Sticker Shock

From today’s “In The Loop” column by Al Kamen in the Washington Post:

At the Conservative Political Action Conference, which featured Vice President Cheney as its opening luncheon speaker yesterday, one of the various exhibition booths hawking paraphernalia had some virulently anti-Muslim vinyl bumper stickers, for $3.95, including one that said: “No Muslims — No Terrorism.”

Sources said an attendee at the group’s 30th annual conference, at the Crystal City Marriott, called Cheney’s office to complain and a Cheney aide called CPAC organizers to express “strong displeasure.”

The booth operators removed the anti-Muslim stickers from the rack before Cheney spoke — though they left up some more tasteful items, such as the stamps that said: “WANTED! Crimes against children,” and had a picture of former attorney general Janet Reno , “A.K.A. ‘The Butcher of Waco.’ ” And they left others supporting the Confederate flag and such.

But the offending stickers were not really taken off sale. When a Washington Post reporter asked about the anti-Muslim bumper stickers, a booth attendant smiled and reached behind a sheet, saying conference organizers had ordered her to take them off display.

“Somebody doesn’t believe in free speech,” she complained, offering them for $2.75 apiece.

Someone else noticed

I’m so glad that someone else notices the Republican hypocrisy – today Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post points out the odd circumstances that have Dubya playing the part of Al Gore.

Imagine ? hard as it is ? President Gore standing in the House chamber and delivering his annual address to the nation.

He calls for spending $400 billion over the next decade to strengthen Medicare and launch a prescription drug program.

He calls for $450 million to bring mentors to disadvantaged students and children of prisoners.

He calls for $600 million for treatment programs for drug addicts.

He calls for $15 billion over five years to combat AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean.

He calls for $1.2 billion to develop clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles.

What do you suppose the Republicans would be saying about Al Gore?

Big spender? Wild-eyed liberal? Doesn’t understand that government is the problem, not the solution?

Wouldn’t there be lots of accusations of fiscal irresponsibility ? especially when the $417 billion in new spending is coupled with $674 billion in tax cuts?

And:

Bill Clinton said seven years ago that the era of big government is over, but somehow, under the ministrations of this conservative-minded and big-hearted Republican President, it seems to be back.

Oh, how George W. Bush used to mock Gore for trying to encourage new auto technologies.

Oh, and:

The moronic Jim Nicholson, then chairman of the Republican National Committee, used to stand at the fax machine all day, sending out messages that attacked Gore for wanting to do away with the internal ‘combustible’ engine, which were duly repeated by all the right-wing hacks. They used Gore’s farsighted ideas against him in places like Michigan and Tennessee, where lots of cars are built. Now they will all tell you that Bush is simply brilliant for supporting this visionary technology.

SuperScammed

OK, let me just complain a little bit here, something you may have noticed I am often wont to do.
Tonight NBC once again showed what it calls “Super Sized” episodes of it’s Thursday sitcoms. We were treated to an extra special super hilarious 40 minute Friends, Scrubs, and Will & Grace.
Here’s the thing: Friends clocked in a bit over it’s usual 22 minutes. Scrubs? Dunno, I never watch that. But Will & Grace, in it’s 40 minute time slot: Let’s see. It began at 9:24 (it was scheduled for 9:20) and ended at 9:54. That sounds like a half hour to me. To fill that last 5 minutes, NBC aired a looooonnnnggg promo for it’s new sitcom A.U.S.A. (I wonder what the Association of the U.S. Army thinks of that?) I have no doubt that they stuck at least an extra minute into the show because there was a long teaser, which was unfunny and seemed like it would have normally been edited much tighter.
If McDonald’s super sized their meals like this, America wouldn’t be a nation of obese people looking to sue.

The sound of space

Ever wonder what the northern lights sound like? How about the music of storms on other planets? Professor Donald Gurnett maintains a web page (www-pw.physics.uiowa.edu/space-audio/) with these and other sounds generated through the radio signals from space and the magnetosphere. Professor Gurnett was recently on NPR’s Morning Edition, where I heard these sounds driving to work.

Where do these numbers come from?

As I mentioned earlier this month, the President is hawking his tax cuts using a hypothetical family of four making $40,000 annually. During his speech last night, he said

This tax relief is for everyone who pays income taxes — and it will help our economy immediately. Ninety-two million Americans will keep — this year — an average of almost $1,100 more of their own money. A family of four with an income of 40,000 dollars would see their federal income taxes fall from $1,178 dollars to $45 dollars per year. And our plan will improve the bottom line for more than 23 million small businesses.

Maybe it’s because I am single with no dependents. Maybe it’s because I don’t cheat on my taxes. Whatever the reason, I can’t figure out why I pay almost three times as much in taxes as that hypothetical family when I only make 1/4 more in salary. And I have to once again question the math: if he is reducing taxes by that significant an amount, how in the hell is he going to pay for this war? For the new, larger government? For the 4% increase in discretionary spending? For the $15 billion on AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean?

As the president of a home owners association, I can tell you it is a delicate juggling act, bringing in revenue and allocating it carefully. I can certainly tell you that I could never propose cutting association fees and then increase our spending. Isn’t that just common sense? Something that this President seems to be lacking. My two-year-old niece is going to inherit a system that is not has a deficit of hundreds of trillions, but has the added problems of a busted Social Security system and huge government in the form of Big Brother agencies.

Amusements from Al

A couple items from Al Kamen’s “In The Loop” column today in the Washington Post that made me chuckle:

Quick, Form the Box Office
Remember “Boxgate,” the incident last week at a St. Louis warehouse in which President Bush touted small business and things made in America? And the problem was, he was standing behind a bunch of boxes that had tape over the words “Made in China”?

Seems the person who did this, said by the White House to be an “overzealous volunteer,” may have committed a federal offense.

Covering up the “Made In” labels is against the law, a violation of venerable Title 19, Chapter 4, Subtitle II, Part 1, Sec. 134.11, which “requires that every article of foreign origin (or its container) imported into the United States shall be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly and permanently” as possible, “in such manner as to indicate to an ultimate purchaser . . . [the] name of the country of origin of the article.”

Further, “any person who, with intent to conceal the information . . . defaces, destroys, removes, alters, covers, obscures, or obliterates any mark required under the provisions of this chapter shall — (1) upon conviction for the first violation . . . be fined not more than $100,000 or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both. . . .” A year in the slammer?

This is enforced by Customs, now part of the Department of Homeland Security. Might be a good place for Secretary Tom Ridge to start. Or wait! Is Ken Starr busy? Didn’t Watergate begin with some tape on a door?

Three Bottles of Aspirin Ought to Do It

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer treated those visiting the White House Web site yesterday afternoon to a brief preview of Bush’s State of the Union address. One component, he said, would be Bush’s proposals to strengthen and improve the health of tens of millions of Americans, “particularly for some 30 to 40 senior citizens who do not have prescription drug coverage as part of their Medicare plan.”

Shouldn’t be too hard.

The “More Government” Republican

Not satisfied with the creation of the largest new government department in who knows how long, President Bush is now planning to create a new agency to coordinate terrorism information between the FBI, CIA, Justice, Defense, and Homeland Security.

If I remember correctly, all this started because the FBI and CIA didn’t share information. So, to make them work together, Bush created the Homeland Security department, which brought together a number of government agencies under one umbrella… but not the FBI or CIA.

Now, he wants to add yet another layer of bureaucracy in place to do what Homeland Security should have done! Crimony. This man is an idiot. Having more layers, more managers, and more levels to communicate through will certainly make the information flow better and quicker.

Did these people see the same speech I did?

Huh?

The inevitable interviewing of “ordinary” people has begun, and these people are morons. For instance:

  • “He gave us the smoking gun.” Huh? What?
  • “I had all the evidence I needed on Sept.11.” Uninformed idiot. There were no Iraqis among the terrorists. They were mostly Saudis. So naturally our best response is to go to war with Iraq?

See, the thing is, I’m sounding like I disagree with everyone and everything. Not true. I just have what some people call “common sense.” I don’t make huge leaps without evidence. I don’t connect dots that aren’t there. It seems like so many people in this country – our president included – tend to close their eyes and jump right over facts to come up with justification for their desires.
Tomorrow, I’m going to tell my employer that they should cut my revenues by 10%, and them I’m going to go home and spend 4% more on discretionary items like a new HD Camcorder and perhaps a flat-panel plasma TV. When I say it, it sounds ridiculous. When the President says it, well…

State of the Moron

Just some real-time notes as I watch this incomprehensible ninny who is our president.

  • We must eliminate the unfair double tax on dividends. OK, this sounds fine to me – if corporations actually were paying taxes. The largest corporations in America never pay any taxes, and some – like, for instance, Enron – actually got CHECKS from the government. If the tax code is fixed so that corporations pay taxes on their earnings, I’m all for eliminating the dividend tax, even though it will help the rich.
    The silliness of the “unfair double taxing” phrase is brought into sharp focus if you think of it this way: I get paid my salary, which is taxed. I buy a product with that already-taxed money, and pay a sales tax. The company that produced that product is taxed (including payroll taxes for the workers who made it, who them pay more taxes on their salary). The company pays dividends to shareholders, who pay a tax on that. The cycle never ends. If you want to eliminate unfair multiple taxing, why not only tax the first person who has the money? For instance, the first person who gets a freshly printed dollar bill can only use it to buy 25� worth of anything. Then all those who follow get the full dollar.
  • The continuing talk of cutting taxes is getting ridiculous. One minute he speaks of the need to cut government spending, then he talks about increasing discretionary spending by 4%. He says that amount is how much they expect the American paycheck to increase. Well, that’s fine, except you are now taking less of that paycheck!
    He speaks about the future of a balanced budget and reduced deficits, as if his predecessor is the one he has to clean up after. Remember, under Clinton we had a balanced budget and a surplus, which Bush destroyed in record time.
  • I feel a kinship with Nancy Pelosi. She has the same unbelieving look on her face and furrowed brow that I do as she watches this man.

Read on for more.

  • He’s proposing more $600 million programs here and there… um, how are we going to pay for these programs with all the tax cuts?
  • “Instead of HMOs, we must put Doctors and nurses back in charge of American medicine.” Bravo! Of course, how will we afford the doctor’s fees?
  • Energy independence and environmental conservation: again, bravo, but how can this happen if we don’t reduce our dependence on oil by promoting renewal technologies and start making the SUV a less attractive option? I applaud his call for fuel cell automobiles – excellent and unexpected. Where’s the catch? I don’t think I trust this oil executive to accomplish this.
  • “Protect children at the very hour of their birth.” Here we go.
  • Educating children in Afghanistan. Well, who couldn’t be for that? Question is, what are you going to teach them?
  • I’m amazed at his “concern” about AIDS in Africa. He quotes statistics about the lack of medicines in Africa. He says that in this age, no one should have to be without medicine (I’m paraphrasing.) Question is, does he know how many people in this country have AIDS? How many cannot afford the expensive drugs? Is he going to step up funding for US AIDS treatment? I can only assume, as a conservative, that he is compassionate for African AIDS victims because they are not generally assumed to have contracted the disease through gay sex.
  • The war on terrorism goes on, and we are winning, he says. As with many other issues, he claims to know things but won’t tell us. He says we’re winning this war, but I can see no evidence of it. He says Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, but hasn’t shown proof. Well, Mr. President, pardon me if I don’t take your word for it. Put your money where your mouth is, and a lot of people like me will shut up.
  • The terrorists are on the run. Well, that’s no good – we don’t want them running, we want them caught! Osama bin Laden is on the run, when he should be in detention – or worse.
  • Now, the FBI, CIA, Dept. of Defense, and Homeland Security (oh, that name) will work together in some kind of terrorism intelligence office… well, what the hell was the point of the Dept. of Homeland Security, then? Why didn’t they just start with the terrorism office? I dunno. I just don’t understand. It seems like the Bush administration is so kneejerk and reactionary that it never thinks things through. Funnily, it’s almost FDR-ish in it’s push to try one thing then walking over it to try another.
  • “Now in this century, the ideology of power and domination…” Is he talking about the United States? I heard some quote the other day about states with weapons of mass destruction and the history of using them. The first nation that came to mind was us.
  • “The course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others.” Gee, if Saddam Hussein said that, he’d be… oh, wait. I think he did say that, more or less. How can we say that Iraq is a rogue because doesn’t comply with the decisions of the rest of the world, and at the same time we don’t have to?
  • North Korea: “America and the world will not be blackmailed.” OK, I agree with this. But how are you going to deal with this situation?
    The Korean “Pininchuhla.” Love that pronunciation. Although, he seems to be doing much better tonight. He must have had some speech coaching. But once and for all, it’s NOO-kle-ur, not NOOK-yuh-lur.
  • He talks about how sanctions and isolation have not stopped Saddam Hussein from seeking nuclear weapons. But a moment ago, he said that those very things would stop North Korea from seeking them. Saddam Hussein “has shown no respect for the opinions of the world.” Huh? And George Bush has?
  • Again, he is trying to connect Iraq with Sept. 11, this time by asking us to imagine what MIGHT have happened if Saddam Hussein had equipped the hijackers with weapons. So, basically, he’s telling us that we must go to war with Iraq because if he had a time machine he could go back in time and get involved with the Sept. 11 terrorists.
  • Telling us yet again about Saddam Hussein’s use of WMD against his own people, his use of torture and rape. Horrible, to be sure. Evil, definitely But nothing new. If it wasn’t enough to go to war before, why is it now?
  • Love this phrase: “Iraq’s ongoing defiance of the world.” I hate to drive the point home again, but what about OUR ongoing defiance of the world?
  • It seems like he is saying that we are going to war right after February 5. Will this be a boon for TV networks during the February sweeps? Cripes, as much as a pacifist as I am, I am almost so tired of waiting for this war that I just want to say “do it, already!! Stop teasing!”
  • The choice of words is getting silly. “If this war is forced upon us…” Yeah, they’re forcing us.
  • The call of history… I think history will look back at this time as a very, very low point. That is, unless the conservatives continue to rewrite history books and aggressively transform history curriculum to the rich white male point of view.
  • Who’s cell phone keeps ringing there in the House chamber? I mean, don’t they have a vibrating setting?

And there we have it. There were two things that this speech really lacked: there was absolutely no eloquence involved – hardly surprising coming from this President – and there were no grand initiatives, especially considering the place this man has brought this country to (economic stagnation, terrorism, threat of war). I will admit that two initiatives did catch my attention: the promise of extensive aid to Africa and the call for fuel cell vehicles, both rather progressive and decidedly not typical for a conservative. It makes me wonder what the ulterior motives are. Perhaps since we have lost the hearts and minds of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, he thinks he can win over Africa? Regardless, I applaud that compassion and commitment. Will he do the same for Americans?
I’ll be first in line to buy a fuel cell car. Are his pals in the oil industry going to sell hydrogen at the corner gas station?
There’s a reason I am not a loud mouthed pundit or a seasoned political reporter. These are just my opinions….

Censorship at work

Have you seen the new GE commercials? The ones that do away with the slogan “We Bring Good Things To Life” in favor of “Imagination At Work?” At the end of the commercials, a series of iconic images appear indicating the various businesses that GE is involved in. One of them is the NBC peacock logo.

Unless the commercial is airing on another network. Today I noticed that the same ad that aired yesterday on NBC’s Meet the Press with the peacock included did not have the peacock when it aired on ABC’s The Practice.

Not really surprising, but of some small interest. At least, to trivial people like myself.

Fuzzy Math

Republican senator McConnell today on “Meet The Press” delivered a rehearsed speech about President Bush’s tax cut package. Leaving out his folksy description of a truck driver and his wife, he said that a couple earning about $40,000 currently paid about $1,200 in taxes, and that under this new tax cut package, they would pay NONE.

OK. First of all, I make just slightly more than that, and I pay more than SIX thousand in taxes… not including the hefty self-employment taxes I have to pay on the small amounts of freelance work I do. So, I defy anyone making $40K to pay only $1,200 in taxes, and if they do, I’d like to meet their tax accountant.

Secondly, if the President’s tax package eliminates completely the taxes on people making $40,000 a year, I wonder how much the people making minimum wage will be paying to make up for it?

The Style Invitational: January 26

The latest contest in The Washington Post’s Style Invitational asked for acts, bills, or resolutions sponsored by new members of Congress. Some of my faves:

  • Miller-Miller-Dole act to provide every hungry person in America with two beers and a pineapple. (Ellen Perlman, Washington)
  • The Cole-Porter-Musgrave-Turner Act awarding Eminem a Medal of Freedom for his contribution to the field of music. (Chris Doyle, Forsyth, Mo.)
  • Alexander-Grijalva-Bell Act requiring greater clarity in cellular phones. (Kevin Mellema, Falls Church)
  • Bell-Pryor-Bishop Act, mandating that clergy wear cat-bells so you can hear them coming. (Seth Brown, Williamstown, Mass.)
  • The King-Chocola resolution in support of the erstwhile count’s military coup. (Sarah Elan, Baltimore)
  • Ryan-King Act: Hakuna matata! Even Tlent Rott wouldn’t touch this bill! (Dave Zarrow, Herndon)
  • Musgrave-Pryor-Nunes act requiring all interments before midday at Arlington National Cemetery. (Stephen Dudzik, Olney)
  • Alexander-Graham-Sanchez bill saluting the founder of Taco Bell. (Dave Zarrow, Herndon)
  • Franks-Hensarling-King bill authorizing Perdue chickens to surf the Web. (Dave Zarrow, Herndon)