Wednesday, July 14, 2004

TODAY'S TOP FIVE: In Which the President Seeks to Avoid the Question.

Land of the Forbidden T-Shirt A Texas couple in Charleston, West Virginia to help with flood recovery efforts were arrested for attending an appearance by presidential appointee George W. Bush while wearing shirts that said, "Love America, Hate Bush." The wife has already lost her job with FEMA over it. Fortunately, the American Civil Liberties Union has found some time off from their heroic struggle to rename Las Cruces, New Mexico and is defending the couple in court. Frankly, I hope they sue Charleston, West Virginia for everything it's worth.

Separation of Penises The war in Iraq is going poorly, the war on terrorism is a joke, the economy is stuck in neutral, and not even Bush's base seems excited about his candidacy. What's an illegally appointed president to do? I know: Have your cronies in the Senate push a hopeless bill that would pave the way for changing the Constitution to read something like, "Penises must only go in vaginas." As this is the definition of a pointless wedge issue, the only logical response to this GOP initiative is to collectively vomit on the shoes of every senator who votes for this thing. Get your ipecac ready.

Queer Eye for the Dictatorial Guy Ruthless dictators like to ban a lot of things: opposition movements, voting, public assembly, independent religious groups, etc. But a color? That seems to be taking concerns about what clashes with your outfit a little too seriously. Perhaps not even Mao at his bird-war wackiest has done that, but top Zimbabwe thug Robert Mugabe has now gone ahead and banned the color red from television, because it's the color of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Perhaps Mugabe's uneasiness about the popularity of his opposition can be understood when you learn that, after years of state-run healthcare, things in Zimbabwe are now so bad that ambulances in rural areas are being pulled by oxen.

The Sting in the Tail Dear friends, was it only last year that Congress passed major Medicare reforms, claiming that the changes would mean a prescription drug benefit for senior citizens for the first time? If we climb into the Way Way Back machine, we learn that at the time, opponents of the change suggested that it would lead to private employers, who currently provide drug benefits, would cut them off as soon as the plan becomes available in 2006. This would make good financial sense for companies, since healthcare costs have been skyrocketing for about a decade. Unfortunately, it would be bad for retirees, whose private plans are almost invariably better than the Medicare drug plan, and who in some cases will be unable to get drug coverage even from Medicare if they lose their private coverage. At the time, the Republicans assured us that such talk was nonsense: "Seniors happy with the current Medicare system should be able to keep their coverage just the way it is," Bush said in his 2003 state of the union address. Ah, but guess what? The federal government now estimates that private employers will reduce or eliminate drug coverage for about 3.8 million retirees when the Medicare plan starts in 2006, or about one-third of the retirees with employer-sponsored drug plans. Meanwhile, big companies will get federal drug subsidies starting then while still reducing the number of people who they actually cover with their plan. This is how the GOP says, "Fuck you, grampa!"

Avoidance of Failure is Not Success The Butler Report is out in Britain, and among its key findings are: Iraq did not have any significant stocks of WMD available for deployment, nor plans to use them; the intelligence itself was "seriously flawed"; the infamous September 2002 dossier was at the "outer limits" of available intelligence, largely because of pressure from the Prime Minister's office. Tony the Phony is claiming victory, though, because the report says he did not "intentionally" mislead the British public with bad intelligence. That's like being proud you shit yourself but didn't do it on purpose.

-Consider Arms