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 . . .

Bush Priorities

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

Analyses of the Bush budget are starting to appear all over cyberspace, and it is sobering. If you want to get a bead on some of the President’s priorities, consider the following:

Job training: Federal vocational and adult education cut 35% (from 2.1 billion to 1.4 billion); Assistance to workers displaced by NAFTA cut to zero — the unions are not happy . . .

Education: 38 of 65 government programs (including programs dealing with alcohol abuse, the arts, dropout prevention, school counselors, smaller learning communities, school reform, and school leadership) eliminated, including Even Start literacy program . . .

Veterans: Fails to solve problems with health care benefits — in fact, it makes things worse (e.g., doubles the prescription co-pay for veterans). The VFW is unhappy . . .

Housing: Funding for housing voucher program cut by $1.6 billion

Crime and "First Responders": Cut from $481.9 million to $97 million

Rural Development: The budget would cut $239 million from rural business and industry loans, $269 from a rural broadband loan program, and $199 million from rural water and wastewater grants.

What gets priority? Programs to encourage teens to abstain from sex (doubled to $270 million), to promote marriage ($240 million, plus another $120 million to research further programs on marriage promotion) and to promote responsible fatherhood. ($50 million)

Well, you get the idea. You can read more here and here.

Now, all this is good news to Bush’s conservative base. The problem is that the conservative base is going to vote for Bush anyhow. How will Bush’s priorities play to the crucial swing/independent vote?

You Won’t Have Dean to Kick Around Anymore

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

Daily Kos is reporting the latest Zogby poll numbers. Since Zogby was the poll that predicted a Kerry win in Iowa, these numbers may be worth looking at. Since Dean is running a distant third or fourth in Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma and South Carolina, and given his financial problems, I predict he will be yesterday’s news on . . . oh . . . Thursday. Anyone agree?

Goodbye, Dick?

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

Okay. She’s a gossip columnist, and not a very good/reliable one. Yet, the "buzz" is out.

A well-placed source says that the president will “most likely” drop Dick Cheney from his re-election ticket and his first choice for a replacement is former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Read about it here. There’s also talk of Bush-McCain ticket.

This could be verrrrrry interesting . . . .

A Split Decision

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

The following is a partial transcript of Joe Lieberman’s congratulatory telephone call to Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox.

LIEBERMAN: Coach Fox? Joe Lieberman here – was that a great game or what? You bet it was!

COACH FOX: Uh, thanks Joe, but I really don’t think…

LIEBERMAN: Well Coach, based on what I saw tonight, I’d say you just scored a split decision for the NFL Championship!

COACH FOX: Joe – we lost. They beat us.

LIEBERMAN: Now Coach, you and I both know that the odds makers didn’t expect this, did they? As a matter of fact just yesterday, the Vegas line had you losing by seven points.

COACH FOX: Well, that’s true, yes…..

Read the whole thing at Citizen Smash

The Memory Hole

Ken AshfordWeb RecommendationsLeave a Comment

I’ve been a fan of www.memoryhole.org since they took an electonically redacted DOJ document, unredacted it, and posted it. (The document was an internal DOJ study which was highly critical of its own minority hiring practices. The DOJ heavily redacted the most incriminating parts, and posted it on its website. Someone was able to remove the electronic redactions, and it appeared on The Memory Hole).

The site also has rare 9/11 footage and police transcripts, the Bush-Hitler ads from "Move On", and other hard-to-find stuff.

Anyway, they now have some unofficial "alleged" photos of Saddam’s capture, including him being pulled from the hole.

Neglecting Intelligence, Ignoring Warnings…

Ken AshfordBush & Co., IraqLeave a Comment

The Center for American Progress has compiled a "cheat sheet" of sorts — a chronology of the Bush Administration’s failure (refusal?) to listen to intelligence agencies who said the case for war was weak.

Nothing new in it for some of us, but it’s all compiled in one place (PDF version; hyperlinks to sources). Flawed in some respect, because it relies (at times) on "unnamed sources", but still — most of it can’t (or shouldn’t) be ignored. I present it without further comment.

Brokered Convention?

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

I was prepared to predict Kerry as the nominee, but poll numbers from the February 3 states give me pause.

Naturally, Edwards is on top in South Carolina. But it’s these OTHER states that surprise me. For example, Kerry and Clark are in a statistical dead heat in Arizona. And Clark and Edwards both beat out Kerry by a significant margin in Oklahoma.

So here’s the open question: Regardless of the nominee, is a down-to-the-convention horserace good or bad for the Democratic party/Bush? After all, it keeps the media spotlight on the Democratic message for a while. On the other hand, it may show the party to be disjointed and unified (at least until the convention where, inevitably, everybody will be onstage heartily endorsing the nominee). Thoughts?

Finally! A REAL War Against Terrorism . . .

Ken AshfordWar on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

CNN reports:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The U.S. military is planning a spring offensive against remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, a senior Defense Department official has said.

Authorities have ordered troops, supplies and logistics into place to carry out the operation, the official said Wednesday, without detailing whether the new offensive would require more troops.

The news comes amid increased violence in Afghanistan and on a day in which the U.S. military said it thinks it will find Osama bin Laden and fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar in eastern Afghanistan.

The manhunt for bin Laden is now in its third year but a military spokesman said confidence is high that he will be captured.

Call me jaded. Call me cynical. But I find the timing of this funny. If this were done a year ago (instead of Iraq), it would be "old news" by election time.