Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Hey Kids -- Comments!

On the advice of Goldberg of Goldberg and Guthrie, I have set up comments on this site.

So please feel free to tell me (and my two readers) what you think -- even if you think I am full of crap.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Et tu, NPR?

Today's New York Times states that Morning Edition's "traditional anchor-dominated format *** has left NPR ill positioned to respond instantly to breaking news."

But what does the Times mean by "breaking news?"

I can only think of two instances -- 9-11 and the latest Space Shuttle disaster -- where NPR should have broken into their regular format with "breaking news." The capacity to deliver breaking news can also affect the news operation itself. Take a look at 24-hour cable news channels and you will see that because they can deliver "up to the minute information" MSNBC, CNBC, Faux News and CNN treat every passing rumor, minor piece of new information, and rumors of minor pieces of new information as "breaking news."

Is that what listeners want from "Morning Edition"?

NPR should stick with a system that is working -- ME's audience has grown 41 percent in the last five years -- and leave the breathless "news" updates to cable TV.

Friday, March 26, 2004

The Truth, and Nothing But

Condoleezza Rice is upset over Richard Clarke's testimony before the 9-11 commission that she severely underestimated the threat of Al-Qaeda during the first eight months of the Bush administration. Although she now wants to meet again with the commission to explain the intelligence failures that preceded the 9-11 attacks, Dr. Rice will only meet with the commissioners in private -- and not under oath.

If Dr. Rice will be discussing sensitive national security issues, a private session with the commission obviously makes sense. But I cannot think of any legitimate reason why president Bush's National Security Advisor refuses to take an oath to tell the 9-11 commission "the truth, and nothing but the truth."

WMDs are not a joke to G.I.s

Apparently President Bush got some chuckles at a Washington dinner when he joshed about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but to family members of G.I.s killed and wounded there is nothing funny about it.

"Those weapons of mass destruction have to be here somewhere," Bush joked as he narrated a slide show of him looking behind furniture, as if hunting for the weapons of mass destruction. "Nope, no weapons over there. Maybe under here," Bush said Wednesday night at the annual dinner of Washington radio and TV correspondents.

It's not a joke that no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq despite the administration's repeated assurances leading up to the war. For the men and women separated from their families and sent to fight and die in Iraq this is not a laughing matter.

Mr. Bush seems to have forgotten that Americans are still dying in Iraq because he mislead our nation about of weapons of mass destruction -- and that is no joke.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

"Out of the Loop" = "Ignored"

In the wake of former Bush counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke's allegations that the administration did not seriously address the threat of al-Qaida before 9-11, Vice-President Dick Cheney is claiming that Mr. Clarke was "out of the loop" in the administration's counter-terror efforts. Therefore, Mr. Cheney insists, Mr. Clarke doesn't know what he's talking about and anything he says should be discounted.

Mr. Cheney's statement has an obvious – perhaps unintended – implication: That the Bush administration's top expert on terrorism was not consulted about the White House's counter-terrorism efforts.

Does this mean that the Bush administration deliberately ignored the advise of its in-house counter-terrorism expert? Does it mean that, because he was cut out of the loop, Clarke's warnings went unheeded and were inadvertently ignored, with the al-Qaida attacks on September 11 being the tragic result?

In either case, Mr. Cheney's assertion that the White House's chief terrorism expert was "out of the loop" does not reflect well on the administration’s counter terrorism efforts prior to 9-11.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Character is Important

None of us would want to be judged based solely on our failings.

Yet that is exactly what Rick Pearson did in his March 14th Tribune article on the candidates in the Senate primary. He has done Tribune readers a great disservice by leaving them with the impression that, because the candidates in the Senate primary are such a sorry lot, it doesn't matter who wins.
That is just wrong. There are good candidates. It matters who wins.

Mr. Pearson could have focused on the substantive qualifications of each candidate -- or even just the front-runners on each side – and helped the voters make a thoughtful and intelligent choice. Instead, Mr. Pearson decided that "character" was going to be the main story of this election, even though character was/is an issue for only a tiny minority of the candidates.

Mr. Pearson's own story is the best evidence that, although it is the theme of his story, a shortage "character" is not the issue of this campaign. Despite his best efforts to somehow tar each candidate with the "character" brush, Mr. Pearson was unable to identify ANY character issues for most of the candidates.

Just look at what Mr. Pearson attempts to pass off as "character issues" among the Democrats:

Mr. Hull is a neophyte loner.
Mr. Hynes lacks passion.
Mr. Obama missed a vote because he was with his sick daughter in Hawaii.
Mr. Chico pays some of his organizers.
Ms. Pappas' ads are ineffective.
Ms. Skinner is just a talker.
Ms. Washington ran for a meaningless constitutional office.

These are barely issues, much less "character issues." And most of the Republicans provide Mr. Pearson with no more potent ammunition.

But because Mr. Pearson's campaign theme of failed character would not have worked had he merely limited himself to focusing on a couple of Republicans and single Democrat, he was forced to try to magnify the insignificant into the substantial. While he did not succeed in doing so, he did succeed in conveying his personal belief that the outcome of the race for Illinois junior Senate seat just doesn't matter.

If the readers of Mr. Pearson's article are left with the impression that there are no meritorious candidates in this Senate primary, it is due to a lack of character.

But not on the part of the candidates.

Friday, March 12, 2004

The most crooked, lying group I've ever seen

Did anyone else notice that after Senator Kerry said, “These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen," Dennis Hastert presumed that he was specifically referring to Illinois Republicans?

What exactly could lead Mr. Hastert to believe that anyone would think that the party organization that gave us George “Licenses for Bribes” Ryan, Jim “no one is too innocent for the death penalty” Ryan, and James “Paté” Phillips is crooked and lying?

Tom Tomorrow noticed more confusion as to whom Kerry was referring.

Jack and Jeri Ryan

It seems that Illinois journalists have decided to sit back and see if something more develops before spilling the beans on the accusations enumerated on Rich Miller's web site. This is the usual measured, cautious methodology of political journalism. But those rules do not apply to this case. This isn't just about Jack Ryan -- candidate for the Republican Senate nomination, it is also about Jeri Ryan -- Fox TV star and Hollywood hottie.

I think that it will be just a couple of news cycles before one of national tabloids latches onto this story (predicted headline: "Boston Public Sex Acts"), runs it as a story centered on "allegations" about Jeri with Jack as just background, and the story of the sealed records cracks wide open from interest on the Jeri Ryan side.

But because the primary is just around the corner, Jack may be the GOP nominee before the story moves from web to tabloid to fringe media (us blogs) to the papers to people's TVs.

And then what? Will Jack step aside after the story reaches critical mass? Who would fill the GOP slot?

(Is this looming scandal the reason Sen. Steve Rauschenberger has been strangely, -- even inappropriately -- confident in his campaign? As one of the fellows at the top of the GOP food-chain, wouldn't he have known that this story was floating around if General Borling and Rod McCulloch knew? If I had to fill the GOP slot after a scandal, it would be with a steady, work-horse like Steve R.)

It looks like the fun of the primaries might not be ending on March, 16 after all.

(Last night my wife and I were discussing the “Ryan = scandal” phenomenon. She’s afraid that the next Abraham Lincoln may be growing up somewhere in Illinois, but because his last name is “Ryan” he will never get elected.)

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Flip Flop

It is hard to believe that President Bush would accuse Senator Kerry of changing his position on the issues, especially when Mr. Bush has such a strong record of flip-flopping:

Mr. Bush was against campaign finance reform; now he is for it.

Mr. Bush was against a Homeland Security Department; now he is for it.

Mr. Bush was against an independent 9-11 commission; now he is for it.

Mr. Bush was against an Iraq WMD investigation; now he is for it.

Mr. Bush was against nation building; now he is for it.

Mr. Bush was against deficits; now he is for them.

Mr. Bush was for free trade; then he was for tariffs on steel; now he is against them again.

Mr. Bush was for states right to decide on gay marriage; now he is for changing the Constitution.

The list goes on and on. Perhaps Mr. Bush will soon flip-flop again and realize that our nation desperately needs new, principled leadership.

Update: Mr. Bush was against Ms. Rice's publicly testifying under oath before the 9-11 commission; now he has approved it.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Sanctity of Neil Bush's Marriage

Although President Bush is a staunch defender of traditional marriage, when presidential brother Neil Bush married Maria Andrews Saturday night, neither President Bush nor his brother Jeb attended.

Neil would probably have appreciated his brothers' support. In November, a Houston judge ordered DNA testing to determine whether Neil Bush fathered a child with Maria Andrews while she was still married to Robert Andrews and while the president's brother was still married to Sharon Bush.

Thank goodness President Bush is taking action to ensure that gay-marriages don't undermine the sanctity of Neil's new traditional marriage.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Heroes as Props

Mr. Bush has not attended the funeral of a single solder who was killed in Iraq. But Mr. Bush was more than willing to associate himself with the "Mission Accomplished" by the sailors on the USS Abraham Lincoln.

Mr. Bush also prohibits news organizations from photographing flag-draped caskets bearing fallen soldiers home from Iraq. But Mr. Bush unabashedly uses the image of a flag-draped casket from 9-11 in his new television ads.

Mr. Bush does not seem to understand that the President of the United States should view the lives and deaths of America’s heroes as more than mere political theater.

Long-Term Joblessness

Under President Bush, long-term joblessness reached its worst level in more than 20 years. In 2003, 22.1% of all unemployed Americans were out of work for six months or more. That's more than one-in-five looking for a job for at least half-a-year.

But there has been no relief from Washington. Mr. Bush's tax cuts for the rich have resulted in a "jobless recovery," not employment for American workers. In addition, in December, the Republican controlled Congress let the federal extension of state unemployment benefits expire. Since then, 760,000 would-be-workers have been denied their benefits.

This "jobless recovery" may satisfy Mr. Bush, Congress and Wall Street, but on Main Street, families struggling with long term joblessness are continuing to suffer.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Bush 9-11 Ad Hypocrisy

I am not surprised that Mr. Bush's television ads attempt to trade on the heroism of those fire fighters in the September 11 attacks. Fire fighters are some of our nation's greatest heroes. But Mr. Bush's use of such 9-11 images is very hypocritical.

Initially, Mr. Bush opposed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, but now he uses its first anniversary as cause to promote his campaign. For the last two years, Mr. Bush has proposed budgets with no funding for FIRE Act grants that would help fire departments fund equipment needs, and yet he still plays on the image of America's bravest. In light of his actions, Mr. Bush's advertisements are shameful.

Mr. Bush is using the biggest disaster in our country's history to win sympathy for his campaign. Since the attacks, the Bush campaign has used images of Mr. Bush putting his arm around a retired FDNY fire fighter on the pile of rubble at ground zero. But for two and a half years he has shortchanged fire fighters and the safety of our homeland by not providing first responders with the resources they need to do the job that America requires.

Mr. Bush's actions have resulted in fire stations closing in communities around the country. Two-thirds of America's fire departments remain under-staffed because Mr. Bush fails to enforce a new law, passed with bipartisan support in Congress, that would put more fire fighters in our neighborhoods. Mr. Bush's budget proposes to cut Homeland Security Department funding for first responders by $700 million for next year and to cut funding for the FIRE Act by $250 million. In addition, state and local homeland security programs were slashed by another $200 million.

The citizens of this country need to know that Mr. Bush's ads do not reflect his poor record on protecting our communities' safety and on providing resources for the Americans who will be the first to respond in an emergency.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Alan Greenspan: Reverse Robin Hood

In 1983, as chairman of a bipartisan Social Security commission, Alan Greenspan said the only way to make Social Security solvent through the baby boom is to make those workers pay for their benefits in advance. Since then, American workers have been paying far more in Social Security taxes than has been paid to beneficiaries -- $1.8 trillion more than has been paid out. This year, Americans will pay about 50% more in Social Security taxes than the government will pay out in benefits. But instead of being held in trust or used to pay down deficits, the Social Security surplus is being used to finance other aspects of government.

Now, Mr. Greenspan is suggesting Social Security benefits be cut while keeping the Social Security payroll tax at current levels, so that the Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy can be made permanent. Mr. Greenspan's suggestion will change our Social Security program from a social program for elderly Americans into an income redistribution program that transform the Social Security taxes paid by the working classes into tax cuts for those making over $300,000 a year.

We should repeal the Bush tax cuts for the rich before cutting the Social Security safety net from beneath our nation's elderly.