Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Desperate, disgusting and shameful

Front paged at Booman Tribune and My Left Wing. Recommended at Daily Kos

If this is all the repugs have left, then they should be ashamed. Seriously, this has gotten so far out of hand that it is beyond disgusting. This last week has seen some seriously ugly and shameful ads, as well as actions that clearly show that the republicans are not fit to continue holding office.

We have this latest disgustingly cowardly nonsense from Dear Leader himself:

However they put it, the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses.

Excuse me, asshole, but what kind of crap is that?

What about the well over 60% of people - US citizens - who want "major changes" in Iraq? Do they want "America to lose"? And what exactly is this "plan to win" that the republicans have, other than "to not lose"?

Give me a goddamn break. I know that things look bleak as of now, but this just makes me want to smack the taste out of their nasty, vindictive, petty, shortsighted mouths (not to NSA - I don't really want to smack anyone...) And then we have to be subjected to this stupidity straight from the horse's ass, I mean mouth:

Today on Fox News' Your World With Neil Cavuto, Vice President Dick Cheney said it was his belief that insurgents were increasing their violence to try to influence the midterm elections.
Not only is that completely false (shocker there), but lest we forget how the Bin Laden videotape was designed to influence the election IN BUSH's FAVOR?

Then there is the litany of ads and excuses that certainly show that there is no level low enough for these repugnant racist, fearmongering jackasses won't stoop. In New Jersey, there is Tom Kean's race baiting ad comparing Menendez to "those scary immigrants". We have Rep Roy Blunt blaming (get this), the MEDIA for the crappy economy. And we can't forget the racist ads in Tennessee as well as the soon to be former Speaker of the House flat out lying about soon to be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi regarding immigration.

But why stop there? The biggest assclown in the stable, Rumsfeld not only tells the press to "Back off" regarding Iraq, but then goes on to say the following regarding the "terrorists":

Here they are, getting up every day saying, "We've got an election in two weeks in America, gang, and we want to change horses over there because we don't like the folks we're having to deal with now; they're a little tough on us. So let's get out there and let's make some noise."

As for having our elected officials do what, you know, we elected them to do, well Cat Killer, MD has the following to say about Iraq (you know, the overwhelmingly number one issue to voters:

"The challenge is to get Americans to focus on pocketbook issues, and not on the Iraq and terror issue," Frist said in an interview with the Concord Monitor on Tuesday.

Gee, thanks, fuckwad. Nothing like ignoring We the People.

The tactics used are even worse than in prior years as the desperation sinks in. Hell, in talking to my parents the other day, they were so afraid of, get this, Nancy Pelosi and the democrats taking over. Because, you know, the army would be decimated, the terrorists would win and we would just want to appease them.

And then there is the whole "wuss factor" garbage that is gleefully being pushed by CNN. Well, call me crazy, but a party that talks tough but runs screaming from any service themselves, a party that refuses to face reality in Iraq or here in the US - who refuses scientific evidence regarding the environment, regarding stem cell research, or just about anything else, a party that is so willing to chest thump but has no designs on making the real decisions (unlike what to call French fries), sounds pretty "wussy" to me. And lest we forget how many of the republican incumbents refuse to debate (yeah, I'm talking to you Scott Garrett, among many others) or even appear in public with their Democratic challengers.

When all that is left is empty threats, flat out lies, racist smears, thinly veiled attempts to create more fear, and a complete disintegration of any level of true discourse, you have to look in the mirror and realize that there truly is no "there" there.

And all that is left is the attempt to steal another election on Tuesday. But we are watching. But this time, the rest of the country is watching as well. And come next week, "fear" will be a pre-November 7 mindset.

Until then, we can only expect more of what the republicans do best - desperate, disgusting and shameful tactics.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

My Legs Are Killing Me, But Man, I Feel So Good...

Front paged at Booman Tribune and Bluejersey. Recommended at Daily Kos

I just moved into a pretty red neighborhood in a pretty red district (NJ-05) in a very blue state. I heard somewhere that the village was nearly 2 to 1 in favor of republicans. And a few weeks ago, ours was the only lawn in the neighborhood with an "Aronsohn for Congress" sign. So when I volunteered to helpout with Paul Aronsohn's uphill battle campaign, I didn't expect too much.

But today, I just got back from walking my entire neighborhood distributing flyers and other literature about Aronsohn's campaign (close to 100 houses) and damn, am I excited. Because if there is the response that I got to my day today in my fairly red neighborhood, then that bodes real well for not only Paul's campaign, but also for Menendez' bid for reelection.

Being new to the area, I didn't know how the political leanings were in our particular neighborhood, but since there are a tremendous number of houses with American flags displayed prominently, I kinda had a suspicion. But over the past few weeks, there have been many Aronsohn lawn signs popping up around my neighborhood, and the town in general, while there are considerably fewer signs for the incumbent, Scott Garrett. But that's not all.

This week alone, I have planted close to two dozen lawn signs around our town and the surrounding towns, and have seen LOTS of signs around. Plus, the signs are staying up. And today (which was my very first time going door to door), I met more than a few of my neighbors, and heard some very encouraging things which make me think that we could all be very happy campers on November 7.

One of my neighbors asked me to leave an extra lawn sign for him to plant at his house. Another said that he was hearing some real good things about Aronsohn lately, which surprised me, despite the bi-partisan support and recent endorsements by the NJ Star Ledger, today's NY Times and one of Warren County's more conservative papers. So why was I surprised? Well, because down at Paul's campaign headquarters, there are a number of volunteers who tell their stories about the campaign's lack of support from the Democratic party, the large lead in money that Garrett has, and the fact that Garrett has ducked each request to appear together, let alone debate.

There was one who used to vote republican but "for the past six years there is no way that I could think about voting republican". As soon as he heard that I was stumping for a Democrat, he said that was all he needed to hear. Another took the time to talk about the election and the direction this country was headed, even admitting that "with the way that things move nowadays, it is tough to get any information about what is going on".

I don't know what kind of chance Aronsohn has against Garrett. But I do know that if I can get people who may not vote, may not know who Paul is, or are not real committed about voting (or voting Democrat vs. republican) to vote, then there is a pretty good chance that they will also vote for Menendez. Which of course is a crucial race heading into the final week.

So while I am completely wiped out from walking our hilly streets and what seemed like a thousand steps, I know that there are possibly close to 100 more houses that know what their choices are on November 7. And in such an important election - with such an important Senate race, every house, every person, every voter matters.

And now I have to go back on Tuesday night to get some more lawn signs and pamphlets, since I am pretty much all out.

But, man - what a great feeling it was.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

EVERYONE wants us to leave Iraq. So what are we waiting for?

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

Is it me, or does each day bring not only more horrific news about the civil war raging in Iraq, the rising number of civilian and troop casualties, more bombings and killings, but also more and more calls for "coalition" troops to withdraw (or at least plan to withdraw within a definitive and prescribed period of time)?

Whether it is US Senators (Democratic or republican), Iraqi civilians themselves, Generals or former generals, the Iraqi government, other countries or the American people themselves, the message is clear. We need to find a way to end this debacle quickly and bring our troops home safely. Or at a minimum, redeploy them and figure out a solution other than "stay the course but with a name other than stay the course".

In all seriousness, this ill-conceived and horribly "implemented" experiment in nation building and "freedom spreading" has failed miserably by every conceivable metric and measure. It is long past time to do something, anything different.

We are not being taken seriously by the Iraqi "government", the Iraqi police is infested with people who are more loyal to their local death squads, and our troops have become sitting ducks. It makes the question of withdrawal not one of "if" or even "when", but more like "how soon".

Let's take out of the equation, just for now, the fact that there was $9 billion unaccounted for or that more recently another $800 million that was supposed to fight the insurgency was stolen. And let's also take out of the equation the fact that our own agencies say that this mess has increased the threat of terror. Or the fact that our military doesn't have enough armor or updated equipment, that our generals warned that we needed at least double the number of troops if we were to invade Iraq.

And let's even forget the fact that this war has cost almost 400 Billion dollars, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian lives, more loss of US troop lives than those which were lost on 9/11 and tens of thousands of US veterans who are permanently disabled (mentally or physically) and facing cuts to their benefits.

Ok, now that we have forgotten these little tidbits if information, let's just focus on the people or groups that want us to get the hell out of Dodge, and get out two times quick.

For starters, how about those whose country we illegally invaded, dropped illegal chemical weapons on and are illegally occupying? Well, as of last month, over 70% of Iraqis want us out within a year. And while this is after we came in and basically completely ruined everything in their country, it is before October, which was the worst month to date with respect to violence against US troops, or Iraqis. The other figures cited are just as telling, so give it a quick peruse. Not only that, but a poll from last week indicated that the Iraqi youth wants us out as soon as possible and that the violence would decrease if we did.

Where to next? Well, our biggest lapdog, er, partner in the "coalition of the bribed and threatened", the UK, wants out too. Over 60% of British want their troops out, and out as soon as possible. Of course, we can't forget the UK's own army chief, who said the same thing just two short weeks ago.

What about us "cut and runners" and "terrorist sympathizers" here in the US? Well, 58% of us think the war was a mistake and 52% think that it has made us less safe from terrorism. Yeah, and the "troop haters" also include the troops themselves as well as Richard Armitage, former army generals, and republican Senators who happen to be in the extreme minority of those republican senators who have served in the military.

The list just doesn't end. China said it years ago. Hell, as of this past February, over 70% (yes, seventy percent) of our own troops said we should be out within a year. Yesterday, Iraq's own Prime Minister has rejected what the US is saying Iraq should do by certain dates.

The calls are overwhelming. There are many MANY more that I haven't cited here. But the message is clear and consistent. We must leave Iraq. And very soon. It is pretty much at the point where only Laura and Barney want us to stay. As much as Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld think that their opinions are the only ones that matter, that is not the case.

Enough of this. It is long past time. For those who think "it will get worse if we leave" - I have news for you: It is already worse. More deaths and killings won't make this any better.

Bring them home now. Everyone wants it that way. It must be that way.


Friday, October 27, 2006

IRS Commissioner accused of playing politics with collection actions

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

It's not every day that four former IRS Commissioners blast the current Commissioner for playing politics before an election. But I guess it's not every IRS Commissioner that got to sit in on secret meetings six months after the 9/11 attacks to discuss White House policy regarding a response to the attacks and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

So when IRS Commissioner and former Deputy Director of Bush's Office of Management and Budget Mark W. Everson (appointed in 2003) makes the following comment, it makes you wonder if his priorities lie with the IRS or with his former boss:

The commissioner, Mark W. Everson, who has close ties to the White House, said in an interview that postponing collections until after the midterm elections, along with postponing notices to people who failed to file tax returns, was a routine effort to avoid casting the Internal Revenue Service in a bad light.

"We are very sensitive to political perceptions," Mr. Everson said Wednesday, adding that he regularly discussed with his senior staff members when to take actions and make announcements in light of whether they would annoy a powerful member of Congress or get lost in the flow of news.

It is wonderful that the IRS Commissioner regularly makes his decisions based on whether they would "annoy a powerful member of Congress". Especially since this Commissioner was tied closely to the Bush administration, and did such a wonderful job with the budgets in his tenure. Not only that, but I doubt that many IRS Commissioners have wives who has served as the chief ethics lawyer in the White House, as Everson's wife did until earlier this year.

I'll hold off on the obvious joke here about ethics in this White House, nepotism, cronyism and similar jokes, as it is too easy.

Generally speaking, when someone doesn't file their tax return or pay their taxes, they get a few "love notes" from the IRS. And in dealing with this pretty much full time, I can tell you that there are many occasions where the IRS uses a "take no prisoners" approach, threatening or imposing liens, assessing heavy penalties and fines as well as becoming much rougher regarding penalty abatement - even in cases of clear reasonable cause (which is the IRS standard).

Oftentimes, these notices or letters come even after the taxes are paid or the returns are filed, because "we can't stop the system from sending them out automatically" (I kid you not). But in this instance, there was a sudden decision to delay action with respect to the 1.2 million people whose lives were turned upside down by Hurricane Katrina with less than four weeks to go before the election, with the election cited as a reason to delay action.

"We just spoke with commissioner on the enforcement issue in the gulf," wrote Beth Tucker, the I.R.S. executive in charge of dealing with Hurricane Katrina victims, in an e-mail message to her team obtained by The New York Times. "He prefers that we do not resume any enforcement actions until after Dec. 31 due to the upcoming elections, holiday season, etc."


In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes, incomes and tax records, the I.R.S. delayed the filing deadline for 2005 taxes to Oct. 16, 2006, for those living in the counties most affected by the storm. Normally, those taxpayers who did not file returns or pay their taxes by that extended deadline would begin receiving notices and, eventually, collection demands from the I.R.S.

Mr. Everson's order delayed those collection efforts until early next year.

While I am certainly sensitive to the plight of those who were impacted by Hurricane Katrina (as any of you who have read my numerous diaries on the Gulf Coast can attest to), there has already been a six month extension to file 2005 taxes, in addition to all of the waivers, credits and other extensions that the IRS issued and allowed. And it isn't like the IRS is the kind of agency to suddenly have a soft spot for collecting monies that it feels it is due (unless you are ultra wealthy in which case the IRS will cut audits of estate tax returns).

To delay collection action for victims of Hurricane Katrina is noble. To do so for political purposes, right before an election is fishy, at best. Add in the fact that you admit to making political decisions with respect to collection actions, and your close ties to the White House (not to mention the stellar polls of republicans, the White House and Congress) and well, things start to smell more rotten.

And when you have not one, not two, not even three, but FOUR former IRS Commissioners - Commissioners who have served under Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Poppa Bush and Bill Clinton ALL coming out against this, well, then there is a real problem.

And the words were generally not kind. Take Jerome Kurtz, who served as Commissioner under President Carter:

Former Commissioner Jerome Kurtz, who served under President Jimmy Carter, responded, "Never, never, never," when asked if he would have considered delaying broad-based enforcement actions like sending notices because of any election, national or local. "Oh my God, that is unthinkable," Mr. Kurtz said.

Former Commissioner Donald Alexander had the kindest words to say about this situation, and even that was more along the lines of "the other things Everson has done":

Donald C. Alexander, who was commissioner under Mr. Carter and Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, said he would never have even thought about delaying enforcement because of an election, but added that he thought Mr. Everson was otherwise doing an excellent job.

Or former Commissioner Charles Rosetti, who served under both Poppa Bush and Clinton:

Charles O. Rossotti, the commissioner under President Bill Clinton and President Bush, said, "That's not appropriate." Mr. Rossotti added that "given the culture of the Treasury and the I.R.S., I just can't imagine anyone would even bring anything like that up."

And lastly, a former Commissioner that actually had some experience in this very area (regarding elections) when Spiro Agnew's actions were called into question before the 1968 election had the following to say:

Sheldon S. Cohen, the Johnson administration tax commissioner, said it was wrong to delay any broad-based enforcement actions because of a pending election. Mr. Cohen said, however, that delay might be appropriate in a matter involving a specific politician.

Three weeks before the 1968 presidential election, he said, he was told that Spiro T. Agnew, Richard Nixon's running mate, was being bribed with free groceries. "Just beginning an investigation, word of which might get into the news, would be unfair since we could not prove or disprove anything before the election," Mr. Cohen said, adding that before leaving office he arranged for an investigation, which ultimately resulted in Mr. Agnew's resignation and no-contest plea in 1973 to charges of income tax evasion.

Being a tax consultant that deals with these issues for a living, I can tell you that the only people that the IRS generally answer to are themselves. However, we have seen the IRS under Everson go after the exempt status of certain not-for-profit organizations like the NAACP while turning the other cheek to investigating exempt organizations that promote republican candidates or politics.

And now we are seeing the delay of collection action due to "negative press before the election", where the Commissioner not only admitted to the delay for political reasons, but also has a history of similar such behavior and close ties to the White House.

Which is inexcusable. Even to four former IRS Commissioners.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

GOP: the kids mom didn't want you playing with

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media. Recommended at Daily Kos

Growing up, there was one friend that I made back in first grade who mom was skeptical of from the start. It wasn't because he was disrespectful or nasty to parents (he was polite) or that he was a bully that beat kids up on the playground (he didn't). But there were things that didn't sit right with mom.

Looking back, I can see why. He taught me all the great four letter words (in second grade), he taught me how a lighter and a can of Lysol can make a wicked blowtorch, how a magnifying glass angled just right could burn leaves (and other stuff). Or getting me to ride my bike to the local McDonalds (across some pretty big roads) when I was in third grade and to climb the walls to the roof of the local elementary school (in fourth grade), which had the local police come looking for us. And of course, the last straw was when he took some clay and wrote "the F-word" on my basement wall (in fourth grade).

And while I don't know how he turned out (he didn't flunk out of school or anything like that), or whether he is a Democrat or republican, I see many of the same traits in the wingnuts and republicans now that are similar to those that are displayed by the kids that mom wouldn't let you play with.

Look at the traits. If you are a mom (or a dad), think of the friends that your kids had who you didn't want them playing with. The ones who were a bad influence, who would get your son or daughter in trouble.

You know, things like lying. It doesn't matter if it is lying about staying out late, or going to a friend's house when their parents aren't home. Or if the lie is about, say, sending a country to war based on known lies.

Or things like purposely not following the law. It doesn't matter if you are riding your bike without a helmet, breaking into schools, posting graffiti. Or if you are violating international law by encouraging and promoting torture.

And parents hate it when their children are being put in harm's way. Regardless of whether you are playing in the street, playing with fireworks unsupervised (or at all) or swimming unsupervised. Or if you put your country and people at risk for terror attacks by illegal and immoral invasions and occupations.

"Do unto others..." is how the golden rule starts. So bullying is something that parents don't want their kids learning. And kids who are bullies aren't the type of people that parents want their kids hanging around with.

We can't forget not beating up other kids, kicking dogs or other violence towards animals. Regardless of whether you are blowing up frogs with firecrackers, or blowing up entire cities with illegal and banned chemical weapons, this is not someone that you would want your kids to associate with.

And if your child does get him or herself into trouble, you would want them to at least be mature enough to fight their own battles. You know, as opposed to calling for others to do their dirty work while they sit back and cheer on those who are fighting their battles on their behalf.

Parents also preach tolerance of others, despite the fact that others may not be as fortunate, may be of a different race, religion, sexual orientation or whatever else makes them "different". Not things like using racial epitaphs or discriminating against others who you may perceive to be "not like you".

Parents also like to know that their children's friends' parents are looking out for them. I know that when I was younger, my parents didn't want me playing at someone's house if their parents weren't home, or if they were not trustworthy people. And I am sure that if they were sexual predators or were known to protect sexual predators, well there would be no way in hell that they would want me anywhere near that friend's house.

Parents want their kids to be secure. And while childhood is a difficult period, and we all must deal with uncertainties and insecurities of our own, it is the bullies who are generally the most insecure. Whether it is insecure of their place with other kids, with their grades or anything else, it certainly becomes something that, for whatever reason, these kids can't get past it and carry it through to later in life.

These are the people that are in charge of our country. The kids that mom wouldn't let you play with when you were growing up.

Let's get as many people as we know to take mom's advice on November 7.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

testing the google bomb

Original comment.

Jon Kyl Rick Renzi J.D. Hayworth John Doolittle Richard Pombo Brian Bilbray Marilyn Musgrave Doug Lamborn Rick O'Donnell Christopher Shays Vernon Buchanan Joe Negron Clay Shaw Bill Sali Peter Roskam Mark Kirk Dennis Hastert Chris Chocola John Hostettler Mike Whalen Jim Ryun Anne Northup Geoff Davis Michael Steele Gil Gutknecht Michele Bachmann Jim Talent Conrad Burns Jon Porter Charlie Bass Mike Ferguson Heather Wilson Peter King John Sweeney Tom Reynolds Randy Kuhl Robin Hayes Charles Taylor Steve Chabot Jean Schmidt Deborah Pryce Joy Padgett Melissa Hart Curt Weldon Mike Fitzpatrick Don Sherwood Lincoln Chafee Bob Corker George Allen Frank Wolf Mike McGavick Dave Reichert

Cool, it works.....

Incompetent? No plan for Iraq? Sounds like the Republicans to me.

Front paged at Booman Tribune

If you are like me, you have most certainly have heard one of the following at least a few dozen times over the past few months or years:

"What would the Democrats do about Iraq?" Or "the Democrats have no ideas". Or, "the Democrats have no plan for X." Or, "the Democrats are just plain incompetent".

And you know what - instead of being backed into a corner and having to defend against these asinine questions, I have turned it back to the republicans. You know - "why should the republicans get a pass for all their screw ups?" "What is the republicans' plan for Iraq (other than stupid phrases)?" "What have the republicans done right?" Or "what is the republicans' plan for X?".

After all, it is the republicans who have been in charge of Congress for 12 years, of the White House for six, of the court system, of the direction of this country, the foreign policy decisions, the way that our money has been spent, and pretty much everything else that we are going through now as a country. It is the republicans that should be on the defensive, not the Democrats.

Last week, I wrote a diary titled They drove us into a ditch. Now let's take away the keys. And right now, there is a diary on the recommended list by bink that is highlighting an upcoming CNN report on "democratic party incompetence". And the message is clear. The responsibility does NOT lie with the Democrats for where we are with respect to Iraq. The incompetence at the federal level with respect to the response to Katrina, the tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy, the shrinking middle class, the corruption rampant in Congress, the cronyism, no bid contracts with Halliburton, cuts to veterans benefits, Jack Abramoff, the lobbyists who write the laws are ALL the result of the republican policies.

I think the following quote from future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sums it up best:

"You must drain the swamp if you are going to govern for the people," she says, wagging a finger. The Republicans "have forgotten who they work for. [Democrats] haven't had a bill on the floor for 12 years."

This bears repeating. The Democrats have not had a bill on the floor for 12 years. Minimum wage hikes not getting a vote. Health care changes not getting a vote. Stem cell research not getting a (passing) vote. 9/11 Commission recommendations not getting a vote. Tax cuts that favor We the People over corporate tax cuts not getting a vote. Benefits for veterans not getting a vote. And the list goes on and on. And on.

What about Iraq? This is a huge concern for many voters, and rightfully so. This administration, and the rubber stamp republican Congress got us into the mess - with lies and billions of dollars of money wasted, lost, stolen, unaccounted for - and still not enough armor or equipment for those who are being sent (and forced) to fight for, well, for what?

What is the plan? What is the "mission"? What is the "course" to stay (or not stay as Bush's amnesia sets in)? What was the plan? And what will be the plan?

Well, even with all of the reports that have come out blasting the administration, Bush, Rumsfeld and just about everyone else that had a hand in this absolute disgraceful mess, and even with republican senators (ones who actually served in the military like John Warner and Chuck Hagel) saying that things need to change, there is STILL nothing from the republicans as far as what to do.

A few months back, "stay the course" and "this will be a future president's problem to clean up" were the way for Chimp in Chief to deal with his monstrosity. And over the past two days, we see that the "new and improved" mission is, well, the same "old and tired' mission. Blame others for the violence, do nothing differently and change the way that they talk about Iraq.

I kid you not. Take this quote from Tony Snow:

He (Snow) acknowledged, however, that Bush no longer is saying that the United States will "stay the course" in Iraq.

"He stopped using it," Snow said of that phrase, adding that it left the impression that the administration was not adjusting its strategy to realities in Baghdad.

Ooooooooooooooooooooooh. He stopped using the term "stay the course" (although they were never "stay the course" in the first place. Damn flip floppers...). But lordy lordy, what a brilliant policy of how to deal with a civil war, increasing US troop deaths and injuries, missing funds, hundreds of civilian deaths (if not more) each week and a country with little to no electrical power.

So, this whole being-put-on-the-defensive thing? Total bullshit. And completely unwarranted. Where is the competence in Iraq? Where is the competence here in the US? What is the republicans plan in Iraq (and I don't mean a Conrad Burns super secret "I can't tell you" plan)?

After all, the republicans got us to where we are now. And they have no answers to what to do now. Why do they deserve another chance? How is this decreasing terrorism?

There is exactly two weeks to go before November 7. Don't let up. Don't fall into the defensive trap. Turn it around. What have the republicans done to deserve reelection? What is THEIR plan for Iraq? For this country? For the future?

There is no answer for that - at least no acceptable answer.

Monday, October 23, 2006

If you live near NYC, go see "Bush Wars"

Last night I had the chance to go see Bush Wars , which I frankly didn't even know existed before Jen's aunt and uncle got us tickets for her birthday. And a special bonus was that we got to see it with some good friends of ours as well.

But, holy shit - what a hysterical show. Dead on, and I didn't think that something that would be this political would be even funnier (as my thought was that it would be cute then boring) than I imagined.

Noone is spared (Bush, Frist, Cheney, "red state 'Murka" and many others) and even the audience got into it - one of the best unintended comedy parts was when the Frist character tried to get an elderly jewish couple to say "big hanging donkey dick"....

Certainly a must see, and at 90 minutes it wasn't too short or too long either.

Ok, so what happens if the election results are "skewed"?

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media. Recommended at Daily Kos.

In all seriousness, I have been asking myself that very question for a few months now. And since this issue has been getting more and more press lately, (in addition to the phenomenal compilation done with respect to the 2004 election "irregularities"), I wanted to gauge the thought process, the general feeling, the potential reaction that is necessary, warranted, required, feasible, etc. if we have a repeat of 2000, 2002 or 2004.

Before we take this into "pitchfork and torch" territory, or into tin foil hat territory (although I think there is enough evidence to not treat this as such - at least not the potential), I want to lay out a few things here. And yes, I realize that I am doing this at my own peril, but I want to have this be as constructive a discussion as possible.

There are so many questions to be asked - there are so many variables to consider, but to not have any thoughts as to what the reaction would be if we wake up on November 8 and find that double digit leads have mysteriously vanished overnight, or that exit polls were "so far off" because republicans didn't want to say that they voted the way they did, or that voting machines were "selectively available", or whatever else can happen on November 7 (and even afterwards with the counting of the absentee ballots, etc.) would be a bit shortsighted.

It is clear that this is a very winnable election in a potentially historic manner. It is also very true that we have a lot to do before November 7. And it is true that a lot can happen between now and then. But from where things stand now, the polls are showing major Democratic gains in a number of races, a number of races with widening leads for Democrats and a number of races that are much closer than you would have thought a few months ago.

While the vaunted republican ground game and voter targeting is something that is to be envied at times, it still is a midterm election where motivated voters make the difference. So while there is plenty of disincentive for republicans to stay home, we still can't take it for granted. And I am going to take out of this equation any "October surprise" - because to speculate based on another variable just isn't want I want to do here.

But this diary is not about motivating us and others to vote - I will leave that to people who are much better at writing about that issue than I am. What I want to do is (seriously, please) ask what we are prepared to do if the following scenarios occur (almost like a pre-action item):

Republicans, including MD Governor Ehrlich are calling for paper ballots over the electronic voting machines. A number of people, including the most recent example of Princeton professors show how easy it is to hack the Diebold machines and spread a virus to change votes without leaving a trace. This is even picked up by Fox News (I guess just in case the Democrats do win). So we know that this is getting out there to way more people than in 2004.

Polls continue to show Democratic candidates leading, some by wide margins, up until election day. Then, suddenly, a five to six point lead becomes a seven point loss, virtually overnight. Exit polls, which have been used in this country to show how accurate the elections are (at least through 2000), and are even used (and cited by the US) in many other countries to prove the validity of elections, show a very difficult to explain discrepancy to the actual results (which may or may not be changed by CNN, Fox, AP, etc. like in 2004).

"Irregularities" and instances of voter disenfranchisement or suppression are reported all over the country - whether it be provisional ballots, voting machines switching the votes, more votes for a candidate than there are voters, voting machines not working or available, phone jamming, or whatever else it may be. The vast majority of these "irregularities" favor one party. The vast majority of the "close" races all break for the republicans, despite an abysmal view of the current Congress, as well as the seemingly overwhelming desire to see Democrats win their races.

The republicans retain control of the House and the Senate by one or two seats. The mainstream news outlets once again bury the stories (although I think that if the exit polls are close to the actuals - whatever that may be - then this wouldn't be as much of a story to bury, regardless of who wins).

These are all fairly likely to happen in some way, shape or form. Whether they all occur (as they did in 2002 and 2004) is a different issue altogether. The political environment is worse than 2004 in terms of the general view of Bush, the republicans, Congress, the economy, Iraq, the "war on terror", the environment, corruption, cronyism - you name it. A "narrow victory" that has a similar (bullshit) explanation to the one we got in 2004 should not suffice. It should and will not explain anything. It will look more suspicious.

But many Americans have shown their overwhelming ability to be gullible and believe what they are told by their government, no matter how stupid, no matter how unreliable, no matter how unfounded or unsourced the lie or explanation is. And many Americans may just say, "well, the Democrats couldn't win in this environment", or "Rove and the superior ground game just won out in the end" or whatever other drivel is shoveled at us.

Well, then what? What do we do?

Clearly, sitting back and yelling to each other isn't going to work. Unlike 2004, I think that there will be a much more organized and unified voice, since this is not really a "taboo" topic anymore. However, I don't know that anything short of mass protests and demonstrations in many many American cities will get press or attention. Plus, I don't know if it would matter much in terms of changing anything.

That all being said, I do think that there will be more reception from (certain) media outlets (not just Olbermann) to report on this. Will the races be challenged? Even if we support Democratic candidates to the fullest, will they demand a recount? Will they (or we) demand an investigation into the votes? Will these calls, cries and demands go unnoticed, unanswered, or only addressed with a half-assed effort from those who we are calling out to? What will Democratic Party leaders do? Will they demand an investigation? Will they shut down Congress? Will they disappoint us?

And for whatever we can do - how do we do it (whatever "it" may be)? Who would we write letters to? Who would we call? Where would we march? Will anyone go to bat for this country (other than us)?

It is a horrible scenario to think about, and hopefully it won't happen. I, personally, am at a loss for answers, although I will be pissed as can be. What if the republicans do win, and they win in a similar manner to 2002 (Georgia, for example) and 2004? What if things don't "pass the smell test"? There will be a whole lot to overcome for us to overcome the propaganda and the wave of explanations, excuses and other nonsense.

How will we do it?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The last throes of the republican majority

Front paged at Booman Tribune

Our nation faces a threat to our freedoms, and the stakes could not be higher.


We've seen that type of hate before -- and the only possible response is to confront it, and to defeat it. This new enemy seeks to destroy our freedom and impose its views.

---A moron who doesn't realize the irony of these comments, 11/8/2001

Our nation does face a threat to our freedoms. And it is true that the stakes could not be higher. There are just over two weeks to go before November 7, and we must confront this enemy, and defeat it.

Oh sure, they may use underhanded tactics, and they may hate our freedoms, but they are nothing but criminal thugs and pockets of dead enders. But remember, the population at large doesn't like what they are doing,and they want a return to a normal, peaceful life where they can enjoy the same freedoms that a democracy has.

We have the terrorists on the run. We're keeping them on the run. One by one, the terrorists are learning the meaning of American justice.

As we fight this war, we will remember where it began -- here, in our own country. This government is taking unprecedented measures to protect our people and defend our homeland.

---That same moron, January 2003

We do have them on the run. And one by one, they are learning the meaning of American justice.

As far as where this war began, it most certainly did begin here in our own country. But the unprecedented measures taken by the government haven't protected We the People or our homeland.

"Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that's what's going to happen here."

Looting, he added, was not uncommon for countries that experience significant social upheaval. "Stuff happens," --A cranky senile old geezer, April 12, 2003.

Yes, freedom is untidy, that is for sure. And yes, we know that free people sometimes make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.

"We will succeed in Iraq, just like we did in Afghanistan. We will stand up a new government under an Iraqi-drafted constitution. We will defeat that insurgency, and, in fact, it will be an enormous success story."--A lying bastard who has no heart, June 2005

Except, this time, the outcome will be different.

We have the right people in charge. We will drive out the enemy. We will stand up a new government, defeat that republican party, and it will be an enormous success story.

Now, let's finish the job.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

They drove us into a ditch. Now let's take away the keys.

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media. Recommended at Daily Kos

Less than three weeks to go until November 7. The republicans have been in charge of Congress since 1994. The White House since 2001. Not to mention our judicial system as well. Everything we have and don't have, every consequence of the path chosen by those who "lead" this country, every uninsured American, everyone working three jobs just to pay the bills, everyone who earns less and pays more, everyone who was wounded, killed, or had a family member wounded or killed, every freedom we have lost - all has been a direct result of the republican policies.

Oh sure, they may try to scrub their websites to hide their true colors. And they may try to falsely label their black sheep as Democrats. And yes, they can try to play the "blame game". But the fact still remains that these are the people that drove this country right into a ditch. And when a friend drives into a ditch, you don't let them try and get you out of it - you act responsibly and take away the keys.

Quick - name one thing, one policy, one law, one act - that was undertaken by the republicans which was (1) for the benefit of We the People and (2) intended to be for the benefit of We the People. I'll give you a few moments, although it may take all week to think of one, if you can at all.

It touches on just about everything - just about everywhere, every aspect of life, every aspect of politics, policy (foreign or domestic) and even the way they treat their own fellow Americans. And it is the republicans who drove this country in to a ditch, perhaps even willfully. They can't be trusted to drive anymore.

Take the foreign "policy" for starters. Just today, there is news from the WSJ that is a scathing indictment of the US training program of Iraqi forces. According to not one but two Lt. Cols. who participated in the training:

President Bush has touted such advisory teams as key to the U.S. strategy for stabilizing Iraq and bringing American troops home. So Col. Demas and his troops expected some of the best instruction the Army had to offer. What they got was a "phenomenal waste of time," the colonel wrote from Iraq last fall, in a report to his superiors.

"In my 28 years of military service I have never seen such an appalling approach to training," he wrote. "Nowhere else in the Army system would this have been acceptable." His soldiers received only a few hours of instruction in Arabic language, Iraqi culture and advising foreign forces, says Col. Demas, who had previously served in Special Forces units.

Other advisers have been just as scathing. "By the time the training was finished, soldiers were demoralized, motivation was nonexistent and the team motto came from the Jo Dee Messina lyric, 'my give-a-damn's busted,' " wrote Lt. Col. James Goodwillie, who led advisers in Iraq, in a review that was passed to senior Army officials last fall.

Also today, NATO is reporting that the US completely screwed up Afghanistan by "cutting and running" back at the end of 2001:

The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan failed to follow through as it should have after ousting the Taliban government in 2001, setting the stage for this year's deadly resurgence, the NATO commander in the country said Tuesday.

The mistake consisted of adopting "a peacetime approach" too early, British Gen. David Richards told Pentagon reporters. He said the international community has six months to correct the problem before losing Afghan support, reiterating a warning he issued last week.

Of course, we know how well things are going in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the entire Middle East for that matter. When you have people in charge of the House Intelligence Subcommittee not know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites - when you have people in charge of an illegal invasion and occupation who would rather give sound bytes than properly arm and equip our troops (or even provide them with a mission) - when you have a "Commander in Chief" who refuses to listen to reality and refuses to employ any tactic other than "fuck you if you don't like my decision" - when you have foreign policy dictated by people who have no credible foreign policy experience or a clue about how this world runs, well, it is time to take away the keys.

When you have a ruling party that would rather protect its own sexual predators, and then lie about it, just to keep power - when that same party is more concerned about corporate welfare and handouts to their lobbyist and crony friends than they are about the shrinking middle class - when they are more concerned with protecting credit card companies, insurance companies and drug companies than they are for We the People - when they substitute a true education policy for bells and whistles, fancy names and more handouts for your families as well as giving out sweetheart deals to friends who make inferior products all at the expense of educational standards, well, it is time to take away the keys.

When "protecting America" is more important than protecting the Constitution, and even that is done in a piss poor manner. Need I mention any of the following: illegal wiretapping. Waterboarding, rendition, torture, secret CIA prison camps. Suspension of habeas corpus. Military tribunals for anyone that looks at the President funny. Arresting of people for the bumper sticker on their car or the t-shirt they are wearing. Decimating the Armed forces. Ports, power grids, railways, nuclear plants, hell, even the Department of Homeland Security's HQ isn't even secure. Osama Bin Forgotten. Katrina. New Orleans. The Gulf Coast.

"Clear Skies". Proposed estate tax cuts. Not raising the minimum wage. Hundreds of billions of dollars for an illegal invasion and occupation, all borrowed. The highest deficits ever. Diebold. "Help America Vote Act". Paid propaganda by the SCLM. Leaking classified information for political gain. Destroying the country's intelligence abilities with respect to nuclear materials and Iran and Pakistan. Lies about Saddam. Lies about Afghanistan. Lies about Iran. Lies about Democrats. Lies about spying. Signing statements. Rubber stamp republican congress. Purple heart band aids. Swift Boat Veterans.

All on the republicans' watch. All while they were driving this country into a ditch. It's time to take away the keys. Hell, it's time to take away their license.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

It's the Constitution, Stupid...

Front Paged at Booman Tribune. Recommended at My Left Wing

Remember this quote from Bush last month?
As President, I took an oath to protect this country, and I will continue using every element of national power to pursue our enemies and to prevent attacks on the United States of America.

Wrong, Chimpy - you actually took an oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States". And while it is nice that you think you are looking after us Americans, in trying to "protect" us (however twisted and sick the way your actions are showing it), that is most certainly NOT the oath you took.

And that goes for all of the rest of you "out of the mainstream" wingnuts, congresscritters, republicans, flag waving, pin wearing yahoos who clearly forgot about that "goddamn piece of paper" that is the backbone of this country.

Yes, that pesky Bill of Rights still supersedes any other laws that are passed. So, Senator Roberts, when you have to qualify your support the first and fourth amendments by saying the following, well it just means that you really don't support the US Consitution:

"'I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment and civil liberties. But you have no civil liberties if you are dead,' Roberts said."

Because you too, as well as all of your Senate colleagues have to take the same oath which specifically states that you will:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

Yup, once again, support and defend the Constitution. Interestingly, you (and your Hose colleagues too) also have sworn to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Well, something tells me that all these laws, whether it be those which make torture legal, spying on Americans within the United States without a warrant legal, suspension of habeas corpus legal, or whatever else you may feel are the "tools that are necessary" to keep `Murka safer are weakening and threatening the Constitution that you all swore to protect. And since you are all the ones that are committing this assault on the Constitution, well, does that make you not only in violation of your oath, but also one of those "enemies, foreign or domestic" which you swore to defend the Constitution against?


Let us look no further than someone who knew a few things about the US Constitution, Thomas Jefferson. Or another who knows a bit about what a country's ideals should be, Benjamin Franklin:

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

And as for the fearmongering wingnuts, chickenhawks and 101'st fighting keyboardists, well you can just stop now with your nonsense about "not understanding the enemy" or that "the United States has never faced a threat like this", need I remind you of the Soviet Union, the cold war, the Cuban Missile Crisis, nuclear fallout shelters or air raid drills?

Funny, we didn't need to shred the Constitution or pass laws that took away all of our freedoms back then. Even with McCarthy's witch hunts.

Let me repeat - it is the Constitution. Not the American flag, which you hypocrites wear on your chest so proudly as you support the destruction of this nation (shameless plug - if you hate those flag pin wearing jackasses, then please click here or here to get a real cool "constitution scroll" pin and to support John Laesch for Congress).

Remember what's at stake here. Remember what is being shredded and wiped out - and we all know that we are most certainly not "safer", and it is NOT because we are "fighting them over there".

And to those who are "doing whatever it takes to protect America" or "face a threat that nobody has ever seen before" or whatever other stupid justifications and garbage that you have to tell yourself in order to sleep at night - just stop already.

Our country has faced threats like the ones we are seeing now. Our Constitution has not.

And that document is what this country is all about.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Well, lookie who is "out of the mainstream"...

Front paged at Booman Tribune. Recommended at Daily Kos and My Left Wing

Yeah, you Georgie. And you too, Karl. And all you wingnuts, talking meatsticks and Yellow elephants too. Guess what, brainiacs? As much as you could explain it away or shout everyone else down in the past, it's over. All of your talking points. All of your "beliefs". All in the minority. And a shrinking minority at that.

Yeah, that's right, losers. I'll say it for you real slow too, just because you yourselves don't see how thick you are just yet. Your. views. and. opinions. are. out. of. the. mainstream. And let me be the first to say, in the immortal words of Nelson Muntz: HA! Ha.

You can put on that brave face all you want, and you can be as overconfident as you want. And you can scream or point fingers all you want. You know why? Cuz people don't believe you anymore......Suckers.

So it's time that you listened to "mainstream America", Mr. 61% Disapproval Rating. And that goes for you too, Dick. You can keep on lying about 9/11 and Iraq, because the majority now sees how out of the mainstream your lies are. In fact, a full 53% of Americans know that you liars and war criminals are hiding something about 9/11. Oh, and it isn't even that close, because ANOTHER 28% think you are lying when it comes to, well, your lies about what you knew before 9/11.

How about all of us "cut and runners" (never mind the fact that you cut and ran from Afghanistan) who want to end this absolute disaster of an illegal occupation and civil war that you created? Well, we must be in our "last throes", since there are only a full 64% of us who know that your lying about the illegal invasion and occupation is only exceeded by how poorly you are handling it.

Hell, you are SO far out of the mainstream that your policies have managed to get pretty much ALL of daddy's friends hate you, your adminstration, your policies - hell basically EVERYTHING you have done and supported:

To 41 loyalists, the bill of indictment is voluminous. Some alleged 43 has betrayed his father's middle-of-the-road philosophy by governing as a divider, not the uniter he promised in the 2000 campaign. Others, like former 41 speechwriter Curt Smith, argue 43 isn't conservative enough.

"Conservatives want limited government, a balanced Middle East approach, a foreign policy that builds, not destroys, and general, not special, interest," Smith said. "Bush 41 endorsed all of the above. Bush 43 supports none."

And strangely, my die hard kool-aid drinker "friends", even your party's war heroes are joining us "terrorist sympathizers". Like Senator Chuck Hagel (a veteran) who has been saying that we need to find a way out of Iraq. And Senator John Warner (also a veteran) who dared to smear the troops with this comment:

"one week out" from his trip, there has been an "exponential increase in the killings and the savagery that's going on over there."

And that other "axis of evil" member who just tested (maybe) a nuke? Well, you can play the "blame game" and try and pin this on Clinton. But guess what, Johnny-boy? That's just out of the mainstream. Cuz when you have 70% of the people thinking that the Iraq debacle has made it more difficult to deal with North Korea, then you're just not believable. And if you want to be president so badly, you really should be more in touch with the American people, you know.

Don't think I didn't forget about you dittohead mental midgets who obviously got beaten up one too many times on the playground when you were younger. Yeah, like you, Michael Savage. You can bloviate all you want about how if Democrats win in November, it "will lead to the breakup of the United States of America". Because only the hard core ones - you know the ones whose favorite grammar school meal was paste - are still with you on that. And the rest of us, the 71% of us who are not satisfied with the direction of the country and the 63% of us who disapprove of the rubber stamp republican-led Congress, well, we just laugh at you as we watch how irrelevant you, O'Reilly, Hannity, Limbaugh and the rest of Faux News and you ilk are becoming.

So, how does it feel? You know, to have your views be so far from what a large majority of America wants? Actually, I really don't care how you feel. In fact, piss off. You vilified the rest of us sane ones, even though you had to pretty much cheat to get and keep your criminal overlords in charge of this country. Told us we hated America. Called us traitors. Threatened us.

But, the jig is up. The rest of us are on to you. And we already knew. A few short weeks until you are no more than a mere gnat.

And this time, if you win the election, everyone is gonna know you stole it.

So there....

What about Russia's loose nukes?

Front paged at Booman Tribune

Back in January 2001, the US Department of Energy released A Report Card on the US Department of Energy's Nonproliferation Programs with Russia. The three points in the Executive Summary Section are as follows:
1. The most urgent unmet national security threat to the United States today is the danger that weapons of mass destruction or weapons-usable material in Russia could be stolen and sold to terrorists or hostile nation states and used against American troops abroad or citizens at home.

2. Current nonproliferation programs in the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, and related agencies have achieved impressive results thus far, but their limited mandate and funding fall short of what is required to address adequately the threat.

3. The new President and leaders of the 107th Congress face the urgent national security challenge of devising an enhanced response proportionate to the threat.

And yet, here we are, nearly six years later, with this as yet another overlooked but dangerous failure of the Bush administration and the rubber stamp republican Congress.

So what does Bush immediately do in response to this Report Card? Well, just what any party in charge would do to keep its country safe - they cut funding for this program:

That's why there's now bipartisan alarm at President Bush's decision to cut $100 million from highly successful federal programs that keep tabs on Russia's nuclear weapons and material and prevent those materials from falling into the hands of hostile states and terrorists.

The cuts are part of the administration's 2001 budget, which was approved by Congress last Thursday. Many in the security field are particularly distressed by the cuts to the Department of Energy's Nuclear Nonproliferation Office, which oversees a variety of programs dealing with both the "loose nukes" and the "brain drain" problems, in Russia especially.

You may ask what Bush had in mind instead - well he wanted the money diverted to a massive multi-billion dollar "Star Wars" missile defense program, which we all know how successful that program has been.

Flash back to 1991, when Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) and former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) co-sponsored an act which was dedicated to reducing and destroying the immense stockpile of loose nuclear materials in Russia after the fall of the USSR. And in January 2003, Lugar (a republican, mind you), wrote the following in an OpEd article in the Washington Post:

Contrary to the media-inspired illusion that foreign policy is determined by a series of decisions and responses to crises, most of the recent failures of U.S. foreign policy have far more to do with our inattention and parsimony between crises. For example, in 2002, amid speculation about terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction, inaction by Congress effectively suspended for seven months new U.S. initiatives to secure Russia's immense stockpiles of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Congressional conditions also have delayed for years a U.S.-Russian project to eliminate a dangerous proliferation threat: 1.9 million chemical weapons housed at a rickety and vulnerable facility in Russia.


Meanwhile, between 1995 and 2002 the United States -- economic engine of the world -- effectively constrained itself from entering into significant new trade agreements by failing to pass trade promotion authority. This monumental political failure hurt U.S. workers and businesses, perplexed allies, ceded markets to competitors and weakened development overseas.

Hmmm, now who was in charge of Congress between 1995 and 2002? And who was in charge of Congress in 2002 when there was seven months of delay in dealing with securing Russia's loose nukes? ESPECIALLY at a time after our country was just attacked and there was a frenzy being whipped up about being attacked again, mushroom clouds and all of the "weapons of mass destruction program related activities" that were not um, "were" going on in Iraq.

In July 2002, there was a hearing held in the House's Committee on International Relations where these dangers were addressed. Here is an excerpt from the opening statement by Chairman Hyde:

For well over a decade, we have been alert to the dangers posed by the combination of this deadly legacy and the frayed guarantees of its continued control. To secure these weapons and materials and the vast infrastructure that made possible their creation and manufacture, we have invested billions of dollars and tremendous effort, and there are many successes to report. But the task is far from over and is made more urgent by the efforts to terrorists and rogue states alike to secure access to weapons of mass destruction. The smallest gaps in our defenses can have unimaginable consequences, and the first and most important line in our defense must be to prevent that access from occurring.

In a 2004 article examining the non-proliferation policies of Bush vs. Kerry by David Krieger, who is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, he writes:

In evaluating the candidates in regard to their willingness and ability to deal with the threats of nuclear proliferation, we should consider also the commitments made in 2000 by the parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including the US , to achieving 13 Practical Steps for Nuclear Disarmament. These steps include ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the strengthening of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the creation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, making nuclear disarmament irreversible, and an unequivocal undertaking to achieve the total elimination of nuclear arsenals. These steps are important not only because they are international obligations, but because the future of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the non-proliferation regime in general rests upon the nuclear weapons states as well as the non-nuclear weapons states fulfilling their obligations.

In nearly all respects President Bush has failed to meet these obligations. He has opposed ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, opposed verification of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, made nuclear disarmament entirely reversible under the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty and, rather than demonstrating leadership toward the elimination of nuclear arsenals, has sought to create new nuclear weapons.

It is difficult to imagine any US president achieving so dismal a record on so critical an issue. It is time for presidential leadership that will restore US credibility in the world and not betray the national security interests of the American people.

A 2005 article regarding Russia's loose nukes talked about the Baker-Cutler task force, which was focused on Russia's nuclear program being the key to national security, indicated the following:

Russian "stubbornness over allowing U.S. personnel sufficient access to sensitive sites" is partially to blame for the failure to meet Baker-Cutler recommendations. It encourages the U.S. to develop closer relationships with the Russian government to improve the cooperation.

The Baker-Cutler Task Force found that enough bomb-grade material existed in Russia for tens of thousands of nuclear weapons to be manufactured. In order to secure the nuclear materials, the Baker-Cutler report recommended that the U.S. oversee and fund the consolidation of storage sites in Russia and increase security and inventory procedures to protect the sites.

While some "discreet progress" has been achieved, Boorstin said, the CAP/Stimson report concluded that the U.S. might not be able to finish the task of securing the Russian weapons and materials until 2020 or possibly even 2030.

Harvard University professor Graham Allison said the pace at which weapons have been secured in Russia in the four years since Baker-Cutler is as slow as it was in the four years prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

And in today's Bergen Record (sorry, link not available online), Former head of the 9/11 Commission (and republican) Tom Kean has the following to say from an interview with columnist Mike Kelly:

Kean said US and world leaders have still not come up with a plan to track down supplies of enriched uranium inside the former Soviet Union. Kean said he is baffled at predictions by US authorities that they need 14 years to find the nuclear material.

"I think we could do it in tow or three years"

So, with Iran possibly 5-10 years away from making a bomb, and North Korea already back in the bomb making business, and all of the blustering by BushCo, that leaves you wondering why Bush, Rice and the other neocon war criminals have done so much to piss off Putin, why the republicans in Congress stand by and make no mention anymore of this dire threat to our national security, and why nothing is said or done about it.

It only leads to the conclusion that the republicans don't care about national security.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Note to jackasses: Clinton's been out of office for six years

Front paged at Booman Tribune and My Left Wing. Recommended at Daily Kos

Six years is a long time.

For me personally, six years ago I was fairly apathetic about US politics, never wrote anything that I didn't have to, let alone nearly every day. I was also in a marriage that was crumbling due to a lifelong eating disorder that finally took over my wife's life, was two years away from making partner at Andersen (3 jobs ago). And in the last six years, I have moved from Westchester to NYC to NJ, got divorced and remarried and found this newfound interest in politics and writing about stuff that is going on.

But none of this is the fault of my parents, my ex-wife, my in-laws, my employer, friends or work colleagues, even though they all had an influence on how I got from then to now. They happened because I (to a large degree) reacted to events around me, and took the actions that resulted in the outcomes and events which I am now living. And as where I am (and those who are impacted by the decisions and actions I took) responsible for the impact of my decisions (good or bad), so should others. ESPECIALLY those whose decisions and actions impact so many people in so many ways.

Yet, here we are, a full twelve years since the republicans took control of Congress, and six years since Bush and his policymakers have pretty much shit the bed on every situation that they encountered, and they are still blaming others for their messes.

Six years has been long enough to turn a $284 billion surplus into an AVERANGE ANNUAL deficit in excess of $300 billion. And the economy was bad because of Clinton, right?

Six years ago, North Korea wasn't in the "nuke making business". In fact, one of the big reasons was the Agreed Framework that Clinton worked out with North Korea in 1994. But, of course, the republican congress stalled the implementation of it, and by the end of 2002, (two years after Clinton left office) North Korea was back in the "nuke making business". Hell, six years ago, Clinton had plans to attack a North Korea nuclear reactor if need be. So, too bad, Senator Suckup, er, McCain - eight years of no nuke making under Clinton doesn't make this current situation his fault.

Six years ago, Saddam was contained, wasn't a threat to the US, and had no WMDs that any expert could find. Six years ago, he hated Osama Bin Laden, and there were no terrorists being harbored in Iraq. Six years ago, there were around 600,000 more Iraqis who were alive, and thousands of US soldiers (and soon to be soldiers) who still had their life or limbs. Six years ago, our soldiers weren't being sent overseas to fight based on lies by their President, without proper armor, equipment or any clear or coherent mission.

Six years ago, the CIA hadn't yet identified Bin Laden as responsible for the attack on the USS Cole. More than six years ago, Clinton's anti-terrorism legislation was blocked by the republicans in Congress (by the way, this is a great diary if you haven't yet read it). Six years ago, Richard Clark was the top counterterrorism official and had faithfully served three Presidents, including two republicans.

Six years ago, Clinton warned Bush about Bin Laden (don't worry, it is a Reuters article). Six years ago, Clinton didn't ignore a PDB that said that Bin Laden was determined to strike within the US. Six years ago, Clinton's national security advisor didn't ignore an urgent briefing about an imminent attack.

Six years ago, pretty much nobody knew what white phosphorus could do. Or that how much torture is ok was something that would get a serious national debate. Six years ago, our president upheld his oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Six years ago, nobody knew what Brewster Jennings really was about. Or what the FISA laws were. Or the IIPA.

Six years ago, the world was our friend. Or at least Americans weren't hated pretty much everywhere in the world. Six years ago, many people were proud to be Americans. Six years ago, many more people had affordable health insurance (or health insurance at all). Six years ago, there was this large of Americans called "the middle class". And many more people had jobs, or at least decently paying jobs.

Six years ago, the Democratic party leadership wasn't filled with people that took sexual advantage of minors and had their colleagues cover up their knowledge and involvement. Six years ago, nobody thought that our elections could be subject to such widespread fraud, er "irregularities".

Six years ago, FEMA actually did what it was supposed to. And six years ago, New Orleans still existed as a vibrant city.

A lot can happen in six years. Six years is a real long time, especially when you have complete control over the events and decisions (not to mention the spin and reporting of these events) that affect hundreds of millions of people.

The buck doesn't stop with Clinton anymore.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The biggest corporate scandal you never heard of...

Front paged at Booman Tribune, My Left Wing and ePluribus Media. Recommended at Daily Kos. Linked at Google Finance

And the lid is about to blow off.

At least two dozen high level directors or officers forced to resign. Well over 100 companies under investigation. Potential fraud. "Accounting irregularities". SEC investigations. Big name companies like Apple, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Home Depot, McAfee and Monster Worldwide. And yet, barely a reference in the news about the latest scandal to take over corporate America, other than a few articles, including one in today's Wall Street Journal.

The scandal - backdating of stock options for executives and directors, and it is being called "a fundamental breach of trust to your investors" by Charles Elson, director of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware. Oh, and it is analogous to stock price manipulation after the fact.

I'll explain a bit of the background, why this is such a huge deal, as well as what is being done to (hopefully) start to close this egregious practice.


Just a bit of information on stock options, since it isn't the sexiest of areas (unless you are getting them). When you receive a stock option, it is essentially an "option" to purchase stock at a specified price. That price is (or should be) determined as of the date the option is granted. For example, if you are granted a stock option today, it should be based on TODAY's stock price.

When you receive the stock option, there is no income that you would report or derive, since you haven't yet bought the stock, and the stock price may ultimately fall below the price you have the option to buy it for. Additionally, there is generally a specified period that you must hold the option for before "exercising" it.

When you "exercise" the option, there is income to the individual who exercises the option. This income is also subject to payroll taxes and income tax withholding. This income is based on the difference between the price of the option when it was granted and the price the stock is on the day you exercise it. You don't have to sell the stock to have the income, although many people do exercise and sell the stock at the same time.

Example: You receive a stock option in January when the price of the stock is $5. You exercise it in October when the stock price is $15. You have income of $10 on that stock option, regardless of when you sell it.

If you sell the stock at a later date, then the income you have from the "exercise date" to the "sell date" is only subject to the capital gains tax, and we all know how Bush and Congress just reduced that tax rate. Following the example above, if you sell the stock in December when the price is $20, then there is the original $10 subject to income tax (at a higher rate) and the $5 (from the $15 to the $20) is income which is taxed at a LOWER capital gains rate.

Why Backdating is an Issue

What had been happening is that companies were artificially changing the dates on which the stock option was granted to a date where the stock price was lower than on the date when the stock option was actually granted. What this means is that if a CEO was granted a stock option in April when the stock price was $10, the company, and sometimes even the officers themselves, changed the date of the grant to an earlier date when the stock price is lower.

So, if the CEO got the option when the stock price was really $10, but then changed the date to an earlier date when the stock price was $4, then the CEO just got $6 more in income.

From WSJ:

Backdating amounts to pretending that an option was granted earlier than it actually was, at a beneficial time when the share was trading at a low price. Since options entitle their recipients to profit from a rise in price, claiming the grant occurred at a time of low prices could give the recipient a running start to extra profit.

At a minimum, backdating generally involves accounting and disclosure violations. It can also constitute fraud. U.S. attorneys in more than a half-dozen jurisdictions are probing at least 50 companies. Five former executives of two companies are facing federal criminal charges for their alleged participation in backdating schemes.

Pretty scummy, eh?

The WSJ article (may be behind a firewall but I will give some snippets below) talks about what is going on now, some of the more egregious offenders, and even has a scorecard which lists around 115 companies that are targets of SEC or Justice Department investigations, as well as those whose officers have resigned or who will have to restate their earnings as a result of this fraudulent behavior.

Which brings us to today. More than a few companies have already dismissed senior officers, and one CEO is facing extradition charges as a result of this:

Five senior officers at two well-known Silicon Valley companies became the latest corporate casualties of the stock-options backdating scandal, adding to a toll that is likely to continue to rise as companies wrap up probes of their internal practices.

In the latest actions, Shelby Bonnie, founder and chief executive officer of Web publisher CNET Networks Inc., and George Samenuk, chairman and CEO of computer-security vendor McAfee Inc., stepped down following internal probes that found use of options backdating. So far, some two dozen executives or directors have been fired or suspended or have resigned amid options probes. Among them are top officials of Apple Computer Inc., Web-site operator Monster Worldwide Inc. and software maker Comverse Technology Inc., whose former CEO is facing extradition proceedings in Namibia.

Experts said more departures are likely. More than 100 companies are under investigation for options backdating, and scores of them are still conducting internal probes.

Not only that, but there are requirements that companies must meet with respect to securities filings, which could lead to investor lawsuits, and the possibility of being delisted from a stock exchange.

What is Being Done?

Well, besides SEC and Justice Department investigations, as well as firing of people involved in this fraudulent behavior, there are stricter internal reviews that are going on where these practices are being identified. Additionally, there is the ability to determine if there were large grants of stock options on dates where the stock price was at or near a low, so that can help identify problems.

Of course, we all know what can happen when there is "self regulating", like in the instance of Bed, Bath and Beyond:

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc., the specialty retailer, said Tuesday that its review had found rampant backdating, concluding that "almost all annual grant dates" for several years were likely selected "with some hindsight." At a time when many corporate disclosures about backdating are opaquely written, the company's statement was frank and detailed, laying out how many grants the company believed were backdated and giving a sketch of how the process worked.

What's more, Bed Bath & Beyond said, the co-chairmen and chief executive had responsibility for picking the dates; the men themselves benefited from the low prices. But the board committee probing the options offenses concluded that no one had "engaged in willful misconduct." No top executives have departed Bed Bath & Beyond because of options misdeeds.

So, it remains to be seen how this will all play out. But it is interesting that this scandal, which would further destroy confidence in a company's motives for "looking out for its investors" or certainly for the greater good of its employees, is not generating a peep.

And yet, we are talking about at least hundreds of millions of dollars that officers, directors and corporate boards all bilked and cheated to benefit highly from.