Friday, October 29, 2004

The Collision of Church and State at the Ballot Box

Preaching politics has come a long way since evangelicals in the "Moral Majority" helped sway the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan. Gone are the navy blue suits, red ties, and gray headed preachers.

Enter Jason Roy, lead singer of "Building 429." That's a Christian rock band and part of a political-religious-musical effort that is described as the antithesis of "Rock the Vote." They call their effort "Redeem the Vote." And they encourage Christian youth to turn out on election day.

Gone too is the religious alignment with the Republican right. A series of 10 ads from peopleoffaithfortruth.org uses Christians offering political testimony of their religious faith and their lack of faith in President Bush.

From an earlier post over the summer, I pointed out how frequent worshippers tend to vote Republican. But that Democrats weren't willing to cede the religious vote.

Which leads us to this point in the campaign, where we're praying it'll be over soon and ready to thank God when it is.

A No Brainer -- Politicians Try Reading Our Minds

Political consultants are turning to brain scans to see what candidates and issues we identify with. They call it "neuromarketing." Tin foil hats apparently won't protect you from it. (ABC News)

Finding Your Polling Place

Looking for where you're supposed to vote? Try the Internet(s).

Taegan Goddard has a couple of very helpful links at PoliticalWire.com. They'll take you to an online service to find your polling place -- and a quick rundown of the law in your state in case you have to cast a provisional ballot.

If the honchos at the polls tell you that you can't vote, remember the Election Protection Project. Take their number with you: 1-866-OUR VOTE (1-866-687-8683). It's a free call.

I'll keep this link posted at the right for quick reference through election day. It's listed as "Finding Your Polling Place & Knowing Your Rights to Vote."

Kerry and the JFK Conspiracy

Hold on to your tin foil hats -- the New York Post is reporting a connection between Senator John Kerry and Lee Harvey Oswald. Seems the Senator's cousin, Michael Paine, was a buddy of Oswald's and even had him over as a frequent house guest. (NY Post)

Dress Up With George

Dress the President. Sorry no mysterious bulge to hide on his back, but there are some cool pilot clothes and lots of leather. (Fingertime.com)

The Bush-Kaddafi Ticket

A hastily formed group of Arab Americans issued a last-minute endorsement of President George W. Bush. The move was coordinated in part by a registered lobbyist for the Libyan leader Col. Muammar Kaddafi. Randa Fahmy Hudome just signed a $1.4 million contract to represent Colonel Kaddafi's regime. She's a former member of the Bush administration. (Newsweek via MSNBC)

Laugh it Off

Need a good laugh as the campaign gets too serious? About.com has a collection of the best political humor all in one place. Hang onto the site (or check back with my Liberal Multimedia link at the right) and use it to soothe your disappointment when your candidate loses -- when the vote counts are final -- in February, 2005. (About.com)

More Muddying the Waters over the Missing Munitions

A Pentagon briefing today conflicts with the story they put out yesterday on the missing munitions.

Major Austin Pearson briefed reporters on how he and his men removed more than 200 tons of high explosives from the Al Qaqaa site. But he couldn't say if the material was the same as the explosives videotaped under IAEA seal after Baghdad fell.

Just yesterday, the Secretary of Defense argued that the explosives were moved before Americans arrived at the site. Yesterday, the Pentagon also released reconaissance pictures claiming to show Iraqi's moving the munitions on March 17th.

Last night, ABC aired video from KSTP-TV showing troops with the 101st Airborne examining high explosives at the site on April 18, 2003.

The Pentagon briefing, claiming that 200+ tons of the missing 380 tons were destroyed would shed credence on an earlier ABC report. That story on Wednesday cited IAEA documents in determining only 138 tons of munitions were unaccounted for.

The story of the mysterious missing munitions has been tangled all week. Maybe it was all a "catastrophic accounting success."

Curing the Doctored Ad

The Bush-Cheney campaign admits it doctored a campaign ad to make it appear like the President was speaking to a larger crowd. The original photograph shows a sea of soldiers behind the President but the doctored photo repeated images of some of the soldiers. (AP via Yahoo)

Someone Found the Missing Munitions -- Just the Wrong War

Maybe it was the last minute campaign issue of the 1864 election. A couple of weeks ago, Robert Compton unearthed a cache of 36 Confederate cannonballs. No videotape of Union Soldiers inspecting them, and no word on whether US Grant had secured the area before they were buried. (News Advance)

Doing Your Own Election Night Math

CyberJournalist.net has a list of electoral vote calculators. Try you hand at creating scenarios to make 2000 look tame. (CyberJournalist.net)

NRA Misses their Target

The folks at FactCheck.org shoot down claims in the NRA's ad against Senator John Kerry. The ad claims Senator Kerry voted to outlaw pump shotguns and deer hunting ammo. I personally don't believe there's ever been a vote to ban Buicks -- the leading deer hunting ammo on the Beltway. (FactCheck.org)

Flu Shots and a Shot at the White House

The flu shot shortage may not be a blockbuster, but it's playing a role in the Presidential campaign. All politics is no longer just local, it's personal. And few things are more personal to voters than their health or that of their kids. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Double Standards and Political Realities

Confusing the issues of reimporting drugs from Canada and the flu shot shortage, the Bush administration says it's working to import 5 million doses of flu vaccine from Canada. Yes, they oppose importing drugs from Canada, but they're importing drugs from Canada.....I'm sure it'll all wash out in the spin cycle. (Houston Chronicle)

Homeland Security -- Keeping America Safe from Rubik's Cube Knock-Offs

Small business owner Stephanie Cox was the target of a Homeland Security Department investigation. Her suspicious activity -- selling something called the "Magic Cube." It's basically the same toy as the old "Rubik's Cube" from the 1980s. Agents called, then visited her toy store, and ordered that she pull the product from the shelves.

What was the problem? Were the cubes made of plastic explosives? Did they fund terrorist toy makers?

Nope. A rival toy company claimed patent infringement. The maker of the "Magic Cube" says the patent expired years ago.

But we can all sleep better tonight knowing that the DHS's toy patent color coded alert level has dropped to "Baby Blue." (ABC)

October Surprise 2 - Umpteen

There hasn't been a blockbuster "October Surprise," but things from flu shot shortages to missing munitions have added up to a rapid fire collection of mini-surprises. The Christian Science Monitor is monitoring them. (CSM)

The Buck Stops...With the Troops in the Field

As if 380 tons of missing munitions weren't a big enough headache for President Bush's campaign, one of his high profile supporters just dropped a bombshell.

Former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani says the troops in the field -- not the President -- are to blame.

"No matter how you try to blame it on the president, the actual responsibility for it really would be with the troops. They were there," Giuliani said in an interview on NBC's 'Today' show. "Did they search carefully enough? Didn't they search carefully enough?"

The Bush campaign had been working to convince voters Senator Kerry was blaming US soldiers -- not the President -- for the missing munitions. (LAT)

The Mysterious Missing Munitions are Ready for their Close-up

Haven't seen the video of the mysterious missing munitions in Iraq? KSTP-TV used GPS data and confirmation from Army's 101st Airborne Division to determin its embedded crew was at the Al-Qaqaa site on April 18, 2003. That's nine days after the fall of Baghdad. They videotaped what appears to be high explosives and intact UN seals. The tape would indicate the 380 tons of missing munitions disappeared after US troops took the site. (KSTP)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Uh, Mr. President, You Make That "W" Sign With Three Fingers, Not Just the Middle One

"Texans for Truth," a political group as dedicated to truth as the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," puts their finger on the pulse of this campaign with video of the President's finger flashing the bird a few years back. In the immortal words of Vice President Cheney to Senator Patrick Leahy..... Oh, screw it, go to tape. (Texans for Truth)

You're Paying for Washington's Free Ride

Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Max Baucus (D-MT) want the Treasury Department to explain why their taking so much out of the Treasury to pay for car service. The Senators are the two senior members of the Senate Finance Committee. They fired off a letter questioning the expense involved in getting Treasury Secretary John Snow to and from work. As a cabinet secretary, he's entitled to a car and driver. A lot of other top people at Treasury apparently get the same perk. It's costing taxpayers $2 million a year to drive Secretary Snow and his helpers around. (TaxAnalysts.com)

Fear of Flying

Here's more fodder for the "Year of Fear" campaign:

  • Airport screeners still don't have enough access to practice equipment
  • They aren't properly trained to handle deadly weapons
  • They aren't tested on passengers' rights

They sound like Democratic campaign talking points. But they're not. They're from a new report from the Department of Homeland Security. (Seattle P-I)

Wild Cards and "Disinterested Voters"

Historic trends may go out the window. Election turnout records could be broken. Presidential campaigns are carefully researched. Polls serve as the "night vision goggles" of politicians looking into the murky, shifting hearts of the electorate. It leaves little uncertainity. But the political world is changing this election year and it is the uncertainity that very well could decide who will occupy the White House next year. Record numbers of new voters have registered and no one's sure how to measure who will turn out on election day. (CNN)

Running Up Against the Army in a Battleground State

Republican lawyers are busy challenging the often ethically challenged voter registration rolls in Ohio. But one of the curious twists is the case of Surjo Banerjee.

Lawyers originally questioned the 40 year old Banerjee's residency. He listed his brother's residence as his address with the registrar. But he doesn't spend much time there. He's usually somewhere else.

That's the kind of thing that should raise the hairs on an election lawyer's neck. And the Republican lawyers challenged his qualilfications as a voter.

It was hard for Mr. Banerjee to fight back, since SGT Banerjee was busy fighting in Iraq. It's his second tour there. He was part of the US Army in the Gulf War, too.

The lawyers retreated when it came to light. All that time overseas is kind of required when you're career US Army. Their retreat was so massive, they withdrew all 2,319 challenges they had originally filed in Banerjee's home county.

Hey, the Army might be forgiving. But if they had a Marine in that batch, who knows. (SF Chronicle)

Soft Money's Not Hard to Find

527 Committees rose to the challenge of taking and spending soft money when Congress claimed to have turned off the flow. The partisan political groups have taken in more than $386 million -- often from donors who write six and seven-digit checks. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Irwin Allen Would Have Loved This Campaign

Hijacked planes falling from the sky, nuclear explosions in the heartland, ships taking out a major harbor. These aren't scenes from 70s disaster movies -- they're campaign promises. Remember when the candidates only scared us about who would cut Social Security? If the 1996 campaign was the "Year of the Woman," the 2004 race is surely the "Year of Fear." Just keep them wolves away from me. (ABC)

If You Planned on Floating Your Rent Check, You're Sunk

A new federal law taking effect today eliminates the greatest perk ever provided to the paycheck-to-paycheck set -- the check float. As of today, the "Check 21 Law" will allow your check to clear as soon as someone deposits or cashes it. (NYT)

Them Durn Trial Lawyers

President Bush rails on the evils of "trial lawyers" and "frivolous lawsuits" when campaing for tort reform and re-election. But his own lawyers have already filed more than 35,000 legal challenges to voters in Ohio alone. (Newsweek via MSNBC)

Florida Comes Through Again

Ohio may be the Florida of the 2004 election, but Florida isn't giving up the title without a fight. Election officials are sending out hundreds of new absentee ballots after a bunch of them disappeared. They're concerned primarily 58,000 Broward County ballots given to the Postal Service on October 7 & 8. Some have been returned, but hundreds of other people complain they never got their ballots. (WashPost)

Hey, if it Works for Dating, Why Not Voting?

Now the Internet promises to connect you with your perfect political match (Internets, if its President Bush). The PBS Newshour and WBUR have an online game of 20 Questions that will determine who your political attitudes most closely resemble. But be warned, the picture of Ralph Nader is not a recent one and Michael Badnarik really should have listed himself as "Hefty," not "Atheletic." (PBS News Hour)

Sipping Tea and Ripping Tom Daschle

Those voices in the political ads you hear. They can calm you one second, and spur you to fear and hatred in the next. They belong to a small cadre of professional talent -- many shrouded in secrecy. The Washington Post profiles the profession and some of the professionals you hear in your car and living room. (WashPost)

Spending Your Money to Get Elected

An Assistant Deputy Education Secretary handed out $7.5 million in local education grants in the battleground state of Florida. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham presents a $36 million check for a new power plant in the battleground state of Minnesota, and $235 million back in Florida. Politicans have a lot of your money to spend right before the election. (WashPost)

Lawyers on the Loose

At least 29 states now allow early voting. The chief benefit appears to be two extra weeks of billable hours for lawyers on political party retainers. Legal actions are already underway in states where the voting's started -- even though no votes will be counted until November 2. (NPR -- Audio)

Missing Munitions and Muddy Water

President Bush says US troops found no explosives at the Al Qaqaa site when they arrived the day after Baghdad fell. But the unit's commander says that's because they never looked for any. Col Joseph Anderson of the 101st Airborne's Second Brigade says he was never informed that explosives may have been there.

Meanwhile, the Washington Times quotes Deputy Undersecretary of Defense John A. Shaw as saying that he believes Russian troops, working with Iraqi intelligence, "almost certainly" removed the missing munitions.

But Iraqis who live around the site -- and four who work there -- claim Iraqis looted the place after American troops came and left.

If the waters aren't muddy enough for you, ABC News reports that the Iraqis may be overstating just how much explosives are missing. The first reports said 380 tons. ABC says it may be only 141 tons. That's good to know. Now instead of making 760 thousand pound blockbusters, it can only be turned into 282 of them. (NYT, WashTimes, ABC)

Genetic Bombs -- This Will Make You Sleep a Lot Easier

Just in time for Halloween, the British Medical Association has a paper out on weapons designed to target specific ethnic groups. Biotechnology, Weapons and Humanity II warns that construction of genetic weapons "is now approaching reality." As if we didn't have enought to worry about terrorists getting chemical or biological weapons. The report says "genetic bombs" could release biological agents that would only react with certain DNA. Great. Genocide in a can. (Guardian)

The Real Enemy in Iraq

Terrorists get the headlines, but without "Baghdad Bob" to spin their exploits, it's Saddam loyalists believed behind most of the attacks in Iraq. Abu Zarqawi's attacks are the stuff of daily news. But they account for only a fraction of the deaths in Iraq. Intel coming into the Pentagon show that the number of planted bombs has doubled since the spring -- roughly 30 bombs per day somewhere in Iraq. Half of those are found and diffused. The pattern of how they're made and planted leads US spooks in the region to speculate they're Saddam's people -- not terrorists. (MSNBC)

A Healthy Dose of Ethics

The Centers for Disease Control will look into the ethics of vaccine distribution. It's the first time the Centers has done this. With Congressmen and staffers provided shots while those at high risk went without, the symbolism may have been enough for Washington to sit up and take notice. (NYT)

The President, Free Speech, and Men in Thongs

Arrested for forming a human pyramid, wearing only thongs, the "Smoketown Six" say they had a right to protest the Iraq War by recreating an Iraqi prison torture image. They wound up in an American jail. Protestors liken the policing at President Bush's events to the Vietnam era. Protestors are kept out of site, any hint that a person supports John Kerry gets him thrown out of a speech. Some protestors have won in court now -- but too late to get their message across. (MSNBC)

Keeping Tabs on Them Internets Surfers

Not only does the Bush/Cheney campaign police who gets into the President's appearances -- now they're limiting who can view his website. The BC04 folks have barred people outside the US from viewing the site. It's in response to a cyber-attack that knocked them offline for six hours

Think "Stolen Honor" was a Hot Potato? Try "Smothers Brothers 2004"

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was quickly cancelled in 1969 because of its social commentary. Tommy Smothers says the act would see less air today. He laments that sex and violence has plenty of space on the airwaves but that broadcasters shy away from programs that try to make a point. (CNN)

Stolen Honor fails to Steal the Show

If you love stories with lots of numbers -- especially numbers with decimal points that you can't understand unless you work in advertising sales at a TV station -- you'll love this. The ratings for Stolen Honor are in. If you don't want to do the math, the ratings were so-so. (CNN)

The Selling of the Candidates'

Compare the candidates merchandising -- and President Bush seems to walk away the winner. Looking at stuff for sale on their websites from baseball hats to posters -- the incumbent sells for less. (SF Chronicle)

Is America "Safer?" The CIA Weighs In

It's been an issue in the campaign: Whether the Iraq War has helped or hurt the effort against terrorism. Now America's intelligence community is jumping into the debate -- determined to settle it once and for all. But they won't say one way or the other until after election day. Back in the summer, the CIA refused to take a position on whether overthrowing Saddam Hussein had made America "safer." Now they, and other agencies are drafting a report to determine if that is the case or not. (NYT)

Million Dollar Politics

The McCain-Feingold Act was supposed to get a grip on big money in politics. But there are more people giving $1 million or more to politicians or political groups this election year than at any time in history. Political Money Line finds around 60 people giving $1 million or more this year. That compares with around 36 people in 2002, and 24 in 2000. (SF Chronicle)

High Flying at Special Interests' Expense

The telecommunications industry shelled out $704,000 on 450 trips for lawmakers on a pair of committees that are supposed to keep watch on the industry. The most frequent flyer -- Rep Billy Tauzin (R-LA). He was chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The Center for Public Integrity says Rep Tauzin took 87 trips at industry expense. He went to Las Vegas, San Diego, and New York on their dime -- actually on a lot of their dimes. CPI figures the industry spend $139,000 flying Rep Tauzin around. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Hot on the Trail of the Mysterious Missing Munitions

The Christian Science Monitor has a great wrap up of differing and conflicting reports on the 380 tons of missing explosives in Iraq. (CSM)

The Mysterious Missing Munitions

Conservative websites and columnists are pointing to an NBC report claiming that the 380 tons of missing explosives in Iraq didn't disappear on the US watch. But the reporter they cite, doesn't appear to agree with them.

An editorial on The National Review Online has this statement:

"Indeed, NBC Nightly News reported Monday that NBC was embedded with the Army’s 101st Airborne when they searched the site three weeks into the war and
confirmed that none of the powerful explosives were found."

Other conservative sites are quoting the NBC report or reporter out of context. Townhall.com, CNS.com, and Human Events Online among other sites claim the embedded NBC reporter reported seeing no high explosives when US troops took Al-Qaqaa in April 2003.

But check out this from NBC's website:

Reporter Lai Ling Jew, who was embedded with the Army's 101st Airborne, Second Brigade, said Tuesday on MSNBC TV that the news team stayed at the Al-Qaqaa base for about 24 hours.

"There wasn't a search," she said. "The mission that the brigade had was to get to Baghdad. That was more of a pit stop there for us. And, you know, the searching, I mean certainly some of the soldiers headed off on their own, looked through the bunkers just to look at the vast amount of ordnance lying around.

"But as far as we could tell, there was no move to secure the weapons, nothing to keep looters away."
(MSNBC)

I See There are Fewer Chickens in the Henhouse, that's Odd. Anyway, Mr. Fox is Back to Watch the Rest of You

The EPA -- which regulates the cemical industry -- will take $2 million from the American Chemistry Council to study how pesticides affect young children. It isn't the first time that's happened. But it's the largest amount the EPA has taken from a group it's supposed to oversee. (WashPost)

Sinclair's Chief Talks

The head of Sinclair Broadcasting Group insists he never watches most of his stations' shows -- and doesn't meddle in news operations at any of them. The Washington Post profiles Chairman & CEO David D. Smith. (WashPost)

Attack Ads on the National Sales Tax

Republicans are crying foul over Democrat ads running in seve House districts. The ads call attention to the Republicans in those district supporting a national sales tax. The seven are on record as backers of HR 25. It would replace the income tax with a national sales tax of 30% over the purchase price. Backers say it's a 23% tax -- since that's the amount of the total price after the tax is added on.

The ad says it'd amount to a tax break for the rich while increasing taxes on "every clothes purchase, our food, our cars and trucks, even our homes." Republicans are demanding TV stations pull the ads. (WashPost)

Unchain the Lawyers -- Ohio

Democrats and Republicans are already trading accusations of voter fraud and intimidation in Ohio. The state is closely divided and may be the Florida of this election if the vote's close. (WashPost)

Waiting Until After the Polls Close to Ask for More Money

President Bush will wait until after the election to request an additional $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congressional and Pentagon sources told the Washington Post the request will likely come in early February. It'll bring the total war costs to $225 billion. (WashPost)

Stealing and Re-stealing a Campaign Issue

The Republican Medicare bill was supposed to be a cure-all for the GOP in this year's Congressional races. But it's leaving Republicans ill at ease. Democrats have "owned" the Medicare issue since the popular program's creation. The Republican idea was to steal that traditionally Democratic issue so it wouldn't play in the 2004 election. But Democrats stole it back -- and are using it against the Republicans in races all over the country -- zeroing in on prohibitions against Washington negotiating lower drug prices and reimporting drugs from Canada. (CNN)

Watering Down the 9/11 Commission Fixes

Three years after 9/11 and Congress still hasn't enacted reforms to keep it from happening again. Why the delay? Some in Congress blame the Pentagon's lobbying efforts. The Defense Department doesn't like the idea of a powerful, centralized national intelligence director. The Pentagon controls the bulk of US intelligence services. They don't like the idea of losing that power. (NYT)

Cleared of Lobbying

Attorney General John Ashcroft has been cleared of any wrongdoing in his "Patriot Act Tour." Critics claimed Mr. Ashcroft's tour around the country touting the Patriot Act violated anti-lobbying laws. Mr. Ashcroft was cleared by Justice Department internal investigators. That's the cabinet department he heads. (SF Chronicle)

Monday, October 25, 2004

New Routes for Campaign Cash

Campaign money, just like water, will find the path of least resistence. Not only is it hard for politicians to resist money -- it's been washing up against candidates and their supporters like a Mississippi River flood this year. All the reforms didn't stop it -- they only changed the river's course. (NPR - Audio)

The Living Room Candidate

Can't get enough of those wonderful campaign commercials? Facing attack ad withdrawal on November 3? Check out "The Living Room Candidate." It's a website archiving TV campaign commercials dating back to 1952. (Al's Morning Meeting)

The Flu Shot Shortage and the Economy

The flu shot shortage could cost American businesses $20 billion. Economists figure the average worker misses a day to a day and a half of work every year due to the flu. That adds up to a lot of sick days. (MSNBC)

Playing Politics -- On Your Computer

Think you're the next Karl Rove? Try out "Power Politics III" sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, Rock the Vote, the Gallup Organization, and developed by Kellogg Creek Software. It's free to download. A bargain compared with the $40 million the candidates and their parties will spend between now and election day. (CSM)

Results from the Barber Poll, North Poll, and Stripper Poll will be Forthcoming

Screw the polls. Here's a list of the stuff that'll really let you know who's going to win next week. Things like the track record of the Washington Redskins and Halloween mask sales. (SF Chronicle)

Election Day Terrorism -- Or Not

The FBI is convinced there could be trouble on election day. And not simply from the close vote. They've been talking with thousands of their "contacts" in the "muslim community" and are convinced there's a good chance of terror attacks designed to disrupt the election. The FBI's made new arrests. But to put you at ease, the right hand still doesn't know what the left hand's up to in Washington. The CIA has discredited a person who told its agents of such a plot involving al-Qaida. So who you gonna believe: the FBI -- who missed 9/11, or the CIA -- who was sure there were WMDs in Iraq. (AP via Albany Democrat-Herald)

The Candidates: Issue By Issue

Tired of attack ads? Want some substance over style in this campaign? The Associated Press has a little help. They've been asking President Bush and Senator Kerry a handful of questions three times a week. They've compiled the candidates' answers in a printed version of "20 Questions" on real issues in this campaign. (AP via Seattle P-I)

A Lot of Money With Little Time Left

President Bush, Sen. John Kerry, and their respective parties will spend nearly $40 million on TV ads in the final week of the presidential campaign. That money will become more focused in fewer markets as the battleground shrinks. (Miami Herald)

Family Feud

They've got to be the biggest black sheep in America. The President's kinfolk who are breaking ranks to support Senator Kerry for President. They've set up a website bushrelativesforkerry.com (MSNBC)

Chief Justice Rehnquist Hospitalized with Thyroid Cancer

The Associated Press reports that Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist has been hospitalized with thyroid cancer.

The 80-year-old Rehnquist spent the weekend in Bethesda Naval
Hospital. He underwent a tracheotomy on Saturday. (CNN)

Threatening Letters and Questionable Campaign Mail

The draft -- or non-draft -- is a big issue with younger voters. So "Rock the Vote" sent out fake draft notices to get young voters' attention. It also caught the attention of GOP Chairman Ed Gillespie. He fired off a letter to "Rock the Vote" telling them to shut up about the draft or face a lawsuit and challenge of their tax exempt status.

"Rock the Vote's" Jehmu S. Greene fired back. His letter was a polite version of what Vice President Cheney suggested to Sen Patrick Leahy (D-VT). (Rock the Vote)

FactCheck.org Wants to Check Your Mail

FactCheck.org wants to read your mail. They're looking for dubious political mailings you might recieve.

From the FactCheck.org site:

"The kind of mail we are looking for might be sent by the campaigns, or political parties, or independent groups. Typically these mailings are targeted to specific groups -- such as older voters, minority groups or gun owners, for example. Since the messages aren't intended for a general audience and are seldom seen by political reporters, those who send them sometimes take more liberties with the facts than they would in TV or radio advertising that is seen and heard by everybody."

Here's the address where you can forward your dubious mail:

FactCheck.org
Annenberg Public Policy Center
320 National Press Building
Washington DC 20045

(FactCheck.org)

What Big Lies You Have, Grandma

The Bush/Cheney campaign is running a chilling ad -- borrowed heavily from Ronald Reagan's "Bear" ad -- of a pack of wolves just waiting for John Kerry to get elected so they can pounce. The ad says Senator Kerry is soft on terrorism. The claim is based on a plan Kerry supported 7 years before 9/11 to cut intel spending 4%. And a lot of Republicans at the time proposed similar or deeper cuts. (FactCheck.org)

Longing for the Days of Hanging Chads

Electronic voting systems were supposed to prevent another Florida 2000. But they may have only created a new set of problems. There are questions about whether local election officers have the training to run them and whether a recount is possible on them. (WashPost)

Grass-Roots & High Tech

The Internet is driving a whole new breed of grass roots politics. From fundraising to getting out the vote, activists are figuring out how the computer and Internet figure into the future of American politics. (WashPost)

The Forest and the Trees and the Missing Explosives

The US was so busy looking for WMDs after invading Iraq, maybe they never noticed the components for WMDs lying around. It seems the missing 380 tons of high explosives either looted or stolen from Iraq were part of Saddam Hussein's dismantled atom bomb program. (Reuters)

The Tangled Web We Weave

This election year is to the Internet what the 1960 election was to television. Blogs, streaming video, and scuttlebutt have had a big impact on the election. From Howard Dean's organization to the Texas Air Guard memos, to the bulge on the President's back in the first debate, the whole World Wide Web has been watching. (SF Cronicle -- Editorial)

The Big Chill

It's gong to be a long cold winter for elderly and poor people in the northeast. Higher energy costs are behind a shortfall in heating assistance. The program to help them is expected to come up anywhere between $300 million a cool $1 billion if Congress can't come up with some cold, hard cash. (Boston Globe)

Blowing the Whistle on Halliburton

The Army will go along with a Pentagon investigation into a contracting officer's claims that a Halliburton subsidiary unfairly won no-bid contracts worth billions of dollars for work in Iraq and the Balkans. A complaint claims Halliburton subsidary KBR's actions threatened "the integrity of the federal contracting program." It also seeks whistle-blower protections for Bunnatine Greenhouse, the chief contracting officer for the Corps of Engineers. (MSNBC)

Majoring in Math at the Electoral College

There's a scenario out there that has Senator John Kerry losing the popular vote and winning the electoral vote. Don't you just love math? (Boston Globe)

Rewriting Terror Laws

Washington "cleared whole forests of paper" to rewrite the nation's terrorism laws after 9/11. But three years later, not one single terrorist has been prosecuted under the new tribunals the laws allowed. (IHT)

Two Sides and Caught in the Middle

From 60 Minutes II running forged Texas Air Guard memos to Sinclair Broadcasting Group's Stolen Honor fiasco, this election year has been full of media bias claims. The Boston Globe looks at the claims from both sides. (Boston Globe)

Presidential Perks

A sitting President can hand out billion dollar disaster checks while using Air Force One as a backdrop. It's hard for a challenger to have that kind of photo-op. And that's just one of the perks President Bush capitalizes on in this campaign. (Miami Herald)

Seeking a Probe of Presidential Perks

As the President's taxpayer paid aides fan out across the country to talk up the administrations successes -- oddly right before the election -- Democrats are crying foul. Pre Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) wants the GAO to look into the number and cost of trips by national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, Treasury Secretary John Snow, and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. (LAT)

Stolen Honor on the Cutting Room Floor

Financial and poliltical pressure on Sinclair Broadcasting Group appears to have left most of Stolen Honor on the cutting room floor. The TV group backed off earlier plans and went with a show looking at various documentaries. (USAToday)

What Comes First: The Chicken, the Egg, or the Flu Shot Shortage?

America's flu shot supply depends on chickens and their willingness to lay eggs. It's a system that means it can take a half year to address shortages. (ABC)

Searching Overseas for Flu Shots

Illinois Gov Rod R. Blagojevich (D) isn't waiting for Washington to work on the flu shot shoratge. He's fournd 30,000 doses overseas and wants Washington to let him go ahead and import it. (NYT)

Friday, October 22, 2004

Bad Dog, No Inaugural Tickets

Triumph, the Insult-Comic Dog, was among those hounding people in Spin Alley after the debates. The video is good for a laugh.

Germany -- Red or Blue?

Supporters of both President Bush and Senator Kerry are turning out in record numbers -- in Germany. Expat voting is hitting record levels in the fourth largest home away from home for Yanks. (Reuters)

Hang On to Your Tinfoil Hats

Whoever wins on November 2, conspiracy theorists should be happy. Four years of looking for links to a shadowy secret society. Both President Bush and Senator Kerry were members of "Skull and Bones." A secret society at Yale who meet in a building called "The Tomb" and apparently share details of their sexual histories to make them closer and therefore more able to take over the world. (Reuters)

Big Money on the Campaing Trail

Spending on this year's election is going to break a lot of records. The Center for Responsive Politics estimates the candidates for all federal offices and their supporters will shell out nearly $4 billion. (Reuters)

Lost Jobs in Swing States

Nine battleground states gained a total of 35,000 jobs in September. But five other battleground states lost 37,800 jobs. That net loss of 3,000 jobs may be tough on the incumbent. Especially when you look at the two biggest losers -- Michigan with 14,800 lost jobs and Florida with 9,500 gone. It's the last monthly numbers before the election. (Reuters)

Where The Flu Shot Supply is Shot

El Paso, with 700,000 people is out of flu vaccine. It may be the largest and poorest places to run dry in the whole US so far. (USAToday)

The High Cost of Stolen Honor

Sinclair Broadcasting Group airs "A POW Story" tonight (Friday) on it's stations around the country. A big change from the original plan of airing an anti-Kerry documentary -- Stolen Honor. It's been a long couple of weeks for Sinclair: political outrage, calls for FCC investigations, threats of insider trading lawsuits, an 8% drop in stock prices, firing their chief political reporter for his opposition to Stolen Honor's airing, and finally their retreat. The AP profiles the man behind Sinclair and at the center of the storm in the airwaves. (SF Chronicle)

Custard's Last Stand

Conservative columnist Ann Coulter dodged a pie in the face, but took one in the shoulder. University of Arizona police arrested two men. It happened while the columnist was speaking at a University event. (MSNBC)

Chunk of Change

Taegan Goddard's Political Wire does some quick campaign math and comes up with good links and some really big numbers. The Presidential candidates are spending money at the rate of $9 million a day. Then there's the political parties, the 527 Committees -- and I don't even think anyone's tracking the gas for the guys going around vandalizing and stealing campaign signs. (PoliticalWire.com)

Two Fronts

Senator Kerry claims President Bush backed off the hunt for Osama bin Laden to invade Iraq. There was a pull down in Afghanistan as the Iraq War geared up. The Washington Post looks into what happened in those months. (WashPost)

Protests on the Campus of the Electoral College

South Charleston, West Virginia Mayor Richie Robb may just be the most important swing voter in this election. He's a Republican. But he's mad at President Bush's policies. He's also one of the five electoral college electors the GOP has chosed for West Virginia. If the President carries the state, Robb says he may not vote for the President. (AP)

Cabinet Guessing Games

Who stays and who goes if President Bush wins re-election? And who would a President Kerry hire to sit around the table? It's a favorite pastime in Washington. Thank gawd we geeks here are getting a baseball team. (WashPost)

"After 86 years of failure, why would anyone in their right mind fake being a Red Sox fan?"

Good thing all the other issues in this campaign have been settled. Now we're onto bickering over sports. The Bush campaign was quick to hit Senator Kerry's support for his hometown Red Sox victory over the Yankees. Their release accused Kerry of being "against sports before he was for them," and of "sports pandering." If the campaign ran much longer, we could debate the preferences of Crest vs. Colgate toothpaste. (WashPost)

Selling Iraq

The top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee claims the Pentagon pushed an Iraq connection to 9/11 early on -- even though top intelligence experts thought that was a stretch. Sen Carl Levin (D-MI) says "intelligence was exaggerated to support administration policy." (Philadelphia Inquirer)

The Long War of Sinclair Broadcasting Group

The director of a documentary about John Kerry's Vietnam service is suing Sinclair Broadcasting Group. George Butler claims copyright infringement in his suit. Sinclair was originally going to broadcast an anti-Kerry documentary, Stolen Honor. They backed off under mounting political and financial pressure. Now, Sinclair plans a program on different documentaries in this election year. Butler directed Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry. Sinclair apparently plans to include clips of it in their modified offering. (Reuters)

Red Tape, Long Lines, and Flu Vaccine

While some places are running out of flu shots, others have too much. But federal rules make it difficult for those with a surplus to help places with a shortage. (NPR -Audio)

$8,000,000 Distortions

The Bush/Cheney Campaign ran a pair of ads loaded with distortions more than 9,000 times in 45 cities last week. (FactCheck.org)

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Taxing Their Brains for a New Tax Plan

Treasury Secretary John Snow says overhauling the U.S. tax system will be a priority for a second Bush administration. The President has hinted at -- then backed off from -- a national sales tax. That'd eliminate the IRS but slap an extra 30% or so on the price of must about everything you buy. Supporters claim it's just 23%, because that's about how much it is of the price with the tax included. House Speaker Denny Hastert (R-IL) has shown support for the plan, too. (Reuters)

Baghdad Fell in Less Time

When military reservists had problems returning to federal jobs after being sent off to war, they had to wait for help. On average, the Office of Special Counsel took 145 days to fix their problems. That's the findings of a new Government Accountability Office study.

Hey, Right Hand! Hear What the Left Hand's Been Doing?

The Homeland Security Department's got problems at home. They oversee agencies that oversee people and cargo coming into the US. And the Government Accountability Office has a new report that shows those agencies internal communications problems are a mess. (GovExec.com)

It's Got a Good Beat, But It's Hard to Vote To

In the movie High Fidelity, Jon Cusak played Rob Gordon -- a man who based his taste in women on their taste in music. He'd love Bluebeat.com for helping him decide who to vote for. The site builds a pair of partisan playlists of President Bush's and Senator Kerry's favorite songs. (News24.com)

Fool Me Once...

If you slip a distortion past the voters once, you can do it again and again. That's what's happening with campaign ads. The RNC is twisting a John Kerry quote on terrorism way out of context. And the Kerry camp is falsely claiming the Bush tax cuts have the middle class paying more in taxes than the wealthiest. Stuff that's been debunked already. Maybe this late in the campaign, they're running out of new material. (FactCheck.org)

The Battleground State of Iraq

America's military leans toward President Bush. But they don't support his Iraq plans full force. The troops in Iraq have reservations that are being echoed on the campaign trail in the States. (Newsweek via MSNBC)

October Surprise - Version 1

Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi used the Internet to build himself into a superterrorist. He's behind tons of attacks in Iraq. US and Iraqi forces claim they're closing in on him. But can they get him before the election? And if they do will it even matter. He's a potential "October surprise" if he's captured or killed. (Newsweek via MSNBC)

GOP Websites Crash

The RNC and Bush/Cheney websites went on the fritz around 11:00 am EDT Wednesday morning. They haven't said if it was a technical glitch or a deliberate attack. And they won't say why they didn't switch to one of them other Internets the President was talking about. (USAToday)

Better Than Moby Dick?

Perhaps 80 assistants and a $15 million dollar advance will produce a better book than an infinite number of monkeys at an infinate number of typewriters. But who was the wordsmith behind the National Book Award nominated 9/11 Commission Report? Newsweek goes on what may be a great white whale hunt. (Newsweek/MSNBC)

Blame Canada

The US Ambassador to Canada thinks it's a matter of "when" not "if" terrorists come through Canada to attack the US. When that happens, Paul Cellucci thinks it will cause catastrophic problems for the economic relationship with the US's biggest trading partner. (CTV)

Party Money

President Bush and Senator Kerry each had only $75 million to spend between their national conventions and election day. But they're getting a big hand from their political parties. (WashPost)

Campaigners Catching the Flu Bug

The flu shot shortage has taken on a partisan slant -- happening so close to the election. But it may pale in comparison to the other issues out there. (Chicago Tribune/LAT)

Preventing Future Flu Failures

This year's flu vaccine shortage has Washington scrambling to close the barn door after the horse has gotten out. Your government's weighing ideas that could cost millions to keep a repeat of the shortage from ever happening again. But one of America's flu shot suppliers says it may not be able to deliver again next year. (SF Chronicle/USAToday)

Risking the Flu to Win the Election

President Bush and Senator Kerry have both decided against getting flu shots this year, freeing up two doses for those who really need the shot. A lot elected leaders -- just over a week away from the election -- are following that same plan. The Capitol doctor doled out 2,000 shots -- many to low risk takers -- before press reports shut down the shots. His remaining vaccine is now being turned over to the District of Columbia heath folks for folks who need it more. (Philadelphia Inquirer/WashPost)

How Democrats Changed the Channels

Newsweek features analysis of how the Democrats forced Sinclair Broadcasting Group to change their plans for airing the anti-Kerry documentary Stolen Honor.

Have it Your Way

Burger King is holding the lettuce for ads on Sinclair Broadcasting Group stations. Sinclair's retreat from airing the anti-Kerry documentary Stolen Honor calls for a program discussing the impact of documentaries in this election. It will still feature elements of Stolen Honor, but also look at other political documentaries such as Fahrenheit 9/11. The controversy has left a bad taste in the burger chain's mouth. They've pulled all their ads from all 62 Sinclair stations for the time slots featuring the show. (Wired.com)

Taking Stock of Sinclair's Retreat

Sinclair Broadcasting Group's stock went back up after they announced they would scrap plans to broadcast the anti-Kerry documentary Stolen Honor. Political and financial controversy over the plan had driven Sinclair stock down 8%. (NYT)

Maybe Wayne and Garth will get the Time Slot

Sinclair Broadcasting Group backed down, now a cable access channel is taking a firm stand. The anti-Kerry documentary Stolen Honor aired on the access channel earlier this month. The folks who run the show in Wayne, Delaware say it won't run on their channel again. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Performing Meatball Surgery on Selective Service's Earlier Announcement

Is it just make-work over at the Selective Service System? The SSS is updating a contingency plan for drafting doctors, nurses and other health care workers in a national emergency. Now the Pentagon says there's no contingency that would warrant drafting medical types. Always good to get a second opinion. (NYT)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Brain Dead Comments

Sen Joe Biden (D-DE) is catching flak for saying President Bush was "brain dead" on a new drug bill. Delaware Republicans are demanding an apology. As if the Senator didn't expect a flood of criticism from Republicans. What do you think, he's "brain dead?" (delawareonline.com)

Economics Lesson

College students are getting a lesson in inflation. Tuition at public universities is up an average of 10.5% over the past year. (NYT)

Our Political Futures

Wanna bet how this election's going to turn out? Put your money where your mouth is. Or try futures trading on the election outcome. Websites are popping up all over letting people buy and sell contracts based on who wins and who loses. (Reuters)

If the FDA Had Control, You Couldn't Take Calls from Canada

Soon you could be free to carry Stolen Honor over your phone, but face steep fines for flashing your nipple over it. That's because the FCC has decided it wants regulatory power over Internet phone service. (AP)

Getting the Shots before the Press got Wise

The story only broke this morning (Monday), but Congressmen took advantage of free flu shots on Capitol Hill before heading home for campaigns. Some, like Sen Bill Frist (R-TN) say they got their shots before guidelines came out saying the shots should be reserved for the elderly, infants, and recent transplant patients. Too late to give 'em back now. (Chicago Tribune)

Ballots on the Web for Americans Away from Home

Federal overseas absentee ballots go online Thursday (10/21). Overseas voters have been complaining of problems for weeks with absentee voting. The Federal Voting Assistance website is supposed to make voting easier for 4.4 million voters overseas. They can print out the ballot and get it home before the deadline to turn in absentee votes. (IHT)

It'd Been a While Since the Folks in Hazard County Had Seen a Sissy Slap Fight

Had about all you can take from the politicians? Feel like givin' 'em a good slap. Here's your virtual chance. Ralph Nader will score your slap to the face of both Senator John Kerry and President Bush. Be sure to drag your cursor around the screen and click on some of the images for links to other cool stuff. Didn't waste enough time with this at work? Check out more of my collection of the Liberal Multimedia. (slapthecandidate.com via USAToday)

Leiberman's Balancing Act

The Sinclair Broadcasting Group's chief political reporter says it was tough getting fair news on the air. Jon Leiberman was fired this week for criticizing the TV group's plans to air an anti-Kerry documentary. Leiberman told the Baltimore Sun, "It was the daily struggle to get fair news on the air. I've been raising red flags for months."

Sinclair decided yesterday to back off the airing of Stolen Honor. It will now be cut up and aired as part of another program on Sinclair stations. (BaltSun)

Spending Your Tax Dollars on Campaign Ads

President Bush spent more than half his government granted campaign money in just September. Both candidates opted for federal financing -- thus limiting the amount of money they could raise to bombard us with campaign ads. President Bush spent $44 million in September and had a stack of bills worth $455,000 as October began. Still waiting on Senator Kerry's numbers from the FEC. (Seattle P-I)

Talk About a Targeted Audience

The Kerry Campaign is grinding out TV ads that never show up in commercial breaks -- more than a half dozen since September 1. They're produced and promoted to news operations simply to generate news stories. (WashPost)

Unchain the Lawyers

Democrats and Republicans have already unleashed their legal attack dogs two weeks ahead of the election. They're looking into every charge of voter fraud and voter intimidation they can sniff out. And they're prepared to pounce on any likely cases come election day. They've learned their lessons well from 2000 and can promise even more vicious attacks if the vote's close on November 2. Democrats plan to have 600 lawyers at polls in Virginia alone on election day, looking for signs of intimidation. (WashPost)

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Elderly Americans will get a 2.7% raise in Social Security, but a 17.4% hike in Medicare premiums. So the average senior will get an extra $25.00 a month from Uncle Sam but have to pay Washington an extra $11.60 a month. Net gain = $13.40 a month. WhooooHoo! (NYT)

Special Interests Interested in Your Vote

Special interest groups are spending $350 million to get people registered to vote and to the polls this year. (NYT)

Intelligence is What We Do -- Not What We Have

US Troops not only had bad intel going into the Iraq War, they had bat intel about the occupation. Just how bad is just now fully coming to light. (NYT)

Fear This

If you can inspire through leadership, instill fear in the people. Seems to be the theme for both sides going into the scary election. (NPR - Audio)

Prying into the Spy Shop

The CIA is good at keeping secrets. They may want to keep results of an internal investigation secret from Congress. Top members of the House Intelligence Committee want the CIA to turn over its report on whether agency employees should be held accountable for intelligence failures leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks. (LAT)

Healthy Supply of Flu Shots -- For Congressmen

Flu shot shortage? Not on Capitol Hill. While elderly Americans are waiting hours in line for a rare vaccination, Congressmen can get one no matter what the flu risk to your hired hands on the Hill. (WashPost)

Tax Cuts for Americans Overseas

Congress' corporate tax bill offers big tax breaks to Americans living overseas. (IHT)

Sharing the Load in Unloading Stolen Honor

It may have been shareholders who broke the will of Sinclair Broadcasting Group's management. Blocks of shareholders -- watching Sinclair stock slide -- threatened lawsuits if the company aired the anti-Kerry documentary Stolen Honor on the company's 62 TV stations.

New York state pension fund owns shares in Sinclair. Comptroller Alan Hevesi sent a letter to Sinclair demanding the documentary not be aired.

San Diego attorney William S. Lerach promised a shareholder suit. His plan would charge insider trading by top executives and the decision to air the documentary have hurt the company.

And liberal media advocacy group Media Matters planned to underwrite the costs of a shareholder suit. (Boston Globe)

Change of Plans for Stolen Honor

Pounded by legal, financial, and political pressure, Sinclair Broadcasting Group is backing off its original plans to air Stolen Honor. They'll now chop up the anti-Kerry documentary and air parts of it in an hour-long special. (SF Chronicle)

Republicans Liberal with the Label

A new RNC ad claims John Kerry is the most liberal man in the Senate. Actually, he doesn't quite make the top 10. But who's counting.? The folks at FactCheck.org. (FactCheck.org)

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

All We Have to Fear is the Next 14 Days

Ever wonder why election day is so close to Halloween?

Maybe it's easier to scare us voters.

Vice President Dick Cheney wins the spooky speech of the day prize with his suggestion in Ohio that terrorists could bomb US cities with nuclear weapons.

Even as the Veep's spooking us into our bomb shelters, his boss was down in Florida accusing Senator Kerry of using "scare tactics" in suggesting the Bush administration would have some kind of military draft in a second term.

But talk of a draft appears to scare kids into voting against the President, just as sure as talk of nuking Carroll, Ohio scares the security moms into voting for him.

And with the election only two days after Halloween the rhetoric will surely be the political equivilent of flaming bags of dog-poo on our front porches.

Political Science

The scientific method is just about the exact opposite of political debate.

Schools of higher learning describe it like this: "The scientific method is the process by which scientists, collectively and over time, endeavor to construct an accurate (that is, reliable, consistent and non-arbitrary) representation of the world."

But scientists are locked in constant debate it seems with the Bush administration. (NYT)

A Boatload of Tax Breaks

Two big defense contractors are getting big tax breaks from the corporate tax bill that cleared Congress. General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman will get to postpone taxes on profits from building ships and submarines for taxpayers. A tax break on top of the bill they send us. Maybe they weren't the low bidders after all. The little-noticed part of the big bill will save the defense companies nearly $500 million over the next 10 years. (NYT)

Making Excuses in Advance

Maybe the close race has Democrats and Republicans worried about the embarassment of a loss. Both are already spinning excuses for the day after the election. In close elections, both sides have tried and true strategies for saying the votes are skewed. Republicans claim voter fraud and Democrats claim voter intimidation. They're just claiming it ahead of the vote this year. (Palm Beach Post)

Deficits, Drafts, and Political Promises

President Bush promised four years ago there'd be no return to deficits. Now he promises no return of a draft. We did return to deficits. An Op-Ed writer who did the math on the first promise does the math on the second. (NYT - Opinion)

Shooting for the Record

Average gasoline prices have topped $2.00 a gallon. Sitting at the third all-time highest level at the time of this article, they're 2.9 cents below the all time record price for gasoline. (Wired.com)

Creating the Next "Hawkeye" Pierce -- Drafting Doctors

The Bush administration promises there'll be no draft, but the Selective Service System is updating its contingency plans for a draft of doctors, nurses, and other health-care workers. Nothing definite. It's just in case of a national emergency. Something that overwhelmsd the military's medical corps.

Has nothing to do with the work they've been doing since the spring on a 'selective draft' of computer and language experts.

Now, will you please ignore the man behind the curtain. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Voting Absentee from Orbit

American astronaut Leroy Chiao will become only the second person to vote from outerspace. He's casting an e-vote in this year's election from the International Space Station. (CNN)

Stolen Honor and Falling Stocks

Sinclair Broadcasting Group's decision to air the anti-Kerry documentary Stolen Honor is hurting the company on Wall Street. SBG's stock price fell 8% in trading Monday. (WashTimes)

Washington's Overpaying With Your Money

The folks at the Social Security Administration sent out checks for nearly $1 billion too much in disability payments last year. Many of the checks went to people who'd returned to work. The Government Accountability Office reports that overpayments grew by 15% since 1999, adding up to a debt of nearly $3 billion by last year. (Seattle PI)

Thank's for Expressing Your Opinion on Journalistic Ethics. Here's a Box. Clean Out Your Desk.

Sinclair Broadcasting Group's top political reporter is out of work after criticising his boss for playing politics. Jon Leiberman was fired and promptly escorted out of the building for ripping into Sinclair Broadcasting Group's decision to air the anti-Kerry documentary Stolen Honor. "I was told I violated company policy by divulging information from a staff meeting to The (Baltimore) Sun in this morning's edition," he said in an AP article.

Who's Plan is it Anyway?

Senator John Kerry's new ad claims "Bush has a plan to cut Social Security benefits by 30 to 45 percent."

There are some problems with that. First, it's false. The President has no such plan. It's one of three possible "reform models" a bipartisan commission cooked up in 2001. Second, the plan Kerry's talking about only slows down the growth of benefits, and only for future retirees. (FactCheck.org)

Monday, October 18, 2004

Putting Computer Guys to Work

The economy may be rebounding on paper -- but not in cyberspace. Job cuts in the tech sector jumped 60% between July and September. Computer companies alone saw lay offs jump 127%.

But there could still be help from Uncle Sam. The military is way short on computer guys. And the Selective Service Administration has been working on a "selective draft" of -- guess who? Yep. Computer guys. That's just in case it's needed. Senator John Kerry says the President will institute a draft of some sort if re-elected. The President says he won't. The SSA keeps working on the idea. (Reuters)

Don't Misunderestimate the Gun in my Pocket

A guy walks into a bank in the battleground state of Pennsylvania and holds it up. Wait, did I tell you he was wearing a George W. Bush mask? OK, it's funnier with the mask. Just look. (The Smoking Gun)

A Matter of Honor

Check out the latest criticism of Sinclair Broadcasting Group's decision to air Stolen Honor, an anit-Kerry documentary.

"It's biased political propaganda, with clear intentions to sway this election." Who's the critic? Jon Leiberman. He's Sinclair's top political reporter. Leiberman says he has ethical questions about airing the program so close to an election.

Leiberman told Sinclair's vice president for news, Joseph DeFeo, that he would not contribute to the program. He says DeFeo suggested that could cost Leiberman his job. (BaltSun)

Defending his Honor

A Vietnam veteran shown in the anti-Kerry documentary Stolen Honor has sued the film's director for libel. Kenneth J, Campbell is a professor at the University of Delaware. The documentary shows him at a 1971 war protest as the voice over says many of the supposed veterans were exposed as "frauds" who "never set foot on the battlefield or left the comfort of the States or even served in uniform."

Campbell has declared war on film producer Carlton Sherwood -- sending along copies of his military records showing he recieved the Purple Heart and eight other medals in Vietnam. (AP)

Sinclair's Big Risk

Sinclair Broadcasting Group could stand to lose more than Senator John Kerry over their upcoming documentary, Stolen Honor.

Sinclair has ordered its 62 TV stations to air the anti-Kerry documentary before the election. But the backlash may be more damaging to Sinclair than Kerry.

With word out of the show's ties to partisan politicians, there's been a backlash of protests from viewers and advertisers.

It may end up costing Sinclair a lot of cash and ratings. (NYT)

Got a Sick Feeling about Flu Season

With tens of millions of Americans going without flu shots this year, health professionals are bracing for a bad winter. They warn of overflowing hospitals and criticize the government for no emergency plan. (NPR -- Audio)

The Brethren, Part 2

Law clerks, under a cloak of anonymity, are spilling the juicy details of the Supreme Court election decision of 2000. The clerks talked to Vanity Fair magazine and say there was a lot of partisan bickering put above the Constitution. (WashPost via FortWayne.com)

Florida Jumps the Gun on Election Problems

The election's still two weeks away -- but Florida's already having problems. Nine of 14 early voting sites in Broward County have had computer problems. (Sun Sentinel)

Holy Shirt!

The fashion police were protecting the President in Oregon. Three teachers wearing T-shirts that said, “Protect Our Civil Liberties,” were ordered out of a Bush campaign rally and threatened with arrest. They'll be revising their Civics lesson plans. (AP)

Finding Balance

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz looks at how the media watchdogs are doing watching the Presidential candidates' claims. He also looks at what distortions both sides are putting in front of voters. (WashPost)

The Eye of a Needle -- and the Great Big Loophole

The hole in the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law was big enough for billionaires to dash through. Six of the 10 biggest contributors to 527 Committees are billionaires. The committees are the last haven for unregulated money in campaigns -- and the rich are spending hand over fist on them. (WashPost)

Coming Around to the Soft Money

After complaining about all the help Democrats were getting with 527 Committees, Republicans may not think they're such a bad idea after all. GOP friendly 527s are outspending their left-leaning counterparts 6 to 1 on radio and TV ads. (WashPost)

The 24 Hour Bug -- Years in the Making

People dying in line to get their vaccines, suppliers charging $800 for $60 worth of medicine. The flu shot shortage was a long time in coming. (NYT)

Washington's Sales Tax Math

President Bush has called the idea of a national sales tax and interesting idea. But do the math on a sales tax and you find it would add up to a hefty chunk of change -- one of the heaviest in the world. (NYT)

Vote Early -- Before You Change Your Mind

Florida is getting a two week jump on the election. Early voting starts there and in Texas, Colorado and Arkansas today. (Seattle P-I)

How Many Bills Has Kerry "Passed?"

The folks at FactCheck.org delve into Washington math. President Bush says Senator Kerry only passed 5 bills. The Senator says it's 56. Odd how both are right and wrong. (FactCheck.org)

Friday, October 15, 2004

Winning Tradition

The folks at Snopes.com look into the urban legend of a winning tradition. Seems the outcome of Washington Redskins' games have predicted the winner of every Presidential election since 1936. (Snopes.com)

Why Wait Until the Supreme Court Has to Decide?

Politicians are getting the jump on election problems. USA Today has a roundup of protests, complaints, and charges of election problems...more than two weeks before the polls open. (USA Today)

Political Loyalty Etched in...Grass

Tired of people stealling you campaign signs? Do what John Clayton did. He mowed the words "Kerry for President" into the grass on his lawn. No one can steal that sign. The worst vandals can do is mow his yard for him. (The Ledger)

The ABCs of Smuggling Uranium into America

The Homeland Security Department's Inspector General says ABC News showed Washington something they need to take notice of. ABC twice shipped depleted uranium into the US to see if inspectors would find it. It's perfectly legal to ship the stuff. But inspectors should see the radioactive signature and check it out. They didn't.

The IG says those failures demonstrate serious deficiencies in Uncle Sam's techniques for screening cargo. (WashPost)

And "The Subcommitte Report on Alfalfa Production Rates in Post Drought Climates" is Snubbed Again

The 9/11 Commission Report is a finalist for the National Book Award in non-fiction. Federal reports are usually dry wonkish things. But this report was written with the public in mind and wound up on the bestseller list. (LAT)

Drilling the Drill Regulations

Five Congressmen are calling for an investigation into the Bush administration's rules and regulations on something called "hydraulic fracturing." It's an oil and gas drilling technique Halliburton pioneered. The administration's backed several rules to allow it even thought some at the EPA say it hurts the environment. The rules give a huge competitive advantage to Halliburton. The Congressmen are calling on the EPA's Inspector General to investigate, questioning the EPA Administrator, and calling for Congressional hearings. (LAT)

Now to Our Correspondent on the Administration's Payroll -- Paid for With Your Tax Dollars

Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) are calling for an investigation of Education Department spending. They want to know if taxpayer money was used to produce what they consider "propaganda" for the Bush administration. It stems from $700,000 the Education Depatment spent for a private contractor to produce 11 VNRs -- or Video News Releases -- designed to look like TV news stories. The VNRs touted successes with the No Child Left Behind Law and were sent out to TV stations. They could be run uncut and appear to be news stories. (Houston Chronicle)

Investigating Voter Investigations

The Government Accountability Office says the Justice Department needs to get its act together before the November election. A GAO investigation found the Justice Department has no way to tell if a voting complaint warrants an investigation. The GAO says Justice needs to improve its ability to track voting problems so it can assure public confidence in the election system. (Boston Globe)

Gettin' Some Knowledge on the Electoral College

After the 2000 election crisis, I was asked to explain on New Zealand national TV how the Electoral College works. Long story short, I'm never allowed into New Zealand. If I'd only had the brilliant minds at CNN producing that report. Now you can have that info at your fingertips! (CNN)

Trick or Treat at the Pump

Rising oil prices are reaching your pump. Expect an average $2.00 a gallon for gas as early as this weekend. Not unexpected in the summer. Real creepy around Halloween. (USAToday)

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Show Will Go On -- And the Protests Will, Too

The FCC says it has no precedent allowing it to stop Sinclair Broadcast Group from airing the anti'Kerry documentary "Stolen Honor." FCC Chairman Michael Powell announced the decision. Powell is the son of President Bush's Secretary of State, Colin Powell.

Meanwhile, the effort to boycott Sinclair advertisers has picked up some steam. Nearly 58,000 people have signed an online petition complaining of the Sinclair plan at Boycott Sinclair Broadcast Group.

SinclairWatch.com also has instructions on how to file a complaint with the FCC.

No Stopping "Stolen Honor"

The FCC says it won't stop Sinclair Broadcasting Group from running the anti-Kerry documentary "Stolen Honor." FCC Chairman Michael Powell says there's no precedent for blocking the documentary. Michael Powell is the son of President Bush's Secretary of State, Colin Powell. (Boston Globe)

Flip Flop

"Gosh, I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations."-- George W. Bush, during the third Presidential debate, 10/13/04.

"I don't know where he [Osama bin Laden] is and I really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority."-- George W. Bush, 5/13/02.

The Taxpayer Funded Snowjob

The Chairman of the House Resources Committee used $68,000 of your tax money to mail out fliers saying how wonderful a rule on snomobiles is. Rep Richard Pombo (R-CA) sent out the fliers to 166,000 people in the battleground states of Minnesota and Wisconsin and 9,600 people in Montana and Wyoming. Those are big snowmobile places. The rule is a Bush administration decision to let snowmobile riders run through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Democrats claim the mailings came after a deadline to prevent politicking on the public dime. But the big mystery is why the Miami Herald is reporting on a snowmobile story. (Miami Herald)


The Internet(s) and Politics

Outspent nearly 16-1, opponents of California's Prop 64 have launched a cheap and inovative campaign plan. They made an animated cartoon and e-mailed it to as many people as they could hoping those people will e-mail it to all the people in their address books and so on. (USAToday)

Still Fighting the Wimp Factor

Former President George H.W. Bush doesn't like the way he came off in Fahrenheit 9/11. In an interview in one of his home states, #41 reacted to the mention of Moore's name with, "Total ass, slimeball." (Boston Globe)

By the Numbers

Someone at the Associated Press has the great job of drawing hash marks on a board every time a Presidential candidate says "Osama bin Laden." (AP)

A Halliburton Link to the Bush Administration -- Apparently the First One Ever

The Bush Administration has pushed for policy over the past several years that benefits a unique form of oil drilling. It was created by their friends at Halliburton. It's lucrative for the company to have federal policy back their system. Some folks at the EPA says it hurts the environment. (LAT)

Flu Symptoms

A hospital that had no flu vaccine handed out chicken soup and Kleenex instead.

In the wake of 9/11, we've been afraid of terrorists using WMDs in an attack on our soil. We've been assured that we're safe from a biological attack. But the FDA may have dropped the ball on the sudden halving of flu vaccine this year. Congress is looking into that.

Without enough vaccine, the flu will llikely kill more people this year -- as it does every year -- that the attacks on 9/11. Roughly 36,000 people die each year from the flu. Fewer than 3,000 died from the 9/11 attacks.

And President Bush, long opposed to the idea of reimporting drugs made in the USA from Canada, because he claims they're unsafe is says in the final debate he's willing to import flu vaccine from Canadian drug makers.

Feel safer yet?

Homeland Security Successful at Protecting Excess

Nearly a half-million of your Homeland Security dollars went to pay for an awards ceremony. It includes $81,000 for plaques and $500 for a cheese display. Feel any safer yet? (AP)

Price Gouging

With not enough flu vaccine to go around, some suppliers have jacked the price 1000% or more. The price gouging is making some hospitals sick. (NPR - Audio)

The Senator's Closed Doors

The theory that al Qaeda is planning multiple, simultaneous attacks to paralyze the federal government is apparently behind Sen Mark Dayton's (D-MN) decision to close his Capitol Hill office. The Senator defends the action some of his collegues are calling "paranoid."

Yes Sir, We'll Put Your Voter Registration Form Right Here -- in the Circular File -- File 13 -- Nicely Shredded

Television stations in Las Vegas and Portland are reporting that the Republican National Committee hired a firm that sabotaged Democratic voter registration forms. (WashPost, KLAS, KWG)

All in the Same Swift Boat

The Washington Post highlights more partisan connections between the Sinclair Broadcasting Group's "Stolen Honor" documentary and the anti-Kerry "Swift Boat Veterans." (WashPost)

Cheap Tricks

Both Senators John Kerry and John Edwards have brought up in the debates that Vice President Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter. The Veep's wife, Lynne Cheney is now calling that "a cheap trick." (WashPost)

The Zell You Say, Again!

Senator John Kerry's swipe at "imported ceiling fans" in the final Presidential debate was also a swipe at Sen Zell Miller (D-GA). Miller fell out of favor with Democrats for his stinging keynote address at the Republican National Convention. But he fell into favor with the folks on Capitol Hill in charge of doling out pork. Home Depot wanted a break on tarriffs on Chinese ceiling fans. And Sen Miller -- as their Senator and the reciepient of some of $8,480 their campaign cash this campaign --put the request in to the Republican leadership. The Republicans there made sure Miller got the break. And Home Depot turned their $8,480 connection to Miller into a $44 million profit for them -- and their Chinese suppliers. (NYT)

Where are Redford and Hoffman When You Need Them

The New York Times' Frank Rich opines about a national news media under political attack and compares the current state of affairs to the Watergate era. (NYT)

New Distortions Debut at the Debate

The debate may have sounded familiar, with both President Bush and Senator Kerry sticking to campaign messages and catch phrases. But the folks at FactCheck.org found some new distortions among the recycled rhetoric. (FactCheck.org)

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Black and Blue -- Politics is a Full Contact Sport in Kentucky

The Fancy Farm picnic is a Kentucky political tradition. Been there, done that.

It's a no holds barred, old fashioned political talkin'. Every candidate from every party has to be there or he's dead to voters in western Kentucky. Democrats line up on one side, Republicans on the other side of the stage and heckling is encouraged.

But Sen Jim Bunning (R-KY) says this haven of bare-knuckled politics got a little too bare-knuckled for his wife.

He claims his opponent, Democratic State Senator Daniel Mongiardo's staff beat Mrs. Bunning black-and-blue. Sen Mongiardo calls the claim "outrageous."

Sen Bunning has also said Sen Mongiardo looks like one of Saddam Hussein's sons. He's since apologized for that.

$20 Million in Campaign Ammo

The NRA will spend $20 million dollars to re-elect President Bush. The pro-gun group will spend the money on things from TV ads to phone banks. They say picking the next Supreme Court is vital to the cause of gun rights. (WashPost)

Talk about Newsworthy

The "newsworthiness" of Sinclair Broadcast Group's Stolen Honor documentary may have to be called into question. A news release from "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" claims the documentary was originally produced for a group called "POWs for Truth." The POWs and Swifties have since merged into a single, joint political organization.

From the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" website: "The POWs [for Truth] also released a new 40 minute documentary titled Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal, produced by Pulitzer Prize and Peabody Award winning journalist Carlton Sherwood.

This would seem to make the documentary a partisan political work rather than "newsworthy" under federal election law. (Swift Boat Veterans for Truth)

Moore on Sinclair

Left leaning film maker Michael Moore is reportedly willing to forego another "Best Documentary" Oscar to score some political points. Taegan Goddard's Political Wire reports that Moore might be willing to put Fahrenheit 9/11 on TV. He has some legal points to iron out first. Airing it on TV would take it out of the Oscar race due to Academy rules. But talk about counterprogramming! Red stations airing Stolen Honor, Blue stations airing F9/11! (PoliticalWire.com)

Docking Advertisers over the Doc

Critics of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s decision to air an anti-Kerry documentary, “Stolen Honor,” are threatening to dishonor Sinclair’s advertisers. They’ve listed advertisers on the web. They also are pointing to the company’s other ventures. (BoycottSBG.com)

Taxes and Truth -- There are Ways to Avoid Both

Senator Kerry's ad on taxes claims the middle class has been saddled with a greater tax burden. That's true, but still misleading. Dang these shades of gray! (FactCheck.org)

The SUV Loophole

A loophole letting business owners buy an SUV and haul home a $100,000 tax break is closing. That could produce a run on Hummers, Expeditions, Suburbans, and other "short buses." (USAToday)

Closing Shop Over Terror Threats

Sen. Mark Dayton (D-MM) is shutting down his Capitol Hill office. Says he has security concerns based on intel from last summer about "terrorist threats." Capitol Hill has been under extra tight security since August's terror alert, but some Senators think Dayton's move is an overreaction. (WashPost)

Punk Rock and the President

Where else can you find a cool phrase like "Islamo-Fascist Mullahocracy?" The "freak factor" of ConservativePunk.com has lured a million people to the site backing President Bush and relishing the Punk lifestyle. (WashPost)

Coloring Poll Results

A Cornell professor claims he has scientific evidence that every time the terror color code goes up -- President Bush's approval rating goes up with it. Expect a mad rush to find a bunch of new colors to add to the chart before November 2. (WashPost)

Buying Time for Distant Voters

Pennsylvania is a swing state and every vote will matter. The Justice Department is suing Pennsylvania elections officials to buy overseas voters two more weeks to cast ballots. They filed suit Tuesday in Pennsylvania claiming the state failed to send out ballots in time due to a legal dispute over whether they should list independent candidate Ralph Nader. (WashPost)

Rock the Vote Somewhere Else

Looking for a haven from political ads? Turn to MTV. The music channel and its sister channels have a simple policy: no issue advocacy ads. They can get away with it since they're cable. What's that sound? All the viewers in Toledo clicking to MTV? (WashPost)

All the Fake News that's Fit to Air

In a repeat of the faked Medicare "news stories" earlier this year, the Bush administration is doing the same with the No Child Left Behind Law. The "stories" are actually VNRs -- Video News Releases. They tout the great things and none of the bad going on with the law. And they're presented as if they are actual news stories -- ready for a local TV station to put on the air as is. There are a lot of ethical problems with this for journalists -- none for the PR people who churn them out. But it seems the administration could be sued by Comedy Central. Afterall, "fake news" is The Daily Show's schtick. (LAT)

"If Your Lobbyist had a Pulse, You Got a Tax Break"

Tax breaks for bow and arrow manufacturers. And a Kentucky Fried Chicken break converting it's salad bar to a manufacturing operation to take advantage of other breaks. Just some of the $136 billion in new tax breaks your hired hands on the Hill handed businesses in the corporate tax bill. (NPR - Audio)

Trouble on the Internet(s)

The Republican running against Rep Chris VanHollen (R-MD) for Congress has hijacked the Congressman's name. Candidate Charles Floyd grabbed three available versions of the Congressman's name for websited. Go there and you'll find unflattering info about the Democrat. (WashPost)

Playing Catch Up With Red Ink

Whoever wins the Presidential race wins twin deficits as well. The budget deficit has hit record territory each of the last two years. On top of that, there's a trade deficit -- $166.2 billion in the second quarter. (AFP)

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Man Behind "Stolen Honor"

Who is Carlton Sherwood -- the film maker behind Sinclair Broadcast Group's "Stolen Honor?" The documentary is critical of Senator John Kerry's anti-war activities after he came home from Vietnam and features interviews with two people who've appeared in the anti-Kerry "Swift Boat Ads."

Sinclair and it's top honchos are big financial backers of President Bush and the Republican Party. They've ordered their 62 stations -- many in key battleground states -- to pre-empt prime time programming to air the documentary as "newsworthy."

That one word may be all it takes to make the documentary immune to political charges from the left.

Pulitizer, Peabody, and a Day in Court

So who is Carlton Sherwood? He's no Michael Moore. He has as many Purple Hearts as John Kerry and contributes to Veterans' causes. He even has a journalism award named after him.

The guy won a Pulitzer and a Peabody. And more journalism awards over his career than John Kerry could’ve won medals if he’d spent five months in Vietnam instead of just four.

But Sherwood also got charged with illegally recording a conversation back in 1983 -- the kind of thing that tripped up Linda Tripp. An indication he is willing to play fast and loose to get a story. But the charge is not necessarily a bad thing. Wiretap laws differ from state to state and can be loaded with technicalities. His market at the time had three different jusidistions with varying laws. And any state's can trip up even the best.

Running Into "The Wall"

But it was a series of reports for DC’s Channel 9 -- WDVM at the time, WUSA today -- that left a huge black mark against his otherwise impressive career. The incident is briefly mentioned (on page 3) in the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Fund documents filed at the Library of Congress.

Sherwood did a series of reports for the station that led to a GAO audit of the fund’s finances -- and ended up leaving his station $50,000 poorer.

The four-part series began airing on WDVM in Washington, DC, November 7, 1983 and accused the Memorial Fund of mismanaging finances.

In 1983, it was hard to believe the simple, elegant, and solemn black stone monument would become the most popular one in a city of memorials and monuments. Back then, the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial was a favorite target of conservatives. They hated it. They saw it as a black mark against America.

A series of reports on bad finances fueled the fire conservatives hurled against "The Wall."

Archived articles at the Washington Post show Sen John Warner (R-VA) and then-Sen Charles Mathias (R-MD) requested a GAO probe of Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Fund, Inc. in December, 1983, about a month after Sherwood's series aired in DC.

Sherwood's Vietnam

By May, 1984, the GAO reported that the Fund had handled it’s $9 million perfectly well.

Six months later, the station’s news director, Dave Pearce, issued an on-air apology for the story. In less than a year, the blockbuster expose had blown up in Sherwood's face and the station suffered collateral damage.

The Washington Post’s November 8, 1984 edition carried a story that started:


In what attorneys for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund yesterday called "an unprecedented retraction by a television station," Channel 9 aired an apology and a complete exoneration of the Fund, one year to the day after WDVM began broadcasting a controversial four-part series of reports that, in WDVM's words, "raised serious questions regarding the financial propriety" of the Fund.


After that, the station contributed $50,000 to the Memorial Fund.