Thursday, September 30, 2004

Fight Back Against Tom Delay and Gerrymandering

Our soldiers are dying everyday in Iraq. The administration's latest reason is so that elections can happen soon. Yet, here in the U.S., our own democracy is broken. The Economist has a good article on some of the systemic problems with our elections. NO WAY TO RUN A DEMOCRACY (subscription required), September 16th 2000, declares that:
The country's electoral machinery is badly in need of repair and a rethink.
Among the problems with our democracy listed are the influence of money, the electoral college, corruption and all the issues Jimmy Carter raised about Florida. However,
Out of all these creaking bits of machinery, two look particularly deadly. The first is those voting machines. Despite being given a fistful of money by Congress, many American states have opted for dodgy electronic voting machines.


The other great blot on American democracy--redistricting--has already made a nonsense of elections to Congress. Despite all the hoopla about the 50:50 nation, no more than around 30 seats of the 435 in the House of Representatives are competitive. In 2002, four out of five congressmen won their races by more than 20 points. This is because most states allow their politicians to determine the boundaries. The result is gerrymandering on a grotesque scale, with incumbents stitching up safe seats by drawing absurd districts that look like doughnuts, sandwiches and Rorschach tests.

This is not just unfair; it puts people off voting (why bother in those 400 districts where the result is a foregone conclusion?) and it drives politics to the extremes. With no chance of being unseated by the other party, a congressman's only threat is the partisans in the primary; so Republicans become ever more conservative and Democrats ever more left-wing.

I don’t know about Democrats becoming “more left-wing,” but I do know that with the latest round of redistricting in Pennsylvania, my vote here in PA’s 5th Congressional district is essentially meaningless. Yet of those rare competitive races, three of them are in Pennsylvania.

All three — Lois Murphy in the 6th, Ginny Schrader in the 8th, and Joe Driscoll in the 15th — are in the Philadelphia area, one of the most expensive media markets in the country. So even if my vote for Congress is meaningless, I can make a difference by contributing to these candidates. I’ve contributed to all the Kos dozen, and this is a chance to go the extra mile close to home. I am tired of being unrepresented in Congress. I want my voice back. If you are in a Congressional district which is not competitive and want to make a difference in the last weeks of the campaign please join me at and contribute to these fine Democrats.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Bush Was "Afraid to Fly," Widow Says.

The widow of the man who took George Bush's place in the Texas Air National Guard remembers the reasons given for Bush's departure at that time when her husband, Jan Peter Linke, replaced him. Her husband was told at the time that "Bush's flying career was permanently disabled by a crippling fear of flying," probably because of a drinking problem. Janet Linke gave her interview before the most recent release of Bush's military documents, which corrobrate her account, especially the flight logs.
"He was mucking up bad, Killian told us," Linke says. "He just became afraid to fly."

Killian has become a major figure in Bush's unfolding "Guardgate." CBS news anchor Dan Rather produced a memo signed by Killian saying he was pressured to sugarcoat Bush's service, among other things. A few days after the report, CBS backed off when other media questioned the veracity of the documents.

But flight logs released by the White House three weeks ago in response to a lawsuit by the Associated Press show a strange retraction of Bush's air time around that period. In February and March 1972, Bush switched from flying the F102A fighter jet, which the guard used to patrol U.S. borders, to a two-seat T-33 training jet. His superiors also returned him to flight simulator practice sessions.

But records suggest the extra training sessions didn't help. Logs show that in March and April 1972, Bush twice needed multiple tries to land the F102 fighter. Days later, on April 16, Bush piloted a plane for the Texas Air National Guard for the last time.

"He just couldn't cut it," says Linke. "I was let to believe he was kind of a coward."
Jan Peter Linke served briefly in the Texas Air National Guard's 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. He was admitted to the Guard in the summer of 1972 to replace George Bush. He served until his death the following year. He was 27.

[Update 9/30/04, 6:28 p.m. Thanks to John McCrory for his tip on a dKos thread that the Nation now has this story on its website.]

[Update 2 9/30/04, 7:32 p.m. From the Nation,
she (Linke) said that "Bush was mucking up his flying very badly and he couldn't fly the plane," Linke said. "Killan told us that he was having trouble landing, and that possibly there was a drinking problem involved in that"--which Linke took to mean a particularly debilitating one, since carousing was almost the norm in such units.
Notably, Linke's contact with Folio occurred before the White House's lawsuit-generated release of Bush's flight logs, which appeared to corroborate the thrust of her claims. Those logs show Bush in the winter and early spring of 1972 having problems landing his plane and being placed into two-pilot training planes--from which he had graduated years earlier.
Linke says her husband first heard about the opening for a pilot in Bush's unit on May 12, 1972. That date preceded Bush's recorded departure from his base, suggesting that superiors were already planning to replace him. Bush's last recorded flight came on April 16, 1972. Although his contractual obligation to continue flying would not expire for another two years, Bush would never fly again for the National Guard. In August 1972 Killian suspended the departed Bush from flying, ostensibly for his failure to take an annual physical exam. But Linke says that the physical was the result, not the cause. "He just became afraid to fly," she said.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Al Qaeda Endorsed Bush, Not Kerry, in Post-Madrid Letter

CNN’s Bill Schneider has joined FOX News Channel host John Gibson, joined House Speaker Dennis Hastert's (R-IL), Vice President Dick Cheney, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, and even President Bush, himself, in declaring that al-Qaida "would very much like to defeat President Bush"

They are all making it up. Joe Conason in Salon comments that
Schneider didn't divulge how he knows that al-Qaida wants to defeat Bush. His expertise lies in the field of public opinion, not terrorist tactics, and he cited no poll that measured the preferences of Osama bin Laden's followers. To put it bluntly, the CNN analyst was talking out of his ass.
This assertion that al-Qaida wants Kerry isn't a hypothesis, an "estimate", or "guess." It is not even "a fantasy world of spin". It is a LIE. As I tell my children, a lie is when you know it is not true.

After the Madrid train bombing, an al-Qaida cell, Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, issued a statement taking credit for the attack. In that letter the al-Qaida cell proclaimed
The statement said it supported U.S. President George W. Bush in his reelection campaign, and would prefer him to win in November rather than the Democratic candidate John Kerry, as it was not possible to find a leader "more foolish than you (Bush), who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom."
In comments addressed to Bush, the group said:
"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilisation."
"Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected."
The group is named after a close Osama bin Laden aide killed in the war in Afghanistan. Now there is some question about whether Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades is actually the group responsible for the bombings themselves. There really is no proof one way or the other. A conservative think-tank called the Jamestown Foundation, funded by several conservative foundations, has a paper which says this, as does the pro-Israel think tank, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Matthew Levitt, senior terrorist expert at the WINEP in an article for the Baltimore Sun (3/14/04), ties Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida, Zarqawi, the Madrid bombers and the authors of this letter altogether.
Osama bin Laden threatened to attack Spain and other countries cooperating with the United States in the war on terror in an audiotaped message released in October. Spain has been among Europe's most public and vocal partners with the United States in both the war on terror and the Iraq war.

Additionally, several key al-Qaida cells have been disrupted over the past 2 1/2 years, including a Madrid cell headed by Muhammed Galeb Kalaje Zouaydi that funded the Sept. 11, 2001, plotters in Hamburg, Germany, and conducted the pre-operational surveillance of the World Trade Center and other potential targets in 1999.

Another disrupted cell was connected to the now infamous Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his network of poison plotters in Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Spain. Interestingly, that network is tied to at least two other attacks claimed - like the Madrid attacks - under the name of the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades in Istanbul and Baghdad. The group is affiliated with al-Qaida.
Could it be any clearer? The terrorists want Bush to win.

Is the Draft Coming Back? Yes

George Bush is already drafting people. Our baby-sitter has a close friend in the Marines serving his second tour in Iraq. He was actually in the reserves in his last year at Penn Sate. He was supposed to stay home after the first tour, but got sent back. His grandfather just died, and of course, he can’t be there for the funeral. Being sent and then sent again, and not knowing when he will actually come home for good has made finishing college impossible. In the words of our sitter, this has "messed up his credits really bad."

We also have a woman who comes in during the afternoons to help out. She is also worrying about Iraq. I remember right after the war first started, she came in late and breathless because she couldn’t tear herself away from the exciting images of the Saddam statue being pulled down.

Last month, one of her three sons (all of whom are draftable) graduated into a PA National Guard unit. Their commanding officer was just sent off to Iraq, replacing another commander who had been taken seriously ill. But she keeps telling herself that her son won’t be going, at least not right away, because his unit is being trained on a new vehicle. But she’s still worried as any mother would be.

Her son did not sign up for the regualr army. He joined the National Guard. They are supposed to be different things. Sadly, something which had been a source of pride for his mother has turned into a nightmare of worry.

My sitter told me that her friend did feel better prepared this time because he knew what to expect. He also says it is awful. A couple of days ago, his vehicle was hit by a rocket or bomb. He was okay, but the blast knocked out a bunch of kids near by.

The difference between this conflict and other wars: he can call her on her cell phone. She knows what’s happening to him everyday. She doesn’t need the media to give her highlights because she knows the details. She also knows that the president is either a liar, or “living in a fantasy world of spin.” She thinks he’s just a liar.

According to the New York Times,
A Pentagon-appointed panel of outside experts has concluded in a new study that the American military does not have sufficient forces to sustain current and anticipated stability operations, like the festering conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and other missions that might arise.
John Kerry has promised to stop this backdoor draft.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Bush Out of Touch with Reality

President Bush told the U.N. that ''Freedom is finding a way in Iraq.'' Juan Cole explains what the situation in Iraq means in terms that we can all understand far better than I can. Please read this article.
What would America look like if it were in Iraq's current situation? The population of the US is over 11 times that of Iraq, so a lot of statistics would have to be multiplied by that number.

Thus, violence killed 300 Iraqis last week, the equivalent proportionately of 3,300 Americans. What if 3,300 Americans had died in car bombings, grenade and rocket attacks, machine gun spray, and aerial bombardment in the last week? That is a number greater than the deaths on September 11, and if America were Iraq, it would be an ongoing, weekly or monthly toll.
Please read the whole article. It is one of the best pieces I've read. I ask one more time, is Bush drinking again?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Fun Electoral College Facts

The first eight are red states, while the last state is blue.
North Dakota633,7003
South Dakota733,1003
New York18,000,00031

Somehow this really doesn't look fair. I know this is how our system works. But if you live in a empty state, your vote counts more. And if you lived in state with touchscreen paperless voting, your vote might not count at all.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program.
Tomorrow: How to Bring Peace to Iraq, part 2

Bush: Straight Talk or Big Fat Lies?

Peter Jennings of ABC News takes a page out of John Stewart's "Daily Show" playbook. So is our president a man of simple truth and honesty or are his pants in flames?

You be the judge. (Quicktime video)

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

It is going to get a lot worse, and soon.

The New York Times reported on Sunday, 9/19/04, that a Major Offensive is Planned for end of year to retake cities under rebel control.

The adminstration has started tapping into its emergency fund in anticipation of intense fighting this fall.

“Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat and ranking member on the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, said he had learned of plans for a massive, post-election call-up from officials at the Pentagon.”
San Jose Mercury News, Sept, 17, 2004. The White House denied it.

Last fall an ad ran on the DoD website for people to fill local draft boards, "if a military draft becomes necessary." These boards have languished for years, unfilled. When the press noticed, the announcement was pulled.

In April 2004 Sen.  Chuck Hagel (R-NE), told the Senate Foreign Relations and the "Today Show" that the US is engaged in a long-term war against terrorism, already 40 percent of the ground troops in Iraq are from the National Guard and Reserves, and the US is "making commitments for future years that we cannot fulfill" with current troop levels.  Hagel, the second-ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, appeared on the "Today Show" with Sen.  Joe Biden (D-DE), who also would not rule out a draft.

20,000 members of the National Guard in Iraq have already been “drafted” by virtual of stop/loss.

Doesn’t this all remind anyone of another conflict? Beef up the number of troops, launch major new offensives in support of an umpopular regime, then after everything is settled down, get out, Robert Novak, not withstanding. Except the native people didn't settle down. Instead we got bogged down and 58,000 Americans died.

How to fix Iraq

We can dig our way out of the quicksand of Iraq, but not with gun barrels.

First we must look honestly at the reasons for the insurgency, and admit that our very actions are the root cause.

First is civilian casualities. An article in the new issue of US News & World Report, “Victims of Circumstance” 9/27/04, reports that from June 10 until September 10, 1,811 Iraqi civilian have been killed, of which 75% have as a result of our military action.

It is hard to overstate the problem these deaths pose for American officials when it comes to winning Iraqi hearts and minds. The accidental killing of women, children, and bystanders has repeatedly angered Iraqis and is turning the public against America and fueling the insurgency.

The attitude that it is acceptable to “destroy the village in order to save it,” worked against us in Vietnam and is certainly working against us now.

First it is a morally indefensible position from a Christian standpoint.
Even in war, soldiers must conduct themselves as peacemakers, targeting the enemy and not engaging in wholesale slaughter. The innocent must be protected, not killed as combatants. From a Sermon preached at St. Peter's United Church of Christ, Elmhurst, Ill., Feb. 23, 2003 by the Rev. Dr.Thistlethwaite President, Chicago Theological Seminary

Pragmatists will argue that morality doesn’t win wars. Yet history has clearly shown us that an understanding of culture not only wins wars, but more importantly insures the winning of the “peace.” During World War II many well known top anthropologist including Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead's husband, Gregory Bateson complied reports on “enemy” cultures for the War department. Benedict's analysis of Japanese national character, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture (Boston, 1946), is the best-known study that grew out of this wartime anthropology. For more on this, read Mead’s article in "The Uses of Anthropology in World War II and After" in Walter Goldschmidt, ed., The Uses of Anthropology (Washington, 1979), 145-57.

My husband spent two years in Japan. It is a profoundly different culture, and yet they are among our closest allies today because our leaders at the end of W.W.II recognized the importance of culture.

There are mountains of literature and numerous experts on the cultures and history of Iraq that anyone—me or you or the Bush administration or the Kerry campaign—could check. If you just read a quick, but interesting book called “Desert Queen” you’ll have a better understanding of the role of history, culture clash, and imperialism in Iraq than any news anchor and 99% on the analysts served up on cable and the networks. From the review on
A biography of the woman who, indirectly, was the catalyst for many of the troubles in the Middle East, including the Gulf War. In 1918, Gertrude Bell drew the region's proposed boundaries on a piece of tracing paper. Her qualifications for doing so were her extensive travel, her fluency in both Persian and Arabic, and her relationships with sheiks and tribal and religious leaders. She also possessed an ability to understand the subtle and indirect politeness of the culture, something many of her colonialist comrades were oblivious to.

I could cite a lot of anthropological studies on the peoples of Iraq, but instead I suggest that you rent the classic film, “Lawrence of Arabia” and look at the scene in which Lawrence and his Arab allies have just crossed the desert and arrived at the water hole of Anthony Quinn’s tribe.

The friend that Lawrence has saved in desert killed a member of Quinn’s tribe. Quinn’s tribe must avenge the death, which will then required retribution from the other side. The only way to end the blood feud is for Lawrence to take the life of the man he had just saved. Actually any one who knows this movie knew that invading Iraq was going to be a disaster.

My main point here is that every civilian that we kill has a network of family and friends that become our enemy, sworn to avenge the death.

Step number one: Stop the killing of civilians.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Bush Off The Wagon?

Is President Bush drinking now and getting drunk regularly? Do we have an alcoholic making life and death decisions in the war on terror? If you don't think this should be an issue, then please read this article on addiction and leadership.

Now, I have no problem with you drinking or me drinking or drinking in general. My husband and I both did our share of partying in college. But Bush is an admitted alcoholic and cocaine user whose life was a disaster until age 40, when he got sober with no support system. Sounds like my grandfather, who got sober when my dad was born, then fell off the wagon when my dad was 10. He destroyed his law career, his political career and his family.

There is a lot to make me suspicious that the President is drinking again. Are his multiple facial injuries in the last year really due to mountain bike accidents or to getting falling down drunk? I fell and fractured my wrist a few years ago, but didn’t cut up my face because of my helmet. My brother took a spill riding in a race. He broke his collarbone, but his face was fine.

In addition to the facial injuries, there's the incident when he was found passed out on the floor at the White House because he has "choked on a pretzel." There is the slurring of words and his confusion over simple concepts such as tribal sovereignty. Or how about this clip from the Daily Show. Right after Trett Lott. How about falling off the scooter or dropping the little dog?

Some of us have seen the photo of Bush with a beer at the G-8 summit in Canada. Then there’s the 1992 wedding video. There’s more out there. There is even an AOL chat room for DEA agents where they recount Secret Service talk about Bush going on benders. (More on this as soon as I find it.)

There are official "explanations", but taken together a much simpler reason which accounts for all of the facts and which is completely consistent with his past is booze. Bush's drinking is apparently an "open secret" in Washington, yet Newsweek ran a profile highlighting his "sobriety" as a demonstration of his will and determination.

Periodically there are articles by psychologists and experts in the field of recovery in the foreign press speculating on Bush’s drinking. But nothing here.

I admit that I really want to know, too. We all need to know. Good men and women are dying every day in Iraq. We all owe it to them to find out the truth about the commander-and-chief.

My neighbors and I were discussing Bush and Kerry on our porch last night. Some of them are actually true undecided. They like Bush personally but worry about his judgment. We all wish that the issues could decide this election, with serious debate on Iraq and the economy. But the media isn’t going to cooperate.

Their idea of covering the issues is to have two "experts":
Moderator: "Tonight we have two experts on the War in Iraq."
GOP person: "We are winning the war on Terror."
Demo person: "No we aren’t."
GOP person:" "Yes we are."
"No we aren’t."
"Yes we are."
Moderator: "There you have it."

This is what passes for analysis on cable and the networks.

Questions about whether Bush did or did not take a TANG physical 30 years ago or used cocaine when his dad was president don't matter to my neighbors and friends here in central Pennsylvania. But his drinking does.

So is Bush drinking again?

Sunday, September 19, 2004

GOP Leaders Blast Bush on Iraq, Cite Incompetence and Mistakes

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Leading members of President Bush's Republican Party on Sunday criticized mistakes and "incompetence" in his Iraq policy and called for an urgent ground offensive to retake insurgent sanctuaries.

Now I don't think that launching a new offensive is the answer, either, but at least they are starting to admit that Iraq is a MESS!

Ten Cuidado del Nombre Bush

Great ad. My kids love this. My four-year-old has even figured out how to navigate to it and launch it himself. It's replacing as the favorite website for the younger set. I like it, too.

Ten Cuidado del Nombre Bush

Iraq or Vietnam

Just in case you were wondering, as best I can figure, the current casualty rate per number of troops deployed in Iraq is getting close to level for Vietnam in 1965. In 1964 there were 206 killed in Vietnam. By 1965 that number was 1863 killed out of some 200,000 deployed.

Bush's team is made up of old cold warriors who have replaced the principle of "containment" and the "Domino theory" with the principle of "preemption" and "Al Queda = Saddam Theory." Compare Bush's convention speech to this statement by McGeorge Bundy, Johnson's advisor: "that in the final analysis, the United States was the locomotive at the head of mankind, and the rest of the world the caboose." He assumed that American-style democracy would always be preferred. It was a justification for the war of the 1960s and it has become the justification-of-the-month for the quagmire in Iraq.

Need another parallel?
Johnson (Bush) made a nationally televised address, deliberately distorting the facts and inflating the case. Congress granted him sweeping military powers under Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (Resolution Authorizing Use U.S. Armed Forces against Iraq). From "The Vietnam War and the Tragedy of Containment" by Michael O'Malley

American Casualties in Iraq

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty
September 18, 2004

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Cpl. Christopher S. Ebert, 21, of Mooresboro, N.C., died Sept. 17 due to enemy action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. Ebert was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Coalition Military Casualties
Total US Military Killed in Iraq: 1032
Total Coalition Military Killed In Iraq: 1167
Total Killed so far this month: 58
Total Wounded: 7032
Total Wounded so far this month: 138

From the Peoria Journal Star, September, 14, 2004
Civilian Contractor Killed
Todd Engstrom, who turned 35 on Sept. 4, was killed when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his vehicle on its way to Balad, Iraq, his father, Ron Engstrom, said Wednesday.

Total Civilian Contractors Killed in Iraq: 155

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Taliban Return

Remember Afghanistan? Remember the Taliban? Remember Osama bin Laden? Or Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar? Remember the folks who brought us September 11? Well, they’re back. Our leaders dropped that mission well before it was "accomplished," and now we have neither the troops or resources to do anything about it. Please can we get rid of the morons who brought us this disaster?

Reuter: Taliban Say Attack Shows They Can Strike at Will

Iraq: The worst mistake?

If you think we are safer with Saddam gone, then read this article. Even if you don’t think we’re safer, read this article. What was the biggest mistake made in Iraq? Intelligence failures over WMDs? Failure to plan for the post-war? Underestimating the cost? Not enough troops? Neglecting Afghanistan? No, no, no, no, and no. Read this article. to find out why virtually all military and intelligence professional are arguing whether the Invasion of Iraq was worst decision since Vietnam or the worst decision in American history.
As a political matter, whether the United States is now safer or more vulnerable is of course ferociously controversial. That the war was necessary—and beneficial—is the Bush Administration's central claim. That it was not is the central claim of its critics. But among national-security professionals there is surprisingly little controversy.
Except for those in government and in the opinion industries whose job it is to defend the Administration's record, they tend to see America's response to 9/11 as a catastrophe. I have sat through arguments among soldiers and scholars about whether the invasion of Iraq should be considered the worst strategic error in American history—or only the worst since Vietnam.
READ MORE by James Fallows in this month's Atlantic Monthly, "Bush's Lost Year

Counting the Casualities in Iraq

We have a Kerry sign in our front room window. Kind of threw the local GOP state senator out canvassing our neighborhood this morning off his stride. Haha. But my husband wants to add another sign, just a number, the number of killed in Iraq, which he'd update as the number changed. I think it should be more explicit and would add a separate sign listing the number of wounded as well as a sign for the number of Iraqis killed.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Kerry Deserved Medals Says Navy

The Navy's conclusions: "Our examination found that existing documentation regarding the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart medals indicates the awards approval process was properly followed," the Navy's inspector general, Vice Admiral Ronald Route, said in a memo written to Navy Secretary Gordon England."

In other news,
Florida's high court says Ralph is on the ballot. Win some, lose some.
Bush administeration slashes funding for FAA. Oh, that's really not a good idea.

Bush, Drunk or Sober?

My DKos diary asking questions about Bush and his drinking were picked up by Steve Gilliard. With Pictures even.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

My first DKos diary in months.

The kids are now in school and I have a new computer. I posted my first diary at DailyKos in months. It made it to the recommended diaries and got a hundred comments. Not bad. Please check it out. Next I update things around here and tomorrow I start emailing the media about Bush and his drinking.

Six months later

Back in January I injured my back snowshoeing up the hill to visit our neighbors. My back got better, then worse, then a little better, then a lot worse. I kept going to the chiropractor, until he gave up on me and sent me to get cortisone injections. They didn't work, so now I'm looking at surgery. Stretching and PT haven't made a difference. Acupuncture isn't helping. So it's surgery sometime in the next couple of months. But we just got a new laptop and a wireless station so I can sit in bed and blog. I may be down, but I'm not out.