Monday, May 31, 2004

Wal-Mart Kid Connection Brand Is Crap

Today's Washington Post has a feature article on the havoc wrought by Wal-Mart on the lucrative toy market. Aimee and I generally avoid buying toys at retail outlets. We figure our kids probably have too many toys as it is. And when we do buy toys we'll try to acquire them at garage sales where the price (usually under a dollar) is much better.

However, despite my disdain for mass-marketed toys, I read the article because I was curious to see if Wal-Mart's private label toy brand would rate a mention. There, at the bottom of the second page, was this:
To save money, Wal-Mart contracts with manufacturers to make several private label toys, which are sold under names such as Wal-Mart's Kid Connection. Profit margins on these products, many of which are manufactured outside the United States, are often twice those of brand-name toys, said the executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he continues to do business with the retailer.
I was interested, you see, because I've had some experience with Wal-Mart's private label. On the rare occasion when garage sales have failed us in our search for a particular toy we've resorted to Wal-Mart. And of course there's the inevitable birthday gifts our boys have received from Wal-Mart.

My objective opinion based upon the half-dozen or so Kid Connection brand toys with which I've come in contact: Kid Connection sucks. Not a single Kid Connection toy my children have ever come in contact with has failed to break within 24 hours of coming out of it's packaging. Now for some kids that may not be saying much. However, as a point of reference, my kids regularly play with toys that are over 20 years old without the toys falling apart in their hands. As a result of these experiences, I have vowed to never again let my kids use a Kid Connection toy. I certainly won't ever purchase a Kid Connection toy myself. And if my children should ever receive another Kid Connection toy as a gift I will immediately return the toy to Wal-Mart.

If I can convince even one person to avoid Wal-Mart's Kid Connection brand like the plague then I have done a good deed. You have been warned.

Can We Impeach Yet?

Via Atrios we get this from Rude Pundit about Dubya's fixation with Saddam's captured pistol:
Exactly how may laws, federal and D.C., might the President be breaking with his possession of that firearm? Did he receive a background check for the transfer of ownership? Is Bush licensed to possess a firearm in a federal facility? The District of Columbia prohibits firearms to be gifts. How many people are implicated in Bush's firearm possession?
To recap, we already know that Bush desecrated the flag (on multiple occassions) in violation of federal law. Now we find that he has most likely violated multiple gun possession laws.

Thankfully, these don't rise to the Republican definition of "high crimes and misdemeanors" like, say, fellatio. Oh, I forgot, Clinton wasn't impeached for the sex, it was because he lied about it. I'm sure we're all thankful that Bush has never lied about anything as important as sex.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Exhibit A In The Case Against Musgrave

There are many of reasons to oppose Marilyn Musgrave and people of her ilk. However you really only one reason.

Letter to the Editor
by Sharon Underwood, Sunday, April 30, 2000
from the Valley News (White River Junction, VT/Hanover, NH)

As the mother of a gay son, I've seen firsthand how cruel and misguided people can be.

Many letters have been sent to the Valley News concerning the homosexual menace in Vermont. I am the mother of a gay son and I've taken enough from you good people.

I'm tired of your foolish rhetoric about the "homosexual agenda" and your allegations that accepting homosexuality is the same thing as advocating sex with children. You are cruel and ignorant. You have been robbing me of the joys of motherhood ever since my children were tiny.

My firstborn son started suffering at the hands of the moral little thugs from your moral, upright families from the time he was in the first grade. He was physically and verbally abused from first grade straight through high school because he was perceived to be gay.

He never professed to be gay or had any association with anything gay, but he had the misfortune not to walk or have gestures like the other boys. He was called "fag" incessantly, starting when he was 6.

In high school, while your children were doing what kids that age should be doing, mine labored over a suicide note, drafting and redrafting it to be sure his family knew how much he loved them. My sobbing 17-year-old tore the heart out of me as he choked out that he just couldn't bear to continue living any longer, that he didn't want to be gay and that he couldn't face a life without dignity.

You have the audacity to talk about protecting families and children from the homosexual menace, while you yourselves tear apart families and drive children to despair. I don't know why my son is gay, but I do know that God didn't put him, and millions like him, on this Earth to give you someone to abuse. God gave you brains so that you could think, and it's about time you started doing that.

At the core of all your misguided beliefs is the belief that this could never happen to you, that there is some kind of subculture out there that people have chosen to join. The fact is that if it can happen to my family, it can happen to yours, and you won't get to choose. Whether it is genetic or whether something occurs during a critical time of fetal development, I don't know. I can only tell you with an absolute certainty that it is inborn.

If you want to tout your own morality, you'd best come up with something more substantive than your heterosexuality. You did nothing to earn it; it was given to you. If you disagree, I would be interested in hearing your story, because my own heterosexuality was a blessing I received with no effort whatsoever on my part. It is so woven into the very soul of me that nothing could ever change it. For those of you who reduce sexual orientation to a simple choice, a character issue, a bad habit or something that can be changed by a 10-step program, I'm puzzled. Are you saying that your own sexual orientation is nothing more than something you have chosen, that you could change it at will? If that's not the case, then why would you suggest that someone else can?

A popular theme in your letters is that Vermont has been infiltrated by outsiders. Both sides of my family have lived in Vermont for generations. I am heart and soul a Vermonter, so I'll thank you to stop saying that you are speaking for "true Vermonters."

You invoke the memory of the brave people who have fought on the battlefield for this great country, saying that they didn't give their lives so that the "homosexual agenda "could tear down the principles they died defending. My 83-year-old father fought in some of the most horrific battles of World War II, was wounded and awarded the Purple Heart.

He shakes his head in sadness at the life his grandson has had to live. He says he fought alongside homosexuals in those battles, that they did their part and bothered no one. One of his best friends in the service was gay, and he never knew it until the end, and when he did find out, it mattered not at all. That wasn't the measure of the man.

You religious folk just can't bear the thought that as my son emerges from the hell that was his childhood he might like to find a lifelong companion and have a measure of happiness. It offends your sensibilities that he should request the right to visit that companion in the hospital, to make medical decisions for him or to benefit from tax laws governing inheritance.

How dare he? you say. These outrageous requests would threaten the very existence of your family, would undermine the sanctity of marriage.

You use religion to abdicate your responsibility to be thinking human beings. There are vast numbers of religious people who find your attitudes repugnant. God is not for the privileged majority, and God knows my son has committed no sin.

The deep-thinking author of a letter to the April 12 Valley News who lectures about homosexual sin and tells us about "those of us who have been blessed with the benefits of a religious upbringing" asks: "What ever happened to the idea of be better human beings than we are?"

Indeed, sir, what ever happened to that?
(From Fresh Bilge via Atrios)

Friday, May 28, 2004

Is It Possible to Take Ashcroft Seriously?

Scary Ashcroft

McCartney Speaks Out Against War

Ex-peacenik Paul McCartney roundly denounced the British government Thursday. Speaking to the media monolith Visao, a Portuguese weekly magazine, Sir Paul wondered if "maybe our government went in too fast with the Americans." As he spoke the disdain and anger in his voice was barely concealed. Continuing his tirade he lambasted Tony Blair and George Bush by observing that "it would have been better if the UN had been together. Now it's become very bloody with Iraq, it's very difficult."

McCartney's biting denunciations come over a year after George W. Bush proclaimed "Mission Accomplished." It was little more than 18 months ago that the British and American governments began their unstoppable March to war while simultaneously deceiving their citizenry into thinking that war would be a last resort.

McCartney had no comment on the swiftness of his condemnations.

McCartney was once a member of a band named "The Beatles." In 1968 the ex-rocker, along with his band mates, promoted Peace in a number of popular tunes, including the international hit "All You Need Is Love"

A former band mate of McCartney's, John Lennon, was targeted by the FBI for deportation from America for his subversive attempts to promote peace. McCartney has never been targeted for deportation. Nor has he been accused of involvement in radical "rock-n-roll" style protests, despite his harsh words condemning the late war in Iraq.

Allah Shoots Rock

Calling all Lakers fans with a knowledge of theology...Care to comment on this?
We expect our sports heroes to be like our religious heroes -- Jesus, Moses, etc." said Ronald Kamm, the president of the international society for sports psychiatry in Oakhurst, N.J. "They got where they got through discipline, self-denial, repetitive practice and strong character. If Kobe is found guilty, it is a threat to the myth-belief system we erect around sports, religion and its heroes.
I'm not sure what to make of equating "self-denial" and "strong character" with someone who is a possible rapist and a definite adulterer. But, I guess it doesn't matter because hey, he's got game.

Liberal Lament

For aspiring politicians and convention delegates Matthew Yglesias has some words of warning.

The explanation for the lack of "community development" on the Left, I think, has its roots in the traditional dominance by the Left of the Congress and the marketplace of ideas in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Liberals defined the debate in those days. They had no need to promote their ideas with think tanks, internships, and what not.

Conservatives, on the other hand, languished in the Wilderness. The torching of Barry Goldwater in 1964 taught Conservatives that they'd better improve their game. One way of getting better was to attact smart people to their cause. Conservative think tanks, like madrassas in Afghanistan, sprung up to inculcate a whole generation of young conservatives. However, the dividends of such forward thinking didn't pay off until the 1980's and beyond.

The Road to Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions

Writing in The Atlantic Online Jack Beatty expresses, hopefully, the view that the misadventure in Iraq will explode once and for all the pipe dreams that passed for strategy in the neo-con world view.
Paradoxically, the very scale of the debacle in Iraq may yield one long-term good: the repudiation of neo-conservative "democratic imperialism." The Americans killed in Iraq will not have died in vain if their sacrifice keeps other Americans from dying in neo-con wars to "remediate" Syria, Iran, or North Korea. After Iraq, "neo-conservative" may achieve the resonance of "isolationist" after World War II-a term of opprobrium for a discredited approach to foreign policy, shorthand for dangerous innocence about world realities. Like the isolationists, the neo-cons are history's fools. The strategy they championed was the wrongest possible strategy for the wrongest possible moment in the wrongest possible region of the world.
Beatty's article makes a nice companion piece to Dan Drezner's latest TNR essay (with footnotes here). Drezner faults not the neo-con strategy but the faulty implementation of that strategy. Drezner's worry is precisely Beatty's hope.
The political problem for those sympathetic to democratization is that even if fault does lie with the implementation--which may well be the case--Americans are likely to blame the strategy that got us involved in Iraq rather than the nuances of how we carried it out...[voters] will therefore respond to our setbacks in Iraq by writing off the neocons' big idea altogether, concluding that democracy promotion in the Middle East was a pipe dream. Without public support, the grand strategy of reforming the Middle East will inevitably fall by the wayside...
A lot of the debate about whether the Iraq debacle results from flawed strategy or bad implementation of a sound strategy is one of semantics. How can one effectively distinguish between those elements of the neo-con strategy that masquerade as implementation (and vice versa)? The neo-con "strategy" calls for transformation of the Middle East via the (forceful) promotion of Western style democracy. The promotion of democracy part is a laudable goal and one that I'm not sure is opposed by non-neo-cons. (Yes, even those nasty, radical elements of the America-hating Left are in favor of democracy.) The question, really, is how "forceful" America must be in promoting democracy? And at what point does the forceful "implementation" become the strategy itself?

The traditional tools for promoting democracy -- diplomacy, deterrence, containment, coalition building -- take time to have their intended effect. The neo-cons decided that these tools were ineffective. The need for action, they argued, was immediate and acute. Was that a strategic or a tactical (i.e. implementation) decision?

I myself am a little dubious of the notion that we can impose democracy with shock and awe. I'm even more dubious when it is we -- not our adversaries -- who are shocked and awed. The shock of beheadings and torture coupled with the awe at a mighty super-power's ineffectiveness against the Mehdi "Army" can't fail to cause one to question the implementation if not the strategy.

Kevin Drum points out additional problems that contribute to the notion that the implementation was and is flawed.

Finally, there's one very interesting side-note to the larger debate on this topic (of which Drezner and Beatty form but one small skirmish). Over the last 18 months the discussion has evolved completely into the merits of democratization of Iraq and the methods by which democracy can be promoted. We have seemingly moved entirely beyond the ostensible rationale for the war: WMD and the immediate threat to American security. In this regard it can be said that the GOP has decisively won the rhetorical battle of why we're in Iraq.

GOTV: How to Increase Voter Turnout

For prospective activists and convention delegates here's a book that might be of interest to you.

(Via Political Wire)

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Please Pardon This Commercial Interruption...

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Watch the Right Flank

Political Wire links to a CBS story on the possibility of a Libertarian candidacy affecting November's outcome.

I've been quietly hoping for some time that Bush would face a challenge from his right. I had begun to lose hope. Certainly, he will face no organized opposition from within his party (the fratricide of my previous post notwithstanding). But I think Libertarian opposition to Bush is just as good. Maybe even better.

A Libertarian challenge would serve the dual purpose of weakening Bush and strengthening the third-party movement within the country. Though I'm not sure the third-party movement would develop in quite the way Bob Novack envisions:
I just had breakfast with a guy and we discussed that people are already talking, as politicians do, about the what-ifs,” said Novak. “Everybody believes if Bush loses, the Republican Party will move to the left in ’08, to the Schwarzenegger and Giuliani strain, and that is where you really get the possibility of a serious third-party movement.
It seems to me that the neo-cons and the radical social conservatives (I've heard them described as "theo-cons") have too much of a stranglehold on the GOP for the party to make a noticeable move to the left. But hey, whatever it takes to break the links between the Old Establishment GOP (McCain, Chafee, Lugar, Snowe, etc.) and the Modern Radical Right.

I think that when the issue of presidential debates comes up this fall, Kerry should support the inclusion of both Nader and the Libertarian candidate on the dais. The Libertarian candidate is likely to peel away from Bush much more support than Nader is likely to pull from Kerry. Alas, given the stranglehold that "Republicrats" have on the political process, it's highly unlikely that either of two parties will allow their power to be dissipated by including either of the third party candidates. If it happens, it will happen over the fierce objections of both the RNC and the DNC.


Pity the poor Republicans.

According to John Feehery, a spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert: "It's extremely difficult to govern when you control all three branches of government."

Check out the rest of the WaPo article if you're interested in an overview of the current state of the Republican Coalition.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Truth Deficit

Clumsy Leadership in Times of Change
The Bushies would have you believe that Bicycle Bush is sporting battle scars because "it's been raining a lot and the topsoil is loose."

Daily Kos counters with a post on Crawford precipitation levels. (Here's a hint: It hasn't rained in over a week.) Says Kos: "So rain on the 13th and (barely) 14th was blamed for a Bush fall on the 22nd. As everything else, it wasn't Bush's fault. Nothing is Bush's fault."

And he's right, of course. The Bushies are congenitally predisposed to look for root causes and responsibilities that lie completely outside of their control. It's axiomatic that Bush can only be considered responsible for those things that reflect well upon him. All outcomes which demonstrate anything remotely unflattering must clearly have resulted from causes completely outside of Bush's control.

Of course, in the whole scheme of things, whether and why Bush fell off a bike doesn't really matter. And yet it's indicative of the Truth Deficit Bush has created that someone is even moved to fact check Bush's assertion on such an unimportant event. What's even more telling is that on something so trivial the Bushies are so easily proven to be dishonest.

And what's even more telling than that is the cover story doesn't even make sense. Rain makes the topsoil more loose? What kind of weird Texas soil becomes more loose when moisture is added? Sand? Clay? Loam? All of these tend to clump more when water is added? Loose gravel may become more slippery when moist, but that's about the only situation I can think of that could explain their explanation.

It's just strange that they need to lie about even the trivial things. It's scary that they're just so bad at it.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Come Get Me FCC

If you like Monty Python or dislike the Bush administration (or both!) you'll not want to miss Eric Idle's The FCC Song.

Those Amazing Republican Rubes

You really have to hand it to the GOP. The party of strong national defense. The party of adults and foreign policy acumen. They've done it again. And they really have outdone themselves.

After all, I thought it would be hard to top Ronald Reagan. But I have to admit, Bush has outdone the master.

Reagan famously said that the United States would never negotiate with terrorists. Apparently he meant some other United States. Or maybe by negotiate he meant something other than giving terrorists weapons in exchange for American hostages.

Some strategy.

But, not to be outdone by Daddy's old boss, Dubya has invented another new way to make America look silly while simultaneously putting American lives at risk.

Bush's strategy for protecting America is to pay people to spy against us.

Well, I have to admit, it's certainly an approach that I wouldn't have thought of.

But then I probably also would have missed an opportunity to enhance American security by having one of my senior administration officials vengefully out a covert CIA operative.

And it probably wouldn't have occurred to me to put American soldiers lives at risk by failing to fully plan, fully fund, or fully reinforce the armed forces while having them invade another country under false pretenses.

And I'm going out on a limb here. But I don't think it would have occurred to me that I could improve America's standing around the world by opting out of numerous international protocols, including the Geneva Convention, while simultaneously having my lawyer instruct my defense secretary to order the torture and abuse of innocent non-combatants in the aforementioned country that we invaded under false pretenses.

Whew! It's a good thing I'm not president cause I just don't seem to have the creativity that it takes to really succeed in the job. Thanks George for all you do. I can't wait for the next encore.

Why Do They Hate America So, Redux

Kevin Drum offers more examples of traitorous generals who have the temerity to question the competence of Bush's war planners. (And I'm being generous when I use the word "planners.") It's a good thing these guys have already retired otherwise the Bushies and the Rummies would have to fire them a la General Shinseki.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Why Do They Hate America So?

General Joseph Hoar (USMC - retired) was the Chief of the US Central Command, the rank held by General Norman Schwarzkopf, the 1991 Gulf War Commander, and General Tommy Franks, the 2003 Iraq War Commander. He is a 37 year veteran of the armed services. In testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday:
I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure. We are looking into the abyss

The policy people in both Washington and Baghdad have demonstrated their inability to do a job on a day-to-day basis this past year.
Larry Diamond is a senior fellow at the America hating Hoover Institution:
There is only one word for a situation in which you cannot win and you cannot withdraw - quagmire.
Thankfully, the domestic press doesn't hate America like the traitorous General Hoar and the simple-minded Larry Diamond. You'll have to go to the foreign press to learn about the seditious words of these men.

(Via Atrios)

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Demented Little Children

You'd hardly know it -- given the content of this blog and the right-ward lurch of the country -- but I really do consider myself a political centrist. Granted, it has been difficult in recent years to tenuously hang on to even a modicum of moderation but I guess that's just a testament to the times in which we find ourselves. I really do long for the day when Republicans will start acting like adults. Until then, I think that Digby gets it about right when he notes:
What's happening here is entirely predictable because modern Republicans are demented children. They have two modes --- smug and rabid. When things are going well for them politically, they are unbearably arrogant, shoving it in everyone's faces, ungraciously lording it over all concerned. When things go badly they instantly begin foaming at the mouth and escalate rapidly into a psychotic break.

The thing to remember is that their threats and tantrums are real but usually ineffective in the long run --- but they often have the unfortunate salutary effect of cowing the press, who are a bunch of prissy little sissies.

Congressional Action Needed

Dear Chairman Sensenbrenner:

I am writing to you to ask that you initiate a congressional investigation into allegations that the Justice Department may have intentionally attempted to deceive the Supreme Court of the United States.

Representative Conyers sent you a letter this morning describing the allegations at issue. The concerns center upon statements made by Deputy Solicitor General Paul Clement during the Hamdi and Padilla cases recently argued before the Supreme Court. I believe that the Hamdi and Padilla cases currently under consideration by the Supreme Court will be among the most important cases upon which the Supreme Court may ever rule.

Any hint that the Justice Department knowingly misled the Supreme Court deserves immediate attention.

I strongly hope that Deputy Solicitor General Paul Clement will be found blameless for the obvious mistatements of fact that characterized his oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the Padilla and Hamdi cases. Despite my hope that Mr. Clement's statements were unintentionally false, I am very curious to know how he could make assertions so at odds with reality -- a reality that was known by other members of the Executive Branch, including personnel within the Justice Department.

It is imperative that the Congress swiftly exercise its oversight authority in this matter.

Thank you,
Michael Buck

cc:     Representative Mark Udall
         Representative John Conyers
         Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell
         Senator Wayne Allard

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Matsunaka for Colorado's 4th

There have been rumblings that Marilyn Musgrave would not make it all the way to November unchallenged. Daily Kos is the first I'm aware of who is naming names of a potential challenger. Go Stan. Let's send Marilyn back home so she can contemplate the meaning of marriage.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Willful Ignorance

For those of you who think Dubya is a dimwit, Jacob Weisberg offers an article that explains the root causes of your suspicions.

For those of you who admire this man, the article raises a host of issues you've long since given up caring about. Evidently, you are not bothered by the fact that George W. Bush is not only ignorant but knowingly and willfully so. You apparently confuse mental laziness with courageous leadership. And you erroneously conflate his unwillingness (if not an inability) to engage in contemplation with principled conviction.

By pointing Bush supporters to this article and calling out your disregard for Bush's character traits I do not mean to insult you and your support for our dim-witted leader. Perhaps you are one of the few who support Bush in spite of these aforementioned flaws. But I do think that your continued support for such an obviously unqualified man must seriously call into question either your patriotism or your rationality. At what point do the challenges facing this country demand a leader who is up to the task?

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Responsibility Watch

The new administration seems to be paying no attention to the problem of terrorism. What they will do is stagger along until there's a major incident and then suddenly say, 'Oh, my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this?'

That's too bad. They've been given a window of opportunity with very little terrorism now, and they're not taking advantage of it.

L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer
Keynote Address
Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation
Terrorism: Informing the Public
February 26, 2001

Criticism of the new administration, however, was unfair. President Bush had just been sworn into office and could not reasonably be held responsible for the Federal Government's inaction over the preceding 7 months.

L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer
Contender for Secretary of State in Second Bush Term
May 2, 2004

I love these jokers. We're not responsible for anything bad. And any suggestion to the contrary is just unfair.

What whiners.

Also notice the subtle date shift. Bremer made his speech in February. But in his retraction, he's absolving Bush for 7 months of inaction (i.e. February, March, April, May, June, July, August, and eleven days in September).

I find it interesting that Bremer is incapable of making a principled retraction. He might simply have said "at the time I made those remarks the Bush administration had been in office 36 days. I was perhaps to hasty in my condemnation."

But the reality is that even an "outsider" like Bremer could tell early on that the Bush administration wasn't doing enough to combat terrorism. And despite the pleas from those in and out of the administration, the Bushies took no serious action until after September 11.

On the plus side though, I take Bremer's statement to mean that all future presidents are absolved of responsibility for any shit that hits the fan in their first 210 days in office. After all, they can't be expected to know what's going on having just been sworn in and all.