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Miscellaneous Thoughts (a.k.a. The Ranting Corner)
Friday, 30 July 2004
Unhappy? We Don't Really Care.
Quote: "Why don't they get new jobs if they're unhappy ? or go on Prozac?" Bush campaign worker Susan Sheybani's musings on employee options in the weak U.S. job market.

Posted by freak2/katertot0208 at 11:54 AM EDT
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Thursday, 29 July 2004
Become a Citizen and Republican on the Same Day!
From July 23rd's Miami Herald:

"The citizenship ceremony in Jacksonville seemed to go off as usual, with a crowd of nearly 200 people going home as new Americans.

Just before the new citizens left the June 29 event, an immigration official directing the swearing-in urged the them to stop by a voter registration table -- a not uncommon sight at naturalization ceremonies.

But this table was unusual: Those handing out forms were Republican volunteers -- and the party affiliation box had been checked off ahead of time to make all of the new voters members of the GOP."

~~

What will the Pubs think of next? Is it not enough that they stole the LAST election?

Posted by freak2/katertot0208 at 12:48 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 28 July 2004
Two Americas
Just liberal nonsense? The numbers don't lie.

From American Progress:

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE SHOWS THE TWO AMERICAS: Slate's Daniel Gross puts some numbers behind Edwards' Two Americas theme. In the past, different income groups have generally trended the same direction in terms of consumer confidence. And if the economy were undergoing a broad-based expansion, if a rising tide were lifting all boats equally, you might expect that trend to continue. But under President Bush, that has changed. Today, the over-$50,000 and under-$50,000 groups are moving in opposite directions: between December 2003 and June 2004, confidence in the over-$50,000 set rose from 99.3 to 104.1. In the under-$50,000 set, it fell from 87.4 to 85.5." As Gross notes, "the growing pessimism of the poor and the growing optimism of the rich?suggest the economy's improvement isn't helping everyone."


Posted by freak2/katertot0208 at 12:28 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 27 July 2004
Seniors Should Die
From American Progress:

"Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) ? a longtime advocate for a meaningful prescription drug benefit ? is expected to address Medicare and health care issues in his speech to the Democratic National Convention tonight. His address is well timed: yesterday, the Bush administration released 1342 pages of proposed regulations for the final prescription drug benefit which takes effect in 2006.

Starting in 2006, the new law will enable large corporations to collect massive government subsidies even if they significantly rollback their retiree prescription drug benefit. The new regulations make corporations eligible for government subsidies of up to $940 per retiree as long as they provide drug coverage that mimics the Medicare drug law. The proposed rules give companies four different ways for companies to demonstrate they are doing so. But most companies already provide drug coverage which is superior to the new Medicare benefit. Thus, companies could collect the subsidy even as they roll back coverage ? at a total cost to taxpayers of $89 billion over ten years.

While the administration found plenty of cash for corporations, many seniors with high drug costs will be left in the lurch. After paying an average of $420 in premiums and a $250 deductible seniors are still responsible for paying up to 25% of their drug costs up to $2,250 a year. But seniors with drug costs in excess of $2,250 a year, even though they will continue to pay premiums and have satisfied their deductible will receive no assistance whatsoever for their next $2850 in prescription drug costs. This gap, known as "the donut," has many seniors justifiably concerned about their ability to pay their drug bills in the event of a serious illness. But Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson dismissed their concerns saying "Only a pessimist would look at a doughnut and complain about a hole."

So basically, they?re planning to bleed the senior citizens of this county dry. I can only follow this to its logical conclusion: you bankrupt seniors so that they can?t afford their prescription drugs, they stop taking the prescription drugs because they can?t afford them, they start dying because they?re not taking their prescription drugs and they end up saving the government a ton of money on nursing homes and old-person paraphernalia.

Of course there will be some who will be able to take advantage of Medicaid but it?ll only be a matter of time before the drain on resources becomes unbearable and the system crashes allowing for the cycle to perpetuate itself.

It?s like a reverse abortion. Or a more drawn-out euthanasia every human being has the right to life. Unless you?re old. Then you need to die and die fast.



Posted by freak2/katertot0208 at 12:34 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 27 July 2004 12:44 PM EDT
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Monday, 26 July 2004
Holly Hunter Makes Me Sad
I am not at all shocked or surprised that Brittany ?My Eyes Are Half My Body Weight? Murphy is in another crap-fest of a movie, but Holly Hunter? I feel a little dirty knowing that you?re co-starring. I mean, you?re an Actress with an upper case ?A?.

::sigh::

While I?m on the topic of movies, can I just ask the producers of The Bourne Supremacy what the hell? Doug Liman was great! Why did you change directors? It got mediocre reviews at best and my desire to see it has gone way down the tubes.

Spiderman 2 was predictably awesome. Go see it immediately.

And, even thought I know Barce has probably already mentioned it, I have to add this little gem from American Progress:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and other White House allies, who were in full attack mode last week against Sandy Berger, were dead silent this weekend as senior law enforcement officials acknowledged they were conducting a criminal investigation into possible intelligence leaks by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). The information is related to a leak of intercepted al Qaeda communications just prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Shelby was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time, and the matter has been referred to the Senate Ethics Committee.

Posted by freak2/katertot0208 at 8:19 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 20 July 2004
Jumping the Shark
Could Six Feet Under have jumped the shark HARDER? I mean, it was painful to watch the last episode. I swear to God, if David becomes a crackhead I'm done. Not even Maya can keep me coming back.

By the way, see below a guest entry by my lovely husband.

Posted by freak2/katertot0208 at 9:18 PM EDT
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Drained
I am drained. I have been drained at work for some time now, but all things considered, my job isn't that bad. It's fairly pointless, and my primary role is to justify the need for my continued employment by producing reports that assure the people on my case load are being served at the highest levels of quality. However, I have no power to either reward or punish staff who are not providing the best care. It's also important to note that most of these staff people are making under $10 an hr, which anyone in NJ knows is a joke. It's not a liveable income, so most of them work two jobs just to make ends meet. I can't recommend improvements for the group homes/automobiles/clothing etc. for the individuals because there is no money for them. Therefore, I spin my wheels and produce reports telling the powers that be what they want to hear, while keeping my eyes open to ensure that nothing "really important" is being shortchanged.

The upside to this position is that I enjoy my coworkers, and with very few exceptions we all get along well. This makes for a good sense of "we're in this together" and makes the days go by with some grins and a decent feeling that we'll make the best of things while we can, and pull for each other to move on to success elsewhere. Yet today, this came crumbling down, as one of my coworkers angrily erupted during a meeting, with a shot clearly directed at our supervisor. Our supervisor used to be a colleague before being promoted. The truth of the matter is that the anger and frustraton on display really surprised me. It also saddened me, because while our group has shifted over my 2 years with the company, there has never been an implosinon like this from within. I understand where some of the frustration comes from, but not the intensity or amount of it. This just further reenforces my feeling that a change is coming. I know that one of my other coworkers, (the author of the classic blog waiting to die, see links) is actively looking, and hopefully he gets out of it. If and when he splits, my motivation to move on will only grow.


Posted by freak2/katertot0208 at 7:46 PM EDT
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Damn you, Lindsay Lohan!
You almost had me fooled!

Posted by freak2/katertot0208 at 2:39 PM EDT
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Movies!
I?m hitting the pause button on the political rants long enough to squeal with delight over ANOTHER sure-to-please summer flick.

The Bourne Supremacy comes out this weekend and I can?t wait. This has been a very unusual summer for us. Most summers have the requisite popcorn movies that suck hard and stay long (anyone remember Big Momma?s House?) This summer has been so much better (although the paranoid chick deep down inside wants to ask if it?s to distract us from all the shit going on in the world).

Shrek 2, Spiderman 2, The Bourne Supremacy, The Anchorman and Dodgeball to name a few all offer top of the line entertainment.

I did hear one piece of bad news yesterday, though. Apparently Bryan Singer has signed on to direct the Superman movie they?re trying to get going. This means he?ll be unavailable when my precious X-Men are ready to go again. I almost cried when I heard the news. They better find someone good to replace him because if they try to pawn of the guy who did Daredevil or Catwoman I will have the mother of all hissy fits.

As an aside, I was thinking the other day about when The Bourne Identity came out. Do you remember what it was competing against? The horrible Asslick movie. . . what was it called again? The Sum of All Bad Acting? I think we all know who one that little contest.

Posted by freak2/katertot0208 at 2:04 PM EDT
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Monday, 19 July 2004
Lies, Lies, And More Lies....
Well, W is at it again. Luckily, someone is around to call him on it.

Bush's Foreign Fantasy
The president thinks the world is safer than it was three years ago. Which world is he living in?
By Fred Kaplan

Earlier this week, at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, home of the Y-12 nuclear-weapons facility, in Tennessee, President Bush gave one of his best-written speeches. This was his "America is safer" speech, and we will no doubt hear variations on it many times in the next four months. In it, he lists the world's hot spots, one by one (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan), contrasts what each was like three years ago with what it's like now, and concludes each success story with the refrain, "and the American people are safer." After the last item on the checklist, he expands the viewfinder, exclaiming, "and America and the world are safer."

It's a very effective speech (the Oak Ridge scientists greeted each repetition with stormy applause), unless you take a closer look at the examples it cites?in which case questions of comparative safety (are you safer now than you were three years ago?) seem at best ambiguous and in some cases downright depressing.

The "slam dunk" case would seem to be Libya. Three years ago, Muammar Qaddafi was acquiring materials for nuclear weapons. Today, he's surrendered the materials, invited in international inspectors, and stepped into the civilized world. Libya has a particular resonance for Oak Ridge, because it's the national lab where Qaddafi's nuclear materials are now stored.

Without question, any action that keeps Qaddafi away from an A-bomb is an unequivocal plus. But just what did turn him away from such ambitions? And how close was he to building a weapon, anyway?

In the past, Bush has suggested that Qaddafi changed course because he saw what happened to Saddam and wondered if his own crown might be next. Bush implied as much at Oak Ridge: "[T]he Libyan government saw the seriousness of the civilized world and correctly judged its own interests." It seems plausible that fear of impending invasion may have played a role in Qaddafi's calculations. But there are a few facts that weaken this theory.

First, when Bush first touted Libya's disarmament in his State of the Union address last January, he heralded the move as the result of "nine months of intense negotiation" involving Libya, the United States, and Britain. Qaddafi made his announcement in December. "Nine months" suggests the talks started the previous March. That was before the war in Iraq began.

At the same time, Bush said at Oak Ridge, the crucial step came when U.S. and British intelligence tracked a large shipment of nuclear equipment on a German-registered cargo ship bound for Tripoli. They informed the Germans, who diverted the ship to an Italian port, where the cargo was confiscated. This incident took place just last autumn?months after Saddam's toppling. If Qaddafi was trembling from the great display of American power, his fear didn't stop him from continuing his quest for black-market nuclear gear.

So, Qaddafi was negotiating about giving up his nuclear ambitions before the war in Iraq, yet he furtively persisted in these ambitions after Saddam's regime had tumbled. Maybe his nuclear gambits?the arming and the disarming?had little to do with the war, after all.

How close was Qaddafi to getting a bomb?that is, how much disarmament did his sacrifice involved? Mohammad ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, after examining the cache and the facilities, said Libya's nuclear program was "at a very initial stage." Not just an initial stage, a very initial stage.

David Albright, a specialist at the Institute for Science and International Security, breaks it down. Libya had ordered 10,000 centrifuges but almost none of the associated components needed to connect them into a spinning cascade for enriching uranium hexafluoride?that is, almost none of the stuff you'd need to turn uranium into bomb-grade material, much less into a bomb.

It looks like Qaddafi knew his nuclear program was going nowhere?he'd tried it once before, in the 1980s, to no avail. Then he got caught. Meanwhile, his economy was tanking. And maybe he sensed it would be a good idea, for now, to chummy up to the West. So, he made a big deal of giving up something he didn't really have, with hopes of reaping a big reward in return.

That's fine. But it had little, if anything, to do with what Bush calls America's "new approach in the world" after 9/11.

About Afghanistan, Bush's speech celebrated the crushing of the Taliban and the new reign of Hamid Karzai, "a good and just president." The military defeat of the Taliban was indeed Bush's singularly great accomplishment. But what happened afterward? The U.S. troops left in place?even with NATO assistance?were too paltry to stabilize the territory. As a result, warlords are once again slicing up the country. Elections have been put off due to poor security. Poppy growth and subsequent heroin exports to Europe are at nearly an all-time high. Taliban fighters are gaining ground here and there. And the eastern border to Pakistan, not at all secure, almost certainly still harbors Osama Bin Laden.

On Iraq, Bush?as usual?was very careful with his language. Three years ago, he told the Oak Ridge scientists, Iraq was ruled by "a proven mass murderer who refused to account for weapons of mass murder." (Note: "weapons of mass murder," not "weapons of mass destruction"; and "refused to account for," not "refused to disarm.") Now, Bush went on, Iraq is "becoming an example of reform to the region." Because America "helped to end the violent regime of Saddam Hussein, and because we're helping to raise a peaceful democracy in its place, the American people are safer."

As the pundits say, that remains to be seen. Maybe Iraq will emerge from the chaos as an exemplar of reform; maybe it will slide further into chaos and only encourage neighboring tyrannies to intensify their clampdowns. Meanwhile, terrorists, who it turns out didn't enjoy safe haven in Iraq before the war, have carved out camps in its aftermath. Leading Shiites are forming unsettling alliances with Iran. The Kurds are balking at any incursions on their autonomy. And, in the first month of Iraqi sovereignty, the most cherished consumer item for many citizens?thousands line up for one?is a passport to get the hell out of there.

Another case of progress, according to Bush's speech, is Saudi Arabia's decision to join us in the war on terror and to crack down on the jihadist "charities" in its midst. But this came about (to the extent it truly has come about) only after terrorist bombers mounted attacks in Riyadh. Bush acknowledges the Saudis' belatedness on this matter. And, no question, better late than not at all. Still, the shift (again, to the extent it's genuine, lasting, and effective) has little to do with Bush's foreign policy, which had tolerated the Saudis' diffidence before and after 9/11.

Most troublesome of all are Bush's claims about nuclear proliferation. Yes, Western intelligence agencies traced and shut down A.Q. Khan's vast black-market supply network and even persuaded the Pakistani government to relieve him of his duties (if not to punish him personally). Good has also come of the Proliferation Security Initiative, a truly multilateral effort to police nuclear trafficking.

However, the world's most alarming and concrete instance of proliferation?the open emergence of North Korea as a nuclear state?has been appallingly mishandled by the Bush administration. For over a year, Bush refused even to discuss the matter with the North Koreans, despite their clear desire to negotiate. A month ago, he finally offered a deal nearly identical to the deal the North Koreans offered us at the beginning of 2003?but it's too late. They have since moved much closer to mass production of A-bombs, and so they've stiffened their terms. Possibly even more than the war in Iraq, this could go down as Bush's deepest diplomatic disaster.

This says nothing of the frustrated effort to stall Iran's nuclear program. Bush didn't say much about that, either.

The key failure is that Bush said nothing?and has planned nothing?about devising a general international policy toward nonproliferation. Police enforcement can go only so far. An effective policy must deal with the reasons certain nations want to go nuclear?and the incentives, as well as the punishments, that might deter them from doing so.

Toward the end of his speech, Bush said this:

Three years ago, the world was very different. Terrorists planned attacks, with little fear of discovery or reckoning. Outlaw regimes supported terrorists and defied the civilized world. ? Weapon-proliferators sent their deadly shipments. ? The world changed on September the 11th, and since that day, we have changed the world. We are leading a steady, confident, systematic campaign against the dangers of our time. Today, because America has acted and because America has led, the forces of terror and tyranny have suffered defeat after defeat, and America and the world are safer.

Stirring words. But what world is he talking about?

Fred Kaplan writes the "War Stories" column for Slate.

~~

What I don't understand is how people can still be on the fence about this guy. In yesterday's Star Ledger there was an article on the front page on the 9/11 Commission comparison between the Bush Administration's response to the threat of terror and the Clinton Administration's "energetic" response to the threat of terror.

Outrage Fatigue is setting in. I have to go lie down somewhere and weep.

Posted by freak2/katertot0208 at 8:24 AM EDT
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