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Saturday, June 05, 2004
Now that the news has been confirmed...
that Ronald Reagan has passed, I should clarify that it I feel that it is sad news. My post prior to this was purely a chance to express my kooky theory about the no-longer-possible "October Surprise". I do *not* honestly believe that Karl Rove sent someone to pull the plug on Reagan's ventilator. For that matter, Karl was likely praying that this would happen much closer to the Democratic Convention.

That said, be prepared for the love fest to begin and for the GOP to try and capitalize on Ronnie's legacy. I predict that there will be Reagan/W comparison ads within weeks.

And, as I must in every post about Reagan.... He was terrible President who was simply play acting for 8 years. He should have gone to jail. Don't revise history!

As some of you know, my personal tin-foil hat theory about an "October Surprise" is the death of the 40th President, Ronald Wilson Reagan. When Reagan dies, it will be a 24/7 love fest on all the news channels and in every newspaper. John Kerry and all of BushCo's other troubles will disappear for at least a couple weeks while the press regurgitates every last one of Grover Norquist's talking points about the brilliant conservative leader. (And why we should name every building, bridge and street after Reagan.)

Right now Drudge has an unlinked header claiming that Ronnie's health has turned for the worse and the family is gathering at the Bel Air estate.

It's a little early in the campaign season, but think about it. Junior's in deep trouble and sinking fast. If he ever needed a life line, now would be a good time. There are rumors and reports that are due to make W look bad. His VP may be indicted. (As may his political brain, Rove.) Iraq is in shambles with puppet government that has no power. The Bush Campaign can't seem to convince the press that John Kerry is a baby killing anti Christ. (For that matter, the press seems to be "on" to Rove's game.)

Wouldn't it be conveeeeenient if all of these things were swept away by one event?

We'll see.

And BTW, Reagan was a terrible President who should have gone to jail.
Thursday, June 03, 2004
One Can Hope, Can't He?

Press efforts to thwart government secrecy are moving forward on two fronts as Washington bureau chiefs unite to more aggressively cover federal government attempts to hide information and the head of Associated Press offers plans for a new open government lobbying center in Washington, D.C.
"The real issue is telling our readers what it is they are not getting," says Vickie Walton-James, Chicago Tribune Washington bureau chief. "We need to pay attention to this, and not just when a big case pops up."

For Tom DeFrank, who began covering Washington as a Newsweek correspondent 36 years ago and now heads the New York Daily News bureau, the need for prying open government doors has never been greater. "This administration is the most aggressively unhelpful that I have ever covered, and that goes back to Nixon," he says. "This White House and administration are far more secretive than the Nixon crowd."
AP President and CEO Tom Curley, meanwhile, unveiled a plan on May 7 for a "media advocacy center" to lobby for open government in Washington. "The government is pushing hard for secrecy," Curley said in a speech announcing the plan. "We must push back equally hard for openness. I think it is time to consider establishment of a focused lobbying effort in Washington ... The essence of the FOI Act is that government information is open and accessible to the public unless there is a very good reason to keep it secret."
Methinks Tom Curley had best prepare for an extremely ugly IRS audit... or maybe they'll just release the names of all the library books he has checked out.
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
What We're Up Against.
I just finished a much-too-long exchange on another message board regarding the "truth" of a slur against Kerry. This was not a political board, but as you may imagine in an election year, people have strong opinions. In any case, my task was to try to convince a poster that John Kerry was not personally credited by retired Vietnamese General Giap for rescuing the north from certain defeat.

The claim: General Giap wrote in a 1985 Memoir of the war that if it were not for John Kerry and the VWVAW undermining the US "will to win", north Vietnam would have had to surrender.

The evidence:
1. A February FoxNews article quoting Col. Oliver North, "the Foxnews historian", in the third person as making this assertion.

2. A later article by NewsMax quoting FoxNews.

3. Later articles by both NewsMax and FoxNews, quoting Giap and other retired Vietnamese military regarding the US anti-war movement in general, but weaving Kerry's name into the articles-even though the quotes didn't mention him, or claim that the North needed the anti-war movement to win.

4. A Usenet poster who claimed to have "seen the memoir". He failed to respond (since May 5) to a request for substantiating information.

I pointed out that there was:

1. No title or publisher mentioned anywhere in any of these stories.

2. A Google search turns up books by Giap, but nothing remotely fitting the date or description of the "memoir".

3. Further searching revealed that all references to this story flow back to the unsourced, third person "quote" of Col. North.

4. NewsMax and FoxNews just kept quoting their articles back and forth, in an "echo chamber" effect.

So what? The posters on this relatively "unpolitical" board believe that where there's smoke, there's probably fire. The typical response: "With so many sources, there must be something to it". Karl Rove knows this, and counts on it. We've seen an unprecedented level of lies coming from the Bush campaign so far this year, and it's only going to get worse. It doesn't matter if they get refuted; it only matters that they get air time.

Most people who aren't paying close attention will hear the lies, hear the refutations and think, "Where there's smoke, there's probably fire". This is going to get so ugly.

As I mentioned in a previous post, our local public elementary school was one of two schools put on our state's "watch list" for underperforming schools. Because of this, we applied to and our son was accepted for kindergarten at the local private school. He is a very bright kid who was overwhelmingly recommended for admission by his current pre-school teachers. The school offers small class sizes, a very supportive staff and inquisitive curriculum. It seems like a great place to send a kid.

There is one hitch. Tuition for kindergarten is $9600 /year.

This amount concerned us, but we figured that since we pay about $7200 year ($5000 after the childcare tax credit) for daycare, that if we could get a little help, we might be able to find a few hundred dollars extra each month and swing an obscene kindergarten tuition bill.

We applied for financial aid and filled out a very detailed summary of our family financial situation. Today we received notice that we are completely and totally inelligible for any aid whatsoever.

This is truly puzzling. The school is full of children of the wealthy and well-off who, I am sure, pay full tuition. There are a handful of kids, no more than 2 or 3 per grade, that come from families that I suspect qualify for the vast majority of their tuition to be covered by grants. (Small towns make this kind of conjecture possible.)

What I now realize, is that on our visits to the school, there were almost no kids from working middle class families. This only makes sense now that I realize that the cut-off for financial aid is just above poverty level.

This is not sour grapes. Our family is comfortable. We pay our bills, live in a very nice but modest house ($200k), drive decent cars (1999 Pontiac Sunfire, 2002 Minivan), and still have enough left over to go out for Chinese food every two weeks.

But we don't have enough to pay $1200 month for kindergarten, $200 month for after-school care, and $3000 for full time summer daycare. That works out to $14.2K /year. (8 months of tuition, 4 months daycare)

That is just under 1/3rd of our after tax income.

If you figure that our mortgage eats another 1/3rd of our earnings, that leaves 1/3rd to pay everything else, like the $40k in student loans that my wife and I still owe from our own schooling, utilities, car payments, groceries, etc... Needless to say, the numbers don't add up.

I guess what bothers me the most is that the financial aid structure makes it very clear that middle class families are not welcome at this school. Only those with 6 figure or poverty level incomes should bother apply.

I mistakenly assumed that we could sacrifice here and there and squeeze out the needed money to combine with a little financial aid. But their formula doesn't demand a sacrifice like a second job or canceling cable and the internet. Their numbers tell us we need to sell the house *and* a car just be able to afford monthly installments on the tuition.

And keep in mind that there are 12 more years of schooling to go before college.

So, I guess we can hope for the best in the public schools. There is still a chance that we will get a "school choice" slot in the neighboring town's district. (There are reportedly only 4 slots and several applicants)

But today, I'm feeling a little pissed on. I'd go to bar and buy a couple beers, however it's not in the budget.
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Such Lovely People

Enron Traders:
"They're f------g taking all the money back from you guys?" complains an Enron employee on the tapes. "All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?"

"Yeah, grandma Millie, man"

"Yeah, now she wants her f------g money back for all the power you've charged right up, jammed right up her a------ for f------g $250 a megawatt hour."
These eloquent gentlemen even express their politcal opinions about the upcoming 2000 election:
"It'd be great. I'd love to see Ken Lay Secretary of Energy," says one Enron worker.

That didn't happen, but they were sure President Bush would fight any limits on sky-high energy prices.

"When this election comes Bush will f------g whack this s--t, man. He won't play this price-cap b------t."
They obviously understood the game.
Once a GOP Corporate Shill....
always a GOP corporate shill.
JACKSON, Miss. - Three officials who pushed for a campaign finance bill say it was wrong for Gov. Haley Barbour to veto the measure - and if the veto stands, anonymous special interests will try to buy Mississippi elections
Barbour wrote in his veto message Friday that he was striking down the bill because he objected to a provision limiting corporate donations to political action committees.
At least he's honest. Sheesh...
Just one more time
The Grand Forks Herald did a lengthy article on Scott McNamee's ethics problems:
"...Grand Forks City Council candidate Scott McNamee came under fire Thursday for interfering with a radio talk show's online poll.

"When it comes down to it, this is a dirty trick," said Dakota Huseby, the host of "The Voice of Dakota" on KNOX 1310. She revealed on the air Thursday that McNamee had anonymously asked viewers of a national conservative Web site to vote for him, stacking the results in his favor..."
Not suprisingly, Scott has deleted his "apology" and announced that he is going to continue to run. Click here if you missed my involvement in this little soap opera.
Heh... The White House Lost One

As late as 11 pm last night, Drudge was screaming a headline that asserted that the White House's pick, Pachachi, would be the new President of Iraq. They were trumpeting it as if they were assuming it to be true. But today:
Ghazi al-Yawar was appointed as Iraq's first president
It seems the Iraqi Govening Council may have won this pissing match. I wonder if Safire thinks he is an "Acceptable Arab".
Monday, May 31, 2004
Do you feel safer?

LA Times:
As they settled into first class on American Airlines Flight 1438 from Chicago to Miami, they were supposed to be the last line of defense against terrorists — two highly trained U.S. air marshals who would sit unnoticed among the ordinary travelers but spring into action at the first sign of trouble.

Imagine their chagrin when a fellow passenger coming down the aisle suddenly boomed out, "Oh, I see we have air marshals on board!"
Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

So *who* is picking the PM and President of the "interim" Iraqi government that we are handing the reigns of power over to on June 30? The White House and the NeoCons says that its the Iraqi Governing Council. The NYTs says that its the White House. The Iraqi Governing Council says that it is both the White House and themselves. The one thing that is clear is that the UN envoy, Mr. Brahimi, appears to be nothing more than window dressing.

You decide....

One person conversant with the negotiations said Mr. Brahimi was presented with 'a fait accompli' after President Bush's envoy to Iraq, Robert D. Blackwill, 'railroaded' the Governing Council into coalescing around [Allawi]."
Iyad Alawi is the Acceptable Arab. At the Ambrosetti conference in Italy last year, he and Adnan Pachachi — a Sunni in his 80's close to the Saudi royals — were the only Iraqis present. They spent most of their time in close consultation with Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League. Pachachi, whose exile ended with our overthrow of Saddam, was overtly ungrateful to the Americans.

Alawi, however, was noncommittal, so I plonked myself next to him at lunch and asked who was going to run Iraq after the U.S. left. He said only "I have a real political organization in Iraq."
Iraqi Governing Council members accused American officials Monday of pressuring them to accept Washington's choice for Iraq (news - web sites)'s new president, prompting a delay in the announcement of a new government to take power from the U.S.-led coalition June 30.
Most council members favor civil engineer Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer, 45, the current council president. The Americans are backing former foreign minister Adnan Pachachi, 81.
It seems pretty clear to me.

Sunday, May 30, 2004
Contributions to Kerry
As you may have noticed, there is a contribution button on the right of this page to contribute to the Kerry Campaign.

Personally I think the campaign finance system in this country is a joke, but it is the system that we have to work within. If you can and want to, I encourage to you give to the Kerry Campaign to help counter to $200 million+ that George W Bush and his cronies will be spending in order to hold onto power. (I am sure they think $200-m is a cheap investment when the returns of just one Halliburton or Carlisle contract is worth billions.)

Although my nickname is listed on the host page, *all* contributions must be made by real people and within the limits of the law.
Shouting into the closet to inform and entertain the 10 people who actually read this thing. In our new format as an online magazine, we take pride in our reporting and opinions. Please leave reader feedback on our online magazine message board so that we can better serve you.

“There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people…and on a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years…We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.” -Paul Wolfowitz

Cost of the War in Iraq
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