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Tuesday, April 29, 2003
"Just" a Matter of Emphasis
Read Paul Krugman's New York Times op-ed, "Matters of Emphasis":
"We were not lying," a Bush administration official told ABC News. "But it was just a matter of emphasis." The official was referring to the way the administration hyped the threat that Saddam Hussein posed to the United States. According to the ABC report, the real reason for the war was that the administration "wanted to make a statement." And why Iraq? "Officials acknowledge that Saddam had all the requirements to make him, from their standpoint, the perfect target."
Stay Up-to-Date on SARS
SARS Watch Org blog.
Take Action Against Expansion of the Secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)
The ACLU has an action alert regarding S.113 which seeks to expand FISA
"Legislation sponsored by Senator Kyl (R - AZ) and Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) would allow the shadowy FISA court to approve secret government surveillance of non-citizens even if there is no probable cause of criminal activity or any evidence that the individual is operating under direction from a foreign power. Consequently this legislation (S. 113) would grant the government new, unprecedented spying powers and significantly infringe on the privacy rights protected by the Fourth Amendment."
S.113 also made news because Senator Hatch (R-UT) sought to use this legislation as a vehicle to to make the PATRIOT Act permanent. This is bad. Bad all the way around. We need to reign in FISA. (It appears that General Ashcroft will be seeking this power anyway under PATRIOT II.)
Take Action! Tell Your Senator to Oppose S.113!!
Cashing in on Homeland Security
The New York Times reports that
at least four of Mr. Ridge's senior deputies at the White House are now working as 'homeland security' lobbyists, as is a chief of staff from his days as Pennsylvania governor. They are a small part of a booming new lobbying business in Washington that is focused on helping large corporations get a share of the billions of dollars that will be spent by the vast domestic security bureaucracy that Mr. Ridge oversees. And what about the potential conflict of interest?
"My one year is up, so I can lobby him and lobby the White House and lobby the Hill," said Rebecca L. Halkias, who was Mr. Ridge's legislative affairs director in the White House, referring to her former boss and to the one-year ban on contacts between former senior government officials and their colleagues. . . . My take: Not a lot of surprise here. Homeland Security is a beast that can only get bigger -- every incident will generate a call for more spending. (And what politician wouldn't jump on the bandwagon? Opposition would be political suicide.) And the bigger the Homeland Security budget gets, the more companies will scramble to see some of the action. Please note, I do feel a bit sorry for Ms. Halkias, who was made to feel uncomfortable by a nosey reporter bringing up the question of conflict of interest.
"I'm not really comfortable talking about homeland security lobbying," Ms. Halkias said in a brief telephone interview, refusing to answer most questions. Asked if she was concerned about any conflict of interest in lobbying Mr. Ridge, she said, "This conversation is over," and hung up.
First we liberate 'em, then we shoot 'em . . .
The New York Times reports: "U.S. soldiers opened fire on Iraqis at a nighttime demonstration against the American presence here after people shot at them with automatic rifles, soldiers said Tuesday. The director of the local hospital said 13 people were killed and 75 wounded. The demonstrators insisted they were unarmed."
Update: Less than 48 hours after this last incident, U.S. soldiers again fire on more Iraqi demonstrators (read here or here).
My take: Don't these uppity Iraqis understand that they shouldn't bite the hand that feeds them?
If this keeps up, we may never know the truth
The special commision to examine the 9/11 attacks continues to have problems accessing documents compiled during the congressional inquiry on the attacts. My take: Why even have the panel, if it can't do its job? It will be a long time, if ever, before we know the truth.
General Franks a War Criminal?
The BBC reports, "A Belgian lawyer says he is preparing a case that could see General Franks charged under a law which allows the prosecution of non-Belgian citizens for war crimes." The US has threatened "diplomatic consequences" for Belgium if this happens. My take: If Franks hasn't done anything wrong, he has nothing to worry about. (Don't we trust world courts?) (Thanks to Casualties of War)
Update: More on the story.
Monday, April 28, 2003
Top Notch Political ParodyThe Propaganda Remix Project is simply fantastic!
Bush Telegraphs His Intentions "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator, he he he." See the transcript and video.
Sunday, April 27, 2003
Sticks and StonesOne correspondent reports increased instances of large groups of Iraqi children throwing stones (and in one case, puppies) at soldiers.
Friday, April 25, 2003
Exercise in ExtrapolationSeeing Bush's approval rating in graphical form is very revealing. (Via The J-Walk Blog)
In the Beginning . . .This was the first blog I ever read. This was the second.
Tax Cuts and JobsIn an April 22, 2003, New York Times column, Paul Krugman sees a problem with the estimated 1.4 million jobs the Bush administration claims will be created by the proposed tax cuts. Since "the average American worker earns only about $40,000 per year, why does the administration, even on its own estimates, need to offer $500,000 in tax cuts for each job created? If it's all about jobs, wouldn't it be far cheaper just to have the government hire people?" Not quite. This is a clever slight of hand, designed to confuse those who aren't able or willing to do the math for themselves. Remember, the proposed tax cut is over 10 years. So Krugman's number comes down to $50,000 per job. But isn't that still more that the average salary of $40,000? Not when you consider the cost of benefits to that employee.
So there you have it. The government can waste money, or it can leave it in the pockets of those who earned it. I'll go for the latter any day.
What's the Big Deal?Can someone please explain to me what the big deal is -- either way -- about Bush's proposed tax cut? I know that $760 billion seems like a lot of money, but we're talking about $760 billion over 10 years, or $76 billion a year. Do you think the average anti-tax-cut American knows what percentage $76 billion is of the total federal budget? It's a measly 3%! That's right -- the government has approved $2.24 trillion in yearly spending, or, to put it on a 10 year basis, TWENTY-TWO THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED BILLION dollars! So, we should all relax about the current proposed tax cuts.
Presidential SpamA clever spoof -- George W. Bush Nigerian Spam Letter
Thursday, April 24, 2003
This land is my land . . .Two recent articles in the New York Times caught my attention as being somehow related. The first involves the US Fish and Wildlife Service blocking development on 1.2 million acres of land near Tucson, Arizona, because it is the home of an estimated 18 pygmy owls. (This is 67,000 acres per owl!) In the second story, the Army Corps of Engineers grated a 50-year, rent-free lease on 280 acres of lakefront property at Skiatook Lake in Oklahoma to StateSouce LLC. Under federal rules, private developers would be required to pay fair market value. But it just so happens that the chief of StateSource LLC is Ronald W Howell, who is a "prominent Republican fund-raiser, lobbyist and is finance chairman for Sen. James M Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican who is chairman of Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works." Convenient, no? Anyway, you figure out what the connection is. If is isn't readily apparent, take a look at what some have called the myth of property ownership. That should put you on the right track.
Good news for air travelers:If your nail clippers, knitting needles, or pocket knife is confiscated next time you try to board an airplane, it is now possible to actually get them back. A couple of airports are now selling confiscated goods on eBay. The airport splits the earnings with the Transportation Security Administration.
Great Gift for the Kids!Get your Iraqi Dis-information Minister talking action figure doll here. "We will slaughter them all!"
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Looting IraqOur government would be proud!
Kill Two Birds with One Stone!Here is a great site for those who would like to trade in their husband for a diamond. They do pets, too.
Weapons?The Bush administration is so desperate, it might actually come to this: Bush Vindicated: Weapons of Mass Reduction and Grass Destruction Found in Iraq! (Thanks to Jeff Lindsay.)
What's in a name?Evidently quite a lot. Especially if your name happens to match a list of suspected terrorists. Take the case (as reported in the June 2003 issue of Mother Jones) of the New York-born Muslim, Muhammad Ali, who tried to wire $80 to a friend for school books. His order was blocked, because his name happens to be on a government list of known terrorists. Anyone want to venture how many Muhammad Ali's out there are going to run into the same problem? Soon, every time you do business with a casino, insurance company, car dealership, travel agency, pawnbroker, or gem dealer, your name will be checked against a database of 10,000 (and growing) names and aliases of suspected terrorists. This database is maintained by the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC). The Mother Jones piece gives a number of other cases, including the 70-year-old black grandmother from Montana who was repeatedly detained because she shares a name with a 28-year-old white male who had been arrested by the FBI on murder charges.
And let's hope you don't get on the government's no-fly list. I'd give you a link to the list; unfortunately, it's a government secret. (You find out, of course, when you attempt to board an airplane.) Over 300 people have been detained at the San Francisco International Airport. Larry Musarra, retired Coast Guard commander and father of three, gets flagged about once a month. Currently, no one knows how you get on or off the list. Evidently, if you are a peace activist, that earns you a spot. Have a nice flight!
[Fact Check: The Mother Jones article states that Muhammad Ali's name is "as common among Muslims as 'John Smith' is among the Mormons." Actually, that would be Joseph Smith. (And, as far as I can tell, it is not very common among the Mormons.)]
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