The Watch

The Watch is concerned about the increasing pressure towards feudalism in the United States from corporations, social regressives, warmongers, and the media. We also are concerned with future history concerning our current times, as non-truths which are “widely reported” become the basis for completely false narratives.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Our leaders' "lack of imagination"

Imagination Watch

I would like to point you toward this important David Corn article on the bad news that the 9/11 commission report holds for Bush. In it, David Corn details the commission's findings on the connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda, the "Prague meeting" between Iraqis and Atta, the non-reaction to the threat levels in the summer of 2001, and the importance of terrorism to the Bush administration before the attacks. However, this comment to the article, specifically responding to chairman Kean's rather lame assertion that the attacks succeeded because our leaders possessed a "lack of imagination", caught my eye. It is a great rant, and I repost it here in it's entirety:

An abundance of imagination.

I have just this minute seen Governor Kean, the chair of the Congressional Investigative Committee on the 9/11 tragedies, tell a television interviewer that what hobbled our competence, understandings and the entire airforce and space command’s capability to scramble jets through routine procedure, upon learning (almost immediately after the fact,) that 4 aircraft had been hijacked on the Eastern Seabord…was “a lack of imagination.”

This could mean a government job for me, as I imagine things all the time. Just like you. It’s called creative intelligence and it is not that rare among military and security professionals.

I imagine FBI Agent John O’ Neill, who quit the agency in frustration and disgust, after reporting his alarming but cohesive findings with an exuberant degree of tenacity, died a horrifying but heroic death on 9/11, watching the enemy explode on in, as expected.

I imagine, in his heroic, and desperately responsible mission as Head of Security at the WTC, thoughts of the security officers and agents he tried to bring to reality came into his mind and the words “son of a bitches” escaped his lips.

I imagine Agent Coleen Rowley suffered an equivalent blast of rage, as she too, early on, was reporting the pressing realities her footwork had brought her to. She did all the job you could ever hope for from an excellent field officer. It took imagination…and dedication and skill. I imagine Karen Kwiatkowski and many others knew the score, and were hobbled and hushed.

I imagine, since Kean himself had the gall to mention novelist Tom Clancy in a jocular context, (Clancy had IMAGINED that planes could be used as missiles and flown into buildings, and uh, wrote a hugely distributed bestseller describing it). I imagine that it is not only disingenuous but an outright deception to suggest that “nothing” could have been done.

Gosh, it was Unimaginable to even NSA Condaleeza Rice who received the memo titled “Bin Laden Plans To Attack U.S.” Gosh, she didn’t even have to imagine it; everyone else in the security, political and literature world already had imagined it. Going back YEARS. And HANDED it right to her. Imagine that. She says she couldn't. Is she that stuipid, really? I imagine not.

I imagine that the Secret Service, with the understandings that it’s agents are expected to catch a bullet themselves, rather than let anything harm the President, would have immediately swarmed Mr. Bush and hustled him out that classroom photo-op…as is absolutely essential, and routine…and in a FLASH, my friends...UNLESS it was understood that the President was not really in danger, despite the attack in progress on the WTC, and a plane heading for the Washington area.

Wow, now I’m imaging all sorts of things.

I'm imagining thousands of American service families in indescribable pain and grief, and I imagine this will continue in the name of stolen oil, rather than whatever spin they imagine you will buy.

I imagine that this 9/11 committee is really a cover-up in itself. A smarmy little tacit agreement to spread the blame around evenly, appear neutral and bi-partisan, diminish the entire project with a blithe, and forgive me, rather stupid comments about “lack of imagination.” All the while subtly pushing their quasi-advocacy of the Bush cabal.

I would like to make Secretary of Imagination a Cabinet level post, and am myself, available for that position, because I am damn sure those monkeys get a good health plan.
And I can imagine all sorts of stuff all day long. I’ll relocate to D.C. if necessary, hey, anything to serve. And the need is there. Kean told us.

Bush 41 had a problem with “the vision thing.” See, no damn imagination in that family.

I imagine that it is heartbreakingly sad for a lot of people, who will innocently look toward this panel with great hope, to swallow this verbose and profane prattle about “systemic” problems, that of course, absolves EVERYONE of all responsibity.

I imagine that these Congressional Committees are, intrinsically and inherently and certainly by design, efficient fail-safe cover-up distractions, while the violence and terror alerts they themselves issue, are also tools and playthings for war profiteers that, basically, employ them. That gets easier and easier to imagine.

I imagine a new President should take the office ALREADY up to speed on security issues. The previous President had briefed the present one, along with candidate Gore, on top secret security issues daily. We all continue to learn, one hopes, but still, the Presidency and the ability for one to function as Commander in Chief, with an up and running staff, would NOT be an ‘on the job training,’ kind of position, and if it were…Bush should have cooled it on the constant vacations; I imagine that most people assume if they get a job, they had better work it.

I imagine things could have worked out differently if an idiot was at least smart enough to not be arrogant. I am certain that the Gary Hart report on Homeland Security, that Clinton ordered, and that Bush has used as his outline and index, would have alarmed anyone with even a trace of imagination, as it was delivered and released months before the 9/11 attack.

This was no “lack of imagination”. Bush imagines he is Christ’s messenger, even as he kills and kills and smirks and kills. He imagines American idiots will fall for the more genial softer image he is playing for the hidden and protected campaign.

Someone imagined the ‘war president’ could maybe turn into ‘the peace president’ because these wars are a catastrophe of mismanagement and greed. That showed imagination. The scriptwriters for the appointed President certainly have imagination. Where is the “lack of imagination?”

There is a plethora of imagination…and information. Every country on the globe was flooding our Intelligence officals with “chatter” simultaneously. Some one, I imagine, was holding his hands over his ears and singing “I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you.”

Bush can imagine a kooky star wars space missile program yet all our present satellites and reporting air control, NORAD, and other Air Force specialists, down from your sneakers and up to outer space could not protect The Atlantic coastline? I would rather not imagine who, or with what mechanism, NORAD was totally impotent and crippled. I imagine they get a huge budget to do what they did not do when it counted most.

Isn’t that right where our financial and historical monuments are projected and protected?
D.C. Aren’t there the most sophisticated fighter jets in the history of mankind all stationed strategically to protect us from attack? And I imagine we have many arsenals, and bases within minutes, if not seconds, convenient to the NW section of D.C.

I imagine that the Iran-Contra committee was a coverup in itself…throwing a little Ollie North dramatic posturing at you to get you off the scent of the coup perpetrated by Reagan/Bush when they illegally sold arms to Iran under the condition that they would keep the hostages until the morning of his inaugeration. Carter was vilified. The “scenario” played itself out as imagined.

I imagine the Watergate/Nixon hearings were really to cover up the inconvenient fact that Howard Hunt, who perpetrated the break-in, was also clearly photographed as one of the “tramps” on the grassy knoll, during the JFK hit. I imagine it was better to retire Dick than have to deal with that.

I imagine that something is rotten in Washington, not Denmark.
I imagine more killing and deaths even as we speak and read our truths to each other.
I imagine we are facing the most vicious challenge to our freedoms in history ever.
I imagine “people say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”
I imagine we will have to straighten this out in no uncertain terms, right now, this year, even in the midst of a hate and disinformation campaign funded by ultra mega millions.
I imagine we are in more trouble than any of us wants to really imagine.

Billy Random
Secretary of Imagination

GOP Countersmears Watch

Knowing that the 9/11 Commission would have to come to unfavorable conclusions about the administrations handling of terrorism before 9/11, the GOP has carefully laid in three strategic countersmears to help its members hold on through the painful cognitive dissonance of believing that Bush was anointed by God, but that he's done a terrible job. The three smears are against Jamie Gorelick, Sandy Berger, and Joe Wilson. This very intelligent post on the blog "Seeing the Forest" details the three smears and their psychological purpose.

Wilson Watch

Then again, Joe Wilson has not been careful about what he has said. He keeps saying that Bush lied in the 2003 State of the Union when he said, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Wilson, on his trip, found out that Iraq did not buy uranium from Niger, and that in fact there is no way Iraq could have done that. That is fine and good, and Wilson has rightly been putting that up as a problem for this administration. However, Wilson hasn't caught Bush in a lie, but he has repeated said he has. If you look at the phrasing that Bush used, there is no way that anyone could disprove it. It is a vague, scary statement, the kind that Bush is so apt to use to stampede the people into doing whatever he wants, like invading another country with only the flimsiest of pretexts. Bob Somerby, that stickler for detail and honesty, outlines some of Wilson's problems in a couple of posts. It is a shame that Wilson, who I think has been acting in the best interests of the country, has not been more careful with his claims, as his mis-statements give the GOP more smoke with which to screen.

Daily Show Watch

Finally, here is the hilarious take of the Daily Show on the idea of postponed elections due to terrorism. Go to The Daily Show site and click on the "Delayed Elections?" video.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Let's decrease the fascism

Creeping Fascism Watch

I came across a list of the hallmarks of fascism the other day, and it sounded awfully familiar. Now, I am not going to compare Bush to Hitler or any of the other kinds of hyperbole that seems to get people into trouble these days. But considering these 10 components, we are clearly, as a nation, or at least as a government, moving towards fascism, rather than away from it.

Here is the list:

  • the alliance between big government and big business
  • the investment of power in the executive, with weak to nonexistent checks on that power
  • the hypernationalism and its identification with the ruling party, so that opponents of the ruling party are branded as traitors
  • the development of propaganda wings
  • the manipulation of the press into supporting the ruling party line
  • the belief that God is on the side of the ruling party, and the party's religion is the only true one
  • the obsession with secrecy
  • the use of mobs to advance the ruling party's aims
  • the use of war and war propaganda to frighten the people into supporting the ruling party
  • the scapegoating of ethnic and sexual minorities

These trends are definitely increasing (see "OutFoxed" for example, on the rise of propaganda, and remember the "mobs" of Republican congressional staffers during the 2000 recount in Florida). The excellent David Neiwert keeps a close watch on creeping American fascism at the website Orcinus. Here is an excerpt from an entry entitled "proto-fascist thuggery" which is a bit chiling, discussing threats of violence to peace activists, an art dealer, and movie theaters:

Only a few days before the Haight incident, there was a similar problem with threats against an antiwar group in rural Nevada County, California.

A group of concerned parents planned to hold a meeting at the county schools office to talk about the presence of military recruiters in their schools. But when a cadre of local conservatives began calling in threats, the district simply cancelled the meeting, saying it feared "violence between Weiss' group and conservative activists."

Funny that, considering that conservatives were the folks making the threats.

Alternate Universe Watch

Here's one that will blow your mind. Did you hear that George Bush actually opposed a tax cut? Amazing. The reason? The bill was too popular. Everybody thought it was a good idea, apparently, and not enough Democrats would have opposed it.

[The Bush White House was] fearful of a bill that could draw Democratic votes and dilute a Republican campaign theme, Republican negotiators said.

Twilight Zone stuff.

The Way Lies Spread Watch

David Bossie is one of the most dishonest, and dangerous, men in the country today. He has a habit of just making up wild claims about Democrats, and newspaper reporters, though he has made fools of nearly everyone of them by getting them to print his fabrications, continue to pander to him. He was one of the prime movers behind the Whitewater non-scandals. However, Bossie now has a new book, full of lies no doubt, about John Kerry, and reporters, probably because there were no consequences to them for having printed lie after lie about the Clintons, are rushing to give this man airtime and print. Digby examines his role in our current political climate and also points to this article by Eric Boehlert in Salon (be sure to click through the daypass ad to get the full article) entitled "You can't teach an old attack dog new tricks".

Bossie's style during the investigation was to lob scattershot allegations toward an appreciative press corps that rarely seemed upset when the charges he gave them to amplify -- that Whitewater was a criminal enterprise, for instance -- failed to pan out as factual. As Democratic strategist James Carville once put it, "He made collective fools out of about 80 percent of the national press corps." But none of this appears to have marred Bossie's reputation with reporters, even when then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- no stranger to hardball partisan politics -- reportedly ordered Bossie fired from his congressional staff position in May 1998. Bossie had overseen the bungled release of supposedly incriminating recordings of Whitewater figure Webster Hubbell's jailhouse phone conversations about Hillary Rodham Clinton -- recordings that had been edited, deleting obvious exculpatory remarks.

More good background on Bossie is provided by Joe Conason:

If the names of Brown and Bossie sound more familiar, they attained notoriety together during the Clinton era as indefatigable promoters of the bogus "Whitewater" scandal. They served as publicity agents for David Hale, the crooked and discredited former Little Rock municipal judge whose allegations against the Clintons forced the appointment of an independent counsel. Among mainstream journalists panting for a career-making Watergate-style scandal, Brown and Bossie found many a gullible mark. For nearly a decade they churned out junk night and day. For a while, Bossie went on the payroll of the Senate Whitewater Committee; later he worked for Rep. Dan Burton's House Committee on Government Operations investigating Clinton and Al Gore -- until he was caught distributing doctored tapes to the media.

If you are interested in how lies and character assassination become part of our national discourse, read these articles.

Slogans Watch

Here is a site with a lot of different subversive gear: magnets, bumperstickers, etc. Some of them are good for a laugh, but there is a definite secular/atheistic slant to most of them. Example: "I gave myself to Jesus, and now he never calls." But there are some good political ones too, like "If You Don't Vote, People Like Bush Get Elected". Enjoy.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Could it be? A savvy Democrat?

Good News for a Change Watch

Your typically Democratic move is to naively trust the system and then watch as the Republicans rob you blind. And that was my fear for this year's election as well. Here's some good news: Kerry is assembling a team of legal experts and lawyers to stop the shenanigans and funny business with voter registration and access to polls throughout the country. Now that is smart, and finally some recognition that the Democrats are beginning to understand what they are up against.

This time, Kerry aides say, they are recruiting not only specialists in election law who work in small law firms or alone, but also litigators at large firms in every state who have the resources and office space to support a long-term, large-scale and pro bono recount operation.

"We don't want a situation where we wake up the next day and are scrambling to think of what our legal team looks like," Mr. Elias said.

The Kerry campaign has already enlisted lead lawyers in all 50 states, and those lawyers are recruiting lawyers at the county and the precinct level.

"It's our intention to have lawyers in one fashion or another covering all of Iowa's 99 counties," said Brent Appel, the Kerry lawyer in Des Moines.

Kerry aides say the campaign has set up a national steering committee with task forces tackling different issues: one on ballot machines, another on voter education, and a third on absentee, early, and military voting, to name a few..

The Rest of the World Watch

It's always interesting to find out what the rest of the world is talking about. For some reason, it is often a story which has received complete media silence in this country. Here are some links and commentary to a story which is being talked about in the rest of the world, the abuse (some of it sexual) of children at Abu Ghraib. At least one American reporter, Seymour Hersh, has seen and heard this evidence, but everyone else is being mum about it. Horrible.

Profiteers Watch

Here's an article from last week about the people who both advocated for war and are also making a fast buck on it (this group would include the president and vice president), entitled "Advocates of war now profit from Iraq's reconstruction". I've had (in my opinion, overly naive) colleagues tell me they just don't believe Bush started this war from a profit motive. And yet, he and his buddies profit mightily from this little military foray. An excerpt:

Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey is a prominent example of the phenomenon, mixing his business interests with what he contends are the country's strategic interests. He left the CIA in 1995, but he remains a senior government advisor on intelligence and national security issues, including Iraq. Meanwhile, he works for two private companies that do business in Iraq and is a partner in a company that invests in firms that provide security and anti-terrorism services.

Woolsey said in an interview that he was not directly involved with the companies' Iraq-related ventures. But as a vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm, he was a featured speaker in May 2003 at a conference co-sponsored by the company at which about 80 corporate executives and others paid up to $1,100 to hear about the economic outlook and business opportunities in Iraq.

Free Speech Zone Watch

Here's a chilling article about a couple of people who were attending a public event, not even a Bush campaign event, who had on anti-Bush T-shirts. Instead of being allowed to go about their business, they were arrested, handcuffed, and led away, and the woman lost her job at a federal agency. Their crime? They weren't in the "free speech zone", or the more appropriately titled "anti-Bush speech zone". But they had tickets to the event like everybody else. This has been going on for some time, and the end of the article has a number of places where the worst offenses have been documented by the ACLU. But really, is this the kind of country we want? Will Bush supporters be silent if the Kerry administration carts anti-Kerry T-shirt-wearing people off to jail from public events? (Riiiight). It's yet another example of that famous phenomenon where It's OK If You're A Republican (IOKIYAR). The happy postscript to this story is that the couple's arrest was thrown out when they went to court. Amazing. I guess all of the judiciary is not bought off yet.

Outrage Fatigue Watch

This Onion article ("Nation's liberals suffering from outrage fatigue") struck a chord.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Time to get serious about Bin Laden

More Tinfoil Hats Watch

All the conspiracy theories about this administration have turned out to be true, or worse then originally imagined. So let's address some of the more far out theories. People who have felt under the yoke of this administration have long joked that Bush would pull an "October surprise", like when Bush I traitorously bargained with the Iranian government not to release the hostages to President Carter in 1980. What would Bush II's October surprise be? Some have maintained that they would pull Osama Bin Laden out of a hat, just in time for the election. Others, that there would be a terrorist attack (pretty much allowed to happen by them), and that they would either call for the election to be "delayed" or just ride a wave of jingoism to the polls. Ha ha, we laughed nervously to ourselves, it would be just like these guys to try something like that.

Turns out that both possibilities are figuring big in the Bushies plans as well. Having spent a huge chunk of their campaign war chest on poorly executed smears on Kerry, which haven't worked, they are moving on to plan B, theft of the election. We've already looked at the Florida voter rolls, being cooked even as we speak in exactly the same way as they were in 2000. And we've also seen the story on the memo sent by DeForest Soaries, asking "gee, what WOULD happen if the terra'ists attacked before the election?" Now it seems that Tom Ridge is asking that question, too, seemingly giving Soaries, a Baptist minister (with all of the fair-mindedness that implies), the power to decide whether elections should go forward if the Bushies should somehow mysteriously slip up and allow Al Qaeda to attack again. Gee, I'm sure they'd work real hard to stop it from happening. The story is can be found here and here. Buzzflash also has an editorial.

Now, if that isn't frightening enough, here is an article from the New Republic, detailing requests from our government to Pakistan to finally get serious about capturing Bin Laden so he can be handed over to the US, preferably during the Democratic National Convention. Now, it may come as something of a surprise to the families of the 3000 murdered people on Sept. 11th that the US government has NOT been pushing the Pakistanis to do all that they could to capture Bin Laden before this, but then there was that Iraq war to wage. Who had the time?

So, if you are feeling a little paranoid about the state of democracy in the US, don't worry. The truth is even worse.

Campaign Satire Watch

Here is a fun group, Billionaires for Bush, that dresses in tuxes and furs and takes limos to protest events, to protest "for" Bush. Good for a laugh, they are doing great work.

Scapegoat Watch

Finally, many of you may have noticed that the media has rushed to scapegoat the CIA for the intelligence failures in the hurry to the Iraq war. So says the 9/11 commission, apparently, and so would the Bush administration desperately have you believe. But just because Tenet is out the door is no reason to take this accusation seriously.

Much has been made of Tenet's remark to Bush, reported in Woodward's last book, that the intelligence against Iraq was a "slam dunk". But that was in December of 2002. Cheney had been making outrageous claims about Iraq for at least six months at that point, and Bush had been talking up their nuclear capabilities since that fall. So even if Woodward's story is true, Bush and Cheney had been lying in public for months before that, with no idea of what the actual state of intelligence was. (And we are supposed to pretend that they actually would have cared, in any case.) Bob Somerby points this out.

Somerby also points out that the NIE, the national intelligence estimate which comes from the CIA and is supposed to guide Congress's decisions on matters such as this, was not even prepared until October of 2002 - the administration had not even bothered to ask for one. And then we find that Condi Rice didn't even bother to read the NIE (which, by the way, shot big holes in the administration's warmongering tall tales - read more about THAT scandal at How the 9/11 commission can blame the CIA on any of the bad decision making is beyond me.

Here is Digby on this point (read this, it's excellent):

George Tenet is not responsible for the fact that the administration's claims that Saddam's WMD and terrorist ties were bogus --- the president, vice president and secretary of defense are. George Tenet is personally responsible to the extent that he was a good little soldier instead of resigning as he should have when he realized that they were just making shit up. That particular form of integrity seems to be as out of fashion as firing people for incompetence.

People note that according to Bob Woodward, Tenet responded to the "skeptical" president that the WMD was a "slam dunk," which is taken as some sort of proof that Bush was hoodwinked against his own better instincts. This is nonsense. As Bob Sommerby has pointed out, this conversation took place in December of 2002, three months after Bush had begun riding his white charger all over the country proclaiming that we had to "disarm Saddam Hussein." He rode that horse to a narrow midterm victory for the GOP, flanked by flags and teary eyed country troubadours to great effect. If he wasn't sure of the evidence, he certainly didn't show any sign of it when he was calling the Democrats a bunch of cowards who didn't care about national security and warning them that they would be punished by the voters if they didn't vote for war.

The situation is summed up nicely in this cartoon by Tom Tomorrow.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Boy wonder

Ambulance Chaser Watch

It looks like it will be Kerry and Edwards who will defeat Bush, and I think Kerry has made a good choice from those on his short list. Edwards is a good stump speaker, has charisma (he looks about 15 years younger than he is), and is also sharp. He is also a wealthy trial lawyer. In fact, you will probably hear about the fact that he is a WTL from every news outlet and talking head until your ears bleed. Because America supposedly hates trial lawyers.

The following are excerpts from a lengthy, but very well worth the time article ("John Edwards, esq.") on Edwards in specific and trial lawyers and tort reform in general. It will give you a feeling for how Edwards made his name, and also the kind of "reforms" that the corporations have in store for us:

The defining case in Edwards' legal career wrapped up that same year. In 1993, a five-year-old girl named Valerie Lakey had been playing in a Wake County, N.C., wading pool when she became caught in an uncovered drain so forcefully that the suction pulled out most of her intestines. She survived but for the rest of her life will need to be hooked up to feeding tubes for 12 hours each night. Edwards filed suit on the Lakeys' behalf against Sta-Rite Industries, the Wisconsin corporation that manufactured the drain. Attorneys describe his handling of the case as a virtuoso example of a trial layer bringing a negligent corporation to heel. Sta-Rite offered the Lakeys $100,000 to settle the case. Edwards passed. Before trial, he discovered that 12 other children had suffered similar injuries from Sta-Rite drains. The company raised its offer to $1.25 million. Two weeks into the trial, they upped the figure to $8.5 million. Edwards declined the offer and asked for their insurance policy limit of $22.5 million. The day before the trial resumed from Christmas break, Sta-Rite countered with $17.5 million. Again, Edwards said no. On January 10, 1997, lawyers from across the state packed the courtroom to hear Edwards' closing argument, "the most impressive legal performance I have ever seen," recalls Dayton. Three days later, the jury found Sta-Rite guilty and liable for $25 million in economic damages (by state law, punitive damages could have tripled that amount). The company immediately settled for $25 million, the largest verdict in state history. For their part, Edwards and Kirby earned the Association of Trial Lawyers of America's national award for public service.
Years of conservative agitation about trial lawyers have led the public to believe that the courts are clogged with "frivolous lawsuits." But that belief is unlikely to withstand a national debate, because the truth is fundamentally different from what tort reformers pretend. There has indeed been a rise in frivolous claims. But they haven't been brought by personal injury lawyers; those claims have actually decreased over the last decade. The single factor most clogging the judicial system is frivolous litigation brought by corporations against corporations, which don't involve independent trial lawyers at all. For example, John Deere went after a competitor for using the same shade of green that Deere paints its tractors. Gillette sued Norelco, claiming its ads for a new electric razor were "false and deceptive" because they depicted non-electric razors as "ferocious creatures." Nabisco sued Keebler over the latter's claim that its chocolate-chip cookies contained 25 percent more chips than Nabisco's. Each of these cases is more representative of the true problem of frivolous litigation. But because they involve a Republican constituency---business---rather than a Democrat constituency like trial lawyers, tort reform advocates don't mention them.

To persuade the public that frivolous personal injury suits have brought on a crisis, advocates of change religiously invoke cases like the elderly woman who spilled coffee on herself and won a $2.9 million jury verdict against McDonald's. Such stories tap into a genuine sense of frustration many Americans have with the modern tendency to blame others for problems of their own making. But on closer examination---the kind likely to happen if the GOP declares open war on trial lawyers---such anecdotes will be exposed as the urban myths most of them are. As Roger Williams University torts professor Carl Bogus explains in his book, Why Lawsuits Are Good for America, the woman who spilled her McDonald's coffee had to undergo a skin graft, spend weeks in the hospital, and offered to settle for $10,000 (McDonald's refused). She only sued as a last resort---the epitome of conscientious use of the legal system. Her original award of $2.9 million was later reduced by a judge, as most such judgements are, to $480,000, and she wound up settling for even less. To prevent other suits, McDonald's, which had previously ignored more than 700 similar complaints, stopped serving near-boiling coffee, as did its competitors.

It is an excellent article. So the next time you hear slurs about Edwards being a trial lawyer, remember that the person slurring him apparently is in favor of manufacturers disemboweling children with their products, or at least getting away with it.

Edwards Watch

An excellent analysis on Edwards and his stump speech by Digby, who published this a year ago:

But, Edwards is the natural of the bunch. He's the one who has the talent to really communicate with average Americans and get them to recognize that the Republican Party does not have their best interest at heart. Like Clinton, he is very, very good at explaining complicated issues in understandable terms without being condescending. 20 years as a litigator will do that, and from all reports he was an extremely effective advocate before a jury.

Media Cabal Watch

Here's a really funny/scary moment in media revelation, captured by Elton Beard at BusyBusyBusy. In a discussion between the two war hawks Joe Lieberman and Andrea Mitchell, Mrs. Alan Greenspan remarked on the American people going sour on the Iraq war with this remark: "... Have we lost the American people?" Trying to figure out who "we" is in that remark is both interesting and scary.

Progressive Resource Watch

A couple of good resources for you are the new Center for American Progress and Media Matters. CAP is a progressive thinktank, on the order of the Hertiage Foundation, but for the good guys. Media Matters is a watch dog group funded by George Soros to keep an eye on the conservative media. They are led by David Brock. You will find excellent information at both sites.

Conservative Idiots Watch

Check out this week's Top Ten CI list. An excerpt:

So, while Michael Moore detractors have been taking to the airwaves to denounce Fahrenheit 9/11 as a piece of meaningless propaganda, the Carlyle Group - which is sharply focused on in the movie due to its ties to Saudi Arabia and the Bush family - has purchased Loews Cineplex Entertainment. What a coincidence! And I mean that most sincerely - it would be unrealistic to surmise that the Carlyle Group bought Loews Cineplex in an effort to suppress Moore's movie. But the timing is fascinating. Carlyle has traditionally focused on telecom, arms, and oil. Saudis - and the bin Laden family in particular - have invested heavily in the company. Now that the spotlight is shining on the connection between the Bush family and the bin Ladens, Carlyle's move into the American media and entertainment industry ought to raise a few eyebrows.

That, in and of itself, is frightening to me. What does Carlyle plan? No more populist movies? Ever? Good luck with that, conservatives.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Terror alerts? Postpone the election!

Election Watch

Well, a member of Bush's Federal Election Commission has come right out and said what tin-foil hat conspiracy theorists have been saying all along: that we need a "contingency plan" in order to postpone the presidential elections in case there is a terrorist attack. Yeah, that's what we need. I try to downplay conspiracy theories whenever possible: simple human greed and incompetence usually explains 98% of everything that goes on. But this guy has decided we'd better start talking about how terrorist attacks could effect the election. Like we've said before, Osama now is Bush's last best hope to pull out a win. Surely the Bushies will work very hard to protect the country from an attack, even if they could use that attack as an excuse to mess with an election they will richly deserve to lose? Surely.

The gaming of Florida's election will continue unabated, as there has been no punishment for the perpetrators of last cycles felonies. In fact, most of them have been richly rewarded. And so it is no surprise that a lawsuit asking for paper printouts for blackbox voting machines in FL has been struck down in their judiciary.

And this article, "All the President's Votes?", published in the UK this fall, summarizes the very suspicious outcomes swirling around electronic voting.

Now, weird things like this do occasionally occur in elections, and the figures, on their own, are not proof of anything except statistical anomalies worthy of further study. But in Georgia there was an extra reason to be suspicious. Last November, the state became the first in the country to conduct an election entirely with touchscreen voting machines, after lavishing $54m (£33m) on a new system that promised to deliver the securest, most up-to-date, most voter-friendly election in the history of the republic. The machines, however, turned out to be anything but reliable. With academic studies showing the Georgia touchscreens to be poorly programmed, full of security holes and prone to tampering, and with thousands of similar machines from different companies being introduced at high speed across the country, computer voting may, in fact, be US democracy's own 21st-century nightmare.

Bush Watch

Here are several lists of Bush facts to keep handy. Some examples:

  • #1 Has assembled the wealthiest Cabinet in U.S. history.
  • $10.9 million Average wealth of the members of Bush's original 16-person Cabinet.
  • 75 Percentage of Americans unaffected by Bush's 2003 cuts in the capital-gains and dividend taxes.
  • $42,000 Average savings members of Bush's Cabinet are expected to receive this year as a result of cuts in capital-gains and dividends taxes.
  • $42,228 Median household income in the U.S. in 2001.
  • $116,000 Amount Vice President Dick Cheney is expected to save each year in taxes.
  • 9 Number of members of Bush's Defense Policy Board who also sit on the corporate board of, or advise, at least one defense contractor.

The Onion Watch

Once again, the Onion ironically proves to be one of the best sources of information. Witness this article, entitled "I should not be allowed to say the following things about America":

This also is not the time to ask whether diplomacy was ever given a chance. Or why, for the last 10 years, Iraq has been our sworn archenemy, when during the 15 years preceding it we traded freely in armaments and military aircraft with the evil and despotic Saddam Hussein. This is the kind of question that, while utterly valid, should not be posed right now.

And I certainly will not point out our rapid loss of interest in the establishment of democracy in Afghanistan once our fighting in that country was over. We sure got out of that place in a hurry once it became clear that the problems were too complex to solve with cruise missiles.

That sort of remark will simply have to wait until our boys are safely back home.