As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Assault Weapons Ban to be lifted - Shameful

Why are progressives and Democrats so afraid of the NRA? Well, OK, other than the fact that they're arguably the most powerful lobby in the nation, and they have the ability to pass legislation that any rational human would see as ridiculous... why?

The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, passed with broad bipartisan support, and favored in polls by anywhere from 65% to 75% of Americans, is set to expire (as per its own sunset provisions) on Monday. Republican leaders in the House and Senate refuse to bring it up for a vote. President Bush, currently busy lying about his and John Kerry's record in swing states, says he supports the ban and would sign an extension if it was presented to him. Yet he has exerted no pressure on his party to act. In fact, ranking members in the House and Senate have talked brazenly about their blithe indifference to the will of the President and the people:

The House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, dismissed the ban as "a feel-good piece of legislation" and said flatly that it would expire Monday, even if Mr. Bush made an effort to renew it.

"If the president asked me, it would still be no," Mr. DeLay said. "He knows, because we don't have the votes to pass the assault weapons ban. It will expire Monday, and that's that."

Not that the weasel-in-chief is asking Mr. DeLay to do anything about it:

The White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, repeated on Wednesday that ''the president supports the reauthorization of the current law.'' But when asked by reporters what, if anything, Mr. Bush was doing to make that happen, Mr. McClellan replied: "The president doesn't set the Congressional timetable. Congress sets the timetable. And the president's views are very clear.''

Yeah, the President is just powerless, nothing but an innocent bystander in the face of the Congress. This is election-year politics at its absolute worst. Reports have claimed that the NRA is withholding its national endorsement of the President until the assault weapons ban sunsets. And House Democrats in particular are worried that vocal support of the ban will cause an NRA snipe hunt of representatives, like it did in 1994, after the ban was signed into law (many say that led directly to the Republican takeover of Congress, although I'd have to disagree).

Let's not forget that this assault weapons ban has already passed in the Senate, as part of a larger bill, with 52 votes. The Senate has already expressed their support for it; still the President and the House do nothing. John Kerry, for his part, is using this as a wedge issue, and I think effectively. After all, the polls are on his side on this one; while pundits believe Al Gore's support of gun control laws hurt him in states like West Virginia in 2000, this particular piece of gun legislation has broad support:

A poll released this week by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania found that 68 percent of Americans - and 32 percent of N.R.A. members - support renewing the ban. The findings, drawn from interviews with 4,959 adults, had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus one percentage point.

Furthermore, Kerry has skillfully tied the issue to a couple other issues perceived as strong for Bush: the "flip-flop" meme (saying Bush supports the ban, but has done nothing about getting it passed), and the War on Terror:

And in a new turn, Kerry drew a link between Bush's stand on the issue and the threat of terrorist strikes.

"These folks are out there talking about the war on terror, trying to scare Americans," Kerry said. Meanwhile, he said, an Al Qaeda manual urges attackers "to come to America and buy assault weapons."

"We should do more than just talk about it, and try to scare people about it, and make it a political issue," he said, referring to terrorism.

This is a winning issue, and Kerry should not be afraid to talk about it. It shows Bush is a tool to special interests, a wimp in the face of political pressure, an incompetent on protecting Americans and keeping our streets free of Uzis. There are more suburban moms than hardcore NRA members, more rational people who understand that a hunter doesn't need an AK-47 than those who do not. Hopefully, a Kerry Administration will continue to show a spine like this in the coming months and years.


Friday, September 10, 2004

A Moment for Reflection

I participated in a candlelight vigil last night in memory of the 1,000 soldiers who have died in Iraq. It was held at the statue of Santa Monica, right off the beach (which is a hell of a place to try and keep a candle lit, given the winds that whistle across the shore). There were about 100 of us there; at the end, a woman read the names of every soldier who has been killed in action. Many passersby on Ocean Avenue honked their horns in appreciation, but one person driving by yelled "Bush!" from his car. And it occurred to me that we are so overburdened with labels and false impressions in this country. There is nothing more patriotic than pausing for one moment to honor the soldiers that serve for our country. It shouldn't be Democratic or Republican. The man that yelled "Bush" puts politics on top of legitimate reflection. He blindly takes up his chosen side, no matter what is being said on the other side. Not that politics doesn't often do that; I'm just saying it shouldn't.

It felt very good to share common ground with those 1,000 soldiers, who lost their lives for a war that many (including myself) believe to be unnecessary. I was honored to stand with them, if only for a moment.


Forging Ahead

Wingnutters around the blogosphere are trying to discredit the 70s-era memos aired on 60 Minutes Wednesday. The full story (well, if you consider a story that only shows one side "full") is at this Tech Central Station piece:

A lot of bloggers are designers and computer geeks. People who pay attention to things like proportional spacing, kerning, superscript text and the other features of modern word processing. Guess what? A letter by letter comparison of one of  the purported memos with a version typed in Microsoft Word by Charles Johnson at the blog Little Green Footballs reveals:
"The spacing is not just similar -- it is identical in every respect. Notice that the date lines up perfectly, all the line breaks are in the same places, all letters line up with the same letters above and below, and the kerning is exactly the same. And I did not change a single thing from Word's defaults; margins, type size, tab stops, etc. are all using the default settings. The one difference (the "th" in "187th" is slightly lower) is probably due to a slight difference between the Mac and PC versions of the Times New Roman font, or it could be an artifact of whatever process was used to artificially "age" the document. (Update: I printed the document and the "th" matches perfectly in the printed version. It's a difference between screen and printer fonts.)"

And this sounds so dastardly, and I'm sure wingnuts are patting themsleves on the back over their enterprising detective skills. I know that it was the lead story on Limbaugh today.

Except Atrios notes that IBM has been putting out typewriters that proportionally space letters since 1941. Here's the proof, from the IBM website:

IBM announces the Electromatic Model 04 electric typewriter, featuring the revolutionary concept of proportional spacing. By assigning varied rather than uniform spacing to different sized characters, the Type 4 recreated the appearance of a printed page, an effect that was further enhanced by a typewriter ribbon innovation that produced clearer, sharper words on the page. The proportional spacing feature became a staple of the IBM Executive series typewriters.

And you can take this entire forgery/non-forgery nonsense and throw it out the window. Just answer this one question: If these documents are so obviously forged, then why did the White House release them Wednesday night? Where did they get them from, if they were created by Kerry campaign operatives? Are you saying the Kerry campaign somehow got these documents into the Pentagon? How?

That's where the whole argument falls apart. Sometimes it's just so simple...

UPDATE: Apparently the White House obtained the documents directly from CBS News. So much for my stunning observation. However, according to a CBS News press release:

The White House distributed the four memos from 1972 and 1973 after obtaining them from CBS News. The White House did not question their accuracy.

So there you go. The White House isn't even saying they're false documents.

This whole thing is a tempest in a teapot anyway. Kerry continues to hit on the issues that matter most to Americans, and to leave this Vietnam stuff half a world and 35 years away, where it belongs. Let's fight the George Bush from 2001-2004, not 1972, shall we?


Thursday, September 09, 2004

Rich Kid, AWOL, Liar

I didn't think that this Bush AWOL National Guard story would again catch fire (for about the third time) in the national media. But I guess as long as you put "For Truth" at the end of your 527 name, the media will sit up and take notice. Because it's kind of all over the place, particularly on 60 Minutes last night, which included former Texas Speaker of the House Ben Barnes going public about helping W. (stands for Wrong) to the top of the list:

"It's been a long time ago, but he said basically would I help young George Bush get in the Air National Guard," says Barnes, who then contacted his longtime friend Gen. James Rose, the head of Texas' Air National Guard.

"I was a young ambitious politician doing what I thought was acceptable," says Barnes. "It was important to make friends. And I recommended a lot of people for the National Guard during the Vietnam era - as speaker of the house and as lieutenant governor."

But more damning is the story swirling around Wrong's service in 1972 and 1973, when he moved to first Alabama and then Harvard Business School:

Previously unseen documents from Killian's personal file obtained by 60 Minutes include a memorandum from May 1972, where Killian writes that Lt. Bush called him to talk about "how he can get out of coming to drill from now through November."

Lt. Bush tells his commander "he is working on a campaign in Alabama…. and may not have time to take his physical." Killian adds that he thinks Lt. Bush has gone over his head, and is "talking to someone upstairs."

One of the Killian memos is an official order to Mr. Bush to report for a physical. The president never carried out the order.

In an Aug. 1, 1972 memo, Killian wrote, "On this date I ordered that 1st Lt. Bush be suspended from flight status due to failure to perform to USAF/TexANG standards and failure to meet annual physical examination ... as ordered."

So we have a commander-in-chief that disobeyed a direct order from a superior. Hm. And then there's what the Boston Globe dug up earlier this week:

In another revelation, the Boston Globe this week reported that Mr. Bush promised to sign up with a Boston-area Guard unit when he left his Texas unit in 1973 to attend Harvard Business School. Mr. Bush never signed up with a Boston unit.

Bartlett claimed in 1999 that Mr. Bush had joined a Boston unit. Bartlett told the Globe this week that he "misspoke."

Hm, I call it something different than "I misspoke," something more like... "I lied."

Now here's the thing that shows you who this President and his surrogates really are. After the 60 Minutes piece ran, after claiming for months that they had released all relevant documents about Wrong's National Guard service, the White House quietly released a couple more documents, saying that "George W. Bush was suspended from flying fighter jets for failing to meet standards of the Texas Air National Guard." That press release neglects the fact that the memo actually says that Bush was suspended for failing to meet his physical (after being ordered to do so). These memos from Lt. Killian (which you can get here) paint a pretty obvious picture: there's a punk kid who wants to get out of his service, a crusty old Lieutenant who doesn't want to let him, and a lot of behind-the-scenes string-pulling that will allow the young punk to get his way.

Does it have any place in this election campaign? Is it relevant? Well, we spent three weeks on Swift Boats, so I'm not about to cry for the President on this one. Fire, meet fire. You'll be fighting each other.



I neglected to post that we've passed the 1000-KIA mark in Iraq. That doesn't take into account the over 7,000 wounded. There are candlelight vigils being held around the country tonight, a moment of silence for the soldiers that have lost their lives half a world away. You can go here to find a vigil in your area.


Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Yet ANOTHER Bush flip-flop on intelligence

Picture a Kerry speech in rural Ohio. He stands at the podium and says:

"The President woke up today with a new poisition on the crucial issue of intelligence reform. The way I see it, it's about his 8th position on how to fix our intelligence community and make our country safer. First he said that a National Intelligence Director shouldn't have any budget authority.  I disagreed with him. Now, after trashing my intelligence record and my ability to protect the country, the President now agrees with me that the National Intelligence Director should have budgetary control. I'd like to thank my opponent for coming around to my side."

Here's the story:

Sept. 8 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush said a new U.S. national intelligence director ``ought to have full budget authority,'' and Congress should pass legislation to strengthen counter-terrorism services after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The legislation should be passed ``as quickly as possible,'' Bush said before meeting with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders to discuss the measure. ``After all, we're still at war.''

Why can't George Bush get his story straight on intelligence?


Bush-Cheney: Vote for Us or Die!

Yes, that's exactly what he said yesterday in Iowa.  From the AP:

Cheney Warns Against Vote for Kerry

Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa - Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday warned Americans about voting for Democratic Sen. John Kerry, saying that if the nation makes the wrong choice on Election Day it faces the threat of another terrorist attack.

The Kerry-Edwards campaign immediately rejected those comments as "scare tactics" that crossed the line.

"It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States," Cheney told about 350 supporters at a town-hall meeting in this Iowa city.

Make. Me. Sick.

Time to bury this guy. And in fact we will. Edwards jumped all over this, and I think the more reasonble elements of society see this as crossing the line.


Tuesday, September 07, 2004

I almost forgot

Add to the whispers post below the fact that Ben Barnes, former Lt. Governor of Texas, is about to go on 60 Minutes and claim that he was asked by the Bush family to move George W.'s name up the list to get him in the National Guard.

Wow, that's a lotta smears.



Many fellow Democrats claimed that John Kerry was slow to fight back in August against smears like the Swift Boat Liars. Well, the way September is shaping up, Bush is not going to know which smear to fight first. Where to begin:

Bob Graham's new book Intelligence Matters will claim that the President covered up links between 9/11 and the Saudis:

In particular, Mr Graham alleges that a mysterious Saudi, Omar al-Bayoumi, who was living in San Diego before the attacks and who befriended and funded two of the hijackers, was a Saudi government spy.

Mr Graham says that Mr Bayoumi was essentially a "ghost employee" of a Saudi contracting firm called Ercan, whose owner was an alleged early supporter of Osama bin Laden. He also had repeated contacts with a Saudi diplomat in Los Angeles who was later thrown out of the United States on suspicion of terrorist links.

Graham also reveals a startling discussion with Tommy Franks right before the Iraq War:

Graham recalled this conversation at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa with Franks, then head of Central Command, who was "looking troubled":

"Senator, we are not engaged in a war in Afghanistan."

"Excuse me?" I asked.

"Military and intelligence personnel are being redeployed to prepare for an action in Iraq," he continued.

Graham concluded: "Gen. Franks’ mission - which, as a good soldier, he was loyally carrying out - was being downgraded from a war to a manhunt."

But of course, this story is far too substantive to be a true smear. After all, it actually has an effect on people's lives. No, the juicier smears all seem to stem from gossip hound Kitty Kelley's new tell-all book about the Bushes called The Family. The allegations on this one are fast and furious, but the biggest is that Bush snorted coke at Camp David while his father was President. The source is Sharon Bush, ex-wife of W.'s brother Neil.

And Digby uses the coke story as a jumping point to unearth a whole host of strange pictures and videos that, taken together, our fearless Leader may not be a recovering alcoholic after all. Why, just take a look at this:

Is that a beer in front of W.?

OK, and that's not all. Head over to a website called (cleverly) Texans for Truth, which is raising money for a TV ad calling out the President for never showing up for duty at the Alabama National Guard.

Which one do you go after first, Matthew Dowd? We'll keep whispering until you figure it out...


1000 Dead in Iraq

Maybe this will put Iraq back on the front page.

Guess Cheney's pivot on trying to lump Iraq and Afghanistan together (saying at the RNC that "over 1,100 soldiers have died") didn't work. We kept counting.

More for you later.


Monday, September 06, 2004

W stands for Wrong

There's a new feeling, some new staff members, and a new slogan in the Kerry campaign. In this 9-week sprint to the finish line, what I suspect you'll hear more often than anything else is: W is for Wrong. Rather than the often meandering, nuanced, longer critiques Kerry is so fond of recounting, this one cuts to the core. Wrong Direction, Wrong Policies, Wrong on the Issues Americans care about. Wrong.

As the president likes to say, there's nothing complicated about it. It does all come down to one letter -- W. George W. Bush. What do you think that W stands for? That W stands for wrong. Wrong choices, wrong direction for America. And this election all comes down to one decision: Do we want four more years of wrong choices, or do we want to move America in a new direction?

The choice in this election couldn't be more clear. Do we want four more years of lost jobs and falling wages ... four more years of rising health care costs ... four more years of raiding Social Security to give tax cuts to the wealthy ... four more years of schools being shortchanged, leaving millions of children behind ... four more years of shipping jobs overseas and replacing them with jobs that pay you less ...four more years of a go-it-alone foreign policy. If you do, then you should vote for George W. Bush.

But if you want health care for all Americans. If you want schools that work. If you want jobs that pay you more money. If you want Social Security that's there for the future. Then we need to move America in a new direction and that's the choice in this election.

Go read this whole thing, it's really scathing. The Clintonistas that have come into the campaign have got it rolling again. And they did it with one simple insight. When we fight on their turf (like Vietnam, among other things), we lose. When we fight on our turf (that is, all the issues that Americans care about), we win.

W. Wrong. Keep saying it until your mouth hurts.