Sunday, November 30, 2003

Poverty? "I'm Lovin' It!"  

Has anyone seen the new McDonalds commercials? There were two on TV tonight for the new "I'm Lovin' It" campaign. In one, three friends in a crappy car run out of gas. In the background, a happy little song narrates the events, explaining that they only have $.99 each, so never mind gas! The two friends push the car down a street of an urban slum where everything is pitch black except for a McDonalds sign at the end of the road. The whole time they're laughing and having fun. Then they buy McDonald's food. Caption: "I'm Lovin It!" Yeah, abject poverty rules!

There's another one too, but I forgot it while writing the other one. But keep your eye out, maybe I'll update if I remember it. But it's brilliant that McDonalds would seek not only to advertise their food as cheap and well suited to poor people, but also that it encourages buying McDonald's food as opposed to having a functional financial situation. "Baby out of diapers, gotta eat and only got a dollar ninety nine? I'm Lovin It!"

Kucinich Update 

Congressman and Presidential Nominee Dennis Kucinich is single, and so, is throwing a Marry Kucinich Contest. It's been the only thing I've heard on the news about the Kucinich campaign for weeks.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Gobble Gobble, Revisited: In Defense of GW 

I've decided that the last post about Bush's trip to Iraq was a little bit shrill. Except the hat joke. I've also decided to keep it up, in the interest of full disclosure and because I agree with most of it, though it was unbalanced: this post intends to balance it. I should be fair: I feel like Bush did "a good thing" by making soldiers there happy and motivated, but I also feel like it wasn't the prime motivation for the visit, and I do feel like it was distracting from real issues in the traditional Bush manner of doing things.

The one strength of GW Bush is this stuff; on 9/11 he won me over for maybe 20 minutes to "he's a pretty good guy, I guess." This visit has me a lot more weary, and what the probable reality of the issue is, is he's a dumb guy, emotionally. (I think anyone who wins a presidential nomination is intellectually smarter than most armchair political theorists could ever imagine- but the idea that "smart" means "left" or that "leftist" means "smart" is off by a long shot- try talk to a militant anarchist sometime).

So he's got this big dumb puppy sort of thing he does, and it makes him endearing, and it makes him look so stupid and so naive that most cynics or skeptics can find endless evidence for the guy's intellectual stupidity. It's the emotionally stupid lazy charm that comes off to me like "do good things for good people and good people'll do good things for ya back." (That's not the emotionally stupid part. The emotionally stupid part is its flip side, which I summarize as: "When there's people who want the good people to not get good things done for'em, then those people'r bad people. And I'm gonna fight bad people everywhere.")

It's his key political strength, and I have to believe it is genuine, and not affected for political gain (though certainly emphasized for it) but serves and has served some sort of interior psychological purpose, which I am not gonna pretend that I am in a position to analyze in a fair manner. But to dismiss this charm so cynically, as I have done in the Gobble Gobble post, is unfair, and most importantly, hurts the left, because our dismissal of this charm doesn't prepare us for how powerful it can be. It can be demystified and put aside so that we (and undecided voters) can look at his record of accomplishment, which is weak and traditionally against the interest of moderates. But so much of the left wing dialogue stems from a personal hatred for the charm that he possesses, and a cynical assailment of it, that we don't see it as his only legitimate strength. Which means we don't address it- as if saying the guy was human makes him harder to demonize- and that's political disaster.

So: I think the guy did it cuz "it's a good thing to do for good people", and I think he has no problem with "doin' good things for good people" while a camera is on, because modesty is an intellectual concept that he probably understands but rejects. This sort of stuff isn't the problem, just like his actions on 9/11 aren't a problem. The problem is 4 years of misguided policies by a guy who believes business knows best how businesses should be run (and that we ought to trust them to do it), who believes in his Religion ahead of the Constitution, who doesn't think that intellectualism has any place in politics, believes that when people don't want to help him get the bad guys then they must be bad people, and who relies on fear, social control and sentimentality to explain or win support for his ideas, which are independently weak.

A candidate needs to show this to America without resorting to cheap attacks (leave that to me and the liberal bloggers) and then, they've got to offer a real alternative to these things. Which begs the question: Dean or Clark? I'll be singing that in my head until the primary.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

"Gobble Gobble" It Up, America! 

They said they'd be serving the soldiers Turkey.

That's right, I called you Turkey, Mr President!

Since his campaign staff realized they couldn't use the "Mission Accomplished" photo anymore, George Bush has gone and visited soldiers on Thanksgiving day in a top secret trip to Iraq in order to try and get a new snapshot to define the 2004 campaign. The event was top secret, but sure as hell isn't anymore. But as a result the President had to wear a disguise: "I slipped on a baseball cap, pulled 'er down — as did Condi. We looked like a normal couple." Wow! Here's how he might have looked in his secret disguise, do you recognize him?

Bush's Top Secret Disguise!

I suppose, regardless of the events transparency, it is still good that the soldiers in Iraq got a morale boost by having George Bush use them to run for re-election. God knows they need a morale boost after fighting a war that is becoming less and less justified every day, except to the guys firmly on American soil who talk about how letting our soldiers get killed on a daily basis somehow translates to "supporting them." It's also got to be pretty great to watch the guy who sent you to Iraq jump back on a plane after two hours and then head home, just like you were supposed to until that guy extended your tour of duty. Nothing takes the place of overwhelming, insurmountable evidence that you don't care about the troops like a few hundred pictures of you sitting on the battle field with some soldiers.

I guess I just think this smacks of two of the worst things about Bush Rule:

1. Mistaking Bravado as a means of excusing poor policies.
The President did not say "Bring'em On" while he was having dinner with the troops, but did do a lot of other stuff, including pay cuts, medical benefits cuts, military school closings, and denying money a court awarded to soldiers tortured by Saddam Hussein. "But hey! He stopped by for Turkey! He must care about the military! And what courage he has! He must be a better leader than those weak, articulate sissies!"

2. The use of images (and lack of images) to control the debate climate.
Nevermind the soldiers that are getting killed on a daily basis, or the thousands injured in his wars, or the panicked acceleration of the Iraqi restoration. Here's how you solve that problem: Show an image of Bush hobnobbing with troops in Iraq, don't show footage of flags over caskets, and that means things must be going well. "Well! If the president's there, it must be safe! Curse that liberal media!"

By the way: Tomorrow is the busiest shopping day of the year. Remember not to buy anything.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Is Your Laptop Racist?  

At least it's a ridiculous suggestion, not a ridiculous law:

In the computer industry, "master" and "slave" are used to refer to primary and secondary hard disk drives. The terms are also used in other industries. "We would request that each manufacturer, supplier and contractor review, identify and remove/change any identification or labeling of equipment components that could be interpreted as discriminatory or offensive in nature," Sandoval said in the memo, which was distributed last week and made available to Reuters.

It seems to me that having a slave drive on a computer is a very different thing from owning a slave in antebellum times. It also seems to me that hard drives and editing equipment have no racial characteristics, and are therefore incapable of being racially offensive if they are referred to in such a manner. I can understand the concept that we should eliminate all metaphors which are oppressive, but this is not metaphorical. A master hard drive is literally a master hard drive which has direct control over the literal slave drive. The words are the most accurate for the relationship between them. The relationship isn't a metaphorical one. If African/American slavery never existed, this description of the relationship between equipment would still be accurate.

It seems like a backward argument: Slavery was a word used to describe the relationship between plantation owners and forced labor. African slaves were treated as slaves, and that is the problem. The fact that they are not, now, treated as slaves does not mean that word "slave" has changed its meaning. The idea that we can place this word on machines is one thing, but the idea of applying it to people is what makes it offensive, because people shouldn't be treated like machines. It seems really obvious.

I would say that this idea is why reasonable people hate liberals, but it isn't actually a "liberal" idea, it's just a really stupid, reactionary idea that gets pinned on Liberalism for no good reason. It just goes to show how knee-jerk paranoid this country is about race, so it comes out in these really weird, indirect ways because no one is willing to actually talk about it out in the open. It's interesting that the Right Wingers agree with me on how ridiculous this issue is, but still went apeshit when Howard Dean said the words "Confederate Flag", or when Ted Kennedy used the word "Neanderthals" to refer to the group of nominees for judicial appointments that happened to be of mixed race. As if anyone in their right mind thinks the Republicans are the party for minorities. Unless, I guess, you ask this guy.

How about if, instead of worrying about accurate descriptions of relationships between computer parts, we start worrying about some stuff like the 3 in 5 chance that a black man has been incarcerated or on probation? Or that almost a quarter of Blacks are living in poverty, and a fifth of Latinos? Or how about the idea that integration efforts at universities across the country tend to result in shared attendance but divided social structures between races, with no actual social integration? How about the idea that in a society where Blacks and Whites were actually on even footing, we wouldn't have to have programs like affirmative action, which guarantees equity on paper but does nothing for the perception of equal worth between races? (I'm not against affirmative action- I'm against the forces in this country that make it necessary.)

I think black conservatives like Shelby Steele are pretty right on with some points concerning "regulated" racism, ie, "if all men are created equal, then racial differences cannot sanction power", and by this he refers to the power of "racial innocence" which he says is worthless. But I don't know about his idea that White institutions will do anything if they are told that not doing it, somehow, translates to racism, and I definitely don't know about his idea that Blacks use this as a source of power and control over Whites. Steele asserts that the use of this power inspires Blacks to stay powerless, because if they ever got actual power, there would be no more control. I just don't see a lot of that in actual play in this country, but I can easily envision it in occasional cases. I imagine that Steele would point to OJ Simpson, or Al Sharpton's attacks on Dean's reference to the Confederate flag.

But in all honesty, I have no idea who's right. I'm a total white bread bastion of racial ignorance. Living in New Hampshire and Maine isn't exactly guaranteed to expose you to a panopoly of diversity or cultural submersion. But then, that's the problem I'm talking about, isn't it?

The No Power Party 

Who wields power is not the problem. Power itself is the problem. The desire for power is the problem. The need to control others to obtain or maintain power is the problem. Just like wars are fought over scarce resources, humans fight over power- in personal relationships, in local politics, national politics, internationally. In corporations, in anarchist communes, in government, in schools, in marriages, in families, at work, in bars, people fight over power as if it were a scarce resource. But maybe this all just stems from one group of people tricking us all into wanting their power instead of developing our own? From the media and the social conditioning that says: "power is out there somewhere, go get it now!"

How about a "no more power" platform? No control, no coercion, no more convincing. Everyone just lets everyone else do what they want to do, except for exercising dominance, power, or control. We can make it the national culture, it doesn't even have to be "law." It can just be social protocol. From now on, what do you say?

The No Power Party is already a success because it holds no office.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Anyone Can Play Guitar 

Alternet has a good discussion between Howard Zinn and Radiohead's Thom Yorke on art in a time of war.

Zinn: "...the political power is controlled by the corporate elite, and the arts are the locale for a kind of guerilla warfare, in the sense that guerrillas in a totalitarian situation look for apertures and opportunities where they can have an effect. When tyrannies are overthrown – as, for instance, in fascist Spain or the Soviet Union – it starts in the culture, which is the only area where people can have some freedom. It starts with literature and poetry and music, because those don't represent direct threats to the establishment. They're subtle and indirect, so the establishment gambles that they won't lead to anything threatening, but often they lose that gamble."

Monday, November 24, 2003

Tracking Dissent 

This is bad, but not so shocking or, really, all that bad, in my opinion. It's bad, but it's not the end of free speech some people are making it out to be. I pretty much always figured that the police and FBI could have their eye on any protesters at any rally already. But mostly, I wonder if it is actually effective in regards to the war on terror? The problem here isn't the invasion of privacy per se, kind of an ironic complaint given that protests are designed to give faces and physical mass to a cause or an idea. Why go to a rally if you are unwilling to go on the record for that cause?

The problem is, it is a resource hog that I believe will yield very few positive results, or make Americans any safer. Terrorists are not likely to be attending rallies, or, for that matter, taking advantage of any attempt to sway the opinion of a Liberal Democracy by way of reason. The terrorist mind doesn't hate "freedom," but they do shun reason. If terrorists believed in the guiding principles behind a rally or a protest, they wouldn't have any desire to blow up the symbols or tools of that Democracy. Going to a protest means you still believe your voice can be heard, and you still believe you can change things. You only blow things up when you've given up that faith, or when you are, quite literally, deranged.

More good links on this subject, are available via Natalie Davis' blog.

The Sunday Editorial: Why Not Wes?  

Being an avid Dean Volunteer and supporter, I was worried when Wes Clark joined the race. I was worried because, to me, it meant Dean was finished. I was worried the Dean Revolution would be over and that the energy would go to a guy like Wes Clark, who seemed smart but passionless, sort of a Bill Clinton without the sex and a little bit of Al Gore but with animation. I was happy because Clark was a shoo in to beat Bush, but I was unhappy because I wanted a fight. I wanted Dean on a debate platform with Bush and I wanted Dean to point fingers and ask George Bush to account for himself. In short, I wanted Dean because I wanted Wholesome American Liberal Values shoved in the face of America. I wanted liberalism tested and I wanted a man who could ensure a high score. Howard Dean was that man, because he stood up and risked his career on the civil union issue in Vermont, dropped to 30, 40 percent in the polls from a previously guaranteed re-election, took the issue on, fought it on its merits and convinced people that it was right instead of relying on them to think it was right on their own. He was a leader, he was a guy who stood up, said what had to be said, and kicked ass.

He has lived up to it too. He's taking on the role of Progressive Powerhouse based on rationality and not just liberal reflexes. He's trying to bring up conversations about race, he's talking about what it means to be a free society, he's talking about the abuse of power that Bush Inc. has put into the White House. He argued against the war based on logic and on its merits, not on some knee jerk reaction, like Dennis Kucinich. He argued that now that we're there we have to stay there even though its ugly because abandoning Iraq isn't an option.

But then Wesley Clark has always been there, in the background. Poll after poll says that he would already beat Bush while Dean would have to struggle. He's considered the "second front runner." He's got influential people supporting him, and he's brilliant, brilliant in a way that is genius, as opposed to the moral force, conviction, and sincerity of Howard Dean. Dean is smart. When I met him, I could tell, he knows what he's talking about. Anyone running for president has to be quick, has to know so much. Dean- and any candidate- has to be able to talk to one guy about farm subsidies, one guy about terrorism, someone about race issues, someone about gun control, labor statistics, health care costs, Medicaid, foreign policy, economics- all of that in one rapid fire five minute burst.

I've watched enough CSPAN to know that if you ask a Democratic candidate a question, you'll get different responses. Gephardt and Lieberman will know just enough about every issue to carry on a conversation. John Kerry and Al Sharpton will bullshit you. Braun will reason with you. Dean will ask you what you think. Dennis Kucinich will give you Naderisms verbatim. But Wesley Clark knows the answer.

There's a profile of Wesley Clark over in the New York Times this week. There was also a good Q&A; on C-SPAN today, where he inexplicably got barraged with requests to autograph hard boiled eggs. But in his talk, he spoke about a lot of really good ideas. For one, he says one of his priorities is to take an assessment of what the American People see as their most idealistic vision for what 2025 and 2050 can look like, what scientific advancements will have been achieved, what the world will look like, and he will then fund it. If Americans want a cure for cancer and a colony on the moon, he'll start it up, he'll give out grants to pursue it and he'll focus the country around those goals. That's part of what he was doing with his non profit organization before he entered politics in any regard: he was in charge of a group that simply asked, "What is your vision for America?"

He spoke on 60 Minutes II this week, and was asked why he thought Kosovo was so important, and he was amazing. He said America should stop Genocide at any point and at any place when we know its occurring. We went to Kosovo to stop the slaughter of Muslims, and he says we should have gone to Rwanda. When he was asked why we didn't, he came near tears when he said he felt America didn't get involved because there wasn't any oil. Dean would have tossed it out as a caustic aside; Clark brought out pictures of people slaughtered in the streets and said "We can't stop this?"

His personal background is colorful, to say the least. His dad died when he was 4, and his mother remarried another man, a (by then) reformed alcoholic who walked out on another family. Clarks father raised worms and crickets for a living. He swims, and it is hard not to like a swimmer. Anyone enamored with submerging of the body gets points with me. When he was 12 he was afraid of the Russians, so he went to the library and taught himself Russian. That's the making of a great President.

Here's a quote in the article: 'My physics teacher at West Point told me: `Whenever I drop a piece of chalk I always look up, because according to quantum physics there is always a small chance that it will fly up. So if it happens I want to see it.' "

Another quote from a General he went to school with: "They say in the military that you bring to your boss three solutions: one that's too hot, one that's too cold and one that's just right. That's called the Goldilocks solution. You have an answer and you steer him to it. Wes doesn't recognize the Goldilocks solution. He'll say: `Well maybe we shouldn't eat any porridge. And why are there bears in here? And who is this Goldilocks character wandering around? And by the way, what is the whole purpose of fairy tales?' And this drives some people nuts."

I wonder about Howard Dean, President, as opposed to Howard Dean, Political Phenomenon. I wonder if Howard Dean would be effective. I wonder what the country would look like 25 years after a Howard Dean presidency. I wonder if there would be another attack, and I wonder if he could convince people, like he did in Vermont, that there are important ideas in the world and that we've got to listen to them.

For some reason, the idea of 4 or 8 years of Dean is appealing. But the idea of 25 years after a Clark Presidency fills me with a different kind of hope. Dean gives me a feeling like I can take my country back from the assholes. Clark makes me feel like there might not be any assholes. Dean makes me feel like this country can be something different, but Clark makes me feel like this country can be something amazing.

In the end, it is just politics, but I am torn apart by this decision now. Clark stumbled on early entry, and he entered the race so late. I remember when I felt like Dean had not yet launched the home run that won me over, until his comments on race, and until his comments on re-regulating bushiness. Clark has got time. It's too early to say he's sunk himself. He's got time to warm up, and I am going to keep an eye on him. I have a feeling that late in the race, he's not only going to hit a few grand slams, but he's gonna point to where the ball will land. I am definitely undecided in my choice for President, as desperate as I am to be convinced that Dean is the guy.

I'm waiting.

[editors note: corrected spelling thanks to some keen comments, but I liked my "re-regulating bushiness" typo- it's appropriate, after all- so I left it in. It should have said "re-regulating business."]

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Tom Daschle 

Tom Daschle was on "On Point" this week. The first part of the interview had Tom Daschle talking about the failed energy bill, which is pumped full of pork. He talked at some length about how the bill would annul 20 lawsuits across the country stemming from MTBE, a toxic oil additive that polluted water supplies. The bill was drafted in secret meetings between Dick Cheney and energy industry lobbyists. The bill was 1200 pages long and included arbitrary "energy" policies, like using national taxpayer funds to build a mall and a hooters restaurant in Louisiana. Really.

It failed, but no thanks to Tom: He voted for it because it had some stuff about corn in it. From that point on, the rest of the show consists of angry callers rightfully chastising Daschle for his ineptitude as a Democratic leader. One caller asks, "With Democrats like you, who needs Republicans?" and Daschle just doesn't respond.

Buzzflash has an article citing even more reasons that Tom Daschle should drive you crazy. It also cites analysis of why Daschle is an awful leader- South Dakota is pro-Bush, even more Pro-Bush than Mississippi, and he's got to appeal to those constituents to stay in power. Well, great: Let's get John Kerry as our senate leader then, or Barbara Boxer.

People wonder out loud why Democrats aren't winning seats, why they're taking a beating. They are, and the rational liberal agenda (as opposed to the irrational liberal agenda) is going down with it. While it's easy to blame Fox news or Republican spin, the fact of the matter is, if we had actual Democratic candidates standing up for themselves, we'd have some semblance of balance back in politics.

Good News and Bad News 

"We continue to disrupt Al Qaeda's activities and capture more of their leaders, but the attacks are escalating," a senior counterterrorism official in Europe said. "This is a very bad sign. There are fewer leaders but more followers."

That's from a ridiculous New York Times article where it seems every paragraph contradicts itself. There's more:

Good News: "Al Qaeda [is] less capable than before of striking at American embassies, military targets and landmarks that were the hallmarks of its campaign before the Sept. 11 attacks."

Bad News: "the United States reiterated its concern about Al Qaeda's "continued desire to plot or plan terrorist attacks with an emphasis on U.S. interests abroad," federal officials said. The State Department issued a new global terror warning Friday, saying that it saw "increasing indications" that Al Qaeda is planning to strike American interests abroad. It also said that it could not rule out another Qaeda attack within the United States, one "more devastating" than the Sept. 11 attacks.

Good News: "Al Qaeda is more or less brain dead. I don't think they are extremely efficient at planning and coordinating new attacks."

Bad News: " Despite that cause for optimism, the intelligence officials said they are troubled by evidence suggesting that more young militant men are becoming terrorists than ever before." and: "They said there is deep concern here and in Europe that the United States and its allies are facing more — not fewer — terrorist foes than before."

Good News: (I guess?) The Istanbul bombings don't look like Al Qaeda.

Bad News: The Istanbul bombings look like Al Qaeda.

Rumsfeld has a quote taken from his errant "long hard slog" memo: "Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrasas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?"

Bad News: "These people have found a new motivation with the aggression of the United States against the brethren in an Arab country," one official said.

Bad News: "The spontaneous groups that are sprouting up from the northern African community based in Europe, and going down the path of jihad, are what I'm most worried about. They are inspired by bin Laden, but this is not Al Qaeda. They are not there yet — they are not necessarily even ready to launch attacks — but these groups are raising the next generation of terrorists."

Sounds like "Operation Bomb'em Till They Love Us" isn't working out the way Bush planned. Who would have thought a strategy as solid as that could possibly backfire? I mean, look how much love and affection Osama Bin Laden got from America when he killed our people for no justifiable reason.

Friday, November 21, 2003

A Law Against Edward Said 

HR 3077, the "International Studies in Higher Education Act of 2003" bill was passed in the house this month, which- according to this article- is intended to create "an advisory board that has the final word on curricula taught at Title VI institutions, course materials assigned in class, and even the faculty who are hired in institutions that accept Title VI funding. [...] the board will also ensure that programs receiving Title VI funding encourage students to enter careers in government, including those related to national-security, by requiring that recruiters from U.S. government agencies be given regular access to students. And just like the unjust and detrimental Solomon Amendment, HR 3077 suppresses the free-speech rights of academic institutions as it threatens to remove Title VI funding from any center that engages in or abets a boycott of national security scholarships."

This was all based on testimony from Stanley Kurtz, who is quoted in that testimony as saying that "the core premise of post-colonial theory is that it is immoral for a scholar to put his knowledge of foreign languages and cultures at the service of American power." Indeed. I'll admit there's an anti-military bias in the Ivy League, with schools not allowing for ROTC on campus and the like, but I don't know if teachers are spotting their lesson plans with precepts on the immorality of the American Government. Is someone mistaking analysis and critique for unpatriotic America-bashing? Is it really impossible to tell Aunt Mildred that I appreciate her smoking outside, please, without some neoconservative telling me I hate my Aunt Mildred?

From a press release favorable to the bill: "The International Studies in Higher Education Act creates a new International Education Advisory Board in consultation with homeland security agencies for all Title VI programs to increase accountability by providing advice, counsel, and recommendations to Congress on international education issues for higher education." What a great idea!

What's scary about this bill is that the American Council of Education had to send an opinion to the House, where it has to argue that the ideas of Edward Said, a professor at Colombia (and author of "Orientalism"), "reached its apex decades ago and has been waning ever since" with regard to Middle Eastern Studies, and that it rarely gets assigned. Edward Said wrote books submitting that Middle Eastern instability was the result of American Imperialism. The propping up of dictators like Saddam Hussein and our support of the Taliban, for example, as a result of our (western) notions of what is best for foreigners. I'm no Middle Eastern expert, but I would say that since most of "our" (ie, the west's) problems in the Middle East were Saddam Hussein and Iran, and since both of those problems came to power through American Intervention, it's, you know, a pretty safe bet that most of our problems in the Middle East are a result of American Imperialism. (Edward Said also wrote that "the goal of the intellectual is to speak truth to power." He died last month.)

You can argue what you want about Said, who was a harsh critic of Israel (he was Palestinian, so you can imagine) and seems to have lied or exaggerated about a lot of his academic training. I don't particularly like everything about the guy, but his central thesis that we view foreign cultures through a myopic distortion of "foreign" is spot on. But regardless- why are teachers testifying against any idea at the behest of Congress? We should not advocate any threats to any ideas that come up in this country short of those advocating violence. Especially if they only develop as a means to pacify the New American Nationalists. Why not write to your elected officials and ask them what the hell is going on? It's interesting to note one of Said's more paranoid conclusions in Orientalism: "Anything said about Islam by a professional scholar is within the sphere of influence of corporations and the government." Seems like the government wants to bring that one step closer to truth.

A new blog, Anarchy Xero, is up for the new blog showcase, talking about the death toll in Iraq.

Over at the League of Liberals blog, an anonymous (surprise!) comment to my last entry re: the Collusion Memos: "Your commentary is entertaining and reminds me why we keep sending troops to save your you can speak out and show yourself to be the ass that you are." Nix points for originality on that one, kiddo. How many times have I heard conservatives tell liberals that "they" (identify with authority, do we?) are sending troops somewhere to "defend (said liberals) right to be an asshole"? Here we thought it was about WMD's. Well, thanks for saving my ass, Sgt. Anonymous Guestbook Writer, but I don't know what Miguel Estrada has to do with the war. Oh, and maybe the President hasn't heard your new battle plan, but I could have sworn we aren't "sending" any more troops to Iraq, in spite of (or because of) the fact that "your" exit strategy has resulted in more deaths than the war itself.

The Collusion Memos: So What?  

Huck's Blog asks about an issue which is pretty important, and is going to be a huge salvo in the Republican attack on Democrats: "The Collusion Memos." These are Internal Democratic National Committee memos in which the Democrats allegedly show that they were against Miguel Estrada's nomination because he was a "Latino" and that Democrats wanted his nomination process moved as far away as possible from 9/11.

The web site that leaked these memos states: "These memos repeatedly make clear that a small collection of extreme left groups -- abortion groups, race organizations, labor unions and leftist groups specifically focused on judges -- are driving the Democrats' agenda and decisions." First off, let's look at that, because it apparently considers "extreme left" groups to be groups like NARAL, the SEIU, NAACP and the AFL-CIO, organizations with huge public support. NARAL fights for womens/abortion rights, which over half the country believes in, the SEIU is the Service Employees International Union (If you're read coverage of Howard Dean's endorsement, you already know this is a hugely influential group within the democratic party- and represents nothing more "extreme" than health care workers and janitors) the NAACP is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People- and I find it ironic that the Right not only attacks the simplified argument that Dems are blocking Estrada based on race, but then also asserts that the NAACP is to the "extreme left".

Now, understand that, sadly, polling and strategy are 75% of politics. (The other 20% is Money, and 5% is ideals- which is really just about how you spend that money.)* Democrats wanted to have timing on their side for overturning the nomination of Miguel Estrada because Bush was trying to force him through right after 9/11. Why is that earth shattering news? Isn't the actual news that Bush was trying to use 9/11 to push a controversial nominee through the court? But there's also a lot of stuff ripe for spinning against Democrats in the memo- for example, citing that Miguel Estrada's nomination is "dangerous" because he is a "Latino"- if you stop there. The actual quote says that Miguel Estrada is dangerous because he is a "Latino and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court nomination." Now, what I am going to say sounds like "well what they really meant was," but hear me out.

Politically speaking, this makes total sense. The problem isn't that Miguel Estrada is a Latino- the problem is, he is an Latino arch conservative who would put Democrats in the awkward political situation of someday trying to block a Latino nominee to the Supreme Court- a Latino who just also happens to be a hardline conservative. I'm not just spinning this out of my ass, either. It's on the next page, in the very next memo, where Democrats describe working with the SEIU (which they cite as having great contacts within the Latino media) to "develop a strategy for dealing with Conservative Latino Circuit Court nominees that are hostile to Constitutional and Civil Rights." Yes, race should not matter in any nomination- a bad nomination is a bad nomination, and to look at his race as a liability is pretty stupid. But race is alive in politics, and I believe Democrats were afraid that Bush would use race to promote Estrada with Hispanic (read: typically Democratic) public support. So, both parties were playing the race card. Welcome to politics.

So, there you go, a primer on what it means. I'd like a world where ideals were 75% of politics, but we don't live in that world. That said, Democrats taking policy initiatives from Unions, Womens Groups, and Minority Groups is not really quite so bad as the people influencing Bush's administration. Exxon Mobil wrote a memo advocating the removal of an environmentalist out of the UN in 2002. And, lo and behold, out he went! Or when energy industry lobbyists asked the Bush Admin to change environmental policy so that clean-air upgrades wouldn't be necessary? It happens on both sides of the aisle. It's politics, and you know what they say about making sausages...

* = Not Actual Statistical Data.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

What It Boils Down To 

Shock and Awe has a really worthwhile reading of the official newsletter for the National Federation of Republican Assemblies. The whole blog is really well done and always well written, so if you want a change of pace from my blog, you can go there. The NFRA takes a typically rational conservative stand on gay marriage when the writer announces, "To me, the problem with this ruling is that it denies the history of human existence..." Here we thought it was just about loving whoever you want- turns out it's actually a new round of liberal hyper-nihilism. But God, it really is about falling in love, and falling in love with who you want. That's all it is. The simplicity of the left's goal is overwhelmingly naive and simple, but the resistance to the left's goal is overwhelmingly angry, and here's where I am going to sound like a total California Leftist Hippie: I don't want anger to win over love. There's just no fucking reason anyone should want that.

Dolphin Controversy 

Apparently, the most controversial thing I've written in this blog concerns dolphins. Something about that is comforting. But if anyone wants to take further issue with the inaccuracy of my dolphin comments, let me say that I have already issued a correction.

And let me also just say: I love the dolphins logo. It's my favorite guy in the whole football thing. Who doesn't love a helmet clad dolphin bursting with joy? And now, look at all the things I have learned about him! I have learned that he is not a fish, and that he cannot breath when completely under water. Smug is not the word for my dolphin-inspired emotions, friends: Boundless love, that is the two words.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Bigger Threat To American Values: Liberals or Homosexuals? You Decide.  

The National Review Online's blog is seriously hilarious. They are so outraged over the Massachusetts court decision that they are totally stretching the limits of rationality to come up with arguments against it, and totally willing to self-destruct in order to let it happen. Here's another good couple of questions that they received in response to their other argument against gay marriage, which is, "what if prisoners wanted to marry their cell mates?":

"Your comment about cell-mates marrying got me thinking. Under the traditional restrictions, a man cannot marry his daughter, or, a fortiori, his son, and so if he leaves them a very large inheritance, it is taxed, although what he leaves his wife is not taxed. But under a general license to 'marry' another man, a man could marry his son, and thus pass his property to the son tax-free.

"This is a loophole that would have to be closed, if estate taxes are going to continue, and the obvious way to close it would be to eliminate the special consideration given to inheritance by a spouse. This would be an unwelcome surprise to some proponents of 'gay marriage.'

Wait, I swear there is a more "obvious" way to prevent gays from marrying their own sons in order to skip the estate/inheritance taxes. It would go a little something like, "Don't marry your own son, for christ's sakes". Isn't that against the law anyway? I mean, who are these homosexuals the NRO think they're talking about? Why do people always equate sexual choice with absolute moral depravity? But there's more:

"Marriage, with the special privileges that have grown up around it, is a potential source of advantages to the unscrupulous. The remedy is going to be, I suppose, to reduce or eliminate the privileges. Having achieved marriage, the homosexuals may find that it isn't worth having any more..."

So this is great- since two people want to be happy, and you don't want them to be, why don't we just destroy the source of everyone's happiness? Good strategy!

I also don't understand this argument: "For most of its history, the Supreme Court held that traditional marriage forms a family unit which is the fundamental building block of free society. The forms of self-government could not survive without it, so any weakening of the marriage privilege undermines free government."

So, as far as I can tell, Gay men and women who don't marry are not going to be a part of any "family unit" anyway until they are allowed to marry. Plus, doesn't gay marriage allow for a much wider pool of individuals to adopt all of those kids that will be left over once Republicans ban abortion? How exactly does expanding the rights to marriage "weaken" marriage? Unless, of course, you've already argued (as above) that we should limit the benefits of marriage until gays don't want to get married anymore.

Democratic Gay Rights Round Up 

Considering Massachusetts' ruling that "the right to marry means little if it does not include the right to marry the person of one's choice," many people say this will be at the forefront of the race for the White House in 2004. Right now, Dick Gephardt has managed to lose some amount of good will I have towards the guy.

His daughter, Chrissy, who campaigns for Gephardt from time to time- and is by all means a really smart, interesting person, from what I've seen on interviews and CSPAN, is a lesbian. Which means you would imagine Dick Gephardt would be all about it. But he isn't. When he was asked about the ruling and his daughters support for gay marriage, "Gephardt smiled and told reporters, 'Chrissy and I agree on 99% of the issues, but this is not one of them.'" Asshole.

Wesley Clark, however, is definitely getting points, being the first front-runner to come out in favor of the position (aside from Dean- who practically already wrote it in Vermont) by saying "as someone who supports the legal rights of all Americans regardless of sexual orientation, I appreciate today's decision." Yes folks, that's a resounding positive response in this election.

There's Kucinich, too: "This is a basic issue of civil rights. The Democratic party should be behind civil rights for everyone, including gays. This is not something to compromise on or to take halfway steps on or to make political calculations about. This is a question of people's basic civil rights."

But then why, why does Kucinich keeps launching his claws into Dean and Clark instead of, say, Gephardt or Lieberman, the cultural conservatives of the group? Those comments seem particularly fitting for both of them. If Lieberman can make Dick Cheney look progressive on some issues, why is he a Democrat?

Queer Eye for the State House 

You may have heard that a Massachusetts supreme court has pretty much ruled that there is nothing unconstitutional about gay marriage. So, Governor Mitt Romney is now saying maybe they'll put one in the state constitution. Which, when you think about it, would make for a pretty awkward constitution, wouldn't it? Isn't it usually proof that something weird is going on when constitutions are being rewritten in order to prevent people from having certain freedoms?

Meanwhile, the conservatives over at the National Review online have two brilliant questions which are apparently designed to dissuade us from supporting the ruling:

1. If "gay marriage" is legalized, will prisoners be able to marry their cell mates? If not, why not?
My answer: They can. Why not? But then they'd have to be separated. Boy, that was hard.

2. In many jurisdictions, a marriage can be annulled if it has not been consummated. What, exactly, constitutes "consummation" of a gay marriage?
My answer: Anal Sex, Fellatio, or Cunnilingus. Happy you asked about that one?

But while Bush isn't happy about it, Veep Dick Cheney- whose daughter is a lesbian- is already on the record from a while back:

"The fact of the matter is we live in a free society, and freedom means freedom for everybody. We don’t get to choose, and shouldn’t be able to choose and say, 'You get to live free, but you don’t.' And I think that means that people should be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to enter into. It’s really no one else’s business in terms of trying to regulate or prohibit behavior in that regard.
I think the fact of the matter, of course, is that matter is regulated by the states. I think different states are likely to come to different conclusions, and that’s appropriate. I don’t think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area."

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

The Crossing of Far Crocodiles From The Seas of their Families 

Atrios points out this, which appeared in a news story from an AP reporter:

Democrats piled on with criticism of the administration for failing to make Iraq's reconstruction more of an international collaboration. "I think it's fair to say that the situation continues to worsen," Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said on "Fox News Sunday."

The voice in the recording resembled Saddam's, but was huskier and the speaker seemed tired. "The evil ones now find themselves in crisis, and this is God's will for them," said Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat.

The only solution for Iraq, the speaker said, was for "the zealous Iraqi sons, who ran its affairs and brought it out of backwardness . . . to return . . . to run its affairs anew," he said, referring to the Baath leadership.

When people say the Democrats are moving too far off of the mainstream, I guess they mean it. (Obviously this was a mistake- "the speaker" is Saddam Hussein's new tape, not Tom Daschle, and the AP has corrected it). But there's a lot to be said for an infusion of Saddam's oratory style into American politics. What if Daschle had started adopting the phrase "the evil ones" to refer to the Bush administration? How might have Saddam's speech writers dealt the State of the Union? Here's what it might look like, a cut up of Saddam Hussein with some GW Bush State of the Union, William S Burroughs style:

Mr. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, distinguished citizens and fellow citizens: Every year, by law and by custom, we meet here to consider the state of the union. This year, we gather in this chamber deeply aware of decisive days that lie ahead. From the bright light of dawn, from the ray of sun which has risen after a long absence, from its horizon, from the lids of the eyes which were wounded by heavy tears for people, dear for all of us, who can no more be seen, but who can become visible with the new sun, and from the horizon which God has ordained to be vast, with a new birth and life in whose skies exist green birds and a strong newborn which God has decided to be faithful to its nation, from all this your march toward a new America.

You and I serve our country in a time of great consequence. During this session of Congress, we have the duty to reform domestic programs vital to our country; we have the opportunity to save millions of lives abroad from a terrible disease. We will work for a prosperity that is broadly shared, and we will answer every danger and every enemy that threatens the American people. A strong, believing and healthy America was born. But the birth, as all other births which came before it in the horizon of humanity and in our nation, was not able to render ineffectual the croak of ravens, nor the hissing of snakes or the crossing of far crocodiles from the seas of their family in order to help the beasts of earth in their attack against the sun, in a desperate hope to obscure its light which radiated from America or to shed the blood of its people in a fake hope and out of an imagination that the generous blood shed on the soil of America could hinder the plants and trees from becoming green, from blossoming and from carrying with its fragrance pollens which might tempt the appetite of butterflies, (applause) and thus be able to carry with the news of new faith and resolution, with the dew and tears, a pollen to every tree whose branches and leaves become dry or ceased to give fruits now that the water ceased to reach its roots and was confident that no one could take care of its fruits and guard its plants, trees and growth. In all these days of promise and days of reckoning, we can be confident. In a whirlwind of change and hope and peril, our faith is sure, our resolve is firm, and our union is strong.

But with this, there was Satan and his companion, the lizards of this time, who spit out their fire on the healthy body. This country has many challenges. We will not deny, we will not ignore, we will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, to other presidents, and other generations. (Applause.) We will confront them with focus and clarity and courage.

And he hasn't even gotten to the part on health care.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Our Sons, Our Daughters, Our Oxycontin, Our Dolphins 

"Some activists are trying to use the capture, serious injury, and/or death of female enlisted soldiers in a support unit ambushed in Iraq as an excuse to promote radical feminist objectives, such as the inclusion of uniformed women in Special Forces helicopters, submarines, and many land combat units."

That's from "Americans for the Military", a website circulating a petition to make sure women can't serve in combat roles in the military. It's all organized by the "Center for Military Readiness", an "independent, non-partisan 501(c)(3) educational organization". Why? Because "the armed forces have been hampered by Clinton-era social engineering policies." Sounds bipartisan to me!

From US News and World Report: "It's a question every parent with a daughter in military service, or considering it, has mulled since Pfc. Jessica Lynch, bloodied and possibly raped, was rescued: What the heck were she and other female soldiers doing in the line of fire? The answer is simple, though little publicized: Rules changed in the Clinton years to get women closer to the front. "This is exactly what we warned would happen years ago," says Elaine Donnelly, head of the Center for Military Readiness, a group devoted to limiting female combat exposure. "We need brave women in the military," she says, "but no one's daughter should have to suffer an ordeal" like 19-year-old Lynch's."

I like how this is phrased so that anyone arguing for women being able to have the same opportunities as men is suddenly in favor of violence against women. If individual women aren't up to snuff for these positions, then let's not put them in those positions. But to remove women from the front lines en masse based solely on general stereotypes about performance ability is just an abuse of statistics instead of addressing any kind of reality. Was anyone really asking "what the heck were she and other female soldiers doing in the line of fire?" Because when I saw that, I was pretty sure they were there because they were soldiers. Oh, and what's with "no one's daughter"? How condescending is that? "Sorry, we know you want to go on the front lines, soldier, but it might make your dad uneasy."

Rush Limbaugh is back on the air, ready and willing to distract a hundred thousand well meaning liberals from actually working for social progress. Listen up, fellow left wing America-haters: Rush is on painkillers, so it means his political views are nonsense, but Aaron Sorkin was on crack and that's "irrelevant"? Rush's ideas are ridiculous because he's a careerist blowhard, not because he has a problem with painkillers. He's ridiculous for so many more reasons besides this one human weakness, and no one should pretend drug addiction isn't a medical problem (as opposed to a legal problem) just because it makes the argument for getting Rush off the air a lot more convenient.

Lastly: Someone pointed out to me that a dolphin isn't a fish. You can imagine my embarrassment when I realized it's true, a dolphin is a marine mammal, according to The Dolphin Institute. I feel like I totally knew that.

Weekly Dolphin/Economist Round Up  

"If Bush said the earth was flat, the mainstream media would have stories with the headline: "Shape of the Earth ? Views Differ." Then they'd quote some Democrats saying that it was round." - Paul Krugman, economist for the New York Times, in an interview on AlterNet.

Who exactly picks logos for sports teams, and what are the guiding principles? Because it seems like maybe a helmet-clad dolphin bursting with joy doesn't strike much fear into the hearts of the opposing team. It also doesn't make a lot of sense, because if there is any animal in the world that would be bad at football, a really big fish is probably it. Cowboys, Vikings and Patriots all have arms, not to mention the ability to breathe even when they're not completely submerged in the sea?

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Political Hate Speech- Nationalized Health Care is Just What Osama Wanted 

The Republican National Committee- which is the only group of people that can be even more ridiculous than the Democratic National Committee- is encouraging Republican Rank and File to use the term "Political Hate Speech" every chance it gets in reference to criticisms of the President:

"Highlight the party of political hate speech ... The presidential candidates have now called President Bush a 'miserable failure,' a 'liar,' compared him to a 'gang leader' and to Saddam Hussein himself. Americans instinctively know that anyone who's willing to demean the presidency in order to gain it is not worthy of having it entrusted to him."

Republicans certainly lead by example, considering how forgiving they were of Bill Clinton's sexual misconduct and resulting legal problems. When that happened, they honored and respected the President and his office. They certainly never went so far as to call him "a miserable failure". That is tough talk, and Democrats better stop talking trash about this country- and its court-and-god appointed president- or they may be tried for sedition. Isn't running for President a direct criticism of this country and all that it stands for? Especially when we have troops in the field!

Thursday, November 13, 2003


I am set up to get some kind of distinction over at the "New Blog Showcase." I really tend not to think of this as a blog, so much as an AP Newswire commentator system. But here's some of the competition I am facing, and it gives you an idea of just how totally awesome blogging can be:

Ancient Coin Collecting! This blog is dedicated to Law, Politics and collecting ancient coins. Totally great.

This guy is in Korea and speaks Korean, and this post is about overhearing Korean people say mean things about him on the subway. "My personal favorite comment about me was heard while I was listening to a mother on the subway trying to silence her screaming brat by saying menacingly, "shut up or that fat foreigner will eat you."

Then, there is a guy who is mocking Al Gore for being against the ill-advised and useless Patriot Act. It's good to know there are some people out there who hold the Patriot Act close to their terror filled hearts. Look out, America! Osamasgannagetcha!!! Getcha-agin! So hand over all your Arabs, lock yourself in your houses and wait for either a) The elimination of anyone capable of committing murder-suicides or b) a giant mushroom cloud, because those are really the only outcomes of "the war on terror." (Oh yeah, but the schools will be open. The schools!)

This has nothing to do with the aforementioned blog, but it astounds me that people can support losing endless personal legal rights- having your library books looked over by the FBI, your house entered and searched secretly, etc- all in the name of preventing terrorists from launching an attack on this country, but we don't dare to touch ownership of a gun that can be used to hold people hostage. Or, you know, kill people. I am not "all about" Gun Control- I believe a great deal of political progress could be made if the Right stopped fighting Abortion and the Left stopped fighting guns- but really, has anyone even seen legislation passed to look at restrictions on gun access since 9/11? Apparently it's actually strengthened the opposition, which makes sense- when you have a bunch of frightened people running around fearing their lives, you ought to give them easier access to guns.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Late Night With Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist  

Democrats are upset about four judicial nominees, so they refuse to approve them. Sometimes, because Dems are a minority, they know the nominees will get through anyway. President Bush knows this too. But, in the senate, there is no way to force a vote. The vote comes when debate on the floor is finished. So, if you filibuster- debate non-stop, literally, day and night- the vote never gets held, and it gets moved to another session, cancelled or the issue goes away. Democrats managed to block four nominees out of 172 by threatening a filibuster. This was just way too much for the Republicans, and now they are retaliating by having a sleepover party where they all talk trash about the Democrats. To fit the rules of a filibuster, someone has to be talking constantly on the floor.

I was surprised CSPAN doesn't have live coverage, but apparently 30 hours of non stop Republican senate rhetoric is even too boring for CSPAN's robotic camera. The sleepover party will start by watching "16 Candles" and the rest of the night the giggly senators will be gossiping about these ultra conservative dreamboats:

Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, who stated that appeals "are crucial only for Monday-morning quarterbacks who try to second-guess things and create issues that are probably not real in the first place." Swoon! This applied to death penalty cases as well. He's argued that reproductive choice, gay rights, and school prayer should have a right to be outlawed, regardless of what the Constitution has to say on the subject.

Texas judge Priscilla Owen. She, like, totally voted to restrict the size of buffer zones for Anti-Abortion protesters outside of abortion clinics in the Texas "Operation Rescue v. Planned Parenthood" case. Can she, like, be any hotter? Because god knows, when you're getting an abortion, seeing a bunch of people across the street screaming "Mommy Mommy Why Did You Kill Me?" just isn't good enough to bring down your buzz. They need to be right up in your face. It's their right.

Mississippi judge Charles Pickering. He like used to be like a total dweeb until like 1994 when a jury like convicted a guy of like burning a cross on a black families like, lawn. Ohmigawd! And he was totally like on the phone all night with the Department of Justice in Washington and asked them to totally refile the case so he like, wouldn't have to give the full sentence the law called for. GW Bush didn't let that stop him from nominating the guy to the second highest court in the country. But you might have made the same decision if you heard this guy rock an 18 minute long drum solo while covering Rush's "Working Man" like he did at the talent show at camp last summer. Dude!

Miguel Estrada, an enigmatic loner and corporate lawyer who keeps himself cloaked in secrecy. The cool thing about this guy is, he just outright refused to answer questions posed by his Senate Judiary Committee hearing. They were all like, "What's your stance on this?" and he was all like, "Whatever." So no one knew where he stood, all they knew is he volunteered his legal services to make sure death row inmates didn't get appeals.

After the gossip is done, you know truth or dare is gonna get crazy- last filibuster, Trent Lott totally took a shower with all his clothes on! It was like sooooo funny.

(Bonus Fillibuster Fun Fact: The word filibuster is a holdover from the senate's days of adventure on the high seas. "Filibusteros" were Portuguese and Spanish Pirates who would capture ships and ransom them off. Thanks, CSPAN!)

(Double Bonus: Does Dolly Parton's song "Red White and Bluegrass" have the line "Proud of Punching Peacocks" in it?)

Links For The Bored 

Giving back to the Blog Community with a few links to other writers:

Hammer Down has a good list for veterans day, concerning Mr. GW Bush and his level of "support for the troops." Maybe things get so bad that we have outright revolt and violent overthrow of the Bush Regime? It would save George Soros some money. By the way, do Liberals canonize? Because Soros has certainly purchased left wing sainthood.

Pharyngula has a rather die-hard atheistic position on the whole church vs state thing, but I really like the comic.

Musings... has another good call on the Jessica Lynch story. I've avoided the Jessica Lynch story because I feel like its on par with the Laci Peterson case or the OJ trial, but this blog post made me think twice about it. When she was taken in and paraded around as a war hero, I wondered why- she was captured and ambushed, which happens in war all the time. It's never a good thing, but it's also rarely turned into a miniseries. Then she was sensationalized- video taped rescues, etc- in an obvious effort to sell the war, "Wag the Dog" style. Now, she's starting to say the same thing- and pissing off a lot of warhawks in the process.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Simply No Amount of Money 

In Gulf War 1, Navy Lt. Jeffrey Zaun was beaten every day he was a POW in Saddam Husseins prison. He was electrocuted with a cattle rod if he didn't answer questions to his captors liking. He was forced to make a videotaped condemnation of the war. He was blindfolded, handcuffed, and left hungry. Another soldier "was vomiting, suffering from a broken nose, a punctured eardrum and a dislocated shoulder, and hoping he would just die." (ABC News, 2/20/03) They and 16 others involved filed a lawsuit against Saddam Hussein. They won the lawsuit, and have 900 Million dollars coming to each of them.

Now imagine this: The White House, now in charge of all Iraqi assets, says: "There is simply no amount of money that can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering that they went through at the hands of Saddam Hussein's brutal regime."

And because of that, the White House has decided that it will not give them any money.

Q Excuse me, Helen -- that this White House is standing in the way of them getting those awards, those financial awards, because it views it that money better spent on rebuilding Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, there's simply no amount of money that can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering --

Q Why won't you spell out what your position is?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm coming to your question. Believe me, I am. Let me finish. Let me start over again, though. No amount of money can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering that they went through at the hands of a very brutal regime, at the hands of Saddam Hussein. It was determined earlier this year by Congress and the administration that those assets were no longer assets of Iraq, but they were resources required for the urgent national security needs of rebuilding Iraq. But again, there is simply no amount of compensation that could ever truly compensate these brave men and women.

Q Just one more. Why would you stand in the way of at least letting them get some of that money?

MR. McCLELLAN: I disagree with the way you characterize it.

Q But if the law that Congress passed entitles them to access frozen assets of the former regime, then why isn't that money, per a judge's order, available to these victims?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why I pointed out that that was an issue that was addressed earlier this year. But make no mistake about it, we condemn in the strongest possible terms the torture that these brave individuals went through --

Q -- you don't think they should get money?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- at the hands of Saddam Hussein. There is simply no amount of money that can truly compensate those men and women who heroically served --

Q That's not the issue --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- who heroically served our nation.

Q Are you opposed to them getting some of the money?

MR. McCLELLAN: And, again, I just said that that had been addressed earlier this year.

Q No, but it hasn't been addressed. They're entitled to the money under the law. The question is, is this administration blocking their effort to access some of that money, and why?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't view it that way at all. I view it the way that I stated it, that this issue was --

Q But you are opposed to them getting the money.

MR. McCLELLAN: This issue was addressed earlier this year, and we believe that there's simply no amount of money that could truly compensate these brave men and women for what they went through and for the suffering that they went through at the hands of Saddam Hussein --

Q So no money.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and that's my answer.

All by way of The Homeless Guy

You're Thinking of Somebody Else 

Reading some news articles today, you'd swear there was a war going on.

"As F16s jets dropped 500lb bombs on the area where the helicopter was shot down, US troops launched a massive sweep operation, designed as a show of force against resistance fighters based in the Sunni Triangle, which saw the arrest of several dozen alleged fighters and the death of five more."

But you know, they never said this would be easy.

"Before the war in Iraq, you stated the case very eloquently and you said . . . they would welcome us with open arms," Sinclair Broadcasting anchor Morris Jones said to Rumsfeld as the prelude to a question. The defense chief quickly cut him off. "Never said that," he said. "Never did. You may remember it well, but you're thinking of somebody else. You can't find, anywhere, me saying anything like either of those two things you just said I said." - Earlier this week.

Donald Rumsfield: There is no question but that they would be welcomed. Go back to Afghanistan, the people were in the streets playing music, cheering, flying kites, and doing all the things that the Taliban and the al-Qaeda would not let them do. -May 20th, one month before the war, on PBS's "The News Hour"

And a whole bunch more where that came from.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Al Gore Speaks; John Kerry Hatah Newz 

Okay, this is long as hell- and probably all over the blogs today- but a good read anyway. It's Al Gore doing something I talked about earlier, defining the binaries. Gore talks about Freedom vs Safety in this one- and unpacks the idea Bush has been selling us that "Freedom" means "Not Getting Blown Up By Terrorists" and not a whole lot more. A highly recommended read.


John Kerry's campaign manager came up with a really good TV ad, then John Kerry fired him. The ad shows Bush landing on the air craft carrier with the "Mission Accomplished" banner right after we accomplished the staged photo op of a statue coming down in Baghdad. Remember when that happened and Bush announced the end of "Major" combat actions in Iraq? Well everyone on the news at the time seemed to think that would make a great campaign ad for GW in the election. (Not that that's why he did it, or anything. I mean, we're talking about the president who sold pictures of himself dealing with 9/11 as a campaign fundraiser.) The Kerry ad uses that footage of GW, a supporter of the war who is hopelessly out of touch with the American people, and encourages the viewer to imagine a world where the guy who supported the war and is hopelessly out of touch with the people is a democrat named John Kerry.

Kerry recently stated that his poll numbers were "higher than Hillary Clintons", presumably citing the John Kerry Dreamland Press. But looking at pretty much every poll on the floor, we see a different picture:

Newsweek, 11/7/03 : Dean 16%, Kerry 7%.
Zogby America, 11/5/03: Dean 15%, Kerry 7%.
Marist Poll, 10/03 (most recent) Dean 16%, Kerry 9%.

A Quinnipiac University Poll conducted on Oct. 23-27- the most recent one conducted listing Hillary as an option for your vote- has Hillary at 43% whereas Kerry is at his reliable 7%. The only poll I have found that has John Kerry rated higher than Hillary Clinton is the "Ipsos-Reid/Cook Political Report Poll" conducted on July 22-24, 2003. People were asked the names of announced candidates, and Kerry had the biggest lead since, with 20%. But even though she wasn't an announced candidate, 2% of the people polled insisted they would vote or write in Hillary Clinton. In the same poll conducted on the same day with the same people- one question later- they added Hillary to the list. Clinton got 40% and Kerry got 11%. ABC News on May 28th gave her a 30 point lead over Kerry's - you guessed it- 7%.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Bush successfully Ends Bipartisanship In Washington 

Bush at the moment enjoys a popularity rating of 38%, according to the DNC blog. This required drastic action. So Bush has followed through on his campaign pledge to end bipartisanship in Washington once and for all with a radical new policy statement: He will not to listen to anyone except Republicans.

"Given the increase in the number and types of requests we are beginning to receive from the House and Senate, and in deference to the various committee chairmen and our desire to better coordinate these requests, I am asking that all requests for information and materials be coordinated through the committee chairmen and be put in writing from the committee."

Says them! From now on, RNC chairmen- including the Docudrama Fact Checker In Chief- will now be in charge of reading and editing queries from Democrats intended for the White House. I presume this is to make sure that the questions are smart, eloquent, skeptical and challenging enough to serve the debate that is vital for Democracy to function.

It's funny that histories most passive, spineless Democratic Party (yes, that's two links)- one that tries to win campaigns by agreeing with him- is being asked by the President to shut up. Imagine if there was actually an opposition party? Would Bush drop an A Bomb on Cambridge and San Francisco?

Anyone who thinks Bush is not taking his orders from the far right of his party need only consider this as a nod to the strategies of Conservative (Oops, I meant "totally fair and unbiased") talk show (Oops, I meant "news show") host Bill O'Reilly (Oops, I meant "Ezzolino di Romano, tyrant of Padua's Marco-Polo Buddy in the Seventh Circle of Hell"): "If you see [Sen. Tom Daschle] for me, senator, tell him to shut up. For me. You can be nice."


In Biased Liberal Media news, NPR received a 200 Million dollar endowment- the largest of any kind in the history of non profit organizations according to an NHPR chairman who I don't quite believe- came from, of all places, Joan Kroc, wife of Ray Kroc, who made his money flipping burgers as the founder of McDonalds. On that note, the Onion has a great interview with Ira Glass, who makes me feel better about liking "Joan of Arcadia."

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Arise, Ye Wretched Of The High School Extracurricular Clubs! 

From CNN: "The Young Republicans Club plans to have students in black T-shirts with the word "Evil" bowing before a statue of Saddam. Other students in club T-shirts plan to chase the "Evil" students away with silly string, then topple the statue."

Since chasing people away and tearing down a statue is pretty much the only thing we've managed to do over in Iraq, this float would seem to be "historically accurate." But lets face it, people. Parade floats based on war are totally "Docudrama", and I am surprised that the RNC chairman has not yet, in his zealotry for the full historical accuracy of all entertainment based on history, insisted on running this parade float by historical analysts. You know, so we can have a "complete" picture of the war.

I humbly offer the following suggestions: The kids in "evil" tee shirts run to another float with a paper mache statue of Osama Bin Laden (provided by those liberals in the debate team). Meanwhile whoever drives the "Iraq" float leaps out of the car, letting it careen into the audience in an oil-and-tax-dollar fueled explosion.

Then, the president of the Young Republicans Club can explain that it was all cool because the schools are open, and that news reports of the Homecoming Game are biased by the liberal media.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Defining Our Terms 

Gary Hart, a letter writer to the editorial page of New York Times, (I'm not sure if he's "the" Gary Hart) points out that Will Safire- and many of the Iraq War's advocates- are defining the way we talk about the war by positing a model of "democracy versus terrorism" when it should be "internationalism vs unilateralism." I would go so far as to say that the language which limits our discussions of these matters is largely taking place within a soundbite saturated environment. It used to be that it "won't be the best ideas that win, it will be the most succinct." Even this is old news; but now I think there may be a new phenomenon: it's not just the most succinct ideas, its the most succinct binaries. Even the conflict has to be compressed to two faces shouting at each other. So you have it: Fox News vs CNN, Liberals vs Conservatives, Republicans vs Democrats, etc.

Historically, progress through compromise has never come from the opposites, or from perpetuating the idea of mutual exclusives. It comes from- cue harps, babies with wings, and the vague scent of incense and marijuana- "working together." But no one chooses to "work together" with sworn enemies without the work of a mediator. That role of mediator is getting lost in the noise of "diminished idea time" in the media and the strategies of both parties to fight each others soundbites with more soundbites. Mediation requires complex thinking; a willingness to expose opportunities for compromise, and the bravery to jump through the imaginary boundaries separating the two parties- even when they are both basing the entire identity of their movement on the petty maintenance of them.

One of the worst possible binaries in our political system is the separation between the American Left and the vast sum of religious moderates. When the left- I am talking Marxists, Greens, and the like- shun and look down on religion because of history, it doesn't accomplish anything. The chest beating thump of "Religion is the opiate of the masses" is really poorly understood by the left, maybe it was poorly understood by Marx. In all actuality, the aims of humanistic religion and of evolved Marxism (not tyrannical communism) are similar. Just as dogmatic religion is dangerous, so, too, is dogmatic leftism; and the far left call for the death of religion is one of its worst evolutionary leftovers.

Think of it in terms of the "Southern Strategy", which gave power to the right by dividing the south by race. Now it seems we are starting to see a division through religion- not atheist vs Christian, as it has been, but of a dogmatic view of religion vs a humanistic one. Unfortunately, the media- the leftist media as well- is whitewashing things, so that Fred Phelps erecting a monument to celebrate the murder of Matthew Shepard isn't a rare abomination coming out of religion, but "one more sign" that religion is wacky; or that the ten commandments in a courthouse lobby is enough to write off all Christians. It isn't, and we have to be careful that we don't let the right define it as a matter of Godlessness vs Religion when it is a matter of Secularism vs Imposed Religion. We have our energies wrapped up in one more religious war than we need already. Secularism is first and foremost the right to choose religion and embrace God- which must leave room for the choice not to. The battle over religious values and morality legislating individuals rights stems from Aristotles idea that government should mold character. The left believes in the same thing: But it must embrace the right to choose ones morality rather than have it enforced, and it has to encourage tolerance and skepticism as ethical concepts. It must argue that all ethics, or lack of ethics, stem from choice- and choice cannot be legislated.

With that in mind, I'll end with a quote from Meister Eckhart, a 13th century Christian Mystic whose poetry reads like a manifesto you might find in any leftist zine at the anarchist bookstore, for that matter, a blog that quotes Noam Chomsky:

"Commerce is supported by keeping the individual at odds with himself and others, by making us want more than we need, and offering credit to buy what refined senses do not want. The masses become shackled, I see how their eyes weep and are desperate- of course they feel desperate- for some remedy that a poor soul feels needs to be bought. I find nothing more offensive than a god who would condemn human instincts in us that time in all its wonder have made perfect. I find nothing more destructive to the well being of life than to support a god who makes you feel unworthy and in debt to it. I imagine erecting churches to such a strange god will assure the endless wars that commerce loves."

Dean Comments On Flag and Race 

Yes, I am just cutting and pasting a press release, because I think it's brilliant.

NEW YORK--Democratic presidential candidate Governor Howard Dean, M.D., today made the following remarks here at Cooper Union:

"We're at a space today that's rich in our nation's history, a place where citizens have gathered for more than a century to debate the great issues of the day. From this platform and from this very podium Abraham Lincoln spoke nearly 150 years ago as a presidential candidate and when Lincoln came here, he did not shy away from talking about the greatest threat that our republic faced at that time which is the terrible institution of human slavery. I will not shy away today either.

"The issue of the confederate flag has become an issue in this presidential race. Let me make this clear. I believe that we have one flag in this country, the flag of the United States of America. I believe that the flag of the Confederate States of America is a painful symbol and reminder of racial injustice and slavery, which Lincoln denounced from here over 150 years ago. And I do not condone the use of the flag of the Confederate States of America. I do believe that this country needs to engage in a serious discussion about race, and that everyone must participate in that discussion. I started this discussion in a clumsy way.

"This discussion will be painful, and I regret the pain that I may have caused either to African-American or southern white voters in the beginning of this discussion. But we need to have this discussion in an honest open way.

"In 1968 the Republican Party embarked on a strategy to divide white people from black people in the south just as they were divided when Abraham Lincoln stood at this podium 150 years ago. That is intolerable. Ending that is what this campaign is all about.

"I am determined to find a way to bring white Americans and black Americans--as Dr. King said--to the same table of common brotherhood. As I said, we have started in a difficult way, but there is no way to escape the pain of this discussion. To think that racism was banished from the face of this country--even after the success of the civil rights movement is wrong.

"Today in America, you have a better chance of being called back for a job interview if you're white with a criminal record than you do if you're black with a clean record--never having been arrested or convicted. Institutional racism exists in this country not because institutions are run by bigots or racists, but because of our unconscious bias towards hiring people just like ourselves. I am determined we will overcome this. I am also determined that we will not leave anyone behind in this discussion--no matter what their color, no matter where they live.

"I understand Senator Edward's concern last night that we not have people from the north telling people from the south how to run their states--but we all need to understand that we are in this together and that it will be a difficult and painful discussion, and feelings will be hurt. And what we must do is that people of good will must stay at the table.

"If we are ever to vanquish the scourge of racism left over from 400 hundred years of slavery and Jim Crow, only 40 or 50 years ago [did] the Civil Rights Movement begin to see relief from that. We can't think it is over; we must have the dialogue Bill Clinton promised us; we must continue that dialogue, and we must all be at the table. Many of the people in the African American community have supported what I have said in the past few days, because they understand. Some have not, so I say, to those, I deeply regret the pain I have may caused. Many of our white supporters have understood, but to those who do not, I regret the pain that I have caused. I will tell you, there is no easy way to do this. There will be pain as we discuss it; we must face it together--hand-in-hand, as Dr. King and Abraham Lincoln asked us to do.

"Because this is about taking back our country and when white people and brown people and black people vote together in this country, that's when we get social justice in America."


Republican Sweep today. In the few elections that were held, Kentucky and Mississippi elected Republican Governors. Most frighteningly, I am told that a republican won the mayor's seat in San Fran-God-damned-cisco.

Some good news from Ohio, however:
Hayden, Ohio: "The founder of the Aryan Nations white supremacist and anti-Semitic group garnered just 50 votes out of about 2,100 counted in Hayden's mayoral election Tuesday." (Source: AP)

Cleveland Heights, Ohio: A ten point victory for "Domestic Partners" Legislation for both Gays and Straights in the suburb of Cleveland Heights. This revolutionary bill, however, "would not be binding in courts, governments, hospitals or private companies", leading me to wonder just what the hell it is good for. (Source: AP)

The guy being spied on for being a democrat out in Philidelphia won, too.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Rock The Vote 

I don't know if anyone saw the debate on CNN last night, but Dennis Kucinich made a thirty second ad that was seriously the geekiest thing in political history. Kucinich started with some very early 80's style hip hop scratches and, then it overlapped with a guy saying "Dennis Kucinich" into the Casio PST-100 so you can push the key and start the sample? "Duh-duh-duh Dennis Kucinich! (wicka wicka wicka) Dennis Kucinich!" I really hope he can put the mp3 up on his site sometime.

Meanwhile, Dean didn't apologize for saying that ignorant people deserve to have their children educated, in spite of the fact that Al Sharpton is black. Or as they say, "for using a divisive symbol". What Edwards, Kerry and Sharpton demanded an apology for wasn't anything Dean ever said. I agree that there's no reason for Dean to apologize for the projections of losing candidates, but he also didn't address race in a really sincere way. Everyone agreed he wasn't a racist; but he didn't slam dunk it, either. Edwards said it was stereotyping southerners- which isn't what Dean did. Kerry said it was an irresponsible and divisive comment- when it was the opposite. And Al Sharpton called it racist- which it wasn't, but saying that made sure that there were a ton of minorities in the audience who didn't clap after the stuff Dean said.

Clark didn't join in to the chorus. I respect Clark more than the other guys because he's earning his way to #1 instead of alienating enough people that he becomes #1 by default. Good points for Clark on talking really earnestly about gay rights and gays in the military- speaking out about don't ask, don't tell - that "everyone has a right to serve." He made good points on Cuba and embracing Cuba; instead of alienating it because alienation strengthens the resolve of rogue states. Clark also dressed up like a bohemian poet, and Kucinich wore the same thing. (How embarrassing!)

Kucinich, who rode into the debate on a winged unicorn descending from the third moon of planet Nader, made the strangest attempts ever to appeal to the youth. Not to mention the rap track, but Kucinich's habit of screaming at the audience as a means of exciting them just rung more hollow than ever in this forum, particularly his charge that "If you want to rock the vote, you've got to rock the boat!" followed by a ding and a pause before people clapped politely.

The quote of the night for Kerry: "I Eat What I Kill." Lots of good ideas coming out of John Kerry these days.

Mourning Every Loss, Honoring Every Name 

By way of Mahablog:

"We mourn every loss," the president said. "We honor every name. We grieve with every family. And we will always be grateful that liberty has found such brave defenders." GW Bush, 11.03.03

"We mourn every loss. We honor every name. We grieve with every family. And we will always be grateful that liberty has found such brave defenders." GW Bush, 10.09.03

Monday, November 03, 2003

21st Century Ideas vs 20th Century Politics 

Wesley Clark and Howard Dean both announced some interesting political moves today that I am excited about. One, Wesley Clark is taking up "wireside chats", sort of an interactive update on FDR's "fireside chats" except it has a "w" instead of "f" because it's cyberpolitics! Meanwhile, Howard Dean is taking some tips from the political stratagem of the Beastie Boys by doing the media backwards, taking his cash from the net and investing it in a half hour TV infomercial to air all over Iowa to spread his message and explain his positions. The ad cost $70,000 to produce and air, one has to wonder how much Karl Rove is paying FOX news to do the same thing for GW04.

While the two front runners are busy coming up with ideas and communicating with people, the campaigns who aren't Clark or Dean are getting together to figure out how to stop people from being enthusiastic about it. When the Service Employees International Union- representing 1.6 million janitors, service employees and health service workers- announced earlier this week that they would be endorsing "Dean or No One", the big three non-front-runners got together to complain about it. "The announcement prompted top aides to Edwards, Gephardt and Kerry to convene a conference call during which they discussed whether Dean's endorsement could be blocked." (From the AP).

Also, Bush's approval ratings are the lowest they've been since September 11th 2001. And Republicans are starting to get nervous.

Early bets are being taken: A Dean Nomination means Dean/Clark 2004, a Clark win means Clark/Edwards.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

McClellan Soundbites 

Mokhiber: Earlier this year, General (William) Boykin said the following: "George Bush was not elected by a majority of voters in the United States. He was appointed by God." Does the President believe that God played any role in getting him to the White House?

Scott McClellan: Again, the President has addressed that matter.

Mokhiber: Not whether God played any role in getting him to the White House.

Scott McClellan: The President has addressed that matter and I'm not going to go back through it.
-From a White House Press Briefing, 10/29/03

Chomsky Soundbites 

NYT: How would you explain your large ambition?

NC: I am driven by many things. I know what some of them are. The misery that people suffer and the misery for which I share responsibility. That is agonizing. We live in a free society, and privilege confers responsibility.

NYT: If you feel so guilty, how can you justify living a bourgeois life and driving a nice car?

NC: If I gave away my car, I would feel even more guilty. When I go to visit peasants in southern Colombia, they don't want me to give up my car. They want me to help them. Suppose I gave up material things -- my computer, my car and so on -- and went to live on a hill in Montana where I grew my own food. Would that help anyone? No.

NYT: Have you considered leaving the United States permanently?

NC: No. This is the best country in the world.

- Noam Chomsky in the New York Times Magazine, 11/02/03

Gephardt Objects To Dean's "Educate The Ignorant" Plan 

Listening to Dick Gephardt, you'd think that Howard Dean is not only too liberal to beat GW, but also, that he's secretly conspiring with rednecks to inspire a return to days of the Confederacy. Dean says, "white folks in the South who drive pick-up trucks with Confederate flag decals on the back ought to be voting with us because their kids don't have health insurance either, and their kids need better schools too." And now suddenly, all the democratic candidates who aren't in a #1 position are labeling him a racist, remarkably coinciding with the endorsement of Dean from Jesse Jackson Jr. Including Al Sharpton, a bitter rival of Jackson: "If I said I wanted to be the candidate for people that ride around with helmets and swastikas, I would be asked to leave." Sharpton said. Well, how exactly do ignorant people stop being ignorant, Mr Sharpton?

Now I know that if a Republican made this statement, I would be offended and perturbed- but that's because Republicans have ridden a divisive race card since the days of segregation. When you have a candidate who had to wear a bullet proof vest in his home state because he stood up for Civil Union legislation when only 40% of his constituency did, you lose the option of saying the man doesn't care about minorities or the oppressed. Not only that, but he's actually doing something remarkable by reaching out to this particular brand of Southerner. One that most liberal, New Englanders like myself usually simply ridicule for their ignorance, and Dean is saying that these people's children deserve an education, too. Apparently, equal rights works for Gephardt, as long it's not for ignorant people he doesn't like or agree with.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

11 out of 15 

Yesterday was the deadline for the State Department to hand files over to the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding the intelligence used in the build up to the war in Iraq. No major American Newspaper has reported it in this morning's issue, but, with only 11 out 15 requested reports delivered by the due date, the BBC has "Senate receives Iraq Reports," and Al Jazeera reports "White House Fails to Meet Dossier Deadline."

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