Monday :: May 31, 2004

Makes A Man PROUD Ta Be 'Mer'kun! - Agin'!

by pessimist

Continued from above.

Suppose George issued a call and no one answered. What do you mean 'suppose'?

Bush Losing Hold Of His Base

Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg updates the data used in his popular book, The Two Americas, and finds that President Bush is losing support from even his most loyal backers. "This is true for every social group in the Republican loyalist world -- the Faithful (white evangelicals), the Country Folk (white rural), the white Deep South, Exurbia (outer suburbs), F-You Boys (younger non-college married men) and F-You Old Men (white non-college male seniors) and Privileged men (white married college graduates) -- all of which give the Republicans about 4 points less support in the coming presidential contest." Greenberg predicts Karl Rove's response: "The White House probably has no choice but to fan the cultural flames to get more votes."

And George needs all the help he can get lately!


PRESIDENT George Bush was last night lagging eight points behind rival John Kerry in the polls as voters turn against him over Iraq. Only 41 per cent of Americans plan to back Dubya while 49 per cent would plump for Democrat Mr Kerry in the presidential elections in five months time. Mr Bush got his lowest rating in the poll for CBS News. Voters are disillusioned about his policies in Iraq as the death toll of US soldiers nears 800 and because of the PoW abuse scandal. Voters' support for Mr Kerry will put more pressure on Republican Senator John McCain to join the Democrats as a dream team. The CBS poll found they would have a 14 point lead over Mr Bush and his vice-president Dick Cheney.

This could be why the Bush Bandwagon had its wheel fall off.

State voter support for Bush dives

For the first time in his presidency, a majority of Illinois voters now hold an unfavorable opinion of President Bush and also disapprove of his performance in the White House, particularly his handling of the occupation of Iraq and an economy that many believe continues to lag, a new Tribune/WGN-TV poll shows. The poll of 600 likely registered voters, conducted May 21-24, shows Kerry with a commanding 16 percentage-point lead over Bush in a head-to-head November matchup--54 percent to 38 percent. And even if independent Ralph Nader were to qualify for the Illinois ballot, Kerry maintains a 16 percentage-point lead over Bush--53 percent to 37 percent. Nader receives only 4 percent. The poll showed 52 percent of Illinois voters now say they have an unfavorable opinion of Bush compared with only 37 percent who look upon him favorably. In addition, 55 percent say they disapprove of the way he is handling the presidency.

Even on the Left Coast, Bush gets no luv!

Kerry opens big California lead over Bush

John Kerry holds a double-digit edge over President Bush among likely voters in California, his candidacy buoyed by strong support from independents, a statewide poll found Wednesday. The Massachusetts Democrat would lose some ground in the state if independent Ralph Nader stays in the race, but not enough to seriously threaten his margin over the president, the nonpartisan Field Poll said.

A telephone survey of 647 registered voters who expect to go to the polls found Kerry favored over Bush, 55 percent to 40 percent, with 5 percent undecided. With Nader in the mix, Kerry's support dips to 51 percent, Bush slips to 39 percent and Nader takes 4 percent, with 6 percent undecided.

Is there no one to ride to the political rescue of Owwer Leedur?

Kerry leads Bush in battleground states

Democrat John Kerry holds the advantage over President George W Bush in 11 out of a possible 16 "battleground" states where the US election is likely to be decided, a new poll shows. The states are Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, New Mexico, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Tennessee and Arkansas. Bush holds the edge over Kerry in just four of the other states but in Florida the contest remains a dead-heat, according to the survey released today by Zogby International.

Only a dead heat? Jeb's not trying hard enough! What about the rest of the country?

Kerry Leads Bush Nationally

Massachusetts senator John Kerry holds the lead in the 2004 United States presidential election, according to a poll by CBS News. 49 per cent of respondents would vote for the prospective Democratic nominee in a two-man race, while 41 per cent would support Republican incumbent George W. Bush. When independent candidate Ralph Nader is included in the survey, Kerry leads Bush by six per cent.

Only a miracle can help Bush now! maybe this could be it?

IRS is asked to investigate Springs diocese

Americans United for Separation of Church and State says Bishop Sheridan's recent letter essentially orders Catholics to vote Republican. In a letter to the IRS, Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State says Sheridan's letter "is little more than a thinly veiled effort to steer voters toward candidates like President George W. Bush and other Republicans who agree with the church on certain issues, mainly abortion." Sheridan wrote that Catholic politicians may not take Communion if they break with church teachings against abortion rights, euthanasia, gay marriage and stem-cell research. He applied the same standard to Catholics who vote for such candidates. The diocese says individuals must decide whether they are Communion-worthy.

Lynn wrote that Sheridan's stance amounts to a command Catholics must support GOP candidates for president and in Colorado's U.S. Senate race. He says Sheridan's letter appears to violate new guidelines on political activity from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The guidelines say the use of "code words" such as "conservative," "liberal," "pro-life" and "pro-choice," paired with discussion of a candidate or election, may be stepping over the line. Sheridan twice uses "pro-life."

Most recently, Lynn's group complained to the IRS about an African-American Protestant pastor who referred to Democrat John Kerry as "the next president of the United States."

This is why the first Amendment guarantees the free practice of religion, and the freedom from government promotion of religion. At least I'm positive that this is what it's supposed to say. After all, one has to be confident about SOMETHING! WE certainly aren't too confident in the economic 'recovery'!

Consumer Confidence Slips in May

Consumer optimism slipped in May despite recent strength in the labor market, according to a new survey. The closely watched University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index was at 90.2 in May, down from 94.2 in a preliminary report for the month and 94.2 seen in April, according to people in the market who saw the report Friday. The university's measure of consumer expectations came in at 81.6 in May, down from 85.8 in the mid-month report and 87.3 in April. The current conditions index for May also fell to 103.6 from 107.2 in the mid-month report and 105.0 in April.

The four-point decline in the headline University of Michigan sentiment index from its mid-month reading concerned some economists since such a drop is unusual and appears to contradict positive economic news elsewhere. "This is disconcerting as it takes place in the midst of an environment where most other economic statistics -- and, notably, those related to the labor markets -- are showing solid improvement," said Anthony Karydakis, economist at Banc One Capital Markets in Chicago. "Apparently the higher gasoline prices and the Iraq situation are taking a toll on consumer psychology," he added.

Ahhhh, take a chill pill! You'll feel so much better when you do! You can't? Why Not? It won't? Well, where DO you get them from? CANADA???

Grumpy Old Drug Smugglers

The new Medicare law, which President Bush signed last December, has only fueled the sense of urgency in senior politics. Yes, the law did create a much-coveted prescription-drug benefit, but many critics say the benefit is inadequate and are especially outraged by a provision of the law that prohibits the federal government from negotiating prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries. (By contrast, the government currently negotiates such prices for its own employees, members of the armed forces and inmates in the federal prison system.) When the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) endorsed the law on the grounds that a flawed benefit was better than no benefit at all, 60,000 of its members quit in protest.

Donna Scott, 67, has been telling anyone who asks or might benefit that she orders her own prescription medicine through the American Drug Club, which currently has 91 outfits spread across the country. The American Drug Club is structured like Tupperware or Amway, with each club owner earning a commission on the business he generates. Though the process for the consumer is simple -- fax in your order, wait for your drugs in the mail -- the business of fulfillment is more convoluted: once the scrip arrives at the Point Douglas Pharmacy in Winnipeg, it is verified and then sent to a Canadian doctor to be rewritten, then filled and sent directly to the customer. This arrangement meets the Canadian requirement that its pharmacies fill only prescriptions written by Canadian doctors, and it also helps the drug clubs evade the F.D.A. by never touching the pills.

Patrick Slater, 32, says that he's been politicized by the enterprise. "When I first started, this was a business venture, pure and simple, and now it's become more personal," he says. "What really changed it for me was that first day when all these people were waiting for four hours without complaining just to hear what we do. It really made me think: if they're enduring sitting there in a metal chair -- or, really, we didn't have enough chairs, most of them had to stand for four hours -- if they're enduring this, what are they enduring in their daily lives with their medications?"

Following her husband's death, Kate Stahl, 85, became an active federation member, leading to her two-year stint as president of the federation's metropolitan region. To this day, most mornings she drives her 1993 Chevy Euro from her daughter's house in suburban Shoreview, where she now lives, to the federation's office in downtown St. Paul, to fight for fair pricing on prescription drugs (one of the federation's three main causes, along with ensuring access to health care and affordable housing). She also makes regular bus trips to Winnipeg, amusing her fellow seniors on the way back by yelling out, Come and get me, boys! "Can't you see the publicity?" she said, stooping over an imaginary cane. "'Frail old lady put in jail because she couldn't afford her drugs in America and she had to do it in Canada.' I even have an old cane that I got at Goodwill. Can't you see it? 'Gee, Officer, I really can't afford a new one. They're too expensive and I just don't have the money . . . honey." '

Stahl, whose total income consists of Social Security and her deceased husband's pension of $51.74 a month, counts herself among the many Midwestern widows, ex-stockbrokers, retired schoolteachers -- people with time on their hands and dwindling savings -- who have found a galvanizing political cause in the high cost of prescription drugs. Like the Vietnam War to so many college students in the 60's and 70's and nuclear proliferation to mothers in the 80's, the issue is so personal, so deeply tied to life, death and a sense of justice, that it is driving otherwise private and conservative citizens into the first activism of their lives.

If I read these signs correctly, they won't be alone. They will be accompanied by their grandchildren.

Experts: Job market dismal for teens this summer

Older workers, including recent college graduates and unemployed professionals, are making the job market tough for teens this summer, studies show. Only 37 percent of teens are likely to find a summer job, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. According to the results, 16 to 24-year-olds made up 22.3 percent of the U.S. working population in 1982. That percentage dropped to 15.7 percent two years ago and could fall to 15 percent by 2012, Monster reported.

Ahhh - they got nothin' to fear! George's champagne chapter of Uncle Sam's club is near!

Voting with Their Feet

Unless so-called Army short tours in the badlands of Iraq and Afghanistan become manageable based on the number of troops available – right now the Army is trying to do the work of 14 divisions with 10 under-strength, active-duty divisions – we’ll see a mass exodus from the Green Machine and the inevitable return of the draft.

Top military managers insist that our all-volunteer Army isn’t stretched too thin from this country’s heavy and hazardous commitment to hot spots like Iraq and Afghanistan and cooler places in another 131 countries around Planet Earth. They spout positive numbers like carnival hucksters, hyping enlistment and re-enlistment rates they keep insisting are at an all-time high. "Loyalty, patriotism and seeing the results of successfully accomplishing their missions are the key factors in this success,” said Col. Elton Manske, an Army personnel chief in the Pentagon. Except that’s exactly 180 degrees out from what hundreds of soldiers have told me during the past few weeks.

It also doesn't square with the fact that the Army is currently extending 44,000 soldiers under stop-loss provisions – which, like a form of the draft, arbitrarily keep a soldier in service beyond the agreed-upon term of enlistment. "Stop loss is not only a breach of contract, it’s a form of slavery,” railed a Special Forces (SF) senior noncommissioned officer. “There's a tidal wave of folks getting out. ... The number of senior SF NCOs leaving is amazing. Our battalion had three of five sergeant-majors retire, and our sister battalion had two of five. The number of master sergeants was well into double digits. I predict that the exodus will devastate the senior NCO corps at a time when experience and stability are most needed.”

Despite all the accentuate-the-positive spin coming out of the Pentagon, the anecdotal reports I’ve received – especially from Reserve and National Guard folks – agree with the SF sergeant and point to a mass exodus that will reach the hemorrhage point by mid-2005. I’m sure the brass have all the paperwork to back up their propaganda campaign. But as far as the old saw that “figures don't lie” goes, I’ve been around long enough to know that liars figure and soldiers know the truth. So I’ll go with the soldiers.

Like your freedom? Thank a vet - by helping him successfully rejoin the civilian world.

From the Ranks to the Street

Nearly a fourth of the homeless are veterans. Reasons vary, but many fail to adjust to life's randomness after the order of military service.

After the homecomings are over and the yellow ribbons packed away, many who once served in America's armed forces may end up sleeping on sidewalks. This is the often-unacknowledged postscript to military service. According to the federal government, veterans make up 9% of the U.S. population but 23% of the homeless population. Among homeless men, veterans make up 33%.

Male veterans are 1.3 times more likely to become homeless than non-veterans, women 3.6 times more likely. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the estimated number of homeless Vietnam veterans is more than twice the number of soldiers, 58,000, who died in battle during that war.

Although 47% of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam era, the study found, soldiers from as far back as World War II and as recent as the Persian Gulf War also ended up homeless.

It is impossible to know exactly how many U.S. veterans are on the streets, but experts estimate that about 300,000 of them are homeless on any given night and that about half a million experience homelessness at some point during the year.

Now, as fighting continues in Iraq and Afghanistan, social service providers wonder what will happen to this generation of service men and women returning home from war. "What are they going to do for these guys when they come home … other than wave a flag and buy them a beer?" asked Paul Camacho, a professor of social science at the University of Massachusetts Boston and a Vietnam veteran.

Nope! We'll wave the flag, buy them an AMERICAN brew, and tell them that they sacrificed everything to provide Iraqis with a modicum of freedom!

Not Quite A Patrick Henry Moment For Us

For this?!?! Eight hundred Americans have died for a - modicum?!?!

It was just a few days ago, shortly before President George W. Bush's stirring - "I kinda sorta have a dream" speech, that Rep. Duncan Hunter, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, announced that it ought to be the goal of the United States to achieve "a modicum of freedom" in Iraq.Now there's a Patrick Henry moment for you - "Give me a modicum of liberty, or something reasonably close, but not exactly if it's too much trouble - OR - give me a slight head cold perhaps, or maybe a severe tongue-lashing!"

Which brings us to the president's "Cross of Dross" speech in which his biggest pledge to the Iraqi people was to build them a brand spanking new prison!

One year and more than 600 dead Americans and $200 billion ago, President Bush was doing his Hans Solo impersonation on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln claiming "Mission Accomplished," although it wasn't clear whether he was referring to finagling the use of a piece of military hardware as a campaign prop, or the fact he didn't lose his lunch during the tailhook landing. Then last week the president showed up in the funereal drabness of the U.S. Army War College before a collection of officers who looked about as excited to be there as Beetle Bailey pulling KP duty. Now the date moves ever closer to a faux hand-over of sovereignty to leaders who will have as much authority over their country as Margaret Dumont held sway over Freedonia in "Duck Soup."

And once again President Bush took to the airwaves to justify why keeping 138,000 U.S. troops in a country where everybody hates us is a bully idea. One question the president avoided, though, is when there is a knock on the door and the family of a soldier is told their a son, their daughter, their brother, their sister, their father, their mother died so that a "modicum of freedom" might exist in Iraq - is that a good enough reason for their sacrifice? Maybe it is for a modicum presidency.

The Emperor's New Clothes have been damaged! Is there a tailor in the house?

The Bush orthodoxy is in shreds

At a conservative thinktank in downtown Washington, and across the Potomac at the Pentagon, FBI agents have begun paying quiet calls on prominent neoconservatives, who are being interviewed in an investigation of potential espionage, according to intelligence sources. Who gave Ahmed Chalabi classified information about the plans of the US government and military?

The Iraqi neocon favourite, tipped to lead his liberated country post-invasion, has been identified by the CIA and Defence Intelligence Agency as an Iranian double-agent, passing secrets to that citadel of the "axis of evil" for decades. All the while the neocons cosseted, promoted and arranged for more than $30m in Pentagon payments to the George Washington manque of Iraq. In return, he fed them a steady diet of disinformation and in the run-up to the war sent various exiles to nine nations' intelligence agencies to spread falsehoods about weapons of mass destruction. If the administration had wanted other material to provide a rationale for invasion, no doubt that would have been fabricated. Either Chalabi perpetrated the greatest con since the Trojan horse, or he was the agent of influence for the most successful intelligence operation conducted by Iran, or both.

No one is buying the Truth (the official politically inoffensive to Republicans version) anymore! What's a Party in power to do? Send 'Which Doctor?' Ashcroft out to do a holy man's job! Roll dem bones, Johnnie!

Eleanor Clift: Ashcroft Terrorist Alert is a Sign of Bush Desperation

What was the subliminal message of John Ashcroft’s stepped-up terror warning earlier this week? It’s that if the terrorists want to disrupt the presidential election, that must mean they’re for Democratic candidate John Kerry. But Kerry has done a good job in recent days of countering the notion that if he is elected president, America will go soft on terrorism.

The harshest criticism a group of Fox News analysts could muster is that Kerry sounded too much like President Bush. “That may be the point,” says a Republican strategist. “No one can argue Kerry is weak. With all the grief he’s taking, he’s positioning himself wisely.”

Well, THAT certainly worked well! I guess we better get Jeb busy - we won't have hanging chads to save our bacon this time!

More Florida Voting Fiascos Possible, Groups Warn

A newly formed coalition of groups said this week it is particularly worried about: the confusing voter registration and identification requirements; misused and malfunctioning voting machines; and inaccurate counting of ballots cast by voters who may be voting in the wrong local districts.

Led by the League of Women Voters and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the coalition wants states to provide complete lists of registered voters to each precinct so that local officials can deal with eligible voters who turn up in the wrong precinct. It is also pressing for better training for volunteer poll workers on registration and identification rules and on how to use voting machines.

The coalition is not even delving into the controversial area of electronic, touch-screen voting, which one expert who evaluated systems used in 37 states likened to Swiss cheese.

With holes big enough to drive a Humvee through! Just like the law of the land now that the Patriot Act has deactivated the Constitution. This is what we can expect:

The Right Will Fight Dirty

I’ve been trying for three weeks to write about what happens after the election, and I keep getting hung up on the things the Right will do to stay in power. Beyond just the loss of power, any honest Justice Department or Congressional examination of their activities since January 2001 is likely to land many of them in prison for a very long time. So maybe I need to get that subject out of the way before I can write about AFTER the election.

We’ve all heard each other's paranoid talk that there will be an “October Surprise,” or that the voting machines will refuse to count Democratic votes, or that the Republicans might just cancel the election. Unfortunately there is reason to fear. In 1968, fearing an end of the Vietnam War would mean a Humphrey victory, the Republicans sabotaged the pending peace agreement, and by 1972 they had turned the IRS, FBI and CIA into little more than arms of The Party, with the government acting as a pay-to-play contractor to large corporate contributors. Fortunately there was still an independent press and a Congress willing to investigate such matters when they became visible, and Nixon had to resign.

In 1980 there is every reason to believe the Republicans made a campaign deal with the terrorist government of Iran to keep the American hostages -- and keep Carter looking bad -- in exchange for post-election arms shipments. A few years later, after the Iran/Contra arms scandal investigation began, Lawrence Walsh wrote about the nature of The Party apparatus that had infiltrated the government and obstructed his efforts to find out for us what had happened. The following is from The Impeachment Conspiracy by Robert Parry:

“The North case reached the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1990 and the Poindexter case followed in 1991. Iran-contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, a Republican himself, encountered what he termed "a powerful band of Republican appointees [who] waited like the strategic reserves of an embattled army."

Walsh recognized that many of the appeals judges held a "continuing political allegiance" to the conservative Federalist Society, an organization dedicated to purging liberalism from the federal courts. "It reminded me of the communist front groups of the 1940s and 1950s, whose members were committed to the communist cause and subject to communist direction but were not card-carrying members of the Communist Party," Walsh wrote. [For details, see Walsh's Firewall.]

A leader of this partisan faction was Judge Laurence H. Silberman, a bombastic character known for his decidedly injudicious temperament. Silberman had served as a foreign policy advisor to Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign and had joined in a controversial contact with an emissary from Iran behind President Carter's back. [See Robert Parry's Trick or Treason.]”

Then came the election of Clinton! How much do I have to write about The Party’s activities to bring down the Clinton administration and cause every attempt at governing to fail, never mind the good of the country? With The Party’s Federalist Society judges in place every special prosecutor appointed to investigate Republican wrongdoing was a right-wing Party operative, and those appointed to investigate Democrats was … a right-wing Party operative. Every motion before the Courts went against Clinton and the Democrats. Just one example of Party infiltration of the mechanisms of government was Gary Aldrich. That a far-right sleazebag operative like Gary Aldrich was in the FBI at all, not to mention assigned to the Clinton White House, speaks volumes about the nature of The Party’s takeover of the apparatus of government for its own ends – as well as to the Clinton Administration’s understanding of what it was up against.

And, finally, the 2000 election. The Supreme Court demonstrated the extent and power of Party operatives, positioned within the mechanisms of our government, whose loyalty is to an ideology and a Party rather than the country.

These years of this Bush's hands on the controls mean that our government is now infested with ideological operatives, waiting for their opportunity to prove that their loyalty lies with The Party, not American democracy. So yes, it's hard to write about what to do if Kerry wins. But I'm working on it. Win or lose, we have to come to understand how the Right managed to become so powerful, and what we must do to counter this before we lose what is left of the America we knew.

But then, just how many Americans even CARE about the America we knew?

The Real WMD: Willful Mass Denial

How must it feel for a sincere BushCo supporter, especially one snowed from the beginning by phony compassionate conservatism and bogus rationales for war, to see now what their cheerleading hath wrought and to know that no matter what a elitist fuck-up Al Gore may have been, we’d all be in much better shape had all the votes been counted?

Willful Mass Denial is a difficult thing to penetrate, especially with the truth. But what if we fail? Will anyone ride to our rescue? Will John Ashcroft EVER find out where the terrorists really are? And what about Mary Lou?

Just like that ominously encroaching train racing toward the damsel in distress who is tied to the rails, world patience with George Warmonger Bush and his "With us or against us" foreign policies is wearing thin:

Opposition Growing to U.S. Exemption on Global Court

The United States may not have enough U.N. votes to exempt American soldiers from prosecution by a new global criminal court, with China now questioning the action in view of the prison scandal in Iraq, diplomats said on Thursday.A Security Council draft resolution designed to put U.S. peacekeepers out of the reach of the International Criminal Court expires on July 1. A renewal was delayed last week by China and it is expected to go before the council again after a resolution on Iraq's transition is adopted.

Last year three nations abstained but this year there are enough abstentions that could bring the resolution perilously close to defeat. A minimum of nine votes in favor is needed for adoption in the 15-member council.Brazil, Spain, France and Germany have signaled they would abstain and Chile, Romania and Benin as well as China are considering it.But some diplomats said the resolution would squeak through because no one wanted to see Washington kill U.N. peacekeeping missions. "The British say they are holding their noses and voting for it and others may do the same," said one envoy.

But China's position is an unusual one as Beijing has neither ratified nor signed the treaty establishing the court. Several diplomats said that China was bargaining with the United States over Taiwan's status in the World Trade Organization, one of the few international bodies that admit both Beijing and Taipei.However, China's U.N. ambassador, Wang Guangya, denied this was the case and said the resolution was sending "a very bad signal at this time," especially to Iraq. He told Reuters the U.S. abuse of Iraqi prisoners raised the need for "strict observance of international law."

"The Law Is A Ass", said the Beadle. Amazing how much he sounds like Dick Cheney!

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