Monday, November 29, 2004

Canada Braces for Protests, Eh?

The Canadian government expects 15,000 people to protest President Bush's visit to Canada. One group, Lawyers Against War not only has a great acronym (LAW), but want the President arrested for war crimes if he sets foot on Canadian soil. Not likely. But 15,000 people? That's nearly half the country's population! (CNN)

The Answer is No

The question is, "Did you go to the Clinton Presidential Library?"

Having just returned from Thanksgiving in Arkansas, everyone who hears about the trip -- from friends to complete strangers -- want to know if I've been. It rained, the lines were long outside. I figure there is plenty of Presidential presentations in Washington.

You'd think.

May be one of those "forest for the trees" views. Turns out there is only one -- count 'em -- one museum devoted to a President in all of Washington, DC. And that's dedicated to the only President who hung around town after he left office -- Woodrow Wilson. (AP via SFGate.com)

And You Thought the US Campaign Season was Tough

The US has a lot at stake going into Iraq's planned elections in January. So much, that they're keeping their most experienced commanders and troops in place, even as fresh forces arrive to relieve them. Don't expect many people to come home until the Iraqi polls close. The US plans to have an extra 5,000 troops in place through the voting -- on top of the 138,000 stationed there already. Even so, expect insurgents to cause more problems -- and increase their attacks -- before the polls open. (USNews)

They Hate Our Policies Not Our Freedom

The Christian Science Monitor has more on the quietly released Defense Department report I told you about earlier today. The report from the Defense Science Board was critical of many approaches the Bush administration has taken in the mideast and the War on Terror. Among other things, it suggests the US approach to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is encouraging Muslims to join the ranks of al Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups. (CSM)

How You Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm?

You shelled out $16.4 billion in farm subsidies last year. Since 1995, taxpayers have spent $131 billion on help to farmers. But the money isn't going to the family farm. Much of the money goes to profitable agribusinesses. Just 10% of the people who get farm subsidies -- get 72% of that $16.4 billion. The Environmental Working Group is out with the latest database of who gets what money. (EWG.org)

Delays and Rising Costs -- Just Another Day in Washington

A government project behind schedule and overbudget? Surely, that's never happened before!

When work started on the Capitol Visitors Center in 2002, it was supposed to cost $373.5 million and be finished by January, 2005. Now it's up to $421 million and won't open until the cherry blossoms bloom in 2006.

The huge complex is two-thirds the size of the Capitol. Almost the whole east lawn of the Capitol grounds have been dug up for the three story center. (WashPost)

Making Money By Saving Taxpayers Money

Whistle blowers pull down big bucks. The False Claims Act lets people blow the whistle on employers cheating Uncle Sam on government contracts. Washington gets most of their money back, and the whistle blower gets a reward. The plan's returned $12 billion to taxpayers and handed out $1 billion to the whistle blowers. (NYT)

Coffee, Tea, or an AIM-12 Advanced Medium-Range, Air-to-Air Missile?

The Boeing 737 -- the most popular airliner in the world -- is pretty popular with the Navy. They want to turn some into "Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft." That's swabby talk for "bomber."

Pull out the seats, slap in a bomb bay and sling some missiles under the wings and it turns into a long range patrol bomber to hunt and kill submarines.

It's got to be a better idea than those tanker leases with the Air Force. (Wired.com)

Good News, Bad News

The new Medicare drug benefit that starts in 2006 will make drugs cheaper for some low income Americans. But millions more will have to pay more to get prescription drugs. The Kaiser Family Foundation came up with the numbers. (CNN)

A $5 Million Incentive to Telecommute

Congress is determined to end gridlock in Washington -- on the Beltway at least. They want more federal workers working from home -- telecommuting. To make sure the boss bureaucrats are listenting, they're holding up $5 million from a handful of agencies. The State, Commerce, and Justice Departments are among those that don't get the money until they certify their workers are allowed to telecommute. (WashPost)

The Army Hangs on to Its Hitler Art

The Supreme Court will let the US Army keep four paintings by Adolph Hitler. A German family demanded the paintings be returned. But the court says the Army took them to "de-Naxify Germany." Must've worked. (USAToday)

The 21st Century Demands a Recount

Alabama voters voted to keep segregationist language in their Constitution by a slim margin. An amendment would have removed language requiring racial segregation. By a margin of just .13% --- just 1,850 votes -- Alabama voters decided to keep the Jim Crow era language. A recount starts today. (CNN)

The Terrorists are Winning the War of Words

A Pentagon panel claims al Qaeda and radical Islamists are winning the propaganda war. The Defense Science Board determined the Bush administration's Mid-east policies, failure to understand Muslim culture, and a lack of imagination has given the bad guys a good lead in the battle for hearts and minds. (Asia Times)

What $1.6 Billion will Buy You on TV

The Alliance for Better Campaigns is out with lists of where the money was spent and where the ads aired in the just finished campaign. It breaks down campaign spending by state and television market. Toledo dropped to 10th in the number of ads aired. Boston took first with more than 15,000 ads aired. (Alliance for Better Campaigns)

Let's Go to the Tape

Living in the past? Can't get over Election 2004? Now you can replay all your favorite moments -- like Michael Badnarik teaching a class on the Constitution or the October 8 Presidential Debate. This non-partisan website is collecting video footage of campaign 2004 and letting you download it. So heat up a Swanson's Hungry Man dinner in the microwave, sit back, and enjoy. (Internet Archive)

Shrimp Gone Wild -- And Other Things Your Tax Dollars Pay For

Even though Washington's run up a record deficit, Congress has found plenty of money for pork projects: $335,000 to protect North Dakota sunflowers from blackbirds, $50,000 to control wild hogs in Missouri, and $443,000 to develop salmon fortified baby food. Yum. Then there's a cool million bucks or the "Wild American Shrimp Iniative."

Members of Congress tack on pet projects to brag about bringing home the bacon. It helps if you're on the Appropriations Committee where spending is hashed out before it's handed out. Sen Richard Shelby (R-AL) is on that committee. He tacked on enough special items for his home state to fill out 20 press releases. (AP via Yahoo!)

Taking Out a Loan for Social Security

It's hard to put a price tag on the planned Social Security overhaul when the details are still sketchy. But expect it to cost hundreds of billions of dollars at the very least -- trillions at most. With the country already operating in the red, that means taking out massive loans. (NYT)

And the Maytag Repairman Could Run the CIA

When you can't make money fixing TV sets, get into the business of protecting the President. That's what Brown International did. (AP via the Baltimore Sun)

Big Brother's Holding Company

They sort your mail, count you in the Census, and even photograph you running a red light and write you the ticket. It's not your government. It's Lockheed Martin -- the big time defense contractor taking a big role in parts of government. So big in fact, they can call the shots on some of the ways government now operates. Your vote still counts -- if you're a stockholder. (NYT)

Campaign Commercials -- Even After the Election's Over

Turn on the TV in DC and you'll see campaign commercials year round -- at least when Congress is in session. And they're popping up more and more around the country -- urging people to call or write their Congressmen to support this bill or that one. Use the links at the right to write your Congressman and tell him to turn off the TV and get back to work. (WashPost)

Recounting the Election

It won't change the outcome, but it could change vote counting practices in the future. The Government Accountability Office is looking into the way election officers handled provisional ballots and malfunctions with voting machines. The GAO decided to act without a request from Congress because it had gotten so many comments from the public about problems. (Guardian)

Friday, November 19, 2004

Washington's Data on Thanksgiving

Watching Washington takes a well deserved -- or at least badly needed -- Thanksgiving break.

To tide you over in my absence this next week, here are some facts and figures your Census Bureau has cooked up about Thanksgiving in the US. I'll be back after the holiday.

And I promise -- no leftovers. (US Census Bureau)

Only Driven by a Little Old Lady from Hyannis Port on Sundays

The famous "bubble-top" Presidential limo is going on the auction block. Jackie Kennedy used it during her husband's administration. It had a clear, plastic bubble over the rear seats to give crowds an unobstructed view of the passengers. LBJ continued using the most unusual of all Presidential limos until 1969. It's rare for a Presidential ride to go to sale and this one's expected to bring a pretty penny. (US News)

One Stop Shopping for All Your Returns

Washington is making it a little easier to see if anything you own has been recalled. A new website called Recalls.gov lists recall lists from different federal agencies ranging from the EPA to the Coast Guard. (Recalls.gov)

Inaugural Money

President Bush has tapped his campaign fundraising boss and two of his top money men to round up money for his inauguration. Bush-Cheney campaign finance chairman Mercer Reynolds and Bush 'Rangers' Brad Freeman and William DeWitt, who each raised more than $200,000 for Bush's re-election, are looking for money again. (LAT)

The Smithsonian Gets the Puffy Shirt

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has donated the namesake of Episode 66, "The Puffy Shirt" to the National Museum of American History. The Presentation came at a ceremony in Washington...yadda, yadda, yadda. (WashPost)

Today In Congress

Here's today's schedule for your Hired Hands on the Hill. Use the links on the right to let your Senator and Representatives know what you think. (WashPost)

Bad Press for the AG Nominee

A journalism group paints President Bush's new Attorney General nominee as a tireless press agent for the White House. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press claims Alberto Gonzales went out of his way to keep the press from reporting stories that would make the President look bad. (Editor & Publisher)

Fixing Social Security

An advisor on Social Security to President Clinton says there are cheaper, easier ways to fix Social Security that privatizing parts of it. Edith U. Fierst calls President Bush's privatization plans "ideological" rather than ideal. (WashPost -- Commentary)

Lobbyists Looking for a Piece of Your Pension

Social Security was designed as an insurance plan -- so none of us would be broke in old age. But it's shaping up as a get rich quick scheme for a lot of big investment interests as Washington looks at ways of reshaping it. Lobbyists for special interests are gearing up for a massive restructuring that could send trillions of dollars flying all over the economy. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

The Shape of Things


You've seen plenty of red-state/blue-state maps by now. But Michal Gastner, Cosma Shalizi, and Mark Newman of the University of Michigan put all that in perspective with several cartograms that show the country as a pretty evenly divided "purple."

This cartogram from their site is by Robert J. Vanderbei at Princeton.
Posted by Hello

Drug Out

A federal drug safety reviewer told Congress that the FDA is "virtually incapable of protecting America" from unsafe drugs. Dr. David Graham told a Senate panel that the FDA caves in too easily to the demands of drug makers. And he named five drugs on the market that need serious review. (NYT)

The College Green is Mighty Blue

Democrats may be losing their majorities in politics -- but they hold a huge lead in academia. A new survey shows Democrats outnumber Republicans by seven to one among professors of humanities and social sciences. (NYT)

Now a Few Words About that Library

The folks at MSNBC rounded up some of the better quotes from all the speechifying at the Clinton Presidential Library Dedication. (MSNBC)

The Doctor, the Death Penalty, and Bluegrass Politics

Kentucky's Governor may have signed away his medical license when he signed a convicted killer's death warrant. Gov Ernie Fletcher (R-KY) is also a doctor. American Medical Association rules bar doctors from taking part in any execution either directly or indirectly. Some doctors opposed to the death penalty are challenging Governor-Doctor Fletcher's license to practice medicine. (MSNBC)

Right on the Kisser

Pitty poor Alberto Gonzales. He got nominated for Attorney General -- but he never got kissed. President Bush planted a smack on Condoleezza Rice's cheek when he nominated her for Secretary of State and puckered up again for Margaret Spellings when he nominated her for Education Secretary. Makes you kinda wonder what kind of President Al Gore would have made. (WashPost)

Handing Out the Leftovers

Senator John Kerry will donate his leftover campaign money to help elect other Democrats. The Senator had more than $15 million left when the election ended. It was money raised from the primaries. Since he accepted federal financing for the general election, he couldn't spend it after the Democratic National Convention. It'll go to Democrats running in future races. (WashPost)

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Money Talks

A third of President Bush's biggest money raisers from his 2000 campaign got sweet gigs in his first administration. The Associated Press reviewed lists of appointees and lists of fundraisers to come up with the total. If you raised at least $100,000 for the 2000 Bush campaign -- and there were 246 people who did -- you got perks like staying overnight at the White House and Camp David or an invite to a swanky White House state dinner. More than 24 were appointed ambassadors to foreign countries. At least 57 big givers or their spouses wound up on agencies, boards, or advisory panels. (AP via Yahoo!)

GAO Diagnoses the Flu Shot Shortage as Chronic

The Government Accountability Office has found that the US has no firm plans to deal with a flu shot shortage like the one the country is going through. In fact, the country struggles each year to make sure there’s enough vaccine and it’s delivered where it’s needed. The problem is simply more pronounced this year because of the sheer scale of the problem.

In a report issued Thursday, the GAO says, “Our work has also found continuing obstacles to delivering flu vaccine to high-risk individuals in a time of short supply.”

The GAO also says vendors take advantage of the faulty system and cash in. “With the severely reduced vaccine supply this year, opportunities exist for vendors who have vaccine to significantly inflate the price of available supplies.”

The report says the CDC has gotten 100 reports of price gouging from 33 states so far. The report says there’s a history of that:

“[O]ne physician’s practice ordered flu vaccine from a supplier in April 2000 at $2.87 per dose. When none of that vaccine had arrived by November 1, the practice placed three smaller orders in November with a different supplier at the escalating prices of $8.80, $10.80, and $12.80 per dose. On December 1, the practice ordered more vaccine from a third supplier at $10.80 per dose. The four more expensive orders were delivered immediately, before any vaccine had been received from the original April order.” (Government Accountability Office)

The FCC Reaches Out

Not satisfied with keeping America safe from football related nudity, the FCC has backing from both Republicans and Democrats to try filtering cable TV and Howard Stern's turn on satellite radio. Even the Internet could be.......[THE REMAINDER OF THIS POST HAS BEEN EDITED TO CONFORM TO NEW GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS] (Wired.com)

School's Out for the Senator's Kids

Sen Rick Santorum (R-PA) is yanking his kids out of cyber-school. It's a Pennsylvania project, paid for by Pennsylvania taxpayers -- but the Senator's kids spend most of their time in Virginia. A school board member says taxpayers shelled out close to $100,000 to provide the service to Senator Santorum's five school-aged kids. The Senator says he and his wife will go back to home schooling the youngsters, now that he's been schooled in the cost to his constituents. (USA Today)

EXTRA, EXTRA -- Historical Newspaper Articles Go Online in 2006 -- Read All About It

In just a couple of years, anyone with a computer will have access to historic newspaper articles published between 1836 and 1922. It's the first batch of 30 million digitized pages Washington's putting online. The National Digital Newspaper program is supposed to correct "American amnesia," our collective ability to forget important things. Of course, not all those old papers got everything Wright. (CNN)

Congress Makes FDA Take its Medicine

Congress wants to know if the FDA dropped the ball by ignoring safety concerns over Vioxx. Merck & Co. pulled the anti-arthritis drug off the market after finding a link to heart attacks. The FDA's own scientists had warned the agency of the problem but say they were told to shut up. (Seattle PI)

The Cost of War

Nearly a year and a half after "major combat operations" ended in Iraq, the war is taking a toll on your money. The Pentagon's pumping $5.8 billion a month into Iraq. And the Joint Chiefs of Staff say there's still a strain on all the armed forces there.

I've added a counter to the right hand column to give you a running total of the War in Iraq as tallied by National Priorities Project. (LAT)

Calculating Loss from 9/11

The man in charge of handing out money to victims and survivors of the 9/11 attacks doesn't like the way it was done. The average award was $2.1 million. But some people were given as little as $250,000, others were given $7.1 million.

The fund used a formula, deducting life insurance and figuring in lost wages over the remaining lifetime of victims. So the family of a stockbroker got more than the family of a firefighter.

Special Master Kenneth Feinberg told Congress that if they ever try to compensate terrorism victims again, they should make all the payments equal. (MSNBC & NPR/Audio)

Today in Congress

Here's what your Hired Hands on the Hill are doing today. Use the links at the right to contact your Senators and Representative and let them know what you think. (WashPost)

Where's that Burger Been?

Just two years ago, Congress thought it was a good idea to let you know where your food came from. Now they're changing their minds. Ranchers and farmers -- competing with foreign food imports -- talked Congress into having food labeled to show its country of origin. But meatpackers and food processors don't like the idea. They've twisted Congress' arm the other way and the law looks headed for the meat grinder. (Chicago Tribune)

Does Washington Owe You Money?

Nearly 90,000 Americans are due a tax refund. Part of $73 million the IRS owes to taxpayers. The National Taxpayers Union has an online database to let you find out if you have money coming to you. (NTU)

How FDA Fumbled the Flu Shots

The FDA found serious problems in three inspections of a flu shot factory that was supposed to supply half the US flu shots this year. But the FDA never acted forcefully enough to fix the problems before British inspectors finally shut the plant down. That led to the current flu vaccine shortage. (USA Today)

Flip Flop at CIA

The CIA and White House say CIA Director Porter Goss never ordered agency workers and agents to "back Bush." But a memo from Director Goss was quoted as saying the agency was to "support the Bush administration and its policies in our work." (CNN)

Extinction Exclamation

A conservation group warns that more than 15,000 species -- from fish to frogs to fir trees -- face extinction and the rate is rising faster than ever before. The World Conservation Union says as many as a quarter of all mammals on the planet are in trouble. (Reuters via ABC News)

One Size Fits All Jail Terms

A federal judge in Utah blasted federal sentencing laws as "unjust, cruel, and irrational." He was forced to sentence a record producer to 55 years and 1 day in prison in a minor drug case. The guidelines allowed the judge to sentece Weldon Angelos one day in jail for selling marijuana -- but there was a minimum 55 year sentence for possessing a handgun.

That means Angelos will serve longer than rapists, murderers, and even airline hijackers. (CNN)

Washington Borrows, You Pay It Off

Congratulations! You've been pre-approved for $800 billion in new credit!

The Senate voted to let Washington borrow the extra money. They need it because the government's about to reach its $7.4 trillion credit limit. (WashPost)

The Rush to Protect DeLay

House Republicans acted quickly to protect their Majority Leader. They changed rules to allow Rep Tom DeLay (R-TX) to stay in the post if a grand jury indicts him. (WashPost)

Tax Plans

Whatever President Bush has in mind for his tax overhaul, expect it to focus on cutting -- or even eliminating -- taxes on savings and investment. Sources close to the planning tell the Washington Post that the ideas of a flat tax or national sales tax are unlikely. (WashPost)

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Oddly the Only Book Missing from this Library is The Starr Report

Bono, The Edge, Whoopie Goldberg, and Aretha Franklin. It can only mean one thing -- the Bill Clinton Presidential Library is opening.

That's Thursday in Little Rock. Bigger, more expensive, and flashier than any Presidential Library before it, some critics call it..."Clintonesque." (CSM)

Living the Life of Luxury -- or a Lobbyist

Washington's a town where money talks and it's screaming from the rooftop of the Mandrian Oriental Hotel. The place has a sweet little package for two if you're headed to the President's inauguration.

Just $200,500 for two.

That includes a fur coat, gold watch, and four nights in a posh suite. For that price, they ought to throw in a couple of hammers from the Pentagon -- but that might push the price to "outrageous." (Guardian)

Going Postal on Post Office Security

The US Postal Service, the folks who brought you anthrax in 2001, still have some security problems. The Government Accountability Office found thousands of the Postal Service's keys are missing. No problem. They also found plenty of Postal Service gates were unlocked. Overall, security was lagging at 373 core mail centers. Nothing a postal rate hike couldn't fix, huh? (USA Today)

Intelligence vs. Independence

The new Director at CIA says the Bush Administration's policies come first. An internal memo circulated to CIA employees has Porter Goss saying their job is to "support the administration and its policies in our work." A recent exodus of senior CIA people have blamed Mr. Goss' approach to the job -- and to the War on Terror -- for their departure. (NYT)

A Rare Swear in the Making

Not since US District Judge Sarah T. Hughes of Texas adminstered the oath of office to Lyndon Johnson on Air Force One, has a Chief Justice missed the swearing in of a President. In all of American history, that's only happened nine times -- almost all because a President died in office. But Chief Justice Rehnquist's thyroid cancer may keep him away from President Bush's second inaugural. (WashPost)

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth -- Or Whatever You Want to Say

President Bush's nominee to the US Court of Appeals for DC seems to have given the Utah bar some phony information about his legal work and lapses in getting law licenses. Thomas B. Griffith's nomination has been stalled for months over those lapses. New documents now show his license was suspended for three years -- while he told bar officials it'd never been suspended. (WashPost)

You're In Bad Hands

State investigations in New York, California,a nd Connecticut have found secret pay from insurance companies to agents designed to steer business to them. In other words, your agent could be paid to steer you away from cheaper coverage. It may be costing consumers millions of dollars. (WashPost)

Tilting at Tax Windmills

The Senate's top tax writer doubts President Bush will have an easy time overhauling the tax code. It's a top priority for President Bush's second term. But Sen Chuck Grassley (R-IA) says, "I'm not one to spend a lot of time tilting at windmills."

The tax code creates breaks and perks for a lot of special interests that may have more lobbying clout with Congress than the President can muster. (USA Today)

They're Our Rules, And We'll Change Them If We Want

Republicans may change their ethics rules to allow Rep Tom DeLay (R-TX) to remain as House Majority Leader. Their rules require members to give up leadership roles if they are indicted for an offense that could land them in the hoose-gow for two years. Several of DeLay's top aides have been indicted in an investigation and there's speculation DeLay could be, too. The rule change would create a loophole in DeLay's particular case. (USA Today)

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

On Second Thought...

Another hurdle for President Bush's planned tax reform. Business groups -- which contributed lots of money to the President's campaign -- stand to lose lots of perks and tax breaks if the reforms go through. (The Hill)

A Century in Congress

The Washington Post has a set of graphics showing party control of Congress over the years along with a breakdown of women and minorities in both houses each year. (WashPost)

The End of a Republican Congress?

Reforming the federal tax system could be a political minefield. President Bush has made reform a highlight of his second term and his advisors have talked about a sales tax or consumption tax. But that could create expensive problems for cities and states -- which could cause problems for the folks in Congress. (CSM)

We Have Ways of Making You Watch This Commercial

Forget about zapping through a commercial on your TIVO if the lame duck Congressional session passes HR 2391. The bill is designed to overhaul copyright law, giving big perks to Hollywood and the record industry. It's supposed to zap people swapping songs on the Internet. But it will also make it illegal to skip any commercials or promotional announcements. (Wired.com)

Wild Thang!

The FDA's ordered Pfizer to pull it's "Wild Thing" ads for Viagra. The ads claim the drug brings about a return to sexual desire. They also leave out mention of major side effects. Kinda like Merck forgetting to mention Vioxx's link to heart trouble for four years.

Does This Mean the Interstate Will No Longer Go Both Ways?

Rep John Hostettler (R-IN) is appealing to those "values voters" by wanting an Interstate Highway's designation changed. Seems some religious groups have a problem with I-69. I could say more, but the FCC may be reading this. (Hoosier Gazette)

Can You Hear Me Now?

A huge windfall for Nextel at your expense. The FCC voted 5-0 for a plan that would swap airwave spectrum with Nextel Communications at a below market price. The move is supposed to correct an "interference" problem. But it was Nextel that created the problem in the first place. The solution allows Nextel to swap $1.2 billion worth of spectrum for a better slice of the pie valued at as much as $7 billion. (Citizens Against Government Waste)

Friday, November 12, 2004

A Second Opinion on the Sickness

A panel looking into Gulf War illnesses wants future research focused on toxic substances veterans came in contact with. That differs from what a Clinton administration panel found. They determined stress caused the problems collectively lumped together as "Gulf War Illness." (AP via Yahoo!)

C-SPAN's Greatest Hits of Campaign 2004

Who can forget President Bush's "Vision" from his acceptance speech?

Or what about that panel of Boston Globe reporters talking about John Kerry's Swift Boat days?

Now, for a limited time, you can search through the hottest hits of America's premier talking head channel for all the audio clips every wonk needs in his collection.

Act now! This is a limited time offer. C-SPAN's only making the audio available through December, 2004.

Halliburton's Help

It's contradicting a long stated Bush administration claim. The White House insists that only career contracting officers dealt with Halliburton contracts. Now it seems the US Ambassador in Kuwait intervened in a duspute to keep a Halliburton contract in effect.

The Moral of the "Moral Values" Story

"Moral Values" apparently means different things to different people. The exit polls that cited it as the top concern of voters was flawed. While "values" meant opposition to abortion and gay marriages to some voters, it meant something completely different to the majority of those who gave that answer. (USA Today)

Quitting the CIA to be a Bigger Critic

A senior CIA officer, critical of how the US is fighting the War on Terrorism, has resigned so he can be even more critical. Mike Scherer wrote Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror. He's upset that no one in government seems to be willing to single out individuals for blame in the 9/11 attacks. There have even been direct efforts to shield people who made mistakes in official reports. (Boston Globe)

Advocates Complain About Snowmobile Fliers

A consumer group has filed a complaint against a House Committee Chairman for using your tax dollars for an apparent campaign mailing. The complaint's against House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo. He sent out fliers -- costing you $68,081 -- touting the Bush administration's rule changes on snowmobile use in national parks. The fliers went out shortly before the election to states that have lots of snowmobile riders. (LAT)

Ex-Adviser Accused of Hurting Embassy Aide

President Bush's point man on Iraq -- who resigned last week -- got a scolding from National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice a while back. There's a dispute to the facts, but Robert Blackwill is accused of verbally abusing and physically hurting a woman on the embassy staff in Kuwait back in September. (MSNBC)

Silencing Complaints on Homeland Security Pork

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg clashed with President Bush's campaign aides over his speech at the Republican National Convention. Mayor Bloomberg wanted to criticize Congress for failing to deliver on anti-terrorism help. The White House didn't want an argument -- they wanted a show of unity. (NYT)

Mr. Newt Goes to the Senate

Newt Gingrich is making a mark on the incoming US Senate. Many of the footsoldiers the former House Speaker recruited in 1994's Republican victories are moving to the upper chamber. (USA Today)

Mapping Democrat Strategy at Applebee's

Middle-priced chain restaurants make a killing in the hearland. That's because they connect with the people they serve in those red states. A Democratic strategist says the answer to his party's woes may be to study those menus. Afterall, the customer is always right. It's just a matter of finding out what they want. (MSNBC)

He Paid for the Lawyers, Might as Well Use Them

Senator John Kerry's lawyers are still in Ohio. They're taking a close look at election results -- but the campaign insists there's nothing going on to change the election outcome. (MSNBC)

Theft at the DNC

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has discovered $350,000 in campaign contributions were siphoned off to a private bank account. All but $10,000 has been recovered, but the FBI and US Attorney are investigating. (LAT)

Cashing in on the Campaign

A Democrat donkey pulling an Amish buggy with the words "Lancaster County for Kerry/Edwards 2004" may be worth a few pennies someday. With the election over, the memorabilia is getting appraised. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

AARP Drawing the Line on Social Security

The largest lobby for older Americans has come out against President Bush's Social Security Plan. AARP helped the President shape Medicare reforms last year that added drug benefits. But AARP draws the line at privitizing Social Security withholding. They prefer government incentives to encourage people to use other money for retirement investing in the private sector. (Houston Chronicle)

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Roll Call of Honor

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns fell silent across Europe, and the "War to End All Wars" ended.

We made it a holiday. We called it "Armistice Day." In the years and wars since, we've learned it would not be the end of wars, and we would have a lot more veterans. So we changed the name to honor those we send to fight.

America has fought eight wars and uncountable other actions since the "War to End All Wars" ended.

We honor all veterans today. But we expecially honor those who gave all on foreign fields, on distant seas, and in unfriendly skies.

Please take a moment and scroll through this list of US casualties in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Guarding Us With Their Lives

Repeating a post and link that first ran on November 3, and keeping in today's Veterans Day theme, a roll call of honor for America's "Citizen Soldiers" fighting the War on Terrorism and in Iraq.

More than 140 National Guardsmen and Reservists have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their names are included in a pair of Roll Calls of Honor on the National Guard's homepage. There are low resolution and high resolution video and an interactive list that lets you scroll through names or search for someone in particular. (Army National Guard)

Where They Came From

Furthering our tribute to Veterans who've made the ultimate sacrifice, here's a map of where the casualties of the Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom came from.

Veterans -- By the Numbers

The Census Bureau has some interesting numbers on veterans, this Veterans Day. From 24.9 million (the number of veterans in the US) to 381,000 (the number of vets who served in both the Vietnam and Gulf War eras). (US Census Bureau & Al's Morning Meeting)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Ronald Reagan Stamp

Early next year, you'll be able to communicate via snail mail with the "Great Communicator." The Postal Service has unveiled the new Ronald Reagan stamp. It'll go on sale February 9, 2005. (USPS News Release)

With Financial Skills Like This, No Wonder There's A Deficit

It should have been a cheap campaign -- since Rep Scott McInnis (R-CO) wasn't running for reelection. But he still managed to spend $150,000. So how'd he manage that?

He hired his wife, Lori McInnis, as his campaign manager -- for the campaign that didn't exist. Then he paid her $40,000 with a benefit package of $1,150 a month.

Oh, yeah. The campaign -- which didn't exist -- also paid for her car and cell phone.

Then there were tens of thousands of dollars in restaurant, hotel, and travel bills for the campaign that didn't exist. (WashPost)

Your Government Putting Your Social Security Number Online

Roughly a quarter of US counties post Social Security numbers online. The General Accountability Office says it poses a risk of widespread though small scale identity theft. Most of the cases the GAO found require people to go to the offices and look at paper records. But as many as 68% of the county offices post the numbers online. (Information Week)

How Washington's Spending Your Homeland Security Money

Remember New York City? Ground Zero? Target number one on al Qaeda's hit list?

They're struggling to find the money for police officers and firefighters to pay for their own War on Terrorism. Washington's spending billions to help local governments pay for protection against terrorists. But it's not going to places like New York.

The Tecumseh Fire Department in rural Michigan used $98,000 of your tax dollars to hold training courses on incident management. No one showed up.

Lake County, Tennessee used $30,000 of your money meant to respond to terrorist attacks to buy a defibrillator for a high school basketball tournament.

Washington state spent $63,000 of your money on a decontamination unit for their haz-mat team. The unit's in a warehouse collecting dust because the state doesn't have a haz-mat team.

The New York Daily News looks at a long list of wasteful spending on on items that have little or no use in battling terrorism. (New York Daily News)

Whose Values Did They Vote For?

Liberal Christians challenge the idea that "values voters" represent all the faithful. They say real moral values encompass more than just the three issues the so-called "values voters" cited in voting for President Bush.

Those are gay marriages, abortion, and greed and materialism. (WashPost)

A Penny -- Make That a Few Million -- for Your Thoughts

President Bush's campaign spent an estimated $4 million on polling voters, John Kerry's camp spent $6.2 million. Al Kamen of the Washington Post ran a contest and found some people could guess the number of electoral votes the candidates could come up with -- for free. (WashPost)

Worrying About the Bill Washington's Running Up

The budget deficit hit an all time dollar high this year -- $413 billion. That has the director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office worried. Doug Holtz-Eakin's people predict the deficits over the next decade could total $2.3 trillion dollars -- roughly equal to a whole year's budget for the federal government. (Wired.com)

That Same Old Presidential Line

Ronald Reagan wanted it. Bill Clinton got it. The Supreme Court took it away. Now President Bush has gotten around to seeking the Holy Grail of Presidents -- the line-item veto.

It would allow the President to veto particular items in a bill -- instead of the whole bill itself. That's a lot of power for a President -- at a price from Congress. It could be used to strip pork projects from bills.

It could mean a fight between the President -- and his fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill. (LAT)

Bizzaro Political World

Democrats promise to turn into deficit hawks. Yes, the infamous "tax-and-spend liberals" of the Reagan era are making the deficit and government spending the first priority of their post election plans.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wants a debate on the GOP plan to raise the debt ceiling above it's $7.4 trillion level. Democrats want an amendment that would require all new spending and tax cut measures to be paid for before they can take effect.

Look, You 300 People Nearly Died. Let's Keep This Quiet, Whaddya Say?

A 747 coming in for a landing missed a 737 that wandered onto the runway by just 185 feet. A collision could have killed the nearly 300 people on the two planes. That's a big deal. But the folks in the control tower at LAX didn't bother reporting it to the FAA.

The FAA needs information like that to find ways of preventing other near collisions on runways. The August incident is being held up as symbolic of how these cases are ignored or overlooked. (USAToday)

A Politician Pleads Guilty -- Bet That's a First

Former Democratic Congressman Frank Ballance, Jr. will face a maximum five years in prison and $250,000 fine. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering. He was charged with channeling $2.3 million in state money through a foundation he set up to help people fight drug abuse. It apparently worked by sending that money to his law firm, his church, and his family. (WashPost)

The FDA Goes With Hat in Hand to Congress over the Flu Shot Shortage

It's been a bad year for the FDA when it comes to Congress. They've had to hand your hired hands on the Hill a bunch of materials showing they did their job overseeing the troubled flu vaccine factory the British shut down -- leaving the US with a flu shot shortage.

The FDA's caught flack from Congress already for trying to supress information about the heart attack link to arthritis drug Vioxx and censoring info on links between antidepressants and teen suicides.

Congress asked for a lot of paperwork on the vaccine issue. Must not trust them on the flu shot oversight for some strange reason. (LAT)

A Straffing Run on Air Force Contracts

The Pentagon wants the Government Accountability Office to go over a bunch of Air Force contracts. They were all handled by Darleen Druyun -- a former Air Force officer who gave special treatment to Boeing. She gave Boeing such great treatment, they offered her a job. But Uncle Sam gave her nine months in prison instead. The $23 billion Air Force tanker deal she brokered broke down -- and now Boeing's biggest commercial competitor, Airbus, is in the running to snatch it out of mid-air. (Chicago Tribune)

Against the Grain in Texas

It's the reddest of the red states. But there's a splash of blue deep in the heart of Texas. Dallas County elected a woman, Democrat, Latina, lesbian as Sheriff. That's about as far from red as you can get. And it may reflect a Democratic foothold in Texas. (WashPost)

A Rising Tide Floods Florida

The good news is folks in Arkansas will soon own beachfront property. The bad news is it's because Louisianna will be underwater. Ice is melting so fast in the Arctic and Greenland, places like Florida, New York City, and the Gulf Coast could be flooded in your grandchildren's lifetime. (National Geographic)

Blowing in the Wind

Wind power is supposed to be the cleanest form of energy on the planet. But a new study shows if you build too many windmills -- it could lead to global climate change.

Part of the problems is that everytime the wind turns a turbine's blades, the wind slows down a little. That apparently affects the wind's ability to move heat from one part of the planet to another. (NPR- Audio)

You're Paying for Bad Information -- And It's Not the CIA This Time

Your tax dollars pay for a government issued brochure that clashes with scientific evidence on cancer. The borchure is handed out to women considering an abortion. It claims that abortions increase the risk of breast cancer. But research studied by the National Cancer Institute, and other research published in the British Medical journal Lancet conclude there is no link. (MSNBC)

Unsafe at Any Vote Count

Ralph Nader wants a recount. Just in New Hampshire -- where he lost by 335,000 votes. John Kerry carried New Hampshire and Nader is not interested in changing any results. He claims there are irregularities in the AccuVote Diebold Machines used at polling places. In a letter to New Hampshire's Secretary of State, Nader claims the machines produced irregularities in favor of President Bush by 5% to 15%.

Oddly enough, that would be enough to change the Ohio results where Diebold machines were also used.

And there've been rumblings in the tin foil hat circles that the machines. They're built by a company with executives supportive of the President. That's just goooooood conspiracy theory.

Mr. Nader loses no credibility in challenging the idea. Senator Kerry could. That also makes for gooooood conspiracy theory. (WashPost)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Does This Lawsuit Make Me Look Fat?

Know those ads promising weight loss that sounds too good to be true? Some of the makers could lose some weight -- in their wallets. The Federal Trade Commission has sued six companies promising magical weight loss. And it's asking media outlets that ran the ads to lose imitators in the future. (AP)

Busting Gridlock by Parking the Car

With $2.00 a gallon gasoline and longer commutes, mass transit is winning over Americans.

In an age when politicians run on the promise of tax cuts, Americans voted 4-to-1 for tax hikes for transportation projects.

And Americans are living their newfound convictions. They're moving closer to mass transit lines.

Arlington, Virginia -- part of the DC Metro system -- is the role model for the rest of the country. In the 70s, they redesigned their city's plans for growth along the narrow corridor of it's three miles of subway line. Today, 35,000 people live in that corridor. It's also home to 75,000 jobs and 17 million square feet of office space. The corridor contains less than 8% of Arlington's land, but generates a third of its tax revenue and keeps property tax rates the lowest in the DC metropolitan area. (USAToday)

The Rev Moon Will Not Officiate

Arkansas' Governor once joked about the Governor's Mansion being a triplewide trailer. It didn't do much for the state's image.

Now Governor Mike Huckabee is worried about what the divorce rate's doing to Arkansas' image.

So he's gittin' hitched to his missus agin.

They're converting their vows to a "covenent marriage" on Valentines day -- along with hundreds of others in a mass ceremony.

Covenent marriages make it harder to get a divorce. Only about 600 people have gotten them in Arkansas since the state legalized them in 2001. That's a fractionof the 40,000 marriages in the state since then.

He's not disclosing the cost, but says no taxpayer money will be spent on the mass marriage. (MSNBC)

Maybe I Can Retire if I Win Ben Stein's Money

Finding a way to retire and live as comfortably as you do while working can be tricky. Ben Stein, writing in the New York Times does the math so few of us want to and paints a bleak picture.

Looks like I'll be greeting people at Wal-Mart when I retire. (NYT)

Now, Why Didn't I Think About Sending My Paycheck to a Dutch Bank

General Electric moved $310 million in income to a pair of Dutch banks -- and got a $62 million tax refund. What's more, a judge tells the IRS it's legal. (Houston Chronicle)

Harvest of Shame, 2004

They wander from town to town, looking for work, trying to keep their families together. They are the new migrant workers. They are IT workers. Highly trained technicians who once made money hand over fist -- now they are holding on for dear life getting by on a handful of dollars a week.

Unemployment in the technology sector far surpasses the overall jobless numbers. (WashPost)

The Rebirth of Irony

Global warming -- believed enhanced by burning fossil fuels -- has melted portions of the Arctic allowing easier drilling for fossil fuels for us to burn.

A report from the US and seven other nations predicts the annual average temperature in the Arctic could rise 5 to 9 degrees over land -- 13 degrees over water -- during the next 100 years.

That means it could threaten coastal cities and change growing patterns for crops and other plants.

But it also means it'll be a lot easier to drill for oil and gas there.

So, bottom line: You'll have cheaper gas for your submarine while cruising Manhattan at the bidding of our new tomato overlords -- who, I wholeheartedly welcome. (Reuters via Yahoo!)

Exactly What are the Values of Those "Values Voters?"

Churchill County, Nevada is a red county -- and will have a red-light district. The rural, Republican county voted for President Bush -- and to keep prostitution legal. A law seeking to ban brothels in Churchill County lost by a two to one margin. That could lead to reopening two brothels in the county. But gay marriage is still illegal there. (ABC News)

When You're A Millionaire, You Can Afford a Lot of Tin Foil Hats

Grainy, creepy commercials claiming a cover-up in the 9/11 attacks have aired in New York and on cable networks like FOX and ESPN. They buy into the Internet spread conspiracy theory that no plane crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11 and that 7 World Trade Cneter was detonated from inside.

They're the project of James W. Walter, a California millionaire who wants the 9/11 investigation reopened.

He's spent $3 million on his ad campaign so far. (NYT)

The Second Term Curse is Unleashed

Richard Nixon had Watergate, Bill Clinton had Monica and the impeachment, and Ronald Reagan had Iran-Contra. President Bush wanted a second term. He may not want what goes with it.

Just two days after President Bush's reelection, Halliburton came back to haunt him. Critics say the company has gotten lots of unfair or preferential treatment from the Bush administration. Halliburton -- once run by Vice President Dick Cheney -- announced the Justice Department has found evidence of bribes and that a former senior executive may have been involved.

Those bribes involve Nigeria. But right before the election, the FBI began probing Halliburton's dealings in Kuwait and Iraq -- with the US government. The Defense Department is also investigating Halliburton's contracts. (WashPost)

Red Tape and Kid's Health

The US is running short of vaccines for children. The country's supposed to have a stockpile -- designed to prevent a shortage akin to the flu vaccine problem.

There's no shortage of money. There's $172 million of your tax money available to buy the shots.

But the Securities and Exchange Commission has this wierd little accounting rule: Vaccine makers can't claim any profits from the sales to the stockpile until the vaccine is actually delivered to the Centers for Disease Control. (USAToday)

Back to Business and Still Putting Off Work

Congress put off important work to go home and tell you why they should keep their jobs. Now they've got a short time to get a lot of stuff done. But the long delayed energy bill and a new trade agreement -- both considered "must pass" legislation -- likely won't make it out of the lame duck session. Expect them to linger around into the next session.

You can use the links in the right hand column to write your Hired Hands on the Hill and let them know what you think about these and other issues they'll be working on for you. (Houston Chronicle)

Big Softies and Court Challenges

The McCain-Feingold Law was supposed to reign in soft money. But the election since saw record softness and record money. People backing tighter controls on campaign spending have given up on Congress for now -- and plan to go to the courts. Congressmen depend on campaign contributions. Judges don't. Novel approach. (Guardian)

Ignorance is Bliss -- And a Political Advantage

Forget "values voters." The "clueless" may be the people to court.

Bob Herbert, writing in the New York Times, points to a survey by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes found a lot of people went into the voting booth pretty poorly informed.

Nearly 70 percent of President Bush's supporters believed there was "clear evidence" that Saddam Hussein was working closely with Al Qaeda.

A third of the president's supporters believe the US found WMDs in Iraq.

And more than a third believe that a substantial majority of world opinion supported the US invasion of Iraq.

Good examples of belief over fact. (NYT)

Does Specter Have a Prayer?

Republicans are under increasing pressure to deny moderate Sen Arlen Specter (R-PA) the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Religious leaders -- claiming credit for turning out the "values voters" in President Bush's reelection -- are upset over a possible "litmus test" on abortion rights for judge nominees. (NPR - Audio)

Securing the Swearing In

Expect the tightest security ever at a Presidential inauguration this January -- the first inaugural since 9/11. The Department of Homeland Security has declared it a "National Special Security Event." That turns overall security planning to the Secret Service. (CNN)

Let Me Call You Sweetheart -- I Can't Afford to Write

Without a new Postal Bill from Congress soon, the Postal Service warns of a double digit hike in stamp prices next year. The bill was supposed to get hammered out this year. But delays, like a week off for Ronald Reagan's funeral and time off for campaigning at home, put Congress behind schedule. (WashPost)

Airbus Pursues Tanker Contract

After a scandal, congressional investigation, and people going to jail over a new Air Force tanker contract, Boeing has new headaches. It's biggest worldwide competitor for commercial airliners has entered the bidding. Airbus now wants the $100 billion contract. (LAT)

Holding Capitol Hill

Three years after 9/11 -- when it was a potential target of hijackers aboard United Flight 93 -- the US Capitol is unprepared for a terrorist attack. You might not think so from looking at it. Jersey barriers ring Capitol Hill, police wearing bio-chem attack gear carry automatic weapons.

But one Senator was so worried about an attack before the election, he closed hisCapitol Hill office.

And Congress has still not decided how it would respond to an attack on our legislature that could cripple the government for months. (ABC News)

Monday, November 08, 2004

Capitol Hill Coyotes

Coyotes have been confirmed in the capital city for the first time ever. Good thing, too. They eat and chase off vermin. Just what Washington needs. (Reuters)

Cloak and Dagger and Annual Report

While Washington's preoccupied with the occupation in Iraq and the War on Terror elsewhere, the Russians are up to some old tricks. Intel insiders say Russian spying on American interests has risen to Cold War levels. But these days the spies are looking for the latest rocket fuel or sonar schematics or even Moose and Squirrel -- they're prying into the corporate boardrooms. (Washington Whispers in US News)

The Political Environment

Remember the environment? Hardly any talk about it from either side in the just finished two year long campaign. Never mind, the winners say it was a mandate in their favor.

EPA Administrator Michael O. Leavitt says, "The election is a validation of our philosophy and agenda."

That "philosophy and agenda" -- for those of you who don't know -- is applying free-market principles to clean up the environment. It also means efforts to change clean air and water laws and open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to energy exploration and distributing billions of dollars to private landowners who'll take up wetland and wildlife preservation. (NYT)

Reelection and Getting Down to Business

President Bush has some expensive new plans for his second term. But they may wind up on the back burner as priorities from his campaign contributors come up. Big business gave big bucks and will likely want a big pay off.

Expect things like a cap on medical lawsuits -- just in time to prevent Merck from paying dearly for failing to point out Vioxx leads to heart attacks. (CNN)

I'm an Excellent Astronaut

I told you last week how the Air Force had commissioned a report straight out of the X-Files. Now NASA is looking into the 1988 Dustin Hoffman/Tom Cruise movie Rainman.

The space agency is actually examining Kim Peek -- the autistic savant that Hoffman based his character on. Peek is undergoing CAT and MRI scans. It's something of a test of NASA's technology developed to study the effects of space travel on the brain. (CNN)

The Price of 9/11

The Rand Institute for Social Justice has put a dollar amount on 9/11. They have a report out today saying total compensation reached $38.1 billion. Insurance companies picked up most of the tab. (CNN)

Seeking their Reward Here on Earth

Evangelical Christians are claiming they put President Bush over the top in last week's election -- and they want their reward here on Earth.

After incoming Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) suggested anti-abortion judges would have a tough time being confirmed, a prominent evangelical struck back.

James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, said on "This Week," "[Specter] is a problem, and he must be derailed."

The President's political guru, Karl Rove, says President Bush will pursue a gay marriage ban in his second term. The issue passed in all 11 states where it was on the ballot last week and has been attributed to a large evangelical turnout.

But David Brooks in the New York Times this weekend says the evangelical vote is being overblown. He points out that as a group, they voted in about the same numbers as in past elections and other factors have to be counted in the President's reelection.

Maybe John Kerry Will Get a Fourth Purple Heart

David Miyasato of Kauai, Hawaii was honorably discharged from the Army 13 years ago. He finished his last hitch in the Reserves 8 years ago. He is a veteran of the Gulf War. Now, the Army's calling him back. They've ordered him to report for duty. He's fighting back, suing the federal government.

They say, "Once a Marine, always a Marine." But we're talking about the Army, and Miyasato hasn't worn Army green since 1998. (USAToday)

More Missing Munitions in Iraq

As many as 4,000 shoulder launched anti-aircraft missiles are missing or unaccounted for in Iraq. That raises the total of such missiles -- out of government control -- worldwide to 6,000. Such a missile was believed to have been used in an attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner in 2002 -- but it missed.

The Iraq missiles were part of Saddam's stockpile. (WashPost)

Mission Accomplished

President Bush's point man on Iraq is quitting. Folks in the White House say Robert Blackwill always planned to quit after the election. The 160,000+ people carrying out his plans in Iraq will stay on the job until their enlistments are up. (CNN)

The Challenge of Changing the Tax Code

President Bush promises an overhaul of the tax code in his second term. But he's been quiet about what he has in mind. It could mean a flat income tax. Or a national sales tax to replace the income tax. The challenge of changing the tax code is complicated because Republicans in Congress are divided into three camps. They include the two fairly radical plans and a more conservative one that would eliminate tax preferences and overall tax rates within the current code. (NYT & Chicago Tribune)

Washington's Spending Your Money and Spinning Its Wheels on Bio-defenses

Despite considerable progress and massive spending increases since 9/11, the US is still not prepared for a biological attack by terrorists. Experts and government officials in bioterrorism and public health paint a frightening picture for the Washington Post.

They say bureaucracy creates confusion, hospitals and public health agencies would be instantly overwhelmed in an attack, and simulations show the feds can't communicate effectively with first responders at the state and local levels.

These problems persist even though Washington has increased bio-defense spending from $414 million in 2001 to a proposed $7.6 billion this year. (WashPost)

John Edwards' Kind of County

When an electronic voting machine went on the fritz, an election officer in Oswego, Kansas thought humidity may have swollen ballots sent in by mail. Dee Brown whipped out a hair dryer, dried out the pesky ballots, and the paper jam came undone. (WABC -- Thanks to Dave Debo)

Friday, November 05, 2004

Beam Me Up Scotty!

Your tax dollars paid for something straight out of the X-Files. The Air Force spent $25,000 for a report on science fiction style physics. The Teleportation Physics Report suggests Washington spend another $7.5 million of your tax money to study psychic teleportation.

The report calls for studies of quantum teleportation, wormholes, and psychokinesis. The report cites UFO reports, communist studies of psychics and American spoon-bending studies. (USAToday via Yahoo!)

Yeah, But the Drugs Reimported from Canada are More Dangerous

US drug maker Merck & Company had data four years ago showing that Vioxx raised the risk of heart attacks. Scientists say the studies were enough that Merck should have pulled it's anti-arthritis drug off the market in 2000. The British medical journal Lancet says Merck failed to properly analyze the information. Last month, Sen Charles Grassley (R-IA) drubbed the FDA for trying to supress government concerns over the drug's safety. (MSNBC)

Money Makes the Political Difference

It doesn't matter if his state's Red or Blue so long as a candidate has plenty of Green. The Center for Responsive Politics found that in 96% of House races and 91% of Senate races, the candidate who spent the most, got the most votes. (opensecrets.org)

Broken Hearted Over Senator Kerry's Loss?

Getting over the election like a bad breakup for you Democrats? Maybe you need a new relationship.

A Canadian website called MarryAnAmerican.ca offers to hook up US liberals with Canadian singles. It was set up by a Toronto humour magazine.

Democrats can console each other and avoid a partner who spouts the incorrect politics at DatingDemocrats.com. It's an online dating site to hook up left leaning people who feel left out at love.

If James Carville had had it in 1992, would he have married Mary Matlin? (AFP & DatingDemocrats.com)

Fat Fliers

Airlines are hurting for money. What's to blame. Americans are getting fatter for one thing.

The average American's weight rose by 10 pounds in the 90s. The heavier the load, the more fuel an airliner has to burn. Our extra "baggage" caused airlines to spend $275 million burning 350 million more gallons of fuel in 2000 than in 1990. Could explain airline food. Does make you want to eat less. (AP via Yahoo!)

Voting for Easier Commutes

Voters sided with higher taxes -- if it meant getting the potholes fixed. Nearly 80% of transportation tax and bond measures passed in Tuesday's election. (USAToday)

Lay Down Your Weary Tune

If artists must suffer to create great works, expect some masterpieces as a result of the election results. Never before have so many musicians, actors, and film makers worked in concert to defeat a politician. The Boss must be singing the blues. (CNEWS)

Rocking the Vote and Breaking Records

The count is shaping up. I told you earlier that Tuesday's election turnout was the highest in 36 years. The numbers are a bit firmer now that the vote's almost all counted.

Minnesota led the pack with 76.2% of eligible voters going to the polls. Only Hawaii and Arizona saw fewer voters go to the polls than in 2000.

Young voters also turned out in greater numbers, but because of the higher over-all turnout, they were proportionally the same share of the vote as in the last election. (WashPost, NPR - Audio))

The War with Iran

Think Iraq was tough? Military action to take out Iran's nuclear capability could be a lot harder -- and maybe even a failure. Iran is enriching 37 tons of uranium that could be used to make atomic weapons. At the same time, they are building missiles capable of striking as far away as Europe and India.

Soldiers and spies staged war games for the Atlantic Monthly to see how the US might take on Iran. It went poorly.

The gamers used a plan General Tommy Franks had worked on before the Iraq invasion. They tried it different ways, with three options: quick, punishing airstrikes, extended airstrikes, and an all out war on the ground. The Iran plan showed the US had few military options that appeared to work. (The Atlantic Monthly & NPR - Audio)

Who's Getting the Short End of this Exchange?

So what if they're building nukes. We're talking books with them.

The US has sent the Librarian of Congress to Iran on a cultural exchange. James H. Billington will apparently talk about all the books in the Library of Congress and the Iranians will talk about all the books they won't allow to be published in their country.

The Election was in the Cards

Tied at 1,847 votes each, a pair of Nevada politicians settled the election the traditional way -- they drew cards. The casino capital of the world allows for high card draw as one way to settle tied elections. Robert Swetich drew the seven of diamonds -- not nearly enough to beat Raymond Urrizaga's Queen of clubs. Urrizaga won the pot -- uh, county commissioner's seat. (CNN)

Jim Crow Demands a Recount

It's right there in black and white in the Alabama state constitution. Language providing for segregated schools, authorizing poll taxes, and stating there is no right to public education -- a 1956 move allowing the state to close public schools if the feds integrated them.

They voted Tuesday in Alabama to get rid of that Jim Crow language. And it's headed for a recount. Right now, there's a thin majority want keep the segregationist language.

Opponents of the plan to erase the language claim it'll lead to higher school taxes. But who knows, maybe the Supreme Court will reverse "Brown v. Board of Education" some day. (CNN)

Speechification was Never his Strong Suit

"I'll reach out to everyone who shares our goals." -- President Bush, Thursday, November 4, 2004.

If someone already shares your goals, how exactly is that reaching out? Haven't they already reached in?

Hey, just asking. Someone has to. (USAToday, WhiteHouse.gov)

The Price of Privatized Social Security

The President has a clearer shot at privatizing portions of Social Security. He's long wanted people to have the option of putting some of their Social Security withholding into private investment accounts.

That wouldn't do much for older workers, who wouldn't have their money invested long enough to make money. It could work for younger workers.

But there's a transition cost. It could be as high as $2 trillion dollars to pay for the changes to the system. (LAT)

Energized to Get an Energy Plan

You could wind up paying billions for a new energy plan. Republican Senate gains could give the nation an energy bill after more than a year of delays. The House passed an energy bill last year, but it died in the Senate -- just two votes shy of stopping a filibuster. In Tuesday's elections, Republicans more than made up the difference they need to break through the roadblock.

As the country faces record deficits, the current energy plan promises $26 billion in tax breaks and incentives to energy industries. (LAT)

You're Already Paying for Political Plans

The high cost of the President's ambitious second term agenda has already cut into your wallet. His plan's pricetag threatens to raise already rising deficits. That sent the dollar to within a fraction of a cent of its all time low against the Euro. One Euro was equal to $1.2867 when trading closed Thursday. The dollar fell against the Japanese yen and Canadian dollar, too.

Europe, Japan, and Canada are at the top of the list of America's biggest trading partners. The lower value of the dollar means your dollar buys you less. (WashPost)

Putting a Pricetag on the President's Second Term

President Bush says his election win gave him "political capital" and he plans to spend it. But it may not be enough to pay for everything he wants.

When he took office four years ago, there were $5.6 trillion in estimated surpluses over the next decade. That's turned into $2.3 trillion in deficits -- before you add in the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Analysts can't figure out where the President will find the money to pay for his plans. (LAT, Philly Inquirer, MSNBC)

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Word for Word -- The President's Plans

The White House has posted a transcript of the President's comments to reporters after his Cabinet meeting. It outlines his plans for the second term. There's also audio and video versions from the White House. (WhiteHouse.gov)

Second Guesses turn to Firm Plans

As I pointed out earlier, President Bush promises big changes to the tax code and Social Security in his second term. (WashPost)

From the Web Pages of History

If you missed any online election coverage, the Poynter Institute kept copies. They grabbed 101 news sites for you. They have slideshows of political sites from Tueday night at 8:30 until Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 pm. (Cyberjournalist. net & Poynter Institute)

Clearing the Air at Homeland Security

The collapse of the twin towers spread dust and debris across New York City, filling apartments with microscopic chunks of chemicals and debris and burning out air conditioners. So Washington stepped in. The Department of Homeland Security offered to pay for replacement air conditioners and air filters. Folks lined up. Too many to have had trouble.

Your tax dollars went to 225,000 people. As many as 140,000 of those -- more than half -- asked for the money improperly. (NYT)

You Stuck It Out -- Now Get Rid of the Sticker

Your guy lost, and you don't want to look like a loser with his bumper sticker on your car. The next campaign begins with a little WD-40, a blowdryer, and duct tape. And no, I'm not making a John Edwards reference here. (Thanks to Al's Morning Meeting)

India is a Red State at Heart

It fizzled as an issue in the Presidential race, and even the Government Accountability Office said it didn't amount to much for American workers. But outsourcing US jobs overseas remains a big deal with India. Indian newspapers have been following the issue throughout the US campaign and Indian analysts see a second Bush administration as sending more jobs their way -- and more Indian-made software back our way.

Don't Book on a Free Press

President Bush praised her when she won the Nobel Peace Prize. But now Shirin Ebadi's suing the US government to get her memoirs published here. She's an activist in Iran. Her book isn't even written yet. But Iran doesn't have freedom of speech or press. She wants to publish the book here in the US to get it past Iranian censors. But US law prevents her from working with an agent to get it published here. That's because of rules penalizing anyone doing business with Iran. Freedom is never free. And sometimes it's downright convoluted. (The Reliable Source/WashPost)

Go West, Young Man of Science

California voters passed a plan providing $3 billion for stem cell research. With federal restrictions stiffling research in the rest of the nation, California is poised to become the world's leading center of stem cell research. And it threatens a brain drain for the rest of the country's research centers. (NPR - Audio)

Not Running in 2008

Senator-elect Barack Obama (D-IL) is a rising star in the Democratic Party -- delivering a critically acclaimed keynot address at the Convention, winning a landslide on Tuesday. But he says he will not see the Presidency or Vice Presidency until he's filled a full term in the Senate. Check back in 2007 for an update. (Chicago Sun Times)

Already Running for 2008

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) is already running for the 2008 Presidential nomination. He barnstormed the south in a Victory Tour -- for other Senators. (MSNBC)

Dude, You're Getting a Tax Break

North Carolina lawmakers are considering up to $225 million in tax breaks for computer maker Dell. It would involve tax breaks of $6.25 to $15 on every computer built in the state. It's an incentive deal to lure the computer maker to North Carolina. (The Ledger Online)

Bush Victory was Married to the Gay Marriage Issue

Laws banning gay marriages passed in all 11 states where they were on the ballot. The whole issue was tailor made to bring President Bush's base to the polls for that issue, and stay to vote for him. (MSNBC)

Will Texas Go Blue?

Republicans gerrymandered the Texas Congressional District map to give their party an advantage in Congress. The US Supreme Court ruled it's wrong, but let it stand through the election. That put 6 prominent Texas Democrats out of a job in Washington. But it means all six are in great positions to run for state offices in the off year election -- with strong name recognition and campaign fiancing networks already in place. (Houston Chronicle)

Laying Out His Legacy

President Bush discusses "strategery" for his second term with his cabinet today. From his victory speech on Wednesday, the discussion will likely include three major issues:

Continuing the War on Terror. That could likely mean a major offensive on Fallujah, where Marines and Iraqi forces were massing before the election. It could also mean military strikes in Iran to take out that country's growing nuclear capabilities.

Social Security. The President has long supported allowing Americans to divert their Social Security withholding taxes into semi-private investment accounts.

Tax Simplification. That may mean a National Sales Tax. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) supports a plan to abolish the IRS and income taxes and replace it with a sales tax. Backers say it'd be a 23% tax on everything you buy. But they take the price AFTER adding the tax onto it. States measure the tax based on the pre-tax price. Using that formula, it comes to a 30% increase in the price of goods and services. (ABC News)

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

VICTORY

The transcript of President Bush's victory speech. (WashPost)

CONCESSION

Full transcripts of Senator John Edwards' introduction and Senator John Kerry's concession speech.

Guarding Us With Their Lives

More than 140 National Guardsmen and Reservists have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their names are included in a pair of Roll Calls of Honor on the National Guard's homepage. There are low resolution and high resolution video and an interactive list that lets you scroll through names or search for someone in particular. (Army National Guard)

Shades of '68

Not since Nixon, Humphrey, and Wallace ran at the height of the Vietnam War and Civil Rights movement has there been as big a turn out at the polls. The Associated Press counts about 120 million people voting in Tuesday's election. That's 60% of eligible voters. That big a percentage hasn't turned out since 1968. Maybe that explains the flatlined turn out on younger voters -- 18 year olds didn't get the vote until 1972. (CNN)

Slow Talking

CNN is reporting Senator Kerry's concession speech has been moved back to 2:00 pm EST. Hey, it beats moving it back to December 29th! (CNN)

The Second Time Around

Despite a clear win, expect changes in the White House. Second terms have been mad dashes by Presidents eager to establish their legacy -- while fending off the scandals that've had time to bubble to the top from the first term. There's a chance that a second term could see President Bush move more toward the center as he balances his place in history with the messy job of day to day politics. Michael Hirsh uses some historical precedents to predict what we might expect. (Newsweek - Commentary)

ALL OVER

The Associated Press reports that Senator John Kerry called President Bush shortly after 11:00 am EST, conceding Ohio and the election. Senator Kerry is expected to make a formal concession speech at 1:00 EST today.

Last Exit to 2004

Got sucked in by the early exit polls? Still trying to figure out what American voters are thinking? MSNBC links to exit poll data from every state in the union so you can draw your own conclusions. Great for Monday morning quarterbacking this Wednesday morning. (MSNBC)

The Great Divide Part 2

The past four years have made liberals and conservatives huddle more closely in their respective camps. Even though the aftermath of the 2004 election appears to be going more smoothly than that in 2000, the divides are still more pronounced. (WashPost)

Them Durn Kids

It wasn't the big year of young voters afterall. Voters aged 18 to 24 accounted for 10% of the vote. About the same as in 2000. (MSNBC)

Warning: Politicians Doing Math

Crunch the numbers in Ohio, and Senator John Kerry faces a steep uphill battle.

Rounding numbers to make the math easier, there's a 130,000 vote lead for the President. If there are 250,000 provisional ballots -- the high, outside number the Kerry campaign says -- Senator Kerry would have to carry 77% of those ballots to win Ohio.

And that's the Senator's best case scenario right now.

Keeping the Course Load at the Electoral College, Colorado Campus

Colorado toyed with the idea of splitting their electoral votes based on a candidate's share of the popular vote. But voters voted the plan down. Newsweek explains why it didn't fly. (Newsweek via MSNBC)

One small vote for man...

Astronaut Leroy Chiao, aboard the International Space Station, became the first person to cast a vote for President from outer space. It was e-mailed into his Texas county on Halloween night. (MSNBC)

The Whole World is Watching

From Italy to Israel, the Kremlin to Kyoto, the world is reacting to the US presidential election. MSNBC has a global reaction wrap up. (MSNBC)

The Washington Senators Scorecard

The Associated Press profiles the new Senators elected on Tuesday. (AP via Baltimore Sun)

A Moral Victory in Election 2004

"Moral Issues" was the surprise topic in exit polls this election day. That easily translates into "oppostition to gay marriage" in this election. Those who cited morality as a motivating factor in their votes yesterday went 4-to-1 for President Bush. And 11 states -- including Ohio -- passed bans on gay marriage. In the end, it may have been the issue that put the President over the top. (AFP)

The Great Divide

President Bush may have reversed his popular vote showing from four years ago and Ohio may be less of a hurdle than Florida was, but there are indicators suggesting the country is as deeply divided as in 2000. (LAT)

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Good Luck, Gang. I'm Calling It a Night.



Mmmmmmmm. Old-fashioned cornbread and buttermilk to soothe my stomach. And modern pharmaceuticals like Paxil and Prozac to soothe my mind.

Even Harry S. Truman went to bed early. I may be a political junkie, or maybe it's because I am a political junkie. But all the talk of numbers, votes, and percentages is like counting sheep to me. Nonetheless, I can safely call this election. Ralph Nader will not -- repeat not -- be the next President.

I've done all I can. Wake me when it's over -- and I'll start all over again. (Photo credit: Missouri Secretary of State's Office) Posted by Hello

Flip Flopping Ohio Law Flops Back into Place

The Ohio law that allowed partisan challengers to confront voters -- then got thrown out by a state judge -- then reinstated by the appeals and state supreme court -- then got thrown out by two federal district judges -- has been put back into place by a three-judge panel of the US 6th Circuit. Let the challenges begin, again. (CNN)

The Tax on Free Speech

The IRS is investigating whether to strip the NAACP of its tax-exempt status. That's because the group's leader, Julian Bond, attacked Bush administration policies on education, health care, and other areas. But the NAACP isn't alone. The IRS is going after around 60 groups, churches, and charities for politicking this election year. (First Amendment Center)

So, You Voting for Yoda or "The Boss?"

Like a Star Wars openning or a Bruce Springsteen concert, voters camped out to be the first to cast votes today. There have been long lines and many states expect to break voter turnout records before it's over. (CNN)

Who Needs Dan Rather?

This election's as tight as the pages in a book and shakier than cafeteria jello.

You're going to need info when it's too early to say who has the whip hand.

The Poynter Institute pointed me to a bunch of great election counting information.

You can set up your own "Election Central" in you rliving room and start predicting a winner as soon as the polls close.

The Wall Street Journal has an interactive electoral college map. You can keep a running tally as the state results come in.

The National Archives & Records Administration has tons of information on past electoral college votes. You can see how states voted in past elections at the NARA site, and find out the schedule for key dates for casting and counting the electoral vote.

There are links to all state election websites. And the National Conference of State Legislatures gives you links to party control of statehouses and governor's offices up for grabs in today's election.

If a frog had side pockets he'd carry a handgun -- whatever that means.

(Thanks to the Poynter Institute for the links & About.com for the Dan Ratherisms)

Tallying the Election Intimidation

Non-partisan voting groups have set up the Voter Alert Line to keep tabs on election fraud and intimidation. If you see any, you can call them at 1-866-MYVOTE1.

You can see the reports they've gotten so far on the MSNBC website. (MSNBC)

A Long Track Record

When has an incumbent ever won the Presidency when he's tied with his challenger on election day? Larry Sabato -- the Bill Nye of Political Science Guys -- has the answer. Never. Sabato's "Crystal Ball" looks at the uphill challenge President Bush faces today. (University of Virginia)

The Flip-Flopping Rule on Challenging Ohio Voters

The running score in the Ohio Voter Challenge Game.

As it stands now, Republicans are again barred from challenging voters. There was a law allowing it, a state judge barred it. Then appealate judges overrulled it and the challenges were back on.

Now, two different federal judges have ruled the law unconstitutional. One judge appointed by President Clinton, the other by the current President Bush.

There's still a circuit court and Supreme Court challenge available.

Get Thee to the Polls, Ezekiel

With Pennsylvania a battleground state, there's been a big push in Amish country to register the Amish to vote. This is the first election for many of them. (Lancaster Online)

Tricks to Tell How the Vote's Going

OK, political junkies. Tomorrow's still a workday. You can't stay up all night watching results. You're gonna need some sleep so you'll be rested enough to challenge the results tomorrow. USA Today has some tips on what to watch for when you watch election returns to see how the vote's going to break. Then you can get up rested, and read that paper with the "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline. (USAToday)

I Miss Florida, 2000. Things Were Simpler Then.

Lawyers, activists, and foreign observers are descending on our polling places. You may face new election laws and use new voting machines. It's the most heavily monitored election in history -- and the closest in a generation or two. Both sides are poised for all kinds of scenarios after the polls close. It could be another long wait. (WashPost)

The Electoral College Classroom

The Internet and computer simulations are finally explaining to students what the founding fathers drew up with quills. Classes studying how the electoral college works are crunching numbers in ways that kids can finally see how one state can be as important as an Ohio or a Florida to a candidate. (WashPost)

The Recount Race has Started

If there's a recount, Senator John Kerry already has an early edge. The Center for Public Integrity has found the Senator's recount fund is twice what President Bush has tucked away. (Center for Public Integrity)

Campaigning for the Status Quo

Lobbyists are all in favor of the incumbents in Congress -- regardless what party they belong to. The Center for Public Integrity looked at lobbyist contributions to political campaigns.

They found federally registered lobbyists gave $2.9 million to people running for the US Senate. Only $157,000 -- about 5.4% -- went to challengers.

Senators running for reelection got an average of $95,000 from lobbyists. The average amount to challengers lucky enough to get lobbyist money: $26,000. (WashPost)

Keeping the Blame Anonymous

The CIA's director wants its Inspector General to modify a report -- so heads will be less likely to roll over the 9/11 attacks. The IG spent two years to produce an 800 page report detailing how the CIA missed the 9/11 attacks. And his report apparently names names. Director Porter Goss wants changes that would prevent anyone -- like Congress or the President or you -- from drawing conclusions that any individual CIA officers should be held accountable for the failures. (NYT)

Electing to Serve

Before he can serve in the legislature, he got called up to serve in the War. A Demoratic state legislative candidate was called to active duty in the Army Reserves. His wife has been campaigning for him at home, while he carries out a military campaign. (NPR - Audio)

Red & Blue in Black & White

Your TV screen will be lit up in red and blue tonight, red for Republicans, blue for Democrats. Here's why each side has their color. (WashPost via MSNBC)

Vote Early

The first votes are in and it's a tie. Hart's Location, NH is the first polling place in America to have all it's votes tallied. President Bush and John Kerry each took 15 votes, Ralph Nader got one. The whole precient had voted shortly after midnight. (MSNBC)

Checking Out FactCheck.org's Long Year

Ya gotta wonder if the folks at FactCheck.org realized what they were getting into this election year. They've been trying to keep up with all the Presidential candidate's claims and flag the falsehoods. Newsweek has an interview with their head honcho as he takes apart the biggest whoppers each side told in this campaign. (Newsweek)

Monday, November 01, 2004

All We Have to Fear is Tomorrow

From promises of terrorist attacks, to "January Surprises," this campaign has been "The Year of Fear." Candidates have warned of nuclear attacks or a return to the draft if their opponents win. Watching Washington observations on the fearmongering campaign are reviewed at eTalkingHead.com. Halloween may be over, but you can leave up the decorations through election day. (eTalkingHead)

Checkered Future

I've been telling you for some time that the days of floating checks are over -- voided by the "Check 21 Law." In short, it means that money flows from your account the instant your check is cased or deposited. On the flip side, checks you deposit don't always wind up in your account instantly. The one-sided delay means you could wind up with overdraft charges and your bank gets to make money on the money they hold up before it reaches your account. (NYT - OpEd)

The Dead Still Count

There's widespread early voting this year -- at least 29 states allow it now. But what happens when someone votes early and dies before election day? In most cases, the vote's not supposed to count. Problem is, there's no real way to enforce those laws. It's impossible for most states to retrieve an early vote after someone dies and not always likely that the election officers would find out about a dead person's vote until after the election. (AP)

Getting Some Knowledge on the Electoral College

Still trying to pass the electoral college? TIME magazine offers an explanation, history, and some twisted scenarios for the election after the election that really decides the Presidency. (TIME)

Big Doings in Toledo

Toledo, Ohio -- as I pointed out earlier -- is the epicenter for campaign TV ads. An editorial writer for the San Jose Mercury News writes a vivid description of the city on the frontlines of the battlefield states and at the center of a divided nation. (The Mercury News)