of the Republican National Convention. They make up 40% of the corporate underwriters for the Republican Party’s party in New York. They constituted only about 19% of the DNC’s sponsorship. President Bush has long wanted to move at least a portion of Social Security withholdings to Wall Street for investment. (WashPost)

Naming Names.
A web site that listed the names of Republican delegates to the convention is under investigation for voter intimidation. The site also encouraged protestors in NYC to make the delegates feel unwelcome. (NYT)

Getting Their Priorities Straight. Don’t count on Congress to get any work done on the 9/11 Commission’s reform recommendations. Re-elections are coming up and they’ve got other priorities. Congressional leaders say they’ll try to put reforms on the agenda, but don’t count on them until after the election. (FOX News)

Keeping Secrets.
One of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations was that government agencies share more information. Testimony before Congress shows that agencies are classifying too much information, making it hard to share. Some people in government say anywhere from 50% to 90% of the information that’s classified every year have no business being kept secret. (WashTimes)

Reality Check. 74-year-old Donald Seither saw Hurricane Charley smash his mobile home to pieces. He called Washington for help. After being on hold for two-and-a-half hours, FEMA promised some assistance. He got a check for a whopping $1.69.

POLITICS -- All We Have to Fear is the Next 64 Days

Talking Out of Both Sides of the Family. When asked if the Swift Boat ads are unfair, First Lady Laura Bush told TIME magazine, “Not really.” Meanwhile the President has said Senator John Kerry’s Vietnam service was “more heroic” than his own. It’s the latest in the Bush camp’s efforts to praise Kerry’s service while refusing to denounce the ads that criticize his service. In other words, letting the Bush camp have it both ways. (CNN)

Plugging for his Kid. Columnist Robert Novak is one of the biggest boosters of the anti-Kerry book, Unfit for Command. He’s praised it and its authors repeatedly in his columns, calling the writers “patriots.” Oh, did he mention his son handles publicity for the publisher of the book? No. Well the kid does. That might make a difference. (NYT)

Jumping on the Bandwagon. Maybe it was the Dixie Chicks criticizing the President and seeing record and concert ticket sales go through the roof. Musicians are jumping on the political bandwagon in bigger numbers than ever it seems. CNN offers a breakdown of musician and politician connections. (CNN)

Friday, August 27, 2004

Missouri E-Mail Voting Plan

With just over two months until the election, there's a plan to invent e-mail voting in Missouri. The idea would allow service members overseas e-mail in their absentee votes. The Pentagon scrapped a $22 million dollar project along these lines back in February when scientists said it was too open to fraud.

So why does Missouri suddenly want to try it?

The idea was raised by Republican Secretary of State Matt Blunt. He just happens to be running for Governor. (WashPost)

401 527s and Counting

Politicalmoneyline.com is a pricey website that tracks campaign spending. But there's some great free info on their homepage. It lists the names of 401 differend 527 committees--giving you a jumping off point to explore their spending and motives. And it shows what states are pumping the most money into those 527 committees running their own rogue campaigns in the campaign finance wilderness McCain-Feingold created.

Loose Lips Sink Olympic Championships

Did one of President Bush's campaign ads kill New York's hopes for hosting the Olympics? Taegan Goddard's Political Wire has a quote from an Olympic Committee member.

"The chances of New York to host the Olympic games in 2012 were not that good. But now they were lowered to zero."

The Olympic Committee has been upset that the President has referred to the Olympics in a campaign ad. The Committee asked him to pull the ad, and the Bush campaign refused.

White House Deep Sixes CREW's FOIA Request

Crew -- Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington -- a spur of the moment group bent on linking the White House and/or Bush campaign to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth got their Freedom of Information request shot down. They want the White House to give up phone and other records that would show any contact between the White House and the Swifties. The White House says they don't have to tell Americans who the Bush Administration talks to. So they told the CREW crew to shove off. (News Release)

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Staying on Message on Iraq

Dubya Déjà vu: If a soundbite works, stick with it, I guess. Compare these two quotes, a year-and-a-half apart by the commander-in-chief:

"We're making progress." – President Bush on the fighting in Iraq, CNN.com, March 21, 2003

"We're making progress on the ground." President Bush on fighting in Iraq, Washington Post, August 23, 2004.

Certainly no flip-flopping there.

Flip Flop? For someone who opposed the idea of the 9/11 Commission in the first place, then wanted to shorten its run, President Bush is embracing it’s findings quickly. President Bush may act as quickly as today to put some of the 9/11 Commission’s suggested reforms into action. Not waiting for Congress, he’ll sign them into effect as executive orders. Just in time for the Republican National Convention. (USA Today)

What’s the Iraq War Costing You? There’s a clock ticking off the cost in New York City. Anti-war protestors put it there for the Republican National Convention. They claim as of Wednesday, the war had cost $134.5 billion. And the cost is going up:

  • $176,860,800 per day
  • $ 7,369,200 per hour
  • $ 122,820 per minute

Behind the project: Project Billboard and the Center for American Progress. That’s a liberal think tank John Podesta runs. He’s former President Clinton's chief of staff. (USA Today)

The Poor Get Poorer. For the third straight year, the number of Americans living in poverty and without insurance both went up. The Census Bureau reports an additional 1.3 million Americans fell below the poverty line last year. And 1.4 million more lost health insurance coverage. (USA Today)

Toasting Your Tax Dollars with Fine Ohio Wine. Washington has spent $475,000 of your tax money since 1999 to fund a winery in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio. A group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) blew the whistle on the winery yesterday. Taxpayer money includes $55,000 to run city water to the park and $90,000 to rehabilitate the farmstead. The park also uses your money to run organic vegetable and free range chicken farms. Gotta think the pic-I-nic baskets there would attract your not so average bears, huh, BooBoo? (WashPost)

POLITICS -- All We Have to Fear is the Next 67 Days

Campaign Cash Report. Senator John Kerry has raised a record amount of money among Democrats -- $233 million. Compare that with Vice President Al Gore’s $50 million in the last election. The amount is still shy of President Bush’s $244 million. (Bloomberg)

Cashing in on Campaigns. In and election this tight, every vote counts -- and every vote is valuable. So James Pengo of Elyria, Ohio, put his vote up for sale on e-bay. Figured he'd develop his own platform for dealing with the economy. Openning bid was $50. e-bay caught the criminal act and canceled the bidding. Representatives from the Bush and Kerry camps carrying large suitcases of money to Ohio could not be reached for comment.(USA Today)

Having It Both Ways. In a half hour interview with the New York Times, President Bush dismissed any idea that John Kerry lied about his Vietnam service. Then the President refused again to condemn the ads that claim Kerry lied about his Vietnam service. Was that a “flip-flop?” (NYT)

Book on It. Political books promise to be big bestsellers through the election. Book tours are taking on a campaign swing mentality to cash in before election day. (Seattle PI)

Politicians Encourage Plagarism. Some political websites go so far as to create ‘cut-and-paste’ sections that allow supporters to build letters to the editor of their local papers. A recent survey of such letters found 20 in different papers with the same complex phrasing. Both the Bush and Kerry campaigns are doing it. Senator Joseph Biden has got to be saying, "Why didn't I think of that." (WashPost)

The Naked Truth. The tourism folks in New York City were offering discounts to thattractions around the Big Apple for all the Republican National Convention delegates coming to town. They’ve now pulled one attraction: Naked Boys Singing – a play featuring naked boys singing. (USA Today)

Kinda Like “Grand Theft Auto” – But Probably More Violent. Bush and Kerry slug it out in a new video game – one of several cashing in on the Presidential race.

You're Paying for Government and Corporate Miscalculations

Billed by Boston. Boston is billing you for overtime and weapons to head off riots that never happened. The city wants $1.9 million from the federal government for guarding the Democratic National Convention from attack. The cops there are still sitting on a $500,000 stockpile of tear gas, stun grenades, and the like they never had to use. Anyone think of shipping the paramilitary surplus to New York for the Republican National Convention? Of course not. New York will bill you for its own supply of noggin’ bustin’ goodies. (Boston Herald)

Retiring Debt at Your Expense. US companies are $350 billion short of what they are supposed to have put into pension plans. No problem they say. The pension funds are insured. You insure them. The companies may need a bailout from taxpayers along the lines of the savings and loan disaster in the 1980s. (Denver Post)

I Hate to Say, “I Told You So…” A company in Asheville, North Carolina is taking advantage of new overtime rules from Washington to work their people longer hours for less pay. Citizens Fuel Company had about 11% of their work force suddenly qualify for overtime. So they’re cutting the base pay to keep the weekly checks right where they were. (Asheville Citizen Times)

Land Grab. An analysis of 125 million records shows Uncle Sam has leased 229 million acres of taxpayer owned land to oil and gas companies since 1982. The leases are a bargain compared to the price charged on private land. The Environmental Working Group says the amount of land is the size of Montana, Wyoming, and Utah combined. This was supposed to help make the US more energy independent. But Uncle Sam’s Minerals Management Service estimates that over the past 15 years, the oil and gas industries have produced 53 days' worth of oil and 221 days' worth of natural gas. Since the leases were granted in 1982, US dependence on foreign oil and gas has doubled. (WashPost)

Flip Flop. The Bush administration -- which has poo-pooed the idea of manmade influences contributing to global climate change -- has changed it’s mind. It’s now issuing a report to Congress saying that manmade pollution is the only logical explanation for three decades of global warming. (NYT)

Same as the Old Boss… The Washington Post added up Senator John Kerry’s spending plans and subtracted his tax cuts then spread the results out over the next ten years. They found that the deficit would rise by almost as much as under President Bush’s plan. (WashPost)

Pvt Ryan, I Know You’re Busy, What with the Mortar Attack and All, But There’s an Error in Your Bank Account. The General Accountability Office studied 348 reservists’ pay and found 95% of them had some errors in their checks from Uncle Sam. What’s worse, by the time the government found out they’d overpaid some; the soldiers hadn’t put enough aside to pay the government back. They spent hours trying to straighten out Washington’s screw-ups from war zones. (GAO)

Fortunate Sons. South Carolina is 26th in population, but ranks 8th in casualties in the Iraq War. Rural states are bearing the brunt of casualties for a variety of reasons – from a cultural sense of duty to plain old economics. (The State)

Keeping Tabs. The Washington Post travels with the Congressman keeping tabs on the rural commitment to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO) tabulates the percentage of rural recruits sent to fight and die. (WashPost)

On Probation, but Still Allowed to Hang out with that Disreputable Crowd. Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN) was sentenced to 60 days in jail for toting a loaded 9mm handgun into the Louisville International Airport. The sentence was suspended so long as the Congressman keeps his nose clean for two years. That’s harder than it seems. He serves in Congress afterall. (AP)

POLITICS – All We Have to Fear is the Next 68 Days

Return of Jim Crow? Studies suggest somewhere between 4 and 6 million qualified voters were denied the right to vote in the 2000 election because of clerical errors or computer glitches. A couple of civil rights groups claim there’s a concerted effort to keep some people off the voter rolls. (WashPost)

Another Direct Hit. Task Force 115 – Senator John Kerry’s task force in Vietnam – backs up his story over the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The force’s March 18, 1969, weekly report states that Kerry’s boat and others came under fire. The Swifties have run ads that claim Kerry was never shot at when he pulled a crewman from the water back onto his boat. (Miami Herald)

Abandoning Ship. The Swift Boat ads lead to a second Bush casualty. Bush lawyer Benjamin Ginsberg was also advising the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. He resigned from the Bush campaign after the link came up. He’s the second Bush campaign person to do that. He claims Democrats are doing the same thing. So far, neither campaign has shown the other is actually coordinating activities with outside groups. Such coordination is illegal. (AP)

Swift Sales for the Swift Boat Book. Depending on which bookstore you ask, the book that accompanies the ads sells pretty well around DC. But one bookstore reports no one’s bought any of their 39 copies of Unfit for Command – including the 10 people who ordered them. (WashTimes)

Score One for Tricky Dick. One of the authors of the swift boat book has been caught in a potential lie about the facts -- by none other than Richard Nixon. John O’Neill claims Kerry was lying about being in Cambodia. O’Neill says he was never in Cambodia either. But Nixon’s secret taping system caught O’Neill talking about a mission to Cambodia with the former President. (AP)

When the World Hands You Lemons…Throw Them at Your Enemies. The Swift Boat ads have resulted in favorable coverage for John Kerry. His campaign is even bragging about it in a news release. (US Newswire)

Giving 116%. Interesting Letter to the Editor in the Washington Post about Swift Boats. Former National Geographic Editor Bill Garrett writes about an article on the boats he shot and wrote over the course of six months in 1968, in the Mekong Delta. The admiral in charge of the boats mentioned then a 116% rate of Purple Hearts. In other words, multiple Purple Hearts were the norm for the Swifties. (WashPost)

Ad Alert #1: FactCheck.org analyzes the latest Swift Boat ad on their site. (factcheck.org)

Ad Alert #2: Both sides have gone nuclear – but both missed their targets. FactCheck.org also looks at misleading ads from both left and right on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site. (factcheck.org)

“Satan Lives in George Soros.” The St. Petersburg Times has an interesting profile of the money man behind the Democrat-leaning 527s. Billionaire George Soros – or as conservatives call him – “The Democrats’ Daddy Warbucks of drugs and death." (St Pete Times)

The More Things Change… The US Supreme Court upheld campaign finance reform – but money still talks as sure as BS still walks the campaign trail. The Christian Science Monitor has an analysis of how political contributions changed, but the big picture stayed the same. (CSM)

Partying Sure Gets in the Way of, Like, Voting! Barbara and Jenna Bush are campaigning for their dad. They say young people don’t vote because they are so busy, like, you know, with like parties and stuff. Oh yeah, studying and extracurricular activities (they had to point out that last one – the President has a tough time with words like ‘ex-ter-cir-cu-lar’). Yeah, I remember those "all-day-the-first-Tuesday-after-the-first-Monday-in November" parties. (Miami Herald)

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Cutting Training Time -- And Quality Time -- For The Troops

Tell it to the Marines. With one-in-five active duty Marines serving in Iraq, there’s mounting pressure to get new replacements in fast and dwindling money to pay for their training. So fast – and so cash-strapped, their combat training is getting cut short. Training for some has been more than cut in half. Many Marines no longer get to fire weapons in training they may need to defend themselves in real life. Marine instructors say there’s a 70% chance these Marines will see combat, and a 5% chance of being killed or wounded. I told you earlier this week how Congress had trimmed $2.8 billion from military training and equipment to make room for their pork projects at home. (Star-Ledger)

Custody Battle? Hire Franz Kafka, Attorney at Law. Soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan complain they face an unfair fight trying to win custody of their kids in divorces. Seems courts are considering their deployments as akin to absenteeism. They could stay home – but that’d make ‘em felons. (Lexington Herald-Leader)

Yeah, You’re Going to Need a New Carburetor Belt, and the Piston Manifold is Shot. Contractors could be taking advantage of the Pentagon when they bring their tanks into the shop. DoD contracts out equipment maintenance on a lot of heavy weapons. But the way they do it may be driving up the price. The method is supposed to make the bids on the work more competitive. But the GAO finds that some of the equipment is so complex, there’s not likely to be many bidders. Those who fix the equipment usually know this, and jack up their bids. (GovExec)

Sharing Secrets. Lawmakers are looking at ways to get government agencies to quit classifying so much information. That would make it easier for agencies to share. A lack of sharing was blamed for much of the failures behind 9/11. (GovExec.com)

Asking Uncle Sam for Help. Since the August 1, terror alert took effect, New Jersey has been spending as much as $300,000 a day extra on security. They’re asking Uncle Sam for some help during the Republican National Convention. New York City is getting $50 million in federal tax dollars to help with security for the Republican’s party. (NYT)

Southern Comfort -- for Now. Thousands of undocumented aliens pour across America’s southern border with Mexico every month. But the Border Patrol has never found a single known terrorist coming in that way. It would seem to be an easy way for terrorists to get in. (USA Today)

Stop or I’ll Kick it Up a Notch, Bam! If the Border Patrol does find al Qaeda guys sneaking in across the southern border, they can shoot them with their new chile pepper bullets. They irritate the eyes, but make a great enchilada sauce. (AP)

Tourist or Terrorist. If you’re wanted by the law, accused of helping terrorist group Hamas, don’t get caught videotaping big bridges. Ismael Selim Elbarasse is being held as a material witness in an investigation that nabbed three others earlier this week. He says he and his wife were simply taping sites from the massive, double spanned Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland. Maryland police pull people over daily for questioning about taping bridges, buildings, and tunnels. Elbarasse’s name came up on a watch list. (NYT)

The Free Ride is Over. America may have kicked itself off the International Space Station. Back in 2000, Congress passed a law barring the US from paying Russia to launch our astronauts into space. With the Space Shuttle in dry dock, and no new American launch vehicle in sight, the US has been hitching free rides on Russian space launches. It costs $10,000 a pound to put someone in orbit and Russia says they can’t afford to keep carrying our astronauts into space. (WashPost)

POLITICS -- All We Have to Fear is the Next 69 Days

Well, He is the Expert on the Law. A top lawyer for the Bush/Cheney camp admits he advised the independent group running the swift boat ads. The Kerry/Camp camp jumped on the admission as proof the President and the Swifties are in cahoots. Federal law bars political campaigns from coordinating efforts with independent groups. But the lawyer, Benjamin L. Ginsberg, claims lawyers are exempt. (They can also walk through walls and on water, no doubt). (WashPost)

Beating out 60 Minutes. John Kerry’s first exclusive sit down during the Swift Boat flap didn’t come on any traditional news show. He appeared on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” (CNN)

The Reviews are In. If you missed it, MSNBC’s review says you didn’t miss much. They claim Kerry should keep his day job. (MSNBC)

Turn Barney Fife Loose on ‘Em. Small town mayors and police chiefs are getting pretty tired of the Presidential campaign. In battleground states hardly a day goes by without President Bush or Senator John Kerry showing up in some small town. And it’s costing the local police departments dearly for security. The Bush campaign used to help foot the security bill – but now they’re returning bills unpaid and pointing to the Secret Service to pick up the tab – with tax dollars. When Bush and Kerry showed up in Davenport, Iowa on the same day earlier this month, robbers took advantage of the distraction to rob three banks.

Politics of the Pump. The latest Bush/Cheney ad accuses Senator John Kerry of voting 10 times to raise gasoline taxes. Of course, gasoline prices have gone up 50-cents this year without any taxes tacked on.

Critical Decision. For whatever reason, Elizabeth Edwards, Vice-Presidential nominee John Edwards’ wife, wanted a country music critic to interview her. It was during a visit to Tucson and she requested the Arizona Star send it’s music critic for the interview they requested with her. An editor killed the idea. (Arizona Star)

Sign of the Times. Around 350 Kerry yard signs have been stolen from around the Pensacola, Florida area. Either someone doesn’t like the Senator, or someone’s going to have the gaudiest yard in Florida. If you don’t want your yard signs stolen, don’t put ‘em in the yard. (AP)

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

First He Wanted to Cut Intelligence -- Now He Wants to Run It

Flip Flop. Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL), President Bush’s nominee to head the CIA, was one of six Congressmen who wanted deep cuts in intelligence in the late 1990s. Goss cosponsored legislation to cut CIA personnel by 20% back in 1995. Now, he's the choice to rebuild the CIA in light of intel failures like 9/11 and the WMDs in Iraq goof up. (WashPost)

Bordering on Doubt. Hot on the heels of a report from the 9/11 Commission citing lax immigration policy, a survey shows Border Patrol agents frustrated with a lack of training and resources to do their job right. The survey shows 62% think the Homeland Security Department could do more to fight terrorism on the borders. (WashPost)

Talk About Secret Ballots. The companies that will provide electronic voting machines to one-third of the nation’s voters this fall have tested their equipment in secret. Secret could mean leaving no paper trail. Hey! Just like these machines. (MSNBC)

Maybe He'll Veto the Minimum Wage Bill on his Gulfstream. A guy who made $20 million a movie has to decide whether to sign a bill raising California’s minimum wage to $7.75 an hour. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has promised to veto any bills that create an “anti-business climate.” (FOX News)

POLITICS -- All We Have to Fear is the Next 70 Days

You Can Quote Me. President Clinton wore a hearing aid. Perhaps the current President and Vice-President need to have their hearing checked, too. They have a habit of misquoting their opponents. Here’s one example:

"Every performer tonight in their own way, either verbally or through their music, through their lyrics, have conveyed to you the heart and soul of our country." -- Senator Kerry, July 8

"The other day, my opponent said he thought you could find the heart and soul of America in Hollywood." -- President Bush, Aug. 18

The Washington Post has more. (WashPost)

The Battle of Hap River, 2004. Senator Kerry is rounding up witnesses who agree with his account of events in Vietnam. And the President, while making a statement critical of all 527 ads, still refuses to directly condemn the swift boat ad. He did, however, praise Kerry‘s war record. (WashPost)

Politics is a Full Contact Sport. Former Senator Bob Dole -- the 1996 Republican Presidential nominee -- says his statement that Kerry “Never bled” from his wounds was “political hardball.” Dole says he made the statement to get Kerry “off the President’s back.” (AFP)

Waiting for Answers. Even as the swift boat ads questioning Kerry’s military service take center stage, there remain a lot of unanswered questions about President Bush’s military record. For instance, why did he suddenly stop flying, why did he refuse to take a required physical that resulted in his being stripped of his wings? The White House says they'll answer those questions -- it's just taking some time. It's taken since February. (USA Today)

Hey, You Don’t Think These Guys Would Want Something After the Election, Do You? Private donors will pick up most of the tab at the Republican National Convention in New York -- just as they did for the Democratic Convention in July. Donors are chipping in $64 million for the GOP -- they contributed $40 million to Democrats. That’s roughly 60% of the cost of each convention. (USA Today)

Traitors to the Cause. Rock star Alice Cooper is accusing fellow musicians of treason -- against rock ‘n roll, at least. Cooper often attends NBA games in Phoenix with Senator John McCain (R-AZ). But Cooper says ideas like the “Vote for Change” tour featuring folks like Bruce Springsteen and R.E.M., are wrong because “rock is the antithesis of politics.” (Blabbermouth.net)

Monday, August 23, 2004

Billing You for His Corporate Profits.

Kevin D. Marlowe worked for Uncle Sam, but had a secret business interest in a small company – and a government credit card. Marlowe is now accused of personally awarding that company – Vector Systems, Inc – with $11 million dollars of your tax money. He faces a 68 count indictment.

What's a Canidate Worth?

George W. Bush and John Kerry both grew up wealthy. Who's the richest now. Take out Kerry's wife's money and mansions (there's a pre-nup after all) and the President weighs in somewhere between $9 and $26 million -- Kerry between $409,000 and $1.8 million -- outside those SUVs that belong to his family. (Yahoo!)

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September 3

Can We Dance With Your Dates?

Otis Day and the Knights -- the star musical attraction from "Animal House" -- will party with the GOP during the Republican National Convention in New York. They're part of the entertainment that includes Frank Sinatra, Jr., disco diva Gloria Gaynor, and southern rockers .38 Special. A "big tent" of musical tastes. But it's the thought of 10,000 Republicans doing "the gator" on the convention floor that stands out. Beats Al Gore and the Macarena. Toga, Toga. Toga! (NYT)

Why Oil Prices are Hurting You and the Economy

The Miami Herald has a simple explanation of how higher oil prices mean fewer jobs. And the spectre of terrorism -- and its impact on oil prices -- leaves a big question mark for the suits who do the hiring. (Miami Herald)

Economy Caught on Slippery Slope

The Bush administration, heavy on oil industry expertise, is only now admitting that continued high oil prices are draining the recovery. (Reuters)

Cutting Money for the Troops to Fight the Real Battle -- Re-election at Home

Hey, Somebody Tell Congress There’s a War On. Congress added so much ‘pork’ to the defense budget, they had to cut out things the military needs. Congress critters added $8.9 billion (with a “B”) in home state projects -- some 2,000 amendments -- to impress home state voters in an election year. Virtually none of these things had anything to do with defense. To get the bill to a manageable size, Congress started cutting things desperately needed by the Pentagon. That included $2.8 billion (with another “B”) slashed from military pay, equipment maintenance, training, and spare parts. (WashPost)

Heroic Politics. President Bush and Congress want to bestow a Medal of Honor on British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The medal would honor him for his support of the Iraq War. Blair is declining. The President and Congress still have not honored the passengers and crew of Flight 97 who thwarted an attack on the Capitol or White House on 9/11 with the Medal of Freedom or similar honor. (Agence France-Presse)

Where the Jobs Aren't. Though delines were small, 22 states lost jobs last month -- including 6 of the so-called “battleground” states in the coming election. (USA Today)

Check Your Paycheck. Today’s the day new overtime rules take effect. Depending on which side you believe, as many as 6 million of you may be working longer hours without time and a half. (NYT)

Get the Party Started. The GOP plans some Grand Old Parties in New York for their convention. Lobbyists who picked up the party tab for Democrats will sponsor some of the Republican bashes as well. (CNN)

Chest Out, Soldier. A porn star who ran for California Governor is protesting a Pentagon policy that allows military people and their families to get free boob jobs. I mentioned the policy last month. Mary Carey bared her boobs in front of a Hollywood recruiting office in a protest arguing that the Pentagon spend it’s money on “bullets” not “boobs.”

Not Your Father's School Dance. Cadets at the Air Force Academy Prep School have been booted for erotic dancing in the dorms. The prep school is an 11-month program to bring up grades for students who might not otherwise qualify for admission to the academy. In other words, kids of political contributors to the politicians who get to appoint cadets. And what lousy timing to get busted. They won‘t qualify now for the free boob jobs. (The Gazette)

Y'All Come Back Now, Ya Hear? A county jail in Florida let 256 inmates go free for four days due to Hurricane Charley. They made the inmates promise to return. Darn it if 27 of them never came back! (WTSP)

POLITICS -- All We Have to Fear is the Next 71 Days

Breaking the Silence. The only other living officer of the swift boat raids for which Senator John Kerry won the Silver Star is telling his story. It matches with Kerry’s. William Rood is an editor at the Chicago Tribune. He’s closing ranks with Kerry’s crewmen and criticizing the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as being untruthful. (Chicago Tribune)

Flip Flop. Meanwhile, George Elliot, one of the Swifties who blast’s Kerry in the commercial, praised him in 1969 for his heroism under fire. In navy documents, Elliott states that Kerry "exhibited all of the traits desired of an officer in a combat environment." (The Smoking Gun)

Swift Denial -- Swift Departure. The White House and the Bush Campaign both claim they have nothing to do with the swift boat ads. But Saturday, Ken Cordier resigned from the veterans steering committee on the Bush campaign. This comes after it turns out he participated in one of the Swift Boat groups’ anti-Kerry ads. (AP)

Clash of War Heroes. Former Senator Bob Dole -- the 1996 Republican Presidential Nominee -- is calling on Senator Kerry to apologize for testimony to Congress addressing atrocities in the Vietnam War. Kerry’s testimony consisted of him telling Congress what he’d heard from other Vietnam veterans. Dole also called on Kerry to release all of his military records saying that Kerry “never bled” from his wounds. Kerry has already released records, including after action reports and his Coastal Division‘s command history. (MSNBC)

Take This Job and Shove It. A West Virginia man got fired for heckling President Bush at a campaign rally. Glenn Hiller says it’s worth it. A client of his firm had given him the ticket to the Bush rally. He should have figured there‘s a 50-50 chance someone‘s going to either cheer or heckle. (CNN)

Broken Arrow. West Palm Beach County -- home to the confusion over the “butterfly ballot” four years ago -- has a new absentee ballot. Voters have to connect broken arrows to indicate who they’re voting for. Why get fancy? After the mess in 2000, you’d think ballot designers would “check that off” to experience. (WashPost)

Maybe the New York Ballot is Easier to Understand. Snowbirds are voting it two places during the same elections. People who live in New York City and Florida -- splitting time between the two -- are registering in both places. The New York Daily News has found between 400 and 1,000 people who’ve voted in both New York and Florida in both elections. Enough to tilt an election in Florida -- if you remember 2000. Registering in both places is illegal. But neither state is cross checking voter rolls. (NYDN)

Where's the Beef? $50 Million Will Track It

In the neverending fight against terrorism two farm belt Congressmen want national ID cards -- for cows. Reps. Leonard Boswell (D-IA) and Tom Osborne (R-NE) want $50 million for an animal ID program. The Ag Department is already spending $11.6 million this year, and $33 million next year to track cattle. (Lincoln Journal Star)

Guess What's Costing You $500 or so a Year

Record oil prices. Big Yawn. Until you do the math. The rising prices are nickeling and diming you. Say you drive an SUV averaging 15 mpg and drive it 15,000 miles a year. If gasoline goes from $1.50 a gallon to $2.00 a gallon, that's $500 a year out of your pocket. And we haven't even gotten to your electric or gas bills. (MSN)

Friday, August 20, 2004

FactCheck.org - Annenberg Political Fact Check

It Wouldn't be on TV if It Weren't True. Check out FactCheck.org to check the accuracy of Campaign ads. I've added this page to my Link Section on the right hand column.

Washington's Losing Your Overtime Pay & Your Tax Dollars -- But Keeping Track of You

Longer Hours, Less Pay. The President and Congress are on vacation, just in time for overtime pay to disappear for lots of Americans. Somewhere between 100,000 and 6 million people will see their overtime pay start to disappear on Monday. The wide number comes from which side you believe. The President’s people say the lower number. Unions say the bigger number. The Bush administration says it’ll actually mean overtime for 1.3 million more workers. But corporations who want to pay less overtime are the plan’s biggest backers. You do the math. (FOX News)

Hey, They Couldn’t find Any WMDs Either. So are you surprised that Uncle Sam can't find $8.8 billion (with a “B”) of taxpayer money he spent in Iraq? An audit shows that cash from USAID disappeared like wind in the desert after bureaucrats turned it over to some Iraqi ministries. (FOX News)

Big Brother’s Corporate Little Brothers. Companies, associations, and other groups are providing a lot of information about you to Uncle Sam. It’s the rise of what some call the “surveillance-industrial complex.” (MSNBC)

Making the List. A clerical error is blamed for Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) winding up on an airline ‘no-fly’ list. The lists are supposed to screen people who pose a terrorist threat. Kennedy had to make three phone calls to Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge to get the matter cleared up – something a Senator can do, but you and I couldn’t if we wind up on the list, and lot of innocent people are. And how secure is the Homeland, really, if they make Ted Kennedy drive instead of fly? (Miami-Herald)

Ma Bell has Already Won. Detroit’s FBI office has been without a working terrorism tip line for three years. The toll free number is listed, but just doesn’t work. (WashTimes)

Fueling Failure. Oil prices could hover around the $50 a barrel mark for months. That could grease the slippery slope into a worldwide recession. It’s already blamed in part for the sluggish recovery here. (WashPost)

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines. Yellowstone National Park. The name symbolizes America’s natural treasures. A place to get away from civilization. Now, the National Park Service proposes to allow 750 snowmobiles per day in Yellowstone National Park. Just what everyone enjoying nature needs – the sounds of racing motors. Makes you think of rush hour. No word yet on whether Congress and the White House will allow 750 boom boxes blaring rap music per day into their halls. Seems only fair. (NYT)

Think SUVs are Safe? Drive or ride in an SUV and get into a wreck – you're 11% more likely to be injured or die than if you had been riding in a passenger car. This is the largest safety gap yet between cars and “short buses.” (NYT)

The Bureaucrats have Already Won. A 61-year-old city worker in Florida was fired for moving his mother out of Hurricane Charley’s path. James Gesicki was just a year away from retiring. But he decided it was important to get his 81-year-old mother out of a mandatory evacuation zone. That was no excuse for his bosses who handed him a pink slip. (St Petersburg Times)

POLITICS – All We Have to Fear is the Next 74 Days

Holy Crap! President Bush’s religion advisor has resigned amid accusations he sexually assaulted a student when he taught at Fordham University. Deal W. Hudson, the advisor, blamed a “liberal” newspaper on his way out the door. Dang liberal media – always reporting on professors molesting students. (WashPost)

Hosest, Officer, The Only Thing I was Soliciting Were Votes. That same liberal media is reporting how a legal advisor to Senator John Kerry’s campaign was arrested for soliciting a hooker in Detroit. (Detroit Free Press)

Flying Under False Colors. What spurred the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to launch their attacks on Senator John Kerry’s Presidential bid? The New York Times traces the timeline and looks at the alliance between Republicans, big money, and veterans angry over Kerry’s Vietnam War protests. (NYT)

Kerry's Broadside. John Kerry’s returning fire on the Swifties. He has a new ad out in the battleground states. This ad is from the sailor who credits Kerry with saving his life. (MSNBC)

Closing the Barn Door After the Horse Got Out -- and Ran Down the Hill-- and Across the River and Died of Old Age. The FEC has moved to curb the huge political slush funds paying for much of the caustic campaign ads out there. Problem is, the rules don’t take effect until January 1. So you won’t miss any of the action on your TV screen before the election! (WashPost)

Trading Money for Power in Congress. Even rich members of Congress are limited in how much campaign donations they can make. But the FEC now lets them skirt the law – giving unlimited amounts to groups that raise money on the side. This lets wealthy Congressmen create slush funds for other candidates – who will elect their benefactors to key leadership posts in Congress. (NYT)

Online Campaign Spending. Campaign spending on the Internet is growing faster than on any other medium. Politicians have spent more than $25 million this year, a more than 800% increase over the last election. (InternetWeek.com)

The Real Race is Between Windows and Mac. The tech industry is hedging its bets in the Presidential horserace, giving almost the same amount to George W. Bush and John Kerry. (InfoWorld.com)

Flip Flop. Senator Zell Miller (D-GA) will deliver the keynote address at the REPUBLICAN National Convention in New York. Déjà vu alert! Miller attended the 1992 DEMOCRATIC National Convention in New York as a Bill Clinton supporter. (NYT)

To Be Opened on the 100th Anniversary of Ken Starr's Passing. Marking his 58th birthday, President Bill Clinton buried some mementoes in a time capsule at his Presidential Library in Little Rock. That should keep ‘em safe from subpoenas. (USA Today)

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Fraud, Health Insurance, and Imported Prescription Drugs -- Tough Pills to Swallow Today

Makes You Sick Enough to Need Medicaid. The General Accountability Office reports widespread fraud in the Medicaid system—and that Washington isn’t doing enough to stop it. Uncle Sam spends $300 billion of your tax dollars every year to pay for Medicaid. Some of the abuses the GAO found include:
  • 15 labs billing Medicaid for tests doctors never ordered
  • An eyeglass store billing falsely billing Medicaid for more than 59,000 pairs of eyeglasses in six years

The GAO report says the fraud is widespread, but Washington only recovers about $1 billion a year in Medicaid fraud. By comparison, Washington recovered $43 billion in Medicare fraud in 2001.

Health Insurance Costs Injuring Job Prospects. Rising health insurance costs are blamed for much of the sluggish job growth. Employers spend $3,000 per employee on average for health care. Health insurance costs are rising at an annually adjusted rate of 8.1% this year. That cost is being driven by rising health care costs, such as expensive new drugs and their expensive new advertising campaigns. (NYT)

Flip Flop? President Bush, a long time opponent of importing cheap prescription drugs into the US, sounds as if he’s changing his stand. “If it’s safe, it makes sense,” the President now says. Could he have seen this week’s poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation (3rd Item) showing that 80% of seniors like the idea of buying cheaper drugs from other countries. (CNN)

POLITICS -- All We Have to Fear is the Next 75 Days

Intelligence Test. President Bush and Senator John Kerry are fussin’ over intelligence briefings. Candidates usually get an update on top-secret stuff after their convention. The Bush people say there’s a problem with logistics. The Kerry people say the White House is dragging its feet to hurt Kerry’s campaign. (WashPost)

Video: Meanwhile, President Bush has launched a new campaign ad in the battleground states questioning Kerry’s intel credentials. (Bush/Cheney '04)

Iraq and Vietnam – A Similarity. For the first time since the Vietnam War, foreign affairs may play a bigger roll than economics in voters’ decisions at the polls. That’s the bottom line from a new Pew Center Poll. (WashPost)

A Veteran for Truth Caught in a Lie? Larry Thurlow is part of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth – that crew of anti-Kerry veterans. But it seems he may not have been too truthful. Thurlow claims Kerry was never under fire in an incident where Kerry won the Bronze Star. Thurlow was in another swift boat during the same incident and also won a Bronze Star. Thurlow’s service records just came to light. They show the same thing Kerry’s show – that both men were under fire at the time. May just blow his claim out of the water. (WashPost)

The New Kingmakers. “527” committees – like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and MoveOn.org -- have inherited a lot of political power in the wake of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act. They may be more influential than corporations and unions in some ways. (MSNBC)

Al-Jazeera’s Banner Year. Arab television news network Al-Jazeera will have it’s banner prominently displayed at the Republican National Convention. Democrats asked the network to take their banner down at their convention. (USA Today)

Richard Nixon is Spinning in his Grave. A seeming staple of politics, dirty tricks are now punishable with jail time. It’s rare that any campaign crime results in punishing politicians – after all, they write the laws. (FOX News)

Shirting the Issue. College prof John Prather (2nd Item) conducted a little experiment on politicians – the closest known subjects to lab rats. Seeking to find which candidate was more likely to stifle dissent, he wore a "Kerry-Edwards" shirt to a Bush campaign stop, then a "Bush-Cheney" shirt to a Kerry campaign stop. The Kerry folks welcomed him in. The Bush people made him give them the shirt off his back – then kicked him out. (WashPost)

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Turning the Investigation Around

Policing the Cops. Lawmakers are calling for an investigation of the investigators. They're upset about reports I mentioned earlier this week that FBI guys were questioning protestors from past events about their plans for the Republican National Convention. (NYT)

Play Nice and We'll Comp You. New York is offering perks -- like Broadway tickets -- to protestors who promise to be nice during the RNC. Protestors have to stay somewhere, eat somewhere, and so on. Cities learned a long time ago that protestors can mean as much business for city businesses as the conventioneers. (USA Today)

About Face. The Army first said it would not pay Halliburton for overcharging to the military for feeding soldiers. Then Tuesday, the Army announced it'd withhold 15% of payments to Halliburton. After that made headlines, the Army retreated, now saying it'll pay the full amount until the billing dispute is worked out. Halliburton has made $4.3 billion through its logistics contract in Iraq. (NYT)

Hey, FDA! Take Take a Chill Pill. Illinois has become the first state to help people buy prescription drugs from outside the US. America has the most expensive prescription drug prices in the world. The FDA opposes importing drugs that were made here then exported to other countries. They say they can't vouch for their safety. Mind you, the pills are made int the USA under FDA approval. Then they're shipped overseas. So either the FDA is saying you can't trust them to guarantee the quality of drugs the US exports. And since they all come off the same assembly lines, perhaps the FDA really means you can't trust them to guarantee the quality of all drugs made here. (WashPost)

If We Don't, the Lobbyists Will Have Already Won. The 9/11 Commission wants hard deadlines to force reforms into place. Three years after 9/11, they report some procedures are no different than on September 10, 2001. Special interests have been delaying some reforms. It'd cost close to $1 billion to patch holes in airline security. Lobbyists are surely aghast that a Washington Commission is suddenly more worried about Americans' safety than special interests' profits. (WashPost)

Talk About Your Information Superhighway. Starting in November, trucks crossing US borders must have an electronic manifest e-mailed to the border checkpoint at least 30 minutes before they get there. Let's see, 18-wheelers, tight schedules, and e-mail. And you thought talking on cell phones while driving was a problem. (USA Today)

Ronald Reagan Must Be Spinning in his Grave. The Great Communicator was also a great negotiator. He talked down Soviet arms build-ups, but he did it from a position of strength. Now, as the US negotiates with North Korea to get rid of its WMDs, President Bush has decided to cut troop strength in South Korea by a third. It's part of his redeployment plan. That's not a trade with North Korea. We get nothing for it, except a weaker position at the bargaining table. (WashPost --Opinion)

Charter Schools Flunk. The Bush administration heralded them as the fix for failing public schools. Private companies, groups, or governments outside the school system would run charter schools. But in the first report of test scores, charter schools lagged behind public schools. Surprisingly [sarcasm mode enabled], the results were buried in an Education Department report and released without comment. (NYT)

SAIEWDNBIFSWHTUTAAWTTTSTCOTFW. The Washington Post explains that acronym as they celebrate the return of Bushisms. As our President would say -- or actually did say in Oregon, "I hope you leave here and walk out and say, 'What did he say?' " (WashPost)

POLITICS -- All we Have to Fear is the Next 76 Days

A Healthy Debate. The latest Democratic Party ad hits President Bush on health care. A woman in the commercial says, "I've never even heard him talk about it." (AP)

Returning Fire. Left-leaning 527 committee MoveOn.org is returning fire over the anti-Kerry ad run by swift boat veterans. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth accuse Kerry of lying about his Vietnam War record. MoveOn.org is launching ads in the same markets asking President Bush to condemn the ad, while they condemn the President with lines like:

"George Bush used his father to get into the National Guard, and when the chips were down, went missing."

President Bush and his campaign have called on both campaigns to jointly denounce ads from 527 committees -- which heavily favor Kerry. But neither the President nor his campaign has denounced this particular ad. (WashPost)

Meanwhile, Off the Port Bow... John Kerry is condemning the MoveOn ad. (AP)

Blue States, Blue Blood. English researchers have found that the Presidential candidate with the most royal ancestors has always won the race in the States -- or colonies as they might say. So they're predicting a Kerry win since he has more royal genes that President Bush's family history.

Getting Their Priorities Straight. War, unemployment, health care, and these guys are fussin' over yard signs. This is real life with Congressional candidates. (KTRK)

Move Along, Nothing to See Here. The Bill Clinton Presidential Library opens in November in Little Rock. The city of Little Rock wants homeless people who happen to live near the library sent to shelters or out of town by November. Coincidence? (AP)

Boycotting the Boss. Bruce Springsteen has jumped on the anti-Bush bandwagon by joining the "Vote for Change" tour. So, New York Conservative Party candidate Marilyn O'Grady is striking back. She's running for US Senate, but running ads against Bruce Springsteen, asking people to boycott his music. This has immediately casued tens of millions of Springsteen fans to rush out into the streets asking, "Marilyn who?"

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Rich Get Richer

And the Rest of Us Pay for It. Numbers from the US Census Bureau show the gap between rich and poor is widening. Today, the richest 20% take in 50% of incomes. Everyone else’s share fell. The bottom 20% only account for 3.5% of incomes. Back in February, Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele reported in TIME that the 400 richest Americans account for $29 million in combined annual income. They said it took 504,600 retail clerks at Wal-Mart to equal the 400 richest Americans’ incomes. Last week, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the tax burden had shifted from the rich to the middle class – folks who make around $57,000 a year. (MSNBC)

Terrorizing the Economy. A survey by the National Association for Business Economics finds economists rank the threat of terrorism as the biggest threat to the economy. It tops deficits and slow job growth as the top short term threat. (MSNBC)

October Surprise. Sources in Pakistan involved in the sudden rash of surprising terrorist arrests since the Democratic National Convention says the Bush Administration is stepping up pressure on Pakistan to catch some big name terrorists before the Presidential election. (LAT)

Sounding the All Clear. Saudi Arabia--home to 14 of the 19 hijackers in the 9/11 attacks—is touting the 9/11 Commission Report as clearing them of being lax on terrorists. The Kingdom is running ads in 19 US cities talking about what wonderful allies they are of the US. (FOX News)

Monday, August 16, 2004

Day Care and Going Away Parties at Your Expense

You Gotta be Kiddin’. An audit shows Uncle Sam’s overpaying for a lot of government day care centers. There’s one case where it cost taxpayers $35,000 a year to take care of one government worker’s kid. (WashPost)

Turn out the Lights, the Party’s Over. The Tennessee Valley Authority – the federal dam project that pumped light into the rural southeast during the Depression is having to cut back. A memo went out to cut back on entertainment expenses after a going away party for a government worker wound up costing taxpayers $35,000. (WashPost)

Fool Me Once Shame on You, Fool Me Twice... A company that screwed up a $427 million dollar federal contract has been awarded another one – this time for just $12 million. BearingPoint, which set up a computer system so disasterous for the VA it resulted in five resignations and a Congressional investigation, has landed the bid to build a biometric ID card for theTransportation Security Administration. (WashPost)

Superfund Shortfall. Washington could run $250 million short on money needed for cleaning up the worst pollution sites. (NYT)

The Cold War is Officially Over – We’re Bringing the Troops Home. President Bush is set to outline how the US will redeploy as many as 100,000 troops from Europe and Asia. Some will come home. Others will back up the strained forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. (CNN)

The Cost of War. Reservists and National Guardsmen are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan to find their civilian jobs were eliminated, they’ve been passed over for promotion, and their benefits cut. (AP)

Terrorism’s Hard Drive. Since the Bush administration outed Muhammed Neem Noor Khan--the al Qaeda operative turned spy for our side—we’re finding out a lot of scary stuff terrorists planned. But we still don’t know if any of the plans on his computer were active or abandoned. (MSNBC)

Putting a Price on 9/11. Insurance Services Office Inc. of Jersey City, N.J. ranks the 9/11 attacks as the most expensive catastrophe to hit the US at $20.7 billion.

What’s that Sound, Science? President Bush promised to base his science policy on what he called "sound science." For the first time ever, a broad spectrum of scientists have criticized a President’s science policy. And they’re criticizing it in big numbers – more than 4,000, including 48 Nobel winners have signed a statement critical of President Bush’s science policy.

The Scoop on the Dog Poop. Dog poop turned up in a Connecticut Capitol Committee room. State Capitols are more used to piles of BS than doggie-doo. So the search was on to find a culprit. A Democratic legislator blamed the seeing-eye dog of a Republican colleague’s staffer. But it turns out it was the Democrat’s pet pup -- an appropriate breed, too -- a Shih Tzu.