Saturday, January 31, 2004

The Bush Doctrine 

Regarding David Kay's Statement That There Are No WMD's in Iraq:
"President Bush said Friday "I want to know the facts" about any intelligence failures concerning Saddam Hussein's alleged cache of forbidden weapons but he declined to endorse calls for an independent investigation." -AP

Regarding the Leak of Valerie Plame's CIA Status:
"I know of nobody -- I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action. And this investigation is a good thing." - and - "The vow came as numerous Democratic leaders demanded the administration appoint a special counsel to investigate the charges [...] The White House rejected those calls, also saying it has no evidence of wrongdoing by Bush adviser Karl Rove or others and therefore no reason to begin an internal investigation."

Regarding the 9/11 Investigation:
"Members of both parties are accusing the White House of stonewalling the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by blocking its demands for documents despite threats of a subpoena." - AP Newswire (also see: Time Magazine).

Regarding Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force:
Congressional investigators made good on a months-old threat and sued Vice President Dick Cheney to force release of names of Enron and other industry figures who met with Cheney's energy task force. [...] Bush has refused to hand over the information demanded by the GAO.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Albert Camus 

"On important issues, like the balance between liberty and security, if the public doesn't care, then the security side is going to overweigh the other,'' she said. That would change, Ginsburg said, "if people come forward and say we are proud to live in the USA, a land that has been more free, and we want to keep it that way.'' - Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

"After all, if Freedom had always had to rely on Governments to encourage her growth, she would probably be still in her infancy or else definitely buried with the inscription, "another angel in heaven." The society of money and exploitation has never been charged, so far as I know, with assuring the triumph of freedom and justice. Police states have never been suspected of opening up schools of law in the basements where they interrogate their suspects. So, when they oppress and exploit, they are merely doing their job, and whoever blindly entrusts them with the care of freedom has no right to be surprised when she is immediately dishonored. If freedom is humiliated or in chains today, it is because she has lost her natural protector. Yes, freedom is widowed, but it must be added because it is true: she has been widowed of us." - Albert Camus, "Bread and Freedom"

Thursday, January 29, 2004


"We have a variety of intelligence and we're sure we're going to catch Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar this year" says U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty.

Oh wow! You know what I just realized? Is what a totally great thing for Bush it would be if Osama got captured during an election year! Wouldn't that be great news? I am totally looking forward to 2005, because I have a feeling I'm gonna start getting drunk and sleeping soooooo much more than ever before in my entire fucking life.

Democratic Debate Rhetoric Scavenger Hunt 

1 point for Wesley Clark smiling without really answering.
2 points if Al Sharpton answers a question with a joke that eats half his response time
1 point for every time one of the candidates "agrees with Al Sharpton"
3 points for every time Al Sharpton race baits
1 point for every time John Edwards mentions he's from the South
2 points if he "understands" the South
1 point everytime anyone says "affirmative action" and gets applause
2 points every time Lieberman gets booed
2 points if Lieberman says "It wasn't a popular decision, but it was the right thing to do."
Bonus! 5 points if Lieberman gets booed and says "It wasn't a popular decision etc..."
1 point for whenever Brokaw says "Republicans are getting ready to paint you as _______, what do you say to that?" (2 points if the blank is "unpatriotic", 3 points if the blank is "liberal")
2 points every time Brokaw says "Northeastern Liberal"
3 points every time Joe Lieberman says it
1 point for every time Kerry mentions Vietnam
2 points every time Kerry says "Kennedy" (-2 points if it's Ted Kennedy)
1 point for every time someone mentions "Clinton" (-2 points if it's Hillary)
1 point for every time Clark says "Arkansas"
1 point for every time Dean says "Iraq" and "Kucinich" in the same answer
5 points if Kucinich uses a question to ask the other candidates will they or won't they withdraw from NAFTA and the WTO? (Bonus Point if Kucinich has a graph, Bonus Point if Brokaw makes them raise their hands.)
15 points if Tom Brokaw says "Joe-mentum"
30 points if John Kerry says "Joe-mentum"
-10 if Joe Lieberman does

I'll come back to tell you how many points are rewarded.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Joe Trippi Out of Dean Campaign 

Part of me was voting for Joe Trippi when I was voting for Howard Dean. I hope we see something new from him soon.

German Secret Service: "Blah Blah Blah"  

The United States was warned of impending September 11 terrorist attacks by an Iranian spy, but ignored him, German secret service agents testified yesterday in the trial of an alleged al-Qaida terrorist. - the Guardian

Clearly it's not true. The President said so. Nevermind, I shouldn't have brought it up. Sorry everyone.

What Happened to the Youth Vote 

Here's an amazingly lucid theory from

Because the two political parties have become polarized on abortion, it seems reasonable to assume that more potential Democrats than potential Republicans have been aborted. After all, their would-have-been mothers show through their actions that they agree with the Democratic position on the issue. Result: fewer younger voters in Democratic primaries, as we saw last night, and probably a boost for Republican candidates in the general election.

Who Put The Media Spin Chocolate in my Job-Hemorrhaging Peanut Butter?  

Now you can watch Fox News inside Walmart.

Fox News will supply live breaking-news segments and alerts for retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s in-store network, which has multiple monitors in some 2,450 stores nationwide and generates more than 150 million impressions monthly, according to Nielsen Media Research. -c/o cablenewser

A corporate marketer that pressures American companies to export jobs to stay "competitively priced", and a corporate media giant that favors the administration that favors that corporate strategy, then: synergize! America doesn't have a chance.

While I Was Busy 

Here's some stuff that happened while I was busy running around pretending I was a journalist:

1. David Kay, the guy in charge of finding Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction, says: "I don't think they existed. What everyone was talking about is stockpiles produced after the end of the [1991] Gulf War and I don't think there was a large-scale production program in the '90s." What the fuck? Haven't we heard this four thousand times so far? Powell said it, Kay said it, Hans Blix said it, Joseph Wilson said it. By the way, remember the links to Al Qaida? So far, debunked by Colin Powell, George W Bush, and the papers Saddam had on him when he was captured. But don't worry, your tax dollars won't be wasted investigating all this nonsense:

Democrats demanded that an independent panel examine how the National Intelligence Estimate — the 2002 document that Mr. Bush used as the basis of his comments that Iraq posed a direct threat to the United States and its allies — could have been so flawed. The White House expressed no interest in the formation of such a panel. - NY Times (my emphasis)

Furthermore, Dick Cheney says, "There's still work to be done to ascertain exactly what's there, and I am not prepared to make a final judgment until they (inspectors) have completed their work."

2. By 7:35 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, all five hijackers on American Airlines Flight 77 had been tagged by a passenger pre-screening program as "a risk to aircraft safety," and four of them had set off magnetometer alarms at airport checkpoints, according to staff reports presented Tuesday to the independent 9/11 Commission. - Newsday


According to President Match, my ideal candidate is Dennis Kucinich, followed by Al Sharpton, followed by, yes, yes: John Kerry, with 84% compatibility, then Dean with 76%.

But if Kucinich is 100%, then what happens when a candidate finally comes who advocates a division of productivity increases from new technology between industry and labor, until the work week is abolished and all labor is controlled by autonomous robots who are maintained by a voluntary military/service structure?

Because that guy? He's my guy.

Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Republican Victories 

I've come up with an idea. Listen up: If you're like me, you have friends, relatives, or work associates who happen to think that the Republican party, and President Bush in particular, are good for America. You also know where this person lives, and what kind of car they drive. So here is my humble suggestion to you for November 1st, 2004: "Misplace" their car keys.

Make plans to visit as many of these friends as possible on the eve of the general election. "Accidentally" take their car keys with you. Or perhaps, go out to a bar, and act as the designated driver, and don't give back their keys until November 3rd. One person may not be all that many. But if fifty democrats did this to eleven republican friends, that would be the margin of victory in the last Florida election.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Kerry Takes It 

Very good news for John Kerry and Howard Dean in NH. Bad news for Clark, Lieberman, and Edwards, but Edwards can call it a safe loss. The race is back where I expected it to be, with Dean facing off with an untested Kerry instead of Clark. Dean is facing upwards momentum, Kerry is coasting on the glory phase of frontrunnership which will have its brakes slammed as soon as he gets the test by fire that Dean got.

Just for your own information, here's the real results, compared to the ARG poll and the Zogby polls from yesterday:

Kerry 38.5% (ARG: 35%) (Zogby: 37%)
Dean 26.2% (A: 25%) (Z: 24%)
Clark 12.4% (A: 13%) (Z: 9%)
Edwards 12.1 % (A: 15%) (Z: 12%)
Lieberman 8.6% (A: 6%) (Z: 9%)
Kucinich 1.4% (A: 1%) (Z: 3%)

Also interesting, in NH, if you want to change party affiliation, you have to write in a Republican name on the Democratic Party Ballot, or the other way around. There were 103 Write In's for GW on the Democratic Ballot, and about 4300 total write ins for Democrats on the Republican ballot (nearly 1400 for Kerry alone). Bush won New Hampshire by only 7200 votes in 2000. Maybe this is meaningless, but it could be a signal of a greater siphoning of Republican votes than Democratic votes. GW only got 85% of Republican votes cast.

The New Hampshire Primary 

Here's some direct links to past coverage of the week leading up to the NH Primary. An asterix indicates on the ground reports by yours truly:

Howard Dean, 2AM Monday*
Lieberman and the Union Leader Endorsement
Wesley Clark on the State of the Union*
John Edwards, Portsmouth*
NH Ballot's Republican Roundup
Dennis Kucinich at the Catholic Voters Forum*
Joe Lieberman in Salem*
John Kerry in Hampton*

Dixville Notch, NH: First In The Nation Primary 

If you don't know why Dixville Notch and Hart's Location matter, it's probably because they don't. Dixville Notch is the first primary in the country since 1960, with 26 registered voters. They don't even have a record of prediction. The reason it matters, outside of any town with only 30 voters needs some spark every four years, is because they start off election day, and the only numbers the morning voters are going to see or hear are the following:

Dixville Notch: 26 Voters

Bush: 11
Clark: 8
Kerry: 3
Edwards: 2
Dean: 1
Lieberman: 1

Hart's Location: 30 Voters

Bush: 13
Clark: 6
Kerry: 5
Dean: 3
Edwards: 2
Vincent Hamm: 1

Monday, January 26, 2004

Kerry "Connects"  

From the Kerry Campaign:

"Voting in New Hampshire starts in a matter of hours and John Kerry is working overtime, fighting for every vote from Derry to Salem and back again."

The thing is, Derry is about a 12 minute drive from Salem. Round trip takes about a half hour. It's almost as good as saying "We're calling every voter from A to C."

Kerry: Hampton Fire Department, Hampton, NH 


The line for John Kerry was the largest I'd seen for any single candidate. According to the announcer, they had to turn people away, fire code being a major concern at a fire department, I'd imagine. The inside of the fire department is pretty big, too, so it wasn't a "packed room" in the Joe Lieberman sense.

The problem was that John Kerry wasn't showing up. By the time they ran through their A-list speakers (Whom I didn't recognize) they were left with two local representatives who struggled to fill dead space. My notes simply have the word: "Pledge Drive-esque." They got a local guy up to start telling jokes, in the famed "groaner" style beloved by all politicians. We were then told that Kerry would be about a half an hour. So they started getting anyone in the crowd who had any connection to the campaign to get up and speak: the guy who organized a "draft Kerry" movement back in California in the early 80's, more local representatives, a New Jersey Kerry supporter. The in between banter was totally great. At one point, in a desperate bid to kill time, they invited one of the 12 year old daughters of a local rep to come up and tell a joke with a sincere, "Because we're Democrats, and we all know that Democrats support the children." They spent some time talking about the quality of Kerry's bumper stickers, "They're real convenient, you just peel them off and they'll stay." As a reward for enduring this, an announcement was made that certain cars were about to be towed.

After an hour, I was about to leave. A few people did, apparently. But then Kerry bounded on stage to U2's "Beautiful Day". He gave a shorter version of his stump speech, and for whatever reason, looked directly into my eyes for a good while at the start of it (here's a picture). Then he asked for questions.

A man with an "X" on his hat asked John Kerry about resonating outside of New England, and he said that Kerry could prove it to him by explaining the relevance of the cultural icon on his hat. He was a white guy, and John Kerry didn't know what it was. "The Roman Numeral 10?" he asked. "I don't know, tell me?"

It was Malcolm X! Of course.

John Kerry then explained what Howard Deans ideas on race are, without giving any direct credit to Howard Dean. He did this on "Face the Nation" as well, talking about the South, literally everything Dean said on the subject, except Kerry didn't say "Confederate Flag." Later on he stole an Edwards line on "banning Government lobbyists". Kerry morphed the Malcolm X question into an answer that incorporated "anger against institutions" and then he incorporated Halliburton and presto, Malcolm X turned into "kicking out corporate cronyism." It was a not so subtle switch from a raw question into a talking point.

I should probably add that Kerry has passed "The LaRouche Test". When he was interrupted by a lone LaRouche supporter who was greeted with Boos, Kerry asked the crowd to hear the man out. He gave the man a fair amount of time, and when asked if he would debate LaRouche, he said no. Then he wrapped up.

Kerry's policies and ideas aren't all that bad. They are pretty much the standard Democratic line, he's no revolutionary but he'd do fine as a President. What worries me is that his ideas seem picked up from other candidates, a sort of "Democratic Primary Greatest Hits." A lot of the undecideds that I talked to at events said they'd love to see all the candidates rolled up into one, I think that's what Kerry is going for. But how long can imitating Dean and Edwards work? How does that reflect the decisions he'll make as President? It's all fine and good if he can promise to ask himself "WWDD?" before every policy decision, but something tells me Howard Dean is not going to be Kerry's chief of staff.

I've been forced to accept Kerry by default, even as I have no idea how he can get away with statements like "We're not going to send Americans to war over oil"- a sort of hollow, amorphous anti-war line for a war he voted for. I want to teach Kerry a lesson for not standing up and representing my interests for a war I knew was full of shit. My question to him would have been: "The Democratic Party lent its support to Dean last year in order to teach you a lesson. What lesson did you learn?" Clearly, one lesson he learned is that he ought to start pretending he's an "anti-war candidate", but that doesn't resolve the question of judgment. We all know Iraq is fucked, now. How can a candidate that got us into it get elected simply by pretending he didn't?

He also seems like he wants to convince me that he's a Kennedy. Kennedy was mentioned in Kerry's answer on faith, Ted Kennedy travels with him, the opening speakers talked about how Kennedy and Kerry are both from Massachusetts and both named John, as if this was a valid concern among voters. He also seems completely self conscious of any appearance of arrogance, but that doesn't stop it from coming out: "If I am president- I say when I am president...", he jokes, then turns somber and mumbles a forced "No, nah. We have a long way to go, and we all know that."

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Lieberman: Salem, NH American Legion 


Joe Lieberman wants you to know that he has integrity. The bus he travels on says it on the side, next to his picture, and then on the door the bus is labeled "Integrity One." But outside of integrity, what is there to really say about Joe Lieberman? Lieberman is a "slow down" Democrat, which is certain to appeal to most Americans. But when I look at his vision for America, it doesn't seem inspiring to me. It's a vision where the entire country is ruled reasonably and new laws aren't passed and old ones aren't repealed, an Opinion-Pollocracy. But while that could kill some candidates, it works for Lieberman because he seems to have grown up with a very sincere position that completely reflects the absolute middle of the road on every subject imaginable. He's not the guy who says he's rooting for the team of whatever state he's in, he's the guy who genuinely grew up with a love of every team from every state in the union. I wanted to ask him about bold visions, his ideas for what America can be, but the Lieberman agenda sits down and says that this is pretty much it, that Bill Clinton is as good as it gets. Jobs moving overseas? "The world changes," says Joe Lieberman. "And I hate to say it, but we aren't going to get those jobs back." That's not really what works as a solution for me. No mention of race or gay rights. Some words thrown at the environmentalists that showed up in bright orange jumpsuits, but nothing too inspiring.

The crowd was small, about 1/4th of it was the press, but the venue was small too. Politicians would love to hold these rallies in a broom closet if they could so the pictures look better, and Lieberman found a dream venue with the American Legion hall. In high school, the American Legion was barely enough to hold the hardcore straightedge kids who would go there for shows, inevitably the place ended up destroyed every Friday night. The Lieberman crowd didn't have to worry about that.

He supports the war, and so did the room. Lieberman talked about John McCain supporters who are now endorsing him. But in spite of all those trappings, you still get the feeling that Joe Lieberman is a pure blood Democrat. He's certainly on the right wing of the Democratic party, but he is still miles away from Republican values, and it probably made the room full of anti-Bush Republicans nervous. Excepting his stump speech, most of the people in the room barely applauded, but that may have been because there was no room to move your arms. At no one point can I recall everyone applauding at once for any given answer. I got the sense that the room wasn't filled with enthusiastic Democrats, it was filled with Republicans who wanted a Republican primary and instead were forced to find the least offensive Democrat. One of the people made sure to mention that people could write Joe Lieberman in on the NH Republican ballot.

That's all I got for Joe. He looks like he does on television. He talks like he does on television. The room full of supporters mostly identified as Independents or Republicans who are switching parties to vote for Joe Lieberman: Just like you see on television.

Radio-Blog Outsourcing (With Pledge Drive) 

It appears I am the sole ground blogger for the New Hampshire primary on the Dean for America blog. Hi, Howard! As a result of my shenanigans with Dennis Kucinich, Howard Dean, Wesley Clark and John Edwards, I've not been keeping up with the blogs so much this week, so blog outsourcing will be short and interestingly enough, it's all radio links. So, in the spirit of NPR, I'm also going to interject a pledge drive.

Starting now:

So far, I've seen pretty much everyone running for President. The guy who makes the most sense to me is still Howard Dean. If you're at all like me, then you're having some doubts, but I have been hitting the concrete in a search for a man who can do half the job that Dean can do, and I haven't seen him yet. Dean is a candidate that can do it. So, I am making my first unabashed pitch:

Donate, Already. If you haven't given money to the Dean campaign, do it! Then you can tell all your friends when you're retired about how you gave to the grassroots insurgency. A dollar not spent on Dean is a dollar for Bush. They've brought out the bat and it is crucial at this point to throw some change into the Democracy column of campaign financing. I know this might sound dramatic? But here it is anyway: This might be the last chance we've got. The next primary is in Edwards territory, and Dean is going to need some serious mo. Give now, or you have no right to complain when you're forced to look at a Kerry/Lieberman 2004 bumper sticker. Dick Cheney said it best today, in a speech to the WEF this week: "There comes a time when deceit and defiance must be seen for what they are. At that point, a gathering danger must be directly confronted. At that point, we must show that beyond our resolutions is actual resolve."

Okay, end of pledge drive.

Next: the two most important media of the new millennium collide when Christopher Lydon hosts a radio show and sustained blog conversation tonight (Sunday) at 9PM. It is meta-blogging to be certain, a look at what blogs are and can be, in politics and beyond. (I'm guessing). Make sure to call in, and check out this post for some links to great and essential reading on the new politics.

On the Media has got a radio piece this week about the Wilgoren Watch and watchblogging in general.

Is it a coincidence that during the Dean Scream blitz, the theme for This American Life this week was: "People return to the scene of the crime where they should have spoken clearly, plainly, forcefully ... to review what the hell went wrong, and in a few cases, to fix it" ?

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Kucinich: Catholic Voters Forum, Derry NH 


Dennis Kucinich might be completely unfamiliar with irony.

I arrived early, and there was a priest talking to some people about the relatively small voice that Catholics play in American politics, urging Catholics to speak with one voice. If you are wondering what Dennis Kucinich was doing here, you weren't alone. The room was already buzzing with questions about how Dennis Kucinich could be pro-choice and still maintain that he is a Catholic.

The room was mostly older voters. I saw relatively few young people until Kucinich's "opening act" arrived. It was a guy and a girl, newlyweds whose honeymoon was to cross the country with Dennis Kucinich. They performed a mixture of beat box rapping with hindu "ohm's" and drones generated through a sampler that he had strapped to his belt. His acappella stylings were less rap, and more like Buddhist chanting: "By replacing the patrioooooooot aaaaaact/ we can take our liiiiberty baaaaaack." An old man in the front row looked dismayed for the entire duration of the performance, which lasted a full half hour. Say what you want about mantras putting the mind at peace, all I can tell you is that by the end of the event, the old man was yelling at other people's kids to sit down and be quiet. The thing is, the newlyweds were happy people, probably the happiest people in the room. For all the weaknesses of a candidate who is oblivious to irony, when it is right there and completely unashamed of itself, there's a definite strength to it. These people didn't give a shit if you thought they looked like assholes, they were happy.

Dennis Kucinich was finally introduced by a Priest who spoke at great length about the tragedy of Abortion, how Catholics had no voice in the Democratic party, how more people were slaughtered by abortion than by the last three wars combined. Then, ladies and gentlemen: Give it up for Mr. Dennis Kucinich, darling of the extreme left!

Kucinich has the liability of changing his pro-life position in the middle of his political career, standing up for Gay Marriage in the religious sense, and not merely the purely secular "civil unions". While all of this makes perfect sense to me, a great deal of the justification for these stands seems to get lost when you deliver them to a room full of Politically Mobilized Catholics.

The good news for Kucinich is that the Pro-Life contingent of the Catholic Church is not merely against abortion, but also against the Death Penalty and War. Abortion is not the entire issue of a "pro-life" ideology. The complexity may have helped Dennis Kucinich politically, but Dennis Kucinich does not seem interested in exploiting political handicaps. Instead, he basically stood on stage, delivered one of the best speeches I've ever heard from a politician on the issue of spirituality, and then proceeded to talk almost exclusively about abortion.

The Kucinich stand on abortion: The rights of a woman cannot be taken away. They are constitutionally protected, and to remove the right to a medical procedure is making women into second class citizens. Instead, Kucinich argued, we need to keep abortion open as a choice, but work on addressing the fundamental issues that lead to abortions in the first place. This, Kucinich argued (to a room full of Catholics) could only be achieved by the Vatican-friendly policies of early sex education and access to birth control.

The room was not entirely silent, but how many people clapping were Kucinich supporters vs Catholics is hard to really tell. When Former Boston Mayor and Ambassador to the Vatican, Ray Flynn, (a Democrat) stood up, he argued that he vehemently opposed Mr. Kucinich's position, and said that there ought to be at least one Democratic Candidate that could stand up and declare themselves pro-life. Flynn wrapped up his speech by declaring that "what is good for your Catholic Faith is good for America".

Then came the Q and A. "What you're saying is fundamentally opposed to the Dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church!" There was no question mark involved. Kucinich addressed this by saying that he didn't claim to represent the Catholic Church, but that he represented Catholic laity and that the issue of Abortion could not simply be addressed by who's in and who's out.

The next "question" was a man who stood up, rambled a bit about his support for the war, and then concluded by saying, "A woman may have the right to choose, but she must also submit to God's will." That God's will also happens to be that guy's will didn't seem to strike him as a little bit too convenient. I'm not a big fan of men standing up and declaring what women should submit to, but that's me. Next question: "When you're a mother like I am, you know when the baby starts kicking you that it's a for real life."

The Priest had to go to the podium and explain that Mr. Kucinich had already made his statements on abortion known, and so has the Catholic Church, and requested that we try to move on from the subject. Next question, please?

"Do you think you're a Catholic in good standing?" This woman claimed to sense hesitation in his support for abortion, and wondered if he had surrendered what he believed in his heart in order to succeed politically. Kucinich felt the issue was too divisive, that people needed to have the right to choose, but needed to find a way to reduce abortions without resorting to an outright ban. The woman responded that she couldn't vote for him or any Democratic candidate because she was a Catholic and followed the Catholic doctrine.

Kucinich started snapping back. He explained that he embraced the basic principles of human kindness, of workers, of the poor, that he was against the war and wanted to address issues of violence at all levels of our society, from spousal abuse onward. "If you're going to judge me based on my view of abortion, then you know what? You're not going to have a Democratic candidate for the nomination." The woman walked away, shaking her head.

When he was asked about birth control his feistiness seemed to linger. "We can talk about abstinence all we want, but we're also going to be talking about teen pregnancy." He said that people who advocated abstinence education at the behest of distributing birth control had their "heads in the sand." That went over real well.

I talked to a campaign worker and told them that this was the definition of trial by fire. She just stared at the line of questioners with her jaw wide open. I knew Kucinich's itinerary, and he had another event at 12:30. It was 12:30. Despite the line of Catholics going toward the microphone on a crusade for the unborn, Dennis had to leave. Some people shook his hand, thanking him for standing up for their rights. Other people ignored him and talked to Ray Flynn. That anyone was willing to approach him and shake his hand from that crowd was a feat.

Kucinich may be a candidate oblivious to political irony and detachment. He might be a guy who brings a chart to a radio debate to show to Howard Dean, and not understand why it's funny. But that also translates to his performance today. In a situation where you would expect weasel words to fly out of any politicians mouth, back pedalling and cheap accolades, Kucinich said it straight. Boiled down, "This is what I believe in, and I am going to explain why, and at the end of my speech maybe you'll change the views you've probably held for longer than some of my supporters have been alive."

While Dennis Kucinich has no operant understanding of irony, it may work for him. Certainly he's the last candidate to drive around in a white minivan. Certainly he's the only candidate that would send hippies with a flute and a digital sampler face first into a crowd of 50 year old Catholics to rap about his trade policies. He comes across as delusional about his own candidacy. But while he's oblivious to why these things don't make sense, his obliviousness is somewhat earned. What is cynicism doing to our idea of politics, and why should we give in to that? Why can't we get out of NAFTA and the WTO? Why can't we bring Dogmatic Catholics into the Democratic party based on the idea of tolerance?

Cynicism can be a good thing. Democracy works best when its citizens are cynical, and it is empty idealism, I think, that lends the Republican Spectacle so much support. Americans want to believe they are good without a shred of effort, good by virtue of being Americans. Bush may give America ample opportunity to be blessed by their victimhood on September 11th, but Dennis Kucinich is looking at liberation the hard way, the ridiculous way, the completely fucking unabashedly liberal way. If on the way to that goal he looks ridiculous to everyone except himself, maybe he knows he's right on a level that most of us can't even find.

Friday, January 23, 2004

On the Ground in Manchester 

Since I couldn't do it, I'll link to a great behind-the-scenes look at the debates. Dean could have used some of his offstage persona onstage, I think.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Experts Agree: Manchester Debate "Total Snoozer" 

Fox News showed an hour and a half of a two hour debate, then cut to analysis of its winners and losers. Note to Football fans: Don't let Fox News cover the Superbowl.

The Big News of the night- if you watch Fox, anyway- is that Michael Moore said something bad about George W Bush last week, and so wasn't Wesley Clark a traitor to his country? Moore called Bush a deserter at a Clark event, Clark "missed an opportunity" to "distance himself from extremists". But Michael Moore has already taken care of the charge, and if there was a "missed opportunity" for Clark it was to bring it out into the open.

Here's my impression of the pretty much non-substantive debate: Blah blah blah. Hey, John Edwards, Islam? John Edwards: What's that? Blah blah blah. Hey John Edwards, Marriage Protection Act? John Edwards: Poor people. Blah blah blah. Union Leader: John Kerry, how much of an asshole are you for protesting the Vietnam war? John Kerry: What? Are you on fucking crack? (Huge applause.) Blah blah blah. Hey, Joe Lieberman, why don't you attack some of these guys? Joe Lieberman: No, no. Blah blah. Hey, Joe Lieberman, come on! You sure you don't want to? Lieberman: Nice try, but no. Blah blah blah. Hey, Howard Dean, why don't you insult some people? Howard Dean: Uhhh, No.

John Kerry wins. Dean stands his ground but no home runs. Losers: Clark, who failed to distinguish himself, and Edwards, who didn't live up to expectations. Go read it.

Also, what's up with these ads right after the debate that are all "PETA wants to kill your children?" It's literally what they're like. There's pictures of kids in the hospital, and then there's a narrator talking about how PETA wants to take animals out of medical research. Implying that the children will die if you love animals. Or another one that's like, "I teach my kids to love animals, but PETA gives money to convicted arsonists so they can teach people to build bombs."

There's Two Primaries 

Primary Day in New Hampshire is not just for Democrats. January 27th brings us the first Republican primary in the nation, and New Hampshire voters will have a choice on the ballot. So, here's a round up of the New Hampshire opposition to President Rove (limited to those who have websites):

Blake Ashby. Blake is a long time Republican who is against Bush based on fiscal policy. "The President likes to talk about his tax cuts. My Republican Party knows the difference between a tax cut and a tax deferral [...] It's ironic, but this President, our President Bush, will go down in history as the Republican President that most increased the tax burden on U.S. citizens." He also speaks out about the Neo-Conservative agenda Bush is following: "...because of the Neo Conservative's insistence on invading Iraq, we have significantly undermined our efforts against our real enemy, al Qaeda, which has allowed al Qaeda to lick its wounds and regenerate itself. Time and again, this Administration has failed our country, recklessly gambling with our security and losing."

Richard P. Bosa. It appears his campaigns most pressing issue is why the media isn't paying attention to him (he quotes one news editor as saying, "WE ARE TIRED OF DICK BOSA. HE HAS WORN US OUT. WE'VE BEEN DEALING WITH DICK FOR 20 YEARS AND WE WERE GLAD WHEN HE MOVED TO BERLIN, AND SAD WHEN HE MOVED BACK." The caps are his, I assume.) His economic strategy is a return to a manufacturing economy, including the use of co-op systems for factory workers.

John Buchanan. John Buchanan is another president with a blog. He's running for President as "The 9/11 Truth Candidate", "some may thus dismiss me as a single-issue candidate and in a narrow sense that is true. But if you consider that 9/11 has led us into fiscal ruin, endless war and constitutional twilight, my issue is the mother issue of our age." His Speech is an interesting read.

Michael Callis. "The United Nations made a mistake in creating the Jewish state of Israel, Israel should have been designated a country not a religious state. The U.N. should take the initiative to correct this critical roadblock to peace, blocking the whole Middle East." He also wants you to know he's a history buff: "I have a passion for New Hampshire history, the Republican party was started in Exeter NH in 1853."

Bob Haines. An interview on his website sums up his whole candidacy:

Q: Can you win?
HAINES: Of course. If I didn't believe I could win why would I be out here doing it. It's a tremendous sacrifice.

Q: But given the fact that 99.9 percent of Americans have probably not heard of you--?
HAINES: That's not true. I campaigned in 36 states.

Q: Maybe 90 percent of Americans haven't heard of you.
HAINES: That's not true. I'm the man who captured the person who tried to assassinate President Clinton in front of the White House in 1994.

That'll make him real popular with Republicans!

Millie Howard. "1992 and Beyond", indeed. Her campaign starts when 75 million americans send her a dollar. "When $75,000,000 is collected, no matter how short or long a time it may be I shall quit my job, hire a campaign manager and hit the road." I like her idea of the "$10,000 birth right stipend", which grants every American $10,000 at birth, but eradicates all social programs (and therefore all income taxes).

Billy Jack. Oh lord, just go look at that website. I don't know what's better- the picture of him, the slogan "I just go berserk!" or the section with testimonials from Republican leaders with no attribution.


Billy Wyatt. Billy Wyatt seems more like a gonzo journalist trying to figure out how the Presidential process works, and his website is pretty much an investigation and watchdogging of the state of political competition in the Republican primary. It's actually an interesting read.

That Republicans haven't been able to see these people debate with George W Bush is unfortunate. At the very least, Presidential Candidates, including incumbents, would benefit from simply being forced to endure a debate with these people.

In a choice between a waste of the President's time and an arbitrary selection process, I'd go for wasting our Presidents 90 minutes in a heartbeat. What the hell is a nomination race if there's no debate or discourse in the nomination process? Is it party level damage control? Why not a system that embraces some threshold for a debate, not at the level of popular support by volume, but support by percentage? A world where the candidate with .5% support among registered party voters battles it out with the .375% guy for the last remaining seat in a debate would be brilliant, and probably a hell of a lot of fun. At least one state should make this mandatory for the nomination process, and for good measure, it ought to be the most politically irrelevant state in the union.

Off The Ground Today 

Given that there's a televised debate in Manchester that I have no chance of getting into, I'm staying in with a pizza to watch it on WMUR, then catching the Howard Dean interview with Diane Sawyer and a rumored Letterman appearance afterwards. There'll be more on the ground blogging over the weekend.

Edwards: VFW Hall, Portsmouth NH 

Since Iowa there has been a lot of talk of an elusive but charming snake named momentum. The candidates want their mo', and when they get that mo' they want to hold on. Sometimes the mo' gets you envy, sometimes it turns around and bites you. When you lose momentum, you're a naked emperor, when you get it, you're a coroneted prince. But none of this exactly describes just what the fuck the beast looks like, what it wants, and what it is that guides the hand of the only ones who control the momentum: the fickle, emotionally fixated puppetmaster named "voters."

There's a rising sentiment among them toward John Kerry, it seems. But you wouldn't guess that from the litter of the Portsmouth landscape. Down by the old church, a three way intersection of Clark, Dean and Edwards supporters at each turn made a honking primary problematic. Up the road, there was a Dean/Edwards intersection. Kerry supporters were nowhere to be found, outside of two signs at a small intersection island on your way to Market Street, the main strip of the city. Edwards signs were out in force, taking up the same position once graced by Joe Lieberman signs.

Dean signs hang all over the windows of small businesses here. The Local Dean HQ seems to have moved to a bigger space, and now has a "Volunteer HQ" as well. Kerry supporters had been in the same building as the Dean HQ- the same hallway, in fact, one door over, on top of a health food store. They shared a bathroom. I remember a note from the management of the building declaring that the toilet was not to be used to disseminate campaign literature.

Wesley Clark had been at the same VFW hall earlier, and I am told that they had 150 in attendance. John Edwards, by comparison, had an overflow. True to his stump speech, he had to hold two town hall meetings- one for the people upstairs (pause, extend other hand) and one for the people downstairs. I was in the room with a candidate graced by momentum.

It was the most mixed crowd I've seen at any event, which implies a broad interest, which is very different from a broad support. The people I talked to said they have liked Edwards for a while, but were only supporting other candidates because they thought Edwards was a long shot. Voila! Phase two of "Momentum!"

Momentum Phase One is a boost to your perceived chances in a general election. Dean's momentum started with the moveon primary. That led to an increase in donations, which led to a greater increase of donations, which then led to the announcement of those donations. Which kept on growing, and then came the magazine covers, followed by the endorsements. It has never really struck me in quite this way, but the entire essence of any campaign seems to be the controlled expansion of "momentum". Too much mo in one place is no good: it's bound to make you bloated, and you have to know when to shift gears based on where you are in your momentum timeline. But at the heart of all of this, particularly in this election year, is simply the voter perception of electability. If the voters see you keeping up your momentum, they believe in your inevitability and they believe your momentum will continue to expand. If there is an echo chamber of negativity, it reverberates across voters and as doubts rise polls drop. Dean rose too high to stumble, but he did- I blame Deans showing in the Iowa Debate, coming at the end of a long assault by the Democratic / negative press echo chamber. The momentum leapt to Kerry, and momentum went to Edwards.

Tonight, I saw voters for Dean made nervous by his poor showing in Iowa look at Edwards, who was "Likeable but never really a serious contender." Gephardt people are coming to Edwards to see what he's about "now that he has a chance." It seems to be happening to Kerry, too- but Kerry is a politician who knows how to steer his momentum. I've read that he has signs (somewhere) that say "Doubting Dean? Vote Kerry." Tonight, I met the first Kerry and Edwards supporters of the whole campaign season, and both sides have only come over since Iowa (and not by way of Dick Gephardt).

John Edwards walks into the room; shakes hands, kisses a woman on the cheek. The press is there, pretty hardcore. Judy Woodruff was in the back, a woman with a CNN bag kept trying to get in front of my seat to take still pictures. He's handsome in person, too, not merely a telegenic specter like Wes Clark. His stump speech has the same weaknesses, though: comment, applause, comment, applause. Nothing was very in depth. "I'm for clean water" he writes in his booklet. It's hard to call that a genuine applause line, but that's basically the formula he used. "We've got to put an end to this war profiteering." (Applause.)

His message stayed away from contentious issues. He didn't mention Civil Unions at all. He talked about racism to an all white audience, but he didn't have a very nuanced argument, and also attacked a phantom Democrat: "Some candidates are talking, you hear them talk about a time and a place to talk about racism, well, I don't believe that. I think we've got to talk about racism everywhere." I'm not sure I really know which Democratic candidate has ever suggested that candidates should limit who they talk to about racism.

Wes Clark avoided racism altogether when I saw him, but has spoken loudly about civil unions and stood up for civil rights in his military career. Dean had one of the most interesting arguments- maybe because I come from a primarily white state, like he does- where he argued that there are biases built in to who we are, to favor people we think of as ourselves, and he used an example of a woman hiring all women in his office "until I was in the middle of a matriarchy." He used that example to launch into a nuanced defense of affirmative action, about how it is not about "handouts" and division but about correcting the natural bias inherent in people. Yes, Edwards said the word "racism" to the crowd tonight, but I failed to see how he would address it, outside of assuring it's widespread condemnation.

But you don't have to be smart to beat the Republican Spectacle, all you've got to be is a good politician. Intelligence is probably a liability. The final summation on Edwards is that he seems sincere and genuine, but not particularly nuanced. It would be hard to call him smart, easier to call him earnest- a heart in the right place, so to speak, and that might be all he needs, if: a) he's the candidate in the right place on the mo-continuum, and b) He knows how to ride it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Clark: Palace Theater, Manchester, NH  


The Clark campaign hit Gold with the idea: Invite Clark supporters to a theater, show them a documentary on Wes Clark, let Wes do a live interview from the theater and put it on stage, then let Clark speak about the State of the Union. Watch the State of the Union together, and then listen to Clark's gut reaction to it immediately afterward.

Arriving at the Palace Theater, the first thing that struck me is that no one was smiling. The campaign staff wasn't smiling as I checked in. The people arriving after me, waiting in line, weren't smiling. They were polite, they were talkative, but they were dour. I was a member of the "Draft Clark" movement, so I was able to leverage that for front row seats. The people were talking about politics. Dean was a literal laughing stock.

When the screen went down to show the live interview between Clark and Paula Zahn, (yes, we saw the General on Television before we saw him, even though he was in the same building) they showed a brief clip of Dean in Iowa, and the entire audience was laughing. It is, sadly to say, understandable. It may go down in the yearbook for 2004 that losing Iowa was the moment Dean not only lost momentum, but effectively jumped the shark. While I am loathe to admit this, it was a moment where Dean the movement turned into Dean, the parody of a candidate that spawned the movement. Dean got the grassroots support he had before he ever decided to be the embodiment of that movement, and I wish he would stop acting like the movement is who he has to be. I don't know how else to explain it, but lately he's started acting like you'd expect a "grassroots insurgent" to act, instead of acting the way that got him the movement in the first place. That said, NH radio footage has been surprisingly positive for Dean, and his tactics are apparently going to be "more substance and less red meat." Let Dean be Dean, I think.

Clark's campaign manager got on stage with a podium that was about to keel over, and all I could see was a white version of Big Pun. The guy had a suit with the bling turned to 11 speaking with the intensity of Dick Cheney on sedatives. "Let's not understate what this election means," he said, and then proceeded to understate what the election means. The men at the end of the stage were all decked out as well, and watching men in expensive suits talk about the middle class was a hair short of inspiring. It made me miss the Dean campaign, where people dressed like, you know, people.

The documentary was brilliant. Clark is a legitimate war hero, he's a brilliant man. He knows he is telegenic, and if he is running this campaign like a war, he is winning on the propaganda front. Pixelization is very kind to Wesley Clark. His commercials, and this documentary, are brilliant at presenting a candidate that didn't seem to come through in person. On television he has poetry in his eyes. It may sound flaky, but whenever I see him on television his eyes are a mixture of brilliance and sadness that says he could be a President on par with Lincoln. When he finally arrived on stage, in human form, he had a different look to him. His eyes aren't as intense. He was fit, but the energy seemed forced; when he spoke he read from a paper and it hurt him. When he came off the speech and talked about issues that affected him, he had something back. But the overwhelming sense I got from him tonight was inauthenticity. Whoever Wes Clark was, he has been transformed into a politician by the same rich white men that turned Al Gore into a centrist plank of wood.

Clark's comments almost entirely consisted of applause points, but I never actually felt like I wanted to clap. I think the longer you go between clapping, the more substance there is to the speech, and this was seriously a non stop clapathon. I mostly only clapped because someone in the back row was clapping. Whenever I did feel like clapping- twice- he got a standing ovation from everyone else. His points were good enough- he's probably the most intellectually gifted candidate in the race- but this event felt like pageantry and spectacle. It was also, by contrast to Dean, all about Wesley Clark, while Dean is all about the movement. I think Joe Trippi would rather die than show a documentary on Dean's life at a Dean rally. The stage was perfect political stagecraft. A Muslim woman in a headdress and a Muslim man in a long beard, veterans in full veteran garb, etc. Even my amateur photographs made Clark look presidential, just look at them. They're dramatic and noble looking. But after three years of George W Bush, I am absolutely sick of the spectacle and pageantry of politics.

2. State of the Union Meets Rocky Horror

The State of the Union was abysmal, and what else did we expect? Watching it in a room of Democrats was a huge relief, I think. It was like a CSPAN version of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Whenever Bush said "nucular" we all yelled "nuclear!" When he spoke about his education plan, the crowd was in hysterics: "All skills begin with the basics of reading and math, which are supposed to be learned in the early grades of our schools. Yet for too long, for too many children, those skills were never mastered." We can assume Bush knows this from personal experience. There was a GOP mole in the crowd who stood up and clapped every once in a while, but no one paid him any mind, which is good, because he looked like he was itching for some mind to be paid to him.

Clark's remarks were pre-scripted, I am pretty sure, but at least they were memorized. He seemed a lot more natural for the second half of the event. He called the President's smirk divisive, that everything he did was divisive. "That's who he is, that's what he does." The questions went on pretty much as you would expect: Mercury in fish, why didn't Bush talk about the environment, etc.

I felt like a guy who cheated on his wife, and the affair reminded him of how much he loved her? There's those pins in Iowa, "Flirted with Dean, married Kerry?" Well it's kind of like that. I still intend to go into every campaign with an open mind, but Clark just couldn't deliver in bed.

3. Clark's Knighthood, The IMF, and You

A kid in the back stood up and started yelling that he had a question. A girl a few rows behind him yelled "We have a song for you! Call on us, we're young people and we want to speak!" But Clark didn't call on them. So another audience member began to sing a spiritual. He kept going, even when the expensive suits pounced on him, and he refused to leave. Clark tried to turn our attention to his wife, and she said, nobly, to let the boy speak. So Clark did.

The boy was handed a microphone, and he moved his hands around so no one could hear him anyway. He rambled something involving "Dick Cheney" and "IMF", mentioned that Wesley Clark had been Knighted by the Queen, and then finally it all made sense. People were yelling at him, shushing him, and the girl yelled "Why are you shushing him? This is about your freedom! General, why won't you let Lyndon LaRouche debate? Why don't you support the voice of the people? Why won't you stand up for freedom?" The third boy started singing again while the boy with the microphone finally presented a question about closing down the world bank. The men in suits counterintuitively roared with applause. Clark gave an answer about Reagan and how Reagan invented trickle down economics to justify tax cuts for the rich. It was a moment of absolute discord in a very glossy campaign event organized by rich white men. Clark wrapped up quickly; I shook his hand, then headed over to talk to the boy who asked the LaRouche question.

The boy was telling me that LaRouche was the only one standing up to Dick Cheney. I didn't understand that, I argued that everyone who isn't a Republican understands that Cheney is bad news. But they said that the Democrats lacked courage, and that "this" was all bullshit (meaning the Clark event) because no one was addressing Dick Cheney or the IMF. They kept using that. I'd bring up Kucinich, they'd say he was a coward. Howard Dean, coward. LaRouchians, it seems, believe that the British Monarchy is secretly in control of the world bank, which finances the Jewish World Order, which owns both the DNC and the GOP. That's why Clark was Knighted.

We were asked to go outside because Clark was doing a live interview. When I got into the hall, I asked the boy about how LaRouche organized people, and he began talking to me about the network of city states that Aristotle developed. From my polling sample, LaRouchians either have a frenzied sadness in their eyes or alcohol on their breath. I was handed a glossy magazine entitled, I swear to God, "Children of Satan 2: The Beast Men." It had a picture of Dick Cheney on it. When I told the guy that independent media was a better way of getting their message out than disrupting other campaign's events, the last guy talking to me was outraged, so outraged he was stuttering, and then finally walked off in mid sentence. They were outside, singing negro spirituals, and I got profoundly depressed.

I talked to one of the Clark volunteers, he said he knew every single one of the people here for LaRouche, that he expected them and knew there would be trouble from the minute they showed up.

The police came and asked them to leave. On the way back to my car, I came across them and asked if they were threatened. "The police aren't our enemy," one of them said, "Dick Cheney is."

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Lieberman and the Union Leader vs the New Hampshire Gazette 

Joe Lieberman was bragging last night, in the midst of the Iowa ruckus, about the endorsement of the Manchester Union Leader. The "Union" "Leader" has an incredibly deceptive nomenclature that belies a staggeringly blatant right wing orthodoxy in its editorials. This includes enormous favorable coverage of Pat Buchanan when he was running on his infamous "Kill Everyone" platform, and it was a huge factor in deciding his unlikely and embarrassing win in New Hampshire. So much so that the Buchanan campaign sent out a memo:

"Dear Brigade, (here's) another GREAT column from AMERICA's NEWSPAPER - the Union Leader!!!!!! GO PAT GO!!!!!!!!..." They still lovingly publish every piece of paper Buchanan spills ink on.

Here's another anecdote about the paper:

I grew up in New Hampshire, and over the years learned what a ridiculous newspaper the Union Leader is. For example, the late publisher, William Loeb, editorialized in the 1970s that the miniseries "Roots" was part of a communist conspiracy. Similarly, the civil rights movement was also apparently directed from the Kremlin, according to a 1964 editorial. Jim Carville tells this story in the film "The War Room:" They were on the campaign bus in New Hampshire and were driving past a mud puddle with two big hogs wallowing in it. Someone threw a copy of the Union Leader out the window into the mud, and the hogs got up and left.

Seriously, you know the newspaper that has pictures of Space Aliens with Bill Clinton? Imagine if it was published by Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp, and you have a pretty close estimation of what the Union Leader is. So, congratulations to Joe Lieberman.

There's another paper that is much more newsworthy, a sort of anti-Union Leader- a Liberal Libertarian, fiscally conservative, liberty-embracing, hardcore transparent Democracy demanding newspaper run by former Veterans. It's called the New Hampshire Gazette, and it's the oldest newspaper in the country. This weeks front page has this paragraph, written by a guy who used to work for Nixon:

"George HW Bush was the first CIA director to come from the oil industry. He went on and became the first vice president - and then the first president- to have either an oil or a CIA background. This helps explain his persistent bent towards the Middle East [...] In each of the government agencies he held, he encouraged CIA involvement in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern countries, and he pursued policies that helped make the Middle East into the world's primary destination for arms shipments."

This newspaper is free, a ten dollar subscription for out of towners, and it's everywhere you go to eat or drink in Portsmouth and several surrounding cities. You may enjoy its online Chickenhawk Database, a collection of politicians, media folk and others who are "enthusiastic about war, provided someone else fights it; particularly when that enthusiasm is undimmed by personal experience with war; most emphatically when that lack of experience came in spite of ample opportunity in that person’s youth."

Dean: Portsmouth NH, 2AM 


Two in the morning is not the ideal time to drive to a rally for your candidate that's just been trounced in a state he owned a week prior. The drive is cold and dark. The streetlights get lost in visions of John Kerry getting sworn in at the Fleet Center. I blow a light thinking about John Edwards' Two Americas. Bob Dole's admonitions to Wesley Clark ring in my head: I imagine his line is delivered directly to me: "Someone's going to lose in New Hampshire, and I think it's going to be you."

Pease Tradeport is an old Air Force Base. It's still home to Air Force One whenever the Spectacle descends to show his Dad what new country he got that week. The place is designed to deter a ground invasion of any kind, and tonight that included the army of Deaniacs that invaded at 2AM. I got turned away by an official Pease pickup truck with giant Dean signs in the back. I followed the fucking media like any typical American voter and got stuck driving in circles behind a giant satellite dish. There was a convoy of 7 cars or so, driving in circles, hitting dead ends, turning around and guessing which direction to go. But finally, we arrive at our destination, and a guy calling himself Bazooka Joe is shredding his axe to a rock and roll cover of "Play That Funky Music White Boy."

I'll tell you what I expected on the drive over: 38 people, which was the estimate on the website. I figured we'd be outside waving at a plane. I imagined Dean would come out, offer us all coffee and have a good long heart to heart with all 38 of us about what's next, about what he should do differently. Maybe Joe Trippi would take notes on some of my ideas. But it wasn't that. By 2AM, we had what had to be at least 650 to 750 people in a packed air port hangar, screaming their lungs out for Bazooka Joe. Bazooka Dean wasn't arriving for another hour and a half.

It was a lot of kids, girls and boys, a lot of college kids, some kids that had to be in high school. Older women were in short supply. But there were old guys. Old guys who really, really dug Bazooka Joe. Bazooka Joe was playing "Sweet Home Alabama" and I have to say, it felt pretty damned optimistic to play it at a Dean rally.

Two things happened when Dean arrived. First: the media. Deaniacs were screaming like nobody's dirty business. Candy Crowley of CNN looked genuinely astonished. Her jaw literally dropped. Whether it was surprise or sheer outrage at being forced to endure a rally at 2AM, I don't know. Second was Joe Trippi, Dean's campaign manager. Joe Trippi looked like he was in the grasp of some atrocious flu. His eyes were surrounded by blue circles, his hair looked unkept, he looked like he hadn't slept, showered, or eaten for days. But when I went up to him, I told him I just wanted to shake his hand. It wasn't the pow wow I'd expected, the exchange of strategies that would energize Dean's meteoric rise to the White House and assure me a job in the West Wing. But he was gracious, he was smiling, he was happy, and he had a grip.

When Dean finally came out, he looked like a man who had been hit head on by the full fucking hell that Presidential politics must be. He had that same wretched disease look that Trippi had, a political junky in the throngs of withdrawal who just saw his fix go down an Iowa toilet. But Dean did it. He smiled genuinely. He spoke sincerely, he stayed optimistic, he made jokes that he had made a thousand times before but he still sounded fresh. He caught the one moderate Republican in the crowd raise his hand when he mentioned that moderate Republicans were coming into the campaign. He was on it. He was exhausted, beaten, jet lagged, on the evening of either losing everything or getting a fresh start, and he was still on it.

The crowd was excited. But looking at people, you wonder if they understand this campaign, and if the campaign can work if not everyone understands its structure. The structure goes like this: You have the internet, and you have your meetups. These are broadcast points where people come and get the fever. The idea is- and this idea is the centerpiece of Trippi's strategy- that those people with the fever pass it on. They spread the meme, the disease, the idea. They're supposed to pass it on with a vengeance. It is not enough, in Trippi's strategy, for a voter to vote for Dean. A voter is supposed to spread the virus. But do they? Is the enthusiasm contagious? In the crowd, there were clusters, and there were people standing alone, and the groups didn't interact. This is typical behavior, of course, but we're looking at the core target of Dean's strategy- "the infected," infected enough to show up at 2AM an airport hangar and listen to Bazooka Joe kick the wheedle for an hour and a half as the sun went down on a shocking loss. But they aren't talking to each other. In Tipping Point terms, this was a crowd of Mavens without connectors. The infected are not infecting others. Grassroots can't work unless the grass is set on fire, and spreads both wide and with equal intensity. The notion of the ripple effect has failed in Iowa. Because while Dean's voters were grassroots, they didn't set their neighbors lawns on fire. Television did.

Dean finished his speech and evaporated into the crowd and out of the hangar. Joan Jett came on stage at about 3:45AM and played a few songs, including "Crimson and Clover," and I caught Zephyr Teachout dancing like Charlie Brown with the aforementioned moderate republican convert. You know the campaign gets it, the campaign knows that Howard Dean becomes president when Howard Dean supporters mingle. But mingle as they may, Deaniacs just might not be any good at it. My neighbor may help put down some rumors about Howard Dean that I heard on CNN, my buddy may talk for a while about the campaign. Maybe the campaign has changed his life, maybe the campaign is the first time he's interested in politics, who knows. But it is a special thing, a special skill, to be able to pass on enthusiasm. That is the job of politicians, of salesmen, of Priests and advertising executives. A plumber in Des Moines, a cop in New York, a Carpenter in San Diego, these people might not have the skill to persuade, much less politically inspire.

In the end, maybe we all just watch TV, and go out and vote for the TV candidate. John Kerry and John Edwards were TV Candidates in Iowa. You can add Clark on as a TV Candidate in New Hampshire. Kucinich and Edwards are also radio candidates, and NH picks up three NPR Affiliates. Dean is an internet president, an animal we've never seen before and can't predict.

So is the Dean campaign toast? I don't know. Maybe Iowans talk to each other less than New Hampsherites. Maybe we're ruder out here, maybe we want it more, maybe we get what it means. But the ultimate question for Dean is: do we mingle?

Monday, January 19, 2004

On the Caucus 

A comment from Charles, an Iowa Caucus Voter, over at Atrios:

Having just returned from the caucus, let me remind you outsiders of a plain and simple fact: nobody WINS Iowa. The Iowa Caucus is not a majority vote winner takes all, the delegates are apportioned. You may win the most delegates but that doesn't mean you won "the state." Dean won delegates, Kerry won delegates, and Edwards won delegates. It is impossible to win Iowa, it is only possible to lose Iowa. Gephardt and Lieberman polled less than 15% so they get nothing. So, the winners are Dean, Kerry, and Edwards, the losers are Kucinich, Gephardt, Clark, and Sharpton.

The really interesting part of the my local caucus is how Kerry tried to shift some of their voters to Edwards to screw Dean out of 1 delegate. Instead, it backfired and Kerry lost one of his own delegates.

It's a good point. Watching Dubuque 20 you got the same sense. No one votes in Iowa, they negotiate for delegates. You show up to support Dean, and someone else drags you over to help get a delegate. If Dean has enough people, you can leave and help another candidate get some delegates.

Holy Fucking Shit.  

Dick Gephardt has dropped out. That's bigger news than Kerry's Iowa win. You might as well have told me that George W Bush is using his state of the union address to resign and hand the nation to Al Sharpton and Noami Klein tomorrow. I cannot provide intelligent commentary right now, all I can say is: Holy shit.

All of 2003's nomination politics are meaningless from now on. Who would have guessed that Dick Gephardt would drop out before Dennis fucking Kucinich? Dean third in Iowa, crushed by John Edwards? John fucking Edwards? Holy fucking shit. Kerry is a viable candidate now? What. The. Fuck.

Dean still has strong numbers nationwide, but Gephardt's resignation could send votes scattering, especially if he endorses Kerry. How much of this is because of the peculiarities of a caucus and how much will carry over to a general election? What will Clark do to Kerry and Edwards? I don't know. Why would I pretend to know anything any more? What's gravity? What's this thing I am writing on? Will Dean get new energy from this? Maybe he'll get some more fire under his ass and start talking again?

What the fuck?

Scissors beats Rock 

And Mo beats Org.

Dubuque, Iowa via CSPAN 

Watching the CSPAN coverage of the caucus in Dubuque Precinct 20, Kucinich supporters are coming off as completely uneducated and unrealistic voters. Particularly this one scruffy kid who is completely confrontational about leaving to help any other campaign, even though Kucinich was already rendered below 15% and had to disband or recruit. So he's trying to recruit people from other delegates, who keep pronouncing it "Koo-soo-nitch". "We don't give up! We're gonna win because I'm not giving up!" he says. "You're gonna trust John Edwards?" After the delegates were counted, he was still looking to convert Gephardt over to Kucinich, and when they told him the vote counting was done, he said, "Who says the votes are done? The American People?" Jesus.

Interestingly enough, it seems that the desire for an "outsider" is translating to Edwards, who, outside of Clark, is the most outsider candidate, despite Dean's assertion to the contrary. I suspect this means that Clark and Edwards should do pretty well.

Last Minute Prediction 

Iowa Caucus Prediction: Dean wins.

I have come up with at least 20 theories on how to predict the winner, so when they say "There's no way to predict it", well, god damn, thinking about it, I know what they mean. Dean wins, I am sure, and Edwards will do surprisingly well. I almost want to say he'd be second, but I can't underestimate Gephardt's organization or Kerry's surge. So, this isn't what I am predicting, but this is what I am hoping for:

1. Dean
2. Edwards
3. Gephardt
4. Kerry

Don't hold this as a prediction of anything except for how happy I will be when the results are finally in.

Maybe Not The Best Idea 

Howard Dean told the news media today to “get a new life.”

From Joe Trippi: "The Iowa Commission on the Status of African Americans today sponsored a memorial to honor the late Martin Luther King Jr. at the State Historical Building. Governor Dean attempted to attend the memorial to pay his respects to the late civil rights leader. Unfortunately, Governor Dean was met by a crush of reporters who were so disruptive that, out of respect for those attending, the Governor spoke to representatives of sponsoring organizations and explained that he felt it was best to leave rather than allow the media to disrupt their event."

Kucinich Endorses Edwards, Sort Of, "Just for Tonight." 

Briefly, how a caucus works: "A candidate's group must have at least 15 percent of the people in attendance for the candidate to be considered "viable." Supporters of candidates who are not considered viable must join another group." It appears that Dennis Kucinich is urging his backers to vote for Edwards if it appears that Kucinich's votes won't make 15% in attendance. The NRO, for once, have a pretty on point analysis that I find myself agreeing with:

Since he has no chance, he can only be hoping to get through with a pure message in hopes of pulling the party left. But at this point, with Dean in trouble, doesn’t Kucinich realize that his own candidacy is draining votes from the best hope the anti-war left has of gaining a reasonably sympathetic nominee? True, Dean is a moderate in many respects compared to a purest like Kucinich. But since Kucinich doesn’t have a prayer, and Dean is clearly the most left-leaning of the serious candidates, it is madness at this point for leftists not to support Dean.

Now, it makes sense for Edwards to back up this deal, because Edwards really has nothing to lose. But for Kucinich, it really does seem like he's trying to pull a Ralph Nader.

Comment On The GOP Blog 

Gillespies Blog, the official Blog of the GOP, has a post on Clark's "flip flops" on Iraq, which I responded to. But the comment process involves "review" of the comments made, so we'll see if the GOP will post my lunatic rantings, which I have pasted below as well. Keep in mind I have certainly "moved center" on this issue for the sake of the GOP's approval process:

Clark seems to have a nuanced range of emotions towards the war, as many of us did and continue to. Saddam Hussein is gone, and that is a triumph over dictatorship and oppression. But there are certainly questions to be asked about our initial justifications, why we were told about WMD's, why we were told that we knew where they were, why lawmakers were told that Saddam had missiles that could hit the East Coast. Why we were told that Saddam had ties to Al Qaida, and why so many people believe that Iraqis were responsible for 9/11. None of this makes sense now. If the war wasn't about terrorism- and new reports showed Saddam tried to dissuade his fighters from teaming up with al Qaida- then what was it about? If it was about the liberation of the Iraqi people, pure and simple, then why weren't we, and the UN, told that in the first place? I don't think "Bush Lied" but he certainly did not go about engaging in international diplomacy with very good results.

I just happen to think that because Clark supports some elements of the war, and not others, that it doesn't necessarily mean he was "pro-war" or "anti war." There's a range of issues related to the war and a range of positions you could take on them. Sometimes, results we deem good come of bad things, just as bad things can come from good things. In this case, the liberation of Iraqis has come at the expense of 500 soldiers lives, with countless injured and an unknowable number of dead Iraqi civilians. It is costing this country, at a time of enormous fiscal pressure, billions of dollars. Because we chose to go it alone, we have alienated the US from the UN, who we are now seeking out to help us in rebuilding the country after we essentially said it has outlived its usefulness. We were wrong to go it alone.

Some good has come of this war, and much worse has come since. Wesley Clark seems to understand this. I don't understand why there is such a constant positive outlook on Iraq from Bush, when there are clearly problems in the area. I feel that Bush is not being as straight forward as he could be on this issue, and that is a weakness that Wesley Clark can easily exploit in a general election.

So, we'll see if Gillespie lets that one get through, and what happens to me if he does. I'll say, by the way, that I don't know if the ousting of Saddam Hussein has "ended oppression" in Iraq, it's only relieved a very drastic form of it and replaced it with a subtler one. It's a typical Bush tactic: Lose 2.7 million jobs, and then when you generate 1,000 you can say the recovery is on an upswing. Remove a dictator who used torture and murder and replace it with a government that has no direct connection to ordinary citizens and essentially works as a corporate playground for American Interests, and then call that "freedom".

The State of Iowa vs The State of the Union 

A republican insider who "did not want to be named for fear of angering White House officials who insist that there is no political element to Mr. Bush's address" has told the NYTimes that the proximity of the State of the Union address (tomorrow) and the results of the Iowa Caucus (today) is no coincidence, even though the White House insists it is.

It's not a huge atrocity, frankly, I think it's nothing worse than good political strategy being employed by the side I want to lose, but saying that a major speech outlining his 2004 campaigning points is only "coincidentally" breaking up a post-caucus news cycle is just another example of the ridiculous shit this administration expects us to believe.

Clark vs War 

Having placed all my psychic resources into defending Howard Dean from the media, I have overlooked, sadly, some of the media assault on Wesley Clark. This post does something I should have done myself, which is to break down the idea that Clark was Pro-War (which doesn't jive with his stance now, or even a lot of what I liked about him as a commentator on CNN.)

The idea is that Clark was "against" the war, just not as rabid about it as some people would like. This can be weighed on its own merits. Do you want a president who is completely against the Iraq Invasion and is unwilling to suffer compromises on the issue, because he believes its perpetrators are entirely corrupt? Then vote Dean or Kucinich. Do you want someone who still assumes that the Bush administration is rational but error-prone and too misguided to run the country? Then maybe look at Clark. (This may also explain why Dean is "bloggable" and Clark isn't: Dean represents the binary position of "no war", Clark is more ambiguous.)

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Dean vs O'Reilly 

Cablenewser gets a scoop straight off of CSPAN.

Triumph of Industry: Coca Cola 

A New Cola War is underway: Coca Cola may be on the receiving end of one of the largest world wide boycotts it has ever faced.

By way of explanation, here's a description of just one plant in India is doing:

"Two tube wells draw hundreds of thousands of liters of ground water each day. Geologists have estimated that the company's voracious consumption may have lowered the groundwater level as much as 40 feet. The area's water crisis was further aggravated by the World Bank-funded Golden Quadrangle superhighway project, which shut off the water pipeline from a neighboring area. The Coke plant's proximity to the holy city of Benares has created further controversy. The factory's waste product was being disposed in a nearby canal that emptied into the holy Ganges River."

"Local Indians were enraged when they discovered that polluted waste was being dumped into the Ganges. Until recently, there was no clear way to test for Coke-related pollution in the vast Ganges. But in order to make way for the superhighway, construction workers dislodged Coke's waste disposal canal. The company then began disposing its waste products into neighboring fields and mango groves."

I'm not sure why the documentation of these sorts of abuses bothers people with no connection to corporate power- when people decry the listing of abuses and greed of corporations at a protest, who are the people booing or calling them ungrateful, and why? Part of it, I suppose, could be because we're perceived to be powerless over international corporate power. It's not like Americans can pass a bill regulating environmental policy for American corporations in India. But we have a dollar vote- everything you spend money on is a vote for how you want the world to be. It's a more direct form of democracy than electoral politics, because you either keep your money or give it away. I have to wonder if anyone can capture the rediscovered sentiment that "every vote counts" that came out of the 2000 election, and translate it to the "dollar vote" concept.

Katherine Gun 

I could care less what "stars" are thinking, but I am glad it is bringing some stateside attention to the plight of Ms. Katherine Gun, who blew the whistle on the US Government's spying on undecided nations in the UN prior to the Iraq War Resolution.

The Baltimore Sun sums it up: "[She] exposed a highly secret memorandum by a top U.S. National Security Agency official. Dated Jan. 31, the memo outlined surveillance of a half-dozen delegations with swing votes on the U.N. Security Council, noting a focus on "the whole gamut of information that could give U.S. policy-makers an edge in obtaining results favorable to U.S. goals" - support for war on Iraq.

The NSA memo said that the agency had started a "surge" of spying on diplomats at the United Nations in New York, including wiretaps of home and office telephones along with reading of e-mails. The targets were delegations from six countries considered to be pivotal - Mexico, Chile, Angola, Cameroon, Guinea and Pakistan - for the war resolution being promoted by the United States and Britain.

Cold Calling For Democracy 

Working on a campaign really gives a crystal clear understanding of what the state of politics is in this country.

On September 5th, 2003, I'd done two days of calling democrats and unregistered voters for the Dean Campaign in New Hampshire, calling essentially random people and talking to them about their ideas for this country and thoughts on the political process. I mean it's one thing to sit around and say, "America needs ______" or "America wants _______" but it's another thing altogether to actually interrupt America while it's eating dinner, and ask them. I'm reposting something I wrote back at the time, because some might be interested in knowing what's going on in New Hampshire, and also because I'm vain enough to repost things.

1. May I Ask Your Husband About Your Political Views, Ma'am?

I called this woman who was unregistered- meaning, basically, that they haven't ever voted in a primary before, or chose to remain independent for whatever reason, to vote for whatever primary. She says, "Let me ask my husband." Her husband comes on with, "Let me tell you, I am a Republican, and I am certainly not going to vote for Howard Dean; after his gross incompetence in Vermont, he should not be president of this country." The guy hung up before I could ask him what exactly Deans "incompetence" was in Vermont. I don't care what the guy thought of Deans incompetence in Vermont- where like, everyone on Earth basically says he single handedly saved the state from fiscal disaster. What I am interested in is the number of people who gave me their opinion and immediately hung up the phone afterwards, with no chance to actually discuss anything. That makes me really nervous. It's at the heart and soul of what's rotten about politics.

2. Score: 6. (Hostile to Dean / Voting Bush)

"Let me tell you something, I don't believe in gay rights and all that shit so don't call me anymore." (click)

3. Stats

Then on the other hand you have totally amazing people who you find. I mean, seriously, the atrocities shine brightest here, but 3 out of 5 people who answered the phone were great, and only 1 out of 5 seemed really rude. Maybe that's a kind of primary in and of itself.

4. Kings of New England

One woman wanted a triumvirate- and she was serious. She had read up on it, thought about it, wanted to talk to me about it. I said: "I'm speechless. I have nothing to say to that!" and she said "I know you don't!" She explained that she's lived all over the country, that there was no way that any one candidate could represent all the people, and that we should split the country into three regions- the west, the northeast, and the south east. Then have the three people work as a Council of Presidents. She also said Dean couldn't win in the south, but should be able to represent the people he represents- the northeast. I like this idea, especially because it means LA and NYC will basically run the country and Louisiana and Kentucky will be forced to reckon with its liberal tidal waves in off the coasts.

5. What Is Said To The People, Say It Through The Phones.

"Hello, my name is Eryk and I hope this isn't a bad time? But I am a volunteer here at Governor Howard Dean's Presidential campaign, and we're just trying to get in touch with voters and see what people are thinking about here at the start of the political season."

Then pause. If they say nothing, I say, "Have you considered who you're going to support in the upcoming election?"

The original script is totally telemarketing. "I am (name) and I am working for Governor Howard Deans Presidential Campaign. How are you today? (Pause). We know it's early in the primary season, but..." then we ask about who they want to support.

I decided to be "authentic" about it and it works. I got through more pages than anyone else and I also got a lot of positive responses. The kid next to me was really bad at it. Anyone who just reads the script at people is doomed to failure. One key thing I did was emphasize the word "volunteer" with an "Aw, shucks!" sort of emphasis. "Aw geez, I dunno what I'm doin, maybe you can help a poor fellow out, who just wants to hear what you have to say?" Poof! People with crying kids in the background are talking to me, or asking me to "call back later, but really I mean it, call back." I was told I should go into a career as a telemarketer.

6. A Good Man.

I like how older people said, "Howard Dean, I know he's a good man, but that's about all I can tell you right now." I would say "Well thank you, that's very kind of you, how about I send you some mail on Howard Dean's ideas?" and they say "sure!" But they said it like that a lot, "Howard Dean, he's a good man." It makes me want to vote for the guy. We need commercials of old ladies saying that. "Howard Deans? I don't know much about him, but I know he's a good man." Just like that, with the name wrong and everything.

7. A Short Conversation With Roger, In Which The Tables Are Turned Upon Me

Me: Hi Roger! I'm a volunteer for Governor Howard Dean's Presidential campaign, and I really hope it's not a bad time for you, but we're trying to see what voters are thinking about this time of year and see what issues are important to them.

Roger: Sure! I have the time.

Me: Great! Thanks. So, who are you leaning towards in the-

Roger: I have the time, but this is my time. Thank you! (hangs up phone)

8. Barroom and Billiard Hall Politics

After we made phone calls, a bunch of the campaign staff were going to the nearby bar to catch the Democratic debate on the tv there. And here, my friends, is the problem with politics in this country: voters.

While we're sitting down watching the tv in the corner, some of us are in Dean shirts, (not me, but I got a free sticker that I was still wearing).

"I hate Howard Dean. What does Howard Dean think about supporting the troops?" I hear from the corner.

"Well, Howard Dean supports better retirement benefits that George Bush took away from them while sending people over-"

"Yeah yeah yeah, whatever." says Barstool Guy. "What does he think about ______?"

"Well, Howard Dean has come out to say-"

"Yeah yeah yeah." Then he said something I couldn't hear, and Campaign Guy turned around, really annoyed looking. Barstool Guy yelled something else- he said "All you assholes know how to do up there in Vermont is make cheese." Campaign Guy turned around and had this expression of total bewilderment. Barstool Guy keeps yelling these anti-Vermont slogans.

"None of us are from Vermont." says Campaign Guy, "We're not getting offended by the things you are saying about Vermont."

"Yeah yeah yeah." says Barstool guy.

9. And The Problem Is...

I got a voter, Unregistered, 26 years old, and I called her up. She was on the phone, talking to me, and I say, "What issues are important to you this year?" She says, "No issues are important to me." I was shocked, on the phone. I had to repeat it back:

"No issue is important to you." I wrote it down, just like that, on the piece of paper where we list comments on the caller.

There's two wars in two countries; people are out of work, 1 in 10 people in our society are at the mercy of the supreme court just to be able to see someone they love who is in the hospital. I looked at the TV, tonight, when I came home, and there's this commercial of this guy walking through a hotel with a blindfold on. He navigates the hotel perfectly. I think to myself, "That's the most important issue, to some people- to be able to navigate through as much space as we can with a blindfold on."

10. Barroom and Billiard Hall Politics, Volume II

We were watching the debate when two people behind us got up to talk to the waitress and tell her that they were leaving because their dinner was ruined by having the debate on in the back of the room.

Today, I spent three hours calling people on the telephone, and every number I called I was terrified of getting a phone slammed in my face, or finding sleeper cell Republicans. But how do we convince the people who hang up in our faces, who can't hear a word we say? That's what I want to know.

How do you talk to the people who say, in a genuine statement, that there are no issues that affect them? Or people who state their cases into a phone, hanging up before I can even ask if they want to be taken off the list? People who are angry at people who simply ask them questions about what they believe. How do we ask them- how do we ask ourselves, really- to listen to the other side of what we're all thinking?

Weekend Blog Outsourcing 

The Blogging of the President is a phenomenal read this weekend, with Matt Stoller hitting my exact feelings on both Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards. And if that wasn't enough, Chris Lydon posts an interview with the most amazing name in politics since Spiro T. Agnew, Zephyr Teachout, "queen of the Dean geek corps".

American Amnesia is a great blog looking in detail at the situation in Iraq, ignoring the elements of "WMD search" and "Casualties" that override Iraq Media Coverage. It's done in a smart way, though, and anyone interested in the process will enjoy this one, which is critical but fair.

The Mahablog, who I don't link to quite enough, has a great analysis and roundup of commentary on Bush's Yes to Mars, No to Hubble Schizophrenia. Respectful of Otters has got some good info on the same theme, including some detailed criticism on the subject. Both of them are liberal coalition members who rarely link to me. Just sayin.

Get Your War On, the second best comic on the web, takes on the Mission to Mars. My favorite line: "Today I literally asked myself, are we gonna get distracted from rebuilding Iraq because of our mission to Mars? Now, what the hell kind of president brings about a state of affairs where his citizens have to ask that question?" (link via Pen-Elayne, who is a short-hit blogger with some good hits, if y'all know what I'm saying.)

You've got to love this Corrente post over how Bush is using maps from 1918 to plan out his Iraqi Strategy.

Edwardpig on the Omnibus Bill, which I just don't have the strength to complain about. I am just so sick of crammed-in bills that are so big they're voted on before anyone can read them. It's all we get these days. The Patriot Act, The Medicaid Bill, now, the "Omnibus" package. It's almost like if I can just get to the elections fast enough I won't need to worry about all this other crap, but I do have to. So, thanks to edwardpig for giving us a template for a letter to your dear old Senators expressing your outrage. He links to me sometimes.

Collective Sigh gets in under my new rule: Write something defending National Public Radio, get a link in the outsourcing. It's simple enough, I think.

You know I love long blog entries, so feast on this: Echidne has a wrap up and end all summary on this week's "Judith Steinberg-Dean Is An Awful Wife and Mother" Meme Traffic. Echidne? LC'er. Rarely links to me. Just sayin'.

Trish Wilson finally gets a transcription of "The Daily Show's" "Bush v Bush Debate". It's worth the read. Trish Wilson is a LC'er that rarely links to me. Just sayin'.

Musings... has a post on Dean's pragmatic but left-leaning centrism.

That, my friends, is this weekend's Weekend Blog Outsourcing.

George McGovern Endorses Wesley Clark 

While the media has been throwing the "New McGovern" label on Dean, McGovern is throwing his own label on Wesley Clark. George McGovern, who lost to Nixon with his campaign against the Vietnam War, has endorsed Wes Clark who, ironically, voted for Nixon in 1972.

But that's behind Clark now, and you can tell. Even Michael Moore has endorsed him, and you know how that translates into general election gold. Interestingly enough, Dean, the "too Liberal" Democrat, is getting centrist endorsements, whereas Michael Moore and George McGovern are going with Wes. (Dean, to be fair, might not be seeking "liberal" endorsements as aggressively, but then what the hell was Rob Reiner doing in Iowa?)

Joe Trippi's decision to limit media access to Howard Dean might cost him Iowa and hurt him in New Hampshire. Because while Dean is sticking to his stump speech, news space is being filled by coverage of his "slips" or news of other candidates, mostly, it seems, Wesley Clark, who isn't even in the Iowa Caucus. Since Dean has stopped talking, I've been hearing better and better things about Clark.

Atrocity Predictor: Bush Popularity Hits 50% (Again) 

A while ago over at Blogging The President they showed us how Bush's approval ratings end up looking like a Christmas tree since 9/11. Spectacle brings a big boost in approval, which gradually fades to 50%, then another Spectacle boosts it up, then it gradually fades back to 50%. Well, he's back at 50%. Just in time for the State of the Union! The fact that the approval bumps are smaller everytime is good news for America, and it's worth noting that the State of the Union is going to cover a) Mars, b) "Ownership Society", both strategies that simply haven't caught fire with the American People. So maybe the Spectacle/Purge cycle has been ended. The only boost-worthy spectacle Bush could produce at this point is Osama Bin Laden's head. Without that, he's left floundering in the idea of "vision", which we all know is not his strong point.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Triumph of Industry 

Wal Mart. Need I say more?

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Not Going To Mars 

It seems that, although we won't be sending anyone to Mars until 2015 or so, the Hubble Space Telescope has lost its funding as of today. That Bush could use an election-year ploy like going to Mars, which costs too much and won't happen under his administration anyway, to kill one of the most successful NASA missions since the original moon landing, is interesting. I'm gonna go on a limb and say that this is the only thing that comes out of the Mars plan besides blog entries.

Not That Anyone Cares 

But the American Casualties in Iraq just hit 500. It's buried in the news underneath headlines about how celebrities aren't commenting on the Michael Jackson case.

Religious Police Denounce American Poster Campaign 

And it's not even Saudi Arabia! There's been some protest by the new third branch of Government, the Religious Right, over the idea that an American embassy would be preaching tolerance of gay and lesbians in Macedonia. Now we have a photo of the offending ad, which has different scenes of people comforting each other, some of whom happen to be of the same gender. This is something conservatives "Don't want their children to see." I'm not sure how our new government works, whether the War Branch or the Corporate Branch have veto power, but it seems like the billboards are coming down without their consultations anyway.

Movie Time 

The Corporation is a movie by the guy who did "Manufacturing Consent," the "Noam Chomsky Movie That Got Banned." It looks really good. It's currently playing in Canada, so if you want to check it out in your lifetime you should catch a plane ticket to Toronto.

As relentlessly damning in its deconstruction of corporate history and "culture" as Michael Moore's Bowling For Columbine was in its assault on American gun craziness, The Corporation — which features Moore, along with Noam Chomsky, Milton Friedman, Naomi Klien, Howard Zinn and others, its anti-corporate diagnostic witnesses — is also every bit as media-savvy.

Unchecked Corporate Power isn't good for anyone, left or right, and I'm always amazed by anyone who thinks that corporations should be allowed to rule with few regulations, in the spirit of free market capitalism. Capitalism was a system designed to assure the greatest level of opportunity for all people, and when it hinders that expansion it should be adjusted, pure and simple. The idea that this is "communist" glosses over the fact that corporations are causing problems for our society that are overwhelming the good they bring. I'm all for limitations on corporate assets, but not on individual wealth or ownership. But there should be some degree of support for small business, there should be some amount of accountability for corporations to employ the people they sell products to, and to pay taxes for the services they use to deliver those goods. There ought to be some degree of transparency and accountability as well. These ideas shouldn't be "radical" and I don't actually think that they are. Institutions were built to serve society, and if that relationship becomes lopsided, it is in danger of becoming totalitarian.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Suddenly, I Like Them All.  

If you're fed up with politbloggers pontificating publicly on their personal assessments of the weaknesses and strengths of presidential candidates, skip this entry. I just find myself faced with an odd feeling- maybe it's because I've already voted, or maybe it's because of Kerry's surge to the peaks of Zogby's Margin of Error, but looking at the candidates speak, I am finding something to like about all of them.

Despite my floundering between him and Clark, Howard Dean got my vote. (An actual, real absentee ballot.) The reasons for Dean are numerous. He's brought back to life the Democratic party. Even if he fails in getting the nomination (unlikely, but possible) he has managed to change the nature of the Democratic party. He had, initially, cut out polling data from his campaign and spoke without rehearsal (for better or for worse- and usually for better). He was firm on the war, which was a huge point for me. His courage in Vermont- a Governor guaranteed re-election is later forced to wear a bullet proof vest for taking an unpopular stance- makes him a civil rights leader. No matter what happens with his campaign, when the book on the struggle for gay rights is written, he's going to be there. His issues, when I saw him speak, made sense to me, so does his dedication to fiscal responsibility and socially progressive issues.

I've been mostly annoyed with the candidates for their attacks on Dean, but now that we're all in the field, and I am forced to reckon with the possibility that any of them could win, it's made me look at each of them as a potential president, and I like them all.

Wesley Clark is also really starting to look good. I initially liked him- I was in the "Draft Clark" movement even while I was phone banking for Dean- but fell off when I learned he voted for Nixon and Reagan. I still don't know what the fuck that was all about, but his being a Military man, it's maybe coming from a different place. I believe he's a sincere Democrat now. Watching him with Aaron Brown on CNN during the war, standing up for protestors at a moment when war support was at a frothing high, I liked him as a person, before he was a candidate. I like this: "Under Wes Clark's Families First Tax Reform, a family of four making up to $50,000 will pay no federal income taxes and all taxpaying families with children making up to $100,000 will get a tax cut." (Though I worry about the deficit.) I like that he's looking at a 20 year plan instead of four or eight. I liked him at the Rock the Vote debate, when, wearing a black turtle neck sweater, he talked passionately about the rights of gays and lesbians- because he is the only guy who can do that without getting assailed by the moderate conservative voters. (If Dean ever tried that shit, he'd be out of the race by now). I like that he's kind of a weird guy in a very Presidential way. I still believe Wesley Clark could be the nominee- but I'm afraid of what his "push to the center" would look like after the nomination.

Dick Gephardt and John Edwards are interesting, personally. Gephardt has done a lot, as a politician, but he's not an exciting candidate, and that worries me. I know everyone says that Gephardt would do a great job beating Bush, but I really think he might be one of the weakest possible front runners. I think John Edwards is the exact opposite. I think Edwards has a ton of charisma, would excite voters, stay positive and could actually win, but his experience is weak on paper. But it's actually been time brilliantly spent. He's chosen the right issues to go after, he's been using his own money to win. As a person, he's amazing, working his way through college and all that, "the son of a mill worker." I think he's likeable. I think he'd be a great VP.

I don't trust John Kerry or Joe Lieberman. I would vote for them, but I would feel a sense of disappointment if they won. John Kerry because he was in the Vietnam War and voted for the Unprovoked Iraq Invasion anyway, on the basis, I suspect, of a recommendation of the Democratic National Committee. A Presidential Race between John Kerry and George Bush would ask the question: Who do you want, the guy who lied to us, or the guy who betrayed us? I suppose I'd take Judas over Caesar.

As for Dennis Kucinich, well. I like him. But the idea that he's electable doesn't float with me; neither does the idea that he will win the nomination. And while I admire his record as a congressman, and though I think he is a rare animal- a sincere politician- I just don't think he should, or could, be President. God bless him on a run for Governor, or Senate. I'd give money to that campaign.

Who don't I like? I don't trust Joe Lieberman because he's a Republican. But he's less corrupted, Republican Lite as they say. I don't like Al Sharpton because racial division- not unity- is his sole claim to power. Not that he's got much of a shot anyway.

Holy Shit, Indeed. 

A little analysis of the Bush As Christ political strategy, with pictures that are absolutely unbelievable. Of course Bush is Christ, it goes hand in hand with the Bush message that America is a nation full of victims.

30,000 Iraqis March For Real Democracy 

The Iraqi Election Process

I know you're shocked, but Bush's version of Democracy in Iraq is not quite representational Democracy. Much like his own election, it circumvents a popular vote. Makes you wonder what "Democracy" is, exactly.

And doesn't this bring back memories:

"Underpinning Sistani's objections to the current plan is a fear that the United States or established political parties may try to manipulate the votes of the caucus members or even buy votes outright, undercutting both the power of the Shiites and the credibility of the transitional government among all Iraqis. "We have a fear that something, someone, would try to manipulate the whole process, and that is not in the interests of Iraqis, of Muslims and of Shiites," Mehdi said."

The whole article is fascinating, as is this piece of backstory. It's really shocking that the American media is ignoring the entire process of restructuring Iraq's government, which is just as disorganized as the military element of the war. The secondary focus of the war is the ridiculously American-centric "rebuilding", which is pretty much just the process of handing out contracts.

Obviously, a Democratic Iraq wouldn't neccesarily yield American-friendly results. But, you know, Bush probably should have thought of that before we invaded thier country in order to facilitate a working Democracy. Or rather, before he made that the priority after the terrorism/WMD excuses fell through.

Calvin Woodward Strikes Twice 

The AP repeats a seriously bizarre slam on Dean's numbers:

Dean comes up with his finding that a majority of taxpayers only got $304 by looking at the lowest-earning 60 percent. Because many in that group pay little or no federal income tax to begin with, they don't save much from the Bush tax cuts.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center says it would be just as accurate, but misleading, for Bush to look at the highest-earning 60 percent of taxpayers and tell people the majority of Americans are getting almost $2,000 from his tax cuts.

I may have missed class when they went over this, but I could have sworn that anything over 50% is a majority? Is 60% somehow exempt all of a sudden? I mean, 60% is a majority of the population when you go by lowest income, and 40% is, you know, not a majority. I also seriously doubt that 60% of America's lowest wage earners "pay little or no federal income tax to begin with".

This is the second time they've pulled this shit, too. (By "they" I guess I should specifically say "Calvin Woodward", who is safe from getting adopted-journalist treatment because he's a "commentator.")

Judge Pickering is In! 

Hey, hey! As his birthday gift to the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr, President Bush has appointed Charles Pickering to the Federal Appeals Court on a "recess appointment" meaning that your elected officials have no say in whether he's in or out. Democrats had been blocking his nomination, and since Bush is a "uniter not a divider," as soon as Democrats couldn't do anything he gave Pickering the job anyway. Pickering is best suited for the position based on his civil rights record, including this case:

The case concerned the burning of an eight-foot cross by two men and a juvenile on the lawn of an interracial couple with a young child. The juvenile and one of the men, described as borderline mentally retarded, pleaded guilty and received reduced sentences. The third, described by the Justice Department as the leader of the conspiracy, refused to plead and was convicted after a trial. [...] Pickering took unusual and ethically questionable steps in getting the government to drop the charge with the mandatory minimum and acquiesce in a shorter sentence. Click here if you don't trust my ellipses.

These "unusual steps" included calling higher up judges to try to shorten the group leader's sentence. It's also not necessarily the issue of this case, so much as a long history of blindness to civil rights issues, including his votes against bills that helped African Americans vote.

I Knew I Wasn't Crazy 

News Coverage of Howard Dean is more biased than news coverage of any other candidate. "The study found that 49 percent of the coverage of former Vermont Gov. Dean was positive, compared to 78 percent of the rest of the Democratic field, collectively."

South Park Libertarians 

Reason Online has an article about the political slant of various adult cartoons. One of them, which has been really interesting to me, is the Right-Wing (but not conservative) agenda of "South Park."

There was an episode recently that skewered Rob Reiner and the anti-tobacco crusade and painted cigarette companies as happy people who want you to relax after work. There are several endorsements of religion, albeit a humanistic religion. They argued for the proliferation of free market capitalism by favoring a Starbucks over a local coffee competitor.

But what South Park embraces certainly isn't a "republican" agenda, it's a libertarian one, as is pointed out in the above article. But it seems more to be a sensical libertarianism- human values are still kept in some perspective. It's socially progressive libertarianism. It's what "compassionate conservatives" are supposed to be.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Racial Sensitivity In Bizarro World 

This happened in the UK:

"Mr Rose was sacked from Blundeston Prison, near Lowestoft, in May 2002, after he aggressively threw a set of keys down a metal chute at the prison gatehouse, and jokingly claimed Bin Laden’s picture was at the bottom of it. He made the remarks two months after the September 11 attacks in 2001 after a staff notice had been issued, a fortnight after the terror attack, asking officers to “have continued sensitivity” as the prison had many Muslim inmates.

Isn't the notion that inmates would be upset over an attack on Bin Laden more "racially insensitive" than the guy throwing his keys down a chute? Isn't that implying that, you know, Muslims are just crazy about terrorism?

Kill My SUV, Kill Me 

"SUVOA": The SUV Owners of America organization, dedicated to "give voice to the 24 million SUV owners whose rights are being trampled by special interest and activist groups, as well as to provide consumers with practical information about their SUVs." They've been flying under my radar since 1999. But they caught my eye with this press release:

The President told the nation, 'We have the terrorists on the run. We're keeping them on the run. One by one, the terrorists are learning the meaning of American justice.' Unfortunately within our borders a roving band of eco- terrorists is indeed on the run -- to the next SUV dealership or owner that they have targeted for devastation.

Now, I'm not a big fan of the ELF and the like, and I know that Bush loves going after the wrong guys, but I don't know, I feel like a group of SUV owners who don't want dealerships to be the victims of arson are going a little too far in calling it "terrorism." Terrorism is about widespread death, fear, and humiliation. Terrorism is about, you know, terror. Burning down an SUV dealership is not terrorism. Burning down an SUV dealership is a criminal act, it's an act of arson. There's a law against arson. If you want people to be more vigilant in prosecuting arsonists, that's fine. I'm on your side on that one. But "terrorism"? Don't tell me burning down an empty SUV dealership and the destruction of inanimate objects is anywhere close to on par with flying an airplane into a skyscraper and killing 3000 people.

The War on Drugs 

The War on Drugs has a devestating new weapon.

John Ashcroft Would Have Loved MLK Jr 

George W. Bush, who has done more for human rights than any other President, is planning on visiting Martin Luther King Jr's grave en route to a political fundraiser. There's already protest in the streets "with bullhorns, signs and thumping drums, shouting for the president to stay away."

"His administration has never supported anything to help the poor, education, or children," said the Rev. Raphael Allen, vice president of programs at Concerned Black Clergy. "It's all about isolationism and greed for the upper class. That's not promoting the legacy of Dr. King."

If Bush was president back when Martin Luther King Jr was around, you could just assume he would support those financial policies, presuming he hadn't been secretly arrested and tried under military tribunal after the bus boycott.

[edit: I thought he was going Monday, but he already went.]

Poll Fatigue 

A darkness is descending over Iowa, and it's not the RNC. It's a daily polling cycle in Iowa now, and Zogby's long shadow will block out the light of all rational political discourse across the blogosphere. Every day the sun is gonna rise to fluctuations in the margin of error that make headlines across the country, every 3 point lead proof positive of the emerging "anti Dean" and an ensuing discussion of which candidate has lost "momentum" in the previous 16 hours. When someone at the Dean blog says, "The next poll isn't for 8 more hours," you know you have entered the dark and maddening crack fix of primary politics.

Three reasons Iowa as a Zogby-driven horserace doesn't matter to me:

1. Clark and Lieberman aren't running there, Braun is out of the race, leaving only Dean, Gephardt, Kerry and Edwards as tangible candidates in a race that has inexplicably been expanded to include third place as a show of strength. The absence of Wesley Clark makes the state completely incapable of producing an estimate of any other candidates strength in other states. Also, Dick Gephardt's focus on keeping Iowa is unnaturally inflated by his appeal to moderates, which will be diluted by Lieberman's presence in later primaries, as well as his strong face-saving effort to win Iowa which is as much about the future of Gephardt's political influence as it is about his nomination.

2. Dean has been steady within the margin of error since the 8th, when he scored 25, now he scores 24 after scoring 28 yesterday, with a margin of error of four point five. Kerry's much discussed swing upwards is nothing much when you account for the margin of error. The end result is: It's going to be a close race, and we'll know the future when it gets here.

3. I work in New Hampshire, worked on the New Hampshire campaign, and I am jealous of Iowa.

Angry Howard Dean 

Spalding Gray Missing 

Spalding Gray has gone missing.

Spalding Gray was the author of one of my favorite novels, "Impossible Vacation", and his monologue, "Swimming To Cambodia", is one of the reasons I became interested in politics and political writing. He's difficult to explain- imagine a cross between a sedated Woody Allen and Ira Glass on acid. You can rent the video for "Swimming To Cambodia", performed as a monologue, for an example of his work. He's a brilliant guy and I hope he's just out collecting experiences for a book somewhere.

Moseley Braun Calls It Quits 

Rumor has it that Her Excellency Carol Moseley Braun has dropped out of the race, and only hours after she appeared on the Daily Show. I haven't been following Iowa too much- but she had less than 3% in Iowa, so it would be sheer poli-pundit masturbation to pretend it will have any real impact on the Iowa caucus. The above article mentions that she plans on endorsing Dean, "even as he has faced questions about his record on race issues" which is a bit of a media myth, considering the Black Commentator (you know this, right?) called one of his speeches "the most important statement on race in American politics by a mainstream white politician in nearly 40 years." If people heard what Dean had to say about racism- important precisely because he is from an nearly all-white state, and reflects this genuinely in his understanding of institutional racism- they might see that it is one of the key strengths of his campaign.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Ed Gillespies Blog 

I was over at the RNC blog- "Gillespie's Blog"- and noticed that there are absolutely no comments on the page. I assumed that there would be some interest from, you know, war bloggers and the like, or liberal denunciation. I was going to post a link to my blog, but then I got the "terms of service" and came across this:

Liability. Although the Republican National Committee will attempt to remove postings the contents of which are not in accordance with these Terms of Usage, you expressly waive your right to any damages in any way related to exposure to content posted on Gillespie’s Blog by any party other than the Republican National Committee. The Republican National Committee will, under no circumstances, be responsible for any loss, damages, or other injuries resulting from anyone’s use of Gillespie’s Blog.

Seems about right: "If you post your liberal bullshit here and get 'corrected' by a Nascar dad, you're on your own, fucker."

Start of A Deluge?  

More corroboration on O'Neill's accounts that Bush planned Iraq War prior to 9/11, this time, on the record: "Greg Thielmann, director of the Strategic Proliferation and Military Affairs Office at the US State Department until his retirement last year."

"Mr Theilmann told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m afraid I think the American public was seriously misled.” The US administration “twisted, distorted, simplified” intelligence in a way that led Americans to “seriously misunderstand what the nature of the Iraq threat was”, he said. “I’m not sure I can think of a worse act against the people in a democracy than a President distorting critical information,” he said. “For a President to abuse that sacred trust ... is to me a very serious development.”

[c/o, whose version of this story is formatted in the ascii version of chicken scratch.]

Osama Bin Nader 

Speedkill has got a great post about Ralph Nader's North Carolina Campaign Manager being investigated for Terrorist links specifically because he was a Green Party member. Also worth reading is a troll's agreement in the comments section that Greens are Terrorists because they would close down factory farms, "essentially restricting American's ability to find food".

O'Neill's "Leaked" "Classified" Documents Have Been Online Since July 

Judicial Watch has had a copy of what could very well be the documents marked "Secret" that appeared on 60 Minutes during the O'Neill interview.

The article is fascinating in it's own right. Apparently, the Energy Task Force that Dick Cheney has been so secretive about for the last two years might be because the task force spoke openly of the Iraq Invasion prior to 9/11:

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption and abuse, said today that documents [...] concerning the activities of the Cheney Energy Task Force, contain a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, as well as 2 charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.” The documents, which are dated March 2001, are available on the Internet at: (Check the link if you don't trust my ellipses.)

Maybe I'm ringing the conspiracy bells too early, but is it too much to assume that, if the energy task force that Dick Cheney was desperate to keep secret was discussing Iraq and Iraqi Oil Contracts in 2001, then the war may not have been entirely about "terrorism" or "WMD's". One paper is called "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts". Sounds totally uncorrupted!

What We Were Told vs What We Got 

The Associated Press Published this in bare form today. It probably won't be in any other source, since it is intended as a sort of "cheat sheet" for reporters covering related stories. I hate to quote something off the AP verbatim and call it a "blog entry" but this is really amazing, so here it is:

Some changes in the government's fiscal condition since President Bush submitted his first budget to Congress in 2001.

-Bush's first budget projected annual surpluses from 2002 through 2011 would total $5.6 trillion, before his tax and spending proposals took effect. In its most recent projection last summer, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said it expected $1.4 trillion in total deficits from 2004 through 2013 - excluding any future tax or spending changes.

-The cumulative national debt stood at $5.7 trillion when Bush took office, and his first budget proposed reducing it by $2 trillion over the next decade. Today, the debt stands at $7 trillion.

-Bush's first budget projected that in fiscal 2004 - which runs through next Sept. 30 - the government would spend $2.077 trillion. Instead it will spend $2.305 trillion, according to the latest CBO estimate.

Bush's first budget also estimated the government would raise $2.339 trillion in revenue this year. The CBO projects $1.825 trillion in revenue.

All together, the CBO has forecast a 2004 deficit of $480 billion - instead of the $262 billion surplus Bush predicted for this year in his first budget, assuming his policies were enacted.

White Trash Heroes 

An unbelievably intense response to Margaret Cho's stand up routine at the awards ceremony (You can check out the finalists here). I don't personally find that Cho is a comedianne I seek out when I'm ready for an all out laugh riot, but this response is fucking ridiculous, and I think it's hilarious that she's posted the emails with full names and contact information. (c/o Atrios)

This is what got them all worked up for lynching:

"For example, Judge Roy Moore, or Jay Moore or whatever, in Alabama. [inaudible] ... Ten Commandments statue stay in the lobby of a courthouse. 'You can't move the Word of God! You cannot remove the Franklin Mint edition of the Word of God!' [said in Southern accent] People are protesting there and like, I think it could have been solved so much easier if they had just placed a golden calf next to the statue and then people would have started worshipping that. And then they could have moved the Ten Commandments to Bush's office -- which he needs them, desperately. Or maybe he needs a new version of the Ten Commandments -- George W. Bush's Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not steal...votes. (big applause) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor' (big applause) Thou shalt not kill...for oil. (big applause) Thou shalt not take vain. (big applause) I mean, whatever fu--ing happened to separation of church and state? I mean, you can't like, impose your god on my god. God has many names. God is God, God is Jehovah, God is Allah, God is Buddah, God is Beyonce. (laughter) You know, you cannot impose your God on other people. And ah, George W. Bush is coming out with the weirdest stance on same-sex marriage as well. What he says about it is, well, 'well, we're all sinners.' No we're not! Just because somebody ate an apple one time does not make us all sinners. And if it was from the tree of knowledge, I think she should have eaten more than one. (laughter) Possibly even baked a pie." (applause) "I don't understand the whole same-sex marriage thing. He was quoted by saying, 'well, you you uh, just gotta take the speck out of your own eye before you take the co-- out of your neighbor's.'" [in Southern accent] (laughter)

My favorite joke of the evening would be Al Franken:

"I'm Al Franken. I'm here to present the funniest ad award. I'm a last-minute substitution, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill was supposed to be the presenter, but unfortunately he was murdered."

Look for the Fox News headline: "Liberal Activist Al Franken Asserts Paul O'Neill Targetted For Assasination By Bush Administration."

O'Neill Corroboration 

A currently employed, and presumably, non-disgruntled, Bush Administration official who was at the same meeting O'Neill was talking about has corroborated his story. "The president told his Pentagon officials to explore the military options, including use of ground forces," the official told ABCNEWS. "That went beyond the Clinton administration's halfhearted attempts to overthrow Hussein without force."

c/o Atrios

Another Myth Debunked 

Saddam Hussein warned his Iraqi supporters to be wary of joining forces with foreign Arab fighters entering Iraq to battle American troops, according to a document found with the former Iraqi leader when he was captured, Bush administration officials said Tuesday. - New York Times

Shockingly enough, it seems that the secular, communist Baathists had a different agenda from the Islamic Fundamentalist Al-Qaida Jihad. Who would have guessed a secular communist and an Islamic Fundamentalist wouldn't be best friends? (Apparently, if they both hate America, they must love each other- that's how powerful the United States is!)

On a related note, a poll conducted of my friend's sister's roommates found that 9 out of 9 college girls will vote for Bush again because of the war against Saddam Hussein, who deserved it because "he was responsible for 9/11." I propose the theory that political information takes a full year to disseminate into the minds of (non-activist) college students. In about 1 year, maybe they'll start questioning the link. That said, exposing people to this information might open up the groundswell of outrage that has so far been missing over how this bullshit has been conducted.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004


Is it too easy? Here's what passes for "a good point" over at the NRO. Regarding Howard Dean's wife staying off the campaign trail so that she can administer medicine to sick people:

I think you missed commenting on the most disturbing part of that quote. "I just think she should do what she needs to do for her own happiness and satisfaction." So, in light of these thoughts, how does Howard define marriage?

Jesus Christ, are you fucking serious? Would you prefer she wears a fucking Birka?

The Red Zone 

This Animal Keeps Its Head In The Sand.

An amazing interview with a reporter based in Iraq. Atrios has got this one too.

The CPA is a total mess, as should be pretty clear. It's actually kind of shocking. It's hard to even know where to start. You probably know all of this: the CPA is locked inside the Green Zone, this massive area in the heart of Baghdad that's protected by armed guards, tanks, and lots of big concrete walls. Most of the people in the Green Zone never leave, or only leave with massive army escort and then only to go directly to meetings in ministries. They call the area outside of the Green Zone, the Red Zone. In other words: all of Iraq is the Red Zone. So, very few people in the CPA have the slightest idea what's going through the minds of Iraqis. They either have brief conversations with people on the street, when they're surrounded by armed troops. Inevitably, the Iraqis tell them they are very happy with the US occupation. What else would they say? I never, ever meet Iraqis who are happy with the US occupation.


The ACLU is acting on behalf of Rush Limbaugh. c/o Buzzflash

The Election Trinity: Think Green, Donate Libertarian, Vote Democrat 

In an article discussing Ralph Naders potential presidential bid, it mentioned another "third party" candidate (There's more than three parties, by the way)- the Libertarian Gary Nolan, who wants to be "the Republican Ralph Nader." I think we should help him get 3% of the vote, what do you say? 3% of Republicans going to Nolan is 3% less for Bush. I say we make Gary Nolan a financial power house.

More on O'Neill's Allegations 

Tom Tomorrow has a great post that reveals the exact leftist folly I've been falling for. That is, now that we know that Bush planned to invade Iraq from pretty much step one of his administration, it's not only solid proof that the war was tied to 9/11 purely for convenience. It's also proof that Bush lied, numerous times, prior to 9/11.

For example, in his debate with Al Gore, which I have selected for it's full fledged irony, Mr. Spectacle declared: "If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road. I'm going to prevent that."

You can say "But 9/11 changed everything", but that isn't the point. The point is that within three months of making this statement, Bush was making plans to oust Saddam. So the above statement is as much a lie as when he was announced the winner of the White House: "Whether you voted for me or not, I will do my best to serve your interests, and I will work to earn your respect."

O'Neill Under Investigation 

Former Bush Administration Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who has been actively criticizing the Bush Administration's war on Iraq, Bush's managerial style and the sanity of his tax cuts, is now under investigation by the Bush Administration because he may have leaked classified documents related to pre-9/11 plans for the unprovoked war on Iraq.

Never mind that when Bob Novak outed Valerie Plame as a CIA agent on July 16th, an investigation to find the leaker wasn't launched until September 26th. This time around, Paul O'Neill appeared on "60 Minutes" on Sunday and on Monday morning the Treasury Department announced an investigation. Maybe the Treasury Department just has more resources for launching investigations than the Justice Department does?

I'm also noticing that Bush is saying nothing about the allegations themselves, but rather allowing a throng of Republican henchmen to come out and say things like, "Not since Julius Caesar have I seen such a blatant stab in the back - et tu, Mr O'Neill?" Really gets into the issues at hand, does it not?

But I ask: Et tu, Lieberman?

"What Paul O'Neill says there is what a lot of other people are beginning to conclude, that there was an overstatement by the Bush administration of the weapons-of-mass-destruction part of the argument for going to war against Saddam Hussein," [Lieberman] said. "But let me be really clear. I decided long before George Bush became president, more than a decade ago, that Saddam Hussein was a terrible tyrant, a brutal dictator, killed hundreds of thousands of his people, did have weapons of mass destruction because we know he used them against the Iranians and Kurds. [...] "He also supported terrorism. He was an enemy of the United States."

That's right. Lieberman is coming to the side of GW in his time of need. Good one, Joe, you really got the whole "speaking truth to power" thing down. I guess when the President says there are WMD's, and there aren't WMD's, then that's an "overstatement." I guess that when Saddam used Chemical Weapons against Iran and the Kurds in the 1980's that means "now". ("The 80's are totally back!")

I don't know why I have to repeat this all the time. I am glad Saddam is gone. But the idea that war was the only way to handle the overthrow of a ten-cent despot in a country filled with people who hated him just seems absurd, and it is even more absurd when you consider that it's been planned by Bush administration officials since 1998 (before they were even in office). In 6 years they couldn't have come up with a fucking assassination strategy? The question of whether the war is a "success" is a huge distraction from this question, because the answer is pretty simple: Weighing War vs an Assasination, the War was a miserable failure.

I should also point out that Bush's response to the criticism is, classically, a denial coupled with an admission. Here's what he said:

"And no, the stated policy of my administration toward Saddam Hussein was very clear," Mr. Bush said at a news conference in Monterrey, Mexico, when asked whether he had begun planning within days of his inauguration for an invasion of Iraq. "Like the previous administration, we were for regime change."

"And in the initial stages of the administration, as you might remember, we were dealing with desert badger or fly-overs and fly-betweens and looks, and so we were fashioning policy along those lines," Mr. Bush continued, apparently referring to confrontations with Iraq over the no-flight zones. "And then all of a sudden September the 11th hit."

Then he had to take into account his solemn duty to protect the security of the American people blah blah blah. But isn't he basically saying that he was looking at a way to get Saddam out, and then 9/11 came "and then all of a sudden" he had an excuse? (Especially when you consider the ridiculously underreported notes by National Military Command Center aides to Donald Rumsfield that he advocated a war against Iraq within five hours of the World Trade Center attacks.)

Monday, January 12, 2004


Comments are gone because Blogspeak, who hosted my comments, is gone. I'm open to suggestions for a new comment system or comments in general, but you'll have to email me: o n e 3 8 @ o n e 3 8 . o r g

[edit: I've started using haloscan, hopefully that works out better than blogspeak. Sorry to everyone who has left comments here, there's no getting them back. So: make up for lost time!]

Bush Slightly Overstates His Legacy 

George W. Bush in the New Yorker this week: "No President has ever done more for human rights than I have."

"In Texas, George W. Bush personally supervised the executions of 152 people -- and is proud of it." Recently we've executed a man with schizophrenia who was only lucid enough to stand trial because he was force fed medication, and we're the only nation (besides Iran- a human rights powerhouse) that executes juveniles.

There's that, and more.

"Mr. Fix It" Tackles Howard Dean's "Mean Mouthing Problem" 

This article requires registration, but you'll probably see it in other papers across the country anyway. (Here's a different story on the same event, which has its own fundamental problems.)

At a church in Oelwein, Iowa, Dale Ungerer, a registered Republican, wearing a "Mr Fix It" Tee Shirt, stood up to ask Howard Dean a "question". It was a three minute long lecture, even according to Nedra "Righty" Pickler at the AP, who actually seemed to favor Dean in the exchange, if only because she reported it more or less as it happened. It went like this:

"Please tone down the garbage, the mean mouthing, the tearing down of your neighbor and being so pompous," Ungerer told the former Vermont governor and Democratic front-runner. "You should help your neighbor and not tear him down."

"George Bush is not my neighbor," Dean replied.

"Yes, he is," Ungerer said, to which Dean responded: "You sit down. You've had your say and now I'm going to have my say."

According to Reuters, what Dean said next was: "George Bush has done more to harm this county right here with unfunded mandates, standing up for corporations who take over the farmers' land, making it impossible for middle class people to make a real living, sending our kids to Iraq without telling us the truth first about why they went," Dean said. "It's not the time to put up any of this 'love thy neighbor' stuff ... I love my neighbor, but I'll tell you I want THAT neighbor back in Crawford, Texas where he belongs."

It's interesting to note here that Nedra "Righty" Pickler leaves that out, as well as a comment that Jodi Wilgoren at the NYTimes leaves in. In it, Dean says: "I love my neighbor, but I want that neighbor back in Crawford, Tex., where he belongs," Dr. Dean said. "The president is always my president but the president is not my neighbor if he takes 500,000 kids off their health care benefits." Nedra skips this by summarizing:

Dean said Bush has harmed communities like Oelwein by failing to fund education programs, by fighting for corporations rather than family farms and sending American troops to Iraq without telling the truth about why they were deployed.

"That is exactly the problem. Under the guise of 'support your neighbor' we're all expected not to criticize the president because it's unpatriotic," Dean said to enthusiastic applause. "I think it's unpatriotic to do some of the things that this president has done to this country."

Sounds perfectly reasonable, but look for Fox News to have an audio-free video of the exchange in which you only see Dean looking angry, while talking heads analyze "what it means for the Dean Campaign" now that his "Temper is out of control."

[Edit: Just wanted to mention the launch of Patricia Wilson Watch, a website dedicated to tracking the author of the aforementioned Reuters news story]

Occupational Fatigue 

A study published by The Army War College, a bastion of liberal peacenik thinking, has declared that "[T]he global war on terrorism as currently defined and waged is dangerously indiscriminate and ambitious, and accordingly . . . its parameters should be readjusted," Record writes. Currently, he adds, the anti-terrorism campaign "is strategically unfocused, promises more than it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate U.S. military resources in an endless and hopeless search for absolute security."

It was written by a guy who worked for a Democrat (Corporocrat Sam Nunn of Georgia) so expect it to be roundly dismissed. It's being endorsed pretty hardcore by people at the Army College, but not the Pentagon. It also has this little tidbit on the layout of our upcoming puppet regime in Iraq: "...the United States should scale back its ambitions in Iraq, and be prepared to settle for a "friendly autocracy" there rather than a genuine democracy." -c/o Buzzflash

My, Aren't You A Friendly Autocracy?

Riots Erupt As Iraqis Run Out Of Rose Petals To Throw At The Feet Of their Liberators 

Riots in Iraq. Who would have thought those ungrateful motherfuckers would start protesting all of a sudden? What, our invasion and occupation of your country while we work out the installation of a puppet government at the cost of thousands of civilian casualties isn't good enough for you?

Turns out they're protesting the deaths of other protestors, and so, true to form, these protestors are being shot at (but magically, not killed or wounded, according to our side, though the people being shot at seem to disagree). Iraqis are well on their way to becoming real Americans: they have a high unemployment rate, they're disgruntled about a war they didn't start, and they don't trust our President, who they didn't vote for and doesn't listen to them. (Oh, and I almost forgot: A Media that only broadcasts messages approved by the occupational authority). I am sure that somewhere in Bush's mind, invading a country that hates us and then randomly shooting at protestors "prevents terrorism", but it strikes me as a wee bit counterintuitive.

This Isn't Patriotism, it's Fetishism 

The ultimate kitsch or just a natural regression to state-inspired art?

Sunday, January 11, 2004

New Layout 

Care of MDaines. You should hire him. Comment, please!

Weekly Blog Outsourcing 

Hilarious. The whole site is really an incredibly clever satirical take on politics in a fake-news format similar to the Onion's. Other headlines and articles include: "Bush Announces Manned Mission to Library", "Conservatives criticizing Bush's Immigration Plan Unsure Whether or Not to Call Themselves Unpatriotic", ("I mean, I really disagree with this new proposal to reform immigration, but he's the President, and we're at war and all...") It's going on the permanent blogroll. (Another really good satirical blog is Norbizness, particularly this Wall Street Journal Editorial Deconstruction.)

I also want to specifically mention the return of the champion discus thrower, Mister Pants, to the 2004 blogging season. It's not a political blog, but I politblogs aren't in short supply, really.

The Emerging Democratic Majority blog has got some good analysis on the latest Bush poll numbers, not mentioning the "Christmas Tree" effect by name but alluding to it nonetheless. The Christmas Tree effect on Bush's poll numbers is this: Bush, since 9/11, has had huge spikes in support (and huge drops in disapproval) which then trail off. It looks exactly like a Christmas tree right now because 9/11 was his biggest spike, which then descended slightly until we were level, at which point we engaged in an unprovoked war with Iraq. This gave him another spike, not as big, which trailed off, and then he caught saddam. Which gave him another small spike. The good news is, his spikes are getting smaller. There's a picture of the effect and a long analysis over at "The Blogging of the President." from a while ago.

Corrente has book-closing comments on the Dean/McGovern comparisons- as well as pointing out that Nixon wasn't exactly the best guy for this country, and the Vietnam War didn't work out too well.

Steve Gilliard has a story that I didn't mention because it lacked enough verification (it's an American Incident but has only been published in the British Press. While I certainly expect our side of the sea to have crappier Journalistic standards, I'd like to see three sources before I post something this outrageous.) Nonetheless, it's a hell of a good read and a story that is, as they say, "true, even if it's not true." (And, I should add, it probably actually is true.)

Echidne has got two really good posts this week. One, on the subject of radical anti-feminist Dr. Laura, particularly her statement that if a woman doesn't give her husband sex whenever he wants, it's as irresponsible as the husband deciding not to go to work one day because he doesn't feel like it. I take great offense to this article because it implies that women should "feel like" having sex in a way not prescribed by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. (Read that, it's worth sitting through the ad for a free day pass to the article). Remember when the Moonies were a cult? Well, now they're a right wing funding powerhouse, particularly in the subject of abstinence only sex education and- to put it in their words- the "extermination of gays." Which may explain why Echidne's second post is on our friends at the NRO on how sexuality is pretty much defined as men overcoming women's objections to sex.

Sooner Thought has a lengthy and well done post on the relationship between Paul O'Neill and the Bush Administration.

In purely self-referential news, Andante has got a post regarding my own post, "On 'Relief' and the New American Victimhood". I hadn't thought of some of his points- that even "No Child Left Behind" implies Victimhood. (Even though it was coined in 1999, the terminology resonates for that reason.) If you liked my post you'll enjoy his reading of it.

That's it for Sunday's Blog Outsourcing.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Let's All Pretend We Didn't Know Iraq War Was Planned Pre-9/11 

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who I already mentioned here, has got more to say- and as I predicted, is getting precisely the kind of "what a nutcase!" reaction from the right.

The Bush Administration began making plans for an invasion of Iraq, including the use of American troops, within days of President Bush's inauguration in January of 2001 -- not eight months later after the 9/11 attacks, as has been previously reported.

This radically changes the previous perception that the attack of Iraq was planned a whole five hours after 9/11, which was reported by the same network that just said we used to think it was planned 8 months after 9/11:

"CBS News has learned that barely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq — even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks."

Or, for that matter, a letter from the Project for a New American Century written to Bill Clinton in 1998 that advocated the exact plan that Bush later adopted "after 9/11".

But an anonymous senior administration official is quoted (this week) as calling the idea that the invasion was planned before 9/11 "laughable." Those guys sure have a great sense of humor.

On "Relief" of the New American Victimhood 

Remember when "Tax Relief" used to be "Tax Cuts"? The language was changed by Karl Rove and the Conservatives. It puts forward the idea that taxes were something Americans needed "relief" from, so that anyone who was against them is pro-suffering under the burden of taxes. The idea that America is a membership society (my proposed counter-meme) is not at all put forward in the idea of "Tax Relief". Membership Society is the idea that, quite simply, we have to pay dues to have our education funded, our roads working, our firemen, our military, and our policemen. Membership Society also immediately asks: What kind of club is America going to be? It is an open question, a question that inspires hope and idealism. It's a question Rove and Bush won't ask.

I'm going to go on a hunch here and try to propose a theory on why Rove's language is so effective with most Americans. It's because it is the language of victimhood. "Relief" from the victimhood of taxes, from a victimhood perpetuated by Rove/Bush. To constantly use the language of victimhood is to remind us of 9/11. To have Bush offer us any kind of relief, is to have him linked to relief on 9/11. While simultaneously upping the pressure of the current (perceived) world situation through use of color coded threat levels, militarized air travel, secrecy, and constant monitoring and suspicion, we are also told that he is the one who "relieves" us of them.

Bush and Rove gave America something it never had before: Victimhood. (Jean Beaudrillard, in "The Spirit of Terrorism", points out that this isn't something we got with Pearl Harbor, which was a purely military attack.) With 9/11, Americans were targets, Americans were victims, and suddenly, America became entitled. Our collective victimhood made it possible to do anything we pleased, even if it is our own self-destruction of our civil liberties (eroded), our financial strength (going out of business), our military capacity (stretched thin) and our moral standing in the world, in regards to the UN and our unilateral, pre-emptive aggression (a Rove word for, literally, "unprovoked", but reframed to "pre-empt" victimhood). None of these are, in any way, actually connected to the events of 9/11. But framed as retaliation, no matter what we do it is done for the sake of "good." We are entitled to our victimhood, because we are good and we are decent. The attacks on Iraq reinforce this- when we see the tanks going to Baghdad, we are told it is good because we are victims. I don't know about you, but I am sick of acting like we're a nation of victims.

This may be hard to understand, but "Americans" are not the target of terrorism. The target of terrorism is American Power and its image of invulnerability, and it is being fought by people who despise that power. To say that it's an attack by oppressed people is one thing; but that's limiting, too. Not every oppressed person becomes a terrorist. Terrorists do not really care about me and you, Osama Bin Laden does not have a personal rolodex with every American's name on it, crossing them off when he "gets one". What terrorists want is to destroy the idea of American power, they want us to feel weak, vulnerable, and afraid. Interestingly enough, this is precisely what Rove uses to keep Bush in power.

Victimhood relieves us of responsibility. We're not responsible for any of the mess we're in anymore- "Osama Bin Laden is". There's an oil spill in France- were terrorists involved? There's a plane crash in New York- was it Osama? The Space Shuttle, floating above the planet, explodes because of a piece of debris hitting the wing, and the media needs to reassure us that it was not Osama. We ask this question because the first thing we want to know about any disaster is if someone else is responsible. But it's time to stop shifting the blame for our own self-destruction onto Osama Bin Laden. Osama is not responsible for low job growth. Osama is not responsible for our inflated deficit. He's not orchestrating earth quakes or mad cow disease; the new flu variant and SARS are independent of him, even though he was our first question, or the first fear eased by reporters and the media culture. When a man pulls a knife on a subway, we say- is it Osama? "Is he linked to Osama?" John Lee Malvo's sniper attacks, the Anthrax mailer, a white supremacist with cyanide in Texas. A boy flies a plane into a bank and we ask, "Is he linked to Osama?" When the answer is no, we sigh a big breath of relief- and then proceed to ignore the social, environmental, and psychological complexities of the actual event that took place.

Michael Moore's Oscar speech said that we lived in fictitious times, with a fictional war led by a fictional president for fictional reasons. I think the reason Bush works for America now- or, I should say, appeals to our basest emotional responses- is because we want to go back to a kind of false reality. In the 90's we had our entertainment, and politics were an extension of that entertainment. Sex scandal soap operas, fictional and irrelevant real estate scandals, the ambitious wife and the successful husband who cheats on her. Those were our politics: the politics of oral sex. When we were hit in the face with 9/11- probably the only death-affirming event to occur on American Soil since the Civil War- we woke up to the world for what it is, we saw something real and we had no idea what to do with it. So Bush gives us a series of new fictions, re-written to look like they are connected to the real image of September 11th. He used it for three years to justify everything imaginable and we went along with it because we wanted to believe in a safe, numb emptiness again, instead of the painful dialogue of death, destruction and responsibility that 9/11 should have launched. Instead, we were handed a reward- told to shop to save America, and we were handed the mythology of a "New American Victimhood."

Inside The White House 

In an excerpt of the book released by CBS, O'Neill said that a lack of real dialogue characterized the Cabinet meetings he attended during the first two years of the administration and gave O'Neill the feeling that Bush "was like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people." O'Neill was also quoted in the book as saying that the administration's decision-making process was so flawed that often top officials had no real sense of what the president wanted them to do, forcing them to act on "little more than hunches about what the president might think." -AP, 01/10/04

Paul O'Neill, so you know, was The Spectacle's Treasury Secretary until he was kicked out for speaking out against Bush's tax cuts. Yes, he's a Republican, and yes, he went to Africa to investigate AIDS with U2's Bono. So, you can expect Republicans to call him a loony liberal. But one thing to keep in mind, is he argued against the tax "relief", and, as we learned today, the number of jobs linked to "the president's 2003 tax cut fell 1.615 million jobs short of its prediction for the year." -Jobwatch

The "War on Terror"  

I was really pleasantly surprised by this article.

It points out that Rove et al decided on the phrase "War on Terror" in order to keep the nation in perpetual war. "Howard Dean begs to differ. In his big foreign policy address a few weeks ago, Dean called for a "global alliance to defeat terror"; he spoke of the "struggle," the "effort," and our "defense" against terror. He urged us to muster courage for the "fight" ahead." Good.

Good because it is an attempt to dissect the language of the right- phrases which have popped out of nowhere, but have been greeted as if we always used them, include the phrase "War On Terror" (which allows us to say, about almost anything, that America works differently during "war time").

Wesley Clark also spoke out pretty strongly today:

"Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark said "the two greatest lies" of the last three years were that the Sept. 11 attacks could not have been prevented and that a future attack is inevitable. "If I'm president of the United States, I'm going to take care of the American people," Clark told the Concord Monitor for a story published Friday. "We are not going to have one of these incidents." -AP, 1/09/04

Friday, January 09, 2004

Not That Anyone Cares... 

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell conceded Thursday that despite his assertions to the United Nations last year, he had no "smoking gun" proof of a link between the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and terrorists of Al Qaeda. "I have not seen smoking-gun, concrete evidence about the connection," Mr. Powell said, in response to a question at a news conference. - New York Times

"Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network, headed by Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda lieutenants." - February 5th, 2003, to the UN.

It's all in the above article.

New Jersey Joins The Civil Union 

New Jersey is the fifth state to allow Civil Unions "with certain survivor rights, hospital visitation and control of each other's medical decisions." I'm sure Pat Robertson will be letting us know what God thinks.

That makes the sum total: Vermont, Hawaii, Massachusetts, California and New Jersey. We're all waiting, Texas!

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Issue Fog Found On Mars 

Straight from the AP (emphasis mine):

President Bush will announce plans next week to send Americans to Mars and establish a permanent human presence on the moon, senior administration officials said Thursday night. Bush won't propose sending Americans to Mars anytime soon; rather, he envisions preparing for the mission more than a decade from now, one official said.

Just like Bush's immigration reform will go nowhere except for polls, Bush/Rove unveil a new fog that has no actual implications for a Bush term: A space program that doesn't even start until six years after Bush is out of office (if re-elected).

This brings our tally of campaign promises to three:

1. The "Going Out Of Business Sale" Tax Cut (We're closing down and everything must go- we pass the savings on to you!!!)

2. Cheap Mexican Labor as a Voluntary and Literal Secondary Class (Since Americans don't want to clean the toilets at Wal Mart, how about a never-stopping flux of Mexican Immigrants with no guarantee of permanent resident status?)

3. Space Ships- Eventually Space Ships!

I'm Pretty Sure It's Ridiculous 

I swear to God I just got an email from Madonna telling me to support Wesley Clark.

"I've never done this before. But life is about taking risks is it not? I know that people seem to pay attention to everything I do. Big or Small. Ridiculous or Sublime. So I am hoping they pay attention to this: I am supporting General Wesley Clark for President."


"Liberal Elitism" 

The Right-leaning group "Club for Growth" put out an ad recently that goes a little something like this:

An elderly couple is asked what they think of Howard Dean's tax plan and the man responds: "What do I think? Well, I think Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading ...," and the woman continues, "... body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont where it belongs."

The president of the group says about the ad, "The ad describes a group of "cultural elites" across America who are the ones behind Dean," he said. "But middle-class families with middle-America values, as in Iowa, are going to be very turned off by Dean's economic program." Yes, the ad offers a lot of damning criticism on Dean's "economic program", as you can tell from reading the above transcript.

So eating Sushi and drinking coffee, reading one of the most popular newspapers in the country, watching movies made in Hollywood and having earrings means you're not a folksy American but rather, part of that demonic "cultural elite." But, uh, isn't there far more "conservative elitism" these days than "liberal elitism"?

When religious conservatives say that God is on their side, that morality is on their side, and that those who disagree with them in favor of less dogmatic religious values (or none at all) are incapable of virtue, sinners against God and Christ and therefore, America. Doesn't that carry just a touch of "conservative elitism?"

Pro-business conservatives say that they're on the side of the free market and the ideals of capitalism, while those who are against it ("regulators") are clearly serving a socialist agenda and downright unamerican (while they then go ship jobs overseas and create tax shelters on foreign soil). Isn't that "conservative elitism?"

Or what about the warhawk conservatives, who say that anyone who states the reasons we went to war were false or fabricated are clearly on the side of terrorists, rape rooms, and gassing Kurds- and that "real Americans" support the war? Isn't that "conservative elitism"?

Also, if people (like the NRO) are aware of the fact that right wing columnists AND left wing activists are making the same comparisons of their opponents to Hitler, how can that be evidence of "liberal elitism" if it is not simultaneously "conservative elitism"? Both sides are doing the exact same thing, so how is one evidence of "liberal elitism" and the other not?

But Hell, You Got A DVD Player 

From the New York Times:

"With its rising budget deficit and ballooning trade imbalance, the United States is running up a foreign debt of such record-breaking proportions that it threatens the financial stability of the global economy, according to a report released Wednesday by the International Monetary Fund."

Nevermind that! Tax Cuts! Think of the DVD Player, America! Multidisc, Super Audio CDs...

"...underfunding for Social Security and Medicare will lead to shortages as high as $47 trillion over the next 70 years or nearly 500 percent of the current gross domestic product in the coming decades."

A surround sound system! Dolby Digital!

"...Robert E. Rubin, the former secretary of the Treasury, said that the federal budget was "on an unsustainable path" and that the "scale of the nation's projected budgetary imbalance is now so large that the risk of severe adverse consequences must be taken very seriously, although it is impossible to predict when such consequences may occur."

Close your eyes America, and visualize a flat panel TV in your kitchen...

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Case Closed 

The Washington Post has a five page article which seals the deal: There's no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, there is no evidence of a credible construction effort, there was no Al-Qaeda link, and most of the evidence cited pre-war is either completely incorrect or completely fabricated.

If that isn't much of a shock to you, then you won't be shocked that America still doesn't care. If catching a bad guy means an inversion of every principle this country was based on, you can be sure to rally the Americans around it by saying he's a threat to every principle this country was based on.

Issue Fog! Bush on Immigration 

Bush would be in favor of less restrictive immigration policies for illegal aliens, provided they had jobs or had notice from an employer saying that they would be hired, and Lou Dobb's head exploded on live TV. It's important to note something in all the brouhaha over Bush's supposedly "liberal" turn.

"Rep. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., House Democratic Caucus chairman and the highest-ranking Hispanic in Congress, said few immigrants would want to participate in the program because they know they will be deported after their term is up. Bush's principles say that "he wants their sweat and labor, but he ultimately doesn't want them," Menendez said. (From the AP) This has something to do with the fact that while the guest stay is for three years, approval for a Green Card usually takes six to ten years:

"Administration officials acknowledge that the wait for a green card could take up to six years or longer, meaning that some guest workers who apply for green cards but do not receive them before their guest worker status expires would face the prospect of being forced to leave the United States. In that case, critics of the proposal said Tuesday night, workers would be better off remaining illegal and staying indefinitely in the United States, rather than revealing themselves to immigration officials when they sign up for a program that may, these critics assert, lead to their deportation." - New York Times

This is not a law. This is a rough outline of the type of laws that Bush would support if drafted. In other words, Bush didn't actually do anything, he's just talking about it, and the law itself is being left for lawmakers to decide on. Republicans- who control the Senate and the House- hate the entire concept of amnesty:

"I'm not for allowing illegals to stay in this country. I think they should have to go back to their home countries." - Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va.

"It is dangerous to offer additional incentives and rewards for illegal immigration while giving only lip service to border security." - Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo.

"Guest worker' programs and gradual amnesty provide cover for terrorists." - Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas.

Sounds like consensus to me! Here's a theory, if you want it: Bush announces his support for a law that stands no chance of getting passed. It takes an issue away from Democrats, who will likely work against the bill because it means that agricultural and service industries get a steady stream of cheap temp workers (literally, "second class citizens") who are promised absolutely nothing in return. By praising himself for his compassion and attacking Democrats for blocking the proposal on account of "partisanship", Bush has an election spin that steals a Democratic strength for the benefit of moderate votes and makes Dems look bad for fighting it. Then he watches the bill get killed before it ever reaches his desk.

I'm always careful when I hear the word "bipartisan" in an election year. It's not always explicitly linked to issue fog, but it usually means they're getting ready to skewer the other guy. Hark!

"I commend President Bush for this constructive step toward important and, frankly, overdue immigration reform. Congress must work with President Bush in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation to fashion appropriate legislation." - Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"Bipartisan cooperation" seems to be a Washington Buzzword for "we don't want a debate, so if you try to get one going, we're going to label you as an obstructionist to democracy itself". Orrin Hatch votes yes on school prayer and no on McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform but says "bipartisan" in 10% of his press releases (or at least, in 10% of his google search results.)

Lydon, Krugman, Robbins, Nader, and Dean's Third Party 

Chris Lydon's Three Part Interview with Paul Krugman is available here as a series of MP3's. Chris Lydon asks some great questions about media complacency in regards to the Bush Administration, as well as asking Krugman to take a second look at Ralph Nader's campaign and how the critiques that he was holding up against Washington in 2000 are similar to what is fueling the frustration of the Dean Democrats.

It was an interesting moment, because usually I'm kicking myself for casting a Green Vote in a Red State back in 2000. But I think I, and repentant Greens in general, should have more respect for the ideology that fueled that vote back in 2000. Surely Gore would have been a better President than Bush, and given a world without 9/11 we may have seen Bush's corruption on face value by the time of this election- by which point we would have had a candidate that moved back to the true center of American values, as Howard Dean is.

Howard Dean, it could be said, is the entire reason I voted Green in 2000. Because I was sick of corporate owned candidates with no connection to the American people: I wanted Dean in 2000. Howard Dean couldn't exist today if we slept through a Gore administration, if we settled for Gore and Joe Lieberman. Look at Lieberman today and just think, Democrats in 2000 were supposed to be excited about this guy. When that really sinks in, you might thank me for voting Green; although, I have to say I doubt it. Voting Green changed the face of progressive politics because it made progressive politics exist again. I voted Green to give the wake up call to the Democratic party that Dean has answered.

Tim Robbins, on August 2001, said this on why he voted Green:

"There was a time when I would have said that it is the "evil" Republicans who fear democracy. But the sad realization I have come to after the 2000 election, and after experiencing the reactions to our support for Nader, is that you can count the Democrats in that bunch, too. Not only do they fear democracy but many in the Democratic Party elite fear, if not outright despise, idealism. I have lost a great deal of respect for a party that admonished its progressive wing, that had no tolerance for dissension in its ranks and sought to demonize the most important and influential consumer advocate of the past fifty years. But we shouldn't be surprised. A similar reaction occurred earlier in this century when another leading advocate, Upton Sinclair, was running for governor of California. The power brokers of the Democratic Party did everything they could to isolate him. If they gave any support at all to his candidacy, it was halfhearted, while some even endorsed his Republican opponent, Frank Merriam. And the press? They demonized him, said he was anti-business, said he was an egomaniac. Sound familiar?"

Dean may very well be facing the same critique from the Democratic power structure because Dean is, in fact, a third party "idealism" candidate. He's embraced by some of the old elite either because a) they have realized they must either swim or die or b) he has made idealism into a tangible political asset again. Those who don't, those like Joe Lieberman and John Kerry who reside purely within the corporate-democratic structure, are losing. That's a good thing.

It was a central question during the mid term elections: Can Democrats win seats in the house and senate by playing Bush lite, by not disagreeing with the Republicans but by offering a slight variation on the Republican doctrine? The answer was a resounding no. Dems lost the house and senate that election year; and attempting to run a presidential campaign on the same strategy is not only bad judgment, but it is corrupt to the vast majority of voters who support progressive causes but not Democratic candidates. That is because a lot of Democrats have been afraid to be idealistic. Howard Dean, hopefully, can change that.

Dennis Kucinich's Conceptual Art 

There's no doubt that Dennis Kucinich is sincere in his liberal ideology, and the most liberal candidate of the field. But he's the most liberal in the worst possible sense of the word. But mostly, I simply can't stop imagining him riding into debates on a flying pink unicorn that dies a little bit whenever someone votes for him. So, to save the flying unicorn, Dennis Kucinich has to pull one of these every once in a while.

That's right, he used a pie chart on the radio. The unicorn lives!

"Vote No On Jesus" 

"Today's America should not cater to the bleeding-heart politics of men like Howard Dean and Jesus." -c/o McSweeney's, "A Message From Pat Robertson and the 'Vote No On Jesus' Campaign."

"Worst of all, [Jesus] has gone so far as to challenge the virtue of Operation: Iraqi Freedom. As our brave men and women fight in the trenches for the liberation of the Iraqi people, Jesus has repeatedly denounced our efforts and naively pleaded for a non-violent solution."

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Frothing Right Wing Incoherence Award  

I read this and could not understand a word of what was said.

First off, it starts with the "Dean said Osama isn't guilty" lie. But man, if that's all it did, I wouldn't even mention it. But it then takes Howard Deans assertion that Osama Bin Laden should be tried by a jury- a notion central to the entire concept of American Justice- and uses it to assert that Howard Dean, and the New York Times, would both like to see Osama set free, and that they are somehow also connected to the OJ Simpson trial.

Then, he pulls this gem: Of course, if we had just formed 'civil unions' with the terrorists, maybe a trial would be unnecessary because Osama might not have attacked us in the first place. Good evidence supports this theory: the terrorists did not attack the state of Vermont, the only state allowing civil unions between members of the same sex. Yet Dean would have you believe that given a second term, Bush, the war hawk that he is, might do just that: invade Vermont.

You see, Osama Bin Laden is for gay marriage, and so he spared Vermont from a terrorist attack because of it's culture of inclusion when it comes to homosexuals. But we're getting to my favorite part:

"So what is Dean going to do about the “quagmire” that is his presidential campaign? What is his “exit strategy”? Is his back-up plan to enroll in flight school? After piloting a plane into a building and personally killing thousands of Americans, would Dean, then, have enough evidence to “pronounce” his own guilt?"

Okay, not only is this ridiculous, but it makes no sense even in context. The question is, what will Dean do to get out of his own campaign, and the answer is that he will commit a suicide attack against Americans. Then, after committing suicide he will make a declaration, one way or the other, about his own guilt. Yes, you see, Howard Dean is a terrorist, is the idea of the article. If you missed it, he brings it up again:

But Dean doesn’t have to become a terrorist (although his policies do express a hatred of America that can only be inspired by the Quran); he can convince some of his followers to do it for him. You will get 72 civil unions in heaven.

Did you catch that? I know it was subtle. Dean's policies are based on the Quran, the muslim holy book, and that is why his policies are filled with hate for America. Because the Quran is. Then, keep in mind that the reward that Dean supporters will get when they commit acts of terror against this country is the right to marry thier gay counterparts.

All I can say is, thank god he didn't compare Howard Dean to Hitler, and I am glad that I can count on RNC chairman Ed Gillespie to do something about all this incivility. The article ends with the gem that Dean "feels a special kinship with Osama. Both are leaders of cult followings based on the hatred of America."

Phew! At least he didn't say Dean would win because of the "S" factor. You know, the right really puts the left to shame with its civility.

RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie Wants You To Know Something 

How funny is it when the first thing Ed Gillespie says includes the phrase "political hate speech?" What could have Mr. Gillespie so angry this time?

It would have to be the 7000th inane Hitler = X comparison since 1945. Has there been a single world leader since 1945 who has not had a little moustache painted on his face by some junior agitprop club, left or right?

But in all fairness, it's not like anyone on the right ever compared Clinton to Hitler. Or did it a second time. Or a third time. Or a fourth. Or a fifth time.

The "S" Factor 

I'm linking to The "S" Factor article because it seems to have inspired a frothing mouth across the right side of the blogosphere unparalleled since the day that "some people they have nothing to do with" were allowed the right to marry "other people they don't know" in a state that doesn't hold any of their political viewpoints.

What I love about this article is that it is a meme that would have had no currency if the Right hadn't posted it in their own blogs whilst striking their beloved stance of moral outrage. How dare the news media publish this? How dare the hollywood liberals say something bad about Ronald Reagan! How dare you, America!

I love this because the meme is so compact. The "S" Factor is perhaps the most important poll number in this election. This is perhaps one of the most important pieces of text written so far in this election. It explains why people are able to overlook every piece of information that is readily available to them when it comes to the Rove Passion Play.

Once you read that, you'll understand why it is that things like an unusually high show of support for Dean by college professors is actually a political liability in this country.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Free Speech Zones. Seriously. WTF?  

"When Bush went to the Pittsburgh area on Labor Day 2002, 65-year-old retired steel worker Bill Neel was there to greet him with a sign proclaiming, "The Bush family must surely love the poor, they made so many of us." The local police, at the Secret Service's behest, set up a "designated free-speech zone" on a baseball field surrounded by a chain-link fence a third of a mile from the location of Bush's speech. The police cleared the path of the motorcade of all critical signs, but folks with pro-Bush signs were permitted to line the president's path. Neel refused to go to the designated area and was arrested for disorderly conduct; the police also confiscated his sign."

I am sooooo grateful to all the Christian Fundamentalists and Republicans and terrified NASCAR dads who think that voting for George W Bush is such a great idea, because I was really sick of that old canard that "freedom of speech" didn't have specific "zones" that I had to be in in order to exercise that particular freedom.

Hey, Lou- are we in a free speech zone right now? Cuz I'd really like to say some nasty things about the president.

Sorry Bob. We're outside the free speech zone. I'll tell you what, why don't you write it down, and when we get to the free speech zone, I'll give it a read?

That's a great idea Lou! But you know what, I already forgot what I was gonna say!

Well just as well, Bob- just be grateful that you live in a country where you can say whatever you want whenever you are in an area specifically designated for the purpose of free expression. Some countries don't have that luxury.

Bush 2005 Budget  

You know it's bad news when the first paragraph says that the Bush Administration's new budget for 2005 "will rein in the growth of domestic spending without alienating politically influential constituencies." Don't we even pretend to have ideals about doing the right thing anymore?

"Even with the improving economic outlook, administration officials said, the federal budget deficit in the current fiscal year is likely to exceed last year's deficit of $374 billion, the largest on record."

Remember when Republicans believed in small government? But, as we all know, no one cares about the deficit anymore, and they probably never did. It's too bad, too, because we're really getting fucked:

"Total federal revenues have declined for three consecutive years, apparently the first time that has happened since the early 1920's. But in those years, from 2000 to 2003, total federal spending has increased slightly more than 20 percent, to $2.16 trillion last year."

But don't worry, it won't affect you, unless you're an American Veteran who has to pay for medicine, because you'll now be paying $10.00 when you would have been spending $3.00. I'm sure Bush will find some other way to support the troops- maybe he'll start another war? Or, if you are unemployed, well, remember that stuff Bush said about getting America back to work? Well, sorry, you're taking a hit for the team this year. They're cutting funding to job training programs and employment agencies. Instead, they have made room to fund abstinence programs for teenagers. Because government interference in personal choice is another big Republican ideal, just like big government is this year.

But don't get too worried, everybody: You'll still get a tax cut! Phew! That makes total fiscal sense!

William F. Buckley Jr is Confused, or, Who Is Howard Dean?  

I usually enjoy William F Buckley Jr, as he's one of the more rational and principled Conservatives on the scene today. Long before Fox News was spouting the spin of any Republican that held office, Buckley was analyzing and coming to his own independent justifications for their behaviors, or else taking them to task with a quiet and insightful criticism on how their positions didn't hold water.

Now, I don't expect Buckley, an editor at large for the NRO, to drop party and run because of Bush, but he's recently written a column called Carnivorous Prophets about the current lack of Democratic civility in the primary. In that article, Buckley delivers what I've come to understand will be the usual litany of Conservative (or Lieberman-democrat) mistruths about Howard Dean.

To share time in national forums with the thaumaturgist from Vermont, who with a bright and engaging smile waves his hand eastward and proclaims an end to the problem there by simply shipping our boys home, does two things to the other contenders. They want to say: Stop! stop! stop! The world doesn't work that way! There are terrible, ridiculous complications! etc. etc.

Fine and good, but Dean isn't the candidate asking for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. That's Dennis Kucinich, who frequently takes Dean to task for this. Dean's position, which he reiterated today at the debate, is that we cannot simply withdraw from Iraq and that we will have involvement there for at least a year or two as we work to get the UN to take over the country during its transition to an Iraqi-led government. It is interesting that Dean and Bush differ on only two things in regards to Iraqi policy, and they are: 1. Dean says we shouldn't have started the fight, and 2. Dean says we should get the UN in during the transition instead of doing it entirely ourselves. This difference- which has been the way we've run wars since the UN was founded- is enough to get Dean labeled as a "radical" on foreign policy.

"Their first defense against baby-talk political solutions was to carry on as they did in a half dozen debates. But their frustration has led them to criticize Dr. Dean straight-out, and to enumerate and express contempt for his weaknesses."

But Dean's solutions are not as easy as Buckley seems to think. Most of them involve a rather complicated process, which most people aren't willing to engage in, and which most rightists are thrilled to reduce to thier basest straw man positions before blowing them down with a condescending sigh. Look at Deans confederate flag comments, which were attacked as racist and condescending, and then a similar speech got the Black Commentator magazine to say: "Howard Dean's December 7 speech is the most important statement on race in American politics by a mainstream white politician in nearly 40 years. Nothing remotely comparable has been said by anyone who might become or who has been President of the United States since Lyndon Johnson's June 4, 1965 affirmative action address to the graduating class at Howard University." Of course, the idea that Dean would seek to reach out to Americans that Republicans had netted using racially divisive issues and tactics is not something I would expect even the principled William F Buckley Jr to admit to.

Then there are Dean's comments that Saddam Husseins capture hasn't made America any safer. The attacks on him for that comment have been continuous on the news and by other Democrats. But what is not arguable is this: since we have captured Saddam Hussein, we have lost lives in Iraq, the terror alert has been elevated to Orange, international flights have been grounded out of terrorist fears, armed guards now fly on international flights and visitors from overseas are now fingerprinted and photographed as they enter the country. I, for one, do not feel like these measures are the result of an increased level of safety. Lieberman has presented the idea that Dean's statement would be like saying, in WW2, that the defeat of the Nazis did not make us any safer because we still had the Soviet Union to contend with. But I would argue that his metaphor was backwards. In regards to the overall threat to the United States, our war with Iraq was like a surprise attack on Moscow while the Nazi's invaded France. I think it could be said that even that is generous: Saddam Hussein was a cruel dictator, but he did not have nearly the power or the capacity for havok that the former Soviet Union had.

Next up is Deans comments that Osama Bin Laden deserves a fair trial. Why this was controversial, I will never understand. The entire point of the Democratic process, the entire concept of American Justice, is that individuals are innocent until proven guilty. Howard Dean's affirmation of this fact does not mean that he thinks Osama Bin Laden is innocent. It means that he believes that the American Process should not be undermined or else we will lose our position of high ground and Islamofundamentalists across the world will use it as a recruitment tool, holding us up for our hypocrisy. When Dean later affirmed that he believed Osama should recieve the death penalty when found guilty, he was accused of "flip flopping" on the subject. But I do not understand this either. It seems simple to me: Osama should be given a fair trial, and if found guilty, he should be executed. I don't see the complexity of that, nor so I see it as "political baby talk." It is simply holding up the dearest principle of American Justice.

Let us now get into the domestic details, shall we? Take for example Deans statement that "There is no Bush middle class tax cut." Kerry dismissed this in the debate today by calling them "the tax cuts that Howard Dean doesn't seem to know existed". But what Dean means is simple, and I'll quote from an anti-Dean news story from the AP: "that most people are worse off because college tuition, health care premiums, property taxes and other state and local taxes or fees have gone up by more than Americans have saved under the Bush tax cuts." Is that really so hard to understand? The idea is that if you get rid of Bush's tax "relief" you will have more federal support for other organizations and local government, meaning they'll no longer have to pass the costs directly to the typical American tax payer. Myself, I received $0.00 in Tax cuts from George Bush, literally, and I know that other taxes have gone up. Anyone who reads a newspaper should know that local governments are mostly having huge fiscal shortfalls for schools and other programs, so either you are getting slammed on property taxes or sales taxes or else you are losing something that you had under Bill Clinton. Vermont, by the way, is a notable exception to this, since Dean took the care to develop a rainy day fund to support government programs for just this reason.

Lastly, there is the call for unity on behalf of the Democratic candidates for President. Again, how this got turned into a "controversial" statement is beyond me. But Ironically, we come full circle: read William F Buckley's article on democratic civility, and judge for yourself whether Deans comments were "wild" and "irresponsible."

Howard Dean is a rational centrist with progressive social values and a conservative financial philosophy. If that isn't the best we can ask for in a Democratic Candidate for President, I don't know what is.

[Note: edited on 1/06 to clean up some blogger formatting errors]

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Weekly Blog Round Up 

Self Composed has an entry that asks a question- but doesn't answer the questions- about a very serious breakdown in the line between personal responsibility and the overall good of society, manifesting itself, this time around, in a case of a police officer who was fired for reportedly smoking a cigarette at a party. It has been picked up as an outrage by people in both parties and of both political persuasions. In this case: can a company, or the government, hire and fire employees based on their smoking habits; and what does this mean for a universal health care system?

The answer, of course, is that smokers are a liability to any company that pays out health benefits. But so are people who over eat, and so are people with a genetic predisposition to breast or colon cancer. Are those people eligible for full health coverage? Can they be hired or fired as liabilities? If it is because smoking is a "personal decision," then when do you draw the line between personal decisions and their effects on community-wide responsibility?

I believe that the answer is, simply, that anyone has the right to engage in any behavior they like, so long as it doesn't affect their performance on the job or the safety of others (ie, airline pilots can't get drunk before a flight). So, that being said, I would not advocate a society of personal choice without personal responsibility. We cannot enforce morality and we cannot enforce health. In a public health care system, you could- and should- expect to pay some form of premium or higher tax rate for smokers who need cancer treatments, or nutritionally obese people who get heart attacks. Personal responsibility is essential in any society of free people. Firing people for smoking shouldn't be a right wing pet issue. It should be a left wing issue as well, because personal responsibility, as opposed to government interference in personal decisions, is the meme that justifies pro-choice arguments, gay marriage, and freedom from religion.

In League blogs, check out a couple of others:

Corrente on the "idiot defense" ("I didn't know she was undercover!") of any potential arrests brought out of the Plame Case. They also mention that the Democratic candidates aren't doing a very good job of keeping Plame on the front lines; probably because they're too busy attacking Howard Deans business-as-usual sealing of his governmental records, which is actually a non-issue since a judge is independently determining what records should be opened. Watching the debate today, I have to say, it was one of the best debates yet. Deans end-of-debate performance was remarkable and completely on target (Check out NTodd's post on the subject) But I didn't hear Valerie Plames name come up once.

Steve Gilliard with a related note on the new prosecutor for the Plame case, who has been met with surprise over his tear-the-flesh-from-the-shark-with-his-teeth credentials in spite of not really having them. He's a comfortably independent prosecutor who will do the job within the realm of the law, which is fine by me, as long as the job gets done. He's also got this article, on the new warhawk battle plan for Bush post-04, including the military invasion of Syria and Iran, and "also calls for Saudi Arabia and France to be treated not as allies but as rivals and possibly enemies." I planned on covering that topic eventually, but I haven't, and I don't know why. Maybe because it is precisely the type of topic no one in America cares about simply because it is so overt. Also, ideas are a soft currency for the Bush Administration- they'll throw out something like that, or give subtle signs of a draft reinstatement, and then they'll simply deny it or say "we were just talking about it and made no action in that direction." If Bush starts getting more adverse towards France, it'll be something.

Trish Wilson has a post that only makes the Pirate Wing of the Democratic Party need to rise up once again and fight to bring back the proud seafaring-bandit days of American Commerce. That is to say, she discusses the dusting off of an anti-piracy law against Greenpeace which was otherwise last used in the 1890's, and could lead to a full probationary overview of the organization by a government agent.

Kick the Leftist (fast becoming one of my favorite blogs) has got a scoop on Al Qaida's newest round of boasting, true or not.

Sooner Thought has an even more sarcastic entry than I did on the Robertson announcement that Christ endorsed Bush, and also goes into some detail about how Wes Clark responded.

Echidne has a brief article on the rise of Islamic Sharia Law as an alternative legal system within Canada.

The Religious Right Wants You To Know Something 

The Religious Freedom Coalitions Chairman, William J. Murray, says Howard Dean's absolute mental instability is not funny, but sad. What a compassionate man!

"I was shocked to watch [Dean] at a rally in San Francisco when he growled out loud that he wasn't going to listen to any preachers," Murray recalled in the e-mail. "Then in New Hampshire during an interview on Christmas Day with the Boston Globe, he stated that he would emphasize his Christianity as soon as he began to campaign in the South. What?"

Well, Howard Dean said- and the Bush ad quotes- "I'm not going to listen to the fundamentalist preachers anymore." By fundamentalist preachers you could assume Dean was referring to those who say Liberals and Feminists were to blame for September 11th, or those who advocate against homosexuals and the life of every human being who is not 100% in the tow of the party line for Conservative Religious America. That Murray sees no difference between "preachers" and "fundamentalist preachers" is probably why he sees no difference, later, between "muslims" and "terrorists." It goes on:

At the end of the e-mail, Murray gives a hypothetical scenario where Dean is the Democrat nominee and behind Bush by 15 percent in the polls in October. Then Bush dies running in a marathon and Vice-President Dick Cheney becomes president and decides to run against Dean.

"The Christian right envisions Cheney's lesbian daughter being married to her female lover in the White House, and they just don't vote," Murray envisions. "The Muslims join with the unions, the gays, the socialists and the loony greens to vote Dean in, and we have a madman in the White House in January '05."
(My emphasis added).

Okay, no offense to any God-loving people, but what exactly is wrong with Muslims? I can understand your outright ignorance and well-publicized self-righteousness over homosexuals, and your fear of the socialists stemming from your 20-year-dead cold war against something that only vaguely resembled American socialism, but when you start bashing the religious choice of a group of Americans because of their faith, you are on a whole new level of hating America. Oh, and how great is it that in this scenario, Bush dies while running in a marathon.

Here's some more, including the soon-to-be-famous "But Dean's kids are Jews!" argument:

"The Deans told their children to pick a religion, any religion, and that they would not get involved in their decision one way or the other," Murray lamented. The two children subsequently chose to become Jewish.

The horror, the horror of allowing your children to remain indoctrination free!

Dean himself parted ways with the Episcopal Church in the 1980's "over a dispute about the route of a public bike path through the church property," Murray wrote. "Excuse me? Now, I would leave a church if they ordained female deacons or recruited a homosexual music minister...but a bike path?," exclaimed Murray.

Oh. My. God. "I would leave the church over something as trivial and meaningless as the idea that god only speaks through people of a certain gender, or to protest their sexual choices...but leave a church over the potential environmental impact of the church boards decisions? Wha wha WHAAAA?!?!"

Friday, January 02, 2004


From Drudge via Atrios:

The margin of error is +/- 3.1%. In direct matchups today against President George W. Bush in 2004, likely voters would choose:

# Bush over Dean 51% to 46%,
# Bush over Lieberman 52% to 46%,
# Bush over Kerry 54% to 43%,
# Bush over Gephardt 53% to 44%,
# Bush over Clark 53% to 43%,
# Bush over North Carolina Sen. John Edwards 53% to 43%.

Only 1-in-4 (25%) are paying "very close" attention to the 2004 presidential election right now. Another 22 percent are paying "fairly close" attention, and 25 percent are paying "some" attention, while 17 percent are paying "just a little" attention.

Interesting that Lieberman and Dean have the same support.

In another poll, Atrios directs us to this Kerry tidbit from the American Research Group: John Kerry's drop in the tracking over the past week is the result of a drop in ballot preference for Kerry among women. The drop coincides with Kerry's extensive use of a television spot in New Hampshire featuring children playing outdoors while Kerry delivers a message about not sending children to war for oil. The playback from the ad among women is negative for Kerry, with one respondent summing up the comments by saying that Kerry "voted to send them to Iraq." (c/o Daily Kos)

Pat Robertson Wants You to Know Something 

Pat Robertson of Christian TV's "700 Club" once nodded in agreement when Jerry Falwell told him that 9/11 was God's punishment for the "ACLU, abortionists, feminists, gays, and the People For the American Way". Now, he has a new message from a God that just can't stand the American Constitution:

"The Lord has just blessed him," Robertson said of Bush. "I mean, he could make terrible mistakes and comes out of it. It doesn't make any difference what he does, good or bad, God picks him up because he's a man of prayer and God's blessing him."

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, a frequent Robertson critic and executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said he had a prediction of his own: "Pat Robertson in 2004 will continue to use his multimillion broadcasting empire to promote George Bush and other Republican candidates."
-World Net Daily, 01/01/04

That stands on its own, though, doesn't it?

Conservative Logic 

WASHINGTON (AP) - Texas Rep. Ralph Hall switched parties Friday night, filing for re-election as a Republican after nearly a quarter-century as one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress.

"I've always said that if being a Democrat hurt my district I would switch or I would resign," Hall said in an interview with The Associated Press. He said GOP leaders had recently refused to place money for his district in a spending bill and "the only reason I was given was I was a Democrat."

The GOP withholds money for absurdly partisan reasons, so you join the party. Brilliant.

John Kerry Wants You To Know Something 

Howard Dean announced another record breaking fundraising quarter last week, with $15 Million over the internet alone. John Kerry made $2.5 million. But Kerry has something that Dean doesn't have.

"Our $2.5 million is real,'' Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said, though offering no proof Dean's estimates were fudged. - Boston Globe, 1/02/04

John Kerry wants you to know that his $2.5 million is real money, because he cannot imagine how anyone could raise $15 million through excited supporters alone. Is your 6% poll rating real too, John? John Kerry absolutely cannot fathom the concept of grass roots support, and so he declares that Howard Dean's $15 Million is imaginary.

This, according to John Kerry, is "what it takes to be President."

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Al Qaeda Tapes Found in Baghdad 

Training Videos found in a Baghdad weapons cache have the NRO asking rhetorically, "How could they have gotten there?"

The NRO asks such brilliant questions; my guess is that they "got there" the same way the Paris Hilton sex tape made it from California to Bangor in less than a week. The people with copies of the Paris Hilton sex tape didn't necessarily have sex with Paris Hilton. They simply like sex. For Iraqi insurgents, hate of America is a very similar type of lust- and these videos are cultural emblems of that lust. It was dubbed and passed on- for a similar type of educational and entertainment value, I would suspect. Just like Gangsta rap and pornography, Al Qaeda videos and brochures are a sort of cheap entertainment for angry Iraqis. The idea that Iraqi Insurgents will watch tapes made by people who don't like America isn't huge news, but it does not in and of itself imply a longstanding alliance with them, just as having a copy of the Paris Hilton sex tape does not imply a lifetime interest in Ms. Hilton's career.

Al Qaeda "is a movement defined by adherence to bin Laden's virulent anti-Westernism/anti-Semitism and propensity for violence". If you want to say you found sympathy to anti-westernism and anti-semitism in Iraq, it's not much of a revelation. Nor would I say it isn't a problem. But it is very different from saying you've found Osama-trained fighters in Iraq, and even if you find them now, it doesn't mean they were there prior to the invasion. I wouldn't be shocked if I was told that certain numbers of Al Qaeda fighters are now in Iraq to secure it as a fundamentalist Islamic state. Not to support Saddam, who they despised as a secularist. "But they both hated America" is an overvalued idea launched back in the days of tenuous Osama-Hussein ties by the administration at the same time they told congressmen that Saddam could hit the east coast with missiles. Only Americans believe that the enemy of our enemies are ipso facto our friends, and that's why we had Saddam Hussein, it's why we had the Taliban, it is why we had supported god awful monsters against other god awful monsters and then declared it a victory. This is why our near complete abandonment of Afghanistan at the hands of Afghan warlords and Harmad Karzai was a terrible idea, especially since we dropped it only to go and create instability in Iraq with little to no direct authority to hand the nation to and even less of a plan for post-war success.

The spectacle will bring out Saddam Hussein from a hole and call it a success, but the spectacle will do this so you do not ask questions over who, exactly, has replaced him. You will also not ask about warlords remaining in power in Afghanistan- some of whom are murdering aid workers for distributing food- but you don't hear about them described as the "demon" that Hussein was. It is possibly because "rape room" is a better spectacle and a more "supernaturally pure", ie, sellable, form of evil than the mundane, dull and common evil of politically motivated starvation. A process Americans allow to happen in other places all the time, even when there is food available, such as in Zimbabwe. But when these warlords work with "democracy" in Afghanistan, it is a "success" of the United States in stabilizing the region, and not the gross neglect and abandonment of the actual hotbed of international terror where Osama Bin Laden rests with the support of huge throngs of its citizens. When the UN says, "The United Nations may have to abandon its effort to stabilize Afghanistan because of the rising violence", the Bush administration will tell you that Iraq did not divert attention or focus from that task.

Sure- and that's not Paris Hilton on that tape.

So, to answer the NRO's rhetorical question, that is how the Al Qaeda tapes got into Baghdad. They got there because Al Qaeda is clearly still a problem- so I ask in return, why were we in Iraq in the first place, when we have clearly failed to do enough about Al Qaeda or the Taliban to justify a second-priority invasion of a country that had nothing to do with September 11th, 2001?

Watergate Stopped WW3 

British spy chiefs warned after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war that they believed the United States might invade Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi to seize their oil fields, according to records released Thursday. -From CNN

The committee of intelligence service directors calculated that the United States could guarantee sufficient oil supplies for themselves and their allies by taking oil fields in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi, with total reserves of more than 28 billion tons. It warned however that the American occupation would need to last 10 years, as western nations developed alternative energy sources, and would lead to the "total alienation" of Arab states and many developing countries, as well as "domestic dissension" in the United States.

Anyone else find it odd that back in 1973, western states were "10 years" away from an alternative fuel source?

Democratic Deju Vu 

"This is a year of turmoil and terror in the Democratic Party: Their likely presidential nominee battered, bloodied, and ridiculed even before the general election has begun. [...] Rarely, in contemporary American politics, has a prospective Democratic presidential standard-bearer emerged successfully from his early primaries burdened by so many deep public doubts about his character within his own party. [...] In over three decades of political reporting, I cannot recall a time when some of the Democratic Party's senior strategists and adviser have spoken with such brutal candor about their likely nominee and his perceived weaknesses. [...] It is little wonder, then, that a growing number of Democrats are openly questioning Clinton's electability in the fall."

That's from a 1992 "World and I" article on Clinton's primary run. It's really amazing how many parallels there are. In many ways, Dean is in a much better position than Clinton was at the end of the 92 primary. However, reading it you've also got to understand that Bush v2.0 is an improved model with better ratings; and that it is unlikely there will be a Republican-stealing third party candidate.

But what it does show is that Democrats are squeamish; they're afraid of whatever candidates they end up with. "Indeed, many Democrats fear that their primaries are about to deliver to them "the worst of all worlds, a bleeding front-runner stumbling over the finish line" to receive the Democratic presidential nomination, said Sawyer." And then: "Both of these candidates are so flawed that there is no possibility of their defeating President Bush," former New York Mayor Ed Koch said of both Clinton and former California Gov. Jerry Brown. "Bill Clinton has no credibility."

Lastly: "This is going to be a very depressing campaign--there's nothing uplifting about it. Bush is going to campaign on the fact that he's not Bill Clinton and Bill Clinton is going to campaign by saying that things are terrible in America."

We'll just have to wait and see if Bill Clinton wins.

c/o Buzzflash

Bush 2004 Ad  

Here's a little synopsis of a Bush 04 Ad entitled "Angry Democrats". What's interesting is the line they pick to make Dean look bad:

"I don't want to listen to the fundamentalist preachers anymore."

Is Bush presenting himself as the "pro-listening to fundamentalist preachers" candidate? Apparently the only other "angry" and "pessimistic" line from Dean they could find to close with is, hilariously enough, "Thank you very much! Thank you very very much!" Clearly, pessimistic people are extraordinarily gracious.

Then there's a cut to the sound of synthesized harpsichord straight out of an elevator in 1960's San Francisco, and a voice asking, "Tired of the pessimism and angry protest?" and a picture of Bush with children waving flags. The only thing missing is a puppy. What's amazing about this commercial is it is almost literally saying, "Look How Mad I Got These Guys" and then "Don't Be Mad At Me- Just Go Back To Sleep."

My expectation is that the Bush ads for the bulk of the campaign are going to be "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing" style; I don't think he'll go negative until the end, precisely because he knows that if he launches an attack ad first, he loses the right to call out Dean's "negativity." Of course, it's Karl "If McCain Slept With Your Mother, Would You Still Consider Him An Honest Man?" Rove we're talking about, and it's Bush- so, they could launch nothing but attack ads and then say Dean does nothing but attack Bush even if Dean never says Bush's name again for the remainder of 2004.

[edit for this afterthought: The "attack ad that shows how Bush doesn't do attack ads" idea is precisely what Rove is already doing, right in front of my stupid face. He's making an attack ad that makes Dean look angry and pessimistic in character, then he ends it by saying Bush doesn't make attacks and that he's "positive".]

No, No, Not Terrorist Related. At All.  

WASHINGTON (AP) - FBI and Homeland Security Department officials boarded a British Airways jet shortly after it landed at Washington Dulles International Airport Wednesday night and detained 247 passengers for about three hours, officials said. An FBI official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the detention of the passengers was not terrorist-related. -AP, 1/01/04

"The detention of the passengers was not terrorist-related"? Did the Department of Homeland Security pull the plane over to ask them about the White House leaker? Or was it just to shoot the shit about sports and good tourist spots?

Neil Bush, Hero of the Working Class 

Cashing in stock options before the market crashed, presidential brother Neil Bush made at least $171,370 in a single day by buying and selling shares in a small U.S. high-tech firm where he had previously been a consultant, according to tax returns that give a glimpse into his business dealings.

The July 19, 1999 purchase and quick sale of stock from Kopin Corp. of Taunton, Mass., came on a day that the company received good news about a new Asian client that sent its stock value soaring.

"My timing on this transaction was very fortunate," Bush told The Associated Press.
-AP 01/01/04

Fortunate Indeed! Thank God he didn't lose money on the deal like some of the other people (haha, I mean, "dumb workin' stiffs") who might have had stock in that company and not had any way (albeit extremely unlikely ways) to know when they should sell their stock. I tell you, that Bush family is the luckiest alive! Do they even know how to lose money? I mean, besides the 374 Billion dollars.

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