The Peach

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Saturday, September 18, 2004

Right-Wing Assault on Democracy -- Where Was the Press?

We just saw this item posted on DailyKos and could not believe that this story has recieved no media attention whatsoever. A bill has been introduced in the House and the Senate that represents a profound threat to our democracy -- actually, it was introduced last February -- but you'd never know it from reading the papers.

Senators Zell Miller, Richard Shelby, Sam Brownback, Lindsay Graham and others have sponsored the Constitution Restoration Act of 2004, which prevents the Supreme Court and federal courts from hearing cases that involve actions by an elected or appointed official undertaken on the basis of that official's belief in God. An identical bill has been introduced in the House.

Backers insist that the legislation is designed to prevent the courts from reviewing cases involving public nativity scenes, displays of the Ten Commandments and the like. But Yurica Report notes that "the law is drawn broadly and expressly includes the acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law by an official in his capacity of executing his office." Thus any if a public official cites his religious beliefs as the basis for a decision, action or piece of legislation (presumably including this law itself) then the decision or action would be exempt from judicial review .

A key section of the law reads:

Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the Supreme Court shall not have jurisdiction to review, by appeal, writ of certiorari, or otherwise, any matter to the extent that relief is sought against an element of Federal, State, or local government, or against an officer of Federal, State, or local government (whether or not acting in official personal capacity), by reason of that element's or officer's acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.

The legislation was allegedly drafted by Herb Titus, the attorney for Judge Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore, on behalf of a group known as "Dominionists" that includes members of Congress. Titus was also the first dean of Pat Robertson's school of public policy. Robertson himself is allegedly a key theorist of Dominionism, and he has been explicit in his belief that Christians can and should take control of the government and limit the power of the courts. The "restoration" referred to in the legislation's title is thus the restoration of the Constitution to what Dominionists believe is an appropriate subservience to biblical law.

Think it can't happen here? The bill already has 34 sponsors in the House and seven in the Senate. It is currently in committees and we are following up on the current status of the discussion.

Get into the subject on TheocracyWatch if you want to really get chills -- especially the part that draws out connections between these Dominionists and aspects of the Texas Republican Party platform which includes calling for an end to criminal penalties for people who "oppose homosexuality" for religious reasons -- essentially decriminalizing hate crimes against gay people, abortion providers, etc.

You are mopping the cold sweat off your brow and thinking, even if this passed somehow, the Supreme Court would never allow it to stand. Well, consider the fact that at least two justices are nearing retirement. It is extremely likely that Bush will pack the Supreme Court in the next four years.

Can you hear us screaming from here to wherever you may be sitting?

Friday, September 17, 2004

Bush and Your Health

Finally, ABC News does its job unpacking Bush's latest healthcare proposals, and the reality is profoundly unsettling. In essence, Bush wants to move away from employer-provided healthcare altogether, and toward a system where everyone purchases his own private health insurance -- An ownership society indeed! According to the ABC piece:
"The Bush vision is quite radical. He essentially is dreaming of a world where there is no employer-provided insurance," said Uwe Reinhardt, a health economist at Princeton University. "You buy your own insurance, but you pay the first $2,000 to $4,000 per year out of your own pocket."

The article further notes, "Bush campaign officials say consumers will be more savvy and aware of costs if they're in charge of their own health expenses. That, they argue, will reduce the total bill America pays for health care. "

The last bit sounds distinctly like the usual Republican code for sharply limiting peoples' options by laying all the costs on our doorstep. We see it with social services, we see it with education, and now we are seeing it in healthcare. The most likely scenario here is that, as usual, the wealthiest and healthiest Americans will be able to take the best advantage of the Bush proposal -- getting the best private insurance rates, and being in a favorable position to save for whatever out-of-pocket costs are not covered

Meanwhile, the poor and the sick will be screwed, since they will face the highest insurance rates and far higher out-of-pocket costs that they will be unlikely to be able to meet in any case. They will become increasingly unlikely to obtain preventive care or address non-emergency health problems due to the costs involved. As usual, the phony rhetoric of "ownership," "responsibility" and "control" mean that the least powerful among us will suffer so that Bush's "have-mores" can, well, have more.

We are glad that ABC, at least, is making Bush's real agenda explicit.

Gallup Poll Caveats

A Gallup poll is expected to be released today giving Bush a 54-40 lead over Kerry (ouch!). But before you climb out onto the window ledge, you should be aware of the following caveats that The Peach will be following up on:

1. This poll is a freak among polls. The other credible polling outfits show any Bush "bounce" fading rapidly into history and the electorate moving consistently toward Kerry. E.g., the Pew Center's most recent poll had the candidates neck and neck at 46-46 among registered voters. IBD finds the candidates tied as well, and Harris Interactive and Strategic Vision both give Kerry a slight edge at 48-47 and 49-45 respectively.

2. Gallup explictly includes a higher proportion of self-identified Republicans in its sample than self-identified Democrats. They must think this somehow more closely represents the electorate, but apparently no one else does.

3. It's The Peach's understanding that Gallup is now controlled by a far-right CEO who has contributed in a big way to Conservative causes. Bush's lead in their polls a coincidence? We think not, but will investigate this further.

In the meantime, cheer up. It looks like our guy is pulling even.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

WMD Shocker

The latest report from the top U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, Charles Duelfer, concludes that there were no weapons of mass destruction, according to the AP. Mr. Duelfer did find that Saddam had "intentions of restarting weapons programs at some point, after suspicion and inspections from the international community waned." That is not surprising, and seems to us a pretty distant pretext for going to war. We do not believe the American people would have signed on, had we known.

Meanwhile, over 1,000 U.S. service men and women have died to prosecute the Iraq war based on the the Administration's original justification: that Saddam did have weapons; that he would use them any day now; that he posed an imminent threat. The new report merely underscores what we have realized for some time now; that Saddam didn't and couldn't and wouldn't.

That being the case, there was plenty of time to do the job better, to gain greater certainty through further inspections; to build an international coaltion, even to get key Arab states on our side. There was no need for a pre-emptive war. We were pre-empting nothing.

We're Off Track with TANG

Recent coverage of Bush's military record falls into two basic categories. There are the questions being raised about documents aired by CBS 60 Minutes last week, and the more substantive questions about Bush's military service itself, being raised by the likes of AP, The Boston Globe and U.S. News and World Report. Which is most important? It seems it depends on what's on your menu.

In the shallow world of TV journalism, the he-said-she-said controversy about the authenticity of CBS's documents is clearly the only thing that matters. Are they or aren't they? Selectric or MS Word? Superscripts or no superscripts? Is that proportional spacing or just something that looks like it? And the parade of "experts" weighing in! One says yes, one says no. A former colleague of Bush's commanding officer swears these are the real thing. A former secretary says no, but they do reflect his real thoughts! Others -- often with partisan connections -- insist that CBS's docs are forgeries from beginning to end.

Meanwhile, it seems to The Peach that AP, the Globe, U.S. News and others are focused on something that is more central to the purpose of journalism -- to hold our leaders accountable for their words and actions. They are less obsessed with CBS's document, more concerned with the questions that preceded them and other new evidence that has come to light. E.g., what is the deal with Bush's military service? Why did he stop flying and blow off his physical? What kind of influence did he use to get in, and how did he obtain that honorable discharge? Where are the rest of his military records, since it is clear that the White House has not released all of them? And finally, how does Bush reconcile his various statements over the years with facts -- above and beyond the disputed memos -- that clearly and entirely refute them?

The focus on the Killian memos is a red herring. Take them out of the mix, and the discrepancies between the best-documented records and Bush's public statements remain as glaring as ever. The media should be calling Bush to account. Instead they focus on things that don't matter, to the impoverishment of American political life.

Kerry Ahead in Latest Poll

Says that bastion of left-wing extremism, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL! We're serious. Check it out here.

Damning Report on Iraq

Bush's sunny public optimism on Iraq is sharply at odds with a pessimistic picture of the situation found in the National Intelligence Estimate, presented to the president this past summer by the National Intelligence Council. Blockquote

AP reports that:
[T]he council looked at the political, economic and security situation in the war-torn country and determined that — at best — stability in Iraq would be tenuous, a U.S. official said late Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
At worst, the official said, were "trend lines that would point to a civil war."

The New York Times also ran a story, noting that:

President Bush, who was briefed on the new intelligence estimate, has not significantly changed the tenor of his public remarks on the war's course over the summer.

Again, the public is faced with a president who, when faced with unpleasant facts about his failed policies, simply lies about them.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The War on Error II

Knight Ridder reporters Ron Hutcheson and James Kuhnhenn try to do the right thing with this detailed comparison of the Bush and Kerry healthcare plans, by providing hard facts to contextualize campaign assertions, rather than the usual duelling claims and counter-claims that constitute the bulk of campaign coverage we are seeing lately.

However, as CJR notes when the story actually ran in many of K-R's 31 papers around the nation, readers did not always see the full version. Various levels of editorial wisdom chopped the story, ran it online but not in their print versions, or ran it not at all. These editors need to understand that voters are the poorer when the press fails to do its job.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Fairy-tale Ending

Remember Lynne Gobbell, the Moulton, Ala. woman who was fired for having a Kerry-Edwards bumpersticker on her car? As he gave her the axe, her boss commented that she could either work for him or John Kerry. Well, we're pleased to report that thanks to the energetic efforts of the progressive Internet community, but especially DailyKos, which launched the original Decatur (Ala.) Daily story into the blogosphere, Ms. Moulton now has a new job -- working for John Kerry!

According to Slate, the negative publicity so unnerved Ms. Moulton's former boss, Phil Geddes, that he caved and offered her her old job back. While she was considering the offer, Mr. Kerry called.

Ms. Gobbell told Slate, "He'd read the part where Phil said I could either work for him or work for John Kerry. He said, 'you let him know you're working for me as of today.'"

Ms. Gobbell accepted, and it's up to the Kerry campaign now to work out the details. We do hope her gig extends into a job with the future Kerry administration as well. And we can imagine that Ms. Gobbell's next call with Mr. Geddes was infinitely satisfying.

Compassionate Conservatism

Principle #1: Blame the victim. In the aftermath of the school killings in Russia, Dick Cheney had some inspirational words for the grief-stricken: You brought it on yourselves for not supporting Bush's foreign policy.

This according to the New York Times account:
"Some of our European friends have been somewhat ambivalent," Mr. Cheney told a town hall meeting [...] Some foreign countries have probably been thinking that "if they kept their heads down," their citizens would not suffer terrorist attacks, the vice president said. "Well, Russia got his anyway." [...] As a result, Mr. Cheney said, "people are reassessing now" whether they should [...] openly support Mr. Bush's policies.

We suppose we can be grateful that Cheney does not blame the attacks on the increasing acceptance of feminists and gays in contemporary society, as some of his religious-right supporters suggested following the 9/11 attacks. But once again, we are back to "Bush or die." It is unfortunate that the Times reporter did not take a moment to unpack the implications of what Cheney is saying here, and help readers understand whether an embracing of Bush's foreign policies would have had any impact on this tragedy.

It is for the rest of us to let Mr. Cheney know his remarks are utterly inappropriate as a response to this devastating event, and they only make him appear to be even more of a reptile than previously thought.

Polling Update

The latest Investor's Business Daily poll has the candidates neck and neck. The "Bush Bounce" is rapidly being reabsorbed into reality, and the Time poll is looking increasingly like an outlier. Check out the IBD poll and the other major polls here.

The War on Error

Please take a moment to send good vibes in the general direction of AP reporter Scott Lindlaw, who makes this fair and responsible effort to place Bush's lighter-than-air pronouncements and misrepresentations of Kerry's positions in the context of some facts.

Here's a sample:

"In the last six months of the prior administration, more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs were lost. We're turning that around," said Bush, who cited the addition of 107,000 manufacturing jobs this year.
According to the Labor Department, the number of payroll jobs has grown by 1.7 million in the past 12 months, but the economy still has lost 913,000 positions since Bush took office in January 2001. In manufacturing alone, the number of job losses under Bush stands at 2.67 million, though factory employment has risen by 107,000 since January.

And further down:

"Raising taxes will be bad for our economy," the president told supporters near Philadelphia.
Kerry has proposed raising taxes on only the top 2 percent of wage earners while leaving cuts for the middle-class in place.

Finally our favorite:

The Republican incumbent argued that Kerry would dramatically increase government spending, but did not mention that on his own watch, federal spending has mushroomed at the fastest pace in a decade, fueled by war and a surge in non-defense spending.
We wish we did not have to look upon Mr. Lindlaw as a big hero for doing what any responsible journalist ought. Still, it is heartening to see that there still are reporters who will hold a public figure's statements up to the cold light of reality. We wish that the likes of Mr. Lindlaw were more common in the ranks of the "mainstream" media.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Bush's Report Card on Terror

The Center for American Progress has released a flash-animated "report card" on the Bush administration's war on terrorism. Worth a look to really scare yourself about how much less safe we are today, and to collect talking points for conversations with people who tell you they're voting for Bush because they think he's great on national security.

You Know The Bill of Rights is In Danger . . .

. . . When an employer can get away with firing an employee for being a Democrat. We wish this wasn't a true story, but it is. The Decatur (Ala.) Daily News reports that Lynn Gobbell of Moulton, Alabama was fired from her job for sporting a Kerry-Edwards bumpersticker on her car.

The employer, Phil Gaddis, CEO of Enviromate, a cellulose insulation company, felt it was perfectly appropriate to express his political opinion to his employees. He enclosed a flyer in their pay envelopes which read as follows:

"Just so you will know, because of the Bush tax (cut):
I was able to buy the new Hammer Mill
I was able to finance our receivables
I was able to get the new CAT skid steer
I was able to get the wire cutter
I was able to give you a job"
You got the benefit of the Bush tax cut. Everyone did."

But when Ms. Gobbell arrived at work in her pro-Kerry car, she was told by Mr. Gaddis and another supervisor that she could "either work for John Kerry or for [Mr. Gaddis]" and summarily fired. Her unemployment compensation will not kick in for about three weeks.

We think it's appropriate at this point for the media to start asking if this is an aberration or if the civil rights of non-conservative-Republican Americans are significantly in danger. We also think Ms. Gobbell needs a good lawyer. Even though employment is largely "at will" in this country, it can't possibly be legal for employers to dictate employees' exercise of fundamental, Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Why the Press Sucks On Politics

We lament every day about how lame the mainstream (formerly known as "liberal") press are at doing their jobs when it comes to the current political situation in our country. They never seem to know their facts, or if they do, they are nevertheless incapable of confronting public figures with obvious lies and half-truths.

They are obsessed with a notion of "balance" that only enables them to juxtapose competing perspectives, rather than presenting facts. Opposing viewpoints, no matter how extreme or bizarre are given precisely equal weight. Well-established facts are presented as partisan perspectives on the order of: "'The earth is round,' Kerry said."

MediaChannel has taken a shot at unpacking why this is the case, and they provide some useful insights, both into the Bush spin operation and some key shortcomings of today's journalists that leave them open to its machinations. The article notes that the press played a major role in the selling of the Iraq war to the American public, through its adoption of uniform storylines and partisan "facts" fed them by the administration, and through its failure to report thoroughly, raise questions and listen to dissenters.

Recently, some print outlets have done public mea culpas, citing their failure to dig deeper on the WMD claims and other specifics of the selling of Iraq. Yet this small degree of self-awareness has not enabled them to resist engaging in the same M.O. when it comes to covering the presidential campaign. We wonder what all those public editors and ombudsmen will be saying if Bush wins this time around. Will the media recognize how they abdicated their responsibility; Will there be the same pious self-flagellation as there has been in the wake of Iraq? Will anyone still be listening?

Pot Calls Kettle Black -- Film at 11

The Chicago Sun-Times resurrected this choice item from 1988 in which "the Presidential campaign of George H.W. Bush charges that Democratic vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen used his influence to get his son into the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam war."

Bush an Even Bigger Liar Than You Thought

Raw Story breaks the news that back in 1978, Bush actually claimed he had served in the Air Force -- after going to Harvard B-School! A piece of campaign literature from Bush's failed run for Congress asserts that, "after recieving[...] a Masters of Business Administration from Harvard University, he served in the U.S. Air Force and the Texas Air National Guard."

Of course, Bush never served in the Air Force, and all of his sub-standard National Guard service took place before he went to Harvard.

The lie has been repeated several times. When questioned about it during his 2000 Presidential run by the AP, Bush insisted that he was "in the Air Force," and Karen Hughes said that when Bush attended flight school, he was deemed to be on active duty for the Air Force.

Well, the Air Force begs to differ. Several Air Force spokespeople seem to have told Nation columnist David Corn that active-duty members of the Air National Guard are not considered to be part of the US Air Force. "If a member of the Air National Guard is in pilot training," says Captain Cristin Lesperance of the US Air Force media relations office, "they would remain on the Guard books. They would be counted as Guard, not as an active-duty Air Force member."

Oops, he did it again. And no one has called him on it yet.

It isn't that important. It shouldn't be that important. Except that the Bush campaign has made a huge issue about statements that John Kerry made thirty years ago, and about the number of layers of Kerry's skin that the shrapnel penetrated. And the media thumped on that theme relentlessly for days, giving the Swift Boat Veterans for Bullshit all the air time they needed to make a true hero look like a fake.

Well, where are the media now? What about the statements, the outright lies, that George Bush was promulgating in that same timeframe? Where is the outrage? Where are the Coke-Snorting Harvard B-School Alums for Truth or whatever? Where is CBS News on this one? Most of all, why does this creepy, dumb, privileged, lying sack of shit get a pass every time?

Bush Flip-Flops May Gain Media Traction

Could it be? Is the mainstream media finally picking up on the "Flip-Flopper-in-Chief" story? It just might, thanks to an AP story on the subject that has hit everywhere, including ABC News, USA Today, SF Chronicle, Miami Herald, NY Daily News, Kansas City Star and many others. Check it out for the most detailed and comprehensive list of Bush flip-flops we've seen.