October 31, 2004

Stomp Out the Vote


One Side Believes in Democracy.
The Other Side Believes in Power at Any Price.

(Thanks to Daily Kos.)

Ok, I've done a lot of reading over the past week, and I'm ready to make a prediction. I think Kerry is going to win, and we'll know it within an hour or two of the last polls closing (even with the networks being careful not to call close contests ... they won't be too close to call). I say that for three main reasons:

First, I honestly don't know of any Gore voters in 2000 who are going to vote for Bush. I'm sure some exist, but I have personally spoken to one person at work and heard several stories that seem credible to know that there is a large number of Bush 2000 voters who are either not going to vote or who are going to vote for Kerry. I know something like 35 Bush 2000 endorsing papers have switched to Kerry, but I don't know how many have switched from Gore 2000 to Bush. Not many, probably fewer than 10. So I don't see where Bush is going to get many new voters except from new voter registration.

That's my second point. There has been an avalanche of new registrations, and the majority of them, by an almost two-to-one margin have been new Democrats in swing states. There is an enormous privately-funded ground game going on in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, and all the other battleground states. And this reflects the huge motivation Democrats have to turn out while Republicans are typically more tepid in their support. Lots of anger is focused on Bush, and lots of people are just voting based on "Anybody but Bush", but there is nowhere near the same kind of anger on Kerry. Kerry is just not an easy target, and part of that is because he's distinguished himself in all aspects of his life. Just about any careful examination of Kerry in any subject area invites a similar examination of Bush, and Kerry wins those almost every single time. You can also tell that Democrats are very motivated because the early polling numbers. Exit polls from early voting places are running something like 60/40 in favor of Democrats, which is stunning given that Republicans are usually the ones voting early or by absentee ballots (you might remember this from the Florida fiasco).

Finally, the polls themselves. Most of them show a tie or a very close race, but it is pretty clear that many polls are oversampling Republicans for some reason. Gallup is the worst, sampling something like 39% Republicans, 35% Democrats and the rest Independent/Undecided, but turnout for the last few elections is almost even (and in 2000, more Democrats turned out, something like 39/35 in the opposite direction). That's why in 2000 all the polls showed Gore losing by an average of 4-6 points to Bush, yet Gore won the popular vote (and should've won the election, obviously), because the pollsters projected the wrong turnout numbers. If anything, the turnout numbers are going to favor Democrats even more this time around, and the polls are showing a tie rather than a Bush lead.

Voter suppression is one tactic Republicans are trying now, as I showed above. They are also trying to stage a major voting slowdown in some areas like Milwaukee by putting Republican poll-watchers in place to challenge thousands of voters. It's not that they expect the challenges to be successful or that they expect to encounter massive voter fraud. The numbers on voter fraud and that sort of thing are miniscule in effect these days. No, what they're trying to do is make the voting experience a 2+ hour lineup so that people will get discouraged and go home.

And here is a good article talking about all the different techniques Republicans are trying to use in Ohio. Here are some of the highlights:

Under an archaic Ohio law, both the Republican and Democratic Parties, or any slate of five candidates, may embed official election challengers inside polling places.  The New York Times reported on Oct. 23 that the Republican Party intends to place thousands of lawyers and other GOP faithfuls inside the polls to challenge voters. Republican insiders confide here that the key goal is to jam lines and frustrate new voters.  The GOP apparently figures many voters in key Democratic precincts won't wait in line more than 15 minutes to vote. This is certain to be a major tactic in Cleveland's Cuyahoga County and other Democratic strongholds.  The GOP is not planning to challenge voters in Republican districts. 

Twenty GOP-dominated Ohio counties have given wrong information to former felons about their voter eligibility. In Hamilton County, home of Cincinnati and the Republican Taft family, officials told numerous former felons that a judge had to sign off before they could vote, which is blatantly false. 

The Franklin County Board of Elections has called or written an undetermined number of voters who obtained absentee ballots, challenging their addresses.  In at least one case, after a series of angry phone calls, the Board admitted there was nothing wrong with the address in question and re-instated voting rights.  The voter in question was a registered Democrat.  His wife, an independent at the same address, was not challenged.  It is unclear how many others have been wrongly knocked out.

en if they are counted, Franklin County's absentee ballot forms are rigged in ways strikingly reminiscent of those in Florida 2000. On many absentee forms, Kerry is listed third on the list of presidential candidates.  But the actual number you punch for Kerry is "4." If you punch "3" you've just voted for Bush.  Sound familiar? 

Franklin County, which normally cancels 2-300 registered voters a year for felony convictions, has sent at least 3500 cancellation letters to both current felons and ex-felons whose convictions date back to 1998. The list includes numerous citizens who were charged with felonies but convicted only of misdemeanors.

Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell has reversed a long-standing Ohio practice and is barring voters from casting provisional ballots within their county if they are registered to vote but there's been a mistake about where they are expected to cast their ballot. In this year's spring primaries, Blackwell allowed voters to cast provisional ballots by county, even if they were in the wrong precinct. But this fall, such voters will have to leave the wrong precinct and find their way to the right one.  Blackwell hopes to succeed Republican Bob Taft as governor, and has labored hard to install e-voting machines with no paper trail, to give the statewide contract to Diebold, and to take a long series of steps apparently designed to help hand Ohio to George W. Bush.  Blackwell is being widely compared to the infamous Katherine Harris, who handed Florida to George W. Bush in 2000 and was rewarded with a safe Congressional seat. 

The Columbus Dispatch (which has endorsed Bush) and WVKO Radio have both documented phone calls from people impersonating Board of Elections workers and directing registered voters to different and incorrect polling sites. One individual was falsely told not to vote at the polling station across the street from his house, but at a "new" site, four miles away. Under Blackwell's new rules, such a vote would not be counted. 

Secretary of State Blackwell ruled that any voter registration form on other than 80-pound weight bond paper would not be accepted. This is an old law left over from pre-scanning days. Many voters who had registered on lighter paper, had their registration returned, even though the forms had been officially sanctioned by local election boards.

The part about e-voting is the only thing that, to me, could change things around. I'm really uncomfortable with electronic ballots that leave no paper trail. Lots of people have shown how this system is not safe, but it is very hard to judge the reliability of either side of the debate without knowing more. My worry is not only that Republicans might try to jury-rig things to eke out a win (if the exit polls are more than a couple percentage points different from the vote counts, then that will raise an enormous red flag) but that the election might be so close that the losing side won't accept the legitimacy of the result.

I'm telling you that if it looks like Republicans stole this election in any way remotely like Florida 2000 (which they disenfranchised thousands of blacks illegally, applied different counting standards and voting standards in different counties, etc), then this country is not going to be a fun place to be. And I'm not the only one who is going to be raising hell about it. I'm sure the other side feels exactly the same way, which is why it is absolutely critical that manual recounts and uniform voting procedures get established nationwide. Too late for that now, though.

Posted by Observer at 09:37 AM | Comments (1)

October 30, 2004

Long and Winding Road


One of Many Mistakes John Kerry Won't Repeat.
(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

Very long post today, but built around a very good article. People have been kicking around the future of Iraq in comments, and then Kevin Drum (Political Animal over in the sidebar) linked to this thoughtful article from Mother Jones. Now this is probably a jinx, because the article assumes that we will actually have an intelligent attempt to change course in Iraq during the next four years (which means Bush would have to lose), but it is still worth talking about, I think.

A common critique of Kerry's Iraq proposals have been that they are either "more of the same", which means doing what Bush says he wants to do, only competently. So the only difference between Kerry and Bush is just the sheer ability of the people in charge (and that's not negligible). But that may not be such a good plan, because it hasn't worked so far (and it isn't clear that it is entirely caused by incompetence at the top ... it was a really bad idea to invade in the first place). All underlining in the quoted article is mine:

What would a Kerry presidency bring to the table in Iraq? Above all a renewed commitment to competence. It is difficult to imagine that his administration could possibly make as many mistakes as the Bush administration. From the start, the Pentagon ignored State Department plans for the postwar occupation, expecting instead that the Iraqi people would "greet us as liberators," as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz predicted in 2003. This disdain for expertise continued throughout the occupation, as the Coalition Provisional Authority was stacked with political appointees rather than actual experts, and fatal decisions such as disbanding the Iraqi army were made over the objections of military personnel.

The advisers in Kerry's inner circle, by contrast, are known for prizing competence and facts over mere ideology. Consider Richard Holbrooke, who is on the short list for Secretary of State in a Kerry administration. When tasked with managing the occupation in Bosnia during the 1990s, Holbrooke "scoured the Foreign Service, the military, and the civilian bureaucracy for experts who knew the Balkans, who could speak the local language, and who could do the jobs for which they were recruited," according to then-Croatian ambassador Peter Galbraith.

Kerry has shown himself ready to fire people and replace staff who can not get the job done. One of the most bewildering aspects of Bush's handling of postwar Iraq has been his reluctance to fire anyone for incompetence. The disastrous tenure of Iraq's first proconsul, Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, ended only after he opposed White House plans for the rapid privatization of Iraq's industries. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who was responsible for overseeing Abu Ghraib, is quietly being considered for a promotion. There is every reason to think this pattern would end under a Kerry administration—the Democrat has already called on the president to "fire civilians in the Pentagon responsible for mismanaging the reconstruction effort," and he is well-known for replacing advisers who don't measure up.

Sounds like a revolutionary concept after four years of Mission Accomplished leadership, but imagine how much our situation in Iraq might improve if we began holding people accountable for mistakes! It's one thing to catalog the mistakes of this administration on a daily basis, but when you look at the entire compilation of mistakes over the course of the war, it is truly staggering. Maybe competence will be the only thing we really need after all.

Ok, maybe that's too optimistic. What about the different factions in Iraq?

Yet a number of experts think that Iraq can hardly be expected to work out their differences among themselves. Juan Cole, a history professor at the University of Michigan, sounded a skeptical note: "Look, every group in Iraq thinks that they've been martyred for the last 50 years, and now that they have a chance at power, they think they're finally going to get theirs. Shiites have no sympathy for Kurdish desires for semi-autonomy. Sunnis have no sympathy for Shiite claims to majority rule. And so on." In that case, the UN may need to play a role in mediating discussions between Iraqi leaders. But to make that happen, a Kerry administration would need to convince Iraqis, and Shiite leaders especially, that the UN is a disinterested party, and that U.S. has no long-term designs on the region. [...]

What could Kerry do differently? In the first presidential debate, Kerry offered one simple way to allay some Shiite fears, by promising to make a "flat statement" that "the U.S. has no long-term designs on Iraq." As Jessica Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment, notes, U.S. leaders need a policy that "takes deadly seriously what Iraqis believe about why the war began and what the United States intends." Polls show that Iraqis believe that the U.S. invaded Iraq to control the country's oil, to build a series of permanent military bases, and install a puppet government. If Kerry could reverse that perception, Mathews explained, Iraqis may start to trust the U.S. to act as an honest broker, and "we might begin to see a larger multilateral commitment to Iraq's future."

We could start by stopping the construction of something like 14 permanent US military bases there. And we could also let the Iraqis help out rather than have only American contractors do the rebuilding while Iraqis stand on the sidelines bored and pissed off at how they're being treated. That goes hand-in-hand with internationalizing the process. Kerry has also promised to try to internationalize the effort, but people doubt he will be successful getting other nations in there to help bail us out.

A Kerry administration would be more likely to pressure France and Germany into providing wider debt relief for Iraq—both countries have pledged to reduce Iraq's debt only 50 percent this year. The Bush administration has proved either unable or unwilling to make headway on this front. (Naomi Klein recently reported in The Nation that James Baker, the Bush administration's envoy for Iraq's debt, has held up the debt relief process while trying to strike a deal between Kuwait and his private firm, the Carlyle Group.)

European nations could also provide valuable assistance in rebuilding the country. "A lot of the countries that opposed the war were responsible for much of the construction of the original infrastructure in Iraq," said Frederick Barton of CSIS. "There's a lot of untapped technical expertise that's still out there." As yet, however, foreign countries have disbursed only $2.4 billion of the $8 billion they pledged to rebuild Iraq. (An estimated $55 billion is needed.) Bringing in other nations to rebuild Iraq may require letting foreign nations—France, Germany, and Russia especially—bid on reconstruction contracts, something Kerry has said he would do.

Why isn't Europe pledging these things now? "Right now there is a skepticism among European countries that 'more of the same' is going to sort out Iraq," says Rosemary Hollis, director of the Middle East program at Chatham House in London. Countries such as France, Germany, Belgium, and Spain are unwilling to make a strong commitment Iraq unless a president spells out a realistic exit strategy. Says Hollis: "The general sense in Europe is that Iraq is a mistake, and they would rather work for someone who thinks it is a mistake. They want to see a sensible definition of success."

As much fun as it may be for the Fighting 101st Keyboards to pretend that America is a macho colossus bestriding the world and fuck all those Euros, the simple fact is that they could make things a lot easier for us. In a twist of Al Capone logic, you could say that you can get more done with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a gun. And then Kerry needs to get Iraqis themselves involved so they have something to do besides shoot at our guys:

Kerry recognizes the need to "draw up a list of high visibility, quick impact projects" that employed Iraqis directly. Thus far, the Bush administration has relied too heavily on American reconstruction firms, often bypassing unemployed Iraqis who would be willing to work for a fraction of the cost. "There's too much of a focus on efficiency," said one military official. "We would rather hire 100 Iraqis to dig a hole over an eight day period than have a U.S. firm use a backhoe to dig it in three hours." Gen. William Nash remarked on how different the Iraq rebuilding process is from that in the Balkans: "In Bosnia my most serious problem was always with jobs. So I created a CCC-type program," referring to a New Deal-era job creation act. "That is unfortunately what is not appreciated in this administration."

What a perfect example of a square-peg-round-hole philosophy that permeates this whole administration. Yes, say the Young Republicans in Charge, let's ignore the advice of the military leaders because they don't seem to appreciate the Laffer Curve or because they are proposing something that sounds suspiciously like that communist FDR. Republicans have been trying to dismantle the great works of 20th century Democrats for the past decade, but they don't seem to realize that some of it was actually a really good idea (at least given the circumstances at the time) and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. Especially if someone with a lot more knowledge and experience thinks it is a good idea.

And the new mindset goes further than just being knee-jerk free-market capitalist:

Although Kerry has been ridiculed for his desire to conduct a "sensitive" war on terror, that worldview could translate into a huge on-the-ground advantage in Iraq. "All the Bush administration understands is force," said one U.S. military analyst, who recently returned from Iraq. "That filters down to the troops on the ground. It's created a whole mindset that the best way to deal with Iraqis is to beat them on the head until they agree to be liberated." The analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity, told me that the Bush administration's near-obsessive focus on foreign fighters like Abu Musab Zarqawi has distorted the counterinsurgency effort. "They're equating Iraqi nationalists with lunatics like Zarqawi, and when that happens, the military isn't going to negotiate with mainstream Sunnis." A new president—and a new mindset—could change all that.

This is, I think, the biggest problem with the way we are operating in Iraq right now. The mean, arrogant people in charge are filtering that nastiness down the chain of command. They are treating their opponents (both in Iraq and here in the US) with a contempt reserved for those less-than-human. Is it any wonder that we end up putting sacks on their heads, sexually humiliating them and then laughing about it? Any wonder that their hatred toward us grows stronger every day?

And there's the problem of the factions, especially the Kurds. It's a very sticky problem, so there's a very long quote explaining how it could be dealt with:

In January, Kurdish territories will hold local elections for their own parliaments. While Kurdish officials attempt to negotiate some sort of power sharing agreement with the central government in Baghdad, there will certainly be pressure at home for Kurdistan to break away from Iraq. (One committee petitioning for a referendum on independence has claimed to have garnered over a million signatures.)

To date, little attention has been paid to the Kurds. "The Bush administration seems clueless about the whole issue of Kurdish autonomy," said Mike Amitay, Executive Director of the Washington Kurdish Institute. "There is a better way to handle the Kurds, involving a multilateral approach that demonstrates some understanding of the situation." Amitay suggested that a new administration could facilitate Kurdish semi-autonomy through an international summit, by sitting down with Kurdish leaders, as well as Turkey and Iran, and laying out mutual security assurances that guaranteed an autonomous Kurdistan would not destabilize the region.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration has refused to negotiate with Iran on any front, and Ankara has become increasingly hostile to the United States after botched negotiations before the invasion for Turkish involvement. There are some indications that a Kerry administration could do better: Mustafa Kibaroglu, a professor at Bilkent University in Ankara, has argued that the Clinton administration "made remarkable efforts to mend the differences between the two Kurdish leaders" while Clinton's diplomacy "created positive feelings" among the Turkish parliament. Kerry's foreign policy staff is filled with Clinton administration veterans who could go far in mending the divide between Ankara and Washington.

Diplomacy of this sort will come in handy in dealing with Kirkuk, an oil-rich city in northern Iraq that is quickly becoming a flashpoint for a larger regional war. In the 1970s and '80s, Saddam Hussein expelled some quarter of a million Kurds from Kirkuk and repopulated the city with ethnic Arabs. Since the 2003 invasion, however, Kurds have been emigrating back to Kirkuk en masse , trying to form an ethnic majority before January elections so that they can vote to add the province to the autonomous Kurdish region. Already some 50,000 ethnic Arabs and Turkomen have been expelled from the city. Turkey, concerned for the rights of Turks and Turkomen in Kirkuk, have issued repeated warnings over the migrations. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently told Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani that there would be "serious consequences" for any drastic change in Kirkuk's demographics. Barzani, for his part, announced that the Kurds "are ready to fight" for their rights in Kirkuk.

Thus far, the Bush administration has largely ignored the entire situation. The Pentagon did set up the Iraqi Property Claims Commission back in 2003 to evaluate property claims and set up some sort of compensation process. To date, however, no claims have been decided. According to David L. Philips, a Kurdish expert who worked closely with the State Department on its Future of Iraq project, "That decision, not to move forward with the commission, has exacerbated tensions in Iraq. The Bush administration doesn't understand what's going on there at all."

Has the Bush administration ever understand ethnic tensions in Iraq? In March 2003, George Packer reported in the New York Times Magazine that when exiles tried to brief Bush on the differences between Sunnis and Shiites, the whole concept of an Iraqi opposition "appeared new to him". Thus far, the Bush administration has made little effort to avoid ethnic tensions in Iraq. The military has used Kurdish peshmerga fighters to combat Arab insurgents in Fallujah, Ramadi, and, reportedly, Turkmen insurgents in Tal Afar, leading to a flare-up in ethnic hatred. After a joint Kurdish-Marines incursion into Fallujah in April, one Fallujan told the Washington Post , "I will send my brothers north to kill the Kurds."

If anything calls out for a more "sensitive," Kerry-esque approach, it is this. Ultimately, Kirkuk may need to be placed under international supervision. A UN resolution could force the Kurds to compromise on Kirkuk; the U.S. certainly can't resolve the issue on its own. "The Kurds won't listen to the U.S. anymore," said Mike Amitay of the Washington Kurdish Institute. "The U.S. may be gone in five years time, while the Kurds are looking at long-term considerations." In that case, John Kerry's eagerness to work through international law could go far to help stabilize Kirkuk and prevent both ethnic violence and regional war. Staying the course simply isn't working.

One thing is certain: It's going to be a bloody mess, and it's going to be a long four years, no matter who wins the election. Thanks a lot, Flight Suit Georgie. I hope you're happy.

Posted by Observer at 09:23 AM | Comments (0)

October 29, 2004

Language Barrier


The Pledge Idea Sounds Pretty Crazy, Doesn't It?
You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet.

(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

This is an excellent post which accurately summarizes my feelings and criticisms of this administration lately. No real comment on it, just wanted to pass it along:

The Bush team has a — what's the right word? — truly Orwellian talent for saying and doing ghastly things and then turning right around and claiming that it's really John Kerry who's guilty of saying and doing those same ghastly things. A few examples:

Run the biggest deficit in modern history and then complain that Kerry has a "tax gap."

Have Dick Cheney do everything but tell voters that they'll be forcibly converted to Islam [not to mention repeatedly talk about how we'll have nuclear bombs going off in our cities or another 9/11 if Kerry is elected] unless they vote for Bush, and then castigate Kerry for "scare mongering."

Get your surrogates to explain on national TV that the al-Qaqaa fiasco was actually the fault of troops on the ground, not the president, and then get out on the stump and claim that Kerry is the one "denigrating the action of our troops in the field."

Gain fame even among your own supporters for relentlessly putting ideology and partisanship ahead of facts on the ground, and then give a speech charging that Kerry puts "politics ahead of facts."

You almost have to admire the chutzpah behind this campaign strategy, don't you? Almost.

In other news, Josh Marshall is still keeping up with "Desperationgate", as the ConservaBorg keep trotting out new stories just as fast as the old ones get knocked down. It's funny to watch these guys, with a totally straight face, completely contradict themselves from one day to the next (the weapons weren't there! the weapons weren't there! oh wait, they were there, but the Russians took them to Syria! no, wait, they were never there! yes they were! oh wait, no, the Russians were never there, and this US unit took some of them! There, see, are you satisfied NOW?!? ... Uhhh, no.) Like I said before, the strategy is to create enough confusion around this story that people forget that the basic facts point to a fundamental competence gap on the part of this administration. There's just no way around it.

Josh also has this story, about the Bush campaign taking it one step further beyond loyalty oaths:

"I want you to stand, raise your right hands," and recite "the Bush Pledge," said Florida state Sen. Ken Pruitt. The assembled mass of about 2,000 in this Treasure Coast town about an hour north of West Palm Beach dutifully rose, arms aloft, and repeated after Pruitt: "I care about freedom and liberty. I care about my family. I care about my country. Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States."

I know the Bush-Cheney campaign occasionally requires the people who attend its events to sign loyalty oaths, but this was the first time I have ever seen an audience actually stand and utter one. Maybe they've replaced the written oath with a verbal one.

I'm sorry, but that's just flat-out creepy. These people are at a political rally, and they're reciting this like "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name ..." I've heard of "cult of personality", but this is ridiculous. No man deserves to be flat-out worshipped like these ConservaBorg are doing with Bush (they even have the principle of godlike infallibility going). If Thomas Jefferson were alive to see this kind of rally today, he'd need the strongest drink money can buy.

Posted by Observer at 06:03 PM | Comments (0)

A Real Track Record


Ok, So There Are Plenty of Reasons to Oppose Furious George.
What About Some Reasons to Support John Kerry?

(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

You can tell real conservatives these days, because they are the ones with deep reservations about the behavior of this administration. Kevin Drum has a representative example of why we can rely on four more years of "more of the same" if these clowns win:

Justin Logan excerpts an interesting piece today by Philip Giraldi in the print edition of The American Conservative . Giraldi claims that when the CIA's Counter Terrorism Center provided Dick Cheney with a special briefing on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's prewar ties with Saddam Hussein last month, Cheney was a wee bit unhappy with their conclusions:

The CTC concluded that Saddam Hussein had not materially supported Zarqawi before the U.S.-led invasion and that Zarqawi's infrastructure in Iraq before the war was confined to the northern no-fly zones of Kurdistan, beyond Baghdad's reach. Cheney reacted with fury, screaming at the briefer that CIA was trying to get John Kerry elected by contradicting the president's stance that Saddam had supported terrorism and therefore needed to be overthrown. The hapless briefer was shaken by the vice president's outburst, and the incident was reported back to [newly appointed CIA director Porter] Goss, who indicated that he was reluctant to confront the vice president's staff regarding it.

I don't know who Giraldi's source for this was, but it's a sadly familiar MO for this administration: shoot the messenger, refuse to believe anything you don't want to believe, and treat everything first and foremost as an excuse for partisan bludgeoning, not as a serious problem that requires serious analysis and a serious solution.

You can't excise a cancer if you spend your time screaming at the lab because the biopsy report isn't what you expected. Why would anyone think that Bush and Cheney can successfully fight terrorism if they willfully refuse to understand the true nature of the threat?

This from an administration whose leader had the gall to say the following on the campaign trail: "For a political candidate to jump to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief. "

These people don't just act in a state of ignorance. They actively jump to conclusions which directly contradict the facts, and then they get pissed when they get told that, yes, the Sun is going to rise in the East tomorrow and the sky is indeed blue.

Ok, so taking pot-shots at this administration is too easy, and I've done little else politically since I started this little blog. What about something positive for the other side? The Rude Pundit is here to help us with a nice summary of reasons to like Kerry:

Kerry vs. Nixon: When Kerry helped organize the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, he was directly confronting a hegemonic ideology in the country that said the people must blindly follow their leaders. Kerry, villified at the time with incredible viciousness, did not back down from charges of treason and heresy. Check out the end of the book The New Soldier, which Kerry co-wrote and edited in order to talk about what the young men returning from Vietnam had confronted in the name of "freedom" from Communism. The book is, ironically enough, mostly reprinted on an anti-Kerry site.

Kerry writes, "We are asking America to turn from false glory, hollow victory, fabricated foreign threats, fear which threatens us as a nation, shallow pride which feeds off fear, and mostly from the promises which have proven so deceiving these past ten years." Change "ten" to "four," and you get the idea. The rest of the essay is stunningly humble, and it is simply a call to be citizens with eyes and ears open, to allow that maybe the powerful are more concerned with keeping power than with admitting error. And it is horribly, frighteningly prescient. What people forget about Kerry's protest days is that he was defending the lives of soldiers and that he was right.

Kerry vs. Reagan: When Kerry faced down the Reagan administration in his dogged pursuit of the Contra-drug connection, he was a freshman Senator taking on one of the most popular Presidents in American history, Ronald Reagan. Instead of backing down from repeated threats to his political career, Kerry had his staff stay on the case like a viper injecting venom into your leg. They would have had to cut off his head in order to get him to stop, and he stayed on it until he revealed that the Reagan administration allowed the Contras to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. in order to fund their CIA-led "war" against the legally-elected Sandanistas in Nicaragua. (And thus helping to cause the crack epidemic.) Kerry was called a conspiracy theorist, said to be interfering with other drug cases, and impugned throughout the media. But the part that rarely got told is that he was right.

Kerry vs. Bush I: When Kerry went after the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, which was involved in laundering the Contra drug money, funneling money from the U.S. to Saddam Hussein (when he was our beloved dictator), and supporting illegal arms trade with terrorists and drug lords (including Afghanistan), it was his first chance to take on the Bush dynasty.

When Bush I was in power, the administration and the CIA overlooked the crimes of BCCI, possibly because the bank was intimately involved in the financial dealings of the Bush family. Kerry had already kicked ass on the savings and loan scandals of the 1980s, so why not fuck with George H.W. Bush if 41 was fucking over the good of the country and the world? He brought down BCCI, and he cut off a vital funding source for terrorists. Again, Kerry was bucking the will of Democrats in Congress, as well as a Republican administration, in order to do what he knew was right.

Listen closely and tell anyone you know who is still thinking about voting for Bush: has Bush ever, personally, faced down anyone other than with a chant of "Drink, drink, drink"? Has he ever gone against someone who was really, truly powerful in order to place the good of the people above his own good? No. Heroes do that - they don't care what's in their way - they will face down evil, no matter how powerful. [...]

Kerry's done a fuck of a lot more than pull a guy out of a river. And the fact that America doesn't know that says a great deal about how we negotiate our desolate political landscape.

I find it pretty amazing that so many people aren't familiar with some of these stories of Kerry's successful battles over the years. Thanks, "liberal" media! People hear Bush/Cheney say that Kerry has an undistinguished record in the Senate, and for some reason, people believe that, hey, maybe this time, they're telling the truth. Here's a shocker: they aren't. You can look it up.

If you are going to claim that the vote you cast is an informed one, you at least have the duty to be familiar with the basic outline of what each candidate has done during his adult life. We don't know squat about Bush, other than that he had alcohol and drug problems (some of which he admits to, but he only goes so far before not talking about it) and was essentially a failure living off of Daddy's name (and Saudi money) until he was 40. This is all well-documented, though not as well as Kerry's career, for which there are reams of documents from the government. Kerry is free and open to talk about his past, and he does so with justified pride.

All Bush does is act like he's all full of Jesus before going out and doing things that would've made the Jesus that I know weep. The Jesus I know was a pacifist who helped those in need. Bush is full of macho bravado, arrogance and dishonesty. Before the election, do yourself a favor and remind yourself of just how the Bush administration views Jesus as a supply sider in this hilarious cartoon sequence from BuzzFlash, Al Franken and Don Simpson.

Posted by Observer at 06:57 AM | Comments (1)

October 28, 2004

This is Supporting the Troops?


Actions Speak Louder Than Words, But
Sometimes the Words Are Pretty Damning, Too.

(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

Josh Marshall is continuing to bat away the uncountable little puff-balls that represent the nonsensical efforts of the ConservaBorg to deflect the blame for the Al QaQaa missing explosives toward anyone but Furious George. First, they try to claim the explosives were never there when US troops arrived. Oops.

When that fell through, they tried to claim that, well, 377 tons sounds like a lot, but it is nothing compared to the total amount of explosives and munitions in the country. Huh? They're trying to tell us not to worry about it because the real situation is much worse??!? Are they so stupid that they don't even realize that just makes them look bad for not sending in enough troops and not properly planning the postwar occupation to prevent this kind of looting?

Now here is the newest low: Blame the troops. These fucking cowards are trying to blame the troops for this, which doesn't even cover the fact of why they are pretending they just found out about this. General Wesley Clark responds:

For President Bush to send Rudolph Giuliani out on television to say that the 'actual responsibility' for the failure to secure explosives lies with the troops is insulting and cowardly.

The President approved the mission and the priorities. Civilian leaders tell military leaders what to do. The military follows those orders and gets the job done. This was a failure of civilian leadership, first in not telling the troops to secure explosives and other dangerous materials, and second for not providing sufficient troops and sufficient equipment for troops to do the job.

President Bush sent our troops to war without sufficient body armor, without a sound plan and without sufficient forces to accomplish the mission. Our troops are performing a difficult mission with skill, bravery and determination. They deserve a commander in chief who supports them and understands that the buck stops in the Oval Office, not one who gets weak knees and shifts blame for his mistakes.

Indeed, the unit that briefly stopped at Al Qaqaa on April 10 was under orders to proceed to Baghdad ASAP to prevent civil disorder, so it wasn't their fault.

You think Bush is going to own up to this mistake? Come on. Can you imagine four more years of our troops in a war zone with this kind of leadership?

Posted by Observer at 02:28 PM | Comments (5)

Real Heroes


You Want to Hear from Some Real War Heroes?
Read Some of the Letters the Troops Have Been Sending Home.

(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

I picked up Michael Moore's "Will They Ever Trust Us Again?" at the library the other day. It was a quick read. Really, there's nothing in there by Michael Moore. The book is simply a compilation of what he felt were the most compelling letters received from our troops and their families.

The one thing that a lot of people really find moving about Moore's movie and books like this is that Moore is letting the troops speak for themselves. He is expressing sympathy and admiration for the troops, pointing out that, yes, they volunteered for the job, but we as Americans have a duty not to put them into harm's way unless it is absolutely necessary. And Iraq was far, far from it. And the troops realize it. Oh sure, you have your gung-ho troops that are all for Bush and think the war in Iraq is a smashing idea, but there is a large contingent that is very dissatisfied over the sacrifice they are being asked to make.

It's not that they are upset that they are making a sacrifice. They are upset that the sacrifice is meaningless, that it is being given in the name of this incompetent frat boy in the White House. This book was more powerful for me than "Fahrenheit 9/11", just because I already knew a lot of the stuff in the movie. This is powerful because it isn't Moore talking. It is our soldiers and their families doing the talking. It is very real.

The best parts of "Fahrenheit 9/11" were the parts in which Moore just put people on camera and let them speak for themselves. Lila, the mother of the soldier who died, is the most prominent example of that. But he also let the Iraqis speak. Listening to that old Iraqi woman screeching about the horror and devastation visited upon her house and her family, crying and screaming all at once: it is something you don't forget easily. It helps you understand why, despite our best intentions, many Iraqis will hate us for this forever.

I listened to a guy on Franken's show today who wrote a book about life in the Green Zone. He said that basically everything going on over there right now is an abject failure, but he also pointed out that we need to keep this in perspective. It isn't a failure because these are right-wingers running the show. It's a failure because Americans are running the show, and we just don't have what it takes to be a colonial power. We're just not good at this, not in this environment. A liberal administration trying to fix Iraq would probably not do much better and perhaps even worse.

What encourages me about that is knowing that Kerry is smart enough to accept this, and he is willing to listen to ideas. He brings a fresh approach to Iraq, and he will change things over there. And believe me, we need a big shakeup over there to get things going on the right track. I don't pretend that I know what to do at this point, but my first guess is to just pull the troops out of there completely. Then we can pour money into humanitarian relief efforts that aren't related to the military and aren't related to for-profit companies.

Right now, the reason reconstruction isn't working is because there isn't enough security. Even if we doubled the number of troops there and kept them there for a decade (hello, draft!), I still don't think the security problem would be solved. The Iraqis have to accept and go along with whatever we're doing, or things are going to continue to spiral downward. We have to pull out the troops as an act of good faith and let Iraqis control their own destiny.

I could be wrong, but I would seriously look into that possibility (it has the unabashed upside of bringing our troops home, at least, and few other plans have such a guarantee of a major positive result). People with more knowledge and insight than me would probably do it differently. What's important is that we have a leader willing to listen to lots of different ideas and intelligently pick a course of action and see where it takes us. What we have right now in office is a petulant child who is going to keep on banging that square peg into the round hole of Iraq until the peg is completely splintered and destroyed.

Posted by Observer at 07:13 AM | Comments (9)

October 27, 2004

Voting Wrongs


If Republicans Are So Upstanding, How Come So Many Bills
Get Passed in the Middle of the Night Nowadays?

(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

Now this is a neat trick. Republicans like to say that they're all about preventing voter fraud when what they are really doing is trying to suppress the vote. ConservaBorg say that if Democrats aren't smart enough to figure out how to vote, they shouldn't have the right to vote. And you know, to some extent, I can sympathize with that.

Problem is, Republicans aren't counting on stupidity. They are instead lying to potential voters. The basic idea is this: First, you get your Katherine-Harris-style Secretary of State to do some legalistic interpretations of voting rules that just happen to favor Republicans. For example, if some voter goes to the wrong precinct, they aren't allowed to cast a provisional ballot (that would then presumably be counted once it was routed to the right precinct). A Republican official makes that rule, and the Democrats challenge it, so a Republican judge (or, if needed, another 5-4 Supreme Court) screws the Democrats.

Next up, you hit the phones. You call voters and say you are from the local elections board and, hey, just so you know, your precinct has changed and you need to vote in a new place. Thanks for participating, goodbye! Only the caller is a Republican operative, and the precinct location hasn't changed, and they're trying to suppress the vote. It's happening in a lot of different places (the article I pointed to is simply the example from Ohio).

Also, the NY Times reports that Republicans are paying $100 each to "poll watchers" for every precinct. Democrats are going to assign their own watchers (volunteers, of course) where they are able to muster the manpower. The purpose of these poll watchers is to basically gum up the works. They won't be able to successfully challenge anyone, but if they can slow things down and create long lines, it will discourage voters. Isn't that sweet of them?

The big number Republicans are quoting these days is that 35,000 registered voters supposedly don't live at the addresses on record. Well, of course, that must mean fraud. In the real world, though, that just means people moved or died and the country just didn't bother removing them from the rolls (because it isn't the county's job to do that and no one notifies them anyway). Those 35,000 people aren't going to be showing up at the polls, obviously. It's the same everywhere (yes, even in heavily Republican districts), but Republicans are just trying to create enough conspiracy theory confusion to addle the brains of their Moron supporters and make 'em think Republicans are the good guys instead of making 'em think for themselves.

Democrats believe in Democracy. Republicans believe in Power At Any Cost. It's that simple, really.

Thanks to Pandagon, Atrios and commenters for lots of good thought-provoking stuff that I callously stole.

Posted by Observer at 07:17 AM | Comments (0)

October 26, 2004

Mindless Conformity


Furious George Is Finding Out That a War
Election Strategy Doesn't Work So Well If You Are
Incompetent at Actually Running a War.

(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

Every once in a while, the NY Times gives some coverage opportunities to reporters who aren't in the tank. Weeks will go by, and all you'll hear from is Bumiller (who writes about how charming Bush is), Seelye (who thinks Kerry reminds her of Gore whom she openly loathed), Miller (who provided an uncritical outlet for Chalabi's WMD fabrications which were then used as an invasion pretext) or someone else writing again about John Kerry's butler, his patrician manner, his haircut or his multimillion dollar this or that. But then, I don't know, maybe someone there has an attack of conscience and they put some real news reporting into a relevant front-page story.

Such is the case with the missing high explosives story. What happened, basically, is that a facility with about 380 tons of high explosives, called Al Qaqaa, was left unguarded after the invasion (either due to a lack of troops, misplaced priorities, simple fubar incompetence at the highest levels or all of the above). It has now been looted dry over the past 18 months (still not clear when, exactly), and it is very likely that most of these high explosives are now being used to make very easy-to-design makeshift bombs that are killing our troops.

Where to begin.

First, Bush says he was just informed of this last week. That's strange, because I would've thought last week that in the wake of this alarming news, National Security Advisor Condi Rice would be at her desk trying to get to the bottom of this, to hold someone accountable, etc. Instead, she hit the campaign trail, giving lots of swing-state speeches (which goes against the very non-partisan tradition of that office ... surprise, surprise).

The thing is, though, Iraqi administrator Paul Bremer knew about this months ago. The IAEA (an international monitoring agency) told him about it, and that information definitely got passed up the chain of command. Bush is trying to blame this on the Iraqis, as if they've had any say in the way the country has been run since the invasion (certainly not during the time frame that the stockpile has disappeared). If anything, it's the other way around, with Bush ordering the Iraqis not to talk about this, to try to keep it under wraps until after the election.

ConservaBorg are looking for fig-leaves on this one, ignoring the fact that Bush is obviously trying to suppress the story because they *know* they fucked up. The most plausible arguments try to claim that maybe the munitions were cleared out before we got there, which is unlikely for lots of reasons that Josh Marshall goes into. First Draft also points out that the White House says they went missing after the invasion.

Or that these munitions represent a small fraction of the total high explosives in the country, which makes me wonder why we sent in so few troops to try to secure all that shit. There are lots of other problems with that argument, too, as reported by Pandagon. This is one of those deals where ConservaBorg are throwing as much shit against the wall as they can and hoping something sticks for enough hours or days that there is genuine "on the one hand..." confusion among the media so that the Moron Americans can safely ignore the story. There's just no getting around it. It's another major Bush fuck-up. End of story. Period. New paragraph.

Why is it being reported now? Turns out an inside-the-Washington-DC-beltway newspaper called the "Nelson Report" broke the story. Makes me wonder if the Times would've held it off until after the election had they not been scooped. Oh well, back to another report about how horrible insensitive Kerry is for using the word "lesbian" in the debates. If you want the real news on this, Josh Marshall is all over it, just scroll back through the last couple of days.

As Atrios asks: How is it possible that these were looted 18 months ago and not only did no one know about it, no one is willing to take responsibility for it, and so is anyone in charge in this goddamned administration?

Some newspaper editorial boards are going to great logical lengths to justify endorsing Bush to satisfy their conservative owners and publishers. Our local paper basically said we endorse the Bush we thought we were getting four years ago but who hasn't turned up yet, and that led to lots of funny letters from liberals. I didn't bother writing to the paper to point out that they simply validated the prediction I made a couple of times in published letters the last few years, that they were going to endorse Bush no matter what and that people would continue to accuse them of liberal media bias.

SK Bubba has a funny summary of the Knoxville News Sentinel's Bush endorsement logic:

this is the most outrageously stupid, inconsistent, and illogical editorial I believe I have ever seen in a newspaper.

They say that Bush was wrong about WMD, lied about Saddam's links to al-Qaida, botched the occupation of Iraq, has a terrible record on the environment, has done nothing about the health care crisis except give a huge government handout to pharmaceutical companies, and ran up the largest deficit in U.S. history.

But you should vote for him anyway because you "need to remember that the United States was attacked on 9/11." Anyone who disagrees is guilty of "mindless conformity" to their party.

Don't you just love it when Bush-supporters project? Do they do anything *but* project these days? Thanks to The Sideshow for the link.

Posted by Observer at 06:45 AM | Comments (3)

October 25, 2004

Keep Your Eye on the Ball


Why Be Sensitive in the War on Terror?
Let's Kick Ass and Take Names, Right?

(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

One of the most recent lines of bullshit being fed to the Moron American crowd by the Bush Administration is that John Kerry is lying about what happened at Tora Bora. Surely you remember the claim that went unchallenged in the debates: Bush screwed up going after bin Laden by letting Afghan warlords do all the work when we closed in. Of course, after that, he diverted all kinds of troops over to Iraq, which is likely to blame for our failure to capture the guy.

Then, during the debate, Bush lied again. He had said earlier, about six months after 9/11, that he didn't care about bin Laden (the exact quote was, "I truly am not that concerned about him."). Then during the debate, he denied it. Now, even worse, he's saying that Kerry is lying about what happened in Afghanistan. Josh Marshall responds:

Looking over various reporting on Tora Bora from the winter and spring of 2001/2002, it seems clear that most major news outlets ran stories which flatly contradict what the Bush campaign is now saying on the subject (see this earlier post for more details.)

I'd be curious whether, in reporting the Bush campaign's current denials about what happened at Tora Bora, any major news outlet has made reference to their own earlier reporting which makes it clear that, as nearly as such things can be known, what the president is saying is simply not true.

Indeed, not only is what the president's campaign is saying not true, but as the April 2002 WaPo piece makes clear, what Kerry is charging is backed up to the letter by the administration's own formal and informal after-action analyses and reports about the mistakes made at Tora Bora.

It's really that clear cut.

Has the Post done it? The Times ? Any of the cable networks? ABC?

The answer, so far, is "NO", of course. Thanks, liberal media!

Just for fun, here is that Washington Post article Marshall was referring to. Compare this with the rhetoric of the Boy King these days and ask yourself if this is the president who is going to make us safer:

Bush administration has concluded that Osama bin Laden was present during the battle for Tora Bora late last year and that failure to commit U.S. ground troops to hunt him was its gravest error in the war against al Qaeda, according to civilian and military officials with first-hand knowledge. [...]

After-action reviews, conducted privately inside and outside the military chain of command, describe the episode as a significant defeat for the United States. A common view among those interviewed outside the U.S. Central Command is that Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the war's operational commander, misjudged the interests of putative Afghan allies and let pass the best chance to capture or kill al Qaeda's leader.

Goes without saying that Franks is a Bush man, through and through. Not only in his support for Bush, which is very prominent these days in the campaign, but also in his absolute refusal to admit mistakes.

Franks has told subordinates that it was vital at the Tora Bora battle, among the first to include allies from Afghanistan's Pashtun majority, to take a supporting role and "not just push them aside and take over because we were America."

Huh. So I suppose Franks was trying to "be sensitive" in his prosecution of the "War on Terror". It's Ok If You're A Republican (IOKIYAR), I guess.

Posted by Observer at 02:20 PM | Comments (6)

October 24, 2004

Misery Loves Company


Why MT-Blacklist Is the Greatest, Part XLVII:
In the Last 48 Hours, It Has Helped Us Easily Delete 150
Spam Comments and Denied Over 1300 Spams Outright.

(Image credit: Steve Jackson Games)

Not sure which is worse today. If you're a Cowboys fan, Brett Favre just schooled your secondary and Green Bay just torched your defense for 41 points. They scored on their first seven possessions of the ballgame, but honestly, they could've scored on every possession had they not just played to run the clock out at the end. The Cowboys scored their usual 20 (or fewer) points, and we are looking now at next year's draft picks. At least with the Cowboys, hope faded for a decent season very early.

Poor Seahawk fans. I mean, a few weeks ago, they were 3-0 on top of the world and beating the crap out of the Rams, chanting for New England. Then the Rams came back, New England beat 'em, and now the 2-4 Cardinals (who make the Cowboys look like a class organization) just beat Seattle in front of a whopping home crowd of probably about 785 fans. Now you've got a 3-3 team that is much better than its record, and you wonder if they'll start playing like they're supposed to and get hot in the playoffs or something.

Welcome to the world of the late 1980's Cowboy fan, a couple of years before the wheels totally fell off and Jimmy took over. Well, at least the Huskies ... oh. Never mind. Well, but the Mariners ... oh, wait ... Mike Frickin' Hargrove? Where did they dig up that old ex-Ranger fossil? Never mind. I'll be kind and leave the Sonics out of any kind of consideration what with the Western Conference being impossible as usual.

By the way, I've got no better place to put this random link that I got from BartCop, so here it is: The Grand List of Overused Science Fiction Cliches. Enjoy, but don't start reading if you don't have a good half-hour to spare. I can name a title that employs a given cliche about 90% of the time.

Posted by Observer at 08:20 PM | Comments (4)

A Pox on Bad Media


The Media Is Far From Innocent When the Blame
Starts Getting Passed Around for This Stupid War
and This Stupid Administration.

(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

During the debates, a couple of issues involving presciption drugs were brought up. I watched a very interesting interview on Franken's show the other day with an activist who also happens to be a VP of Marketing for Pfizer (and Pfizer definitely doesn't like what this guy is doing with his private life). He explained that there are really no good arguments against reimporting drugs from Canada other than wanting to give American drug companies a multi-billion dollar windfall profit (only a small fraction of which would be reinvested in research for new useful life-saving drugs instead of the next generation of Viagra).

One thing he said was that, ok, so Furious George is worried about the safety of drugs that are imported from Canada and wants to make sure they are safe. Well, ok, but stop and think for a minute about how much food we import. Are you going to check every banana as it crosses the border to make sure it isn't somehow contaminated by a bunch of foreign scoundrels, that it hasn't been loaded with some nefarious biological agent thanks to Al Qaeda operatives? It's really ridiculous when you think about it.

I should be able to see that kind of perspective on the front page or at least prominently in the newspaper after the debates. Instead, I see enormous tracts of space being taken up by Kerry's mention of Cheney's "lesbian" daughter. This is just one of so many mainstream media failures. If Air America weren't around, who on Earth would give this guy an interview so he could share his knowledge and perspective from a significant platform (and Air America at this point barely counts as significant)? The answer is easy: no one (in America, anyway).

A very helpful media watchdog is "Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting", or "FAIR", which was one of the first to publish a big selling fact check of Rush Limbaugh. Their latest alert notes more stupid behavior by the so-called liberal Washington Post trying to turn this campaign into a "on the one hand" moral equivalence festival:

On September 30, a FAIR action alert urged the Associated Press and Washington Post not to exercise "false balance" in their reporting on the exaggerations and deceptions coming from the major presidential candidates. By straining to include an equal number of Bush and Kerry statements to "fact check," news outlets give the impression that both sides are equally culpable of deceptive rhetoric.

On October 20, the Washington Post put a new spin on that formula by suggesting one candidate has increased his output of inaccurate rhetoric: John Kerry. The Post's Howard Kurtz wrote that "Kerry has pushed the factual envelope less often than the president-- until recently," suggesting that Kerry's deceptions now equal or exceed Bush's.

But the evidence Kurtz presented did not support his charge. He listed four of Bush's exaggerations, including his characterization of Kerry's health plan as "government-run," his claim that Kerry "voted for education reform and now opposes it," and his repeated use of an out-of-context Kerry quote as proof that Kerry thinks terrorism is merely a "nuisance."

But Kurtz presented only two examples of Kerry pushing the "factual envelope," and neither one makes a convincing case for Kerry's misuse of facts. Kurtz wrote that Kerry plays loose with the facts when he says that Bush "has a plan that cuts Social Security benefits by 30 to 45 percent." Kurtz countered this by noting that Bush, "while favoring allowing younger workers to put part of their benefits in private accounts, has never put forth a plan-- and has vowed that any change would not affect current retirees."

But Kerry is not talking about current retirees; the TV ad in question is based on a Congressional Budget Office study of one of the plans put forth by Bush's Commission to Strengthen Social Security, and the possible cuts in benefits would apply to future retirees. It is true that Bush has not explicitly endorsed any particular privatization model-- instead describing his commission's proposals as "a variety of ideas for people to look at" (debate, 10/13/04)-- but given that the contributions being made by workers now go to pay the benefits of current retirees, any plan that significantly shifts worker contributions to private accounts will require increased taxes, reduced benefits or both.

The second Kerry deception, according to the Post, concerns the military draft. Kurtz wrote that "Kerry said last week that there is a 'great potential' that Bush will reinstate the draft." This is inaccurate, according to Kurtz, because Bush has issued denials about reinstating a draft: "The president has repeatedly denied this, and Bush spokesman Steve Schmidt, in a common campaign refrain, said the charge shows Kerry 'will do or say anything to get elected.'"

By this logic, the Post would have ruled "inaccurate" a hypothetical ad in 1988 that asserted that the elder George Bush would raise taxes-- because he had declared "read my lips, no new taxes." As any political observer knows, it's hardly "push[ing] the factual envelope" to suggest that politicians don't always keep their promises-- but by the Post's standards, Kerry is being deceptive if he doesn't take Bush at his word.

And there are, in fact, credible reasons to believe that Bush policies might require a draft in a second term. As Paul Krugman pointed out in a recent column (New York Times, 10/19/04), a study commissioned by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld found that the U.S. has "inadequate total numbers of troops and lack of long-term endurance" (Navy Times, 10/4/04). And Bush constantly stresses that he is more willing to take pre-emptive military actions than his opponent-- actions that would be difficult if not impossible to undertake without a draft, given how stretched U.S. troops already are.

(Interestingly, also on October 20, Washington Post online columnist Dan Froomkin used the same two examples-- Social Security and the draft-- to make the claim that Kerry was making "basically groundless," "essentially unsupported charges" as part of a "sordid" political game. Froomkin's column does even less than Kurtz does to justify the assertion that Kerry's charges are inaccurate.)

Kurtz is not afraid to assert that Bush has been more deceptive than Kerry-- in the past. When talking about the present, however, he continues the Post's practice of straining to counterbalance outright Bush misstatements with something that can be painted as a Kerry stretch-- no matter how far-fetched.

With friends like the media, we liberals hardly need enemies. Another example is with endorsements. This morning I learned that the Cleveland Plain-Dealer editorial board had voted 5-2 to endorse John Kerry, but the ownership of the paper overruled them and told them to endorse Bush (the endorsement editorial has been officially postponed until they sort this out, because the editorial board is making a rare stand).

This just goes to the point I've brought up many times and is echoed by Eric Alterman's book "What Liberal Media": While it may be true that a large fraction of journalists lean toward liberal ideas, according to the current definition of liberal, most publishers and owners are conservatives, and they control a lot of what goes into the paper. The Media Horse once linked to a funny exercise that demonstrates this principle entitled Virtual Journalist. You should go try it.

Posted by Observer at 09:56 AM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2004

They Even Lie About the Flu


What's the Difference Between Iraq and Vietnam?
Bush Had a Plan to Get Out of Vietnam.

(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

Credit to Al Franken for the joke. From Digby comes this email that is travelling around the nutball circuit:

Almost half of the nation's flu vaccine will not be delivered this year. Chiron, a major manufacturer of flu vaccine, will not be distributing any influenza vaccine this flu season. Chiron was to make 46-48 million doses vaccine for the United States. Chiron is a British company. Recently British health officials stopped Chiron from distributing and making the vaccine when inspectors found unsanitary conditions in the labs. Some lots of the vaccine were recalled and destroyed.

Why is our vaccine made in the UK and not the US?

The major pharmaceutical companies in the US provided almost 90% of the nations flu vaccine at one time. They did this despite a very low profit margin for the product. Basically, they were doing us a favor.

In the late 80's a man from North Carolina who had received the vaccine got the flu. The strain he caught was one of the strains in that years Vaccine made by a US company. What did he do? He sued and he won. He was awarded almost $5 million! After that case was appealed and lost, most US pharmaceutical companies stopped making the vaccine. The liability out weighed the profit margin. Since UK and Canadian laws prohibit such frivolous law suits UK and Canadian companies began selling the vaccine in the US.

By the way...the lawyer that represented the man in the flu shot lawsuit was a young ambulance chaser by the name of John Edwards.

I quote the whole thing because so much of it is incredibly misleading and some of it is laughably false and easily disproven. Snopes hits the highlights of this urban legend fairly effectively, and I will append their lengthy response to this myth at the end. The main point is that emails like this, which are lapped up by Bush-supporters, are the primary sources of information for them. How else to explain their staggering levels of ignorance and misinformation:

A new study by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) shows that supporters of President Bush hold wildly inaccurate views about the world. For example, "a large majority [72 percent] of Bush supporters believe that before the war Iraq had weapons of mass destruction." Most Bush supporters [57 percent] also believe that the recently released report by Charles Duelfer, the administration's hand-picked weapons inspector, concluded Iraq either had WMD or a major program for developing them. In fact, the report concluded "Saddam Hussein did not produce or possess any weapons of mass destruction for more than a decade before the U.S.-led invasion" and the U.N. inspection regime had "curbed his ability to build or develop weapons."

According to the study, 75 percent Bush supporters also believe "Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda." Most Bush supporters [55 percent] believe that was the conclusion of the 9/11 commission. In fact, the 9/11 commission concluded there was no "collaborative relationship" between al-Qaeda and Iraq.

Bush supporters also hold inaccurate views about world public opinion of the war in Iraq and a range of Bush's foreign policy positions.

From much more, see this Salon article. These are the kinds of people I'm talking about when I use the term "Moron Americans". With rights come responsibilities, and people who have the right to vote have the responsibility to cast an informed vote. Sure, people on both sides are misinformed, but I've never seen an administration go so far out of its way to foster such nonsense (i.e. the 9/11-Saddam link, to name of one of a great many).

And it works. Crap like this creates a cloud of "maybe beliefs" to comfort the stupid Bush-voter and make them feel ok about pulling the lever. After the election, they will just shrug their shoulders and say, "Aw, shucks, how could I have known?" And I'll be calling them Moron Americans, and they'll get all mad at me and probably knee-jerk vote Republican in the next election, too. Oh well, I'm not going to kiss anybody's ass to get them to vote smart. It should be their patriotic duty, and anybody who is voting for reasons other than what they think is in the best interests of America shouldn't be voting.

Anyway, I'll hand it over to Snopes to help you understand just how full of shit that John Edwards/flu vaccine urban legend is. The fault lies with this administration, and that's the plain truth:

Two major problems with this political screed, which attempts to attribute a shortage of flu vaccine to a lawsuit handled to Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, the Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate:

- Chiron, the corporation mentioned in this piece as an example of a "British company" that has taken over the manufacture of flu vaccine from American companies supposedly driven out of business by liability lawsuits, is not a British company. It is an American company headquartered in Emeryville, California, which last year purchased British vaccine maker Powderject and a flu vaccine plant in Liverpool, England.

- American manufacturers did not produce flu vaccine until liability lawsuits made it impossible for them to continue doing so. Most American pharmaceutical companies got out of the flu vaccine market because a variety of factors (not related to lawsuits) make it an unattractive line of business:

Flu viruses mutate easily, so new flu vaccine formulas have to be made up every year.

Because a different flu vaccine is used each season, unsold doses cannot be saved and end up being destroyed (along with any potential profits).

The production of flu vaccine (and the requirement of meeting Food and Drug Administration standards) is a labor-intensive process. Flu vaccine is made by injecting virus into fertilized chicken eggs — each egg must be hand-inspected and hand-injected and produces only 4 or 5 doses of vaccine.

Because flu vaccine is a commodity (i.e., the same product can be made by many different companies) and much of the available supply is bought up in large orders by the government, the market price of vaccine — and the profit to be made from selling it — has been quite low. (The global market for vaccine is about $6 billion a year, while the global market for drugs is about $340 billion a year. Which of these two markets a pharmaceutical company should concentrate on is a no-brainer.)

Sometime within the next several years, the flu vaccine industry will switch to growing vaccine in cell cultures rather than eggs, a much easier and cheaper process. No new entrant to the flu vaccine market is going to spend several years and millions of dollars investing in a process that will soon become obsolete.

A recent article in the Washington Post chronicled the travails of Wyeth, one of many companies that has abandoned the flu vaccine market in the last few years:

For two decades, Wyeth made injectable influenza vaccine at a plant in Marietta, Pa. For the winter of 2002-03, it made 21 million doses in a labor-intensive, time-crunched process and shipped them to clinics and doctors' offices early in the fall.

But it turned out a lot fewer people wanted it. Flu vaccine can't be saved from year to year. So, sometime the next spring Wyeth threw away 7 million unsold doses, for a loss of $30 million. It then quit making flu shots. It eventually closed the Marietta plant, which once employed 800 people.

But Wyeth wasn't out of the flu vaccine business — yet.

It was a partner with the Maryland biotech company, MedImmune, in making what they considered the flu shot of the future — a "live" virus vaccine squirted up the nose. They made 5 million doses of FluMist for last winter, the product's inaugural season. But FluMist never found its market. Only 450,000 doses were sold; the rest were thrown away.

Over three seasons, Wyeth lost $50 million from unsold flu vaccine. It was also facing millions of dollars in required improvements to keep its plant up to standards required by the Food and Drug Administration.

Last April, Wyeth pulled out. It was done with flu vaccine.

Wyeth's decisions go a long way toward explaining why the United States — the world's richest market for medical products — finds itself with only half the amount of vaccine it needs to protect its population against a disease that may contribute to more than 50,000 deaths this year.

The company's exit is part of a long, slow industry-wide flight away from flu vaccine, which has simply become more trouble than it's worth.

"It shouldn't be surprising to anybody," said Gregory A. Poland, director of the vaccine research group at the Mayo Clinic, in Minnesota. "In fact, I marvel that there are companies willing to stay in the business."

Litigation against vaccine manufacturers (not over flu vaccine specificially, but vaccines in general, particularly those that used thimerosal as a preservative) did create some shortages prior to the mid-1980s, but the passage of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 eliminated most of those lawsuits through the creation of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program ( VICP ), a no-fault compensation alternative to suing vaccine manufacturers and providers for people injured or killed by vaccines. According to a 2003 report by the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), "vaccine shortages do not appear to be liability related":

The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) enacted in the late 1980s has been of immense value in stabilizing the vaccine market. Prior to its enactment, litigation led to national shortages, withdrawal of manufacturers from the marketplace, and instability of supply of essential childhood vaccines. The VICP was designed to compensate individuals who suffered a serious adverse event as a result of administration of a covered vaccine in a manner that was rapid, simple, generous and appropriate.

The VICP has assisted in stimulating the availability of new vaccines since its inception in 1988. Despite the success of the program, criticism of the VICP could lead to significant legislative changes, including a more relaxed burden of proof standard for determining eligibility for compensation. Today, litigation again threatens stability of the vaccine program in the form of class action law suits, exemplified by those that have been filed involving vaccines that contain thimerosal. The VICP is currently understaffed to meet the new increased numbers of claims.

While current vaccine shortages do not appear to be liability related, the VICP should be maintained and strengthened as supported by scientific evidence, including continuing expansion of VICP to include additional vaccines as they are recommended for routine administration to children. The VICP coverage of vaccines should recognize that "vaccine" includes the active ingredient as well as preservatives, additives and other excipients. Strengthening the VICP would benefit manufacturers, providers and consumers and further safeguard the nation's vaccine supply.

Regarding the claim that John Edwards secured a $5 million judgment against a U.S. pharmacutical company on a flu vaccine case, while it is true he had a highly successful legal career representing individuals who had been badly harmed by malfunctioning products or the mistakes of doctors and hospitals, with some even saying he won $175 million for his clients over 12 years, at this point it's not known if he ever litigated a flu vaccine case, or if so, what the outcome of such a trial was.

So, to recap: The first email I quoted is an example of a dishonest and misleading message. The Snopes article is an example of a fair and honest accounting of the facts. I'm trying to help stupid conservatives out there (as opposed to the smart ones who oppose Bush) understand the difference. If Bush-supporters have such a great case to make for their Boy King, why is it that they can't stop lying?

Posted by Observer at 09:02 AM | Comments (8)

October 22, 2004

Ketchup Is a Vegetable!


I Convinced Sarah That Ketchup
Is Actually Made from Sesame Seeds.

Ok, so I lied. We were at the supper table tonight, and Sarah was dumping a truckload of ketchup all over her food as usual. Sarah is the one who inexplicably hates sesame seeds with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns. Almost as much as she hates mustard. God forbid we get a burger order wrong.

Anyway, I'm always trying to get her to be less of a pig with the ketchup because too much of that is really bad for you, too much sugar. So I told her to look at the ingredients in my best bullshit science professor voice. "See right there? High fructose corn syrup. What do you think that is? Sesame seeds are the little seed-like things at the heart of every kernel of corn. They mash those up into a powder, then they mix in fructose, which is another name for sugar, until it is all syrupy. Then they crush raw tomatoes and mix it all up, and you've got ketchup!"

Sarah said (with a fearful expression), "You mean I'm eating sesame seeds?"

"Yup."

She actually stopped eating right there and left the table, she was so upset at the idea that a second helping of the food and ketchup she was eating had sesame seeds, she wouldn't eat. I tried half-heartedly to reason with her, and so did Michelle. Turns out she doesn't like tomatoes (raw) either, so we told her that's in ketchup, too, but she likes it. Well, that made it worse. Eventually, I guess her stomach won out and she ate, but now all the kids think ketchup is made from sesame seeds and I'm a filthy liar.

I guess now I know what it feels like to be a Republican.

Posted by Observer at 07:04 PM | Comments (2)

What "Out" Means


Sorry, Soldier. There's No One Home to Answer You.
People Are Too Busy Pretending to Be Insulted.

(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

Frank Rich has some funny commentary about the whole Mary Cheney thing (plus the O'Reilly scandal) in the NY Times. I want to quote what he says about Cheney, though, because it speaks to a pattern of Republican behavior coming into this election:

To try to prop up its fictional headline "Outing Mary Cheney," The Journal argued that "Mr. and Mrs. Cheney have not kept their daughter's lesbianism a secret but neither have they shouted it to the sky." Huh? Though Dick Cheney doesn't shout anything, he described his daughter as gay on camera at an Iowa campaign appearance this summer. But whatever Mr. and Mrs. Cheney may have to say about it, The Journal never entertained the thought that Mary Cheney herself has a voice in this matter. She has been openly gay for years. Before the 2000 campaign, she held a job that literally announced her homosexuality: gay and lesbian liaison for Coors, a public marketing assignment that even required her to travel the country with the winner of the 1999 International Mr. Leather competition. She later joined the Republican Unity Coalition, a gay-rights advocacy group formed as an alternative to the similarly inclined Log Cabin Republicans.

Franken had a funny bit on his show yesterday. He has a conservative friend who is a dittohead who calls in to the show as a guest a few times per week. And Al reads to this guy (or plays back) a quote from Rush's show that it just outrageously false, to see what Rush's fan has to say about it. The dittohead always ends up saying something like, "Well, ok, you may have a point there, but I still agree with Rush."

But Al keeps pounding away, and it is funny hearing the dittohead have to go further and further out on a limb to defend his hero. Finally, the dittohead had enough and said, "Look, Al, anyone can cherry-pick quotes from Rush and find errors. He's got a long show. Why don't you let *me* pick something from Rush and you see what you think about that?" Al said that sounded like a great idea, so they started doing it.

One of the first ones out of the gate was Rush claiming that Mary Cheney was "outed" by Kerry in the debate. Al couldn't believe it. He said to his friend, "You know what 'outing' means, right?" And they went through the definition and realized there is no interpretation of the word that puts Rush in the clear. Even if Kerry was revealing to some cave-dwellers for the very first time that Mary Cheney is a lesbian, it still isn't "outing" because Cheney lives her life as an openly gay individual, not to mention that Cheney "outs" her all the time (and thanked Edwards for "outing" her in the VP debate). So it was pretty funny that even the cut the dittohead selected, he ended up having to say, "Well, ok, you may have a point there, but I still agree with Rush."

The dittohead ended up trying to defend Rush by claiming Rush is just exaggerating to make a point. Exaggerating?!? Hell, isn't that what supposedly got Al Gore in so much trouble. But I guess IOKIYAR (It's OK If You're a Republican).

From all the outcry over Mr. Kerry's invocation of Ms. Cheney, with the attendant rhetoric about the evil of exploiting a candidate's "child" in a campaign, you might never guess that the child in question is not Chelsea Clinton at age 12 but a 35-year-old woman (two years older than Andrea Mackris). Or that she lives openly with her partner, Heather Poe, whom she brought onstage after the vice presidential debate. Or that she is the paid director of vice presidential operations for the Bush campaign, and that her mother is the author of a notorious potboiler ("Sisters," 1981) that drools over the prospect of lesbian coupling with O'Reilly-like glee. (For choice excerpts from Mrs. Cheney's fiction, go to whitehouse.org/administration/sisters.asp ).

So you have to wonder what motivated the Bush-Cheney brigade to go ballistic over Mr. Kerry's "outing" of Mary Cheney after it had ignored not just John Edwards's previous "outing" but also the earlier "outings" by Bush campaign allies like the Concerned Women for America and the Republican senatorial candidate Alan Keyes. Unlike the Democrats, who spoke respectfully of gay sexual orientation, these right-wing activists trashed the vice president's daughter for sowing anti-family values. But as Andrew Sullivan has pointed out, even when Mr. Keyes attacked Mary Cheney in August for practicing "selfish hedonism," the same Mrs. Cheney, who, "speaking as a mom," called Mr. Kerry "not a good man," spoke not at all.

I'll tell you what they're doing, because it's what they do best. I've said it before, and they just keep doing it: they love to be professional victims. Remember Zell Miller's speech? He was outraged that anyone would dare question our commander-in-chief during a time of (sort of) war. Did you see the story today where Kerry's wife, Teresa, made the mistaken comment about Laura not working? She and Laura were both very gracious about the whole thing, but to hear a ConservaBorg, Teresa called Laura some kind of selfish hedonist or something! The nerve!

They're trying to energize the "church lady" base. The hyper-religious people who have such a twisted, petty sense of justice that they'd be willing to vote for Bush just because they think John Kerry mildly insulted his honor. It must work, because they're always doing stuff like that.

To understand what strange game is playing out here, you must go back to the equally close 2000 election. In the campaign postmortems, Karl Rove famously attributed his candidate's shortfall in the popular vote to four million "fundamentalists and evangelicals" in the Republican base who didn't turn up on Election Day. A common theory among Bush operatives had it that these no-shows had been alienated by the pre-election revelation of Mr. Bush's arrest for drunk driving years earlier.

The current Bush-Cheney campaign clearly believes that for these voters, Mary Cheney's sexuality could be a last-minute turnoff equivalent to Mr. Bush's D.U.I. history. When Rich Lowry of National Review said on Fox that "millions and millions of people" were not aware that Mary Cheney was gay until Mr. Kerry brought it up, it was clear just which four million he was talking about. Mr. Kerry, his critics all speculate, was deliberately seeking to depress voter turnout among Mr. Rove's M.I.A. religious conservatives by broadcasting Mary Cheney's sexuality to them for the first time.

To buy this theory you have to believe that by this late date a large group of potential voters obsessed with homosexuality didn't yet know that Ms. Cheney is gay [My emphasis...good line]. I find that preposterous, but only Mr. Kerry knows if he thought so and if his intentions were so smarmily Machiavellian. Even if they were, there's no ambiguity about what the Bush campaign is up to. Mr. Rove can out-Machiavelli Mr. Kerry anytime. Though the president pays "compassionate conservative" lip service to "tolerance" of homosexuality to appease suburban swing voters, his campaign has pushed a gratuitous constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, one opposed by Mary Cheney's own father, to stir up as much fear and ugly rage as it can.

When Mrs. Cheney hyperbolically implies that even using the word lesbian in 2004 is a slur out of the McCarthy era - "a cheap and tawdry political trick," she said - she is playing a similar game. She is positioning lesbian as a term comparable to child molester. But as Dave Cullen writes in Salon: "It is not an insult to call a proudly public lesbian a lesbian. It's an insult to gasp when someone calls her a lesbian." Mrs. Cheney and her surrogates are in effect doing exactly what Elizabeth Edwards had the guts to say they were doing: they are sending the message to Mr. Rove's four million that they are ashamed of Mary Cheney. They are disowning her under the guise of "defending" her. They are exploiting her for the sake of political expediency even as they level that charge at Democrats.

Of course, they know they can get away with this with impunity, because the people they are trying to convince hate homosexuals in the first place. So accusing them of hypocrisy doesn't do anything.

The deployment of homosexuality as a nasty campaign weapon has long been second nature to Mr. Rove. In the must-read article "Karl Rove in a Corner" in the November issue of The Atlantic, the journalist Joshua Green exhaustively researches the tightest campaigns of Mr. Rove's career and exhumes the pattern. As Mr. Green reminds us, George W. Bush's 1994 gubernatorial race against Ann Richards "featured a rumor" that Governor Richards was a lesbian. Gay whispers have also swirled around Rove adversaries like a rival Republican campaign consultant in the 1980's and a 1994 Alabama judicial candidate who was branded a "homosexual pedophile."

Huh. You think some enterprising reporter from the liberal media would ask Bush if he thought it was ok to spread (false) rumors about Richards' sexuality. That's a funny thought. Never happen, of course, because the media is a fucking useless tool when it comes to campaign coverage.

None of these rumors were, in fact, true, but Mary Cheney is unambiguously and unapologetically gay. For a campaign that wants to pander to the fringe, that makes her presence in the Bush-Cheney family a problem - just how big a problem can be seen by its disingenuously hysterical reaction to Mr. Kerry's use of the L word. But Mary Cheney isn't the only problem for Mr. Rove as he plays this game. The Republican establishment is rife with gay people - just ask anyone in proximity to its convention in New York - and the campaign doesn't want the four million to know about them, either. But in this election season, actual outing has begun to creep onto the Internet, where the names of closeted Republican congressmen and aides who support anti-gay policies are a Google search away. Some named so far - one of whom dropped out of his re-election campaign in August - hail from districts where some of those four million live.

I honestly don't think that finding out a Congressperson has a gay assistant is going to matter one way or the other. All these people want is their regularly scheduled government-sponsored gay bashing law, and then they can smile and go back to "Cops". I just don't understand how a party that supports constitutionally mandated anti-gay discrimination can be the ones who get their backs up in righteous outrage at a perceived "outing". They should be glad she's outed so they know where to send the cops to pick her up when they finally get around to passing *that* law.

Posted by Observer at 07:14 AM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2004

Simple Questions


This Is How Our Allies See Us Now, Thanks to Furious George.
(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

Cody came home yesterday and told me that they voted for president at school. He voted for Bush, and I asked him why. He said because he saw John Kerry's head on some kind of freakish cartoon character, and he looked really stupid. My first thought was, well, at least he has a legitimate reason that's important to him. He's not just flat-out lying to himself that Bush is some great guy. I know from going to the school that there are all kinds of glamor shots of George W and Laura Bush at the school entrance, among other places, so it's no surprise Cody went on looks.

He asked me why I didn't like Bush. I asked him if he remembered the World Trade Center and all that. He said, "Yeah! September 11!" I said, well, the guy responsible for that was supported by the government of Afghanistan. Those were the guys Bush was all chummy with when he was the governor of Texas because he wanted to make deals for their oil. Then after 9/11, Bush acted like he hated the guys and wanted to kill them.

Cody said, "That's stupid! Why did he like 'em in the first place?"

I told him I didn't know, they were pretty bad guys all along. I said, "What's worse is that he stopped looking for bin Laden pretty quickly. It was only about six months, and Bush was saying he didn't even care whether he found bin Laden or not, and that he wanted to invade Iraq, even though Iraq and Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11. We invaded Iraq and have over 100,000 guys over there fighting, and already over 1,000 have been killed."

Cody was pretty unhappy with that and said, "Why did they go after Saddam then?"

I said, "If you're asking me why we invaded Iraq, I honestly don't know." And that's the plain truth. I don't know why. No one in this administration has made an honest case for why we're there. And that bullshit about the world being safer without Saddam is not only a useless argument (the world would be even *safer* without a few dozen other tinpot dictators, but we aren't invading them), but it is also probably wrong because Iraq is now a lawless, terrorist breeding ground by pretty much all accounts.

Oh, and what few potential things Saddam had there for starting a WMD program went missing shortly after "major combat operations" ended for Flight Suit Georgie. How anyone can agree that this war was a good idea in hindsight is completely beyond me. Bush, of course, will go on saying he wouldn't do a single thing differently, that he never makes a mistake, and if you want four more years of that, then I'm sorry, but you're part of the problem.

Posted by Observer at 06:57 AM | Comments (5)

October 20, 2004

Light Bulb Joke


The ConservaBorg Are Proud Americans, Every Single One.
(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

From William Gibson's blog (of "Neuromancer" fame) comes this John Cleese joke:

How many Bush administration officials does it take to change a light bulb?

None. There’s nothing wrong with that light bulb. There is no need to change anything. We made the right decision and nothing has happened to change our minds. People who criticize this light bulb now, just because it doesn’t work anymore, supported us when we first screwed it in, and when these flip-floppers insist on saying that it is burned out, they are merely giving aid and encouragement to the Forces of Darkness.

Posted by Observer at 01:38 PM | Comments (0)

Rough Draft


There Is No Instance of a Country Benefiting
from Prolonged Warfare. -- Sun Tzu
(via BartCop)
(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

Paul Krugman has some thoughts about the return of the military draft. I can't believe so many people ar dismissing the possibility just because Bush says he won't do it.

Those who are worrying about a revived draft are in the same position as those who worried about a return to budget deficits four years ago, when President Bush began pushing through his program of tax cuts. Back then he insisted that he wouldn't drive the budget into deficit - but those who looked at the facts strongly suspected otherwise. Now he insists that he won't revive the draft. But the facts suggest that he will.

There were two reasons some of us never believed Mr. Bush's budget promises. First, his claims that his tax cuts were affordable rested on patently unrealistic budget projections. Second, his broader policy goals, including the partial privatization of Social Security - which is clearly on his agenda for a second term - would involve large costs that were not included even in those unrealistic projections. This led to the justified suspicion that his election-year promises notwithstanding, Mr. Bush would preside over a return to budget deficits.

It's exactly the same when it comes to the draft. Mr. Bush's claim that we don't need any expansion in our military is patently unrealistic; it ignores the severe stress our Army is already under. And the experience in Iraq shows that pursuing his broader foreign policy doctrine - the "Bush doctrine" of pre-emptive war - would require much larger military forces than we now have.

This leads to the justified suspicion that after the election, Mr. Bush will seek a large expansion in our military, quite possibly through a return of the draft.

Mr. Bush's assurances that this won't happen are based on a denial of reality. Last week, the Republican National Committee sent an angry, threatening letter to Rock the Vote, an organization that has been using the draft issue to mobilize young voters. "This urban myth regarding a draft has been thoroughly debunked," the letter declared, and quoted Mr. Bush: "We don't need the draft. Look, the all-volunteer Army is working."

In fact, the all-volunteer Army is under severe stress. A study commissioned by Donald Rumsfeld arrived at the same conclusion as every independent study: the U.S. has "inadequate total numbers" of troops to sustain operations at the current pace. In Iraq, the lack of sufficient soldiers to protect supply convoys, let alone pacify the country, is the root cause of incidents like the case of the reservists who refused to go on what they described as a "suicide mission."

Commanders in Iraq have asked for more troops (ignore the administration's denials) - but there are no more troops to send. The manpower shortage is so severe that training units like the famous Black Horse Regiment, which specializes in teaching other units the ways of battle, are being sent into combat. As the military expert Phillip Carter says, "This is like eating your seed corn."

Anyway, do we even have an all-volunteer Army at this point? Thousands of reservists and National Guard members are no longer serving voluntarily: they have been kept in the military past their agreed terms of enlistment by "stop loss" orders.

The administration's strategy of denial in the face of these realities was illustrated by a revealing moment during the second presidential debate. After Senator John Kerry described the stop-loss policy as a "backdoor draft," Charles Gibson, the moderator, tried to get a follow-up response from President Bush: "And with reservists being held on duty --"

At that point Mr. Bush cut Mr. Gibson off and changed the subject from the plight of the reservists to the honor of our Polish allies, ending what he obviously viewed as a dangerous line of questioning.

And during the third debate, Mr. Bush tried to minimize the issue, saying that the reservists being sent to Iraq "didn't view their service as a backdoor draft. They viewed their service as an opportunity to serve their country." In that case, why are they being forced, rather than asked, to continue that service?

The reality is that the Iraq war, which was intended to demonstrate the feasibility of the Bush doctrine, has pushed the U.S. military beyond its limits. Yet there is no sign that Mr. Bush has been chastened. By all accounts, in a second term the architects of that doctrine, like Paul Wolfowitz, would be promoted, not replaced. The only way this makes sense is if Mr. Bush is prepared to seek a much larger Army - and that means reviving the draft.

Our local paper recently endorsed Bush (big surprise, there, and of course, people will go on accusing them of liberal bias until the end of days), hoping that lots of things changed in his second term, that he makes better decisions, etc. I couldn't believe it. This is a guy campaigning on the very idea of stability, staying the course, and he is being backed because of all these promises to change the way he does things? If you want four more years of "more of the same", vote Bush. Kerry was absolutely right about that. More broken promises, guaranteed.

Posted by Observer at 08:06 AM | Comments (8)

October 19, 2004

Back to the Land


For Me, This Book Was Like a Drink of Cold Water
Making You Suddenly Realize How Thirsty You Are.

(Image credit: Book reporter)

I've finally finished reading this book, but I don't think I can properly figure out how I feel about it until I read it again on its own and as part of the whole series. Plus it seems like the few readers of this blog who are familiar at all with Donaldson loathe his books and his characters, so it's not like I have the best audience in the world. In fact, if you don't like Donaldson, save yourself the grief and stop reading now. If you don't, I'll have to presume you're a masochist who secretly likes Donaldson. I'll leave out major spoilers, at least. Anyway, the blog commands it, and I haven't gone 500+ straight days with an entry to stop now, so I will try to write a review anyway.

"The Runes of the Earth" is the first of a four book set that promises to be the "Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant". As I've said previously when discussing Donaldson, I have followed everything about these books closely. The first trilogy was really the first lengthy fantasy epic I read as a teenager aside from "Lord of the Rings". Unlike LOTR, which at the time I found kind of boring (but I now appreciate its greatness and would place it clearly ahead of Donaldson, at least in stature and importance, if not quality), I've been entranced by Covenant books ever since I got my hands on them.

About a year after I finished reading the first trilogy, the first book of the second trilogy, "The Wounded Land", appeared at the bookstore. I bought it and went through the agony of waiting for "The One Tree" and "White Gold Wielder", both of which were great. Like most Donaldson fans, I was curious to see if he would return to the Land at some point, but every interview with him that I read over the years suggested that he was stubbornly refusing, that he had nothing new to say, etc. So I read his science fiction "Gap" series, and I thought it was just kinda there. The whole time I was reading it, I was thinking he should've directed all these creative energies at something he had already taken great care to establish instead of this depressing and evil vision of the future.

So I was pretty excited to find out Donaldson was ready to start writing about the Land again. So much so that I really rushed through this first book. I was too hungry to see where the plot would lead to really savor this book. I skimmed a lot of stuff that I know is going to be neat to read when I go back through with care. Donaldson always does a great job of foreshadowing, and it's very subtle so you miss it the first time, usually. I like going back and seeing that or reading dialogue that has more meanings than you think at first.

So the basic idea of the plot is that Linden returns to the Land. As usual at the beginning of the story, she's got no idea what's going on. Unlike Covenant, though, Linden isn't half-mad and irrational. She is smart, and she actively tries to figure out what's going on. It's tough for her, though, because like in previous trilogies, Foul has already put her feet on a path that leaves her with few choices. So it looks like she's going to spend pretty much the whole story doing what he wants until she can figure out a way to thwart him in the end.

The problem that Donaldson faces here is: how do you get a really smart character to do things that aren't necessarily right? It takes good, clever writing, and Donaldson seems up to it. He spends a lot of time here going over Linden's agonized decisions, and by halfway through the book, she is already at a point where she is considering audacious things with her wild magic (Covenant's ring, which she wears around her neck), things far more dangerous, it seems, than the quest for the One Tree. Where are the Elohim to dissuade or stop her? What is the source of all the different evils that wrack the Land, if not Foul? What has Covenant been doing for 3000 years?

There are a *lot* of unanswered questions here, and the overall quality of the series depends on the answers, much like the 2nd trilogy affirmed all the risks Donaldson took in "The Wounded Land". I think Donaldson will be up to it, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how this all plays out. I like the various new plot devices I've seen so far: the caesures, Kevin's Dirt, Linden's health-sense (in a reasonably healthy Land), the Staff of Law, the Ranyhyn's new depth, the Masters, the descendants from the 2nd trilogy. The one good thing for people who didn't like Covenant is that, so far at least, you don't have to deal with his character. However, it *is* the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, not Linden Avery, so you know he'll have a big role in here somewhere.

So far, I'm not disappointed. Not only is there lots of new stuff going on, but Donaldson is really filling out more of the Land's distant past, too. That old history makes the first two trilogies even more meaningful. I could say a lot more with major spoilers ... so many aspects of the plot and the characters merit a long discussion, but I'll seek that out elsewhere.

Posted by Observer at 07:12 PM | Comments (5)

October 18, 2004

Drain the Swamp


If You Ever Hear the Term "Movement Conservative,"
This Is the Kind of Person They're Talking About.

(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

I figured even though I'm behind the blogospere's information curve on this, I might as well talk a little about the Ron Suskind article from this weekend's NY Times magazine about Bush and his faith. It's a very long article, but here are a few quotes which struck me:

As Whitman told me on the day in May 2003 that she announced her resignation as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency: ''In meetings, I'd ask if there were any facts to support our case. And for that, I was accused of disloyalty!''

He's talking here about Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey. She's the perfect patsy for Bush. She has some meager environmental credentials, and so she was turned into the public face of an agency that had industry lobbyists rewrite all the rules. She obviously sees her career ahead of the best interests of her country, so she (like so many reluctant John-McCain-style Republicans) is gritting her teeth and saying she supports Furious George. If I were a Republican, I'd be furious at the way my party has been hijacked by the nuts.

In the Oval Office in December 2002, the president met with a few ranking senators and members of the House [...] One congressman -- the Hungarian-born Tom Lantos, a Democrat from California and the only Holocaust survivor in Congress -- mentioned that the Scandinavian countries were viewed more positively. Lantos went on to describe for the president how the Swedish Army might be an ideal candidate to anchor a small peacekeeping force on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Sweden has a well-trained force of about 25,000. The president looked at him appraisingly, several people in the room recall.

''I don't know why you're talking about Sweden,'' Bush said. ''They're the neutral one. They don't have an army.''

Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: ''Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They're the ones that are historically neutral, without an army.'' Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.

Bush held to his view. ''No, no, it's Sweden that has no army.''

The room went silent, until someone changed the subject. [...]

This is one key feature of the faith-based presidency: open dialogue, based on facts, is not seen as something of inherent value. It may, in fact, create doubt, which undercuts faith. It could result in a loss of confidence in the decision-maker and, just as important, by the decision-maker.

Is it any wonder things in this country are going down the toilet? We have a president who just won't listen to facts. At first, when he repeatedly refused to answer the question about whether he's made any mistakes, I thought it was a combination of hubris and cynical political strategizing. More and more, though, I'm starting to think that Bush really believes he's infallible, that he's guided by God. Why does God talk to Bush but not Kerry we are left to wonder.

In the next segment, a minister and former Bush friend Jim Wallis tells a story about a meeting with Bush shortly after 9/11:

Wallis recalls telling Bush he was doing fine, '''but in the State of the Union address a few days before, you said that unless we devote all our energies, our focus, our resources on this war on terrorism, we're going to lose.' I said, 'Mr. President, if we don't devote our energy, our focus and our time on also overcoming global poverty and desperation, we will lose not only the war on poverty, but we'll lose the war on terrorism.'''

Bush replied that that was why America needed the leadership of Wallis and other members of the clergy.

''No, Mr. President,'' Wallis says he told Bush, ''We need your leadership on this question, and all of us will then commit to support you. Unless we drain the swamp of injustice in which the mosquitoes of terrorism breed, we'll never defeat the threat of terrorism.''

Bush looked quizzically at the minister, Wallis recalls. They never spoke again after that.

''When I was first with Bush in Austin, what I saw was a self-help Methodist, very open, seeking,'' Wallis says now. ''What I started to see at this point was the man that would emerge over the next year -- a messianic American Calvinist. He doesn't want to hear from anyone who doubts him.''

Bush is at the point now where he's so wrapped up in his God-based righteousness, he won't even listen to ministers who disagree with him, even when they have offered him helpful guidance in the past. Don't kill mosquitos. Drain the swamp. Bush is over in Iraq doing exactly the opposite ... he has our military randomly slapping at mosquitos (Fallujah, Samarra, etc.) and going everything he can to keep the swamp flooded with his treatment of ordinary Iraqis (why hire an Iraqi to help build or defend his country when an American contractor will do it for ten times the price?).

Really, though, the complete and total arrogance and disregard for rational thinking can be summed up by this little story:

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

This is the vibe I get from Bush and from a lot of Bush-supporters. It's this vibe that criticism of Bush is unwarranted, unjustified and based in ignorance (or worse). It is an arrogant, insulting, condescending attitude that says other opinions simply aren't worthwhile, aren't worth considering. The heart of a Democracy is debate. It is the exchange of ideas, the brutal evolution of policy through serious, engaged discussion.

When I criticize Bush, I do so with the facts at my command. When I make a mistake, I admit it. When I am confronted with facts that contradict my view of reality, I adjust my worldview to deal with those facts. That's just part of my training as a scientist. To a Bush-supporter these days, that behavior is synonymous with weakness and indecisiveness (and decisiveness is the most-cherished of all values to these people). When I confront Bush-supporters with facts that contradict their reality, I get nothing back from insults, sometimes accompanied by references to some unfalsifiable higher authority (whether it is God or some high level of classified data I am not cleared for, the so-called Ellsberg defense from the Vietnam era which hurt our country so greatly).

How, then, does the Moron-American justify his vote for Bush?

That was explained to me in late 2002 by Mark McKinnon, a longtime senior media adviser to Bush, who now runs his own consulting firm and helps the president. He started by challenging me. ''You think he's an idiot, don't you?'' I said, no, I didn't. ''No, you do, all of you do, up and down the West Coast, the East Coast, a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street. Let me clue you in. We don't care. You see, you're outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don't read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it's good for us. Because you know what those folks don't like? They don't like you!'' In this instance, the final ''you,'' of course, meant the entire reality-based community.

Yes, apparently, those of us intellectual "elites" who argue for things like fairer taxes, environmental sanity, sensible fiscal policy and foreign policy that doesn't involve everyone in the world hating us. We are the problem. The Bush campaign has turned us into the enemy, and the Morons are buying it. And that's the most troubling news of all, because whatever our faults (and believe me, we have faults, I'll be the first in line to admit to spouting off in arrogant anger when something pushes me off the deep end), you have to at least grant that we love this country and want what is best for America. Our opinions are valid and deserve a fair hearing.

We're not getting it. And that, above all, is why so many of us are just so damned mad this time around. Mad as hell, and not going to take it anymore.

Jim Wallis, again:

''Faith can cut in so many ways,'' he said. ''If you're penitent and not triumphal, it can move us to repentance and accountability and help us reach for something higher than ourselves. That can be a powerful thing, a thing that moves us beyond politics as usual, like Martin Luther King did. But when it's designed to certify our righteousness -- that can be a dangerous thing. Then it pushes self-criticism aside. There's no reflection.

''Where people often get lost is on this very point,'' he said after a moment of thought. ''Real faith, you see, leads us to deeper reflection and not -- not ever -- to the thing we as humans so very much want.''

And what is that?

''Easy certainty.''

Posted by Observer at 06:41 PM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2004

No Lazy Sundays Here


Not the Quarterback of the Future

Another loss for the Cowboys, and to be honest, it was necessary. The football gods could not, would not allow Dallas to have the same 3-2 record as the Seahawks. This week, at least Dallas played a lot better. It was a good game to watch, especially if you were a Pittsburgh fan, because they won. Both teams played pretty well, but the game turned on a Vinny fumble with about two minutes left to play that Pittsburgh recovered and eventually scored a touchdown. 24-20, and the 2-3 Cowboys are starting the slow around-the-drain death spiral of 6-10 seasons past.

In other news, things around the house have been really busy. We've got the two older boys' room done at last, and it looks great. When we're busy trying to keep the house clean, four kids underfoot and a big painting project, it's hard to squeeze in a Cowboys game. And it's even harder to squeeze in a big book, but I am trying. After three days, despite my best efforts, I am only about halfway through Donaldson's new book, which I bought on the day it came out (the 14th).

I didn't realize until I started reading it just how much I've been waiting for this. I'm really hungry to read more about the Land, especially as Donaldson has had lots of time to polish his thoughts over the years. So far, this book seems very tricky and complicated, and the characters are all brutally smart and honest. It's ironic for poor Linden, who butted heads with the Haruchai throughout the entire Second Chronicles, to have to return to the Land only to find the Haruchai are in charge (and apparently doing just what the Despiser wants, though that's more complicated...). I'm really enjoying it, and I know it's going to absolutely suck to get to the end of this and have to wait for book 2 (and then 3 and then 4).

Posted by Observer at 07:00 PM | Comments (8)

October 16, 2004

Integrity After Puppets


This Is What's Really Important, But Our
So-Called Liberal Media Is Too Worried About
Lynne Cheney's Crocodile Tears to Care.

(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

Even though I didn't really like his book very much, I am a huge, huge fan of Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show" (which always has great online clips you should check out). It is about the only honest broadcasting on TV these days, the only ones who are calling it as they see it with regards to the Bush administration. Stewart went on Crossfire yesterday and laid into the partisan hack hosts, particularly that clown Tucker Carlson.

STEWART: Why do you argue, the two of you? I hate to see it. [...] I made a special effort to come on the show today, because I have privately, amongst my friends and also in occasional newspapers and television shows, mentioned this show as being bad.

BEGALA: We have noticed.

STEWART: And I wanted to -- I felt that that wasn't fair and I should come here and tell you that I don't -- it's not so much that it's bad, as it's hurting America.

CARLSON: But in its defense...

STEWART: So I wanted to come here today and say... Here's just what I wanted to tell you guys.

CARLSON: Yes.

STEWART: Stop. Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America. [...] See, the thing is, we need your help. Right now, you're helping the politicians and the corporations. And we're left out there to mow our lawns.

BEGALA: By beating up on them? You just said we're too rough on them when they make mistakes.

STEWART: No, no, no, you're not too rough on them. You're part of their strategies. You are partisan, what do you call it, hacks.

CARLSON: Wait, Jon, let me tell you something valuable that I think we do that I'd like to see you...

STEWART: Something valuable?

CARLSON: Yes.

STEWART: I would like to hear it.

CARLSON: And I'll tell you. When politicians come on...

STEWART: Yes.

CARLSON: It's nice to get them to try and answer the question. And in order to do that, we try and ask them pointed questions. I want to contrast our questions with some questions you asked John Kerry recently.

STEWART: If you want to compare your show to a comedy show, you're more than welcome to.

CARLSON: No, no, no, here's the point.

STEWART: If that's your goal.

CARLSON: It's not.

STEWART: I wouldn't aim for us. I'd aim for "Seinfeld." That's a very good show.

CARLSON: Kerry won't come on this show. He will come on your show.

STEWART: Right.

CARLSON: Let me suggest why he wants to come on your show.

STEWART: Well, we have civilized discourse.

CARLSON: Well, here's an example of the civilized discourse. Here are three of the questions you asked John Kerry.

STEWART: Yes.

CARLSON: You have a chance to interview the Democratic nominee. You asked him questions such as -- quote -- "How are you holding up? Is it hard not to take the attacks personally?"

STEWART: Yes.

CARLSON: "Have you ever flip-flopped?" et cetera, et cetera.

STEWART: Yes.

CARLSON: Didn't you feel like -- you got the chance to interview the guy. Why not ask him a real question, instead of just suck up to him?

STEWART: Yes. "How are you holding up?" is a real suck-up. And I actually giving him a hot stone massage as we were doing it.

CARLSON: It sounded that way. It did.

STEWART: You know, it's interesting to hear you talk about my responsibility.

CARLSON: I felt the sparks between you.

STEWART: I didn't realize that the news organizations look to Comedy Central for their cues on integrity. So what I would suggest is, when you talk about you're holding politicians' feet to fire, I think that's disingenuous. I think you're...

CARLSON: "How are you holding up?" I mean, come on.

STEWART: No, no, no. But my role isn't, I don't think...

CARLSON: But you can ask him a real question, don't you think, instead of saying...

STEWART: I don't think I have to. By the way, I also asked him, "Were you in Cambodia?" But I didn't really care. Because I don't care, because I think it's stupid.

CARLSON: I can tell.

STEWART: But my point is this. If your idea of confronting me is that I don't ask hard-hitting enough news questions, we're in bad shape, fellows. [...] Now, this is theater. It's obvious. How old are you?

CARLSON: Thirty-five.

STEWART: And you wear a bow tie.

CARLSON: Yes, I do. I do.

STEWART: So this is theater. [. ..] Now, listen, I'm not suggesting that you're not a smart guy, because those are not easy to tie.

CARLSON: They're difficult.

STEWART: But the thing is that this -- you're doing theater, when you should be doing debate, which would be great. It's not honest. What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery. And I will tell you why I know it.

CARLSON: You had John Kerry on your show and you sniff his throne and you're accusing us of partisan hackery?

STEWART: Absolutely.

CARLSON: You've got to be kidding me. He comes on and you...

STEWART: You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls. What is wrong with you? You know, the interesting thing I have is, you have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably.

CARLSON: You need to get a job at a journalism school, I think.

STEWART: You need to go to one. The thing that I want to say is, when you have people on for just knee-jerk, reactionary talk...

CARLSON: Wait. I thought you were going to be funny. Come on. Be funny.

STEWART: No. No. I'm not going to be your monkey. I watch your show every day. And it kills me.

CARLSON: I can tell you love it.

STEWART: It's so -- oh, it's so painful to watch. You know, because we need what you do. This is such a great opportunity you have here to actually get politicians off of their marketing and strategy.

CARLSON: Is this really Jon Stewart? What is this, anyway?

STEWART: Yes, it's someone who watches your show and cannot take it anymore. I just can't. [...]

CARLSON: But, if Kerry gets elected, is it going to -- you have said you're voting for him. You obviously support him. It's clear. Will it be harder for you to mock his administration if he becomes president?

STEWART: No. Why would it be harder?

CARLSON: Because you support...

STEWART: The only way it would be harder is if his administration is less absurd than this one. So, in that case, if it's less absurd, then, yes, I think it would be harder. But, I mean, it would be hard to top this group, quite frankly. In terms of absurdity and their world matching up to the one that -- you know, it was interesting. President Bush was saying, John Kerry's rhetoric doesn't match his record. But I've heard President Bush describe his record. His record doesn't match his record.

And here are Stewart's feelings on Robert Novak, the slimy journalist who outed Joe Wilson's CIA agent wife to try to score a cheap political point for his newspaper column. Real patriot, this Novak:

"Bob Novak could end this whole thing tomorrow," the "fake news" apostle declared at a New Yorker magazine breakfast at the Bryant Park Grill. "There's millions of dollars being spent on this investigation, and people are going to jail, but his evil is not allowed even in the darkened abyss of his soul - some would say soul."

Stewart added: "He leaked a CIA source for punitive reasons - for ugly, partisan purposes."

Afterward, Novak responded: "On advice of counsel, I don't discuss the details of this case, but I can tell you he has absolutely no idea what's going on. But I'm not going to throw mud with him."

Novak published Plame's name last year in his syndicated column, and so far Time magazine's Matt Cooper and The New York Times' Judith Miller - who also worked the story - have been slapped with contempt-of-court citations for refusing to discuss their sources.

"Novak apparently broke his hip. I think that's not the case," Stewart said under questioning from Ken Auletta . "I think his hip tried to escape."

Piling on, Stewart continued: "I would not have him on the show. I have standards. I wouldn't do it. He shouldn't be on television. CNN should not have him on the air. He should not be amongst civilized people."

Jon Stewart is a national hero. Just imagine if we had some real journalists out there in the mainstream media with half the guts of Stewart (and a platform to state their views on a network). The world would be a better place, no doubt. Thanks much to Steve Gilliard for posting the transcript above and for the article link.

Posted by Observer at 07:14 AM | Comments (3)

October 15, 2004

Professional Victims


Ok, Who Here Thinks That If Kerry Is Our New
Commander-in-Chief During the War on Terror,
the ConservaBorg Will Avoid "Disloyal" Criticism?

(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

Apparently, Lynne Cheney and the rest of the ConservaBorg are trying to squeeze something, anything positive out of the third debate. And like all good Republicans, they are trotting out the Professional Victim routine, and who is the victim? None other than poor little Mary Cheney, whom John Kerry shamefully, cynically "outed" in the debate when he was asked how he feels about homosexuality.

Digby explains why this is so confusing:

What's the plan? Are they trying to make a mad dash to the middle by portraying the "most liberal member of the senate" as being intolerant toward gays? Or is this supposed to enrage and energize the base --- all of whom think that we should actually change the constitution to permanently discriminate against gay people?

And Atrios explains why this is yet another Republican outrage:

It's aboslutely fascinating that merely mentioning that someone isn't straight makes you a bad person, while advocating for a constitutional amendment to make your running mate's daughter a second class citizen is just politics.

These guys are completely and totally shameless. Republicans are hoping to make this comment Kerry's catastrophic moment and trying to convince pundits everywhere to discuss it with the framing that Kerry "will do anything, say anything" to be president. Folks, Mary Cheney has been used as a prop for the Bush-Cheney ticket for four years. Even if Kerry was cynically dropping her name to irk Bush's base, it's a drop in the bucket compared to the number of times Cheney has put her in his back pocket to demonstrate what a great and tolerant dad he is.

Posted by Observer at 07:01 AM | Comments (1)

October 14, 2004

Not So Much


I'll Bet the Republicans Trying to Suppress The Democratic
Vote Across the Country Were Thrown into a Real
Panic by Furious George's Debate Performances.

(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

Here are a few of the stories we've been following for you lately at the Carpe Datum news desk. My favorite car-wreck-in-progress story is the Bill O'Reilly lawsuit. Here's a huge surprise: turns out O'Reilly is not only a big liar but also a sexist creep with the morals of, well, just pick your favorite Republican Congressperson or talk show host. The court document show all kinds of lewd come-ons O'Reilly made to a female assistant, and it is all so specific, you just know there are tapes. Can't wait to hear 'em. Among O'Reilly's comments were paranoid ramblings like:

If you cross FOX NEWS Channel, it's not just me, it's Roger Alies who will go after you. I'm the street guy make loud noises about the issues, but Alies operates behind the scenes, strategies and makes things happen so one day BAM! That person gets what's coming to them but never sees it coming. Look at Al Franken, one day he is going to get a knock on his door and life as he's known it will change forever. That day will happen trust me.

O'Reilly is obviously denying that he ever said any such thing. Yeah, pal, whatever. Take your own advice and shut the hell up, pinhead. I simply cannot *wait* to hear what Franken says about this stuff on his radio show today.

In other news, Bush was better in the third debate, but Kerry still smoked him. Bush could hardly talk about domestic issues, and the one time he tried to issue a gotcha in the debate, when he said "Gosh, I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations. (weak laughter).", he was totally wrong. He was hoping for people to link Kerry with Gore's supposed tendency to exaggerate, but Bush should know better. He's on tape saying it. As Atrios puts it, any news show that doesn't play those two ten second clips side by side is missing a golden opportunity for entertainment and is in the tank.

Meanwhile, a nice little Republican outfit called "Voters Outreach of America" is doing a bang-up job gathering new voter registrations in Nevada and Oregon, but there is a small problem. As Josh Marshall and others have pointed out, it turns out that they're taking all the new Democratic registrations, ripping them up and throwing them in the garbage. All funded by the Republican National Committee. Come on, now, don't act all surprised. This is the kind of shit Republicans do for a living, and no, there isn't a Democratic equivalent in recent history. Not even close. Kos has a summary (with documentation and links) of the *many* similar stories in 17 states (so far).

Finally, I just finished reading Jon Stewart and company's best-selling satirical textbook, America (The Book), and I have to reluctantly summarize my review as "Ehhh. Not so much." This is a book that you really have to be in the mood for to enjoy, and even then, it is really only good in small bits. I like to plow straight through a book, and I get really annoyed by lots of little sidebars that interrupt the text. If this material had been slowly played out over a year on "The Daily Show" a few bits at a time, it would've been great. I'm a huge fan of the show, but it is clear that a big part of the humor is in the delivery. As a book, it just didn't work for me. I maybe laughed out loud twice during the whole 200+ page affair, and that's just not worth it.

Posted by Observer at 10:18 AM | Comments (1)

October 13, 2004

Our Fair and Balanced Moderator


Why Should Media Elites Be Bothered By Iraq?
After All, Neither They Nor Their Families Have to Fight,
So to Them, It Is Just Another "Bold" Bush Adventure!

(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

Just some background going into tonight's debate about the moderator, Bob Schieffer. Bob's brother is Tom Schieffer, who was managing partner of the Texas Rangers back when George W Bush made his money with the team. Bob has a nasty habit of attacking Democrats, too, and it really showed with Al Gore. You'll have to visit Bob Somerby to get his incomparable Howler History on Schieffer. Here's a small sample:

So you can see how disturbed—and corrupted—the Bob Schieffers are, let’s review his one original statement. “I remember in the 2000 campaign when he showed up at Face the Nation dressed as a farmer,” Schieffer says, near the end of his rant. If you listen to the tape, you won’t hear a wrinkle of humor in Schieffer’s voice. Indeed, Schieffer seems indignant to think that Gore would have done such a thing.

But Schieffer is lying, as his cohort enjoys doing. No, readers—Al Gore didn’t “show up at Face the Nation dressed as a farmer” during the 2000 campaign. Schieffer refers to Gore’s October 3, 1999 Face the Nation appearance. The session coincided with the press corps’ attempt to peddle the notion that Gore had just reinvented himself by dropping the suits and pulling on cowboy boots. In fact, Gore had been campaigning in casual clothes all year, ever since his first appearance seven months earlier (links below).

And there's more here:

On Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer was reciting the spin-points. Here he was, discussing the Bush tax cuts with John Breaux (D-LA):

SCHIEFFER: Senator Breaux, one of the, sort of what’s become the Democratic mantra is this—this class warfare. Do you think this—this is class warfare that’s going on here?

Weep for a nation which has such men heading up its discourse. It’s impossible to know what Schieffer is asking, but every GOP spinner in town has yelled “class warfare” about Dem critiques, and Schieffer also seemed to say that Dems were conducting that “warfare.” (Breaux’s answer makes it clear that he took Schieffer’s question that way.) Later, discussing the Bush plan with Joe Klein and Dan Balz, Schieffer offered this shopworn point:

SCHIEFFER: Well, as you heard John Breaux say—and I must say I agree with him—I think at this point, they don’t have the votes to pass any component of this plan. But you have to say it is a bold stroke, and this president is about bold strokes.

You “have to say” that the plan is bold! But why on earth do you have to say that? As we’ve seen, the notion that Bush put out a “bold plan” is a prime White House spin-point. Every good GOP spinner has said it. And, although the statement added nothing whatever to the discussion, Schieffer—hosting Face the Nation—somehow felt that it had to be said.

Is your press corps spilling with “liberal bias?” In this morning’s Post, Howard Kurtz offers an intriguing portrait of Schieffer:

SCHIEFFER: During the ’90s, Schieffer also struck up a friendship with George W. Bush when his brother Tom—now the U.S. ambassador to Australia—became partners with the future president in the Texas Rangers. Bob and W. went to ballgames together, played golf, attended spring training. “He’s a great guy—that doesn’t mean I agree with him,” says Schieffer, adding that the situation became “a little awkward” when Bush ran for the White House but that he’s never gotten favorable treatment.

Should major journalists “strike up friendships” with pols? Obviously, no—they should not. From Kurtz’s piece, the timeline of the Schieffer-Bush friendship isn’t clear. But one thing is clear; the claim that Schieffer has never given Bush “favorable treatment” is absurdly inaccurate. One of the most striking performances of Campaign 2000 occurred on July 8, 2000 when Schieffer and Gloria Borger (then co-host on Face the Nation) guested on CNBC’s Russert program. Schieffer and Borger battered Gore from stem to stern over various matters (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/11/00). Then, Russert mentioned Candidate Bush’s visit to Bob Jones University. Readers, can you say “pander bears?”

RUSSERT: When a lot of the revelations came out about Bob Jones University, and some of the things they had said at Bob Jones University even about his father, George W. Bush seemed genuinely startled and unaware.

BORGER: Yeah, he was. I think he was very startled by it. It was pretty bad staff work for him. I think he got himself in a situation he couldn’t believe. I mean, the notion that George W. Bush is a Bible-thumping conservative Republican of that ilk is something that’s sort of hard to believe.
According to Russert and Borger, Bush just didn’t know about Bob Jones University! He was a victim of “bad staff work,” Borger said. As the conversation continued, Schieffer’s statements were simply amazing:

SCHIEFFER: In fact, were you [Russert] not the one who asked him the question, did he know what they had said about his father at Bob Jones? I think you were. And I believe that’s the first time he had heard that.

RUSSERT: We went to a commercial break, he said, I had never heard that before.

SCHIEFER: And I take his word on that. I to this day cannot figure out why George W. Bush went to Bob Jones.

Surely, Schieffer was the only sentient American adult who couldn’t “figure out why Bush went to Bob Jones.” Here at THE HOWLER, we defended Bush against press attacks, noting that no previous GOP hopeful had ever been criticized for visiting the school. (Why did the press hammer Bush for this conduct? Dudes! It was a John McCain spin-point!) But Schieffer did a Full Grovel this day—pretending that he couldn’t even figure out why Bush ever went to Bob Jones. Why did Bush go to Bob Jones? Duh! To court an important South Carolina constituency, as a string of major Republicans had done before him. Schieffer couldn’t have faked it more fully. His performance this day was utterly foolish—one of the great panders of a pander-strewn campaign.

Schieffer and Borger embarrassed themselves with their ludicrous outing on Russert. Now we learn that Schieffer and Bush are friends—and that you just “have to say” how bold Bush’s plan is. Is there something wrong with Schieffer’s overall coverage of Bush? That, of course, is a matter of judgment. But Schieffer’s performance on Russert helps you see how thoroughly Campaign 2000 was actually spun.

Let's see how many softballs Big Bob throws at his buddy tonight, then count how many times he is accused of being part of the "liberal media" by the ConservaBorg. Schieffer was on "The Daily Show" recently. I was a little disappointed that Jon Stewart didn't bring any of this up, but then again, he's only got ten minutes or so and it *is* a comedy show. Who, then, is going to hold Schieffer accountable for this nonsense?

Somerby seems to be about the only one, and he has more to say about it in today's column as well as yesterday's.

Posted by Observer at 03:39 PM | Comments (2)

Casualties


From Bill Maher: "During the debate, Bush was asked by a lady
to name three mistakes he's made. And Bush responded,
this debate, the last debate and the next debate."

(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

Is it really possible that most of an entire generation of Iraqis is going to hate us and want us dead? I know this is an old line of reasoning, but seriously, try to imagine it happening here in America. Try to imagine Abu Ghraib happening. Try to imagine your dad or your brother up there with the hood on and the wires attached to his genitals or the soldiers rubbing their hands on his penis and acting like grossed-out third graders. Or try to imagine this from Sy Hersh. Hersh is the guy who wrote a recent book about Abu Ghraib after helping break the story. He first established his credibility by reporting on the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, at which time American officials tried to convince everyone he was full of shit. Turned out he was right. And now he has more to say:

I got a call last week from a soldier -- it's different now, a lot of communication, 800 numbers. He's an American officer and he was in a unit halfway between Baghdad and the Syrian border. It's a place where we claim we've done great work at cleaning out the insurgency. He was a platoon commander. First lieutenant, ROTC guy.

It was a call about this. He had been bivouacing outside of town with his platoon. It was near, it was an agricultural area, and there was a granary around. And the guys that owned the granary, the Iraqis that owned the granary... It was an area that the insurgency had some control, but it was very quiet, it was not Fallujah. It was a town that was off the mainstream. Not much violence there. And his guys, the guys that owned the granary, had hired, my guess is from his language, I wasn't explicit -- we're talking not more than three dozen, thirty or so guards. Any kind of work people were dying to do. So Iraqis were guarding the granary. His troops were bivouaced, they were stationed there, they got to know everybody...

They were a couple weeks together, they knew each other. So orders came down from the generals in Baghdad, we want to clear the village, like in Samarra. And as he told the story, another platoon from his company came and executed all the guards, as his people were screaming, stop. And he said they just shot them one by one. He went nuts, and his soldiers went nuts. And he's hysterical. He's totally hysterical. And he went to the captain. He was a lieutenant, he went to the company captain. And the company captain said, "No, you don't understand. That's a kill. We got thirty-six insurgents."

You read those stories where the Americans, we take a city, we had a combat, a hundred and fifteen insurgents are killed. You read those stories. It's shades of Vietnam again, folks, body counts...

You know what I told him? I said, fella, I said: you've complained to the captain. He knows you think they committed murder. Your troops know their fellow soldiers committed murder. Shut up. Just shut up. Get through your tour and just shut up. You're going to get a bullet in the back. You don't need that. And that's where we are with this war.

Maybe it's just me, but if anything like the above were to ever happen to a member of my family, the rest of my life would be dedicated to revenge. And my life would therefore likely be pretty short, but I would at least try to take some of them out with me. If we're over there indiscriminately killing civilians, how can we not expect them to return the favor someday if and when they have the means?

I really don't think I'm overstating the case.

Posted by Observer at 07:55 AM | Comments (13)

October 12, 2004

Read His Lips


Furious George Says He'll Never Have a Draft.
Yeah, He Said the Same Thing About Running a Deficit
Then Blamed It on 9/11. It Was the Tax Cuts, Pal.

(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

In Friday's debate, Bush made a clear promise to have an all-volunteer armed forces while he is in office. Sorry, but I don't believe it. I don't know if I would exactly call the current army a "volunteer" army. I mean, sure, they signed on the dotted line, but if you're signing up for a couple of weekends a month or whatever and you end up in Iraq for an 18 month tour of duty (and not allowed out when your original term is ended thanks to stop-loss), there's something wrong there. But even granting that the current army is totally 100% volunteer, they still don't have the numbers to get the jobs done, not the jobs Bush wants done. If he's reelected, we are one more terrorist strike away from a draft, I'm sure of it.

He already used 9/11 to ram through his own agenda, both foreign and domestic. He uses it as an excuse for everything. All we need is something even close to comparable (though it will likely be worse because of the piss-poor job these guys are doing following common-sense suggestions like securing ports and leftover nuclear material from Russia), and Bush is going to have carte blanche to restart the draft and then invade God knows where on God knows what pretext. Either that, or we start "escalation" in Viet- uh, Iraq. Which may be the only way to "win" at this point.

If Kerry wins, Iraq is going to end up being a titanic drag on his presidency, but I fear more what will happen if Bush wins. At least Kerry has a chance to stop the bleeding, literally and figuratively. Unfortunately, it will be too late to prevent most of an entire generation of Iraqis from wanting us all dead.

Posted by Observer at 07:14 AM | Comments (10)

October 11, 2004

Cowboy Blahs


Coach Parcells Is Human After All.
(Photo bandwidth stolen from the Eagles. Neener.)

Man oh man. That was horrible. My Cowboys were supposed to play great this weekend to help Lauren recover from her surgery, but they went out and laid a major -- I mean major -- egg. The worst part is that they lost 26-10 to the Giants, and the Giants just aren't that good. They've been doing it with smoke and mirrors all season kinda like the Cowboys did last season (mostly turnovers ... the Giants got 7 against the very sorry Redskins and still barely won). They've got some good players, sure. I've always hated Tiki Barber. Damned Cowboy killer, he is.

The Cowboys just played flat-out poorly, and that was supplemented by some poor coaching decisions (two questionable fourth-and-one-go-for-it decisions, neither of which worked) and an awful game plan. We had some things go against us, like a few iffy penalties and calls, and some bad luck, but the Giants did, too. They barely missed two interception-runback-for-touchdowns, and they had some bad calls against them and a lot of really stupid penalties. So it could've conceivably been worse.

The worst part is that they just showed the rest of the league how to beat the Cowboys. Right now, we don't have any complete, versatile running backs with all the tools needed, so teams can just drop people back into coverage and dare us to run it for 80 yards down the field. Usually, we end up running for 2 or 3 first downs and then having to punt around midfield. Our defense isn't bad, but if the offense isn't consistent, it makes the defense look bad.

We're 2-2, and the two wins (over Washington, who gets worse every week, and Cleveland, who is just a joke) are extremely unimpressive. Next week is Pittsburgh, and unless Parcells revolutionizes his game plan between now and then to figure out how to counter what the Giants just did to us, we're screwed. I can't believe we had a bye week and lost at home to the stinkin' Giants (this is the 2nd road game in as many weeks for them). My only consolation is that this is really just the first game that has really made me mad to watch.

Under previous coaches (Campo and Gailey), we had games like that pretty much every week and I just stopped watching in disgust. A couple more like this game, and I'll probably just write off the season. I shudder to think at what will happen when we play a genuinely good team (Minnesota doesn't count) like Philadelphia (twice ... gack). And yes, Philly will massacre the Giants and show what a hollow 4-1 their record really is. Gawd, I wish we had someone around here who could draft some decent players since Saint Jimmy left oh so many years ago.

That reminds me, I read a story in the paper about the Cowboys' other post-Jimmy coach, Barry Switzer. I've always liked Barry (grudgingly, being a Texas alum). He wasn't a great coach here or anything, but he was funny and was smart enough to stay out of the way to let Jimmy's machine win us another Super Bowl. I found out Barry's a big Democrat, and he's using his clout, which is plentiful in Oklahoma, to help elect a Democratic senator to Congress! Go, Barry!

Posted by Observer at 07:22 AM | Comments (14)

October 10, 2004

Furious George


Good Advice for Soldiers and Bush Appointees.
(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

The title of this post is my favorite new nickname for Bush, courtesy of Atrios.

Lots of good commentary is still bubbling around out there about the Friday debate. A couple of the best that I've found include Kevin Drum's take on Bush's claim to have cut discretionary spending in response to the questioner who asked who Bush hadn't vetoed a single spending bill during his presidency:

I know that budget numbers are b-o-o-o-o-ring, but did anyone notice Bush repeating one of his great whoppers of all time last night?

Non-homeland, non-defense discretionary spending was raising at 15 percent a year when I got into office. And today it's less than 1 percent, because we're working together to try to bring this deficit under control.

The folks at Cato probably burst a collective vein last night when they heard this. (You can see what they think of Bush's spending record here.)

Here's the truth about increases in non-defense discretionary spending over the past six administrations:

* Nixon/Ford: 6.8% per year

* Carter: 2.0% per year

* Reagan: -1.3% per year

* Bush 1: 4.0% per year

* Clinton: 2.5% per year

* Bush Jr: 8.2% per year

All percentages are adjusted for inflation. [...]

Outside of the personal fantasyland Bush seems to inhabit, the truth is simple: spending of all kinds has skyrocketed under his administration and the Republican Congress. They've increased spending twice as fast as Clinton, three times as fast as Bush 1, and four times as fast as Carter. And remember: this doesn't include defense spending, entitlement spending, or homeland security. 9/11 and Medicare have nothing to do with it.

It's laughable for Bush to pretend to be a frugal spender, working his tail off to bring an out-of-control Clinton budget down to earth. He's spending our children's money as fast as he can print it, and debate fact checkers shouldn't let him get away with pretending otherwise.

I'm still waiting for the so-called liberal media to stop with the "he said, she said" bullshit. When Kerry exaggerates occasionally or states a statistic on which there is a difference of opinion (like how to count how much we're spending in Iraq, even though some of it hasn't been spent yet, or simplifying when describing Shinseki's treatment by Bush), that's something worth pointing out, sure. But to compare it to an outright fabrication (like Bush's claim above or Cheney's "I've never suggested a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda" fantasy) is a disservice to the public, and they're doing it *all the time*. Their whole damn case is based on these kinds of out and out lies.

Some at ABC News have started to notice and address this disparity. They're actually, horror of horrors, talking amongst themselves about the possibility of just maybe perhaps pointing out that Bush is in a completely different league of dishonesty than Kerry. Pandagon has more:

Apparently, ABC News is biased because they no longer deign to treat inequivalent statements as equivalent .

The heartless scumsuckers.

Yes, Bush lies a lot more than Kerry. Yes, Bush's lies are far more central to his campaign. Yes, therefore, Bush's lies should be covered outsize to any lie or distortion Kerry generally makes, unless Kerry starts doing what Bush does.

This, of course, is the heart of the liberal bias argument. If a conservative does something worse than a liberal, the liberal's sins must be brought up in conjunction with the conservative's, even if it's a manufactured story. It's not news, it's pandering...but it's what they want.

The ConservaBorg are completely outraged (but secretly happy because the memo gives them the opportunity to yell "liberal bias" at the top of their stupid lungs again), but what's funny is that in looking around at the various reactions (through memeorandum), they're all so upset about the possibility of a major news organization calling Bush out, they don't even bother addressing the substance of the claim: that Bush is a gigantic liar. And he is, there's no denying it. Go to Dick Cheney's own favorite website, Factcheck.org, and see for yourself.

The other highlight comment I saw had to do with Bush's mistake answer. As I mentioned before, one of the most telling moments of the debate was at the end, when a questioner asked Bush to list some of the mistakes he's made. The only thing Bush could come up with was a vague answer about regretting some of the appointments he'd made. Josh Marshall has this take on the president's response:

The president prizes loyalty over all else. And the folks who’ve gotten canned are in almost every case folks who’ve raised concerns about the president’s mistakes before he made them or before their consequences became fully evident.

Though the president didn’t appoint Eric Shinseki as Army Chief of Staff, his accelerated retirement for questioning whether the president was putting enough troops on the ground in Iraq is the telling sign for how the Bush White House works.

In the president’s world, accountability and punishment aren’t for the folks who make the mistakes. They’re for the people who recognize the mistakes or, God forbid, admit them. And when the president had a chance to come up with any mistakes he might have made in four years as president the one that instinctively popped into his mind were the times he’d appointed folks who turned out to be from the second category, rather than the first.

This is all of a piece. In the Bush world you never admit mistakes. The only mistakes the president can think of are the times he appointed people who do admitted mistakes --- who put reality above loyalty to the president.

No one likes admitting mistakes. And it’s often especially difficult for public officials to do so. But recognizing mistakes --- on the inside, if not for public consumption --- is how you prevent mistakes from metastasizing into disasters. Which all explains a great deal about how we got where we are now in Iraq.

Bush is positive about his policies, but only in the Devil's Dictionary sense of the word: "Mistaken at the top of one's voice." So far, the polls seem to indicate that Kerry is really doing great among independents and undecideds as a result of these debates. I hope that continues with the last one. Then it's just a matter of getting through three more weeks without an October surprise like yanking Osama out of cold storage and trotting him before the cameras to make everyone go ga-ga.

Posted by Observer at 07:27 AM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2004

President "Not Me!"


An Ideal Supreme Court Nominee for the Boy King
(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

I watched the debate last night. The main impression I came away with is that both candidates did a little better than last time (wasn't hard for Bush to beat that low bar he set for himself). Bush really looks to have an anger management problem, though. He just gets SO DAMN MAD any time the discussion is about Iraq. How dare anyone question his decisions? Surprisingly, because he just doesn't give a crap, Bush keeps his emotions in check and so does a better job talking about domestic issues (he can lie without even thinking about it, just like Cheney). Because of that, I think Bush will do better in the third debate, even though he's got nothing to brag about.

I mean, if this guy can get away with calling himself a "good steward" of the environment with a straight face, there's really no point in debating the issues, because you can't trust anything he says will be remotely related to reality. I liked the fact that the last questioner asked him to name some mistakes he'd made. Like with the embarrassing press conference, he couldn't come up with any. I liked Wonkette's summary of Bush's response: "I WAS RIGHT TO GO TO WAR. AND THAT'S A TRICK QUESTION. FUCK YOU." Hell, the only mistakes Bush would even come close to admitting were with appointments, so even that is someone else's fault.

And he tried to blame the military for not properly preparing for the war. What gall for the Commander-in-Chief to try to shove the responsibility down the line. The military (Shinseki) tried to warn Bush he wasn't doing it right before he went in, and Bush told them to get lost. Bush sure likes being C-in-C when it comes to images, political stunts, loyalty oaths and all that crap, but if you are going to be the C-in-C that everyone is supposed to get behind in times of war, then by God you have to fucking act like one. Be a man, George! Say you screwed up! Grow up and accept some responsibility.

Kerry had the best line of the debate, I thought, after Bush tried to blame the military for all the bad stuff in Iraq: "It is the military's job to win the war. It is the president's job to win the peace." Exactly.

Posted by Observer at 08:58 AM | Comments (1)

October 08, 2004

This Sounds Familiar...


The Conservative Dream: An Absolutely Compliant Media (Not Just Fox)
(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)

You may have read last week that Bush's hometown newspaper, the tiny Lone Star Iconoclast from Crawford, Texas, endorsed Kerry in the upcoming election. They found out just like me that the rules are different this time around. This time around, if you try to engage a Bush-supporter in a debate on the issues, it is often construed as a personal attack, no matter how diplomatically you engage the subject (and I know I'm not usually diplomatic). Pretty soon, you are accused of being un-American, and ironically, the people who do this try to shut you up and sometimes even threaten your life. It has happened to me, and it has happened to the Iconoclast:

The Iconoclast received considerable criticism this past week
after its editors endorsed John Kerry for President. Several subscriptions and advertisements were canceled after the newspaper hit the stands Tuesday morning. [...]

We expected that perhaps a few readers might cancel subscriptions, and maybe even ads, but have been amazed at a few of the more intense communications, some of which bordered on outright personal attacks and uncalled-for harassment.

Huh. Do you suppose that's what Jesus would do?

We have been told by several avid Bush supporters that the days when newspapers publish editorials without personal repercussions are over. As publishers, we have printed editorials for decades, and have endorsed candidates, both Republican and Democrat. When Bush was endorsed four years ago, the Gore supporters did not respond with threats, nor did Democrats when we endorsed Reagan twice. Republicans did not threaten us personally or our business when we endorsed Carter and Clinton for their first terms.

I'm sure they got accused of liberal bias for endorsing, what, five Republican candidates out of seven presidential elections? Whatever.

In the past, when individuals disagreed with an editorial, they would write a letter to the editor politely expressing a different point of view in contrast to the views of the publishers, which we have usually published. Occasionally someone would cancel a subscription or an ad, but this was rare. The goal of the editorial page has been to provide an arena for the expression of a variety of thoughtful opinions, some by the publishers, some by columnists, and some by our readers.

The new mode of operation, I am told, is that when a newspaper prints an editorial of which some sectors might disagree, the focus is now upon how to run the newspaper out of business. Out the window are the contributions the newspaper has made to the community in the past and the newspaper’s extensive investment in the community.

We do understand peoples’ rights to pull subscriptions and ads, and to express a differing opinion, but we have some trouble understanding threats and payback since in politics there are often a variety of options. For the publishers to herald one of the options should be no cause for persecution.

When you think about it, editorials are often displayed in people’s yards with campaign signs. These are endorsements by residents. Is it proper to persecute them for stating their opinions in this manner if you disagree with their choices? Should they be harassed and threatened? We don’t think so.

Unfortunately, for the Iconoclast and its publishers there have been threats — big ones including physical harm.

You think the fake propaganda posters I'm putting up are pretty ridiculous, I'll bet. And they are, in most places. But a small minority of unhinged idiots are trying to disrupt legitimate debate, and they simply must not be allowed to do so. America is bigger and greater than these small minds are willing to accept. Thank God.

Too, some individuals are threatening innocent commercial concerns, claiming that if they advertise in The Iconoclast, they will be run out of business. We consider this improper in a democracy.

Several young members of our staff covering Tonkawa Traditions this past weekend were angrily harassed and threatened that they must leave, which cut short their ability to fully do their jobs and instilled in them considerable fear for their safety. These reporters had nothing to do with that editorial. They were part-time college students working to pay their way through school and better themselves.

Although several members of the community are upset at the newspaper, there are still those who want us to continue with local coverage as we have in the past. We do have concern for the safety of our staff, however, and find it troubling when they are bullied and cannot do their jobs. [...]

Whether readers agree or disagree with the recommendation rendered by the publishers, we do encourage them to vote in the upcoming election. We consider it more than a privilege, but a duty.

Which side here is truly acting in the tradition of liberty, the ideal upon which this country was founded? The side that is criticizing the president (whether you believe it is justified or not)? Or the side trying to shut the critics up? Thanks to Bartcop for the link.

Posted by Observer at 10:16 AM | Comments (0)

Only You ... Can Shut Up


(Thanks to the website associated with Micah Ian Wright's book.)
Posted by Observer at 08:50 AM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2004

Global Test


I got this from Atrios, and it was too good to pass up. It's so nice to cruise the liberal blogosphere these days (just go down my sidebar, which is probably the most frequent 20% of what I visit, and follow links). There is so much positive energy, humor, creativity and incredible writing, I just can't keep up with it all, just channel them occasionally or try to organize my own thoughts into something coherent once in a while when Daniel (my 14-month-old) isn't pulling the keyboard off the desk.

I feel sorry for the ConservaBorg in a way. All they can do is act like Bush or Cheney. If they're like Bush, they just keep repeating the same arguments over and over again with this insecurity-compensating cockiness and arrogance, even though they've been roundly ridiculed and discredited. If they're like Cheney, they try to get all serious and sober while totally lying, I mean up-is-down kind of stuff that is dead obvious. At least, those are the ones who try to maintain some dignity. There are plenty of others who don't, and they know who they are.

But they all know the truth deep in their hearts. They're just too proud to switch now, and that pride could end up being the downfall of this great country if they can fool enough morons into thinking they've got something worth listening to. I guess it's obvious I'm mad all over again after watching "Fahrenheit 9/11" again, isn't it? For my own health, I probably shouldn't start reading Sy Hersh's book about Abu Ghraib, but it's important to find out what the hell is being done in my name and how the idea of America is getting dragged through the mud by those soulless bastards in the White House.

Posted by Observer at 11:11 PM | Comments (3)

Code Red


(Thanks to Betty Bowers.)

I got the above from AmericaBlog, which also has some good perspective on the latest terror alert. Bush is now trying to frighten schools and schoolchildren, saying we have to look out for a Russian-style terrorist takeover of our schools. No specific information on this, mind you, and that incident happened almost two months ago, but the poll numbers are sagging, you know.

Posted by Observer at 04:22 PM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2004

The Truth Is on the Air


Al Franken Is Speaking Out, and He's Funny.

Time for some nutball heartbreak. Nutballs and closed-minded assholes across Maine were celebrating last month when the news came down that Air America Radio was going to be losing an affiliate. Owners of WLVP in Portland, Maine were planning on switching to generic sports talk (ESPN radio, which is really only worth listening to if you don't have a TV and want to follow the NFL on Sunday) after a brief experiment with the Air America network, figuring they would get better ratings and more advertising money.

After taking a closer look at Air America's impressive ratings (hey, looks like people want to listen to opinions besides Rush after all) and listening to hundreds of protesters, they decided that Air America will stay on the air. Air America is doing a road trip right now, and they did a live show from Boulder, Colorado yesterday. I DVR'ed the Sundance Channel hour-long compressed highlights, and it was actually fun to watch.

Sometimes their studio show can be kinda dry and boring, especially if Al isn't being fiery and funny, but I think the audience really revved him up. He was a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to more of the road shows in the future. Some of the best talk radio I've ever heard. He was talking about the movement in Congress to ban gay marriage with a constitutional amendment, and he said, "Boy, these guys must really love terrorists."

He explained, "Well, because all across the country, I'm sure there are terrorists planning ... no, they're *plotting* to sanctify their relationships with vows of holy matrimony! And these conservatives are going to allow it! All these terrorists getting married, and they're going to get all kinds of benefitsand that's ok with Republicans, I guess!" He had lots of funny arguments like that today, showing just how shallow and ridiculous most Republican policies are. I'm looking forward to Al's (and Jon Stewart's) take on the VP debate, and I'll get those DVR'ed tonight.

I watched the debate, and I could not believe just how good Cheney was at just totally lying out of his ass but keeping a straight and serious face. Anyone who watched and didn't know the facts would probably think it was a draw or Cheney won, but when you look back through at all the Cheney lies, it's no contest.

How can that evil fucker have the gall to say that he never made the connection between Iraq and al Qaeda! That's all he's been fucking doing for the past two years when he talks publicly about Iraq! And it's pretty sad when you tell people in the debate, as Cheney did, that they can look it up on factcheck.com (actually, factcheck.org) when the fact checkers say pretty much that you're a liar.

We're also going to watch the Fahrenheit 9/11 DVD tonight. I'm looking forward to seeing it again and seeing the extras. Justin has been gung-ho lately to join the army when he's old enough. I told Michelle that she might have a different opinion of military recruiters after she watches this documentary. I wouldn't mind Justin joining the military as long as we don't have a halfwit, insecure cowboy for a president.

Posted by Observer at 04:17 PM | Comments (3)

October 05, 2004

Bearly Readable


Greg Bear Tries His Hand at Horror. He's Done Better.

I saw a new Greg Bear title on the "new books" shelf in the library, so I picked it up. I've read and reviewed Bear's stuff before, and he has some really great stuff, including a few of my all-time favorites, so he's someone I watch for just to see if he can hit that high again. In this latest book, "Dead Lines", Bear kind of goes for the ghost story/technohorror genre, and it doesn't work.

The protagonist is a smarmy, shallow Hollywood lowlife who bops around from one place to the other trying to do odd jobs for old friends and/or his wealthy benefactor. He gets involved distributing a new kind of cell phone called a "Trans" that apparently taps into some sort of quantum information space, burning away barriers that separate the living world from that of the dead. As he carries the thing around, he starts to see some pretty spooky, gruesome stuff, and there are some genuinely scary images in the book.

But they are pretty thinly spread over a book that, while short enough to read in a day, would've served better as a short story. Ultimately, some loose plot threads come together in the end, but it was hard to ignore all the holes. Some of the most interesting characters were given very little time, too. It's a shame. This one just feels like a tossed-off potboiler. It's not unreadable or anything. I've read worse, but Bear is capable of greatness.

Posted by Observer at 03:06 PM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2004

To Be Continued ...


Pitchers and Catchers Report in 164 days.

The season's over. It ended for the Rangers a bit early thanks to a horrible choke of a series against eventual division champ Anaheim (both Anaheim and Texas made Oakland's "Big Three" of Mulder, Hudson and Zito look really very ordinary at the end of the season, by the way, which is good news for the future). But still, a good year. The Rangers slugged pretty good this year compared to most teams. They were in the top five, and some of that is due to ballpark effects. The on-base was horrible, bottom five in the league. Damn, if this team could take some walks, we could've easily won another few games here and there and run away with a close division.

As it is, I figured at the start of the season the best we could hope for would be to be competitive and finish 10-15 games above .500. We finished 16 games over. I thought for sure that Texas pitching would not stay better than Boston, Anaheim, Oakland and New York, and that was mostly right. Incredibly, they ended up somewhat better than New York, 5th in the American League, which is I'm sure going to be the high-water mark for this club for a long time to come. Still, they are likely to be just as good if not a smidge better next year, so that'll be fun.

It was a good season, fun to follow for a while, but now it's Cowboys time. They play the surprisingly ugly but 3-1 Giants on Sunday. Should be a good one. I can't believe the Redskins are tanking again this season with Joe Gibbs at the helm. How does any self-respecting team lose to Cleveland this season? Sheesh. Not that it matters in the end, because it looks to be between Seattle and Philly for the NFC title.

Posted by Observer at 02:58 PM | Comments (2)

October 03, 2004

Poll Axed


Kerry Whispers, "Sorry, Pal, I Didn't Sign Any
Loyalty Oath Tonight."

The new post-debate polls are starting to crop up, and Newsweek's shows Kerry with a slight lead over Bush, despite being double-digits behind a few weeks ago. Over at Memeorandom, you can watch liberals and conservatives comment on this news.

A few weeks ago, when USA Today/Gallup and a couple of other polls were showing big Bush leads, liberals were complaining about the poll methods. How is it possible to get an accurate prediction when the poll greatly oversamples Republicans? In the last Newsweek poll that showed Bush way ahead, the number of self-identified conservatives was around 41% and the number of self-identified liberals was around 31%, so it is no surprise Bush had a big lead among that sample.

Liberals argued, however, that in most elections, liberals tend to outnumber the conservatives, and it feels that this time that will certainly be true as liberals are highly motivated to vote while conservatives are more tepid thanks to the Iraq war, the huge deficit, environmental bullshit, etc. In the last election, pollsters like Ruy Teixeira argue that the Democratic/Republican/Independent voter ratio was more like 35/31/33. If anything, that ratio is going to be more favorable for liberals this time around, but polling organizations like Gallup (which Moveon.org pointed out) are assuming just the opposite.

I'm pretty skeptical of this whole thing. I mean, it's just too easy to look at the polls which have good news and ignore the ones with bad news. Cherry picking polls is a quick way of deluding yourself in races like this, I've found. So I was reluctant to jump on board with the whole "biased sample" analysis.

Well, my mind is now changed. The new Newsweek poll which shows Kerry in the lead has the shift mainly coming from the fact of how they determined their sample. In the new poll, they haven't oversampled Republicans. Instead, the numbers are a little closer to the mix that people expect will turn out on election day. Of course, conservatives are having a hissy fit.

After weeks of making fun of liberals for cherry-picking, say, the Rasmussen poll (which showed the race tied) instead of "facing the truth" of the Gallup/Newsweek polls, conservatives are now whining about biased samples. I'm pretty well convinced that the election dynamics favor Kerry right now, but only slightly. And that's bad news, because the only way Kerry can undo a significant fraction of the damage wrought by the Boy King and his court would be to take over one or both houses of Congress. That's not going to happen without the coattail effect of a Kerry landslide.

If Kerry wins but Congress remains in the hands of the Republicans, it's going to be the endless investigations of the Clinton years all over again. Republicans in Congress will use their investigate powers (which are vast and scary) and their publicity-seeking powers (via staged hearings) to provide fodder for right-wing hate radio for the next four years, and the Moron American is going to wonder why Kerry can't get anything done. At least it won't get any worse, and that's some comfort.

Posted by Observer at 10:09 AM | Comments (0)

October 02, 2004

Mojo


Texas High School Football Games Always Started
with All the Players Breaking Through a Gigantic Banner.

What with the movie version finally coming out after many years, it seems appropriate to review H. G. Bissinger's Friday Night Lights, an excellent documentary about high school football in West Texas. When I was in high school in Texas, football was huge. The players were definitely put on a pedastal. Pep rallies were like religious ceremonies set to rock music. There were all kinds of traditions surrounding the football team, and they were honored with reverence.

There were traditions involving the math team, too, but nobody cared. We kicked butt with a lot more regularity than the football team, especially me because I was classified as a novice when I was a senior (that was the only year I was on the math team). I lettered in Math. My entire college career was paid for by a scholarship that I won thanks to my participation (and wins) in math competitions. That tells you about all you need to know about my high school career.

I was lucky to find a girlfriend who liked me even though I wasn't a football player. She was a band geek, so I think she understood. Our band kicked butt and won all kinds of statewide awards, and the drum corps was a riot. But again, they didn't compare to the football team despite putting in arguably longer hours and more strenuous, demanding work.

I cheered for the football team, too, hardly ever missing a Friday night game when I was in high school. Not that I watched the games a lot. It was all about showing up, hanging out with friends, etc. We had a good team, compared to the other teams locally. About the only local team that regularly embarrassed us were those bastards at Plano. But even mightly Plano was humbled by the Permian Mojo.

Permian is a high school in Odessa, way out in the middle of stinky, oilfield nowhere (the Permian Basin). They loved their football, and they figured out a way to get really great players out there. One thing they would do would be to scout the state to find really good football players whose parents weren't so well off (mostly minorities). The local oil companies would then get together and offer the parents of said football prospect (then in junior high) a well-paying job in the oil industry. The catch is that they would then have to move their families (and their son) out to Odessa, where, hey, what do you know, looks like your son is in our district now and has to go to school at Permian!

Some parents moved out there anyway because they knew it was a nationally recognized program visited frequently by big college scouts. They wanted their kid to go all the way. As you might imagine, the pressure on the poor kids was enormous. Some cracked. The fans grew to expect wins every week, and pity the coach who didn't deliver. Bissinger's book is all about the inside of that culture, and it is worth any hype you may have heard about it. I haven't seen the movie, but I know Bissinger endorses it (and it took him a long time to find a script that did the book justice, over 10 years, in spite of many offers), so I'll bet it's pretty good.

Posted by Observer at 06:02 PM | Comments (6)

October 01, 2004

Grown-Up Talk


The Boy King Needed the Equivalent of a Booster
Seat to Have a Debate with a Grown-Up.

I haven't read any debate coverage yet, but I did watch the thing. First of all, I got a laugh at how it was handled from a camera standpoint. The image above is for some reason reversed from the way it was on TV. Anyway, notice how they have a different framing for the two speakers. The two podia the candidates were standing at were identical, but Bush is about four inches shorter than Kerry, so they filmed it (probably part of the agreement between candidates) to make Bush and Kerry look equally tall. It's just such a circus.

I really can't be an objective observer of the debate, and I recognize that. To me, Kerry has always seemed to be on the ball, and Bush has always been like a cocky, in-over-his-head frat boy trying to bluster his way through one of my oral exams without having really studied. This debate really didn't change my view. What was depressing about it is just how condescending Bush seemed to me. He gets that smug, smirking, hunch-forward stance where he's throwing his arms out like what he's saying is obvious and you are stupid to question him. He repeats stupid mantras and words like "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time", "inconsistent", "hard work", "heart", and various references to God and the Bible so many times I am embarrassed for him.

But then I'm more embarrassed by the fact that someone who talks like this to the American public has a chance in hell of getting elected to anything. I was glad, at least, that Kerry got a couple of chances to explain how his position on Iraq has been consistent from the beginning. I regretted they didn't get into Bush's flip-flops a little more, because he's got a bunch of obvious ones I mentioned in my list of potential questions.

After the debate, I watched a little of CNN's chatting, just because I'm stupid, I guess. And they didn't disappoint. They talked about "fact-checking". Well, one guy said, Bush misled people by saying we invaded Iraq because "they attacked us", implying that Iraq attacked us. It was actually bin Laden that attacked us, and the 9/11 commission concluded that Iraq had nothing to do with it, they weren't a threat, etc. Ok, fine, great, thanks for pointing that out. Kerry did, too.

But then, for the all-important balance, they had to find something Kerry slipped up on, and the first example was that he forgot to include fucking POLAND in the list of countries in the coalition that invaded Iraq. POLAND! Jesus Fucking Christ, who gives a shit about whether Kerry mentions every pissant country sending troops (Poland sent on the order of 1000 troops if memory serves, and they were heavily bribed to do so). The point is that we are basically going it alone with a little help from England and Australia, and everyone else is just there for show.

Bush lied about war, but Kerry left out Poland, so we get more of this bullshit "on the one hand..." coverage from the so-called liberal media. I turned it off pretty quickly after that.

We watched the DVR'ed "Survivor" later, and I couldn't help but cheer when Mia got voted out. I imagine she's probably a nice person, who knows, but they sure edited it to make her out like the queen bitch. I thought she would survive just so there would be a good villain. When she gets all mad and starts bobbing her head around like a chicken, her eyes bug out, and she looks a little bit like one of our pugs. It was pretty funny when the older lady Scout said about Mia something like, "I hope she has some good luck trying to find a husband who will put up with all that." At least "Survivor" is relatively unpredictable, unlike the media's coverage of this campaign.

Posted by Observer at 12:41 AM | Comments (7)