Observations on the world today.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Nuance Bad - Subtlety Confusing - Me Vote Bush 

Kerry's Flip-Flopping on Russia
IN REACTION to Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement this week of plans to curtail democratic institutions in Russia and assert increased political control over the country from Moscow, Democratic presidential nominee Senator John Kerry criticized President Bush for having "taken his eye off the ball--ignoring America's interest in seeing democracy advance in Russia," and promised that, under his administration, "The fate of freedom and democracy in Russia will once again be priorities of American foreign policy."

Fair enough--but for the fact that Kerry told the Washington Post in May that, as president, he "would play down the promotion of democracy in dealing with . . . Russia." Instead, the Senator pledged to focus "on other objectives . . . more central to the United States' security." He also rejected the idea--put forward last January by then-rival, now-running mate John Edwards--that Russia's membership in the G-8 should be linked to democratic reforms.

It seems that whatever the issue--be it Iraq, the war on terror, or now Russia--Senator Kerry has a hard time knowing his own mind.
In their zeal to paint Kerry as a flip-flopper, the right often misses the subtleties of foreign policy. This is a perfect example of such a time.

First point, the article attributes a quote to Kerry which was not a Kerry quote.
"would play down the promotion of democracy in dealing with . . . Russia."
Here is what the WaPo article actually said:
Sen. John F. Kerry indicated that as president he would play down the promotion of democracy as a leading goal in dealing with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China and Russia, instead focusing on other objectives that he said are more central to the United States' security.
Now, the elipses are not the problem. The problem is that the person who said this is the author of the article, not Senator Kerry.

Second, it is not a contradiction therefore it is not a flip-flop. The premise is; since Kerry was saying that he would play down developing democracy as a leading goal - that when he now says the fate of democracy in Russia will be a leading goal of American democracy in his administration - this is a flip-flop. This is complicated to explain but really pretty obvious. Pay attention, right-wingers. Read slowly.

In the Post article, Kerry did not say that democracy would not be a leading goal in his administration. Rather he said that he would play it down as a leading goal. At least, that's how the author of the article characterizes what he said. Diplomatically speaking, Bush has had an overt objective of establishing democracy in Iraq, and it has been rebuffed. Contrariwise, we have had a covert objective of building democracy in China for years, and the seed has gradually taken hold. See the value of playing down your leading goals?

As for Kerry's position that that Russia's membership in the G-8 should not be linked to democratic reforms; that would be an overt expression of our objective - which Kerry opposes.



Scientific Evidence 

There has been quite a hubub from the right over this stupid picture:

Here is a left-wing blog that describes the story and sets up the premise for the rest of my post. If you are not already aware of the premise, I suggest you read it before continuing:

Rising Hegemon: The Bogus Assault -- Father Freeper of the Year (should buckhead not be able to serve)

Parlock denies that the union guy in the photo was really his son in disguise shilling for a staged photo. Here is a photo of one of Parlock's sons cropped from a family portrait:

Here is a picture of the union guy:

Need more? Okay. There is a scientific identification technique known as face mapping. Here is my amateur attempt at it.

I overlayed the son on the union guy so that the eyes lined up and the chin lined up. Then I did some erasing to show the outline of the union guy's face on the right, and the edge of the son's shoulder and face on the left:

Note that the shoulders line up perfectly. So does the sideburn. Also the cheekbone, mouthline and nose position are a perfect match. Here is an overlay with the kid at 50% opacity:

The eyes and eyebrow are a perfect match. Look at the kid's right ear and the union guy's left ear. Same general shape.

I also tried this experiment with the kid in the grey from the Parlock family portrait. Close but no cigar. The forehead is too big and the mouth is too low.

I think we have our culprit.

So does this mean that such an occurance could never occur at a democratic gathering? Heck no. It absolutely could. But in this case it probably didn't.



More Records Please 

Yahoo! News - Judge Orders U.S. to Find Bush Records
A federal judge has ordered the Pentagon to find and make public by next week any unreleased files about President Bush's Vietnam-era Air National Guard service to resolve a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by The Associated Press.
Gee, I wonder how this will effect my FOIA request.



Friday, September 17, 2004

Profiles in History 

Yahoo! News - U.S. Mint Unveils New Designs for Nickel
A new likeness of Jefferson will be on the front of the two revamped coins, giving the third president a "fresh, contemporary look," Mint Director Henrietta Holsman Fore said. The "tails" side also gets updated.

With the makeover, Jefferson will move from the center of the coin to the side, where he gazes in a close-up profile that shows more detailed features of his face.

"I wanted an image that was large enough so that you could see the determination and intelligence in his eyes. The kindness of his mouth. His sense of humor. The main thing that was guiding me ... I wanted you to get a sense of the character of the person," said artist Joe Fitzgerald, who created the design for the front of the new nickel.

Also on the front of both new coins: The word "liberty" will appear in script — as Jefferson once had written in his own hand. The phrase "In God We Trust" remains as well as the year.

Okay, first off, love the coins. These are a true improvement, unlike the lame handshake and sailboat versions we got last year supposedly representing the Louisiana purchase and the Lewis and Clarke expeditions. But I still don't get it.

Okay, they redesigned the $10 and the $50 and the $100 dollar bills. I'm clear on the reasoning for that. I can even sort of see why they re-did the $5 spot. And the state quarters are kind of cool too. Actually they are sort of a cottage industry. Hell, you can even buy your quarters wholesale. But I just don't get all this effort into redesigning nickels. Did I miss something? Is there a big racket in counterfeiting nickels?



Thursday, September 16, 2004

Iraq By The Numbers 

Iraq Coalition Casualties

Remember when the number of US casualties reached 1000? It wasn't that long ago. Actually, it was just about a week ago. Now the number is at 1022.

That is an additional 2.2% in one week. At that rate, it would take just 45.5 weeks to double the number. It took over 75 weeks to reach the first 1000 mark.

Twenty-two in one week is an average of just over three per day. At that rate, it would take just sixteen days for each state in the Union to lose one son or daughter. In one years time, that comes to roughly twenty-two lost per state. Ohio has 88 counties. In four years, that's one lost per county.

Statistically speaking, during the next presidential term, I am almost guaranteed to read at least once of a soldier from my county dying in Iraq. But since the numbers are actually excellorating, I should probably expect more.



Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Sibel Writes a Letter 

National Security Experts Demand to Be Heard - by Sibel Edmonds
To the Congress of the United States:

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States ended its report [.pdf] stating, "We look forward to a national debate on the merits of what we have recommended, and we will participate vigorously in that debate." In this spirit, we the undersigned wish to bring to the attention of the Congress and the people of the United States what we believe are serious shortcomings in the report and its recommendations. We thus call upon Congress to refrain from narrow political considerations and to apply brakes to the race to implement the Commission's recommendations. It is not too late for Congress to break with the practice of limiting testimony to that from politicians and top-layer career bureaucrats – many with personal reputations to defend and institutional equities to protect. Instead, use this unique opportunity to introduce salutary reform, an opportunity that must not be squandered by politically driven haste.

Omission is one of the major flaws in the Commission's report. We are aware of significant issues and cases that were duly reported to the Commission by those of us with direct knowledge, but somehow escaped attention. Serious problems and shortcomings within government agencies likewise were reported to the Commission but were not included in the report. The report simply does not get at key problems within the intelligence, aviation security, and law enforcement communities. The omission of such serious and applicable issues and information by itself renders the report flawed, and casts doubt on the validity of many of its recommendations.

We believe that one of the primary purposes of the Commission was to establish accountability; that to do so is essential to understanding the failures that led to 9/11, and to prescribe needed changes. However, the Commission in its report holds no one accountable, stating instead that "our aim has not been to assign individual blame." That is to play the political game, and it shows that the goal of achieving unanimity overrode one of the primary purposes of this Commission's establishment. When calling for accountability, we are referring not to quasi-innocent mistakes caused by "lack of imagination" or brought about by ordinary "human error." Rather, we refer to intentional actions or inaction by individuals responsible for our national security, actions or inaction dictated by motives other than the security of the people of the United States. The report deliberately ignores officials and civil servants who were, and still are, clearly negligent and/or derelict in their duties to the nation. If these individuals are protected rather than held accountable, the mindset that enabled 9/11 will persist, no matter how many layers of bureaucracy are added, and no matter how much money is poured into the agencies. Character counts. Personal integrity, courage, and professionalism make the difference. Only a commission bent on holding no one responsible and reaching unanimity could have missed that.

We understand, as do most Americans, that one of our greatest strengths in defending against terrorism is the dedication and resourcefulness of those individuals who work on the frontlines. Even before the Commission began its work, many honest and patriotic individuals from various agencies came forward with information and warnings regarding terrorism-related issues and serious problems within our intelligence and aviation security agencies. If it were not for these individuals, much of what we know today of significant issues and facts surrounding 9/11 would have remained in the dark. These "whistleblowers" were able to put the safety of the American people above their own careers and jobs, even though they had reason to suspect that the deck was stacked against them. Sadly, it was. Retaliation took many forms: some were ostracized; others were put under formal or informal gag orders; some were fired. The Commission has neither acknowledged their contribution nor faced up to the urgent need to protect such patriots against retaliation by the many bureaucrats who tend to give absolute priority to saving face and protecting their own careers.

The Commission did emphasize that barriers to the flow of information were a primary cause for wasting opportunities to prevent the tragedy. But it skipped a basic truth. Secrecy enforced by repression threatens national security as much as bureaucratic turf fights. It sustains vulnerability to terrorism caused by government breakdowns. Reforms will be paper tigers without a safe channel for whistleblowers to keep them honest in practice. It is unrealistic to expect that government workers will defend the public if they can't defend themselves. Profiles in courage are the exception, not the rule. Unfortunately, current whistleblower rights are a cruel trap and magnet for cynicism. The Whistleblower Protection Act has turned into an efficient way to finish whistleblowers off by endorsing termination. No government workers have access to jury trials like Congress enacted for corporate workers after the Enron/MCI debacles. Government workers need genuine, enforceable rights just as much to protect America's families as corporate workers do to protect America's investments. It will take congressional leadership to fill this hole in the 9/11 Commission's recommendations.

The Commission, with its incomplete report of "facts and circumstances," intentional avoidance of assigning accountability, and disregard for the knowledge, expertise and experience of those who actually do the job, has now set about pressuring our Congress and our nation to hastily implement all its recommendations. While we do not intend to imply that all recommendations of this report are flawed, we assert that the Commission's list of recommendations does not include many urgently needed fixes, and further, we argue that some of their recommendations, such as the creation of an "intelligence czar" and haphazard increases in intelligence budgets, will lead to increases in the complexity and confusion of an already complex and highly bureaucratic system.

Congress has been hearing not only from the commissioners but from a bevy of other career politicians, very few of whom have worked in the intelligence community, and from top-layer bureaucrats, many with vested interests in saving face and avoiding accountability. Congress has not included the voices of the people working within the intelligence and broader national security communities who deal with the real issues and problems day after day and who possess the needed expertise and experience – in short, those who not only do the job, but are conscientious enough to stick their necks out in pointing to the impediments they experience in trying to do it effectively.

We the undersigned, who have worked within various government agencies (FBI, CIA, FAA, DIA, Customs) responsible for national security and public safety, call upon you in Congress to include the voices of those with firsthand knowledge and expertise in the important issues at hand. We stand ready to do our part.

The letter is signed by 25 national security experts.

Would somebody please interview this woman?



Stating The Obvious 

$3 Trillion Price Tag Left Out As Bush Details His Agenda
The expansive agenda President Bush laid out at the Republican National Convention was missing a price tag, but administration figures show the total is likely to be well in excess of $3 trillion over a decade.

A staple of Bush's stump speech is his claim that his Democratic challenger, John F. Kerry, has proposed $2 trillion in long-term spending, a figure the Massachusetts senator's campaign calls exaggerated. But the cost of the new tax breaks and spending outlined by Bush at the GOP convention far eclipses that of the Kerry plan.
Medical costs eat at Social Security
With a new Medicare drug benefit set to begin in 2006, Americans 65 and older can expect to spend a large and growing share of their Social Security checks on Medicare premiums and expenses, previously undisclosed federal data show.
Information the Bush administration excluded from its 2004 report on the Medicare program shows that a typical 65-year-old can expect to spend 37% of his or her Social Security income on

Medicare premiums, co-payments and out-of-pocket expenses in 2006. That share is projected to grow to almost 40% in 2011 and nearly 50% by 2021.
The Bush plan: debt for your kids and death for your grandma.



Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Signature Follies 

Free Will: Daily libertarian conservative news and commentary!
Except, of course, as CBS has helpfully informed us, this document has been reproduced repeatedly. If that’s the case, absolutely nothing prevented the original author from cutting out a real Killian signature, pasting it onto the new document, and running it through the ole’ Xerox, creating a perfect forged signature. However, while I’m not handwriting expert, I beg to differ about the authenticity of Killian’s signature on this memo:

I don’t know about you, but when I sign my name, I don’t spend much time figuring out new and decorative ways to form the “A” at the beginning. The “K” in Killian is perhaps the most stunning example of this, but it’s clear to me that these represent two individuals with fundamentally different handwriting.
This is a copy of George Bush's signature:

This is another:

However, while I’m not handwriting expert ... I don’t know about you, but when I sign my name, I don’t spend much time figuring out new and decorative ways to form the letter at the beginning. But apparently Bush does, and also apparently so did Killian.

UPDATE: Is my face ever red. Aaron at Freewillblog has caught me in an error. The signature on the top is the signature of George H. W. Bush, the president's father. Mea culpa. I should have been more careful.

But the point is still valid. Two seperate signatures from the same person can look dissimilar on seperate occassions.

Like this:

And this:

Granted they are not as dissimilar as my first two examples, but they are dissimilar enough.



Repealing Prohibition: Part Deux 

Well, it's all over. Soon you will be able to walk into your neighborhood Wal-Mart and purchase an Israeli Uzi with a bayonet mount and a flash suppresser. John Kerry was quoted today as having said:
"Four years ago," Mr. Kerry said in St. Louis, "George Bush said he'd stand with and protect America's police officers by extending the assault-weapons ban, which keeps the most dangerous assault weapons off our streets, the same weapons that America's police officers want off our streets, not just to fight ordinary crime but to take on terrorists.

"In fact," the Democratic presidential candidate went on, "an Al Qaeda training manual recovered in Afghanistan included a chapter urging terrorists to get assault weapons in the United States. Why is George Bush making the job of the terrorists easier and making the job for America's police officers harder?"
That's pretty good, but the trick Bush used was that he actually did support the ban - sort of. (Not really, but most people won't realize that.)
But instead of using his bully pulpit to push for the ban's renewal, Bush is feigning support for the measure while effectively ensuring its demise. The reason is as simple as it is craven: It's all about placating the NRA, which has promised to withhold its presidential endorsement until after the assault weapons ban has expired.
I think Kerry would do much better by using a less subtly honest tack. In other words, don't lie, but point out with no nuance that Bush supported extending the ban. He did. He said he would sign it. In 1999, Bush said:
"It makes no sense for assault weapons to be around our society." Bush actually favors the ban, but he was such a weasel that he refused to push for it because he wants the NRA endorsement.

Is that strong leadership? Hey, Kerry, say that would ya? Is that strong leadership?

Hell no, it's not.



Sunday, September 12, 2004

It's So Crazy, It Just Might Work 

Today at work, I was wearing my cap with a Kerry/Edwards pin stuck in the side. A woman I used to work with saw it and asked, "What do you have on your hat?" The disapproval was thick in her tone.

"That," I responded, "is your next President and Vice President."

"No, it's not," she replied confidently.

"How do you know?" I asked expecting a debate about the polls.

"Because I'm going to vote for him. I never vote for the winner." For a moment, I thought I had misread her disapproval, but I hadn't. "So, I figured it out, I'm going to vote for the guy I don't want to win."

"Ah," I said, "shrewd. Do you think you can get your other unlucky Bush-supporting friends to do the same?"




I Read The News Today, Oh Boy 

The Herald-Star: One-issue voters missing the point - - The Steubenville Herald-Star

The line for autographed copies beginson the left. The line for egging the author is on the right, behind the security barrier.



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