President Confused

Ken AshfordConstitution, Sex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

As reported here and elsewhere, Bush is finally going to announce his support for the Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

McClellan, briefing reporters at the White House, said the president wants to end "growing confusion" that has arisen from court decisions in Massachusetts, and San Francisco’s permitting more than 3,000 same sex unions. "The president believes it is important to have clarity," McClellan said.

What’s the "confusion"? Who has it? It seems quite simple to me — some states are (apparently) allowing gay marriage; others are not. Just like some states allow 16 year olds to get married and others do not. This is nothing to get brain-addled about.

So let’s not pretend it’s about "clarity". It’s about Bush’s conservative social agenda — another plank in the politics of divisiveness.

Update: Now I’M confused. Having read the President’s remarks on this issue, I am struck by his repeated use of the word "protect". As in "Our government should respect every person, and protect the institution of marriage". [NOTE: he obviously means "respect every straight person . . ."]

By my count, he used the word "protect" seven times. Which leads me to ask . . . protect the institution of marriage from what? Is this another conjured-up "gathering threat"? Are we (again) chasing non-existent ghouls — only, this time, on the domestic social front?

Oscar 2004 Public Service

Ken AshfordPopular CultureLeave a Comment

Some people care — others don’t care at all — and still others care only to the extent that they might win the office pool. It is to this third group that I offer these predictions. I’ve won my office pool 3 out of the last 5 years, tied for second once, and a disturbing 6th in 2000 (roughly 25-30 participate each year).

These are not MY personal picks — these are the picks that I think "the Academy" will favor. My confidence level (on a scale of 1 [least] to 10 [most]) is also included:

Best Picture: LOTR – The Return of the King — 8
Best Actor: Sean Penn, Mystic River — 6 (watch out for Bill Murray, especially if Robbins wins Best Supporting Actor!)
Best Actress: Charlize Theron, Monster — 8
Best Supporting Actor: Tim Robbins, Mystic River — 6
Best Supporting Actress: Renee Zellweger, Cold Mountain — 7
Best Director: Peter Jackson, LOTR – The Return of the King — 9
Best Animated Feature: Finding Nemo — 9
Best Original Song: "Into the West", LOTR – The Return of the King (Fran Walsh, Howard Shore, Annie Lennox) — 6
Best Foreign Film: The Twilight Samurai (Japan) — 6 (this is not the Tom Cruise film!)
Best Documentary Feature: The Fog of War — 5 (could be Capturing the Friedmans)
Best Documentary (Short Subject): Asylum — 6
Best Animated Short: Boundin’ — 2 (this is a 95% pure guess)
Best Live Action Short: Two Soldiers — 8
Best Screenplay (Original): Sofia Cappola, Lost in Translation — 8
Best Screenplay (Adaptation): Robert Pulcini, Shari Springer Berman, American Splendor — 6
Best Cinematography: Master & Commander: Far Side of the World — 6
Best Film Editing: Seabiscuit — 5
Best Art Direction: Master & Commander: Far Side of the World — 5
Best Visual Effects: LOTR – The Return of the King — 8
Best Costume: The Last Sumurai — 4 (this is the Tom Cruise film)
Best Makeup: LOTR – The Return of the King — 8
Best Original Score: Danny Elfman, Big Fish — 5
Best Sound Mixing: LOTR – The Return of the King — 7
Best Sound Editing: Master & Commander: Far Side of the World — 4

R.I.P. Moral Majority?

Ken AshfordRepublicansLeave a Comment

Daily Kos blogger DHinMI has interesting thoughts on social conservatism in America.

Just look at the record. Since the early 1990’s the Supreme Court has upheld both Roe v Wade and the use of affirmative action in college admissions, and it struck down state sodomy laws. More children attend day care than ever. More women work out of the home than ever, and most of them prefer to work out of the home even if it’s not necessary for maintaining their standard of living. "Will and Grace" is mainstream, and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" is on network television. The social conservatives’ crusade against the teaching of evolution has had little success [NOTE: Georgia decided to keep using the word "evolution" in its curriculum – CKB]. And, like Kos, knowing that gay and lesbian couples are running down to the San Francisco City Hall to get married hasn’t filled me or presumably anyone else with an unquenchable desire to run down to the local courthouse and file for divorce.

He’s right. In fact, I wonder how alive the social conservative movement ever really was. I live in rural North Carolina — a place lousy with conservative Republicans — and even here, the number of Gary Bauer-like social conservatives I meet are few in number. I see more of them on television panel shows than I do in everyday life. They get a lot of media attention — witness the brou-ha-ha over Judge Moore’s Ten Commandments — but they’re nothing more than a very loud minority. The GOP is right to largely ignore this faction.

Nader to Reveal Decision Sunday on NBC

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

Oh, Lord. Just what Bush (and maybe more than a few Deaniacs?) is praying for.

Ralph Nader will announce Sunday whether he will make another run for the White House, but all signs indicate the consumer advocate plans to jump into the race as an independent.

Read about it here.

Greg Crist Embarrassment Watch

Ken AshfordRepublicansLeave a Comment

Yeah, I didn’t know who he is either. It turns out he’s the spokesmen for the House Republican Conference. Here’s what he’s quoted as saying recently:

"Democrats are practicing a questionable form of politics in attacking something that is law."

Boneheaded or what? Gee, I guess that means Republicans can’t attack abortion, or re-define the legal definition of marriage for everybody, or speak out against a number of other things.

The Eggheads Speak . . .

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Science & TechnologyLeave a Comment

In my view, this is pretty bad.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has released a report entitled: "Scientific Integrity in Policymaking: An Investigation Into The Bush Administration’s Misuse of Science".

The report concludes:

1. There is a well-established pattern of suppression and distortion of scientific findings by high-ranking Bush administration political appointees across numerous federal agencies. These actions have consequences for human health, public safety, and community well-being.

2. There is strong documentation of a wide-ranging effort to manipulate the government’s scientific advisory system to prevent the appearance of advice that might run counter to the administration’s political agenda.

3. There is evidence that the administration often imposes restrictions on what governments scientists can say or write about "sensitive" topics.

4. There is significant evidence that the scope and scale of the manipulation, suppression and manipulation of science by the Bush administration is unprecedented.

Pretty serious charges. It’s backed up with examples, and signed on to by 19 National Medal of Science signatories, 20 Nobel Laureates, and 3 Crafoord Prize winners. Read the full report here.

Something for the Tinfoil Hat Crowd . . .

Ken AshfordPopular CultureLeave a Comment

If I were still ten, I would be all over this story. Now I’m just amused. Especially at the idea that somewhere on this planet, as I type this, there is somebody gloating because his authoritative work — ""A History of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Oral Health" — was referenced in today’s Washington Post.

The Post story notes the 50th anniversary of the day (tomorrow – February 20) when President Eisenhower, according to some supposedly knowledgeable people, ostensibly took a trip to "visit the dentist" . . . when in fact what he really did was visit and talk to aliens from outer space.

Fun With Anagrams

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Election 2004Leave a Comment

Bush’s campaign Slogan: "Steady Leadership in a Time of Change"

Rearranging the letters of gives us (among many others):

Megadeath and hyperfine socialites.
Sleepyhead or significant meathead.
Speedily, nation’s magic featherhead.
I’m a hypertense, death-dealing fiasco.
I am a disheartened pig-face. Honestly!
I am a healthy, depressing defecation.
I am a tone-deaf, highly-paid erectness.
I am a deathless deafening hypocrite.
He is the friendly scapegoat idea man.
Death penalty as far-seeing homicide.
Deafened, hypermagical hesitations.
Oafishly degenerated manic ape shit.
Oafishly indecent pig’s ear meathead.
Arch-foe, pleasing, headiest dynamite.
Adoringly chief, speediest anathema.
Fiendish, greedy, poetical anathemas.
Greedy, cheapish, national defeatism.
Fleeting hypocrite ass-head idea man.
Health! ignominy defecates paradise.
Arch-foe dismayed; inelegant ape shit.
Impeding safe Election day heat rash.
Fiendishly as the demoniac great ape.

Yes, yes — childish and silly. But fun. Thanks to the folks at anagram server. (I was going to do Kerry’s slogan, but I don’t think he has one yet.)

Helen in the Pool

Ken AshfordBush & Co.Leave a Comment

I thought she retired, but I guess not. You gotta love it when Helen (Thomas) is in the (White House) press pool. Feisty ol’ broad.

Catch this exchange between her and White House press secretary Scott McClellan, from this morning.

Q: Did the President ever have to take time off from Guard duty to do community service?

Scott McClellan: To do community service? I haven’t looked into everything he did 30 years ago, Helen. Obviously, there is different community service he has performed in the past, including going back to that time period —

Q: Can you find out if he actually had —

Scott McClellan: Helen, I don’t think we remember every single activity he was involved in 30 years ago.

Q: No, this isn’t an activity. Was he forced to do community service at any time while he was on —

Scott McClellan: What’s your interest in that question? I’m sorry, I just —

Q: Lots of rumors. I’m just trying to clear up something.

Scott McClellan: Rumors about what?

Q: Pardon?

Scott McClellan: Rumors about what?

Q: About the President having to do community service while he was in the National Guard, take time out for that.

Scott McClellan: I’m not aware of those rumors. But if you want to —

Q: Could you look it up? Would you mind asking him?

Scott McClellan: That’s why I’m asking what’s your interest in that? I just don’t understand your interest in that.

Q: It’s what everybody is interested in, whether we’re getting the true story on his Guard duty.

Scott McClellan: Well, you have the documents that show the facts.

Q: I’m asking you to try to find out from the President of the United States.

Scott McClellan: Like I said, it’s well known the different jobs he had and what he was doing previously, that we know. That goes back to —

Q: I didn’t say "previously." I said, while he was on Guard duty.

Scott McClellan: But you’re asking me about 30 years ago. I don’t think there’s a recollection of everything he was doing 30 years ago.

Q: Well, he would know if he had to take time out.

Scott McClellan: Again, I mean, the issue that was raised was whether or not the President was serving while he was in Alabama. Documents reflect that he
was —

Q: Well, this is another issue.

Scott McClellan: — hold on — that he was serving in Alabama. That was the issue that was raised. We went through, four years ago, other issues related to this.

Q: So you won’t answer the question or you won’t try to find out?

Scott McClellan: Well, I’m asking you, what’s your interest in that question? I’m just curious, because rumors —

Q: Did he have to do any community service while he was in the National Guard?

Scott McClellan: Look, Helen, I think the issue here was whether or not the President served in Alabama. Records have documented —

Q: I’m asking you a different question. That’s permissible.

Scott McClellan: Can I answer your question? Sure it is. Can I ask you why you’re asking it? I’m just — out of curiosity myself, is that permissible?

Q: Well, I’m interested, of course, in what everybody is interested in. And we have a very —

Scott McClellan: Let me just point out that we’ve released all the information we have related to this issue, the issue of whether or not he served while in Alabama. Records have documented as false the outrageous —

Q: I asked you whether he had to do any community service while he was in the National Guard.

Scott McClellan: Can I walk through this?

Q: It’s a very legitimate question.

Scott McClellan: And I want to back up and walk through this a little bit. Let’s talk about the issue that came up, because this issue came up four years ago, it came up four years before that — or two years before that, it came up four years before that —

Q: Did my question come up four years ago, and was it handled?

Scott McClellan: Helen, if you’ll let me finish, I want to back up and talk about this —

Q: Don’t dance around, just give us —

Q: It’s a straightforward question.

Q: Let’s not put too fine a point on it. If I’m not mistaken, you’re implying that he had to do community service for criminal action, as a punishment for some crime?

Q: There are rumors around, and I didn’t put it in that way. I just —

Q: Could you take that question? I guess apparently that’s the question, that he had to take time out to perform community service —

Scott McClellan: That’s why I wanted to get to this because —

Q: — as a sentence for a crime.

Scott McClellan: No, that’s why I wanted to get to this because I want to step back for a second. I want to go back through a few things. Look, the — I think we’ve really exhausted the issue that came up. The issue that came up was related to whether or not he had served while he was in Alabama. Records have documented as false the outrageous, baseless accusation that he did not serve while in Alabama. The conspiracy theory of one individual, that the National Guard cleansed documents, has been discredited.

Q: How so?

Scott McClellan: Read The Boston Globe today.

Q: Well, we want answers from you, not —

Scott McClellan: Read the Boston Globe. No, the answers are from the people that would have knowledge of that. But read —

Q: Why do you think this person made those allegations?

Scott McClellan: Hang on, hang on.

Q: What? Just read The Boston Globe —

Scott McClellan: Just read The Boston Globe. Read The Boston Globe. I would draw your attention to that. What I think we’re seeing now is just politics. And we’re not going to engage in it, because there are great challenges facing our nation, and there should be an honest discussion of the actions the President is taking to make our world safer and better and make America more prosperous and secure.

You want me to go —

Q: — the personal record of a President is —

Scott McClellan: No, hang on, Helen, hang on. I’ve said from this podium, if we have new information that comes to our attention that relates to this issue, we have made it clear we will share that information. You’re asking me to go and chase rumors. There was a conspiracy theory —

Q: I think —

Scott McClellan: Hold on, hold on, Helen. There was a conspiracy theory made by one individual, when everybody he accused of being involved in that said, it’s ridiculous, didn’t happen.

Q: This is not based on a conspiracy theory.

Scott McClellan: And there was a lot of attention given to this individual, and he’s been discredited. There’s a Boston Globe article on it this morning. And there are some —

Q: That says what? Your point —

Scott McClellan: You can go read it. I mean, we’ve got other things to move on to. I mean, you can go read it. But there are some, unfortunately, who simply are not interested in the facts. Again, the documents — the records document that he did serve while in Alabama. And now there are people that are bringing up issues that were addressed four years ago.

Q: But you still haven’t answered Helen’s question. She asked you a simple question.

Scott McClellan: There are people that want to replay the 2000 campaign all over again, Bill, and —

Q: You still haven’t answered her question about community service.

Scott McClellan: — there are too many important — there are too many important policies and decisions that are being made that we need to discuss.

Q: Why does a "yes" or "no" elude you on this?

Scott McClellan: I didn’t say that. I said that these were all issues addressed four years ago. If there’s additional information —

Q: This issue quite obviously wasn’t addressed four years ago.

Scott McClellan: Oh, issues — these issues were addressed four years ago.

Q: This issue was? The community service issue was addressed four years ago?

Scott McClellan: The issues — the issues that we’re going to here —

Q: I don’t recall —

Scott McClellan: This is called chasing a rumor. And I’m not going to engage in this kind of politics, Bill.

Q: — finding out whether a rumor is true or false.

Scott McClellan: No, this issue, absolutely —

Q: Why can’t you say whether or not he performed community service?

Scott McClellan: Absolutely, this issue came up four years ago. And if you all want to play politics, then go call the RNC, call the campaign.

Q: The best defense is offense. We know that. Just, all you’ve got to say is you don’t know.

Scott McClellan: Helen, it was — this issue was addressed four years ago. I think people that were involved in the campaign will know —

Q: — if they know —

Scott McClellan: — that the issue that you’re trying to bring up was addressed four years ago. It’s about chasing rumors.

Q: It isn’t a question of four years ago. The issue has come up now, very large.

Scott McClellan: I’m not going to get into chasing rumors.

Q: Headlines.

Scott McClellan: I’m not going to get into chasing rumors.

Q: So you refuse to answer the question?

Scott McClellan: You’re saying that people said he was forced to do something, and you’re asking me to chase a rumor.

Q: Everything is politics today, of course.

Q: She asked you a "yes" or "no" question.

Scott McClellan: Look, if you all want to — this is just politics. That’s what this is. And if there’s any more information I have to share with you all, I will always — I will do that.

Q: Scott, I have a question of this individual, and I confess, I haven’t read the Boston article. But who — what do you believe was this person’s motivation, that if they have been discredited, for making these allegations?

Scott McClellan: Just — I would read The Boston Globe. Everybody that he accused of being involved in this has said it was totally ridiculous. And there are others that —

Q: So are you saying — was it politically motivated?

Scott McClellan: There are others that are quoted in The Boston Globe today, that you might want to see what they said.

Q: Speaking of politics, has the President authorized his campaign —

Scott McClellan: And we’ve got to —

Q: — to release a video attacking Senator Kerry?

Scott McClellan: You need to talk — you need to talk to the campaign. But let me go to the week ahead because we’ve used up more than 15 minutes.

Q: So the President did authorize —

Q: Scott, I’ve got —

Scott McClellan: I’m going to go to the week ahead.

What a wanker.

On The Lighter Side . . .

Ken AshfordPopular CultureLeave a Comment

"Barbie and Ken splitting after 43 years; Mattel reports that dolls will remain friends" reports MSNBC

After 43 years as one of the world’s prettiest pairs, the perfect plastic couple is breaking up. The couple’s “business manager,” Russell Arons, vice president of marketing at Mattel, said that Barbie and Ken “feel it’s time to spend some quality time — apart.”

There’s a joke in this story — I know it. Maybe something to do with "same sex marriages" or Massachusetts or something. Maybe something regarding the fact that the scary folks at Mattel apparently don’t realize that Ken and Barbie are dolls.

Anyone care to beat Jon Stewart to the punch(line)? Now’s your chance . . .

GAO: DOD Paying Billions to Tax Cheats

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

WASHINGTON – The Department of Defense paid billions of dollars in 2002 to more than 27,000 contractors that owed $3 billion in unpaid taxes, according to a draft copy of a General Accounting Office investigation obtained by NBC News.

Full story here.

I know I’m just, you know, a relative nobody, but . . . isn’t the solution obvious???

Either (a) stop giving DoD contracts to tax delinquents or (b) take their back-taxes out of whatever they are owed under the contracts. Duh! Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the DoD cared too much . . .

What Are We Talking About Here?

Ken AshfordConstitution, Sex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

This is the proposed amendment banning gay marriages:

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.

Personally, I have no strong feelings on this issue. Frankly, if men and women can get "married", while gay couples can only have "civil unions", that’s fine with me. A rose by any other name . . . right?

The problem, which I think many people miss, is that this amendment is specifically designed to discriminate — it’s not just about what people can call their relationship.

The key words are "or the legal incidents thereof". As Daily Kos accurately explains:

What are the "legal incidents thereof" of marriage? Things like hospital visitation, inheritance rights, employee benefits, social security and disability benefits, immigration rights, divorce laws, and so on.

This means that the proposed amendment will make it possible for the federal and state governments to deny hospital visitation rights, etc. to gay couples who, even though not technically "married", have engaged in civil unions.

While the polls show that an overwhelming number of people disapprove of "gay marriages", they also show that an overwhelming number of people disapprove of discrimination against gays. The proposed amendment, while purporting to forbid "gay marriages" (which it does) additionally sanctions discrimination against gays. And, being in the U.S. Constitution, not a thing can be done about it.

Do people — even those opposed to "gay marriages" — approve of this?

Release of Bush’s Records

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Election 2004Leave a Comment

Do they not GET it?

The White House just released some Bush/National Guard records. As far as I can tell from the news reports, the documents are:

(1) Point summaries — which show that was given credit for certain training periods. These are not new documents. Heck, I’VE even seen them. They only show that he was given credit . . . which is NOT the issue. We all KNOW he got credit and was honorably discharged. The issue is "Did he attend training when he was supposed to?"

(2) Payroll stubs. These merely show that he was paid. Again, not relevant to the issue.

Bush Busted In (Yet) Another Lie

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Economy & Jobs & DeficitLeave a Comment

During his interview with "Meet the Press"’s Tim Russert, Bush said:

If you look at the appropriations bills that were passed under my watch, in the last year of President Clinton, discretionary spending was up 15 percent, and ours have steadily declined.

There are a couple of lies here. First of all, in the last year of President Clinton, discretionary spending was up about three percent, not 15%.

And "ours have steadily declined" is an even big whopper. Not only has discretionary spending NOT decreased under Bush, but it has increased far worse than Clinton’s. Discretionary spending is up 31% under George Bush (thanks largely to military increases).

But you can see the numbers yourself, from the White House (Excel-formatted spreadsheet). Just scroll down to Line 37. (And hurry before the WH takes it down!)

This isn’t "spin". This isn’t "making a case". This is an outright lie.

Hat tip to Slate’s Timothy Noah for catching this when few others had.

Bush “War Record”

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Election 2004Leave a Comment

I’m a little pressed for time today, so I won’t indulge in much analysis and background. I’m sure many are familiar with the story anyway. So instead, I’ll just link to an article, and pose a couple of questions:

(1) Has Bush’s military record been adequately and fully explained?

and the biggie . . .

(2) Is it relevant, and if so, why and how much? Is this just an attempt at a political "gotcha", or does it go to serious issues of credibility?

I note that the administration line is "This has all been answered 4 years ago", but Gore didn’t really go after Bush on his military record (in part because Gore’s claim that "he was shot at" during the war was itself dubious).

Update to earlier post: Arianna Huffington is joining the "Dump Cheney" rumor mill.

Totally off-topic but amusing: Daily Kos has unearthed what those satellite photos of Iraqi installations really were . . .