Friday, August 06, 2004

Job Growth Grinding to a Halt

The Labor Department reported that job growth ground nearly to a halt in July.

The new report creates a political problem for President Bush, who had pointed to the strong job gains earlier this year as a result of the tax cuts he had championed (which helped only his very rich friends). The weak job growth of the last two months means that he is now highly likely to stand for re-election with an employment level lower than when he took office. That would be the first time that has happened in 72 years, when Herbert Hoover lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 amid Depression-era job losses.

"It's premature for George Bush to raise the banner of `Mission Accomplished' above the economy," said Representative Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois. "If you're in the middle class, the economy has not turned the corner."

Last month's hiring slowdown occurred across most industries. Retail employment fell for the first time since December, according to the Labor Department, which adjusts its statistics to smooth over normal seasonal changes. Banks, hotels, movie studios and phone companies all reduced their workforces too. Government employment remained flat, as it essentially has for the last few months.

For the first time this year, more industries cut jobs than added them, the government reported.


What About Iraq?

August 6, 2004


A funny thing happened after the United States transferred sovereignty over Iraq. On the ground, things didn't change, except for the worse.

But as Matthew Yglesias of The American Prospect puts it, the cosmetic change in regime had the effect of "Afghanizing" the media coverage of Iraq.

He's referring to the way news coverage of Afghanistan dropped off sharply after the initial military defeat of the Taliban. A nation we had gone to war to liberate and had promised to secure and rebuild - a promise largely broken - once again became a small, faraway country of which we knew nothing.

Incredibly, the same thing happened to Iraq after June 28. Iraq stories moved to the inside pages of newspapers, and largely off TV screens. Many people got the impression that things had improved. Even journalists were taken in: a number of newspaper stories asserted that the rate of U.S. losses there fell after the handoff. (Actual figures: 42 American soldiers died in June, and 54 in July.)

The trouble with this shift of attention is that if we don't have a clear picture of what's actually happening in Iraq, we can't have a serious discussion of the options that remain for making the best of a very bad situation.

The military reality in Iraq is that there has been no letup in the insurgency, and large parts of the country seem to be effectively under the control of groups hostile to the U.S.-supported government.

In the spring, American forces won an impressive military victory against the Shiite forces of Moktada al-Sadr. But this victory hasn't curbed the movement; Mr. Sadr's forces, according to many reports, are the de facto government of Sadr City, a Baghdad slum with 2.5 million people, and seem to have strengthened their position in Najaf and other cities.

In Sunni areas, Falluja is enemy territory. Elsewhere in western Iraq, according to reports from Knight Ridder and The Los Angeles Times, U.S. forces have hunkered down, manning watch posts but not patrolling. In effect, this cedes control of the population to the insurgents. And everywhere, of course, the mortar attacks, bombings, kidnappings and assassinations go on.

Despite a two-month truce between Mr. Sadr and the United States military, heavy fighting broke out yesterday in Najaf, where a U.S. helicopter was shot down. There was also sporadic violence in Sadr City - where, according to reporters, American planes appeared to drop bombs - and in Basra.

Meanwhile, reconstruction has languished.

This summer, like last summer, there are severe shortages of electricity. Sewage is tainting the water supply, and typhoid and hepatitis are on the rise. Unemployment remains sky-high. Needless to say, all this undermines any chance for the new Iraqi government to gain wide support.

My point in describing all this bad news is not to be defeatist. It is to set some realistic context for the political debate.

One thing is clear: calls to "stay the course" are fatuous. The course we're on leads downhill. American soldiers keep winning battles, but we're losing the war: our military is under severe strain; we're creating more terrorists than we're killing; our reputation, including our moral authority, is damaged each month this goes on.

So am I saying we should cut and run? That's another loaded phrase. Nobody wants to see helicopters lifting the last Americans off the roofs of the Green Zone.

But we need to move quickly to end our position as "an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land," the fate that none other than former President George H. W. Bush correctly warned could be the result of an invasion of Iraq. And that means turning real power over to Iraqis.

Again and again since the early months after the fall of Baghdad - when Paul Bremer III canceled local elections in order to keep the seats warm for our favorite exiles - U.S. officials have passed up the chance to promote credible Iraqi leaders. And each time the remaining choices get worse.

Yet we're still doing it. Ayad Allawi is, probably, something of a thug. Still, it's in our interests that he succeed.

But when Mr. Allawi proposed an amnesty for insurgents - a move that was obviously calculated to show that he wasn't an American puppet - American officials, probably concerned about how it would look at home, stepped in to insist that insurgents who have killed Americans be excluded. Inevitably, this suggestion that American lives matter more than Iraqi lives led to an unraveling of the whole thing, so Mr. Allawi now looks like a puppet.

Should we cut and run? No. But we should get realistic, and look in earnest for an exit.


Losing Interest in U.S. War Casualties

As posted at

More U.S. service members died in Iraq during July, the month following the so-called handover of power to the Iraqis, than in June, the month before the handover. While the handover was aimed at putting an Iraqi face on the U.S. occupation, it certainly hasn’t reduced the death toll among U.S. soldiers. Bill Berkowitz of WorkingforChange has noticed that the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq doesn't seem to be such a big deal anymore. While the deaths of Iraqis have not been of particular interest to the U.S. media since the war began, it was surprising that the 900th death of a U.S. service member in Iraq didn’t rate either front-page coverage or more than a passing mention on the news networks or 24/7 cable news channels.


If Dubya Had Read What Poppy Wrote . . .

As posted at

In his memoir, "A World Transformed," written five years ago, George Bush Sr. wrote the following to explain why he didn't go after Saddam Hussein at the end of the Gulf War.

"Trying to eliminate Saddam...would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible.... We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq.... There was no viable "exit strategy" we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."


Failure of Leadership

August 6, 2004


Anthony Dixon and Adam Froehlich were best friends who grew up in the suburbs of southern New Jersey, not far from Philadelphia. They went to junior high school together. They wrestled on the same team at Overbrook High School in the town of Pine Hill. They enlisted in the Army together in 2002. And both died in Iraq, in roadside bombings just four months apart.

Specialist Dixon was killed on Sunday in Samarra. Specialist Froehlich was killed in March near Baquba. They were 20 years old.

No one has a clue how this madness will end. As G.I.'s continue to fight and die in Iraq, the national leaders who put them needlessly in harm's way are now flashing orange alert signals to convey that Al Qaeda - the enemy that should have been in our sights all along - is poised to strike us again.

It's as if the government were following a script from the theater of the absurd. Instead of rallying our allies to a coordinated and relentless campaign against Al Qaeda after Sept. 11, we insulted the allies, gave them the back of our hand and arrogantly sent the bulk of our forces into the sand trap of Iraq.

Now we're in a fix.

The war in Iraq has intensified the hatred of America around the world and powerfully energized Al Qaeda-type insurgencies. At the same time, it has weakened our defenses by diverting the very resources we need - personnel, matériel and boatloads of cash - to meet the real terror threats.

President Bush's re-election mantra is that he's the leader who can keep America safe. But that message was stepped on by the urgent, if not frantic, disclosures this week by top administration officials that another Al Qaeda attack on the United States might be imminent.

A debate emerged almost immediately about whether the intelligence on which those disclosures were based was old or new, or a combination of both. Nevertheless, because of the growing sense of alarm, there was an expansion of the already ubiquitous armed, concrete-fortified sites in New York City and Washington.

The pressure may be getting to Mr. Bush. He came up with a gem of a Freudian slip yesterday. At a signing ceremony for a $417 billion military spending bill, the president said: "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

The nation seems paralyzed, unsure of what to do about Iraq or terrorism. The failure of leadership that led to the bonehead decision to invade Iraq remains painfully evident today. Nobody seems to know where we go from here.

What Americans need more than anything else right now is some honest information about the critical situations we're facing.

What's the military mission in Iraq? Can it be clearly defined? Is it achievable? At what cost and over what time frame? How many troops will be needed? How many casualties are we willing to accept? And how much suffering are we willing to endure here at home in terms of the domestic needs that are unmet?

Neither Lyndon Johnson nor Richard Nixon was honest with the American people about Vietnam, and the result was a monumental tragedy. George W. Bush has not leveled with the nation about Iraq, and we are again trapped in a long, tragic nightmare.

As for the so-called war on terror, there is no evidence yet that the administration has a viable plan for counteracting Al Qaeda and its America-hating allies, offshoots and imitators. Whether this week's clumsy sequence of press conferences, leaks and alerts was politically motivated or not, the threat to the U.S. is both real and grave. And it can't be thwarted with military power alone.

Does the administration have any real sense of what motivates the nation's enemies? Does it understand the ways in which American policies are empowering its enemies? Does it grasp the crucial importance of international alliances and coordinated intelligence activity in fighting terror? And is it even beginning to think seriously about lessening our debilitating dependence on Middle Eastern oil?

The United States is the greatest military and economic power in the history of the planet. But it lacks a unifying sense of national purpose at the moment, and seems uncertain, even timid, as the national security challenges continue to mount. That is what a failure of leadership can do to a great power.


Jenna Bush sticks tongue out at media

Jenna Bush sticks tongue out at media on July 20, 2004 as she campaigns with her father.


New 'Bushism' born at bill signing

August 5, 2004
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush offered up a new entry for his catalog of "Bushisms" on Thursday, declaring that his administration will "never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people."

Bush misspoke as he delivered a speech at the signing ceremony for a $417 billion defense spending bill.

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we," Bush said. "They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

No one in Bush's audience of military brass or Pentagon chiefs reacted.


Thursday, August 05, 2004

Who's in Charge Here?

What the 9-11 Commission Report does not explain is why, on the morning of September 11, 2001, President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and other top officials were essentially missing in action.

Full article at:


Investigators Concluded Shelby Leaked Message
Justice Dept. Declined To Prosecute Case

By Allan Lengel and Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 5, 2004; Page A17

Federal investigators concluded that Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) divulged classified intercepted messages to the media when he was on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, according to sources familiar with the probe.

Specifically, Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron confirmed to FBI investigators that Shelby verbally divulged the information to him during a June 19, 2002, interview, minutes after Shelby's committee had been given the information in a classified briefing, according to the sources, who declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the case.

Cameron did not air the material. Moments after Shelby spoke with Cameron, he met with CNN reporter Dana Bash, and about half an hour after that, CNN broadcast the material, the sources said. CNN cited "two congressional sources" in its report.

The FBI and the U.S. attorney's office pursued the case, and a grand jury was empaneled, but nobody has been charged with any crime. Last month it was revealed that the Justice Department had decided to forgo a criminal prosecution, at least for now, and turned the matter over to the Senate Ethics Committee.

The Justice Department declined to comment on why it was no longer pursuing the matter criminally. The Senate ethics panel also declined to comment on its investigation.

Yesterday, Shelby's press secretary, Virginia Davis, issued this statement: "Senator Shelby served as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee for eight years and as Chairman for five and a half years. He has a full understanding of the importance of protecting our nation's secrets, and he has never knowingly compromised classified information. He is unaware of any evidence to the contrary.

"This matter has been under investigation for two years. The Justice Department has not taken any action other than, only recently, to refer the matter to the Senate Ethics Committee. Other than the letter from the Ethics Committee describing the subject of the reference in general terms, Senator Shelby has not been informed of any specific allegations. He looks forward to the opportunity to respond to the Committee's concerns at the appropriate time."

The disclosure involved two messages that were intercepted by the National Security Agency on the eve of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but were not translated until Sept. 12. The Arabic-language messages said "The match is about to begin" and "Tomorrow is zero hour." The Washington Post, citing senior U.S. intelligence officials, reported the same messages in its June 20, 2002, editions.

National security officials were outraged by the leak, and moments after the CNN broadcast a CIA official chastised committee members who had by then reconvened to continue the closed-door hearing.

Intelligence officials, who consider intercepted communications among the most closely guarded secrets, said the breach proved that Congress could not be trusted with classified information. But experts in electronic surveillance said the information about the NSA's intercepts contained nothing harmful because it did not reveal the source of the information or the methods used to gather it.

Vice President Cheney upbraided the Senate and House committee chairmen in separate phone calls the next day, and White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said President Bush had deep concerns about "anything that could harm our ability to maintain sources and methods, and anything that could interfere with America's ability to fight the war on terrorism."

The panels' chairmen, Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), responded immediately by requesting a Justice Department investigation into the disclosure, an unusual move that brought criticism from other members of Congress.

The FBI asked 17 senators to turn over phone records, appointment calendars and schedules. The FBI probe included an interview with a staff member on the intelligence committee who said that Shelby was trying to leak the information to show the shortcomings of the intelligence community, the sources said. Shelby had called repeatedly for the resignation of then-CIA Director George J. Tenet, whom he said was not up to the job.

Cameron confirmed this week that FBI agents interviewed him on several occasions and asked whether Shelby leaked the information to him. He said they also asked if he saw the senator walk off with CNN's Bash after talking to him.

"Yes, the FBI and the Justice Department came to me to ask me all that information," he said. "I will confirm to you that I was asked all those questions."

But he said he told investigators, "What doesn't go on the air I don't discuss, and we don't disclose our sources."

He said, "When they continued to press me, that's when I got it kicked up to the lawyers."

Cameron, in an interview yesterday, said FBI agents told him they had asked the Justice Department to subpoena him before the grand jury. There was "a lot of talk about getting" a grand jury subpoena, he said, but one was never issued.

Bash, who declined to be interviewed by the FBI, said yesterday: "I cannot comment on it." FBI spokesman Ed Cogswell also declined to comment.

The Shelby probe was one of several ongoing leak investigations, including one trying to determine who leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer, Valerie Plame, to columnist Robert D. Novak.


McCain Condemns Anti - Kerry Ad

August 5, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, called an ad criticizing John Kerry's military service ``dishonest and dishonorable'' and urged the White House on Thursday to condemn it as well.

``It was the same kind of deal that was pulled on me,'' McCain said in an interview with The Associated Press, referring to his bitter Republican primary fight with President Bush.

The 60-second ad features Vietnam veterans who accuse the Democratic presidential nominee of lying about his decorated Vietnam War record and betraying his fellow veterans by later opposing the conflict.

``When the chips were down, you could not count on John Kerry,'' one of the veterans, Larry Thurlow, says in the ad.

The ad, scheduled to air in a few markets in Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin, was produced by Stevens, Reed, Curcio and Potham, the same team that produced McCain's ads in 2000.

``I wish they hadn't done it,'' McCain said of his former advisers. ``I don't know if they knew all the facts.''

Asked if the White House knew about the ad or helped find financing for it, McCain said, ``I hope not, but I don't know. But I think the Bush campaign should specifically condemn the ad.''

Later, McCain said the Bush campaign has denied any involvement and added, ``I can't believe the president would pull such a cheap stunt.''

The White House did not immediately address McCain's call that they repudiate the spot.

Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign, said Kerry's record and statements on the war on terrorism -- not his service in Vietnam -- are fair game. ``The Bush campaign never has and will never question John Kerry's service in Vietnam,'' he said.

In 2000, Bush's supporters sponsored a rumor campaign against McCain in the South Carolina primary, helping Bush win the primary and the nomination. McCain's supporters have never forgiven the Bush team.

McCain said that's all in the past to him, but he's speaking out against the anti-Kerry ad because he believes it's bad for the political system. ``It reopens all the old wounds of the Vietnam War, which I spent the last 35 years trying to heal,'' he said.

``I deplore this kind of politics. I think the ad is dishonest and dishonorable. As it is, none of these individuals served on the boat (Kerry) commanded. Many of his crew have testified to his courage under fire. I think John Kerry served honorably in Vietnam. I think George Bush served honorably in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.''

McCain himself spent more than five years in a Vietnam prisoner of war camp. A bona fide war hero, McCain, like Kerry, used his war record as the foundation of his presidential campaign.

The Kerry campaign has denounced the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, saying none of the men in the ad served on the boat that Kerry commanded. The leader of the group, retired Adm. Roy Hoffmann, said none of the 13 veterans in the commercial served on Kerry's boat but rather were in other swiftboats within 50 yards of Kerry's.

Jim Rassmann, an Army veteran who was saved by Kerry, said there were only six crewmates who served with Kerry on his boat. Five support his candidacy and one is deceased.


Singing for the Blues
Musicians Tour to Defeat George Bush

By David Segal
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 5, 2004; Page C01

Swing states, get ready to rock.

Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, the Dixie Chicks, Babyface and more than a dozen other stars are fanning out to play concerts in the most hotly contested terrain of the presidential election., a group dedicated to defeating President Bush, yesterday announced the "Vote for Change Tour," which will land in 34 cities in nine states.

"The overall message is that we're very unhappy with the direction that George Bush is taking this country," said Laura Dawn, an official with MoveOn. "It's not a publicity stunt. These artists are just concerned American citizens who decided: We can do something about this, so we will."

All proceeds from the shows will benefit America Coming Together, which bills itself as "the largest voter contact program in history." Organizers say it is the largest coalition of musicians ever brought together to influence the outcome of a U.S. presidential election.

It also marks the boldest foray into politics yet by Springsteen, one of the most widely admired pop stars in the world. The Boss famously objected to the use of "Born in the U.S.A." by Ronald Reagan during the 1984 presidential election. But at the recent Democratic convention in Boston, the Democratic nominee entered the FleetCenter with "No Surrender," a track from the very same album, blasting over the loudspeakers.

"I felt like I couldn't have written the music I've written, and been onstage singing about the things that I've sung about for the last 25 years, and not taken part in this particular election," Springsteen said in a news release yesterday.

A spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign sounded less than impressed with the tour and had some harsh words for MoveOn.

"All the showbiz in the world isn't going to get John Kerry elected," said Terry Holt. "And remember, in his acceptance speech last week, John Kerry called for substantive debate. Well, MoveOn is a group organized around the mission to defeat George Bush and they do so with some controversial and out-of-bounds name-calling."

Performers on the "Vote for Change Tour" will work together in several multi-artist mini-tours that will travel around the country simultaneously. Springsteen, for instance, will headline a bill with an undercard featuring R.E.M., John Fogerty and an indie band called Bright Eyes. The Dave Matthews Band, Jurassic 5 and My Morning Jacket will team up; the Dixie Chicks and James Taylor will work together; a group called Death Cab for Cutie will open for Pearl Jam; Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and Keb' Mo will tour together, as will John Mellencamp and Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds.

All the shows are scheduled to take place between Oct. 1 and 8. Citizens of solidly blue or solidly red states are out of luck. The tours will only reach cities in Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Missouri. Ticket prices have not been established.

MoveOn hopes the shows will galvanize young voters against the current administration as well as bulk up the organization's membership rolls. At present the group claims 2.5 million members, and Dawn, the MoveOn official, said that 20,000 people joined yesterday upon hearing about the tour.

"All you need to do to join," said Dawn, "is send us your e-mail address."


A Committed Citizen


Teresa Heinz Kerry has long been an advocate for human rights and for economic, scientific and creative freedom. Some of her earliest childhood memories reflect her family’s experience, as Portuguese citizens living in the African colony of Mozambique, of being disenfranchised second-class citizens (a designation that was even noted on their passports). As a college student in South Africa during the late 1950’s, she saw at first hand--and joined in protests against--the unfairness and brutality of the apartheid regime. “That remembrance,” she told a meeting of the American Jewish Committee’s Philadelphia chapter, “propels me to stand tall for those who cannot stand.”

In 1977 she was part of the core group that, the next year, became Senate Wives for Soviet Jewry. Russian Jews who wanted to immigrate to Israel were being held in the Soviet Union, trapped in a nightmare of legalistic constraints and bureaucratic muddle (with a strong and ugly undercurrent of anti-Semitism running not far below the surface). A number of leading scientists and intellectuals known as the “refuseniks” (including Anatoly Scharansky and Iosif Begun) were also being held in the gulag as Prisoners of Conscience. In order to bring the pressure of public opinion to bear on the Soviet government to observe internationally accepted standards of human rights, the Congressional Wives group organized high-profile events including letter-writing campaigns and silent vigils in front of the Soviet Embassy. As an original member and later co-chair, Teresa Heinz helped to arrange conferences and traveled widely to speak on behalf of the organization. In 1984, she helped to sponsor and conduct a conference in Washington with wives of MPs from Canada, the United Kingdom, Israel and the Netherlands; the groups met with White House and congressional officials and were addressed by Elie Wiesel. In 1987, she helped to organize and lead a small delegation to the Soviet Union. In a series of unprecedented meetings in Moscow, the Congressional Wives met with “refuseniks” (Jews the Soviet government refused permission to emigrate to Israel) from two women’s groups and were the first non-official group allowed to take their case directly to Soviet emigration officials.

“This is an age of heroes,” Teresa Heinz told audiences when she reported on the trip, “but our heroes frequently have foreign-sounding names: Brailovsky, Slepak, Nudel, Orlov, Rudenko, Murzhenko, Federov, Klevanov, Scharansky and Prestin. And each of these symbolizes countless other brave, nameless men and women who dare to speak out against a repressive Soviet state that ruthlessly, brutally and cynically seeks to deny them the most elementary human freedoms.”

In 1977, with three young children at home, Teresa Heinz became involved in organizing what became, in 1978, the National Council for Children and Television (which later became the National Council for Families and Television).


Tuesday, August 03, 2004


Trent Lott: “[Kerry is] a French-Speaking Socialist From Boston”

Over the weekend Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi launched an attack on Kerry describing him as "a French-speaking socialist from Boston, Massachusetts, who is more liberal than Ted Kennedy."

Bush Campaign Asks Race of Newspaper Photographer

On the campaign trail, the Bush re-election campaign has come under criticism after the campaign insisted on knowing the race of a photographer from the Arizona Daily Star before she was allowed to photograph an event featuring Vice President Dick Cheney. The paper refused to tell the campaign. A spokesperson for the campaign defended the request as an appropriate security measure. But the managing editor of the paper Teri Hayt said "One has to wonder what they were going to do with that information. Because she has Indian ancestry, were they going to deny her access? I don't know."

Bush Campaign Requires Loyalty Oath to Attend Event

Meanwhile outside Albuquerque, the Bush-Cheney campaign has come under criticism for requiring members of the public to sign a loyalty oath to the President in order to attend a campaign event held at a public middle school. Tickets were limited to past Republican supporters and to people who would sign the pledge. One local Democrat told the Albuquerque Journal "I am furious. This reminds me of communism. I am appalled. This is supposed to be a free country."

GOP Tells Floridians to Avoid Touchscreens and Vote Absentee

The state Republican Party in Florida has begun warning Republican voters to vote by absentee ballot in November because of concerns over the reliability of touch screen voting machines. The party recently distributed a flyer that read "The new electronic voting machines do not have a paper ballot to verify your vote in case of a recount. Make sure your vote counts. Order your absentee ballot today." Governor Jeb Bush and President Bush's campaign have both distanced themselves from the warning.

FL Election Official Knew About Database Problems Early On

In other election news from Florida, the Miami Herald has revealed that Secretary of State Glenda Hood held out two months before scrapping a database of 48,000 felons barred from voting despite knowing about major problems with the list. The list included 2,500 ex-felons who had their voting rights restored. In addition the list contained almost no Latinos voters, a group that often votes Republican in Florida.


Absentee Voting Rules Are Different Across The US

Click here to see what the absentee voting rules are where you live.


From chad to worse:
Absentee Fla. voting

August 3, 2002

MIAMI - Florida is bracing for another November vote-count mess, where absentee ballots could replace hanging chads in election infamy.

Wary of new ATM-like touch-screen voting machines, officials in both parties are urging people to request paper ballots.

"Nobody trusts Jeb's machines," said Barbara Visno, 64, of Miami at a downtown rally yesterday for Dem veep nominee John Edwards.

After the 2000 recount disaster, Gov. Jeb Bush moved to modernize the state's election system in a bid to restore trust.

But recent reports of the lost, and later found, data from a 2002 primary here has already made the touch-screens suspect.

"What are you going to do? You can't get paranoid about it," said Dem party volunteer Paul Tisevich, 53, of Miami. "But I'm probably going to get an absentee ballot."

"It's easier than going to a bank, which is scary," James Reeder, 40, of Miami said of the touch-screen machines.

The Florida Republican Party had to apologize last week after it sent out flyers warning supporters: "New electronic voting machines do not have a paper ballot to verify your vote in case of a recount. Make sure your vote counts, order your absentee ballot today."

But absentee ballots come with their own problems, and scrutiny of them could replace scrutiny of the hanging chads as Florida's favorite pastime in the days after the election.

Mark Kornblau, an Edwards spokesman, said the campaign is "very concerned about this" and the Democrats "plan to have teams in place" to monitor the absentee count.


They Knew

The Bush administration cannot escape the documented fact that it was clearly warned before the war that its rationale for invading Iraq was weak.

See this article.


Reading the Script

August 3, 2004

A message to my fellow journalists: check out media watch sites like, and It's good to see ourselves as others see us. I've been finding The Daily Howler's concept of a media "script," a story line that shapes coverage, often in the teeth of the evidence, particularly helpful in understanding cable news.

For example, last summer, when growth briefly broke into a gallop, cable news decided that the economy was booming. The gallop soon slowed to a trot, and then to a walk. But judging from the mail I recently got after writing about the slowing economy, the script never changed; many readers angrily insisted that my numbers disagreed with everything they had seen on TV.

If you really want to see cable news scripts in action, look at the coverage of the Democratic convention.

Commercial broadcast TV covered only one hour a night. We'll see whether the Republicans get equal treatment. C-Span, on the other hand, provided comprehensive, commentary-free coverage. But many people watched the convention on cable news channels - and what they saw was shaped by a script portraying Democrats as angry Bush-haters who disdain the military.

If that sounds like a script written by the Republicans, it is. As the movie "Outfoxed" makes clear, Fox News is for all practical purposes a G.O.P. propaganda agency. A now-famous poll showed that Fox viewers were more likely than those who get their news elsewhere to believe that evidence of Saddam-Qaeda links has been found, that W.M.D. had been located and that most of the world supported the Iraq war.

CNN used to be different, but Campaign Desk, which is run by The Columbia Journalism Review, concluded after reviewing convention coverage that CNN "has stooped to slavish imitation of Fox's most dubious ploys and policies." Seconds after John Kerry's speech, CNN gave Ed Gillespie, the Republican Party's chairman, the opportunity to bash the candidate. Will Terry McAuliffe be given the same opportunity right after President Bush speaks?

Commentators worked hard to spin scenes that didn't fit the script. Some simply saw what they wanted to see. On Fox, Michael Barone asserted that conventioneers cheered when Mr. Kerry criticized President Bush but were silent when he called for military strength. Check out the video clips at Media Matters; there was tumultuous cheering when Mr. Kerry talked about a strong America.

Another technique, pervasive on both Fox and CNN, was to echo Republican claims of an "extreme makeover" - the assertion that what viewers were seeing wasn't the true face of the party. (Apparently all those admirals, generals and decorated veterans were ringers.)

It will probably be easier to make a comparable case in New York, where the Republicans are expected to feature an array of moderate, pro-choice speakers and keep Rick Santorum and Tom DeLay under wraps. But in Boston, it took creativity to portray the delegates as being out of the mainstream. For example, Bill Schneider at CNN claimed that according to a New York Times/CBS News poll, 75 percent of the delegates favor "abortion on demand" - which exaggerated the poll's real finding, which is that 75 percent opposed stricter limits than we now have.

But the real power of a script is the way it can retroactively change the story about what happened.

On Thursday night, Mr. Kerry's speech was a palpable hit. A focus group organized by Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster, found it impressive and persuasive. Even pro-Bush commentators conceded, at first, that it had gone over well.

But a terrorism alert is already blotting out memories of last week. Although there is now a long history of alerts with remarkably convenient political timing, and Tom Ridge politicized the announcement by using the occasion to praise "the president's leadership in the war against terror," this one may be based on real information. Regardless, it gives the usual suspects a breathing space; once calm returns, don't be surprised if some of those same commentators begin describing the ineffective speech they expected (and hoped) to see, not the one they actually saw.

Luckily, in this age of the Internet it's possible to bypass the filter. At, you can find transcripts and videos of all the speeches. I'd urge everyone to watch Mr. Kerry and others for yourself, and make your own judgment.


Mr. Bush's Wrong Solution

August 3, 2004

At a time when Americans need strong leadership and bold action, President Bush offered tired nostrums and bureaucratic half-measures yesterday. He wanted to appear to be embracing the recommendations of the 9/11 commission, but he actually rejected the panel's most significant ideas, and thus missed a chance to confront the twin burdens he faces at this late point in his term: the need to get intelligence reform moving whether he's re-elected or not, and the equally urgent need to repair the government's credibility on national security.

Mr. Bush spoke on a day when Americans were still digesting the terrifying warning of possible terrorist attacks against financial institutions in New York, Newark and Washington. The authorities in those cities did the right thing by stepping up security. But it's unfortunate that it is necessary to fight suspicions of political timing, suspicions the administration has sown by misleading the public on security. The Times reports today that much of the information that led to the heightened alert is actually three or four years old and that authorities had found no concrete evidence that a terror plot was actually under way. This news does nothing to bolster the confidence Americans need that the administration is not using intelligence for political gain.

The 9/11 panel's most important recommendation was to create the post of national intelligence director. Such a director would be confirmed by the Senate and have real power to supervise the 15 disparate intelligence agencies. The director of central intelligence has that charge now, without the power to do it. The commission said the new official should be part of the White House Executive Office, not a cabinet member, to ensure access to the president.

There are a variety of credible ways to construct the job, whether in the cabinet or not, but what Mr. Bush proposed is not one of them. His intelligence director would be in the worst of all worlds: cut out of the president's inner circle and lacking any real power. Andrew Card Jr., Mr. Bush's chief of staff, said the post would not carry real authority over the intelligence agencies' budgets or intelligence jobs in the Pentagon, the Justice Department and other agencies. The decision bore the unmistakable stamp of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who was never going to willingly give up control of appointments or his share of the intelligence budget: $32 billion of the overall $40 billion.

Mr. Bush did embrace the 9/11 commission's suggestion - one that did not challenge his turf - that Congress stop supervising intelligence and homeland security through scores of committees and instead have one committee in each house to oversee intelligence and one for homeland security. And he went beyond the 9/11 panel in one way by proposing a post to coordinate intelligence on weapons of mass destruction. That sounds like a bad idea, especially with the administration's record of fanciful interpretations of that intelligence on Iraq.

Mr. Bush's bureaucratic dodge on the intelligence director's job is the same one he used on the job of director of homeland security. Then he was forced to reverse field, endorse a new cabinet department and claim it as his own idea. We don't care who gets credit. What's important is that Congress reject what Mr. Bush came up with yesterday and do the job right when it returns in September.


Monday, August 02, 2004


Jim Hightower
August 2, 2004

What do Kalamazoo, Evansville, Albuquerque, Stockton, Trenton, Phoenix, Columbia, St. Louis, Knoxville, and Charleston have in common?

All are among the cities where the secret service or police have jailed people for displaying anti-Bush signs during public appearances by his eminence, King George the W. Is this America, The Land of the Free?

That's what Nicole and Jeff Rank asked themselves this July 4th as they were taken away in handcuffs by police in their town of Charleston, West Virginia. What was their heinous crime? They were guilty of not being Bush supporters.

George W's Independence Day trip to Charleston was billed as an official presidential visit, not a campaign rally. Nicole and Jeff––two patriotic, hardworking, taxpaying Americans––were in the crowd, quietly exercising their free-speech rights. They wore T-shirts declaring: "Love America, Hate Bush."

They had proper tickets to the event, they proudly sang the National Anthem with everyone else, they were in no way disorderly––but they were not politically correct, so they were summarily arrested, taken to jail, finger printed...and charged with "trespassing." Others who were there wearing pro-Bush T-shirts and Bush campaign paraphernalia at this public event on public property were not arrested. It seems that the Bushites define "trespassers" by their political beliefs.

Nicole, who worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Charleston, was promptly told that her services were no longer required. Technically, she wasn't fired, but she was "released" from her job and not reassigned––meaning she no longer gets paid.

But Nicole and Jeff are still not bowing to King George. Despite the financial hardship, they're fighting Bush's absurd, un-American assault on their constitutional right to dissent. They're not the only ones being denied their right to speak out––dissenters all across America are being treated like this. To fight this autocratic lockdown, call the ACLU: 212-549-2500.

Sources: "We weren't doing anything wrong." By Tara Tuckwiller, The Charelston Gazette, July 14, 2004.


All the Pretty Words

August 2, 2004

They were able to sustain the eloquence for most of the week, which had to be a surprise. Bill Clinton told us that "strength and wisdom are not opposing values." Barack Obama called America "a magical place." John Kerry said, "The high road may be harder, but it leads to a better place."

There was no shortage of pretty words and promises at the Democratic National Convention in Boston last week. But there's a big difference between the rigidly crafted reality at the heart of a political campaign and the reality of the rest of the world.

"Practical politics," said Henry Adams, "consists in ignoring facts."

The facts facing the United States as George W. Bush and John Kerry joust for the presidency are too grim to be honestly discussed on the stump. No one wants to tell cheering potential voters that the nation has sunk so deep into a hole that it will take decades to extricate it. So the candidates are trying to outdo one another in expressions of sunny optimism.

President Bush and Dick Cheney deride "the same old pessimism" of the Democrats. Mr. Kerry counters by saying to the president, "Let's be optimists, not just opponents."

The voters deserve better in an era of overwhelming problems. Consider Iraq. Neither the president nor Mr. Kerry knows what to do about this terrible misadventure that has cost more than 900 American and thousands of innocent Iraqi lives. The war is draining the U.S. Treasury and has made the Middle East more, not less, unstable. Dreams of democracy taking root in the garden of Baghdad and then spreading like the flowers of spring throughout the Middle East have given way to the awful reality of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings.

You won't hear straight talk about this all-important matter from either camp. And you can forget the chatter about an exit strategy for American troops. There isn't one.

Or consider Afghanistan. Not long ago American officials were claiming a decisive victory and the Bush administration was trumpeting the liberation of Afghan women from the clutches of the Taliban. But the proclamations of success were premature. Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar are nowhere to be found. Warlords and insurgents are in control of much of the country and the growth industry is the opium trade. The extraordinarily courageous group Doctors Without Borders is packing its bags and withdrawing from Afghanistan after 24 years because five of its staff members were murdered and the government will not bring the killers to justice. On Friday the U.S. government warned American citizens against traveling to Afghanistan because of the danger of being kidnapped or killed.

Some victory.

Employment here in America is another topic on which the presidential candidates will not tell the voters the cold, hard truth. There are not nearly enough jobs available for the millions upon millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans who want and desperately need gainful employment. The population in need of jobs is expanding daily and no one has a viable plan for accommodating it. Families are being squeezed like Florida oranges as good jobs with good benefits - health insurance, paid vacations and retirement security - are going the way of the afternoon newspaper and baseball double-headers.

These are incredibly difficult issues and an honest search for solutions can only come from a sustained effort by the broadest array of America's brightest and wisest men and women. What the U.S. really needs is leadership that could marshal that effort.

Unfortunately, we've become a society addicted to the fantasy of a quick fix. We want our solutions encompassed in a sound bite. We want our leaders to manipulate reality to our liking.

So there was President Bush in a hard-hit industrial region of Ohio over the weekend telling voters, "The economy is strong and it's getting stronger." And the Kerry-Edwards team is assuring one and all that "help is on the way."

The voters may deserve better, but there's a real question about whether they want better. It may well be that candidates can't tell voters the truth and still win. If that's so, then democracy American-style may be a lot more dysfunctional than even the last four years has indicated.


Bush's Biggest Deficit: Consistency

This year's budgetary shortfall will be bigger than ever -- but by White House math, that's a victory.

Read all about it in Business Week.


Sunday, August 01, 2004

The Networks should be ashamed

This is the most important election in our lifetime. The very fabric of our Democracy is at stake. Apparently that didn't phase the major networks. ABC, NBC and CBS provided a whopping three (3) hours of coverage over four (4) days. The local Fox station provided no coverage at all.

PBS provided three (3) hours per night of coverage, although they had too many talking heads and failed to air some excellent speeches and other events that occurred while they were on the air.

For those with cable, the only choice for viewing the entire convention (which began at 4pm on each of the four days of the convention), gavel to gavel, without annoying talking heads, was C-Span.

So sadly, for a significant portion of US citizens, they did not have the chance to see and hear much of the convention, which, if they had, would have provided them with the information the broadcast networks, and much of the so-called cable news networks, don't provide.


You be the judge

As Kerry goes up in the polls and Bush goes down in the polls, suddenly, the topic gets changed back to terror alerts. This is such a continuing pattern, that it is getting harder and harder to believe that there truly are new "verifiable" threats.

It is hard to believe that the latest annoucement by Tom Ridge is not really a disguised political event, when, in the heart of his announcement today, he said the following:

"[W]e must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president's leadership in the war against terror, the reports that have led to this alert are the result of offensive intelligence and military operations overseas, as well as strong partnerships with our allies around the world, such as Pakistan."


Bush, with nothing positive to run on, plans excessively negative campaign

According to an article in today's NY Times, "President Bush's campaign plans to use the normally quiet month of August for a vigorous drive to undercut John Kerry" and "Mr. Bush's advisers plan to cap the month at the Republican convention in New York, which they said would feature Mr. Kerry as an object of humor and calculated derision."