Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Arts of Politics

October 5 sees the release of Fahrenheit 9/11 on DVD, along with another anti-Bush documentary, TWO Michael Moore books, a politically charged R.E.M. CD, and Ann Coulter's latest book. (NYT)

Franken Bowls Over O'Reilly

The rivalry between Al Franken and Bill O'Reilly may leave no pins standing. Franken has challenged O'Reilly to a bowling match. There is no love lost between the two who tangled over Franken's recent book -- Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. It featured a "splotchy" photo of O'Reilly on the cover and made fun of FOX's "fair and balanced" slogan. It might be more fun to watch these two hurl bowling balls at each other than down the alley. (The Ledger)

A Woman's Place is in the House -- And the Senate

There are eleven races for Congress featuring women running against women. (Miami Herald)

Don't Let the Facts get in the Way of a Good Attack Ad

An ad from the Kerry camp claims that all those no-bid contracts Halliburton landed puts money in VP Dick Cheney's pocket. Cheney was the Halliburton Head Honcho once, but he's not profiting from the contracts. (

That's All, Oh, Yeah, Here's Another One

Seven months after saying all of President Bush's Air National Guard records had been released, the White House has released another of his records -- his letter of resignation. It is a handwritten letter by the then Lt George W. Bush saying he had to resign his commission because of "inadequate time." He also mispells the word "fulfil." Good to know it's not just the spoken words that trip him up. (Reuters)

Stealth Spending

Half of the Pentagon's money spent on contracts now buy services -- not weapons. The idea is to free men and women to fight while private contractors handle things like feeding troops and doing their laundry. But that means it's harder for Congress -- or you for that matter -- to find out how your tax dollars are actually being spent. (NPR)

NRA Dogging Kerry

Playing off the line "That dog don't hunt," the NRA is running ads portraying Senator John Kerry as a poodle. (

The Prices Will Make You Hot Under the Collar -- Maybe That'll Help

It'll cost more to heat your house this winter. Natural gas prices hovered around $5 through the summer. They jumped 62 cents on Wednesday. Guess you could drive south. Oh, wait! Gasoline's hovering around $2 a gallon. (SF Gate)

Scaring up Some Verbal Gaffes

Mabye it's a little poetic justice for the electorate. After a campaign where both Presidential candidates have run ads and given speeches playing on voters' fears of terrorism and war, it's the candidates' time to be scared. The first debate is tonight, and they have to worry about verbal gaffes. Yes, be afraid Senator "I-voted-for-the-bill-before-I-voted-against-it" Kerry. Be very afraid President "don't-misunderestimate-nucular-strategery-while-putting-food-on-your-family" Bush. Be very afraid!

Who's Side are You On?

Political affiliation has little to do with which side you're on this year. Republican President Eisenhower's son -- John Eisenhower -- is backing Democrat John Kerry. Senator Zell Miller (D-GA) delivered the keynote address at the Republican National Convention, President Reagan's son -- Ron Reagan -- addressed the Democratic National Convention, and Senator Lincoln Chaffee (R-RI) has announced he'll not vote for President Bush. (CBS)

Today in Congress

Here's what's up in Congress today. With Congress spending money and jockeying for political points going into the election -- you might want to drop your representatives a line or two. Use the links at the right to write your hired hands on the Hill. (WashPost)

Jumping the Gun

In a purely political move, the House voted to erase all of Washington DC's gun bans (except those applying to Congress and other federal institutions). The bill would allow DC residents to own handguns, assault weapons, and keep loaded and ready weapons in their homes. Purely political? That's because the bill will never become a law. The Senate has no similar legislation and does not plan to act on any. So the House bill is dead. But it allows those who voted for it to have the NRA run TV ads for their re-election campaigns. (WashPost)

Name Dropping

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) was stopped from boarding an Alaskan Airlines flight because he was mistaken for a terrorist. We'll we are on high alert this time of year for what Congress is doing with our money -- but Don Young turned out not to be the Don Lee Young on the watchlist. The Congressman was allowed to go on his way.
Earlier this year, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) wound up on the watch list. (WashPost)

Paying for Borrowed Time

With the election only weeks away, Congress is growing more and more afraid of tackling hot button issues -- like how to spend your money. They're putting most of that off until after the election -- so if you get mad, it's too late to vote them out. Instead, Congress has passed a resolution to keep the government running until November 20th -- buying them time with your money to come back and finish their work. (WashPost)

Congress' Political Courage

Congress -- which this week had the House vote on making the oak tree our national tree -- is leaving more thorny issues until after the election. Your hired hands on the Hill are backing down on votes over overtime and imported prescriptions -- and a lot of other issues that really affect you. (Philladelphia Inquirer)

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Getting Their Priorities Straight

Winning the Iraq War can wait. Put the 9/11 Commission's reccomendations on hold. Spending and transportation bills are tabled until after the election. We have pressing national business. The House of Representatives has voted to make the oak tree our national tree. God Bless the House. They provide comic relief for the Senate. (CNN)

Fake IDs

A new report from the General Accountability Office shows that illegal aliens may be using diplomatic IDs issued by foreign governments to get into the country. The report shows millions of the IDs have been produced in recent years. (News Release)

Willie Horton Redux

I told you earlier this week about a new TV ad opposing John Kerry that used images of Osama bin Laden and other terroristism images. suggests it the "Willie Horton" ad of this campaign. They also say it seriously twists Senator Kerry's record on defense, intelligence, and Iraq to play on voters' fear. (

The Rules of Engagement

Wanna see what the debate rules are before you see the debates starting tomorrow night?

They include:

Candidates are expressly forbidden from using risers that will make them look taller.

The TV camera shots will be locked down.

There will be no "cutaway" shots of the other candidate while one candidate is talking. So you won't see "reaction" shots of the other guy rolling his eyes or whatever.

Each candidate will have his own make-up person.

Each candidate may have Secret Service folks and one staff member in the stage wings.

The President and Veep both get to have a physician and military advisor in the wings.

(Al's Morning Meeting)

Calling Off the COPS

After 10 years, 118,000 new police officers on the streets, and millions of additional criminal arrests, COPS is coming to an end. COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) was a program that spent federal dollars to help local police departments add cops to do police work instead of paperwork. It was a pet project of President Clinton, but the Bush administration has made steep cutbacks in the program. It just handed out its last series of grants. (WashPost)

Pork Barrel Politics? The Zell You Say!

Republicans in Congress are paying Senator Zell Miller (D-GA) in pork for his verbal attack on Senator John Kerry during the Republican National Convention.

They're making sure all of Miller's pet projects get all of your tax money they need.

These include several energy and water projects in Georgia, work on the Savannah and Brunswick harbors, cleaning up the Savannah River, university and science programs traditionally provided through the Department of Energy. (The Hill)

The Politics of Fear

Hudson, Massachusetts has fewer than 19,000 people in town. But some of the citizes are convinced they'll be a terrorist target on election day. They're demanding that voting machines be moved out of schools to protect the children. WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN!?!

Riding the Whiskey Trail

Forget about where George Washington slept. Lift a glass where he drank or made whiskey. (AP)

Classless Ad of the Year Contender

An over the top ad running in Colorado has an actress playing one of the candidates dashing onto a battlefield to steal wallets and watches from soldiers. The gist is that she voted against funding them. You can see the ad here. It's so over the top, some political scientist types claim it may backfire. (Rocky Mountain News)

Cutting Edge Defense -- For 1983

Washington flicks the switch to protect us from missile attack later this year. The first set of missile interceptors to form a missile defense system is set to go online. But top brass at the Pentagon have big doubts about it.

It's cost you $100 million dollars, has never been tested under realistic conditions, and cannot stop a terrorist attack.

But it will defend us against the Soviet Union -- if they were still around.

Like most of the Pentagon's most expensive weapon systems, it was designed to fight "the last war," not the next one.

The Bush administration says it's needed now to defend against a missile launch from North Korea. But we've got a defense against North Korea lobbing one of it's 10 or fewer nukes at the US -- the 10,000 or so nukes deliverable on a half-hours notice in the US arsenal.(WashPost)

All We Have to Fear...9/29

In the latest case of the politics of fear, Senator John Kerry's campaign is embracing a Bush camp strategy -- playing on people's fear. Stoking the fires by saying President Bush makes the country more vunerable for a nuclear attack. The Bush camp has already said electing Senator Kerry will lead to a terrorist attack.

It's easier to have people embrace fear. You nudge them, and they let the momentum of fear move them along. Then you sell yourself -- the politician -- as their hero.

It's a long hard haul for a politician to lead people away from fear. You have to instill courage and confidence in people by drawing out the better part of their being -- like the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 found within themselves on 9/11.

What's worse for the politician is that the individual sees his own strengths in the aftermath of fear. He doesn't see the politician as his "hero."

Perhaps that's why President Bush has never honored the passengers and crew of Flight 93 with the Medal of Freedom -- America's highest civilian honor. Perhaps honoring individuals who overcame their fear would make the President and other politicians look smaller to voters. And make voters realize they, not the people they vote for, have the real power in our country.

"All we have to fear is fear itself." FDR must be spinning in his grave.

Look Busy Until the Election's Over

A report, eagerly awaited by the oil industry, is on hold -- because of politics. The report on ways to boost oil refinery output in the US could be a flashpoint over environmental protection in the Presidential campaign. A source tells Reuters the Bush administration doesn't want that -- so they're holding up the report until after the election. The administration says its simply a scheduling problem. Seems every moment of Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham's schedule is booked solid through the election and there's no one else at the 700,000 person Energy Department who can accept the National Petroleum Council report for him. (Reuters)

Who Are We Fighting in Iraq

The Bush administration is at odds with the nation's top military commanders about who is behind the attacks and insurgency in Iraq. The President claims in campaign appearances that the US is fighting terrorists there, so we don't have to fight them here. But top generals -- including the Joint Chiefs Chairman -- say foreign fighters number 1,000 or fewer. The brass believes the majority of the fighting is led by Iraqis themselves -- either former Saddam loyalists or others wanting a new government in their group's image. If there are fewer than 1,000 terrorists in Iraq, that leaves at least 9,000 al Qaeda operatives somewhere other than where our military is fighting. (NPR)

A Mother's Voice

Military families who've lost relatives in the Iraq War are the latest group running political ads. target the President and are critical of his policies in Iraq. In one ad, a mother cries as she talks about her 24-year-old son who was killed in action on April 4. (Reuters)

We'll Ship You Overseas to Fight for Us, But Your Vote Won't Count

Millions of Americans living overseas face a complex system to get their absentee ballots counted this fall. Election officials in at least 8 of the 15 battleground states didn't mail out overseas absentee ballots by September 19. That's a cutoff date those same election officals say is necessary to guarantee the ballots are returned in time to be counted. (NYT)

Your Tax Dollars Jammed in the Pipeline

Congress shelled out $8.4 billion of your tax money to help rebuild Iraq. But hardly any of it has wound up there doing that job. The high cost of security is part of the problem. (NPR)

Taxing the Truth

President Bush claims Senator Kerry's tax plans would hurt millions of small businesses. But an analysis by the Los Angeles Times shows those plans would affect far fewer small businesses -- less than 1 in 25. But the President may be right when he says that would be enough to slow job growth. The Bush tax plan, on the other hand benefits people like Lynne Cheney -- the Vice President's wife. She makes more than a million dollars a year as a "consultant." That qualifies her as a "small business" under the President's definition -- and gives her tax breaks meant to create jobs. However, she and her business don't create any jobs. (LAT)

Closer Than You Think

President Bush and Senator Kerry are focused on making the other look like a loser in the Global War on Terror. But their individual platforms and records on fighting terror have more in common than contrast. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Billing the Candidates

Cleveland's billing President Bush and Senator Kerry $270,000 for security and other expenses the town ran up for nine campaign stops in six months. Cities across the battleground states are tired of running up a bill for the politicking. (USAToday)

Guilt by Association

Continued high oil prices may hurt President Bush at the polls. It could remind voters the economy isn't in such great shape afterall. But Senator John Kerry may hurt other Democrats' chances. Republicans are linking Dems to their ticket topper. (AP)

Speaking from the Heart -- Surgery

President Clinton has confirmed his first post-surgery speech -- a week too late to help Senator John Kerry's campaign. It'll be November 9, in, appropriately, Clinton (New York, not Arkansas). (CNN)

Watch Conan for Extra Credit

Late night study sessions were always popular in college. Seems some late night cramming has people better informed about political science. People who watch Leno, Letterman, and Jon Stewart test better than non-late night TV watchers on Presidential politics. We >"stoned slackers"strong> who tune to The Daily Show do best. (CNN)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

67% of the Reason Why I Don't Report on Polls

If you've been following them, political poll results seem to be all over the place this year. Depending on which one you see, a candidate can be ahead by 10 points or behind by 5. Pollsters rely on random telephone calls to find their subjects. Pollsters blame a fluctuating undecided electorate. But it could be the way pollsters operate. (Reuters)

Negative News for the Native Son

President Bush has lost the endorsement of the weekly Lone Star Iconoclast. May not sound like much. But it is his hometown newspaper in Crawford, Texas. (Reuters)

All We Have to Fear...Is Going to the Polls

The Bush administration is warning states to be alert for attacks on polling places. In a backhanded way, that tends to frighten people away from polling places. Never fear! You can still vote absentee. At least 29 states will allow you to do so without any reason. (NPR -- Audio)

Bending the Truth by Warping Time

Analysis of the latest Bush campaign ad uses a time warp. It claims that Senator John Kerry pushed for $6 billion in cuts to intelligence spending after the 9/11 attacks. Thing is, to reach that number, the Bush camp went back to 1994 and included cuts Senator Kerry proposed 7 years before 9/11 as part of the build down after the Cold War ended. (AP)

Getting it Right

The US television networks don't want a repeat of 2000. They went back and forth calling the election for Al Gore, George W. Bush, then neither. They're working on a system to prevent a repeat of the electronic version of "Dewey Beats Truman" this election night. (AFP)

Limiting Choices on Health Care

The General Accountability Office says the Bush administration broke the law with a Medicare trial program. The program allowed private insurers to limit choices by patients in a managed health care trial. (Guardian)

When the Great Communicator Didn't Mince Words

A series of 41 letters from President Reagan to fellow actor turned politician George Murphy show a hard edge to the Great Communicator. He offered help in "deep sixing" Senator Teddy Kennedy and accuses the nation's newspapers of delivering "daily poinson." (USAToday)

Not Worth the Paper They're Printed On

With just six days to register to vote in the battleground state of Ohio, the Secretary of State there is prepared to throw out hundreds -- if not thousands -- of voter registrations because the paper they're printed on is too heavy. I told you yesterday that Democrats were mounting massive voter registration drives in Ohio, signing up tens of thousands of new voters. The drives are in mainly Democratic parts of the state. And Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's party affiliation? Republican. That's a shocker. (The DailyKos)

Kiss & Tell

Republican Illinois Senate candidate Alan Keyes recently called Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter a "selfish hedonist" because she's a lesbian. Now it appears his own daughter Maya may have some lesbian leanings. Blame it on the blogosphere. (NY Daily News)

Oh, Really, O'Reilly

Comedy Central was miffed when FOX News' Bill O'Reilly called The Daily Show's audience a bunch of "stoned slackers." It may have been in jest, Mr. O'Reilly is no Jon Stewart when it comes to comedy. But now the research is in. Turns out, viewers of The Daily Show are more educated than The O'Reilly Factor's audience. (Boston Globe)

Bound to be Gagged

Now that Senator Lincoln Chaffee (R-RI) has broken ranks and publicly said he will not vote for President Bush this year, the administration has told him to invest in duct tape. (The Hill)

Distrust "Ads" Up

President Bush and Senator Kerry have spent $300 million on campaign ads this year. But it may be making voters have more distrust of politics than any eagerness to take part in the process. (USAToday)

Doctors Should Seek a Second Opinion

Washington's been giving the wrong diagnosis to doctors seeking help. Docs can call Medicare when they have a question about billing. But they hardly ever get the right answer. In fact, the General Accountablility Office found that Medicare gives the right answer only 4% of the time. That leads doctors to make honest mistakes 96% of the time -- and opens them to prosecution under the False Claims Act . And nearly two-thirds of all money recovered under the Act comes from the Health Sector. (American Medical News)

Twisting Words Until they Flip, and Flop

A new ad from the Bush/Cheney campaign tries to paint John Kerry as a flip-flopper over the Iraq War. But says the selective use of Senator Kerry's words on Iraq changes the overall meaning. (

Come Back Shane

Guess who gets priority to use the land you own out west. Oil and gas companies get first crack at public lands -- and that's changing the landscape of taxpayer owned land. (WashPost)

Give This a Listen

It's been more than three years since the 9/11 attacks. The FBI still has 120,000 hours of tapes to translate that could provide important info on terrorists and their plans. What's worse, a Justice Department investigation suggests the delay may have led the FBI to simply erase some of the taped conversations between al Qaeda operatives. (WashPost)


Pros are jumping into the political blogosphere. With just 35 days to go, political science profs have launched "PolySigh," a professorial blog. Haven't read much of it -- but LOVE the format and layout! Something familiar about it. (PolySigh)

Pollsters on Hold in Florida

Four hurricanes in a matter of weeks has left Florida a huge political question mark to pollsters. They rely on telephone calls to gauge voters' leanings. But folks have been away from the phone -- in storm shelters for a month and a half. That has pollsters worried that they don't have a clear picture of how voters are really leaning in Florida. (Toronto Star)

Rock Beats Scissors, Paper Beats Electronic Gadgetey Things

Apparently fearful of an election coup by "Skynet," Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) has signed a bill requiring a paper trail on all electronic voting systems. (SF Chronicle)

Oh, Now They're Worried

With just 35 days until the election, federal lawmakers are worried about new electronic voting machines. One-third of voters will use them, and few leave verifiable paper trails -- meaning you can't recount their votes. Congressmen are too late to do anything about it this year -- but say something could be done by the 2006 elections. Just like something could have been done by the 2002 elections or the 2004 elections. I'll update you on their progress, 35 days before the next election. (The Ledger)

Targeting Terrorist Tactics

If terrorists try an attack before the election, don't expect it to necessarily target one of the candidates. Counterterrorism experts say terrorists are more likely to want a general disruption of the elections rather than an assassination attempt. (Seattle PI)

Political Science

The latest 527 group to emerge includes 10 Nobel Prize winners. "Scientists for Change" will give lectures critical of the Bush administration in 10 contested states. They claim the Bush administration has misused and ignored science. Unlike the more famous 527s like and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the scientists will get by on a paltry $100,000 budget. You'd think they could raise more money. After all, fundraising ain't rocket science. (NYT)

Parroting the President

Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi delivered a familiar sounding speech to Congress last week. It sounded strangely similar to something the Bush administration would have said. Look at some of the similarities between the Iraqi and Yankee talking points the Washington Post's Dana Milbank noticed:

"The world is better off without Saddam Hussein." -- Allawi

"The world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power." -- Bush

Iraqi forces "are striking their enemies wherever they hide." -- Allawi

"We're fighting these enemies wherever they hide." -- Bush

There are tons more similarities. Now the search is on for the ghostwriter. (WashPost)

Today in Congress

Here's what your hired hands in Congress are up to today. Use the links in the right hand column to write them with your opinions and ideas. (WashPost)

Hurricanes Blowing the Budget

President Bush wants another $7.1 billion in aid for Florida. Add that onto the $2 billion Congress already approved, and the $3.1 billion they're considering -- and the hurricane season will end up costing federal taxpayers $12.2 billion. (CNEWS)

Monday, September 27, 2004

Hey, They Both Screw You then Take Your Money

What's the difference between a lawyer and a whore? One profession has been despised by the good people of hundreds of civilizations for centuries. The other sleeps with you for money. A Stanford Law School grad had a ton of student loans. So, investigators claim, Cristina Schultz began "hooking" on the side. Once she was caught, the feds demanded she turn over $61,000 in siezed cash to repay the loans. She reportedly charged $1,300 an hour for her, um, non-legal services. But as a lawyer, her clients should check if she worked all those hours. (Oakland Tribune)

The News in Black and White -- Or Red and Blue -- Forget About the Old Grey Lady

Break out your tin foil hats, there's a liberal media conspiracy afoot. A study shows most news organizations had favorable coverage of Senator John Kerry more than of President Bush. Except for FOX News -- which almost single handedly made the overall picture seem fair and balanced with hardly any favorable stories on Senator Kerry. (WashPost)

Squeezing Out the Made in American Label

The Office of Disability Employment Policy at the Department of Labor hands out grants to increase job opportunities for people with disabilities. ODEP has spent $61 million dollars over the years to help create jobs for the disabled. Recently, they spent $2,000 to buy stress relieving balls to hand out for PR. But they didn't buy them from a company that hires Americans with disabilities. The balls were made in China. Makes you kinda need one of them little stress balls about now, huh? (WashPost)

Suburban Sprawl Leads to Midsection Sprawl

A new study shows that the 'burbs may be bad for your health. They encourage you to be more dependent on a car, leading to less walking for your physical health and less socializing for your mental health. (Reuters)

Putting Profits Before People

Washington has information that could save your life by preventing a car crash. But big companies have sued to keep the info under wraps. After faulty Firestone tires on Ford Explorers led to a series of fatal accidents a few years back, Congress demanded a list of vehicles linked to fatal accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said back in April that it would make the information public. But a lawsuit by a business group representing tiremakers like Bridgestone, Goodyear, and Continental has blocked those plans. (AP)

Red gets Pork, Blue gets Taxed

"Red" States -- those that voted for President Bush in 2000, get the most money back from the federal government. "Blue" states -- those that voted for Al Gore in 2000 -- foot the bill. It's in a study from the Tax Foundation. (Tax Prof Blog)

Abortion out of Context says a GOP website has taken a Kerry quote way out of context. The site claims Kerry wanted more abortions. The actual statement was that abortions should be conducted in medically safer locations. (

Terrorists in Ads

A new ad from a conservative group bankrolled by a pair of President Bush's fundraisers tries the old "guilt by photo association" trick. It blasts Senator Kerry, while showing images of Osama bin Laden, hijacker Mohamed Atta, Russian hostage-takers, the Madrid bombers and the World Trade Center. If they only morphed Senator Kerry's face into Bill Clinton's, it'd be a conservative's porno tape. (WashPost)

Setting the Limits for Terrorist Exposure

How much radiation can you take from a "dirty bomb?" The fine folks in Washington who bring you such guidelines as how much Vitamin A and Zinc you need every day are going to let you know. Uncle Sam is publishing plans for dealing with a radiological attack and letting us know how much radiation we can take. (NYT)

All We Have To Fear...

What if we had feared more than "fear itself" in the 1930s? A new novel by Phillip Roth projects the politics of fear on the election of 1940. The confident, courageous America of history becomes a fear mongering isolationist nation during WWII. Not even published, The Plot Against America is already on the bestseller list. (NYT)

Under the Pollsters Radar?

Massive voter registration drives in two swing states have added tens of thousands of new voters to the rolls this year. The efforts have been in heavily Democratic portions of Ohio and Florida and may skew polling leading up to the election. (NYT)

Debatable Memories

From a glance at a wrist watch to audible sighs, Presidential debates offer some unforgettable moments. A review of some of the most famous. (Reuters)

If at First You Don't Succeed...

President Bush says he'd give that "mission accomplished" speech on the aircraft carrier all over again. At the time, 150 Americans had died in Iraq and the President declared the US had "prevailed in Iraq." Since that May 1, 2003 speech, 900 more Americans have died in Iraq and Secretary of State Colin Powell now says the insurgency is getting worse. (Reuters)

On the Offiensive Against A Pre-Election Attack

The government's launching a highly public anti-terror offensive this week. It's designed to disrupt any pre-election terrorist strike like the one in Spain. The Washington Post reports that the feds are focused on several dates for potential attacks. (Reuters/Washington Post)

Playing on Fear

Fear plays well in courting women's votes. The Bush campaign is using the fear of another terrorist attack to attract a traditional core of Democratic voters to the GOP -- women. (NPR -- Audio)

An Iraq Defense Plan

President Bush's latest ads go on the defensive over Iraq. Senator Kerry has spent more than a week hammering the President's Iraq policies. But the President's new ads ask: "How can John Kerry protect us when he doesn't even know where he stands." (AP)

One Downsmanship

Both President Bush and Senator Kerry are in the "aw-shucks-he's-so-much-better-at-it-than-me" phase of a Presidential campaign. It's the only time when the candidates say something good about their opponents. It is, of course, the week leading up to the first debate. And each candidate says the other is better at debating. The idea is to diminish expectations so that even if you do a lousy job, you look better than you promised. (CNN)

Common Threads

President Bush and Senator Kerry face their first debate Thursday. Thirty some odd years ago, they had the same debate coach. The late Rollin Osterweis was their oratory prof and debate coach back at Yale -- a couple of years apart. (IHT)

Flight Log

From an excellent pilot to a grounded officer who barely scraped together the credits he needed to finish his Air Guard duty -- the Los Angeles Times reexamines the President's timeline in the Texas Air National Guard based on the latest documents the Pentagon's released. It raises more questions than it provides answers. (LAT)

The President's Flip Flops on Russia

Quotes from President Bush as his opinion on Russia and Vladimir Putin have changed over the last four years. (AP)

Flip Flopping on Russia

In 2000, Governor Bush ran with the promise to be tough on Vladimir's Putin's Russia. Then President Bush "looked into the soul" of "Pooty-Poot," as he nicknamed him. Now he's talking up Russia as a victim of terrorism -- a "fellow traveller" if you will. This all makes perfect sense when you look at the political campaign strategy of the Bush camp four years later.(AP)

For Those Who Don't Know Beans About Politics

The President is ahead in another highly unscientific poll -- the sale of beans. Vietti Foods of Nashville is selling two lines of beans named in honor of the Presidential candidates: "Conservative Republican Texas Chili Beans" and "Liberal Democrat Boston Baked Beans" -- with a label declaring "liberally spiced" and "married to a rich ketchup-based sauce." (Seattle PI)

A Presidential Primer

USA Today has a top ten list for Presidential candidates. The toughest jobs running for office include turning "your problem into a plus" and "your opponents' strengths into a problem. (USA Today)

Political Money Going Down a Black Hole

Political 501c groups are running brash ads against President Bush and Senator Kerry. But unlike the more familiar 527 groups (like and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth) they don't have to tell where their money comes from. (WashPost)

Here Comes the Judge

The next President's legacy may be the long term shape of America's court system. The winner in November will likely pick at least one Supreme Court Justice and perhaps hundreds of lower court judges. (Seattle P-I)

Status Quo on Capitol Hill

In a big shift from two months agon the Cook Political Report now says the Republicans look poised to hold majorities in Congress. (USA Today)

Florida -- Just Like Old Times

After the 2000 election fiasco, Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford were asked to head up a commission and come up with ideas to prevent a repeat. In a Washington Post op-ed piece, Jimmy Carter says their reccomendations went unheeded -- and we may have another mess in Florida this year. (WashPost)

Driving up Car Prices

California wants tough new emmission standards for new cars. That could cause other states to follow and the auto industry might simply build all cars to meet those standards. That could add $1,000 to the price of a new car -- whether you live in California or not. (USA Today)

Don't Piss on My Leg and Tell Me it's Raining

Election 2004 is a match between "Judge Judy" and "Cops." The Washington Post looks at the Presidential candidates' ad buying strategies. (WashPost)

Friday, September 24, 2004

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.

Americans workers today work longer hours and have better educations than American workers in the 1970s. But the real wages for those jobs have not risen noticibly -- and in many cases are actually lower. (The Century Foundation)

Praying on Voters' Fears

The Republican Party admits that it sent mass mailings to people in Arkansas and West Virginia claiming "liberals" will ban the Bible if elected in November. (NYT)

Jesse's Staying Home on Election Day

Former Minnesota Governor Jesse "The Body Politic" Ventura says he won't vote for President in November. He calls the choice between Senator John Kerry and President Bush a choice between higher taxes and "waiting for God to cure Alzheimer's." (CBS2, Chicago)

Congress Has Enough Hot Air to Keep These Things Running Forever

While extending tax cuts to the middle class, Congress also spent $1.16 billion on tax incentives for wind power. It'll allow projects generating 2,000 megawatts to go forward. That's enough megawats to power a half million homes. Wind power is the cheapest form of power generation to set up and run. But utilities still claim they need the tax breaks to build the windfarms. (Reuters)

Every Vote Counts

President Bush campaigned for 292 absentee votes in Maine. He held Air Force One on the ground to meet a MD-11 hauling Guardsmen and Reservists overseas. (WashPost)

OK, This Time It'll Work

Senator John Kerry has only lost one election in his entire career. In a brilliant act of strategy, he's surrounding himself with the staffers of THAT campaign.

A Trillion Here, a Trillion There -- It Adds Up

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says President Bush's tax and spending plans would increase the federal deficit by $1 Trillion over the next ten years. In a surprising reaction to the report, Democrats are saying "told you so," and Republicans are crying foul. Another demonstration that the only difference between Congress and Day-care is that one has adult supervision. (Reuters)

GAO: Few U.S. jobs lost to 'offshoring'

"Outsourcing" or "offshoring" is a big political issue, but it has a relatively small affect on the US job market. It involves shipping jobs overseas for cheaper labor. A General Accountability Office study used the Labor Department's Mass Layoff Survey to determine that only 13,000 of the 1.5 million layoffs in the 2003 survey were due to "offshoring." That's less than 1%. (Arizona Republic)

Big Exaggerations on Small Business

When President Bush and Vice President Cheney count small businesses -- they count themselves. One of their ads uses a system that counts anyone who has as little as $1.00 from an outside source as a "small business." Their ad about small businesses is a little misleading. (

Advertising a Saudi Link

New ads from the liberal leaning "Media Fund" hit the air linking President Bush to the Saudi royal family -- ala "Fahrenheit 911." (WashPost)

Communist Take On Capitalism

Just find this interesting: an article about Forbes' list of the richest Americans -- running in a Communist newspaper. (People's Daily Online)

Testing the Limits

The Bush campaign is pushing the envelope of rhetoric linking John Kerry to terrorists. Could be the future of mudslinging -- er -- politics. (WashPost via MSNBC)

Depressing Cover Up

Government officials appear to be involved in a cover up of antidepressants and their link to teen suicides. Top Food and Drug Administration officials ordered a medical officer to delete information about the risks of antidepressant drugs from records he turned over to Congress. Then they ordered him to cover up the whole story about the deletions. The story came out in documents at a Capitol Hill hearing. (WashPost)

Today in Congress

Here's what your Congress-critters are working on today. Use the links in the right had column to write them with your opinions. (WashPost)

You Would Think HE Would Know

LA anti-terror honcho and former ABC news guy John Miller was detained at LAX. Screeners found a loaded .38 handgun in his carry on bag. Miller says he forgot the city issued handgun was in his luggage. (LAT)

Washington Math

Jonathan Chaitt writes for the LA Times, that when the World Trade Organization declared Washington's $5 billion a year export subsidy violated treaties the US had signed, it freed up $5 billion for Washington to spend. Congress and the Bush administration decided to use it for corporate tax cuts. But not for ALL corporations -- just manufacturers.

This being Washington, special interests unchained their lobbyists. Suddenly, lobbyists for agriculture, construction, and the recording industries began twisting Congressional arms to get their business declared "manufacturing."

Congress, having a low tolerance for this arm twisting pain, agreed.

The bill wound up targeting tax breaks -- including $189 million to General Motor's Oldsmobile division. Interesting, because GM closed that division last year. (LAT -- Opinion)

Cutting it Close to the Election

Tax cuts -- right before the election. Of course Congress will be bipartisan. Republicans pushed to extend middle class tax cuts they originally set to expire this year. But they didn't offer added relief to working families that the Democrats wanted. Said it was too expensive, at $4 billion. So they only extended the three middle class cuts -- and 20 corporate tax breaks worth tens of billions. The Guardian has a list of the highlights. President Bush rejected a deal offered by Democrats and moderate Republicans to close corporate tax loopholes -- to pay for the extensions of the middle class tax cuts. (CNN)

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Flip Flop

President Bush has a record of changing his stand on things from steel tariffs to setting up the 9/11 Commission -- often to meet the tide of public opinion polls. So why did Senator John Kerry get stuck with the "flip-flop" label. The Washington Post analyzes the political strategy that worked for the Bush camp. (WashPost)

Heinz is Mustarding its Forces

Heinz corporate honchos are cheesed off by a Republican Congressman's claim that using Heinz ketchup would benefit the John Kerry campaign (Kerry is married to the widow of a Heinz heir). The company points out that this urban legend is causing it 57 kinds of headaches. Teresa Heinz Kerry has no involvement in the ketchup company's business. Meanwhile, Democrat farmers have been letting their scrub brush grow, refusing to use "Bush-Hogs" for mowing.

But they Caught Cat Stevens

The people supposed to keep guns, knives, and explosives off the planes you fly on -- missed guns, knives, and explosives slipped onto airliners at 15 US airports. Federal investigators were able to slip hijack tools onto flights all over the US. (USA Today)

Military Treatment

"Reactive Skin Decontamination Lotion," once only available to the military -- is now cleared for civilian emergency responders. It's a treatment for chemical weapon exposure. (Guardian)

Quite a Handful

The death tolls in Iraq are higher now than during the era of "major combat operations."

But campaigning in Pennsylvania, President Bush said, "It's hard to help a country go from tyranny to elections to peace when there are a handful of people who are willing to kill in order to stop the process."

A handful, huh? All the car bombings, city-wide sieges, and kidnappings. Just a handful of people doing that.

Well then. "Mission Accomplished!" (USAToday)

Bush Camp Loves that Loophole

The Bush campaign is getting around campaign finance laws with four little words -- "our leaders in Congress." Inserting those four words into campaign ads is letting the campaign use millions of dollars they weren't supposed to have access to under federal law. (MSNBC)

Bringing the Cold Warriors Home

The US will close more than a third of its overseas military bases in the next ten years. It's the biggest realignment of military force abroad since the end of World War II. (CBS)

Are these the "Foreign Leaders" He was Talking About?

Klingons for Kerry. And forget about the Supreme Court settling a contested election. They say Al Gore and George W. Bush should have settled things with a death match. (Williamette Week Online)

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

One Man, One Vote -- In Theory

Civil rights and legal groups claim that millions of US citizens, including a disproportionate number of black voters, will be blocked from voting in presidential election. They claim legal barriers, faulty procedures or dirty tricks will keep them from casting ballots. (Reuters)

Campaign Contributions and Our Own Little Bhopal

Chemical plants could serve as a "force multiplier" for terrorists. That is, set off a small bomb there, and the resulting gas cloud could kill hundreds, thousands, or even millions. In fact, your government found that 123 chemical plants around the country could be attacked in such a way as to kill a million Americans or more. But improving security at those plants would cut into profits. It's cheaper to contribute say $545,000 to a Presidential campaign. Surprise, surprise! Now instead of 123 plants threatening a million lives -- the government cuts the number to only 2. Sleep easier, but wear a gas mask. (NYT - Opinion)

The New New New Economy

Internet ad revenue is back -- big time. The industry saw $2.37 billion in ad sales in the second quarter. That beats the best days of the dot com boom. (MSNBC)

Diagnosing the Candidates

Where do President Bush and Senator Kerry stand on health care issues? The non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation has a side by side comparison of the candidates. (

Foxes in the Henhouse

It's the third time it's happened. Environmentalists have again found passages in the Bush administration's plan for regulating power plants' mercury pollution that are almost word for word the same as memos written by the law firms representing the plants. (WashPost)

Unmasking the Politicians

President Bush holds a clear 10 point lead over Senator Kerry in the latest poll. We're talking the poll of favorite Halloween masks. (

We'll Pay You to Say Something Nice. No, Really. Four Grand Enough?

The Medicare drug discount cards must be absolutely horrible. A lobbying company is offering $4,000 for any and every senior who'll write a glowing letter to Congress for coming up with them. (The Hill)

Thompson's Real Deal

HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson has been making a tidy profit on the side with some real estate deals. The Washington Post looks at property records. (WashPost)

Can't Shake the Moon Shadow Following Him

One-time pop singer Cat Stevens forced a Washington-bound United flight to land in Bangor, Maine. And you didn't think his music was that bad. Stevens -- now named Yusuf Islam -- wound up on the flight -- even though he's on the government's "no fly list." He's being deported to Europe. (WashPost)

General Hooker Would be Mortified

American service members overseas could face court martial for patronizing prostitutes. It's a new rule from DoD to help combat human trafficking. (WashPost)

Bucking Conventional Wisdom

Could tax cuts actually make the federal government bigger. An Op-Ed in the New York Times explains how it could happen. (NYT - Opinion)

Follow This Logic

The US invaded Iraq because of suspected WMDs -- like biological weapons. The US found no weapons -- but they did capture Rahib Rasheed Taha -- nicknamed "Dr. Germ" -- the guru of Iraq's bio-weapons research.

Then terrorists threaten to kill two American and one British hostage if all women in Iraq prisons are not released. Taha is one of only two women in those prisons.

Iraq's leaders and the US will now release Taha -- after the two American hostages have been beheaded.

P.S. The US does not negotiate with terrorists, kidnappers, whatever. Just ask all those guys involved in Iran-Contra. (LAT)

Social Insecurities

The University of Chicago releases a report later today saying President Bush's plan to privatize portions of Social Security would hand the financial services sector a $940 billion windfall over 75 years. You'd still get, what -- $900 a month? (WashPost)

Seperating Fact and Fiction on the Campaign Trail

The LA Times looks into quotes from the Presidential candidates -- and facts from the real world. (LAT)

Blame the Mudslinging on Edmund Reade

Edmund Reade lived his entire life in Wickford, England -- 400 years ago. He is the common ancestor of both President Bush and Senator Kerry. So this Presidential campaign is nothing more than a dysfunctional family feuding with one another. I'll sleep a lot better now. (Taipei Times)

Comedians & the Campaign

Some late night one-liners on the campaign. (SFGate)

All We Have to Fear

"All we have to fear is fear itself." That line from FDR soothed a nation in the Great Depression and World War II. Think about the image of Americans then -- calm, resolute, courageous. We were still an upstart nation -- and we emerged a superpower. Our leaders told us to put fear behind us.

Today, our leaders tell us to embrace fear. We hear the word "terror" more than "resolve." We are told to fear every issue in the campaign -- another terrorist attack, the Iraq War bogging down, losing our jobs, or another tax hike.

Fear is the single biggest issue in this campaign. And that's scary.

(Related Article from BBC)

The Loophole Costing You a Billion Bucks

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says Washington will pay nearly $1 billion of your money to student loan companies when they don't have to. The companies are taking advantage of a legal loophole -- and the Bush Education Department says their hands are tied. But the GAO says that ain't so. It reports that the Bush administration has the authority to cut off the unnecessary payments immediately -- they just haven't. (NYT)

Today in Congress

Today's schedule in Congress. Use the links in the right hand column to write your Representatives. (WashPost)

Clothes Make the Man

Sen Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) makes a fasion statement on the Senate floor with bolo ties and his ponytail. Yesterday, he showed up in full Indian regalia. (Seattle PI)

Making Ends Meet -- On a $2 Trillion Budget

The new fiscal year starts in just over a week. And the Bush administration doesn't have enough money to pay for everything they want. "Rhetoric is meeting reality," says Robert Reischauer, head of the Urban Institute and former director of the Congressional Budget Office. (USA Today)

Cash-Strapped Pentagon Taps Emergency Fund

Money's tight at the Pentagon. The Department of Defense is tapping into a $25 billion emergency fund to pay it's bills. This is in addition to the $3 billion or so the Bush administration diverted from reconstruction efforts in Iraq to security and defense. (LAT)

The Swift Boat Veterans Bend the Truth Again

The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are launching a $1.3 million ad blitz claiming that Senator John Kerry met secretly with North Vietnamese leaders during the Vietnam War. That's not quite true. Kerry met with negotiators for both the North and South Vietnamese governments in Paris. And he told Congress about the meeting. (WashPost)

Fundraisers Tied to DeLay Are Indicted

Three political fundraisers with ties to Rep Tom DeLay (R-TX) have been indicted. They're charged with illegally funnelling money to candidates for state office. (LAT) Searches & Siezes ACLU Ad

The American Civil Liberties Union is running an ad alleging that the USA Patriot Act allows authorities to search homes "without notifying us . . . treating us all like suspects." says that's not exactly true. (

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Hey, I'm Doing the Best I Can Here!

The Washingtonian's National Editor says this year's Presidential campaign is the worst covered since 1948. Just to prove he's full of it, I've already drafted my Watching Washington headline for the day after the election: "Dewey Defeats Nader -- Vietnam War Ends." (Washingtonian)

How the Bloggers got on a Roll

TIME tracks how blogs broke the back of the Bush memo story. (TIME)

The Vanishing Middle Class

Your either with us or against us. The middle is disappearing. That's not got to do with the Global War on Terror -- but with your place in the American economy. The middle class is getting squeezed out as middle income jobs disappear. Jobs the Washington Post describes as "computer-code crunchers, produce managers, call-center operators, travel agents and office clerks." Good paying jobs. Jobs that require college degrees or other expensive training. The people who lose them are overqualified for most of the jobs remaining -- but not rich enough to ride out the hard times. (WashPost)

President Bush's UN Speech

President Bush spoke to the United Nations General Assembly today. Here's the full text of his speech. (VOA)

If You Can't Find It, Grind It

At a political rally, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) used an automatic transmission analogy: "If you want to go backwards, you put it in 'R,' and if you want to go forward, you put it in 'D.'"

If I might add, for those of us with standard transmissions, politicians jerk us around four to six times then wind up spinning their wheels. (Des Moins Register)

Running Government Like a Business

A new GAO report shows that Washington could save millions of your tax dollars if they'd only use private business practices when buying stuff. Veterans Affairs saved $394 million in 2003 using some of the proceedures for pharmaceutical purchases and another $82 million on high-technology purchases. The Agriculture Department saved $1.8 million by negotiating for office supplies in 2000. The report also says the Department of Health and Human Services will save about $9.5 million a year for office supplies using the techniques. (

Rewarding Work

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wants a whistle-blower office at the IRS. It'd let you report tax fraud by big companies or rich individuals. And it'd enrich you. It'd let you keep 15 to 30% of the recovered taxes and penalties you turn in. Not bad, considering there's some $310 billion of that out there. (

Hamburger Flipping (and Flopping) on Jobs

So much for industrialized hamburger. The Council of Economic Advisers suggeste that fast food jobs should be classified as "manufacturing" jobs. That'd instantly add 10 million or so manufacturing jobs to the economy -- on paper at least. But an amendment to a bill before Congress will stop that. Rep. Sherrod Brown'S (D-OH) amendment declares that the Council of Economic Advisers can't use any of the $89.9 billion Transportation and Treasury Department funding bill to write an economic report that counts jobs at fast-food restaurants as part of the manufacturing sector. (The Morning Journal)

Al Qaeda and Iraq

One of President Bush's reasons for going to war with Iraq was that al Qaeda operated there. But his own administration, as late as November, 2001, left Iraq off their list of al Qaeda territories. (US State Department)

Playing Politics

The Bush administration changed a government schedule to benefit the Bush campaign. The Hill has found a government document showing the administration moved up the release date of a planned increase in Medicare premiums. It was the largest ever rise in premiums -- 17%. And it was supposed to be announced in late October -- just in time to give the administration headaches going into the election. But the administration moved the release date to right before the Labor Day weekend -- burying the news where few people would hear it, and giving the Bush campaign time to work damage control. (The Hill)

Secret Law

The Justice Department will neither confirm nor deny whether there is a law requiring you to present photo ID before boarding an airliner. Seems pretty simple -- there either is a law or there isn't. But the Justice Department refuses to say -- claiming that letting the people know what the law really says would be a breach of national security. So, ignorance of the law may not be an excuse -- but it could keep you from being charged as a spy? (The Ledger)

The Difference Between Iraq and Iran

The Bush administration said we had to attack Iraq over WMDs -- including a nuclear program. But the WMDs weren't there. Now, Iran is open about a nuclear program. But aides to the President are divided over what to do about a country that opennly admits to an up and running nuke program. (NYT)

An Ethics Complaint Against a Politician -- That's a First

The House Ethics Committee has decided to put a complaint against Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) at the top of their agenda. Rep. Chris Bell (D-TX) filed the complaint back in June. He accused DeLay of soliciting campaign donations in return for legislative favors. (Reuters)

Tax Exempt Groups Swaying Elections

Political groups called "501c4s" are spending millions of dollars on various campaigns. But most may simply be fronts for corporate interests. The pharmaceutical industry has spent millions advertising for friendly candidates through the groups -- appearing to be organizations representing senior citizen advocacy groups. (NPR - Audio)

Know Your Enemy

The famously speech-challenged President Bush could always blame it on a slip of the tongue. But the White House can't come up with an excuse for getting it wrong in at least 10 speeches. The President keeps confusing two terrorists -- Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas. Kinda important, since the President's using the wrong guy to justify the Iraq War. (CNEWS)

Mixed Messages

President Bush's ads shore up his record on jobs and the economy. Senator Kerry's ads attack the President's handling of Iraq. Why aren't they talking about the same things? Each candidate is going after different kinds of voters. (LAT)

The Invisible Electorate

The highest concentration of undecided voters may be in the Asian-American population. But neither campaign is making a strong effort to connect with these voters. One poll indicates that 20% are still undecided. There are 2.9 million Asian-American voters in the US, more than a half million of them live in the so-called battleground states. (SFGate)

Kerry's Top Ten List

Senator John Kerry read the "Top Ten Bush Tax Proposals" during his appearance on the David Letterman Show. (NYPost)

Filtering Out Voters

Some 10 million Americans cast absentee ballots from overseas. But many of them are now being denied access to the taxpayer funded website that's supposed to let them get those absentee ballots. And time is running out to get their ballots. (SFGate)

Timing is Everything

President Bush has a money edge because of the timing of the two national political conventions. Candidates have to quit raising money when they accept the nomination -- if they agree to take federal financing for the general election. Both candidates did. But that gave the President nearly a month to keep raising money after Kerry had to quit. (LAT)

Lifting the Gun Ban -- Just Not Where We Work

Some members of Congress want to lift a handgun ban in Washington DC. Gun crime has dropped 55% in the last decade with the handgun ban in effect. The bill has 60 Congressmen signed on to lift the ban on handguns in most of DC. They still want the guns banned around the Capitol -- where they work. (Seattle PI)

Washington Selling Israel Smart Bombs

The US is selling Israel 5,000 smart bombs. The deal, revealed in a Pentagon report to Congress, is worth $319 million dollars. Israel has used the same type of bombs to attack Palestinian militants. One such attack went wrong, killing 15 civilians back in July, 2002. (AP)

Medical Loophole Taking Your Tax Dollars

A loophole in the law lets pharmacies charge Washington twice for some prescription drugs. Your tax dollars pay the bill. One company has paid $5.3 million to settle charges it sold medicine twice.

Cutting Tax Cut Extensions Close to the Election

Three of the most popular parts of President Bush's tax cuts are set to expire. Republicans in Congress are confident they'll pass extensions -- putting the GOP in a nice position going into the election. The three items are cuts that affect middle and low income taxpayers. (AP)

Monday, September 20, 2004

Politicians Pointing Fingers, No, Not that Middle One, Gentlemen!

Medicare premiums are going up a record 17%. So who's responsible? Hey, it's an election year. Does it matter? President Bush falsely claims Senator Kerry voted repeatedly to raise Medicare premiums. The Senator's running an ad blaming Bush alone for the latest increase showing he can sling inaccurate mud as good as he gets. I mentioned some of this earlier today.(

Can You Believe It? Politicians Fibbing!

FactCheck.Org has a list of misleading statements President Bush and Senator Kerry pepper into their stump speeches. They stretch the truth on Iraq, jobs, and income. And that's just getting started. (

Homeland Security Help is Gathering Dust

Only about a quarter of the Homeland Security money sent to Tennessee for first responders has been used for anything. More than $42 million is sitting around doing nothing in the Volunteer State. And a Congressional report shows that 20% of the money sent to the states for Homeland Security has not been spent.

Tons more money has been used for questionable purchases:

  • Missouri spent millions to buy 13,000 chem-bio warfare suits at $400 a piece -- one for each and every full-time law enforcement officer in the Show-Me How to Blow Money State, regardless of where they work -- and whether that town would be a terrorist target
  • Colchester, Vermont (population 18,000) used $58,000 to buy a search and rescue vehicle capable of boring through concrete to search for victims in collapsed buildings where the tallest building is four-stories tall
  • Grand Forks, North Dakota (population 70,000) stocked up on biochemical suits and decontamination tents, and are considering buying a $175,000 bomb-detecting robot.

(Al's Morning Meeting)

That Kadaffi Ain't So Bad Afterall

Not waiting until the Wednesday deadline I mentioned earlier today, President Bush has gone ahead and scrapped most of the anti-terrorism sanctions on Libya. (Reuters)

Stalking the Wiley RINO

Moderate Republican Senator Lincoln Chaffee (R-RI) says he may not vote for President Bush in the coming election. He says it's possible he may write in a candidate -- though he won't say who. (Boston Globe)

John Kerry Goes to War (The Current One, This Time)

John Kerry -- who's campaign wanted to focus on the economy -- is turning to Iraq. (At least they're debating a current war for a change). In one day, Kerry has called the Iraq War one of the President's "colossal failures of judgement," a "historic failure," a "profound diversion from the war on terror," and a mistake that could lead to an unending war. Doesn't look like a flip flop in the bunch. (Various Sources)

If You Boys Don't Behave, You Don't Get Dinner

The spirit of the Alfred E. Smith dinner is "to bring people together." So, for only the second time since 1960, the devisive Presidential candidates are not being invited to the charity fundraising fete. While they may not qualify for the Alfred E. Smith dinner -- both Bush and Kerry are quite suited for the Alfred E. Neuman Dinner. (CNN)

The Polls are Already Open

Voting starts this week! Maine begins absentee voting six weeks ahead of election day. Both candidates for President are rushing postcard sized applications to supporters before they change their minds. (AP)

We Interrupt This Program to Bring You Our Regrets

CBS now says it cannot vouch for the memos in the 60 Minutes II story on President Bush's Air National Guard service. The network issued a statement saying it regretted airing the story in the first place. (CBS)

Conspiracy Theory

First he said Democrat fund raiser George Soros worked for drug cartels. Now he claims al Qaeda wants Senator John Kerry to win the White House. House Speaker Dennis Hastert is two heartbeats away from the Oval Office himself. Ever wonder what size tin foil hat he wears? (CNN)

Campaign Cash Record

President Bush more than doubled the previous Presidential primary fundraising record. He hit $260 million before the convention. The previous record was his 2000 primary race, with just $106 million then. (BaltSun)

Campaign Finance Court Confusion

A federal judge has struck down around a dozen new campaign finance rules -- just weeks before the election. US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly didn't say how politicians and contributors should behave in the meantime. (WashPost)

Firing off a Fine

A whistle blower complaint has landed Rep Henry E. Brown Jr. (R-SC) a $250 fine. Not bad, considering the fine is for destroying $4,000 worth of taxpayer property. Brown was burning brush on his tree farm back in March. The fire got out of control and burned 20 acres of neighboring Francis Marion National Forest. He wasn't fined at first. But then, two law enforcement officers with the Forest Service filed their "whistle-blower" complaint with the USDA's inspector general. They claimed the Congressman used his clout with the top Ag Department honchos to get the fine quashed. Now, the USDA's going ahead with the fire fine against the Congressman. (WashPost)

Taking the Initiative

A $3 billion dollar stem cell research plan and laws on bear baiting are among the issues going straight to voters come election day. Around 150 voter initiatives are on the ballots of 30 states. (WashPost)

With Vietnam Over, Iraq Begins Defining the Campaign

With just weeks left before the election, Iraq is finally emerging as the one issue that truly defines the Presidential candidates. (WashPost)

The Electronic Electoral College

Nearly one-third of America's 150 million registered voters will use electronic voting machines in this year's election. But there's a lot of unanswered questions about their reliability. (NYT)

Louisiana Gay Marriage Now as Illegal as Cousins Marrying in the Pelican State

Louisiana voters have banned gay marriage. But they may next be targeted by C.U.D.D.L.E. -- a group that wants cousins to have the right to marry. (Reuters)

Save the Forrestal

A fire killed 134 sailors aboard USS Forrestal during the Vietnam War. It started with an accidental missile launch that hit a plane piloted by future Senator John McCain. A carrier deck crowded with planes armed to strike North Vietnam exploded in fire. But it didn't sink Forestal. Now the Navy may. But some of the Forrestal's crew want to save the old ship as a museum. (NPR - Audio)

An Army Veteran Fights Fires

The US Army retired it's Cobra attack helicopters in favor of the newer Apaches. But they may find new life targeting wildfires in the west. (NPR -Audio)

$100,000 Reward

How much would it be worth to you to get rid of SPAM -- the unwanted emails, not the meat? The FTC wants Washington to use your tax money to pay for criminal rewards -- for people who turn in spammers. They figure the rewards would have to be $100,000 to $250,000 each. That's more than the amount for most terrorists. The FBI only pays $50,000 for turning in a 10 Most Wanted fugitive. But, hey, we're talking about spammers. (Houston Chronicle)

Smoking in the Courthouse

Big Tobacco's racketeering case starts tomorrow. Washington claims the industry defrauded and mislead Americans for half a century about the dangers of smoking. The case could force major changes -- driving up cigarette prices as the industry pays billions to fund anti-smoking campaigns. (Boston Globe)

Eddie Adams Dead at 71

Eddie Adams -- the photojournalist who took the famous photo of a South Vietnamese officer executing a Viet Cong prisoner -- has died. He covered 13 wars, won 500 photojournalism awards, and was 71. The New York Times has a gallery of his work online. (NYT)

President Bush Lifting Terror Sanctions on Libya

President Bush will lift sanctions against Libya sometime before Wednesday. The sanctions were in place for years, in response to Libya's support of terrorism. Lifting the sanctions will allow families of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims to claim a $1 billion settlement from Libya before a deadling passes. (AlJazeera)

Debating the Value of Debates

Presidential debates have been considered as the decisive act in the 1960, 1980, and 2000 elections. Could they be the same this year? Debates have a lot more sway in close elections. So a year long race could boil down to the best words delivered in three 90 minute face offs. Don't misunerextimate them debatements. (USA Today)

CBS "Misled"

CBS now says it was misled on the Bush memos and will issue a statement -- perhaps as early as today. Questions about their credibility arose almost immediately after a longtime Republican activist posted suspicions about them on his blog. (WashPost)

Young People Registering in Near Record Numbers

More than 100,000 18 to 24-year-olds have registered in recent months in Michigan. The numbers are even higher in Wisconsin. This is one of the traditionally smallest segments of the electorate, but they could turn out in their highest numbers since 18-year-olds first got the vote. (AP)

Debating the Debate Schedule

The Bush camp backed off their demand for just two debates. There'll be three between President Bush and Senator Kerry, one more betweent he VP nominees. The tentative agreement calls for all four in a roughly two week period starting September 30th. But it's only tentative. There could be some flip flopping on the debate schedule. Stay tuned. (Boston Globe)

A Tough Pill for "Big Pharma" to Swallow

The pharmaceutical industry is well on it's way to joining Big Oil and Big Tobacco as the big corporate villian. The industry has had a string of embarrassments over the past several months shaking public faith in it. Among them, charges of hiding the results of unflattering clinical trials linking antidepressants to child suicides. Now, a stream of unflattering books promises more headaches for the industry's PR folks. (CSM)

Spies Like Us

Think spying disappeared after the Cold War ended? Think again. There are indications spying is on the increase as foreign agents and American turncoats swarm through Washington, DC looking for secrets. (CSM)

Breaking Ranks

Breaking Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment -- not to speak poorly of other Republicans -- GOP lawmakers criticized President Bush's Iraq policy on the Sunday talk show circuit. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said "We made serious mistakes." Sen Chuck Hagel (R-NE) said, "The fact is, we're in deep trouble in Iraq." (Reuters via

Could Trade Policies "Beet" Bush?

Trade policies could give the farm vote the most clout it's had since swinging the 1948 election to Harry Truman. Sugar beet growers could tip the scales in Minnesota. (WashPost)

Today in Congress

What your elected representatives are up to today. Use my links in the right hand column to write them with your opinions. (WashPost)

Ad Watch: 9/20

A mixed diagnosis on Senator Kerry's ad attacking the President's Health Care record. The number of uninsured has risen. But rising costs have a Kerry vote on them. (Houston Chronicle)

Thursday, September 16, 2004

United Says the Sky is Falling

United Airlines may slash up to 10% of its workforce and scrap its pension program to stay in business. Killing the pension plan could create a domino effect could easily bankrupt the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp -- leading to a taxpayer bailout similar to the Savings and Loan mess of the 1980s. (CNN/Reuters)

President Schwarzenegger

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) has introduced a Constitutional Amendment in Congress that would let Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) run for President. It would allow foreign born immigrants, who become American citizens to serve as President. Naturalized citizens already serve in Congress. But the Constitution currently allows only people born as American citizens to be President. (CBC)

Springtime for Hitler

Der Untergang or The Downfall, is a new movie just out in Germany showing Hitler's "softer" side. Things like what a great dancer he was. It's causing some controversy. Sound's life imitates Mel Brooks' The Producers. (MSNBC)

Your Rising Health Care Costs

Congress is about to release a report showing the average American needs $3,834 a year in healthcare. Americans over 65 need $11,000 worth. (The Hill)

The Diagnosis is Not Good

Howard Zucker is a medical whiz. He's worked with America's astronauts and worked on health care problems in Afghanistan and Iraq. He's such a hotshot that Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson wants him promoted at HHS. But there's a dark secret in Zucker's past. He once gave money to the Democratic party. So the White House is looking for a more politically correct -- if not as medically talented -- person for the post. (The Hill)

America (The Book)

Comedy Central's Daily Show now fits on your coffee table. A book review. (NYT)

The Only Guide You Need for Election 2004

It's from The Onion.

From Our Stating the Obvious Department

Business interests contribute more money to the Bush campaign than the Kerry camp. The Center for Responsive Politics found the financial services sector was most generous to the President's reelection bid -- chipping in $29.5 million. (Reuters)

Letting Our Guard Down in the War on Terror

A report from the General Accountability Office says the US may run out of Guard and Reserve troops for the War on Terror and the War in Iraq. The law limits the deployments of Guard and Reserve troops. But the US reliance on them (40% of the troops in Iraq) are bumping up against those limits. It could require a change in the law which means longer and more frequent deployments for the Guard and Reserve. (AFP)

Hitting Iran

Since Iraq was a cakewalk, the US is now considering military strikes to take out Iran's nuclear capabilities. At least we know Iran has nuclear capablities. (Financial Times)

Ignoring Warnings

Trust your government? A large number of us wouldn't -- even in the event of a terrorist attack. The New York Academy of Medicine found that 40% of the people in their survey would ignore government instructions on what to do in the event of a "dirty" bomb or smallpox attack. (NPR -- Audio)

Candidates Going Over Their Time on Debates

The debate over debates has to end soon. The Commission on Presidential Debates has given the Bush and Kerry camps until Monday to settle their differences and settle on groundrules for their debates. After that, the Commission says it can't meet logistical deadlines. (WashPost)

Conservatives Still Boiling Mad over "Fahrenheit"

Conservatives, on a conservative $900,000 budget, have made their own movie responding to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911. It's called Celsius 41.11. That's the temperature at which the human brain begins to deteriorate from heat. (LAT)

Get Ready for the Bush Tax Hike

Washington wonks are working themselves up over radical changes in federal taxes if President Bush is reelected. HR 25 is a House bill that would eliminate all income and withholding taxes. It would replace them with a 30% sales tax on everything you buy -- including prescription drugs, food, new homes, health care services and even state and local government spending.. (MSNBC)

French Kiss and Make Up

After taking a beating in political talk for the past couple of years, the US is putting a fresh spin on the French. The Library of Congress is marking French contributions to the United States with maps, documents, and other items -- put on line to mark the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase. (ABC)

Senate Works Overtime

The Senate Appropriations Committee has added language to a bill that would kill the Bush administration's new overtime rules. Critics of the rules say they will strip up to 6 million Americans of overtime pay. (WashPost)

Calling 9/11 on Capitol Hill

Congress wants to show voters they're working on the 9/11 Commission recomendations. So expect a slew of bills before the election. But just what parts of the 9/11 report they like and which they ignore may be an interesting read for voters. (SF Chronicle)

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Bush vs. Jesus

What the Campaign commercial might look like. (