Saturday, February 01, 2003

MAY THEY REST IN PEACE

We on the barricades suspend our ranting and raving, and stand and doff our liberty caps in salute to the tragic loss of the astronauts on board the Columbia.

Nothing is to be gained by making political hay of this tragedy now. Let us comfort their families and, whatever the cause may have been, learn how to do better next time.

We learn from Nebraska Public Radio that crew member Lt. Col. Michael Anderson was a former crewmember on RC-135 aircraft out of Offutt AFB, near Omaha. That makes him a comrade of mine. I morn doubly, now.

Friday, January 31, 2003

THIS IS HARDLY REASSURING

Just in case you have nothing better to do, have a look at The Iraq War Game. It isn't funny.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

A GOLD STAR FAMILY IN THE MAKING

It's shortly before midnight and I just got a message from my daughter, who is stationed in Germany as a supply clerk with the Army, that she's gotten orders to deploy within a week to "a place I can't tell you." Her husband, a security policeman in the Air Force stationed nearby, is also deploying about the same time, also to "somewhere." They were supposed to be coming home for leave next month to visit family. Their leaves were cancelled.

It doesn't take a genius to figure this one out.

I was lucky. I spent twenty one years in the military and never actually saw combat. I once looked out an airplane window and saw a bank of clouds that someone told me was Vietnam. Despite volunteering to be deployed, I spent Desert Storm in Germany translating for a contracting office. The only time I was on the receiving end of anything done in anger was in a bar fight in Berlin.

Now I have a child about to go to war. In today's style of military operations, there are no "front lines." With missiles that reach 300 miles; with nerve gas and biological weapons that could be deployed in hundreds of ways, there's no safety in being back "in the rear." If my daughter is within five hundred miles of Baghdad, her butt is in danger. Hell, if she were in Germany, she'd be in danger. I'm worried shitless about her already and she hasn't even packed her duffle bags (if the still use duffle bags in the army).

My daughter, like the tens of thousands of other men and women in the service being deployed in preparation for what we have to assume is an attack on Iraq, doesn't ask whether the war is right or wrong. (I don't know how she really feels.) She didn't ask for a "morality escape clause" when she raised her hand almost four years ago. She's just going, and I know she will do her best wherever she goes. So will the other tens of thousands of women and men on their way to the desert. That's what you do when you join the service: you serve. The theory is that your civilian and military leaders put their heads together and have a Higher Purpose when they send you forth. And you believe that. When you stop believing that, you have another Vietnam.

I thought Saddam Hussein was a madman in 1989. I thought he was a nutball on 9/11 (even though there is still no evidence that he had any involvement, other than cheering from the sidelines). I thought he was a demon after the State of the Union address. He needs to go -- along with a number of other very scary figures in the world. But why can't we convince the rest of the world of this?

If Saddam Hussein is the nasty guy I believe he is, my daughter should be working and fighting in the desert (or wherever she is going) with Franz Schmidt, Rene Dubois, Scragger O'Toole, Mehmet Tarkanian and Ilya Pushkin. She shouldn't be doing this alone. But George Bush is making her go to the desert by herself. Right now, it looks like if she is killed, she's going to die on her own, for Bush's own reasons, with nobody else in the world to stand there with her. And if she dies alone, I will hold him accountable.

Although I am not happy about the possibility of losing a daughter, I won't object for a moment to her being deployed. I'm not going to advise her to go AWOL, and I know she wouldn't go. She volunteered, and I'm proud of her for it. But if she has to die, let it be for the good of the world, with the cooperation of the world, and not because one man in one country says it ought to happen.

In the meantime, in the old tradition, there will be two gold stars in my window.

UPDATE

My friend Scooter, an excellent history student, points out that the traditional stars in the window were blue unless one of your family was killed in combat. So let's not rush things. Blue they shall be.

SECOND UPDATE, 2/1/03

I just found out that my daughter and her husband will be allowed leave this week to return to the States, so long as they can be back to their duty stations within 24 hours. That's encouraging. I don't know what this means for the Big Picture, but I'm glad she can come home for a little while.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

I CAN'T HELP MYSELF

I have to make two comments on the State of the Union address. Then I'll stop.

1) $1.2 billion for fuel cell development. HOOORRRAAAYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!! Those who complain about this one are knee-jerk griping. This is a win/win situation. Yes the money will go to money-grubbing corporations who ought to invest the money themselves. But if it will speed up the development of fuel cell vehicles, I'm all for it. [DISCLOSURE: I own about $500 in fuel-cell related stocks.]

2) He had me going about what a nasty guy Saddam Hussein is. But if he can convince me how nasty he is, why can't he convince the rest of the world?

In the words of Stan Lee, " 'Nuff said."
CHUCK HAGEL DIDN'T VIOLATE CAMPAIGN ETHICS

There has been some ongoing question about the status of Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel's disclosure of the level of his investments in The McCarthy Group, a "private merchant banking company based in Omaha, with which Hagel had a special relationship." Specifically, the questions go to the level of relationship between McCarthy and Elections Systems and Software, and to the Omaha World Herald, Nebraska's leading print journal. Hagel has never disclosed the relationship between ESS, the World-Herald, and McCarthy to the satisfaction of many, including the former director of the Senate Ethics Committee. It seems that in 1997 the former director sent correspondence to Hagel asking for information which he never received. He, and others who haven't been happy with Hagel, were not satisfied with the lack of information.

It's important here to note that no one is accusing Hagel of any wrongdoing or impropriety.

This all came out today in an article appearing in issue of The Hill and forwarded in the Nebraska Democratic Party's e-alert system, "In The Loop."

I am not a fan of campaign shenanigans. In fact I'd go so far as to say that I hate them. The jiggery-pokery that goes on pisses me off. And I understand that as a loyal Democrat I am supposed to attack where I am told to attack.

But we on the barricades only attack when we feel the need to attack. And, although Chuck Hagel is a Republican and a pretty loyal one at that, he is also middlin' decent. He has questioned Dubya's actions in Iraq more than the state's nominally Democratic Senator, Ben "I'm A Democrat, Honest!" Nelson.

I read the article from The Hill and while I see some things that could stand clarification, I don't see anything that makes me think that Chuck Hagel needs to be thrown out of office. I am always in favor of more disclosure in campaign finances, rather than less. So I'll agree that Chuck ought to answer questions put to him about ESS, the Weird Harold, and McCarthy. But I'm not going to use this as a club to drum him out of office. There are better reasons -- his failure to support the Democrats' more generous and better targeted drought relief package, for example. Instead, he supported a GOP bill that gave half as much help to farmers, and offered it to anyone, instead of restricting aid to those who truly have been stricken by the drought. That's something to slam him for. Minor finance questions just use up my arthritic typing fingers.
THREE QUARTERS OF A BILLION IN PROPERTY -- TAX FREE!!!

88 companies receiving corporate welfare under Nebraska's tax incentive and kickback scheme paid no property taxes on $732.4 million dollars in property last year, according to a report released yesterday.

Lincoln State Senator Ron Raikes, (winning the state Claude Raines award), said "I didn't realize it was that much."

The Lincoln Chamber of Commerce put in its two cents' worth:
Homeowners who might have a larger tax bill thanks to the business that enjoys exemptions should be thankful for the jobs created by LB775-qualifying companies, said Jim Fram, president of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce.

"I bet the guy that's working at the meatpacking plant doesn't mind paying a little more to be employed,'' Fram said.


In other words, we should pay a fee for our jobs, and be grateful for it?

Property tax in Nebraska is the primary source for funding of schools, county and city services, infrastructure, and roads and highways. Several years ago the Nebraska legislature passed a cap on property tax levies, restricting levies to less than $1.00 per thousand dollars of property value for school taxes, with additional levy caps for other purposes. Local districts can override the levy caps, but few have done so. The promise was made at the time that the shortfall in property tax would be made up with state funding -- which, to date, has not happened. The shortfall is less likely to come from state funding now that Nebraska is $673 million in the hole this year.

Once again, business is the sacred cow in the state of ranchers and farmers. Everyone else has to suck it in when times are bad. Big business slides through on everyone else's money.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

ET TU, NORMAN?

Apparently one person who won't be rushing off to the desert for the Coughlin Brigade (see below) is Norman Schwartzkopf. Remember him? He apparently has doubts: about the Iraq war and especially about Rumsfeld.

Join the club, Norm.

The article cited to comments about Schwartzkopf's failure to get certain surrender terms. Boys and girls, remember that he was a general who took orders from a civilian commander in chief named Bush. That commander in chief wanted one thing: a quick victory with minimum casualties. He had something like it in hand, so Gen. Schwartzkopf got his orders. Don't blame the general for following the orders he got from the CinC.

Tommy Franks is now in a pickle: he has to win big, win quick, and win clean in Iraq. If he doesn't, who do you think Bush will shift the blame to?

No, I don't think Norm will be joining the Coughlin brigade. He's been there, and done that.

Monday, January 27, 2003

YOU LIKE THE WAR SO MUCH, GO FIGHT IT!

I stumbled across this comment on Atrios a few minutes ago and had to post it. It makes perfect sense to me:
Hey, here's a thought... during the Spanish Civil War a bunch of bleeding heart, lefty Americans went to Spain and fought alongside the Royalists under the auspices of the "Abraham Lincoln Brigade". So how about Wolfie [Blitzer] and his gung-ho media pals signing up to fight in Iraq as part of the "Father Charles Coughlin Brigade"? I can just see the Wolf-man decked out in a tank commander outfit, swaggering around with his riding crop and pearl-handled revolver, hectoring the troops with inspirational quotes from Frederick the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, and Rush Limbaugh... eat your heart out Mikey Dukakis, you pitiful little Greek bastard!

Well, Wolf and Rush? We're waiting...
YOU ASKED FOR IT, YOU'RE GOING TO GET IT

Well, boys and girls, the Democrats are coming out swinging this week. I heard Tom Daschele and Nancy Pelosi today at the National Press Club talking about how the Democrats will respond to the State of the Union address tomorrow. Here's my summary:

1) We all love the president.

2) But he hasn't done a thing he promised to do last year, or the year before.

3) We gave him lots of chances and he hasn't delivered on anything.

4) The economy is getting worse and worse, everybody hates us, there's no reason for us to go to war in Iraq (but Saddam is a "demon") and education is miserable.

5) We wish the President would do better but he hasn't.

6) All Democrats agree on this except the ones who don't.

7) But we all love the President.

Seriously, it was amazing how stringent both were about citing the differences between Democrats and Republicans. It was as if they had been listening to all that was being said over the last few months...

Then I get a nice note from the Nebraska Democrats urging me to go to this site: "Misplaced Priorities, Missed Opportunities, and the Myth of Leadership" where I would learn how little Bush has done in the last year; how much of a failure he's been, etc. etc. The interesting part is that it's broken down by state. The information for Nebraska:

Here’s How Bush’s Policies Have Failed Nebraska’s Working Families: Under Bush’s new tax plan, 380,400 taxpayers in Nebraska would receive $100 or less; of those, 214000 would get nothing at all. Unemployment in Nebraska is 3.3%, up 14% since Bush took office. In 2001, 160,000 had no health insurance in Nebraska, a number expected to rise because of Bush’s recession.

GOP Governor Proposed Cutting School Aid By 10 Percent. Governor Mike Johanns (R) proposed cutting state aid to local school districts by 10 percent. Intended to close Nebraska’s $673 million two year deficit, the plan would affect school funding and force local districts to make serious cuts. Nebraska Association of School Boards executive director John Bonaiuto said, “The governor's budget doesn't give boards many options other than cutting staff.” [Omaha World-Herald, 1/22/03]

Bush’s New Tax Plan Skewed to the Wealthy; Leaves Behind 380,400 Nebraska Taxpayers.

On January 7, 2003, Bush introduced a $674 billion tax plan that speeds up tax cuts from his 2001 plan and features an elimination of the dividend tax. This plan is heavily skewed toward the wealthy with nearly two-thirds (60.1%) of the benefits in 2003 going to the wealthiest 10 percent of taxpayers. Overall 64 million Americans would receive $100 or less from the plan. In Nebraska, 380,400 would
receive $100 or less and of those, 214,000 would get nothing. [White House Fact Sheet, 1/7/03; Citizens for Tax Justice Fact Sheet, 1/8/03; 1/27/03, http://www.ctj.org]

Bush touted his new tax cut package and its large average cuts. “These tax reductions will bring real and immediate benefits to middle-income Americans. Ninety-two million Americans will keep an average of $1,083 more of their own money,” Bush said. In reality, a small number of wealthy taxpayers would get large tax cuts, while the remainder would get far less than Bush claimed. In
Nebraska, the average tax cut for the top 1 percent would be $18,744 while the average tax cut for the middle 20 percent of taxpayers would be $250. [Bush Remarks in Chicago, Illinois, 1/7/03; CTJ Fact Sheet, 1/27/03, http://www.ctj.org]


I love it. I'm delighted to see something being done and being forwarded by the state Democrats. Watch for more like this. I just wish we could drop the "we love the President" Kumbaya singing.