Thursday, September 30, 2004

Bush's Hypocrisy

September 30, 2004

Bush and company have bashed Kerry over his inability to pick one side of an issue, magnifying the fact that he voted for the war with Iraq but against funding it.

Poor Kerry is stuck with the politician's nightmare: trying to prove that he doesn't change his stance in response to voter opinion. So this week I'm turning the floodlight of Mr. Bush's own accusations back on him to show how his administration has not needed to flip-flop; the gulf between his words and actions widens every day as stated policies give way to partisan goals.

I speak, of course, of North Korea, the country the Bush administration wishes would stop screaming. Through three years of outlining and rabidly defending a policy of preemptive counter-terrorism, the administration has gone so far as to defend the invasion of Iraq on the grounds that Iraqi scientists knew how to build a nuke and could have passed on the information to terrorists. The Bush regime has quietly and persistently ignored the nuclear development of North Korea. This rogue nation, which Bush included in the so-called "axis of evil," now has the capability and the materials (in addition to simply the knowledge, which is available in the Q section of Watson Library) to construct nuclear weapons. At the time we went to war with Iraq, North Korean ambassadors had actually admitted to the assistant secretary of state that they had a uranium-enrichment program capable of producing six nukes in six months, and National Intelligence Estimate said that "Iraq probably would not be able to make a weapon until 2007 to 2009."

So why did we bomb Baghdad instead of Pyongyang? That's the fun part, boys and girls! You see, North Korea told us of the uranium-enrichment program on October 4, 2002, about a week before Congress voted on the Iraq resolution. The Democrats weren't given this particular piece of intelligence, though, until October 17, far too late to change any votes for war. Even the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who should certainly know about such activity immediately, learned of the news only two hours before the press did.

In this context, John Kerry's later vote on funding is even vaguely defensible, though still politically stupid. Watch the debates tonight. They'll be pre-digested, well-rehearsed, politely-mediated question-and-BS sessions, but watch anyway, and remember: your government lies to you, America, and they play politics with the truth.

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Thursday, September 23, 2004

Why I'm So Cynical

September 23, 2004

I mentioned in my first column of the semester that I must echo much of the American populace by saying that I think both candidates act like the same person in spite of attempts to convince us that they are complete opposites. I'd like to talk about that a little more as the election approaches.

Bush and Kerry's propaganda machines have spent the last months trying to make the two candidates look as different as possible, and the stupidest little things have become huge news. The other day, for instance, I picked up and flipped through Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry in a bookstore. When I looked at its dozen-odd pages of endnotes, I discovered that a book which purported to be about the service of one person in Vietnam contained less than 10 sources from before the 1990s. But nobody cares. Kerry's machine is playing his Vietnam service against Bush's National Guard duty, the Bush machine is fighting back, and the only thing that matters to either is the news coverage.

Remember, you can't think about this in terms of one person versus another. These are not individuals running for an office anymore. These are organizations scrabbling for power and trying to convince you that their ideals are the correct ways of life. Bush has appeared at the NASCAR pits and on the cover of Country Music Weekly opposite George Strait because his publicity machine knows his audience. They want you to think that a vote for him is a vote for biscuits and sausage gravy, and that Kerry just wants to abort babies and raise taxes. Their jobs are to make someone, who after three years of coaching still can't pronounce "nuclear," look like he's competent to lead the free world. The Kerry machine is frantically trying to convince America that a vote for this horse-faced socialite who's never held a regular job is a vote for more civilized behavior as a nation and that Bush is just a well-connected redneck who's riding this cash cow we call a country for his daddy's oil business.

Of course, none of these caricatures can possibly even approach the truth, but people fall for it all the same. Bush and Kerry both want to centralize intelligence gathering in America (which I cannot believe is going uncontested after the discovery of the FBI's Carnivore e-mail monitoring program less than a decade ago), ban gay marriage (though Kerry would support the "civil union" band-aid fix), increase the size of the government (though governmental downsizing has historically been one of the strong points of the Republican Party) and neither side wants to hear a third-party candidate talk in the debates they've scheduled. After all, he might shatter the carefully constructed illusion of dichotomy. He might have something new to say, something to show the people that this is not a war between rednecks and hippies, between dumb jocks and sniveling nerds, between cowboys and diplomats, but a real election in a real world where there are more than two courses of action available. The current arrangement is far too convenient to even risk such a thing.

Go vote! There's a registration drive in the Student Union outside of Vic's today, so you've got no excuse for not registering. One other item: Jason Cole wanted it to be known that it was his keen nit-picking eye which caught my slip on the Green Party's candidacy in these elections. Write to me at if you have something to say.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Touch-Screen Vote

September 16, 2004

Those who know me know I'm no technophobe; I've had my internet connection since 1994, when the first graphical web browser came out, and my e-mail address is a single character at a four-character domain. I think programmers, by and large, do an amazing job putting together 10 billion lines of OS code, and I trust my files to stay where they are unless something goes catastrophically wrong with my computer. Unless, of course, someone catastrophically inept sits down with it for a while. This is why I do not and never will trust computerized voting.

Several states are considering switching to computerized votes in the wake of last election's Florida debacle, and others have already started prepping the digital booths for use. A switch of, say, one in five of the votes entered is not only feasible in such machines, it's technically very easy, not to mention being undetectable without a deliberate search through the thousands of lines of code needed to make such a machine operate. In the face of widespread skepticism, lawmakers have proposed several remedies, including a paper receipt system that prints a permanent copy for the vote-counters to keep and a copy for the voter himself to keep to back up the digital record. Of course, an alteration causing different outputs from these two printers in addition to the digital record is only slightly more complicated.

A simple voter receipt system, too, is a band-aid on a gunshot wound. In the face of an altered vote, such receipts serve no purpose unless every single voter keeps his receipt and can tender it as proof of his vote for a recount and comparison. The simple fact is that it is a much, much easier job to change a one to a zero in a computer than it is to change a hole in a card, a mark on a slip of paper, or any of the other more substantial methods used to record votes. Having gone through the complex and often tedious process of securing my own computer against intrusion, I know how smart a hacker can be when he writes a hostile program, and something as important as a federal election should not even be placed at risk of such an attack.

A couple of people suggested to me that I should write this week's column on the forthcoming vote on Louisiana's gay marriage amendment. For those who don't know, that vote is Saturday and it would ratify an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as between a single male and a single female. I encourage all of you to vote on this as a matter of principle, but the fact of the matter is that the amendment will go through and gay marriage will be illegal in Louisiana until it is federally recognized and protected. The people of this state may surprise me, but I expect a law restricting the rights of homosexuals to have great popularity here. The unfortunate side of this law is that it will technically dissolve some common law marriages between heterosexual couples that were married in a manner inconsistent with the law.

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Note: As I post this to the archive on May 13, 2006, the following stories are breaking:
Backdoor Found in Diebold Voting Machines
New Fears of Security Risks in Electronic Voting Machines
Reversing Course on Electronic Voting

Thursday, September 09, 2004

The Acceptance Speech

Thursday, September 9, 2004

I hope those who read this column last week took the time to watch the President's acceptance speech at the Republican convention, because this week there's a pop quiz! Everybody get out a piece of paper and pencil, put all your books under your desk and remain quiet until the test begins. Everyone ready? Then here we go.

1) The act that President Bush refers to as "the most important federal education reform in history" is:
a) a federal act increasing school funding.
b) a law requiring all teachers, private and public, to actually have teachers' certifications.
c) the "No Child Left Behind Act," which imposed dozens of regulations and requirements
without raising funding or providing a clear goal.

2) The tax cuts that Bush called "largest tax relief in a generation" have led to:
a) the biggest budget surplus in American history.
b) the biggest deficit in American history.
c) the lowest poverty rate in American history.

3) Under the "medical liability reform" the Bush regime is touting, a doctor who by mistake amputated both of a man's legs instead of his little finger could be held accountable for up to:
a) $500,000 and/or revocation of license.
b) $1,000,000 and/or up to two years in prison.
c) $250,000.

4) "Pakistan was a transit point for terrorist groups. Saudi Arabia was fertile ground for terrorist fund-raising. Libya was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons, Iraq was ____________."
a) "a gathering threat."
b) "the home of a genocidal dictator bent on destroying America and his own people."
c) "an immediate danger."

All right! The answer to number one is, (c), "No Child Left Behind," which would more appropriately be called "the most counterproductive federal education reform in history." Number two is (b), the biggest deficit in American history. In fact, before the end of the year, the deficit will reach more than a half trillion dollars. Bush attacks Kerry for his tax-and-spend policy, but Bush would have us simply spend, unaccountably. Number Three is (c); working on the assumption that it is frivolous lawsuits which have caused such high insurance premiums, Bush and company would put an absolute limit of only $250,000 on every malpractice suit, regardless of severity. Finally, number four is (a), "a gathering threat," but we didn't bomb any of the countries for which he listed specific offenses. By this loose justification, we should have bombed North Korea, Libya, Iran, Saudi Arabia, parts of Palestine, France (if you listen to some people), China, parts of the former USSR and India long ago. Double standard, anyone?

Quick correction to last week's column: the Green Party is, in fact, running a presidential candidate this term, but they said no to Nader. Check for more information. Also, we apparently got some complaints about the two liberal columns last week. You're damn right I'm liberal, and a radical, but not nearly as much of either as Bush, who's promising another four years of wiping his rear with the constitution. Write to with gripes, grumps, complaints, applause, praise, comments, or questions.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

A Look Forward

Thursday, September 2, 2004

I'll join the rest of the staff in welcoming everyone back to another exciting year of the Current Sauce, complete with my rantings. This November, as I certainly hope you all know, we have a presidential election coming up. (In fact, the Head Monkey himself will be making a speech tonight; watch it on for free!) In light of the daunting burden of voting that so many of my readers find themselves asked to assume, I will spend this semester trying to provide you the information you need to make an informed and wise decision among the candidates. I make no bones about my contempt for President Bush and the hype-and-lies machine that has kept him in office, so I'll tell you immediately that the right choice isn't him, and I'll be telling you why every week from now until November.

I won't spend this semester talking about third-party candidates. Jefferson himself objected to the very idea of parties on principle, arguing that such a structure could serve only to divide the republic, and nothing could prove him more right than the previous election and the one to come. The Green Party, traditional home of the third-party voter, is declining to run a candidate at all this year out of consideration for the so-called Nader Effect, which cost Gore such a small but critical percentage of the vote. This is a state of events I find depressing but unavoidable, and I must acknowledge that a vote for a third-party candidate is a wasted vote in modern American politics. To be honest, I'm still not sure I won't throw my vote away on Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian candidate, when crunch time arrives, rather than give it to Kerry. Once again, I feel caught in a decision between the puppet on the left and the puppet on the right.

Both challenger and incumbent want to implement the 9-11 Commission's recommendation of a national intelligence czar, which is exactly what our intelligence structure is designed to avoid. Both challenger and incumbent feel the need to court the vote of the "heartland," and so both are spewing the usual election year bilge about integrity, family values and taxes in addition to the new War on Terror(TM) rhetoric about strength and security. Both challenger and incumbent feel like avatars of some vast machine frantically poking voters to see which way they jump and then tuning their position to match.

But Kerry will win. Bush has screwed up too hard for even modern, lazy America to ignore. Let me share one more thing with you before I close this week. Less than 50% of the American populace votes, and the polls so often mentioned on the news and in the papers only poll "likely voters." A "likely voter," however, is someone who has voted in at least two previous presidential elections, meaning that no one under 23 gets polled in these things. We can change America. We will change America, and you can either help or watch. Register to vote. We need the help. for other bright-eyed young cynics.