Monday, February 28, 2005

Fox News: Anatomy of a Biased News Piece

Leave it to the self-righteous assholes at Fox News Channel to once again use scare tactics and the voice of the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation to create propaganda disguised as actual news. Read the article, and I'll take you step-by-step through the process of the manipulation machine known as Fair and Balanced.

The article starts with something similar to how James Patterson, author of fiction featuring homicidal maniacs, has started his last 12 books:
"In the dark, early-morning hours of Sept. 8, 1993, Shirley Crook was awakened by a light in her hallway. The Fenton, Mo., woman was subsequently robbed of $7, bound with duct tape and wire and driven to a park, where she was shoved off a railroad trestle to her death in the river below."
I wonder what their slant will be on this issue? The introduction leaves no doubt as to the intent of the piece, but there's plenty more where that came from. And the title made the article seem so impartial to the issue.

Fox News and the slimy political zealots that polish the news into fine pieces of right-wing propaganda are experts at using language and phrasing to turn the news into a political weapon. For example:
"Christopher Simmons was sentenced to death for robbing and killing the 46-year-old housewife. He was 17 years old at the time. Simmons should have died for his crime 2½ years ago."
Wow, I can't believe they even had a trial, let alone let this case go before the Supreme Court. From reading this, I can infer that Christopher Simmons robbed and killed someone and that the person writing the article thinks he should have died for it. And that's just the 2nd paragraph. I didn't think this was supposed to be an Op-Ed piece.

But, it gets worse. Conservative folk hero and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist: "is particularly suspicious of letting the public drive the judiciary." in apparent reference to the fact that only a very small percentage of sadistic Americans feel executing minors is a good thing. No actual quote from Rehnquist, just a statement by the author, to be taken as fact. We all know that Rehnquist serves a higher power, President Bush, but he could at least pretend that he's serving on the Supreme Court for the betterment of society.

Here's another great one:
The United States is increasingly alone in the world in its application of capital punishment. And the only other nations that subject minors to execution are Iran, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Holy shit! She actually wrote something that is supported by something other than the author's overwhelming delusion of self-importance.

Oh, wait another quote gets her right back on track with:
"You can absolutely forgive the offender and have no issue with that person being executed," said Dianne Clements, a founder of Texas-based Justice for All. In 1991, her 13-year-old son was shot and killed by another child. "Executed killers do not harm again," Clements said. "If you execute somebody, they're deterred."
Exactly the sort of logic and compassion that I have come to expect from Texans.

Probably the crowning jewel of this turd sandwich of a news article is this nice Cleveland steamer:But if the tide shifts in the Supreme Court, prepare for more crime, warned David Muhlhausen of the Heritage Foundation. "It's something we have to fear, no death penalty at all. If they win this [Roper v. Simmons] ... the next thing they'll want is to raise the age to 25," he said.
Two points here:
1) The nut from the Heritage Foundation doesn't say there will be more crime. In fact, nothing in the article supports that concept. She put it in there to scare you! If you don't support the death penalty, crime will run rampant! The only problem with this logic is that it's been empirically denied in states that don't have a death penalty (There are 13).
2) The idea that they would raise the age to 25 is an illogical slippery slope argument. If this guy were arguing against speed limits, he would be saying "Next thing you know, they'll lower the speed limit to 25, and pretty soon, we won't have CARS AT ALL!" We all know that's not true, and that slippery slope situations rarely occur due to simple common sense.

All in all, it's easy to see from this example how Fox News adds unsupported opinion and conservative bias to news items, presents the altered facts as the news, and most people don't even notice. Hopefully, next time you stumble across crap like this, you'll be able to recognize it as such.

Michael Jackson: GUILTY...of being a weirdo

First of all, I wanted to put some rumors and comments and emails that I have received to rest.
1) Ryan the Angry Midget has joined forces with the enemy and his website will cease to exist: I made an announcement yesterday regarding the offer that I received from On the Mark to post my liberal blather on his conservative blog. Based on some of the emails and comments that I have received, there seems to be some concerns about what this means for this site. In no way do I intend to abandon this site or allow the quality to diminish because I'm taking some extra time out to make a few conservatives think. Have no fear.
2) Ryan is a sell out My association with World Debate will in no way affect the quality or severity of what I have to say here. It's really just another opportunity for me to make conservatives wet their Pampers Plus with Super Action Leak Guard Protection. Oh, and if I'm such a sell out, why are you sending me email with ads at the bottom, asshole?
3) I am going to have to go to a conservative website to read Ryan the Angry Midget There will still be plenty of Anger here that might wear out my welcome at World Debate, so don't worry about that.

Michael Jackson's child molestation trial Version 2.0 starts today. Read the excitement here. I have a couple of gripes about the situation that I would like to share.

First of all, how much of a mockery of our justice system does this trial make? We've got a guy who has admitted in seven different interviews during prime time television that he had children that were not his own kids sleep in his bed with him. I'll be the first to admit that sleeping next to children is not a crime in itself, but it is completely strange. Most parents don't sleep with their kids after a couple years. If you doubt the validity of this statement, take a random sample of 10 people, and see what they say. I personally guarantee you that unless you work at Focus on the Family, 10 out of 10 people will agree that an adult sleeping next to an 8 year-old is twisted.

Jackson's statements and defense of all of this is probably giving his Defense Attorney random bouts of tachycardia. Instead of trying to come up with evidence to refute the copious amounts of evidence the Prosecution is likely to present, Jackson has gone on record attempting to justify sleeping with an 8 year-old. That's the equivalent of OJ Simpson saying "If someone did stab Ron Goldman and Nicole, I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but I certainly didn't do it."

The cherry on top of this gigantic cupcake of embarrassment that is the Michael Jackson trial would be if they somehow don't manage to convict him. The only piece of evidence that is lacking at this point is Michael Jackson's penis lodged inside of a drunk 8 year-old kid featured during a prime time interview with Barbara Walters. Even then, Jackson could probably invoke the Kobe Bryant defense, say the intoxication and subsequent penetration was consensual, and have his lawyers leak information that violates the privacy of the accuser until the family drops the criminal charges.

Another source of annoyance, that was also present during the Kobe Bryant fiasco, is the idiots in the general public who make claims that Jackson, Kobe, OJ, and others are targeted because they're wealthy and black. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that the American Justice system is not completely racist. I would even go so far as to say that the criminal justice system may even target minorities. We all know about the death penalty and prosecution rates for drug offenders of difference races.

Jackson, Kobe, and OJ, however, were all involved in highly suspicious circumstances, which is not to say that they're guilty, but when all the neighborhood kids can describe what your wiener looks like, the maid from your hotel room shows up for work walking bow-legged, and your estranged wife and her boyfriend are brutally murdered and you're caught fleeing to Mexico, I think it's a bit simplistic to say that the only reason you're a suspect is that you were the target of racism.

We all know racism is a serious problem in this country, but by claiming that racism was the key factor in your victimization when there were obviously a variety of factors at play, Jackson, OJ, and Kobe are all cheapening the validity of the arguments made by those who actually have legitimate claims of racism. The highly publicized nature of these trials makes it easy for the general public to adopt an attitude of indifference towards claims of racism.

It all reminds me of an episode of South Park, really.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Announcement Regarding World Debate

Those of you who keep up with what's written here on a regular basis are familiar with our conservative friend On the Mark and his blog World Debate. Despite our obvious and well-documented differences of opinion with regard to all things political, we have been engaged in discussions to develop a collaboration where we can hash out the issues. Together we determined that there are very few blogs that contain intelligent discussion between the left and the right.

In the near future, traditionally conservative World Debate will add the left-wing perspective of yours truly to the fray in order to better facilitate political discourse and present a more balanced, at least politically, set of opinions. I will also continue to keep Ryan the Angry Midget active and post as often as I can. Some have recommended that I post on a schedule, but I have said from the very beginning that I will not post crap, just to have something on the blog.

I will keep you posted on updates, and expect my first posting at World Debate sometime this week.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

An Update for Fundamentalist Christians!

Eat me where I pee. I can safely say that you are to blame for much of what is wrong in our country. You may have been the difference between a drunken cowboy and a drunken Yankee in the 2004 election, but really it's much more serious than that.

You see, much of the hate and evil that is propagated upon our country is the direct result of your seemingly exclusive club. You don't approve of homosexuality. Ok, so why embrace the Klan like the second cousin you never slept with at a family reunion?

You promote Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ for the entire Christian family, an incredibly violent film, and dismiss Copolla's Last Temptation of Christ as blasphemy? I get it.

Evolution is something that is not to be taught in schools. I don't think that God believes in science either.

Abortion should be illegal, because killing the innocent is wrong. However, let's kill poor, minorities, who cannot afford legal representation significantly more often than we kill those who can.

That's what I call consistency.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Health Care: Republican Style

Say what you like about Republicans, but they have a health care plan. In fact, they have many plans for this great country of ours, but the health care plan, highlighted in this NY Times article, is particularly troublesome. I have some particular insights in this arena, since part of my job is working with the poor in a healthcare setting.

The details: Recently appointed Director of Health and Human Services and Tommy Thompson replacement Michael O. Leavitt used to be the Governor of Utah. While Governor, Mr. Leavitt completely restructured the way Medicaid is administered, and not for the better. According to the article:
"In Utah, Mr. Leavitt's plan departs from the traditional Medicaid program on two main fronts. First, it spreads out a lower, more basic level of care to more people, and reduces coverage for some traditional beneficiaries by imposing co-payments for services. And second, it relies on the generosity of doctors and hospitals to provide specialty services free of charge."

When it's stated that way, it doesn't sound as sinister as it really is. What's not in the details is that Medicaid would essentially be administered by Emergency Rooms, and that poor people would have to pay for certain types of care. When patients can't pay, hospitals and doctors would have to go pro bono, that is, give services away for free. There are so many ridiculous aspects to this approach, that I don't even know where to start.

First of all let's be perfectly clear, poor people currently utilize the Emergency Room like a primary care doctor. Anyone who has ever worked in a hospital will tell you that. The plan would change very little in how care is delivered to the poor. If anything, it encourages the poor to continue this practice.

The problem is that this is an incredibly expensive way to receive health care. Some estimates put the cost as high as 4 times greater to receive basic care in an Emergency Room setting, than in a doctor's office. Who pays that extra money? Tax payers. You and me. The additional hidden pitfall of receiving Emergency Room care as opposed to going to Urgent Care or your doctor is that when I come in having a heart attack from too much coke, there's a herd of bums there with sore throats. It clogs the system.

The second major flaw of the Utah approach is that it relies on something in short supply in this country, the charity of doctors and hospitals. I work with doctors in a non-profit hospital. My hospital already hemorrhages money providing many services for free or incredibly reduced costs. But, to keep the bottom line in the same zip code, we do what many corporate hospitals do already, shift costs to those who can afford to pay.

The Republican plan endorses both of these practices, as though they would be beneficial to the poor and society in general. Unfortunately, Leavitt's plan doesn't just anally invade the poor, it completely screws the rest of us as well. Not only can I personally guarantee you that you will pay more for health care, but the system will force us to start rationing care.

There is absolutely no doubt that health care resources are expensive and limited. When it comes to providing health care to those who are poor, young, or disabled there is no plan that will provide unlimited care to everyone. But, to accept a system that assumes that poor people can afford to spend the limited resources they have on health care, that doctors and hospitals will become free clinics, and that emergency rooms are efficient delivery models for health care makes as much sense as that fuck a virgin to promote abstinence campaign I've been working on.

The most disgusting and simply illogical part of the entire thing is that the motivation behind it all is to save money. Not only would health care cost more for everyone, since in order to keep their doors open hospitals and clinics would shift costs to those who can pay, but Medicaid would be about as useful as having one of those Monopoly game cards that says you're in good health.

Why would anyone support this? Only if you were 1) A complete and utter moron or 2) You could afford health care, regardless of how much it costs. Unfortunately, the President and his cronies fall into both categories, and that's bad news for the rest of us.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Social Insecurity

There's been a lot of discussion lately about the President's plan to privatize Social Security benefits. The LA Times has a great article (which you can access here) about seven states (one of which is Nebraska, where I presently live) that have offered private accounts in some form as an alternative to Social Security. Private accounts, as you can see from the article, were not financially beneficial and ended up in fewer benefits than traditional plans in most cases. In debate, we used to call that empirical evidence. It's awfully difficult to refute that private accounts are a complete sham, when the idea has been implemented and it doesn't work for most people in seven different states.

Here are some quotes from the article that I found to be quite descriptive:
"If people have private accounts in Social Security and they're left to make the decisions themselves, the results likely will not be positive," said Anna Sullivan, executive director of the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement Systems, which replaced its private account system with a centrally managed plan in 2003.

Joseph Jankowski, executive director of the West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board, said: "The vast majority of people don't have the inclination or comfort level to be responsible for their own retirements."

It's not like we're talking about partisan politicians or an angry midget with a bone to pick. These are two people with jobs helping people with their retirement. It's hard to imagine that the executive director of the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement Systems has something to prove when it comes to private retirement accounts.

I've hammered on the fact in the past few weeks that none of the proposed plans to overhaul Social Security account for Aid to Families with Dependent Children, which provides benefits to children who's parents die, and Social Security benefits for the disabled. Both programs are integral parts of the existing Social Security program, but you won't here them mentioned in the current debates, because no one has any idea how private accounts would work for orphaned children or the disabled.

I can picture Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) saying "We'll make those cripples, retards, and motherless children get jobs, so they can also experience the prosperity of contributing to private retirement accounts. Oh yeah, and I hate queers, too". As ridiculous as it might seem, I find it a little frightening that we're talking about overhauling Social Security like a '78 El Camino, and no one has mentioned what we will do with these vital components of the program. Oh well, I guess all the orphans can make shoes for Nike or clothes for Kathy Lee Gifford.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Presidential Role Models

Monday mornings are hard enough as it is. To make things even worse, MSN posted this historically-challenged article about career lessons we can learn from US Presidents. I hope tomorrow they post financial lessons from Kenneth Lay of Enron. I am no wonder genius when it comes to history. I'll be honest. I enjoy reading about certain periods in US history, like the Civil War because the Union trampled future-NASCAR fans, but even I am not so dense to buy into this completely shallow bullshit.

Does MSN think people are going to read this and say, "Damn, I almost lied about our 4th Quarter earnings, but because George Washington was honest and honorable, I think I'll admit that we lost our asses."? Come on.

The overall ridiculousness of the article is completely overshadowed by its oversimplification of historical perspective. Abraham Lincoln is cited as being honest and having integrity, but you notice how they don't mention that he suspended Habeas Corpus while he was president to arrest political dissenters? Ronald Reagan is praised in the article for his simple communication and having a positive message. Most people with Alzheimer's disease do have simple communication. Where am I? Who are you? I wonder if part of his positive message was setting up Saddam Hussein and the Taliban with weapons to fight the Soviets and then forgetting all about it?

Quite possibly the most hilarious part of the article:
"Second only to backbone, every president requires a funny bone," observes former senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole.
If Bob knows anything, he understands what it takes to be Presidential. He was beaten by three of the last 4 US Presidents. Dole lost to Reagan in the 1980 primaries, Bush I in the 1988 primaries, and then again to Clinton in 1996. Next time I write an article about losers or US Senators who use Viagra, we'll give old Bob a call.

If you want some real Presidential lessons on life, try these on for size:

- Don't drink and drive. Rely on your parents for jobs. Don't be afraid to run a few companies into the ground if you can profit from it- George W. Bush
- Only screw the interns who swallow - Bill Clinton
- Ignorance is bliss - Ronald Reagan
- My life was like a Greek Tragedy, except instead of deities there were lies - Richard Nixon

In other words contrary to what you would read on MSN, don't take career advice from former presidents, unless you work at Wendy's on the night shift. At that point, anything you do will only lead up.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Impact of Blogs

Blogs are an amazing thing. Like DVD and The Bedazzler, I can't imagine my life without them. With several recent events in the mainstream media, including the resignation of CNN Chief News Executive Eason Jordon and the exposure of Jeff Gannon as a Bush Administration hired hand posing as a reporter there has been a lot of talk about what impact blogs have on the media landscape. I personally feel that with a few notable exceptions, the impact that blogs have on the mainstream media is highly overstated.

Take this blog, as an example. No link there, I am talking about the one you're reading right now. It's a fun place to discuss politics, sports, and on one unfortunate occasion, the size of my wee willy. Unless you talking about the letters section of Hustler Magazine or something, I can't say this blog has ever had any impact on the mainstream media. Saying that I influence the media is like saying that Carrot Top influences US Foreign Policy. Although it might seem like Carrot Top is running the US State Department sometimes, but trust me, it's much worse than that.

I understand that there are many blogs out there that really try hard to be more meaningful than this one does by doing research and actually reading about the things they write about before writing about them. You won't find any of that here. Pure speculation with a healthy dose of bullshit. Some blogs hire full time research assistants, sell add space, and run it like a business. I wish I could hire my friends, pay them a good salary, and spend a lot more time snow skiing and boozing.

My point is that while a few exceptional blogs may add to the national dialogue on a variety of important issues, 99% of blogs, including this one, are just echo chambers without very little original thought. I think it's important not to take our blogs too seriously or to overestimate the impact of what we do. When a blogger actually reveals the true identity of Deep Throat, (and for the 20th time, we're not talking about the adult film, at least not this time) then we'll talk.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

All the President's Whores

For those of you who have been watching the news at all lately, you may or may not have heard the saga of Jeff Gannon. Ben made some wonderful comments on February 2nd that I highlighted here about how the White House had hired a conservative political consultant to throw the President monosyllabic, leading questions during his press conferences.

We've already heard stories about the retribution placed upon those in the White House Press Corps that ask the President difficult questions. For example (from Veterans for Peace) :

Indeed, Bush press conferences, which I enjoy watching, seem to me to have become more and more like those held by the Chinese Communist Party: Nothing but the official line is given, and probing questions from reporters, which are crucial to advancing the public's understanding of the government's actions, are often evaded or ignored. Moreover, as Hearst Newspapers columnist Helen Thomas, dean of the White House correspondents, recently learned, too-persistent questioning on sensitive issues means that the next time you are ignored, even relegated to the back row of the briefing.

We couldn't be too surprised then by the admission that Jeff Gannon was planted by the Bush Administration to ask all the right questions.

In more recent comments by Ben that you can read here, he points to an analysis by American Blog (read it here) reveals the fact that Jeff Gannon, Bush Administration Press Bitch, has what some in the Administration might call "a shady past". It seems that before Jeff came to Washington to make the President's press conferences he was, among other things, a male escort (whore) and operated websites with gay content. American Blog tells the story much more succinctly than I could ever hope to.

I have nothing against websites with gay content or gay people. I don't even have anything against whores. I have a problem with people who are so self-righteous and moral on the outside, but will hire a whore to pitch the President softball questions.

Since my initial post, I've heard the outcries via email:
"You KNOW Clinton did this."
"Like the Democrats wouldn't do the same thing."
To this, I say:
1) Show me an example of a Democrat who hired a former prostitute to help drive the propaganda machine. If you look at the websites, this guy makes Monica Lewinsky look like Mother Theresa.
2) Democrats are not the party who questions the morality of anyone who's not white, married to a white person of the opposite sex, Christian, and condemning of all who are not like them. Claiming to "protect" marriage from gay people and being the first President to refuse to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus since the group was formed are two perfect examples. Maybe the Republicans aren't as moral as they think they are.

I've often pointed out the hypocrisy of the Bush Administration, such as claiming to foster a "culture of life", despite assembly line style death row executions while Governor of Texas and bombing thousands of Iraqi women and children into the stone age. This is just one in a long line of examples of the irony and hypocrisy of Bush's "family values".

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Detroit: Not Exactly the Harvard of American Cities

In fact, it's probably not the Pomona Metro Community College of American cities, if you want to get technical with analogies. They have quite a brain trust going on there. I figured it was probably just a matter of time before someone thought of a fake local phone number that you can give out to people, which plays a rejection message to let them know you're not interested. Check to see if your city has a number here. Send me an email and let me know if you've ever been given the number by someone or if you've ever given this number to someone. I would love to hear about it.

I've always known that people that lived in Detroit were probably severely chemically imbalanced. One only has to look as far as their preferences in sports teams (Detroit Red Wings, for example) to see that the city is infested with depraved morons. This may provide an explanation as to why the Rejection Hotline is so incredibly popular there.

After all, you'd think that after a while, word about the hotline would get around, so people would know that if some rotten skank or self-righteous butt pirate gives you "the number", you could be like "Nice try, you avoidant piece of donkey shit." Not that you'd want their real number at that point, but it would at least allow you to reveal their completely unoriginal ruse in the company of others and chide them unrelentingly.

In other larger cities, such as Miami, Boston, and New York, the service has multiple phone numbers to prevent such easy recognition. Not in Detroit. When you're dealing with the city that named their hockey team after a brand of work shoes made in Minnesota and that spawned Kid Rock, you could probably post the number above every urinal in the city, and they'd still lead the nation in desperate, next-morning phone calls to the Rejection Line.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Happy Valentines Day: Bottoms UP!

Happy Valentine's Day. I'm sure you're all incredibly happy to be celebrating this completely meaningless holiday, which was invented by capitalists. For most of my life, Valentine's Day has been no big deal. Most of the time, I didn't have a girlfriend, and on those rare occasions when I did, she was hardly worth the time and effort that goes into buying a card. Fortunately, when I got married, I married someone with the same opinion of Valentine's Day that I have, and it's no big deal. For the rest of you poor saps, I found an article here that should be right up your alley.

I know when I was single and it was Valentine's Day, it was time for binge drinking. Come to think of it, it was time for binge drinking a lot more often than that, but the rewards were so much greater on a holiday when even the most independent and strong women are reminded that they need a little love. Add alcohol to the mix, and some might even call it magic.

Here are some highlights from the Drug and Alcohol Study cited above:

-Colorado is an incredibly fun place to live, if you like drugs and alcohol. They rank near the top in binge drinking, alcohol consumption, marijuana, and cocaine use. I wondered why I enjoyed college there so much.
- Utah is an incredibly lame place to live with the lowest drug and alcohol use in the country. The article does point out that 2/3 of the state is Morman, which keeps those numbers down I'm sure, but that might also explain why the other 33% drinks almost constantly.
- The top states for binge drinking: Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin. Keep up the good work!

If you're drinking tonight to celebrate or just so that you can get your ladyfriend less inhibited, don't forget the designated driver and to ensure your genitalia are adequately protected. Some Valentines gifts, like a DUI or the Louisiana Lizard Rash, will keep on giving, unfortunately. Cheers!

Iraqi Election Results

Click on the title of this posting for a full review of the Iraqi election results. There are a couple of key points here on this information to consider:

- Shiite Muslims, who are the majority ethnic group in Iraq, took home 48% of the popular vote and 140 of 275 seats in the assembly (two more seats than a majority).
- Kurdish voters were the big surprise. Kurds had a strong turnout and captured about 75 seats in the assembly, which is more than was anticipated.
- Sunni Muslims, who represent 20% of the Iraqi population, took home only 2% of the popular vote and only a handful of assembly seats.

USA Today has a good summary as well. If you read the results for each political party, you get an appreciation for how diverse of a country Iraq really is politically. For the most part, I think it's a good sign that the Kurds and Shiites, who have historically been oppressed by Saddam Hussein, will have a strong role in drafting the constitution. A strong Kurdish minority can also help to prevent a theocratic government that some had anticipated with a large Shiite majority. The Shiites and Kurds, for the most part, also seem committed to peace.

My primary concern is the lack of participation by Sunni Muslims in the election. I think the lack of participation is a harbinger of things to come. Many Sunni Muslims boycotted the elections, since during the Hussein regime, despite their minority status, they controlled much of the country. Unfortunately, much of the insurgency is rooted in this small, non-participatory sector of the Iraqi political landscape. Efforts need to be made to involve the Sunni Muslims in the process, because there will be little incentive for them to participate in the government through traditional means.

Some will argue that the Sunnis made their own decision not to participate, and therefore, should not be included in the process. However, further marginalization of the Sunnis during such a critical juncture in the government-building process will only make peace more difficult to achieve. No one expected the minority group that was pushed out of power by the US invasion to embrace a democratic government supported by the country that invaded them, where their power was transferred to those who they had been oppressing. If the Sunnis are not involved in the governmental genesis of Iraq, they will likely resort to violence and terrorism to achieve their goals, as they have done historically.

The Bush Administration seems committed to disregarding the lack of Sunni participation, further increasing the likelihood of continued violence and terrorism from this group. Despite their minority status, many Sunnis were made rich and powerful while Saddam was in power, and they have the resources to support government opposition, as they have demonstrated during the US occupation. Simply ignoring the Sunnis and berating them for not participating in the elections will do nothing to further peace in Iraq.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Democracy: Ain't it Grand!

"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." Samuel Johnson in Boswell's Life of Johnson.

"Only a government that is rich and safe can afford to be a democracy, for democracy is the most expensive and nefarious kind of government ever heard of on earth." Henry Louis Mencken

Sorry I didn't post after Tuesday this week. I guess people are actually visiting the site pretty regularly, since I got a few emails complaining about my lack of activity. I was in Phoenix for work, drinking and enjoying a brief hiatus from the wonderful Nebraska winter weather.

Now that Iraq has had elections, the violence has obviously ceased. Iraq's long history of violence is over, all thanks to Democracy. I bet the 108 people that died this week as a result of insurgent attacks feel safe, now that they live in a democratic state. Next week, I hear they're going to start paying members of the media to support their agenda, just like other democracies.

Over the past few weeks, I have received comments and emails regarding my cynical viewpoint of the Iraqi Democracy Project. I think it's very important to understand the root of my attitude, since people are starting to question my patriotism, and we all know how important other people's opinions about my patriotism are. H.L. Mencken, the early 20th century conservative political commentator quoted above, also had this to say:

"The worst government is the most moral. One composed of cynics is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there is no limit to oppression."

Al Franken once drew a distinction that I think is quite important when you start talking about patriotism, national pride, and love for one's country. Many conservatives believe that in order to love your country, you shouldn't question the President, Congress, our military actions, and that you should support their actions, even if you don't agree with them.

One respondent via email said, "if the terrorists see that we're not a united front, then they've won." Franken would equate this sort of blind acceptance as child-like love, the kind that a child has for their parents, when they're not old enough to understand that mommy and daddy aren't perfect.

The kind of love that I have for our country is more mature (but not in the Jenna Jameson, half gallon of Astroglide, two guys and a pirate costume sort of mature). I am incredibly proud of our country. But when you're an adult, and you love something, you also understand that it's not necessarily perfect. A mature person understands that in addition to Ben Franklin, Martin Luther King Jr., and Pearl Jam, this country is also responsible for The Klu Klux Klan, using disabled children and mental patients for government-sponsored radiation testing, and the band Creed.

Having true pride in our democracy means understanding and accepting the good along with the bad. Pride without true understanding of the larger picture is far more dangerous than healthy skepticism and what some may perceive as a lack of patriotism. A patriot is not someone who stands idly by during times of moral controversy. If our forefathers had followed that line of thinking, the United States would not be the power that it is today. Dissenting opinion is what makes democracy work.

I strongly believe that the only road to success in Iraq is to be realistic and hopeful, not simply one or the other. We need to stop pretending that our way of life is superior to the rest of the world's way of life, our religion is superior, our goals and morals are more superior.

Another email respondent said "Your messages on the website make it sound as if you're ashamed of how we live, and that you would rather be muslim (sic). Our country is the best place in the world to live, and I wish you would leave if you don't see that."

Reality is not quite so black and white. It's absolutely possible to be proud of where you come from and how you live, without demeaning others and where they're coming from because their way of life may be different. Many Americans exude the US-centric viewpoint that because we love our country and our way of life, everyone else in the world should as well. This is the very definition of the myopic, self-righteous conservatism that pervades our national attitude.

And until we address the hypocrisy in our government, such as invading Iraq for having weapons of mass destruction, while improving our own and refusing to even have diplomatic discussions with countries like North Korea that actually do have them, we shouldn't act shocked when countries in the Middle East feel that we're perpetuating a holy war against Muslims.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Devil is in the Details: Bush and the Budget

Yesterday, I touched on my annoyance with the President's 2005 budget proposal to Congress. Over the last day, I have been trying to get as much information as possible about the President's proposal and what its effects will be. A great overview and analysis of the President's budget proposal can be read here or, if you want it from the horse's mouth here. Many members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, have voiced numerous concerns about the proposed budget. To make things simple, here are my Top 10 Problems with Bush's Budget Proposal:

10) The President's Budget Proposal is a Lie Wow! Strong words. Let me make my case. It seems that we're all in agreement that in order to lie, the President would have to willingfully deceive us into thinking something was true when it is not. Now that we've set the criteria, let's look at some details. The President and his spokespeople have made it pretty clear that the reason for cutting back spending on Medicaid, Environmental Protection, Education and the Centers for Disease Control is to reduce the contribution of this administration to the budget deficit. The problem, as cited in the NY Times article above, is that the President's budget isn't real. It doesn't include spending on the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or his Social Security Plan. Leaving out expenses from your budget to make it look better is lying.

9) George W. Bush, Champion of Education - If you read through OMB Director Josh Bolton's statement (here), you can get an idea about what is happening to Education Funding. Not only does the the President's proposed budget reduce funding for student loans, but eliminates 49 "non-military discretionary spending" programs from the Department of Education. Combine this with Bush's quest to allow school funding to follow students out of underperforming school districts, and you have the basis for what will be an educational crisis.

8) Permanent Tax Cuts - After not vetoing a single spending bill during his first term, the President has figured out that the deficit is out of control and is going to balance the budget the republican way. For those of you who weren't around during the Reagan years, here is how it's done: cut spending on social programs like health care and education, disease prevention and assistance for the poor, and give your rich friends lots of tax cuts. But wait! How can doing that balance the budget? That's not how Clinton did it! And you would be right. That sort of thing will not bring us anywhere close to a balanced budget, and the President, according to his own spokesperson will likely seek to make his corporate welfare program permanent. It doesn't add up, and I would love to hear someone try to explain how making the Alternative Minimum Tax rates permanent will balance the budget, but it's like saying you're going to promote sexual abstinence by screwing your local high school's girls volleyball team.

7) Not Budget Cuts, Ryan, REFORMS If you listen to those in the Bush Administration talk about the plans to reduce funding for everything under the sun, except funds for killing people that don't buy into our foreign policy agenda, they make it sound like the system is just wasting money. And while I won't deny that money gets wasted at the federal level in all sorts of programs, the Administration uses this idea to make it seem like public schools, for example, are just using $20 bills to wipe people's asses.

6) Increased Military Spending If times were really tough, and Bush were committed to deficit reduction, you'd think that he would make an attempt to reign in spending across the board, and not just for social programs. After all, if the Department of Education can function with reduced discretionary spending, why can't the Department of Defense? I know we're fighting a war in two foreign countries right now, but the increased military spending in the budget doesn't even include ad hoc packages for Iraq and Afghanistan, so don't give me that support the troops bullshit. We're already supporting the troops to the tune of about $5 billion a month.

5) Environmental Protections As if Bush's budget weren't harmful enough, it guts funding for the US Forestry Service and Environmental Protection Agency, including huge cuts in the Clean Water Act and enforcement. If the terrorists don't get us, the water supply just might do us in.

4) Tax Cuts Create Economic Growth The President uses the idea that tax cuts help the economy to back up the idea of making his tax cuts permanent, during a period of gigantic deficit growth. Here is a quote to that affect from Director Bolton's press conference:
"I think most economists will agree on at this point, is that the reason we have growth back in the economy, or the kind of growth that we've seen in the last couple of years and project in the months going forward, is because the tax cuts are in place. They have contributed substantially to that restored growth."
This is called Supply Side economics. You can find an excellent discussion of its drawbacks here. If you want an empirical example of failed Supply Side economics, look no further than the 1980s and the Reagan Administration. It's crap, and it's been empirically denied.

3) Medicaid According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, about 45 million Americans are without health insurance. If you click on that link, you can also read that lack of insurance and under-insurance, which affects a significantly larger portion of the US population, is hardly a trivial issue. It increases health care costs for all of us, puts more strain on programs like Medicaid, and can actually result in people not receiving care. The President's solution: cut Medicaid funding significantly. Like Deja Vu, I'm reminded of the screwing for abstinence campaign.

2) Bush's Budget Defies Logic The President's plan makes no sense from an accounting standpoint - decrease taxes, increase military spending, and hope that the economy improves people's incomes enough to generate more revenue? Not if you're cutting the taxes of the people who benefit most from economic prosperity.

1) The Budget Reveals Bush's True Priorities - During the election, the President made all sorts of statements about his commitments to Education, Health Care, Disease Prevention, and even though it often resulted in rolling eyes from most people, the Environment. If you're like me, you didn't believe a word of it, because the President's actions have shown that he cares about two things 1) Money and 2) War. This budget proves that the President cares more about corporate profits and killing evildoers than people's health and well being. By cutting funding for Medicaid, the CDC, the EPA, and the Department of Education, the President has just contradicted his own "strong moral character." His priorities disgust me, and unless you own WalMart or manufacture cruise missiles for a living, I'm sure the budget made you realize things about the President as well. I wish I had something funny to say about it, but really, it's just sad.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Monday Annoyances

It's Monday and I am feeling particularly annoyed today. Here is a list of what's getting on my nerves this morning (and it's only 9:00).

1) People in SUVs who drive like the retarded elderly - It snowed about 4 inches here last night. No big deal, right? It wouldn't have been if every moron in a Jeep Cherokee or Ford Exporaditionscape weren't afraid to actually use their vehicle for its explicit purpose. Let's face it, most of these soccer-mom, SUV-driving suburbanites aren't going off-roading or even using that 4-wheel drive all that often. When it snows, you have an opportunity to make those of us who drive Honda Civics look foolish, and to make up for the fact that we're going to have to invade Iran just to supply you with fuel for the next month and a half. Instead, you crawl along the road like a paraplegic hockey player, or as though your car will explode if you go above 15 miles per hour.

2) President Bush and all his cronies - I'm sure you're all surprised by this one. President Bush released his $2.5 trillion budget plan today, saying it's one of the most restrictive in terms of spending in history. Vice President and dick, Dick Cheney was quoted as saying "This is the tightest budget that has been submitted since we got here." Really? That wouldn't be too difficult, considering the growth in the federal budget deficit since they've been in the White House.

The most annoying thing is that the budget does look great in terms of spending, but that's because it doesn't include ad hoc spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Social Security Plan (a.k.a.- Bush anally intrudes the elderly II, Part I was privatizing Medicaid prescription drug benefits). That's the equivalent of me saying that my comprehensive financial budget is fiscally conservative, if I leave out what I spend on coke and whores.

In essentially the same breath where Cheney said they were submitting an incredibly fiscally conservative budget, he goes on to say that the administration will need trillions to support their Social Security plan over the next 10 years. That's funny, I wonder if we pumped those trillions of dollars into the existing Social Security program now and over the next 10 years, and invested it in Treasury Bonds, if we could save the existing system? But, that would be way too simple, and those folks at Goldman Sachs and Bank of America that paid about $250,000 each for Bush's inauguration would be very, very unhappy.

3) Gavin DeGraw and his song, "I Don't Want to Be." (Artist's website) If your car has a radio inside, regardless of what station you have it on, you have heard this song about 500,000 times, and that's just over the last weekend. I have nothing against the artist or his obviously catchy song. To me, this song and its constant airplay symbolize everything that is wrong with radio. Take one song from an artist, and play the holy living fuck out of it, until SUV-driving soccer moms are singing it to their kids in public. Radio is not music anymore, it's marketing, and sadly, I am just now coming to terms the fact that Clear Channel Communications has infested the entire universe, like gonorrhea through my dorms freshman year.

4) New England Patriots Fans - Yeah yeah yeah. Your team and their drunk owner, Robert Kraft, have won yet another Super Bowl. Congratulations. Let me name my first kid Tom Brady. While I don't hate the Patriots team, as I did the Dallas Cowboys during their "dynasty", the fans have started to get on my nerves.

In trying to avoid hearing "I Don't Want to Be" for the 50th time during my 5 minute commute this morning, I was listening to Sports Talk Radio, and these Patriot fans are gloating and talking about making love to the coach and blah blah blah. It's football. We all paid $14.6 billion for your traffic project where all the tunnels leak. You were all so much nicer when your teams were losing. If you weren't all Democrats, I might start advocating for mandatory sterilization.

5) Analysis of Super Bowl Commercials - This is something that has gone from "Did you see that commercial where the monkey humps a cantaloupe?" to "Let's waste time and energy analyzing the hell out of commercials, when we should be questioning what the hell the President is doing with all of our money." Shouldn't we focus on making TV interesting again before spending millions of dollars per second on making the commercials cute and funny?

The only funny commercial that I saw was the series by where the guy works with an office full of chimpanzees. Why not make a show around that? You're paying Paris Hilton to act stupid and lazy and she gets her own show. Why not take that money and hire a bunch of monkeys to make a show that would be 100,000 times more interesting than Skanks Invade Rural America?

And those are just the things that have annoyed me so far. I haven't even started talking to my co-workers yet....

Thursday, February 03, 2005

This is the guy I want fighting for my country....

Apparently, some people were offended by Marine Corps Lt. General James Mattis saying that he enjoyed killing people. Here is Mattis's full quote as it appears in the AP article:

"Actually it's quite fun to fight 'em, you know. It's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up front with you, I like brawling," said Mattis.

"You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil," Mattis said during a panel discussion. "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

I think that this is EXACTLY the kind of thing I want to here from a guy who's job it is to kill people. Would you rather have this guy in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting terrorists or teaching high school woodshop or in customer service for a cell phone company? If you've got someone who wants to fight, the Marine Corps is the place for that individual to be.

Even if you don't agree with the premise of war, you have to admit that this guy has found his calling and when you've got a military, this is the guy I want training the troops and squeezing off rounds into foreign dictators. He's to you Lt. General James Mattis, trained killing machine and military PR nightmare. Ryan the Angry Midget Salutes You!

More Lies from the Commander and Cheat

I managed to stay awake during the State of the Union address last night, long enough to notice that the President is once again using half-truths and yes, even deliberate deception to drum up support for his Social Security plan during the State of the Union address. has some great coverage of some of the inconsistencies and outright lies at this link.

Ben's comments that I posted below show that the Bush administration is running low on integrity these days. Paying reporters to endorse his policies, lying about the state of Social Security, and the viability of his domestic agenda. Here is a great summary from Washington Post Associate Editor Robert Kaiser: (full text here):
When asked:"Anything [the president] said strike you as objectively untrue?"
Kaiser: Yes. Bush often describes a world whose features are all highly debatable, if not simply invented. He proposes "a comprehensive health care agenda" that will leave perhaps 50 million Americans without health insurance. Is that comprehensive in any meaningful sense? He promises big economic benefits from legal changes, "tort reform," that independent economists say cannot have more than a small economic effect even if enacted, which is not likely. [And] he promises to increase the size of Pell Grants, not noting that they have shrunk far below the level he promised when he came into the White House. (quote discussed here)."

The President has not answered questions regarding how to fund Social Security benefits for those over the age of 55, who will continue to draw benefits from the traditional system while money from younger workers is diverted towards private accounts. The more we learn about what these private accounts entail, the more they seem to be a huge gamble.

First of all, Bush and others in the administration have admitted that the current plan does nothing to address to viability of the existing Social Security program, which those over 55 will continue to be dependent on under the President's plan. It also adds further irony to Bush's pledge to control spending and budget deficit (from The New York Times):
"A senior administration official put the cost from 2009 through 2015 at $754 billion - $664 billion to pay benefits and $90 billion for interest on the money borrowed. Peter R. Orszag, a Social Security expert who served in the Clinton administration, calculated that the program would cost the government over $1 trillion in the first 10 years the accounts were in place would be over $1 trillion and more than $3.5 trillion in the second 10 years."

The same article continues by addressing what the President didn't include in his outline of his plans for Social Security:
"The president did not say what benefit reductions he favored. The official who briefed reporters spoke only of unspecified "benefit offsets" and did not say what the cuts would entail or how large they would be.

The president did not address the cost to the government of paying full benefits to retirees for decades while tax money was being diverted into private accounts. Nor did he say how much this would increase the annual budget deficit.

There was no mention of what would happen to workers who become disabled, currently 16 percent of Social Security beneficiaries, or the minor children of workers who die, now 7 percent of beneficiaries. People who stop working or die young would obviously have much less in their retirement accounts than those who worked until retirement age. Nor was there discussion of whether spouses would have access to the private accounts or what would happen in the case of divorce.

No one in the administration mentioned how workers who retired when the market was in a slump would be protected financially.

There was no discussion of exceptions to no-withdrawal rule - for someone with large medical expenses associated with a terminal illness, for example."

I'm not so completely unreasonable to think that the President should have included this information in his State of the Union address. It was boring enough as it was. But, the President does have the responsibility to answer these questions at some point very soon. In the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see which, if any, of these questions are answered.

Interestingly, the President is visiting the city where I live today to promote his Social Security plan, and even in the buckle of his electoral belt, Nebraskans are coming out to protest his visit. Now, when Nebraskans go out to protest a public figure, it's generally related to that person attempting to make beastiality illegal. Not this time. In some cities where I have lived, like Seattle for example, people protest when Starbucks stops serving their Holiday Hot Chocolate flavors. In Nebraska, the only protests that I have seen before were anti-abortion protests with giant posters of aborted fetae, and the beastiality protests I referred to earlier. To protest the President in the "heartland" is a rare event, particularly a Republican President. Maybe things aren't as bad here as I thought they were when I moved here back in November...

Ben's Comments

I wanted to include a highlight of Ben's comments, because it's a great post, and I can make it link to the article he's talking about. I will also be posting an update shortly. Until then, enjoy this nice little rant from Ben.

Okay, this is a bit off-topic BUT: This here is a link to an article where it is suggested (fairly convincingly) that GBW II et al. have issued media credentials to someone who is nothing more than a plant, whose only job is to throw softball questions and make long-winded speeches that aren't questions at all. The evidence that this is the case? The plant in question doesn't work for any recognized news agency. The plant's "reports" are usually in the form of a Blog. The plant's "reports" are usually little more than verbatim cut-and-pastes of White House position statements. The company which employes the plant is entirely owned by a Texas Republican Party bigwig. The plant is frequently called on, despite his no-name employer. The plant is frequently called on after the Prez has had to field some "hard" questions posed by "real" journalists.Last straw?

McLellan didn't even deny that the guy was a fake journalist. Seriously! Read the actual words McLellan spoke, and tell me if it isn't a tacit admission that the guy is a plant!WTF is up with these people? Will the string of deceipt never end? Clinton was supposed to be the big liar, but this White House has paid several "journalists" to sell out their integrity and back the GOP agenda, threatened to pull the credentials of reports who ask tough questions, and now, apparently, has been seeding the crowd with friendlies. C'mon people: NIXON didn't pull stuff like this. Apparently, when GWB II said he would "restore dignity to the White House", he meant it, except replace the word "restore" with "bring" and the word "dignity" with "a horrifying lack of respect for honest journalism and, indeed, the truth itself".
/How do I get out?
/Ben out.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

State of the Union Etc.

I want to point out how many awesome comments I've received in the last week. I want to encourage those of your who consider yourselves to be conservatives who have been emailing your comments to me to post them directly to the website. I've been getting some great emails, but On the Mark is the only one brave enough to post to the site.

Speaking of which, after making all that ruckus about evidence and research and backing up what you say, On the Mark denied ever saying:
"We've begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated." in his comments about my Democracy, Liberty, Reality post. I guess he missed the entire Republican Response posting. I was the first to admit when I got it wrong about the 1996 Election statistics, and immediately published a correction and an apology. I guess I'm a little suprised by his Oliver North-like handling of the situation.

Wonkette has posted a State of the Union Address drinking game that I am going to try to keep up with, since gettting completely ruined on Scotch (thanks for the bottle Ben and g.p. Amy) is about the only way I will be able to tolerate the ceaseless applause and mile-high pile of bullshit that is about to come down the pipe.

Regardless of which party is giving the address, The State of the Union address is always a complete waste of time. I think if forced to choose between watching American Idol, A Man from Kentucky and his Goat (it's a reality show on CMT, trust me), and the State of the Union, I might have to pick American Idol, just because I would be ashamed if the goat show made me horny.

The post-State of the Union analysis is always enjoyable as well. I am going to tune in to Fox News, since their coverage is always Fair and Balanced, to see if Brit Hume actually makes love to a likeness of the President after the speech.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Weapons of Mass Destruction?

The whole discussion about Iraq yesterday filled my inbox with interesting emails this morning. Ben, Mister Bling and Jeff also made some excellent comments that are worth reading as well. You can view those here. Jeff has a beautiful way of putting things into historical perspective, and I think you'll agree that his comments are thoughtful, balanced and fair, a stark contrast to what you're used to from this website.

A couple of people who sent me email defended On the Mark's statements about the presence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. One individual pointed out that in McClellan's Press Release from January 12th, (cited below) the Press Secretary's statements reflect a change in intelligence strategy and not the end of the search for Weapons of Mass Destruction. This person goes on to make the point that McClellan leaves the door open for further investigations of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, as intelligence gathering needs change.

First of all, to quote Dick Cheney "That's a complete distortion of the facts.". It's the equivalent of being caught in a lie, and using the excuse that under future circumstances the lie may become true, if circumstances change. But, I can see how using a conservative's flawed logic, grasping for straws, you could read McClellan's statement and get that out of it.

Then, as if summoned from above, the CIA released a report, unambiguously titled "Iraq: No Large-Scale Chemical Warfare Efforts Since Early 1990s.", that indicated that Iraq stopped it's chemical weapons program in 1991. You can read about it in an LA Times article here. The article also points out that intelligence officials anticipate additional reports specifically pertaining to revisions of previous CIA statments regarding biological and nuclear weapons programs in Iraq.

Let's see, we have the President's Spokesperson and the CIA both admitting that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction. Who else has to come out and say it before these people accept that Bush's entire rationale for a first strike against Iraq without support from the UN was flawed?

Conservatives everywhere are saying "Yeah, but we ousted Saddam and gave the Iraqi people a democracy." Ok. You also lied, sacrificed our international reputation, sank billions of US dollars and thousands of soldiers into a country where you didn't have a plan, and all because the President was too damned impatient to wait for support from the UN. The same thing could have been achieved with less US money, less dead US servicemen and women, and our international reputation intact.

It's truly impossible to speculate about how things may have been different had we waited for the wheels of progress to turn at the UN, so I won't do that. What we do know is that the President is a liar, and most of his vocal supporters are so loyal they can't admit when they're completely wrong. You've all recently seen me admit when I've been corrected or when I've been completely wrong. It's time for the President and Republicans to extend the same courtesy to the rest of the world.