Friday, July 30, 2004

Stick With Bushy 

A Message From White House West, starring Will Ferrell.

Pretty good.

Guess Who's Having a Good Year 

ChevronTexaco Corp.'s second-quarter profit more than doubled as high energy prices extended a recent roll that is shaping into the most prosperous stretch in the oil giant's 125-year history." Profits also increased because of "a $255 million benefit from changes in income tax laws governing some of ChevronTexaco's international operations." - AP

But best of all, it's nice to know that the war in Iraq hasn't necessarily increased the cost of producing oil, it's just increasing the cost of you and I obtaining it.

The second quarter continued the momentum ChevronTexaco enjoyed during the first three months of the year when oil prices began an ascent that has required motorists across the country to pay more than $2 per gallon for gasoline. The highest gas prices have been in California, where ChevronTexaco is a market leader.

Of course, it is standard business practice for a corporation to turn a profit in any way possible, including the exploitation of a disastrous war. Iraq is giving it an excuse to crank up the oil prices, so that's what it does: capitalism. None of this is all that fishy until you consider that Condoleeza Rice was the director of Chevron until she got her job in the White House.

Now, notwithstanding any actual impropriety, let's play a little imagination game. Imagine that you are an Iraqi citizen who has lived through the war. You know just one person who was killed in it, another who mysteriously disappeared and two people who are very close to you have serious injuries- blindness, and a missing limb. You were invaded on the false pretense that there were WMD's, which we didn't allow inspectors to look for, and inevitably never turned up. Now, you are told that two companies associated with the people who invaded you were making huge profits as a result.

Do you trust the occupation? How much? Enough that you turn in the guy you think is in the resistance? Enough that you don't join the resistance yourself? And what if you aren't in Iraq, you're outside of Iraq- in Syria, or Egypt, or Iran. What then? Do you trust America enough to stand up and say, "Democracy is beautiful, and I want it, and I will fight my leaders to get it?"

Least Convincing Clarification Ever 

The AP issued the following "clarification" today:

In a July 28 story about Linda Chavez being named to the board of Pilgrim's Pride Corp., The Associated Press reported that she withdrew her nomination as Labor Secretary in 2001 after questions surfaced about an illegal immigrant who had worked for her and lived in her home.

Chavez said through a spokesman that she never hired the illegal immigrant who lived with her and that funds she gave the immigrant were charity, not wages.


Bush Returns 

Aides said that with Bush trying to project optimism, his campaign-trail manta will be: "We have turned the corner, and we are not turning back." -WaPo

So, Bush is running on the "I screwed up, and I'm the only one who can fix it" platform. We have turned a corner- toward privatized social security, towards education that prepares students to take a test and nothing else (but the test scores are up!) and a war on terror that more closely resembles a potlatch:

"The potlatch of the Indians of north-western America [...] consisted of great festal assemblies of the whole community, culminating in contests of destruction among the chiefs. Every chief boasted of the amount of property he was prepared to destroy. The one who destroyed the most was the victor and enjoyed the greatest fame." - Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power p. 220

It makes sense, right? Can't you imagine Osama and Bush sitting at a dinner table blowing up as much as possible to prove that it was theirs to begin with? This includes the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the endless loss of life in Iraq of both Americans and Iraqis (this month is one of the bloodiest so far, btw)- as well as 9/11, the beheadings and kidnappings, the embassies- whoever destroys the most, owns the most. We can out destroy the guy in a cave- but we can't seem to destroy the guy in the cave. Great.

We have turned the corner, and we are not turning back!

Of course we know that the national debt projection is worse than it has been- but the economy is improving, right?

The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of just 3 percent in the spring, a dramatic slowdown from the rapid pace of the past year, as consumer spending fell to the weakest rate since the slowdown of 2001, the government reported Friday. -MSNBC

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Dayton: It's In Ohio 

I'm a fan of romantic political rhetoric, so I wasn't really stuffed on the Kerry speech. Kerry gave a pragmatic speech, opened up some windows for people to "visualize an America with President Kerry" and to make that vision an inspiring one.

So much promise stretches before us. Americans have always reached for the impossible, looked to the next horizon, and asked: What if?

Two young bicycle mechanics from Dayton asked what if this airplane could take off at Kitty Hawk? It did that and changed the world forever. A young president asked what if we could go to the moon in ten years? And now we're exploring the solar system and the stars themselves. A young generation of entrepreneurs asked, what if we could take all the information in a library and put it on a little chip the size of a fingernail? We did and that too changed the world forever.

And now it's our time to ask: What if?
- Full text.

Ohio is a swing state.

Even though I have long wanted to like Kerry, I didn't. Now I do. And if the polls say anything accurate about America, then I'm not alone in my discomfort for Bush but ambivilence towards Kerry. Obviously, I am to the left of most Americans, but hell, I am as critical of Kerry as anyone else is, didn't trust him, bought the flip flopper stuff. Now I like him. Now I can imagine him as decisive.

The earlier convention had some good stuff- Wes Clark was great, talking about "a tradition of Wartime Democrats" and including Bill Clinton on the list for Kosovo, the war that was so unlike Iraq that most Americans forgot it was even a war.

Back to the speech, though, one kvetch: Get the $87 Billion dollar question off the table. Explain that he wanted the amendment to pay for the $87 billion by raising taxes on the top 2% and stood firm to that principle. It wasn't a flip flop, it was a protest vote. He could have pulled it off and got it off the board- call it sticking to principle, even- but he let it go. That question is the one that will bring him down. I know, because I had to argue it with a guy at work today.

Everyone on MSNBC is bitching that he didn't mention his time as a senator, but you know what? No one who hasn't made up thier mind, cares. This election has fewer undecideds than any in a very, very long time- and so the vote comes down to the casual voter, the voter who picks up his idea through osmosis from the media. In other words: He pulled it off, maybe not to the political nitpickers, but those guys who don't follow politics much but were forced to watch because nothing was on TV? I think he got those guys. But especially, he got those women.

Kerry's Speech 

Kerry gives his speech an hour from this writing, but that hasn't stopped an article from Nedra Pickler from appearing on the AP Newswire service that describes his speech in full, posted at 6:53PM (a full three hours before the speech).

Nedra, of course, isn't biased:

Democrats chose as their nominee a man of exceptional privilege who was raised around the world, attended boarding schools in Europe and New England, graduated from Yale and has married two exceptionally wealthy women. But, as countless convention speakers have reminded, he volunteered for service in Vietnam and has spent almost his entire adult life in public office.

Oh, Nedra! I know that the press gets excerpts, etc, but this paragraph was over the top. No mention of Mr. Bush's degree of privilege?

Big Pharma Solves Everything! 

From Reuters:

To the nearly 1.1 Million who have lost thier jobs, Republicans have some advice:

"Why don't they get new jobs if they're unhappy -- or go on Prozac?" said Susan Sheybani, an assistant to Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt. The comment was apparently directed to a colleague who was transferring a phone call from a reporter asking about job quality, and who overheard the remark. When told the Prozac comment had been overheard, Sheybani said: "Oh, I was just kidding."

At least she didn't say "Shove it!"

(c/o balta)

Bush: Not Even Good For The Rich 


The overall income Americans reported to the government shrank for two consecutive years after the Internet stock market bubble burst in 2000, the first time that has effectively happened since the modern tax system was introduced during World War II, newly disclosed information from the Internal Revenue Service shows.

Outside of inflation, the average income of Americans has dropped almost 10% from 2000 to 2002.

The unprecedented back-to-back declines in reported incomes was caused primarily by the combination of the big fall in the stock market and the erosion of jobs and wages in well-paying industries in the early years of the decade.

But the most interesting part of all of this is that the richest people got hit the hardest, until Bush's tax cuts went through in 2003. Tax cuts, the article suggests, weren't the major source of declining tax revenues- it's a drop in income. Particularly, The number of taxpayers reporting adjusted gross income of $10 million or more fell to 5,280 from 11,215.

Those poor souls. What this says about Bush's economic stewardship, I'll leave to smarter people (paging Dr. Krugman!) but it's interesting, no matter what it means politically.

The Biggie Fry 

It may have just been me, but the line from the Ms. about Edwards and Ms. Edwards celebrating their anniversary at Wendy's in two days, like they always do, was about as obvious as celebrating it at a NASCAR rally.

Which is fine with me. Whatever it takes, at this point. While I hate segmenting voters (and, particularly, segmenting them into less hip, 12 year old frameworks), it's clear Edwards is going after- ugh, sorry- the "Bubba Vote".

"In youth activities, he did what so many Americans do: giving up their weekends and evenings to coach young people in basketball and soccer, in his church, in urban ministers, in his prayer groups, and for 20 years in his work, fighting for those who could not fight for themselves." (Bob Harris, over at Tom Tomorrow's blog, has a fearful reaction to the "fighter" meme, which I agree with). Anyway, that's the Bubba contingent, yeah?

And here is the Wendy's quote, in full:

And in two days, we will celebrate 27 years of marriage. The way we always do. We'll do it the way we always do at Wendy's. Whether it's Wendy's or Washington, I've found that it's true: It's not where you go, it's who you go with.

This is kind of brilliant, because it is an effort to transfer the "Southern normalcy" of the plural Edwards onto the plural Johns. They go to Wendy's, like you do, and they go to the White House, and Kerry goes with them. She also referred, earlier, to John and Theresa as "two great friends". It's aimed at relatively lower class white guys, but also maybe middle class white guys who don't have as much money as they feel they need for all the burdens of their family. If only it weren't for all those pesky taxes! They call these guys "republicans," usually.

It's like what Richard D James said about programming electronic music: Every beat needs a reason to be there. The "We go to Wendy's and the White House" meme is a good one, it capitalizes on what Edwards is there to do and is Kerry's best chance for doing it: Reclaim some white middle class male territory from Bush, let Theresa get the women, and Kerry, well- Kerry can lead the country when it's all done.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Real World Strikes Again... 

A suicide car bomb exploded on a busy downtown boulevard in Baqouba [Iraq] on Wednesday, ripping through a commuter bus during morning rush hour, wrecking nearby shops and killing at least 68 Iraqis in one of the deadliest single insurgent attacks since the U.S. invasion.

Dozens of burned bodies were strewn in the street and piled on curbsides, and vehicles, fruit stalls and shops were a bloody tangle of twisted metal from the blast, which targeted Iraqis lined up outside a police recruiting station. Most of the victims were civilians or from among the the hundreds of men waiting to join the force.
- AP

Nader In Boston? 

Guess who might show up at the convention today?

"I would like to see the bazaar. I'd like to see the alcoholic-musical-political payoff bazaar of accounts receivable," Nader said. "I would like to be there at the convention to watch. I will try to get credentials… I may try as a syndicated columnist, which I've been for 35 years. Let's see if they are against reporters."

Ralph Nader is one bitter dude, but, you know, he has that, like, one point:

"You go through four days of the Democratic convention and they won't attack cooperate power, they won't mention corporate welfare or corporate crime," he said.

Which is true. But as far as these things go, Corporate Influence is not the driving priority for me right now, which is saying a lot. The driving priority for me is to get rid of Religious Fundamentalism, embrace a sane approach to foreign policy, return science to its place of honor in our society, and bring up the minimum wage. It has something to do with health care, and certainly it has to do with changing the direction we're headed towards, a system of anarcho-capitalism, deregulated to the extreme and a frightening tie between the military-industrial complex and total political power.

Nader could make all that happen, so could Kerry. But Nader is going to propose a "corporate death penalty" for corporations that break environmental laws, or defraud investors. Which doesn't make much sense- let's say I work for Company X, and the guy at the top is burning tires in the Everglades. My job? Gone. The company is declared bankrupt, and I am out of work. Great!

The two party system is obviously flawed, but it's not an imminent threat. Run off voting? Yeah, I agree, Ralph- it's a great idea, but can we talk about it when the lunatics aren't running the asylum?

Meanwhile, In The Real World... 

The White House will project soon that this year's federal deficit will exceed $420 billion, congressional aides said Tuesday, a record figure certain to ignite partisan warfare over President Bush's handling of the economy. - AP

The irony is that the budget deficit- while the largest in human history- is also less than Bush initially predicted, which means he can take credit for reeling in spending. Seriously.

In other news, has anyone noticed that the War in Iraq is like, totally over now? At least it is in the American Media, but Britain must not know it yet:

In new violence, a Baghdad mortar barrage killed an Iraqi garbage collector and injured 14 coalition soldiers. Gunmen also killed a hospital official south of the capital. Not to mention an increase in the number of kidnappings since the Philippines pulled out to save a hostage.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Ilana Wexler 

It's a rare thing for me to say that kids are "cute", neverminding "adorable" or "actually funny in a way that isn't me pretending to laugh because I don't want to look like a jerk," but there is a lot of talk about the future of the Democratic Party tonight, what with Dean, Obama, and Reagan Jr speaking. But seriously, 12 year old Ilana Wexler was pretty freaking awesome.

Her main policy position is to advocate National No Name Calling Day with an Internet petition that urges John Kerry and George Bush to take a break from their slash-and-burn campaign on Sept. 21 and focus instead on the issues. - Mercury News

"When our vice president had a disagreement with a Democratic senator, he used a very bad word," Wexler said to a standing ovation. "If I said that word I would be put in a timeout. I think he should be put in a timeout."

The NRO is already labeling her "little orphan Annie" (she has huge red hair, yes). How great is that? A magazine organized to discuss "conservative politics" is taking on a 12 year old girl who is advocating a more mature level of political rhetoric.

Barack Obama 

Wow. Seriously wow. One of the only full blown, good political speeches I've ever had the pleasure to listen to.

Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America – there's the United States of America. There's not a Black America and White America and Latino America and Asian America– there's the United States of America.

The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too.

We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America. In the end, that's what this election is about.

Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I'm not talking about blind optimism here – the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don't talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it.

No, I'm talking about something more substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs. The hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores. The hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta. The hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds. The hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.

The audacity of hope! In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation. The belief in things not seen. The belief that there are better days ahead...

Full speech here.

TV Party, Night Two 

In case you're wondering, Bill O'Reilly was talking to Ben Affleck while Ted Kennedy was talking. Affleck played nice and O'Reilly liked him for not being a "bomb thrower." Jerry Brown mentioned to O'Reilly that he had a conservative audience.

"That's a myth," said O'Reilly. "Our audience is so enormous, it couldn't possibly be merely conservatives."

His audience, last night, was half that of CNN, and had 2.5 Million fewer viewers than the biggest network, NBC. By comparison, Bush received 50,456,002 votes in 2000. Only 14,000,000 households are watching the convention (a number I reached by totaling the number of viewers for each network last night). Of those, just over 1,000,000 were watching Bill lie to them. That's also, roughly, 1/3 of the number of people who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000.

(c/o cablenewser and wiki.)

Kerry Campaign To Go Dark In August 

Not that you knew the campaign even started, but John Kerry will pull all television ads in August in order to conserve his federal, post-convention funds.

On its face, I would say it's a risky move, except for the clean sweep that Kerry had in the last week of the Primary campaign out of nowhere. Not to mention the buffer bump he'll have in August, if the Convention works. Gillespie at the RNC predicts a 12 point bounce for Kerry, DNC's McAuliffe expects 8. Given the coverage, I'd suspect it ends up at 6, but Terry has to lowball as a career move (and he's smarter than me) so let's say it ends up at 8 or 10. Then, the Republican Convention comes out, and Kerry campaigns full force to counter act any Bush Bounce up to the election.

Makes sense, even if it's frustrating as holy hell.


First off, Here is a transcript of the Clinton Speech.

Tonight, Howard Dean, Theresa Heinz Kerry, Ted Kennedy, Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan Jr. will speak. You'll have to watch the cable news networks for full coverage, as I suspect that the networks won't show any of it tonight.

Blogging From Boston (Sort Of).  

Just mentioning my own DNC coverage again so it doesn't get lost down below.


Krugman's editorial in the New York Times today is a must read.

It's election night, and early returns suggest trouble for the incumbent. Then, mysteriously, the vote count stops and observers from the challenger's campaign see employees of a voting-machine company, one wearing a badge that identifies him as a county official, typing instructions at computers with access to the vote-tabulating software. When the count resumes, the incumbent pulls ahead. The challenger demands an investigation. But there are no ballots to recount, and election officials allied with the incumbent refuse to release data that could shed light on whether there was tampering with the electronic records. This isn't a paranoid fantasy. It's a true account of a recent election in Riverside County...

Convention: It's a TV Party 

I oftentimes tend to forget that "the people who read blogs are political junkies", which has been the conventional wisdom. I have always, right or wrong, considered my blog as if it were the only place that a lot of people get political news in a convenient, digestible form. If that's not true, and all of you are watching the convention religiously, then you don't need to read the rest of this entry, because you already know how fucking cool Bill Clinton was last night.

"Strength and Wisdom are not opposing values," he says. In what I hope is adopted as a centerpiece of DNC campaign strategy, "They need a divided America- but we don't," in reference to the attacks that Republicans are getting used to. Including Clinton's call to talk about good and bad ideas, and not good or bad people.

But Clinton was also really good in addressing the people who don't like him, taking on a few of the criticisms:

"During the Vietnam War, many young men including the current president, the vice president and me could have gone to Vietnam but didn't. John Kerry came from a privileged background and could have avoided it too.

"Instead he said, send me," Clinton said.

Coverage wise, NPR filled in a lot of slow points with navel gazing about why they were there, and a critic mentioned that they are there to do something that they never do, which is talk politics. Instead, political coverage is covered by talking to itself about how certain things are going to play out in the minds of voters, who, as if no one realizes it, are watching. The media says, "This is what you'll be thinking about this tomorrow!" They don't fact check, they don't bring up points of interest or clarity. They say, to each other, "What's that guy on the other side of the box thinking right now?" Then we watch them try to figure out what we're thinking.

Of course, all the major networks delivered only one of the three hours of the convention to we the people who own the airwaves. So if you were watching NBC, you saw them ignore the Reverend who was on the gunboat with Kerry when he saved their lives, saying "God was with John Kerry that day" in a brilliant speech that revealed the full pomposity of Bush's idea that God wanted him to be President. Why? Because Florida can't count? I mean, I am not going to get too deep into figuring out what the God I don't believe in wanted where, but the claim by a Reverend that God wanted John Kerry and his crew to survive a lethal attack on a gun boat in the middle of the Vietcong kind of resonates a lot more, I would think, than the idea that God loves Bush because the vote count got fucked.

Fox, apparently, managed to talk over the National Anthem, and then cut away from Jimmy Carter in order to give Sean Hannity some more air time to talk about morality. Looks like Jimmy Carter just got Hannitized!- for your protection.

Idiotic NRO Post of the Day 

Goes to Rich Lowry:

If you want to get these delegates to applaud a military-related line, tell them men and women need "the benefits they're entitled to," the way Hillary just did. Benefits? Entitlement? YEEAAAH!

Apparently, Republicans don't really believe that the military is entitled to benefits? Maybe Bush should steer clear of that line too? Try this one: "I don't believe our military is entitled to benefits, because really, no one is 'entitled' to anything from the Government."

Totally inside the mainstream!

Monday, July 26, 2004

Boston and the DNC Periphery 


One: Blogging The Traffic

There was a bit of a "wow" moment on the way into the city. While traffic was backed up, it was because of an accident. It freed up after that. As I merged from 95S to 93S, I saw five cop cars on a highway island. Nothing too strange, until, further down, I noticed four or five trucks being pulled over and searched. And that was the MO. White truck? Pulled over. Now, what this says about civil liberties etc is one thing, but the sheer effort of pulling over every white truck is something fierce. The left lane also turned into an impromptu "car pool lane" that was limited only to convention traffic and ambulance vehicles.

Inside the city, the streets were the opposite of what you'd have expected, with traffic being negligible. It was a ghost town. Parking spaces were everywhere. There were only a few people on Mass Ave, the main thoroughfare. I parked my car. There were four cops on the street corner, and no one else. There was a weird, eerie sense of quiet in the city, when off to the distance I heard biblical scripture being read through a bullhorn, coming closer. Standing there, the bible got louder and the image of a giant dead baby came up the road, with the phrase "Kerry's Choice."

Two: The Discourse

I walked through the empty streets up to where the truck came from. Anti abortion protesters were standing in front of a hotel- another bullhorn, a bunch of people holding pictures of dead babies. The girl on the bullhorn stopped talking and handed the microphone back to this guy who was the MC for the special evening anti abortion magic. He began accusing the cops of standing by and doing nothing after they just watched that woman get assaulted, started saying the cops loved abortion. I looked around, more "Kerry / Edwards" superimposed on pictures of dead babies.

I walked up to the guy with a bullhorn and stuck my middle finger in his face.

Okay, so. I know, I know. That's not what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to sit and listen to them and then calmly explain to the anti abortion people just why the "evil of abortion" is like, not the issue. I was supposed to say, "If you guys cared about life so much then this would be an anti war protest." Instead, I flipped the bird.

The audience groaned, at which point, I just started laughing really hard- while still holding my finger in his face- because it was this guy with a bullhorn screaming nonstop and then some goofy kid flips the bird and the whole crowd is all groaning with disgust. People surrounded by dead baby pictures, mind you, are offended by my bird-flipping.

Some girl says to me, "Real mature, sir. Reeeal mature."

I told her I felt pretty good about it. As I walk away, the guy starts spewing on the bullhorn again: "Ladies and Gentleman, John Kerry's campaign director! That's discourse, I guess! Why don't you come here and have some dialogue?"

Now, I know what I should have done. I should have taken the bullhorn, announced that there was no sense in pretending that either one of us was capable of having a dialogue, and marvel at the fact that people who are- and I use this word carefully- literally arguing that John Kerry kills babies, are also marveling at the lack of elevated discourse that they inspire in people.

But I didn't do that. I turned around and flipped the bird again.

Three: The Anarchists

So the Anarchist Convergence Center was basically held in a Church the size of a shoe box and the outside was blocked by imposing guys with dreads and face tattoos. There was a LaRouche guy reading off of a piece of paper into a microphone. A Falun Gong protester gave a bucket drummer some literature and he said, and I quote, "I'm against torture for everybody, especially innocent motherfuckers."

I spent most of my time in Boston looking for the Anarchists, including one attempt to follow the kid with the barcode tattoo that ended in disaster when his friend, coming the other way on a giant "Fuck the FCC" bike, made it really difficult for me to continue following him without looking like I was, like, following him.

Basically, I was too scared of the anarchists to go talk to them. Sorry, America, your blogger has failed you.

Four: Blogging the Traffic, Two

I left the city at Four, which is pretty much exactly when the roads closed. I take 93N to 95N, so 93 is a pretty important part of the travel plan. I started looking for 90W, which then connects to 495N which connects to 95. (This is all stuff you might want to file away for a trip to Boston.) But I just happened to see an on ramp for 93N, so, I figured, what the hell? If I get on the highway I can just say my clock was slow and that I didn't see any blah blah blah.

But the cops didn't care. The roads were still open- they told everyone to get off the road at four, but there was a rolling closing of exits going north. Medford hired a raggae band to play for the traffic, and there was no traffic. On NPR, they mentioned that there was only four or five cars on the highway. Being a total nerd, I was all excited because I was one of those cars.

Anyway, now you can go read real convention blogging. If you want to hear someone who actually did what he was supposed to do, vis a vis the anti-abortion creeps (and still annoyed them) go listen to Matt Stoller's incredibly bizarre interaction. (It's an mp3 file). Seeing The Forest is also on the inside.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Anarchist Press Conference 

Boston's Black Tea Society had a press conference today that was broadcast on CSPAN. This struck me as extraordinarily odd for a few reasons. For one, I don't know if it is traditional for protest groups to organize a press conference. For two, they all spoke reasonably- no screaming hippy stereotypes, just poised young people at a table who said please and thank you. They carefully refuted the FBI's warning that they would be targeting and attacking the media, calling it an attempt to undermine the Anarchist's relationship with the media. They wouldn't do any damage to the city, they said, because they lived there and there was no reason to do any damage to their home.

The local news showed a brief clip of the military putting barbed wire around a "free speech zone"- brilliant, right?- and then showed about 5 seconds of the Anarchist Press Conference.

I'll probably head over to the Convergence Zone this week. I didn't bother applying for blog credentials for the DNC. Frankly, while I think bloggers at the DNC is a good idea for Bloggers, I don't think it's a good idea for people who read blogs. Inevitably, the coverage is going to be, "It's like what you see on the news"- except without the awareness of the media's presentation, which is actually more important, to some degree, than anything that actually happens. The stories that won't get told are the stories of people outside.

Including the remarkable story of organization and focus on behalf of actual progressives, who are notoriously micro-issue oriented. The Black Tea Society is actually a coalition of outsider political movements, including Greens, Socialists, Marxists, Anarchists and more. Traditionally, these groups are notoriously divided, arguing over trifling differences and "staying pure" at the expense of any organization whatsoever. It's good to see the third parties at the same party.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

9-11 Report 

Part of my anger over the tape of the hijackers being searched is because it was the first moment of incompetence in what became a long string of incompetence that has literally sent the world spiraling out of control. Airport security workers slack off on their jobs, and now there are bombs being dropped on the heads of Iraqi men and women in a battle over terrorists that don't live there and weapons that don't exist. It's a total love song to the evil that emerges the way a "personality" emerges in a machine. A system of moving parts work together, and the minor malfunctions and interactions of these parts, so long as they don't threaten the machine with complete collapse, go on to form quirks that may not emerge in a machine made in precisely the same way from similar parts. For some, prone to religious analysis of world events, the beautiful quirks become God and the 9-11's and Iraq War "Intelligence Failures" become the devil. In the end, the war on terror is really a war "against evil," against the glitches in the machine that cause us harm.

It's a war on the existential reality of any society that functions on the level of multiple, interacting mechanisms. The 9/11 Report advises patches to the system, whereas the Bush administration has analyzed weaknesses in the system and mistook it for the function of society itself. They've called it the devil, and they've declared themselves on the side of God, and everyone seems to forget that it is simply a machine, badly in need of repair.

It's like declaring war on the sun when your air conditioner breaks.

The commission's vice chairman, former Representative Lee H. Hamilton, said military action and heightened security would not be enough. He said the United States must promote an "agenda of opportunity" in impoverished countries, join "the battle of ideas," so that those regions do not become incubators of future terrorists.

Well, we knew that, and we never did it, and when we do it, we pretend that the "battle of ideas" means forcing our ideas onto people at the expense of their own. Or at least, that's the Bush Variant, while "Agenda of Opportunity" will be precisely what Bush pretends Iraq was all about. But what's interesting is how many of the points raised are points raised by relatively liberal approaches to international policy.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, but the commission said it had found no evidence of Saudi government involvement in the attacks. But the commission said the United States must confront problems with Saudi Arabia, whose internal security measures have often been criticized, and "build a relationship beyond oil."

No surprises to anyone here, but we as a nation do get better at arranging words into points as times go on. But it marks a stark contrast between the Bush handling of Post-9/11 and "the American Way", the ideal method of examination and critical thought. Hanah Arendt claimed that only active thought could save us from evils like the holocaust, and we didn't have much thought. Bush prides himself on being a man of action, and much was made of the UN's insistence on taking time to weigh the facts. It was portrayed by those hungry for war as indecisiveness; when those allies refused to take part they were chastised for insisting that the world be left in danger of nuclear annihilation. When the weapons weren't found, the UN's "inspection process" would have saved 900 American lives and countless (literally, uncounted) numbers of Iraqis, not to mention the widespread condemnation of the unprovoked invasion, on the side of our friends, but also on the side of Islamic moderates.

Every action has to be viewed by its consequences, not merely its rate of success. In other words, if the goal was to remove Saddam from Power, then we succeeded. If the goal was to decimate terrorist organization activities, prevent weapons from getting into the hands of Jihadists, and to cultivate a stronger, fairer, friendly and authentic presence in the Islamic "War of Ideas", we've failed, and no thinking person can claim otherwise.

That Bush hesitated to form the 9/11 panel for 14 months is important. That action, in and of itself, lost America a year in the actual war on terror, further compromised by Bush's "resolute action" in Iraq. Now, with the commission report, comes the real American response to 9/11, instead of the Draconian and paranoid "reforms" of the Patriot Act and Pre-emptive War. It's a return to the American tradition of thought before action.


A new surveillance tape released today, just prior to the 9/11 commission's report, shows four of the five 9/11 hijackers pulled out of line and searched on the morning of September 11th after setting off a metal detector on their way to the plane.

They didn't have the box cutters on them, they were in their carry on bags.

Security didn't check the carry on bags.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004


An investigator for an animal rights group captured video showing chickens being kicked, stomped and thrown against a wall by workers at a supplier for Kentucky Fried Chicken, which has been under pressure since last year over the treatment of animals The footage, released online Tuesday, was secretly taken at the Pilgrim's Pride plant in Moorefield, W.Va., by an investigator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals who worked there from October to May. - CBS News

There is also eyewitness testimony about employees "ripping birds' beaks off, spray painting their faces, twisting their heads off, spitting tobacco into their mouths and eyes, and breaking them in half — all while the birds are still alive."

If I were a smarter person who wasn't so terrified of being seen as "too liberal", I might point out the perfect comparison that this event makes with the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. If I made such a comparison, inevitably someone would complain that "equating human beings with chickens is absurd" and potentially receive some cheap shots that what I was saying was racist or that I am some lunatic leftist PETA person. So, here is what I am totally not going to say:

A 21 year long study found that men who severely abused animals in childhood were five times more likely to commit violence against humans later in life. The FBI profile for serial killers include a history of animal abuse in childhood. The symptoms are elementary to sociopaths, who have no remorse at seeing the suffering of another sentient being. That we do this on a large scale as a species is kind of lost in those details. And of course, I wouldn't want to go and explicitly link our society's treatment of animals and its treatment of human beings, because then I'd be some "crazy animal rights nazi". But if we're working in a world where we can entertain that certain forms of life deserve one kind of treatment, and others don't, well, I know I'm crazy but it makes it easier to treat humans that way too.

If I were smarter, I might be able to point out a connection between our capacity for cruelty, our own ambivalence to that cruelty when we are not directly confronted with it, the torture of chickens in a KFC processing plant and the torture of humans in a military prison. I'm not all that smart, though, and especially not in a culture where questioning something as mundane and useless as eating meat meets so much resistance.

So, I'm not going to say any of that. Instead, I am just going to mention that 900 Soldiers have been killed in Iraq, and most people think we're doing just fine, and that there's really just no need to ask any fundamental questions about our capacity for violence. They, of course, are the smart people.

Captain Dick and the SS Halliburton 

Halliburton Inc, Parent Company of Iraq Inc, is under fire for activities it engaged in back when Cheney was its president on paper and not merely deed, as he is now.

The Justice Department investigation relates to a subsidiary called Halliburton Products & Services Ltd., an oil field services company incorporated in the Cayman Islands. In a 2003 report, the company said the subsidiary "performs between $30 [million] and $40 million annually in oilfield service work in Iran." -WaPo

Halliburton is convinced that dealing with Iran, despite it being a sanctioned enemy of the United States, is perfectly legal. Which it is, sort of, because it is a foreign-soil based subsidiary (aka, "Tax Haven"), "Halliburton Products and Services Ltd", that handled the contracts, as opposed to "Halliburton Inc." That makes it legal, they say, and not at all an ethical problem for the Vice President. Unless, I guess, you want to bring up the fact that Dick Cheney's company was using a tax shelter. To be fair, they were there when Cheney got there, but something tells me he knew about them, considering he ran the company and battled the IRS over back taxes they foolishly thought Cheney would pay.

At this time, the company opened its office in Tehran, doing a mere $40 million dollars of business with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-Khamenei, who apparently has no problem dealing with subsidiaries of the "Great Satan".

But maybe Cheney didn't know. $40 million is easy to lose track of, being a mere fraction of the $180 million dollars Halliburton allegedly shelled out to bribe Nigerian dictators for a contract to build - can you even guess?- an oil pipeline. The French government is currently investigating that one.

Bush's Flip Flops, Two For Tuesday 

Hey, like that old joke about New England Weather goes, if you don't agree with President Bush on an issue, wait a minute.

"I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign policy matters with war on my mind." - George W Bush, "Meet the Press", February 2004.

"Nobody wants to be the war president. I want to be the peace president." - George W Bush, Today.

Bush said "Peace" or "Peaceful" 20 times, according to Reuters.

That dirty flip flopping hippy. Then look at what he has to say, which is incomprehensible beyond imagination:

"In the campaign, you'll hear, we're going only to tax the rich," he said. "That's what you'll hear. Now, this is from a fellow who has promised about $2 trillion of new spending thus far. And only taxing the rich, first of all, creates a huge tax gap, which means buyer beware. You see, if you can't raise enough by taxing the rich, guess who gets to pay next? Yes, the not-rich. That's all of us."

Okay, first off, the central thrust of Bush's argument is that if John Kerry doesn't tax you now, he'll tax you later. Bush, by comparison, is simply going to tax you now, so you don't have to worry about it happening eventually as a result of new government spending. Brilliant.

But also, Bush is calling himself one of the "not-rich"? That kind of means he flip flopped:

"This is an impressive crowd of the haves and have mores," he said. "Some people call you the elite, I call you my al Qaeda." - October 19th, 2004

Well, okay, he didn't actually say rich people were his al Qaeda, but he did say "my base" and that's roughly what al Qaeda means in Arabic. And they serve the same kind of purpose- Bush's base is also a bunch of well financed, alienated religious zealots who hate women, liberal democracy and homosexuals.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The Accidental Opportunist 

Out of the goodness of my heart I've been trying to convince you- yes, you!- to donate to the DCCC this week, and then I found out they are running some dumb contest for online fundraising.

I swear I didn't know about that and that isn't why I was pushing for donations all of a sudden. I still think donating is a good idea- to Kerry or the DCCC.

Not because I want to go to the Democratic National Convention, mind you, but because I am afraid of being drafted for a war against Syria.

But you, you, I guess, would rather have your $25.00?

Bush and Iran 

Bush is bringing back a staple of the past four years: Kicking Non Christian Ass.

President Bush said on Monday the United States was trying to determine whether Iran was involved in the Sept. 11 plot and accused the government of harboring al Qaeda leaders.

In case you didn't pick up on it, whenever the Bush administration "tries to determine" something, it means we are "trying to determine" if it is politically viable to go to war with them. We "tried to determine" if Iraq had WMD's, we "tried to determine" if Afghanistan would hand over Bin Laden. What they do, when they "try to determine" things that could end in war, is see what public reaction is. It happened with Syria a while back, people were annoyed, so Bush and friends backed off.

Did I mention that, seriously, you really should have given $25.00 to Kerry or the DCCC by now?

You've Got To Give A Little 

I don't know if anyone who reads this blog ever takes my advice in this regard, but I wanted to recommend throwing some coin over to the DCCC.

A lot of people don't get what the DCCC is or what it does, or what it means for progressives, as opposed to merely Democrats. I say to you this: The eyes are all on John Kerry winning the White House, and the attention has been on what we can do to make sure that happens. But what if- just what if- it doesn't? The last recourse we have is to hope for a strong Congressional and Senatorial standing. If either of these houses has a Democratic Majority, then, even under Bush, we can start seeing some changes. My personal hope? Articles of Impeachment.

What if it does, and Kerry gets into office with a bitter Republican Congress and Senate? You're essentially looking at a lame duck President, forced to jam his bills through Congress and the Senate, where Republicans can distract the entire country over some investigation into whether or not the man sold some land back in 1984 or had an affair with his intern. That was all the work of a Republican Majority. Didn't the Dems fail us once? Yeah. They did. But I don't know, do you see them doing that again? I don't. Republicans, on the other hand, will take any election as an edict from the American People that Republican policies and politics are what's wanted and needed. It isn't.

The more Democrats in the house means more Progressives in the house. A Democratic Majority in any branch shifts the dialogue- no longer defending ourselves from the Republican onslaught, we can start discussing variations on progressive policies, rather than simply struggle to shoot down conservative ones.

The DCCC is all about getting money into these races- particularly the Congress, where the smallest districts are represented. There are more Congressional Seats than there are Senate seats. Congress is a lot of little guys, a lot of first time politicians, a lot of small town heroes and a wider scope of ideology than is possible in the Senate. Giving to the DCCC means that you fund more races, you fund more people, you help get back to the bottom up idea of Government. If there is going to be a progressive revolution, it's going to be in the Congress.

What about the Greens? I still stand by the Greens, in all honesty, for state level government- city hall, mayors, state representatives. Greens are a party of local, grassroots action- which is why I don't think they would serve well at the national level, at least not yet. Maybe there's a great independent running in your area, too, fine and good. But you get the biggest bang for your donating dollar by giving to the DCCC.

My last statement to you is simply this: If Bush comes into office next year with a Republican Majority in the House and Senate, and you haven't given so much as $25.00 to Kerry, or the DCCC? Well, simply put, you are not going to feel good. You are going to wish you donated more time, volunteered, talked to more people, or gave more money. There are thirteen weeks until the election- and you need to give the campaigns time to spend your money, obviously. So now is the time. If you are serious about getting Bush out, now is the time to donate to John Kerry. If you are serious about getting back a country with progressive ideals and any hope for the Democratic Agenda going through, then the DCCC donation page is here.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Respect for Truth is filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Fox News for false advertising by calling itself "Fair and Balanced." You can sign the petition here, but I think it's going to go to court anyway.

Specifically, Fox News has advertised and promoted the Fox News Channel (“FNC”) using the slogan and mark "Fair and Balanced", but FNC’s news and commentary programming is not remotely "fair" or "balanced." To the contrary, that programming is deliberately and consistently distorted and twisted to promote the Republican Party of the U.S. and an extreme rightwing viewpoint.

The Commission should institute an enforcement proceeding against Fox News; order Fox News to cease and desist from using the slogan and mark "Fair and Balanced;" and take such other action as may be appropriate to remedy the injury to consumers from Fox News’ deceptive practices.

This comes on the heels of a similar finding against Fox News over in Britain, particularly that the "opinions expressed must not rest upon false evidence".

All by way of Change For America.

And Apples 

From Joel Feick, a local reporter in Flint Michigan, comes this gem on Cheney's visit:

On a personal note, the United States Secret Service examined my briefcase on the way in. I was carrying, among other things, an apple and a banana. They confiscated the apple, saying I could have thrown it at the vice president. But the banana made it through.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Milk and Beer 

Don Imus asked John Edwards if he knew the price of a six pack of beer and a gallon of milk, trying to test Edward's credentials as- I have no idea what credentials were being tested. But the question got to the AP News Wire, so I have to assume that some people consider the result important.

"Edwards sidestepped the ale question, saying, "I haven't bought a six-pack of beer in years, so I don't know." The father of a 4-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter was more confident about milk. "I know about what it costs. I think a half gallon of milk costs about $2.30, $2.40," he said. "Is that right?"

It was. A Gallon of milk sells from $2.29 at the grocery store in Edwards' home town. So, relax- it's safe for America to vote for him.

By the way, Tucker Carlson on CNN the other night mentioned when Edwards was a trial lawyer "working on Jacuzzi Cases" at the start of his career. That "Jacuzzi Case" involved an 8 Year Old Girl whose intestines were torn out of her body by a defective drainage dish in a swimming pool.

That John Edwards is a real son of a bitch, eh?

We Disappointed George 

The Official White House Press Release from the President:

I am deeply disappointed that the effort to pass a constitutional amendment affirming the sanctity of marriage as being between a man and a woman was temporarily blocked in the Senate.

Activist judges and local officials in some parts of the country are not letting up in their efforts to redefine marriage for the rest of America -- and neither should defenders of traditional marriage flag in their efforts.

It is important for our country to continue the debate on this important issue, and I urge the House of Representatives to pass this amendment.

Poor, Poor George.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Bowling for Bin Laden 

Most terrorists are educated, upper class, lived in or experienced the west personally before joining the Jihad, and have only mildly religious upbringings, according to a profile of 382 Al-Qaeda linked terrorists.

Sageman had info on the level of education reached for 264 of his subjects - 16.7 per cent were educated to a level less than high school; 12.1 per cent had at least a high school education; 28.8 per cent had some college education; 33.3 per cent had a college degree; and nine per cent had a postgraduate degree. [...] These are not drifters or unemployed loners tempted into a life of terrorism by the promise of money or glory; rather, most of them had good jobs. Sageman gathered information on employment for 268 of his subjects: 42.5 per cent were professionally employed (doctor, lawyer, teacher, and so on), 32.8 had a semi-skilled job, and 24.6 per cent were unskilled.

This is interesting stuff, because it supports my earlier view on Al Qaeda recruitment videos back when they were popping up in Iraq- for a lot of people, these things are similar to the Paris Hilton sex video. The same could be true of Al Qaeda training camps. If you can imagine an allegory to our own culture, I often wonder whether or not Al Qaeda training camps are like a sort of militant ski resort, a vacation spot for the wealthy. In Arab cultures, masculinity is prized, so a weekend of shooting off an M-16 and going through boot camp might seem like a good way to pump up the ego and feel cool. That all of these guys are sketchy from our perspective is no question, I would say that it's unlikely the majority of them actually have any desire to inflict mass death for the sake of Jihad. Sageman says, "Al-Qaeda thought the Afghans were just a bunch of crazy-eyed fanatics."

Sageman presents the cause of those who finally pull the trigger as similar to American school shootings or street gangs- it starts because of cultural alienation.

'They become separated from traditional bonds and culture', he says. 'Many of them will have become homesick, feeling lonely and marginalised and perhaps rejected by their new host society.' Sageman found that most of the individuals he studied were not actively recruited into al-Qaeda or other groups, but rather 'fell in with the wrong crowd'. 'They kind of drifted to the mosques, more for companionship and friendship than for religion. This is where they would become a "bunch of guys", smoking and drinking and generally bitching about their lives.' 'It's not just the homesickness. You also need to have some kind of script. These guys are lonely, and then they hear this narrative, from radical mosques and so on, which says: "You guys are unhappy because you are excluded from society and the reason you're excluded from society is because there is a crisis of values. It's because of the corruption of the West, because of greed and decadence, and you have to fight against it." This script seems to make sense of what has happened to them and explains why they feel so low.' Through this process, observed Sageman in his studies, homesick Arabs and Asians start to 'create a clique that distances itself from society and develops its own micro-culture'."

The article concludes (and the article is not a part of Sageman's report, for the record):

Some of these terrorists are not made in Kabul, Cairo or Tehran, but in London, New York and Montreal. Such terrorism, it seems, is less a consequence of far-away fanaticism infiltrating the West, but rather suggests a failure on the part of mainstream institutions in the West to cohere society or to provide individuals with any meaningful sense of identity. There is a growing sense of atomisation and alienation in the West, not only among immigrants but across society. Homesick Arabs might feel it more acutely, but it affects everyone in British, American and European societies, in the growth of disillusionment with public institutions and disenfranchisement from the political process. Could it be that the new terrorism, which we consider so strange, so awful, so alien, is in fact a product of the same corrosive forces that impact on the rest of us?

A lot of the literature and art I've seen about School Shootings have been about 9/11. Douglas Couplands "Hey, Nostradamus!" (that radio show is one of the better ones I've heard in years of listening to the radio) and the Gus Van Sant film "Elephant", not to mention "Bowling for Columbine", have dealt with the links between the dehumanizing culture of American Narcissism and the culture of Fundamentalist Violence, be it domestic (Steve McVeigh, Eric Rudolph) or foreign. We never addressed those root issues, either. Men in uniforms with guns got stationed outside of elementary schools and kids with trench coats were lined up and suspended. After Columbine, America lost its chance at a test run in figuring out a new approach to stopping and containing violence- it stopped and contained perpetrators and, in many cases, potential perpetrators, it brought in police with guns to patrol the hallways in order to stop men with guns. While these have a degree of practicality, obviously, it is one step in a many stepped process. Fighting terrorism is the same thing. As this article proved to me, most Americans have no idea who terrorists are, or what motivates them. We're stuck with a knee-jerk automated response to who we think terrorists are, and we don't look at the facts- they're like us, and that is simultaneously reassuring and disconcerting. All the moments of devastation I've witnessed, from Columbine to 9/11, have been massive wastes of opportunities to understand and redefine violence and our understanding of violence. I suspect I'll get to see plenty more wasted opportunities as a result.

Those Pesky Memos 

Bush isn't handing over documents again.

The White House and the Central Intelligence Agency have refused to give the Senate Intelligence Committee a one-page summary of prewar intelligence in Iraq prepared for President Bush that contains few of the qualifiers and none of the dissents spelled out in longer intelligence reviews, according to Congressional officials.

They did this before, remember, and the headline for the memo was "Osama Bin Laden Determined to Strike Within US"? Maybe this one was titled "War A Mistake, No WMD's In Iraq, Possibility That We Will Torture Innocent Civilians, Unleash Quagmire of Muslim / Arab Outrage." I say this despite that the article implies a broad redaction of dissent- if that were the case, why isn't Bush moving to get this pinned on the CIA, quelling the notion that he "deliberately misled" America into war?

Unlawful Assembly 


Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Manhattan) was arrested yesterday outside the embassy of Sudan in a protest over the plight of refugees in the African nation.

"When human lives are in jeopardy, there should be outrage," Rangel said at the embassy steps. He was arrested for unlawful assembly.

Protest organizers said Rangel will be one of a series of prominent black figures to be arrested in coming days in front of the embassy to bring attention to the suffering of starving Sudanese.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in a civil war in Sudan's Darfur region in the past 1 1/2 years, and about 1 million have been driven from their homes. The deaths could soar if humanitarian aid doesn't reach them, says the U.S. Agency for International Development.

You know about Sudan, right?

Polls. We Got Polls. 

I'm posting some poll numbers here, mostly because it will be interesting to see what the DNC Convention does to them, and then to see what the RNC convention does to them. I have a feeling that, unless BC04 delivers Osama during the Democratic Convention, the ratings will be higher for the DNC as voters are interested to see the challenger define himself. Bush, whether you like him or not, is already defined.

Ipsos-AP: Bush 49, Kerry 45, Nader 3.
This poll usually runs positive to Bush.

Zogby: Kerry 47, Bush 45, Nader 2
Interestingly, if you take out Nader, Bush and Kerry split the difference- Kerry 48 Bush 46. Also, 53% say it is time for someone else in the White House- but at least 4% of those are voting for Bush over Kerry anyway, probably because of uncertainty over Kerry- The "Devil You Know is Better than the Devil You Don't" voters. This could change after the convention.

Time Magazine: Kerry 47, Bush 45, Nader 4
Similar findings to the Zogby poll: "Currently, 43% think Bush deserves to be re-elected, while 53% say it is time for someone else to be president. The 43% figure should be watched closely, as past elections have demonstrated that this figure closely approximates the percentage of votes that an incumbent receives on election day."

Gallup: Kerry 50, Bush 45, Nader 2
Interestingly, with Nader out of the race, Bush gains a point and Kerry remains the same. Which makes me wonder if some Republicans are saying "Nader" to pollsters to boost his perceived support? Bush's job approval is 47%. Looking at Time and at the Gallup poll, traditional science would imply that Bush ends up with about 46% of the vote on Election day. This isn't an election run in stable times, though.

Gay Marriage Amendment Vote Today 

The Vote on the Federal Gay Marriage Amendment (actually, a procedural vote related to it) was today, and it looks dead in the water for this election year: The vote was 48-50, 12 short. Bill Frist vows that it isn't the last we'll hear of the issue, but just so you know exactly what "hearing more about the issue" means, I pass the mic to Rick Santorum:

"I would argue that the future of our country hangs in the balance because the future of marriage hangs in the balance. [...] Isn't that the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?"

Because Islamic Fundamentalists are all about gay marriage.

Harold Meyerson has a great op-ed in the Washington Post:

The zeal and single-mindedness with which the Bush campaign is pursuing this goal [the Gay Marriage Ban] is best understood as a consequence of Bush's failure to even win, or much less hold, more moderate voters. Bush has been consistently trailing John Kerry among independent voters, and his level of support among his fellow Republicans has declined from the mid 90s to the low 80s. That's partly a function of the failure of the war in Iraq. It's also a consequence of the president's screwing up his two chief outreach-to-the-middle legislative vehicles. Bush subverted his No Child Left Behind initiative by failing to fund it. He botched his Medicare reform act by turning it chiefly into a giveaway to drug companies at the expense of American seniors.

Clearly, Karl Rove had envisioned that these initiatives could build support for Bush in the center of the electorate, but they failed because they ran counter to Bush's political DNA. This is not a president who has it in him to spend money on improving the education of poor children or to side with consumers over such mega-donors as the drug industry. In a similar vein, the administration's on-again, off-again attempt to increase its support among Latino voters by backing a pseudo-immigration reform that offered residency but not citizenship to the immigrant workers it would cover hasn't yielded any increase in its Latino backing, either.

So the GOP outreach strategy for November focuses on conservative churchgoers far more than anyone else. The Republican National Convention will showcase the party's otherwise marginalized moderates -- Arnold Schwarzenegger, John McCain -- for the great moderate audience. But I doubt the convention planners really believe that this late in the game they can fool anybody. The Republicans' campaign is all about scapegoating John Kerry for the ills of modernity. It's about exploiting homophobia, provincialism and cultural insecurity. Or, as they put it, values.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Resurrecting the Dean Defense Corps 

Not that it matters any more, but if you recall during the Dean Campaign, opposing Democratic campaigns were trying to paint Dean as devastating for National Security. One of the things they pointed to was a Vermont Nuke plant that had lost its Radioactive Fuel Rods, which were lethal to the touch. Obviously, barked the Gephardtliebermansharpton Beast, terrorists got them, and it was all Howard Dean's fault. Well, the AP reports today that they were found- right in the place where they were supposed to be. The error was the result of an underwater robot malfunction.

I let go of the past starting... now.

Branding The Vote 

"We're approaching a cause as a brand," said Howard Benenson, chief executive at Benenson Janson in Studio City, Calif., the Declare Yourself agency. "It's not any different than any corporate American company," he said. "It's all about creating a brand of passion for consumers."

The product? Voting.

I hate hearing ad-speak in conjunction with anything- words like "branding" and "consumer" are pretty much antithetical to everything I believe in. But the fact is, for too long we've been bemoaning that the right is simply better at marketing their ideas and their agendas. The left has resisted, probably because the left is a culture of independence that shuns the approach of mental consolidation that is inherent in advertising.

So now, we have Christina Aquilera with duct tape over her mouth, posed like an ad for cologne, encouraging the young kids to vote. Donkey Rising looked at the polls and found a ten point lead in the number of young voters who consider themselves Democrats over Republicans, with a 55% disapproval rating for Lil Bush.

Voting because Christina Aquilera told you to is kind of a scary prospect, except that these kids just coincidentally happen to be on the right side (or, rather, the left side). But mourning the sense of civic duty for civic duties sense doesn't do much for anybody. We live in the world of branding, where if it ain't sexy it ain't worth doing. The voters who follow politics have already made up thier minds. The remaining, determining factor for the election will be decided by intuition, by voters who use the commute time from home to the polls figuring out which guy they'd want to have dinner with. Policy isn't sexy, Arnold Schwarzenegger is. The Dems, however, are the party of "earnest sincerity", the party of Gephardts and Daschles: Not hot. Republicans are assholes, edgy, self righteous and kind of annoying in the way that skateboarders are. They like violence and violence is cool and masculine, so the men like the Republicans because they're what men think "hot" is. But there's a twist.

Clinton got sexy, and Clinton got eight years. Kerry wasn't sexy, so he picked up Edwards. Women like Clinton. Women like Edwards, and young kids will emulate whatever the girls tell them to. If the girls didn't see anything in a Kerry/Gephardt ticket, well, you wouldn't see them getting the big young male demographic, either.

It's all about the pheremones. Which brings us back to Christina Aguilera:

"They're trying to give voting cultural cachet," Ms. Cox said of vote marketing in general. "Like it gives you social capital in the same way that buying a Britney Spears album or getting a tattoo does. But the problem is, voting isn't ever going to make you seem cool." (Yeah, that's Ms. Cox of Wonkette).

I have to disagree. There's very little authenticity in coolness these days. If they can get fashion photographers to shoot pop stars making edgy, visually stimulating and instantly comprehensible suggestions that voting is important, well, they made the new cool thing happen. I'm feeling safe to say that the only 18 year olds that it won't work on are going to vote for Nader anyway.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Stupid Dirty Girl, Part II 

I have to say, the audio clip of Richard Riordan telling a six year old that her name meant "stupid dirty girl" comes off as way more playful in the audio version of it than it does in print. It's still a dumb move, politically, and I don't know if it's the type of joking I'd like to see in a Secretary of Education, but I'm a "Unconditional Positive Regard" Liberal when it comes to kids anyway, which is why I can never actually talk to them. Another thing that comes out in the clip is how smart Isis herself comes off.

Solving That Pesky E-Voting Problem 

Diebold Chairman Walden O'Dell may have been "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year", but he might not even get the chance. If the Homeland Security Department and Al Qaeda can get a good schedule together, we might not need those voting machines after all.

Newsweek said DeForest Soaries, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, wants Ridge to ask Congress to pass legislation giving the government power to cancel or reschedule a federal election. Soaries said New York suspended primary elections on the day of the Sept. 11 attacks, but the federal government does not appear to have that authority. The disclosure comes only a few days after U.S. authorities said they believe that al-Qaeda is planning a "large-scale" attack in the USA aimed at disrupting the presidential campaign and November elections.

The best part of this idea is that if Bush Bobbles another terrorist attack warning and an additional thousands of people get killed under his watch, no one gets to hold him accountable until the Homeland Security Department decides it can. If it decides we can hold elections again, all Al Qaeda has to do is blow something else up, and all Bush has to do is sit back and let them. Call it the Bobble-ocracy. Like, literally.

I think we can all agree that this is precisely what the Founding Fathers had in mind.

Applauding Incoherence: A Conservative Tradition 

The weirdest part of this transcript of a George Bush question from a supporter is the almost random placement of applause by the crowd as Bush rambles incoherently and then ends with some platitude that Karl Rove taught him to use as punctuation. My favorite is in bold.

Q Thank you -- I was wondering, there's a lot of talk right now about memoirs being written with the former President. After you are elected in 2004, what will your memoirs say about you, what will the title be, and what will the main theme say?

"THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that. (Laughter.) There is a painting on my wall in the Oval -- first of all, I don't know. I'm just speculating now. I really haven't thought about writing a book. My life is too complicated right now trying to do my job. (Laughter.) But if -- there's a painting on the wall in the Oval Office that shows a horseman charging up a steep cliff, and there are at least two other horsemen following. It's a Western scene by a guy named W.H.S. Koerner called 'A Charge to Keep.' It's on loan, by the way, from a guy named Joe O'Neill in Midland, Texas. He was the person, he and his wife Jan, introduced -- reintroduced me and Laura in his backyard in July of 1977. Four months later, we were married. So he's got a -- I'm a decision-maker and I can make good decisions. (Applause.)

"And so we sang this hymn -- this is a long story trying to get to your answer. (Laughter.) This is not a filibuster. (Laughter.) That's a Senate term -- particularly on good judges. (Applause.) The hymn was sung at my first inaugural church service as governor. Laura and I are Methodists. One of the Wesley boys wrote the hymn. The painting is based upon the hymn called, 'A Charge to Keep.' I have. The hymn talks about serving something greater than yourself in life. I -- which I try to do, as best as I possibly can. (Applause.)

"The book -- I guess one way, one thing to think about it is -- one of the themes would be, I was given a charge to keep. And I gave it all my heart, all my energy, based upon principles that did not change once I got into the Oval Office. (Applause.)"

Froomkin points out that Bush already "wrote" a memoir called "A Charge to Keep" in which "He masterfully elucidates the virtues of being a conservative", at least according to some guy who gave it five stars on Amazon. It averages a three. (My book has five. So go buy it.)


There will be a new bill making the rounds that specifically targets Palestinians that kill Americans. The Koby Mandell Act is "a bill to track and prosecute the killers of American citizens in Israel", named for the victim of that crime.

While this is fine and good- it targets and holds responsible those who organize, plan, as well as orchestrate murders (not always the same guys), it does make me wonder why there isn't a Rachel Corrie act to track, prosecute and punish Israeli officials who organize, plan, and orchestrate the murders and evictions of thousands of Palestinians on a daily basis? Rachel Corrie, if you don't know, was an American citizen crushed to death by an Israeli Military Bulldozer while she stood in front of a Palestinian home that was about to be demolished for no good reason.

If the Palestinians who resort to terror out of desperation are no better than the desperate defense tactics of Israel, then it only makes sense that Israelis should be held to the same standards when it comes to Americans caught in the crossfire of this maniacal suicide pact between Israel and Palestine.

Noam Chomsky has a great blog post on the subject, by the way, if you are still wondering if Israel is still acting in "self defense":

If the goal were security, Israel would have built the fence a few km inside its borders. It could then be a mile high, patrolled on both sides by the IDF, mined with nuclear weapons, utterly impenetrable. Perfect security. The problem would be that it would not take valuable Palestinian land and resources (including control of water), drive out the population, and lay the basis for still further expansion as Palestinians flee from the dungeons that are left, like the town of Qalqilya. So to interpret as a land grab seems appropriate.

Indeed. But I'm not going to be a sucker for Palestine, either. Israel is deviant as a result of its destructive leadership, not its people. The Palestinians are also victims of their leadership, but also victims of their peers, and of a victimized culture that encourages martyrdom and self destruction as transcendent values. The most disgusting part of this situation is that any intelligent person can look at it from outside and understand that both sides are victims and both sides are perpetrators, and the only solution is to stop retaliating. The guys who stop retaliating will win.

Sharon, to limited credit in an idealistic world, is planning on withdrawing from Gaza, one of the most Palestinian Populated areas in the disputed territories. The problem is, with all the understandable mistrust between parties, that the Gaza Strip could be isolated from other Palestinian territories, particularly if Israel limits travel between them, which it almost certainly will. This leaves Gaza, and the majority of Palestinians, isolated and quarantined. Meanwhile, "Jewish extremists say they are planning a full-fledged rebellion. In interviews, several said they were recruiting fighters and instructing followers to resist eviction by force." (Salt Lake Tribune)

This post can't have a neat ending, by the way. The only option for ending the conflict is, literally, to simply abandon the conflict. No one seems capable of doing that- it is a task beyond human- so, the conflict goes on.

Insert "Insert Curve Ball Pun Here" Joke Here 

One of the top informants for intelligence regarding WMD's in Iraq* was codenamed Curve Ball. Curve Ball was apparently an alcoholic and couldn't keep his own facts straight, leading some intelligence officials to wonder if he was even, in fact, the guy he claimed to be. When one of the agents interrogating Curve Ball mentioned this to his superiors, he received a memo in response that read:

"Let's keep in mind, the war's going to happen regardless of what Curve Ball said or didn't say and the Powers That Be probably aren't interested in whether Curve Ball knows what he's talking about. However, in the interest of Truth, we owe somebody a sentence or two of warning, if you honestly have reservations..."

This was sent the day before Colin Powell pitched his evidence about WMD's to the UN. What was Curve Ball's contribution? The part about the mobile weapons laboratories. You remember that one, right?

By the way, this detail was on PBS on Friday, but I haven't seen it in any other American Media outlets. I finally got a transcript through Australia's Sydney Morning Herald.

* = ("Iraq" is A Registered Trademark of Halliburton, Inc.)

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Sunday Blog Outsourcing 

Been a while since I did a blog round up for your Sunday pleasure. The rules were never really established, but here's the criteria for what I pick: Longer posts get more attention than short posts. So all of the following posts are long enough to merit the effort of clicking the link. Which is also going to be my excuse to mention Elayne Riggs right now, since she tends to post shorter texts but is still a mighty good blog. Also, most of the following posts are content in and of themselves, which means that I will not link to links, but I will link to long excerpts, independent analysis, and that sort of stuff. So, if you read all that, and you have a blog, and you want me to link to an entry that fits that description, you should email me sometime during the week, one38 at one38 dot org. Lastly, I will often make incongruous rants out of these links that would be better placed in the comment section of the blog I am linking to, except that the Outsourcing comes in a pretty much stream of consciousness fashion. If you can't keep up, just, like, ignore me.


First off, Junior Brownshirt Chris has updated the "Angry 15 Year Olds For Bush" website. Have you been on this magic carpet ride? You ought to try it, I swear to god you'll love it.

Xan @ corrente has some points of information regarding the book Bush read for seven minutes while the nation was potentially on the verge of annihilation, "The Pet Goat".

The ever-readable Rivka has some thoughts on a new NEA survey that heralds the disintegration of good old fashioned book-readin'. She doesn't believe it. Look at Barnes and Noble, she says! I agree. However, this same question comes up in regards to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11: how small a minority does it take to make something a success? One of the most interesting things about America is that if your record is sold to ten million people, there's 283,027,571 people in this country who've never heard of you. That's impressive, when you think about it. The same goes for books: If a book sells 100,000 copies, it's pretty much a bestseller.

In regards to F9/11, consider that 50,999,897 people voted for Gore. If 48,000,000 Gore supporters didn't go see F9/11, that still reaps a box office bonanza of $17,000,000. And that is, basically, if a miniscule proportion of total, overall registered voters went to see the film. In other movies that liberals should have liked, Echidne has the write up on the remake of the "Stepford Wives", a remake of the old, eerily funny but satirically pointed women's lib movie of the 70's. This time around, it's a bland pastiche of "Sex in the City" Liberation through Shopping and the worst of pseudo-left wing humor about rich white people.

BBWW has a write up of that Dean-Nader matchup that I promised to tell you guys about but didn't. I watched it on CSPAN 3 and just figured I'd wait for a transcript to pop up. It was a good debate. Odds are I'll get to it next week. Speedkill has one side of the argument against Nader. Can anyone name a good, non-crazy, pro-Nader blog? There ought to be a hundred, really, because Nader is good and not crazy except for his weird determination to get the Dems to move left at all costs. You'd think someone in cyberspace would be sticking up for him and doing it intelligently.

John McKay has a story I didn't cover because it was straight out of the "No Shit Department" again, which is that the statue of Saddam that got pulled down and somehow meant the war was over was a staged event. I'm not saying John KcKay didn't know this already too- I think most of us did- but someone finally came out and said it, "officially", so it's news again. I like that these things can happen twice, you know, once as history, the second time as farce? But now the history itself is a farce and we just bring it up a second time six months later to point the farce out. The same thing happened with The WMD's, remember? We didn't find any weapons, everyone said there were no weapons, then all of a sudden David Kay said it and it was news again. Or the SH-AlQ link (as explained by Mr. C. Tastic). So now History comes first as farce, then as farce with a better explanation and more news coverage? I don't know.

Saturday, July 10, 2004


Military payroll records that could more fully document President Bush's whereabouts during his service in the Texas Air National Guard were inadvertently destroyed, according to the Pentagon. In a letter responding to a freedom of information request by The Associated Press, the Defense Department said that microfilm containing the pertinent National Guard payroll records was damaged and could not be salvaged. The damaged material included payroll records for the first quarter of 1969 and the third quarter of 1972.

"President Bush's payroll records for those two quarters were among the records destroyed," wrote C.Y. Talbott, of the Pentagon's Freedom of Information and Security Review section. "Searches for back-up paper copies of the missing records were unsuccessful."

What are the odds that that would have happened?

Also, has anyone ever thought of asking George Bush just why, exactly, he refused his medical examination? Is it because we all know the answer is because he was strung out on crack and we just don't want to embarrass him?

Florida Convicted Felons List 

As you know, Florida has a little habit of screwing up the voter purge when it compares the names of felons with the voter registration list. Well, this time anyway, we caught it in advance:

"Of nearly 48,000 Florida residents on the felon list, only 61 are Hispanic. By contrast, more than 22,000 are African-American. [...] In a presidential-election battleground state that decided the 2000 race by giving George W. Bush a margin of only 537 votes, the effect could be significant: black voters are overwhelmingly Democratic, while Hispanics in Florida tend to vote Republican."

Another fun fact about the felons list:

The exclusion of Hispanics from the purge list explains some of the wide discrepancy in party affiliation of voters on the felon list, which bears the names of 28,025 Democrats and just 9,521 Republicans, with most of the rest unaffiliated.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Giving the NRO "A Break", Part Two 

My apologies for calling Mike Ledeen an opinion-hack for our little insularity loving circle jerkers over at the NRO. The fact is, he is a much more sinister opinion hack whose influence far exceeds "the corner".

No wonder he's disputing the insurmountable pile of evidence, even when every major source on the ground and in bed with the paperwork now says there weren't any WMD. Well, it's Michael Ledeen, and there's a lot at stake with his credibility- for example, his desire to see US invasions of Syria and Iran. To get an idea of the scholarly, careful thinking that informs Ledeen's world view, let's go back to April of 2002, and his own reason for supporting the war in Iraq:

"Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."

Spoken with the eloquence that only GW Bush could love. Or maybe you'll like this one, so well reasoned that you can see why he isn't just some right wing talk show host, but the architect and chief intellectual behind the current regimes philosophical underpinnings for pre-emptive war:

We are an awesome revolutionary force. Creative destruction is our middle name. We tear down the old order every day... Seeing America undo old conventions, they [our enemies] fear us, for they do not wish to be undone... We wage total war because we fight in the name of an idea... Stability is for those older, burnt-out countries, not for the American dynamo.

Mike Ledeen has a record for talking and advocating things he knows absolutely nothing about, in the face of the experience of those who are witnessing it first hand. You see, he never signed up to be a part of that "creative destruction", spending his Vietnam days out of the service with the stability, I suppose, of an older, burnt out draft-aged male while in attendance at the University of Wisconsin for his PHd in history. Which might be why he seems to have forgotten the end result of American Idealism in the Asian Pacific. Yeah, Ledeen, he's no Dynamo, but what conservative is?

One more from Ledeen, just for your own pleasure: "We can lead by the force of high moral example ... [but] fear is much more reliable, and lasts longer. Once we show that we are capable of dealing out terrible punishment to our enemies, our power will be far greater."

That's the shit we're up against. For whatever reason, conservative shit tends to stick on people more than virtue does. Even if Ledeens pure, satanic revelry gives one a soft spot for warmer, fuzzier ideological shitcrafters like Paul Wolfowitz, my feeling is that Ledeen really only says what the rest are too afraid to say politically. Because in the end, really, they all agree with this son of a bitch.

Giving The NRO "A Break", Part One 

You think you nail a coffin shut on an issue, and then you have this sort of shit, from the National Review Online today, of hack opinion page columnists who know more about Iraq's WMD's than the panel in charge of investigating the intelligence failures that led up to the war. Even when the panel says "No WMDs, sorry, go home" some guys just can't stand being wrong:

"In short, I believe there were WMDs, and the issue is, what happened to them? If you don't believe that, you will have to explain how every major intelligence service in the world agreed there were WMDs. Do you think Ahmad Chalabi duped the Israelis? The Russians? The French? Give me a break."

Give me a break, indeed, Michael Ledeen. As if Chalabi was the only guy running on the "WMD" platform. The French, of course, didn't support the war, and in a statement from 2002 said the following:

[Q:] Since the withdrawal of UN inspectors, have French authorities obtained concrete evidence from their intelligence services or those of its allies of the existence or reconstruction of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

[A:] Since the departure of the inspectors in 1998, it is by definition more difficult to answer this question. That is precisely why, given our concern for security and regional stability, as well as our determination to confront the risk of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, we have consistently demanded the swift return of UN inspectors to Iraq, without preconditions and without obstacles.

The Israelis, of course, aren't exactly the bearers of noble truths when it comes to WMD information (just ask them about theirs). So it ought to come as no surprise to anyone as educated as a National Review Online columnist (guffaw!) that the whole question of Israel "believing" that Iraq had WMD's has come under fire, albeit not by America's so-called liberal media:

"It was known in Israel that the story that weapons of mass destruction could be activated in 45 minutes was an old wives' tale," Yossi Sarid, a member of the foreign affairs and defense committee which is investigating the quality of Israeli intelligence on Iraq, told the Associated Press yesterday. "Israel didn't want to spoil President Bush's scenario, and it should have," he said.

Another member of the committee, Ehud Yatom, said Israel had told the Americans it believed the weapons existed but had not seen them.

Talk about your "faith based initiatives." Lastly, how about world class intelligence collector, Russia?

Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov, at his annual meeting with the press, said Russian officials repeatedly maintained they did not have enough information.

"We said that we don't have information which would prove that the WMD, weapons of mass destruction, programmes remain in Iraq. We also said we don't have information that those programmes have been fully stopped," Lavrov said.

Consequently, he said he supported a Security Council resolution in November 2002 giving "an unprecedented, intrusive mandate to UN inspectors and that is why we wanted the inspectors to finish their job."

Liberal Burn Out 

Nations Liberals Suffering From Outrage Fatigue.

I don't want to be one of those blogs that just links to the Onion constantly, but it's been really on target lately.

"I can't even look at the back of my Volvo anymore," said one Syracuse, NY liberal who wished to remain anonymous. "My 'Lick Bush' and 'Four More Wars' bumper stickers just remind me of the angry feelings I can't sustain. I still have a sign hanging up in my cubicle at work, but if someone starts to talk about Cheney, I can't take it. I'm like, 'Yes, we all hate Cheney. He's an evil puppet-master. Yes, Bush is dumb. This is obvious. How many times can we say it? Now, excuse me, will you let me through so I can microwave my burrito?'"

There's something of this in every liberal blogger who retires and goes on hiatus, and there's been a bit of that sense in my life as well. When the press documents day after day of corruption, homophobia, racism, economic injustice, mass death and a war that we are losing because of our dumb ass president, only to be faced with, say, today's news that Bush has a lead over the Kerry-Edwards ticket, like, seriously, what the fuck? I know a lot of people who can't watch the news anymore or turn off NPR and throw out the Newspaper except for the sports (because even the comics pages are infuriating, like the insipidly moronic "Mallard Fillmore"). Inevitably, it comes down to this: You know, by paying attention, that half of this country will probably elect George W Bush into office this year, and you know it is because they are manipulated, afraid, not paying attention, or blind. Compassion, on the other hand- and all the feelings that it takes to make being alive a pleasurable experience- requires some degree of autonomy from these idiots. In the face of that, and the stack of evidence piled up against Bush, the temptation is either spread the fire or burn out. The anger we have been feeling was supposed to manifest itself in direct action. After Abu Ghraib there should have been marching through the streets, but no one that I can remember even called for it. So for some of us, if not the majority, we're being told, pure and simple, that we're going to lose, and that we shouldn't bother trying, but if you do want to try well, you're going be feel like a major, class 1 asshole 90% of the time.

That, I guess, is what it means to care, these days.

More News From The No Shit Department 

Yeah, the newspapers are all buzzing about this, with the shocking headline, "Report Says Key Assertions Leading to War Were Wrong".

You don't say.

In a long-awaited report that goes to the heart of President Bush's rationale for going to war and is certain to intensify political debate on Iraq, the committee said that prewar assessments of Saddam Hussein's supposed arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, and his desire to have nuclear weapons, were wildly off the mark.

"Today, we know these assessments were wrong, and as our inquiry will show, they were also unreasonable and largely unsupported by the available intelligence," Senator Pat Roberts, the Kansas Republican who heads the panel, said at a briefing on the 511-page report.

The Committees leading Democrat, unfortunately named "Senator John D. Rockefeller the Fourth", had this to say:

"There is simply no question that mistakes leading up to the war in Iraq rank among the most devastating losses and intelligence failures in the history of the nation," Mr. Rockefeller said. "The fact is that the administration at all levels, and to some extent us, used bad information to bolster its case for war. And we in Congress would not have authorized that war — we would NOT have authorized that war — with 75 votes if we knew what we know now."

And as to whether or not Dick Cheney's frequent visits to the Pentagon prior to the war had an impact, well, strike one:

Although the report summary found no evidence that Mr. Cheney's visits had been intended to exert pressure, Mr. Rockefeller signaled that the question of who, if anyone, might have brought pressure to bear has not been answered to his satisfaction.

"I felt the definition of `pressure' was very narrowly drawn in the final report," Mr. Rockefeller said, noting that the C.I.A.'s ombudsman, who hears employees' complaints, had found more "hammering on analysts" than ever before in his 32 years at the C.I.A.


For all that has been said about Saddam "killing his own people" (he suppressed an uprising against Kurds using weapons we sold, and continued to sell, to him) you would think that when there is, in fact, an Arab-Militant group, armed by their government, literally committing mass genocide against a population, that "the war on terror" might have found itself a new intervention.

But that is precisely what is happening in Sudan. Poisoning the water supply? Check. Burning crops, the sole food supply in Sudan? Check. You can imagine if Islamic fundamentalists from a country that was once a refuge for Osama Bin Laden poisoned the water supply in London, then blew up the grocery stores, raping women, and then branded the women that have been raped with cattle irons, and then followed through with the execution of 10,000 British citizens, that the international community might intervene.

The catch is, we're not legally obligated to intervene under UN Law unless someone comes out and says the word "Genocide." But no one is. To his credit, Colin Powell is coming close, but no one else is following up- including our liberal bastions of peace, France and Canada. Why?

Looks like there's a little bit of Texas in us all. See, a lot of countries have got oil contracts in Sudanese oil fields- including China, the Sudan, and Qatar- no strangers to weirdly capitalism-as-nationalism type behavior, but then there's Canada, Austria, Sweden, and France. Et tu, Sweden?

To paraphrase "comedian" Colin Quinn, the left's rejection of American military intervention is built on a pile of dead Rwandans. While inevitably, the call for action in Sudan will take America to war in yet another oil rich Arab nation when Bush's Iraqapades have already cost us credibility as a nation. I find it highly unlikely that Bush will intervene- he's used up all his wars, already- but applying a steady supply of sanctions might sound like a good start, because sanctions are the magic spell of the left, "Look! Pressure without war!" But then there comes the deaths of thousands of innocent Sudanese as a result of medicinal scarcity, food shortages, and the inevitable corruption that benefits the wrong elites of any sanctioned regime.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

The Pipes, The Pipes are Calling You... 

The Daily Kos points us to an AP photo, with the following description (also by the AP): US President George W. Bush walks away from a briefing with the media, refusing to answer questions after he was asked about Enron and the reported indictment of former CEO Kenneth Lay, who was a close adviser and fund-raiser for Bush and his father, earning him the presidential nickname of 'Kenny Boy.'

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Osama By The Convention 

From the New Republic:

The New Republic has learned that Pakistani security officials have been told they must produce HVTs [High Value Targets] by the election. According to one source in Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), "The Pakistani government is really desperate and wants to flush out bin Laden and his associates after the latest pressures from the U.S. administration to deliver before the [upcoming] U.S. elections." Introducing target dates for Al Qaeda captures is a new twist in U.S.-Pakistani counterterrorism relations--according to a recently departed intelligence official, "no timetable[s]" were discussed in 2002 or 2003--but the November election is apparently bringing a new deadline pressure to the hunt.

The New Republic has three sources inside the Pakistani government verifying this story, and CNN's Aaron Brown had the editor of the New Republic on to discuss the issue. Another interesting timing element: "a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July"--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston."

What's in it for Pakistan, you ask?

...Powell conspicuously did not commit the United States to selling F-16s to Pakistan, which it desperately wants in order to tilt the regional balance of power against India. And the Pakistanis fear that, if they don't produce an HVT, they won't get the planes. Equally, they fear that, if they don't deliver, either Bush or a prospective Kerry administration would turn its attention to the apparent role of Pakistan's security establishment in facilitating Khan's illicit [nuclear] proliferation network. One Pakistani general recently in Washington confided in a journalist, "If we don't find these guys by the election, they are going to stick this whole nuclear mess up our asshole."

Good call.

The Faith In America Index 

New York Times Poll has Dick Cheney's approval rating at- wait for it- 21%.

I have to say, I'm not used to being in the majority...

Free Stuff 

Sign up to get a free Kerry-Edwards Bumper Sticker here. While you're at it, consider giving a donation to the Kerry / Edwards Campaign.

RNC Parry 

The RNC has long been attacking trial lawyers for bringing up the cost of malpractice suits and, therefore, the cost of health care. Watch for this to come up more and more now that Edwards is on the ticket. But here's something interesting:

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), costs from malpractice lawsuits represent less than 2% of the nation's total health care spending, and the tort reform legislation pushed by President Bush would reduce health insurance premiums by less than one-half of one percent. While President Bush has claimed that lawsuits cause "docs to practice medicine in an expensive way in order to protect themselves in the courthouse," a study by the Harvard University School of Public Health "did not find a strong relationship between the threat of litigation and medical costs." Additionally, a study in the Journal of Health Economics compared medical costs in states with limits on lawsuits to states without limits and found only tiny savings - less than three-tenths of one percent. In all, CBO reported "no statistically significant difference in per capita health care spending between states with and without limits on malpractice torts."

So, keep that in mind when the RNC tries to demonize John Edwards for, say, taking the Red Cross to court over the way blood donations were handled because it could have carried AIDS, or for cases that led to the establishment of "informed consent" laws that require a doctor to tell you about the complete risks of surgery prior to your decision on whether or not to have it. This stuff, contrary to RNC talking points, was negligible in bringing up the cost of health care and, if you ask me, benefits the typical consumer.

[Note: I just realized I didn't link to the source, and then I realized that I completely forgot the source. Uhm...sorry.]

Operation Champagne 

I had predicted that Iraq would be under Martial Law by noon on the day of the hand over. I was wrong, it took a whole week.

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi on Tuesday signed into law broad martial powers that allow him to impose curfews anywhere in the country, ban groups he considers seditious and order the detentions of people suspected of being security risks. - New York Times

These include banning group meetings and curtailing/banning travel. Anyone ever see "The Battle of Algiers"? Here's the script if you never did. The whole film involves a zone of containment in 1957 Algeria. While there are parallels galore, I thought I'd just point out this one, a journalist asking a French general about the use of torture:

The law is often inconvenient, colonel ...

And those who explode bombs in public
places, do they perhaps respect the law?
When you asked that question to Ben
M'Hidi, remember what he said? No,
gentlemen, believe me, it is a vicious
circle. And we could discuss the problem
for hours without reaching any
conclusions. Because the problem does
not lie here. The problem is: the NLF
wants us to leave Algeria and we want to
remain. Now, it seems to me that, despite
varying shades of opinion, you all agree
that we must remain. When the rebellion
first began, there were not even shades
of opinion. All the newspapers, even the
left-wing ones wanted the rebellion
suppressed. And we were sent here for
this very reason. And we are neither
madmen nor sadists, gentlemen. Those who
call us fascists today, forget the
contribution that many of us made to the
Resistance. Those who call us Nazis, do
not know that among us there are
survivors of Dachau and Buchenwald. We
are soldiers and our only duty is to
win. Therefore, to be precise, I would
now like to ask you a question: Should
France remain in Algeria? If you answer
"yes," then you must accept all the
necessary consequences.

Let's Welcome Leon Holmes to the Federal Bench! 

A round of applause for Leon Holmes, who was confirmed by the senate today to take his place on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of the Great State of Arkansas. (Cue Humming of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and read aloud:)

"It is not coincidental that the feminist movement brought with it artificial contraception and abortion on demand, with recognition of homosexual liaisons soon to follow. . . . No matter how often we condemn abortion, to the extent we adopt the feminist principle that the distinction between the sexes is of no consequence and should be disregarded in the organization of society and the Church, we are contributing to the culture of death."

A true American Patriot, brought to you by George "Birthday Boy" (July 6th) Bush. If you want more examples of Leon's sterling Patriotism and support for the rights of all Americans, consider this line our federally appointed misogynist wrote in an article co-written with his wife: "... the wife is to subordinate herself to her husband" and that she ought to "place herself under the authority of the man." But best of all is his stunning revelation to all that abortion in the case of rape was a "red herring" because "conceptions from rape occur with the same frequency as snowfall in Miami." Apparently snow falls in Miami about 32,000 times a year.

Lessons To The Young Ones 

Maybe you've seen this already? (Riordan is the California education secretary):

In a videotaped exchange at the city's central library on Thursday, a girl asked Riordan if he knew that her name meant "Egyptian goddess." Riordan, who apparently believed he'd been asked what her name meant, replied, "It means stupid dirty girl."

Some in the room laughed nervously, and the girl again told Riordan the meaning of her name. "Hey, that's nifty," he said.

Republicans = Optimists 

The former head of the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad has for the first time accused the American Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, of directly authorising Guantanamo Bay-style interrogation tactics. Brig-Gen Janis Karpinski, who commanded the 800th Military Police Brigade, which is at the centre of the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal, said that documents yet to be released by the Pentagon would show that Mr Rumsfeld personally approved the introduction of harsher conditions of detention in Iraq. - Telegraph

Bush is right, Republicans are filled with positivity and hope. They're positive no one is watching and they hope they don't get caught afterward.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004


Kerry picks Edwards as Veep.

My estimation of Edwards' stock has gone up since the primary, so I have to say, I am pretty excited about this ticket.

Monday, July 05, 2004

11th Hour Splurge 

U.S. officials in charge of the Development Fund for Iraq drained all but $900 million from the $20 billion fund by late June in what one watchdog group has called an “11th-hour splurge.”

An international monitoring board is planning an audit of money from the development fund that was spent on contracts for Iraq’s reconstruction that were approved without competitive bidding.

The fund, made up largely of Iraqi oil revenue, is intended to pay for the rebuilding of Iraq. Critics have charged that U.S. officials have failed to account properly for money spent so far.
- The Baltimore Sun

Seriously, do I even need to list examples of sketchy corruption anymore? Is it official yet that the Bush Administration is quite simply and factually a corrupt one?

Web Watch 

Two new websites I wanted to mention:

The first is Dear Ralph, a pro-Nader website that is against Nader running for President. The idea they have is a good one: People volunteer to donate money to one of Naders many non-profit orgs if Nader drops out. If he's not out by September 1st, then that money goes to Democratic Party-aligned groups like Dean's "Democracy for America" or It only works if people do it, and you only need to pledge five dollars as a minimum.

The second is a new blog, I'm Voting Bush Out (or "I'm Voting" for short). It's a NYC-blog that combines art and activism in the way that I should have been for the past year. One of my favorites is this one. Definitely a highly recommended new blog.

Kerry's Completely Rational View on Abortion Stirs Controversy 

From WaPo: Kerry told the paper, "I oppose abortion, personally. I don't like abortion. I believe life does begin at conception." Spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said that although Kerry has often said abortion should be "safe, legal and rare," and that his religion shapes that view, she could not recall him ever publicly discussing when life begins.

"I can't take my Catholic belief, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant or a Jew or an atheist," he continued in the interview. "We have separation of church and state in the United States of America." The comments came on the final day of a three-state Midwest swing, during which Kerry has repeatedly sought to dispel stereotypes that could play negatively among voters there.

The Bush campaign is all over this, which is of course what politicians do. But BC04 is actually attacking the stereotype they've set up in the political narrative, that pro-choice politicians are necessarily unionized fanatics for abortion, as if pro-choice pols were vampires who needed fetuses to thrive. When someone comes up with a nuanced, but consistent message: I personally oppose abortion on religious grounds, but don't believe I have the right to force others, by law, to subscribe to my religious beliefs- then it's a "flip flop" because it goes against the caricature they've set up for moderate and progressive pro-choice dems.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Fourth of July 

There's something missing from the way I look at politics, and from the culture of politics itself. Part of it came through today, stuck at work watching a man on the street on the local news, asked about why he wanted to stand in front of the hatch shell all morning in blazing heat for a free concert, replied "Because this is something that only happens in America."

Sometimes in the midst of all this worrying about what America will be in twenty years, I imagine the rise of a domestic theocracy crushing the American Empire. It brought about the decline of the Islamic world, in terms of its own liberalism. I look around and I see an interview with a member of the "Latino Voting Demographic" because he happened to read George Bush's book and liked it. There are people who feel that voting is something they have to do to make a difference, but don't consider educating themselves about their own vote as something they have to do to make a difference. The local television commercials come on and remind me that the myths we tell ourselves revolve around office furniture, fast food and coca cola, and that there is no room in American Culture, just as there is not room in the political culture, for actual poetry anymore.

"Poetry rarely involves poems these days. Most works of art are betrayals of poetry. How could it be otherwise, when poetry and power are irreconcilable?" - Raoul Vaneigem

On the Fourth of July, people have the tendency to ask themselves about America, and, in a time of war, the joy of America is bittersweet. I am not a nationalist and in many ways I wonder if I can be a Patriot when I feel so constantly tempted by expatriation. America makes me nervous. When the sky over my head is covering a red state, you worry, you constantly worry if you are doing enough to turn it back to blue.

But that's all a shell game. The real goal of politics has nothing to do with parties, with elections, with platforms or caucuses. Politics should only ever be seen as either extending the reach we have towards joy, or not. Joy is sparse in wartime, if you follow the news, the day's spontaneous eruptions of poetry get sidelined by the images of torture and the constant reminders of hubris and aggression. We live in an era where power is constantly on display and abused, and so it becomes difficult to step outside of power and contemplate anything that has no connection to it. But that's precisely the problem with these types of politics: It is impossible to be happy and to have control over others, as it is impossible to be happy and have no control over yourself. We live in a culture of commodified interactions, where friendships are expected to be a subtler form of exploitation and even the process of falling in love starts with the emotional equivalent of simultaneous infomercials. Autonomy and isolation are in a stalemate.

So it comes as some relief, stuck for an hour for what is usually a five minute stretch of road on the way home from work, that fireworks were set off tonight, and I could just look. I don't want explosions in the sky to remind me of war, I don't want the flags being waved to remind me of patriotism and the new American Fetishism for all things red white and blue. Instead it was a spark and a sizzle and a flame in the sky like a flower, and for one night anyway, I was outside of the concern over their guy losing and my side, as compromised as it might be, getting power back.

Fourth of July 

Fray is a web magazine that publishes true stories. This weekend they've got Fireworks, and then, when you are done, there are a whole bunch more.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

NRO Watch 

Looks like the National Review Online forgot that it hates Bill Clinton with the passion and fury of ten thousand suns.

Apparently, when Republican Jack Ryan dropped out of his Senate campaign after it was revealed that his wife divorced him for pressuring her to have sex with him in front of other men at strip clubs, all that stuff about a consensual relationship with an intern went out the window. Ryan complains that the focus on his sex life will dissuade others from going into politics. The Right wing Corner of the National Review Online agrees:

Ryan's right to raise this. I suspect that this country loses the benefit of countless excellent candidates who don't relish the prospect of a prurient press or priggish rivals rooting through their lives for some sexual peccadillo, or, heaven forbid, some slip into sin, which would somehow be used to discredit their campaign. In the absence of illegality or truly grotesque hypocrisy (a little hypocrisy, remember, is no bad thing: it helps the world go round), the sex lives of politicians should remain the concern of them and their families. It's nobody else's business, and, yes, the return of privacy might even help the rest of us out.

Ah, but you see, "in the absence of illegality..." So you shouldn't be asked about your indiscretions, but if you are, well- you better not lie about it. Under oath. In a case that has nothing to do with your sex life.

Pledge Drive 

I hate asking, but I gotta ask every so often. I have noticed that a lot of bloggers have been running cafepress shops as a means of supporting their blog. I've had experience over at Gay Penguin for America selling some stuff, so I decided to launch the official "Vote Kerry" shops.

Shop One: Grainy Black and White Photos of Dick Cheney with the words "Vote Kerry"
Shop Two: Grainy Black and White Photos of George Bush with the words "Vote Kerry"

Apologies to Andy Warhol. If you buy something, you'll get a cool tee shirt and you'll help support the site. I am not in catastrophic debt as a result of the blog, but I am currently paying off school loans and the like, and it's looking like I might have to get a second job- so help is wanted, so to speak. If you want to throw me some change, but don't want to spring for as much as the shirts and stuff are going for, you can make a Campaign Contribution to Gay Penguin- that goes directly into my pocket. FYI, if you buy a shirt, I get about $5.00.

If you can't or don't feel like giving me anything, that's okay. Feel free to read without guilt.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Find a Can Of Coke That Looks Like A Remotely Detonating Explosive and WIN! 

But don't worry, it's not a clever way to disguise plastique explosives- it's just a Coke Can with technology that can track your every movement!

There's a new security threat at some of the nation's military bases - and it looks uncannily like a can of Coke.

Specially rigged Coke cans, part of a summer promotion, contain cell phones and global positioning chips. That has officials at some installations worried the cans could be used to eavesdrop, and they are instituting protective measures.

Coca-Cola Co. says such concerns are nothing but fizz. Mart Martin, a Coca-Cola spokesman, said no one would mistake one of the winning cans from the company's "Unexpected Summer" promotion for a regular Coke.

"The can is dramatically different looking," he said. The cans have a recessed panel on the outside and a big red button. "It's very clear that there's a cell phone device."

Winners activate it by pushing the button, which can only call Coke's prize center, he said. Data from the GPS device can only be received by Coke's prize center. Prizes include cash, a home entertainment center and an SUV.
- AP


Nonetheless, military bases, including the U.S. Army Armor Center at Fort Knox, Ky., are asking soldiers to examine their Coke cans before bringing them in to classified meetings.

"We're asking people to open the cans and not bring it in if there's a GPS in it," said Master Sgt. Jerry Meredith, a Fort Knox spokesman. "It's not like we're examining cans at the store. It's a pretty commonsense thing."

Sue Murphy, a spokeswoman for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio said personal electronic devices aren't permitted in some buildings and conference rooms on base.

"We've taken measures to make sure everyone's aware of this contest and to make sure devices are cleared before they're taken in" to restricted areas, she said.

"In the remote possibility a can were found in one of these areas, we'd make sure the can wasn't activated, try to return it to its original owner and ask that they activate it at home," she said. "It's just another measure we have to take to keep everyone out here safe and secure."

The Marine Corps said all personnel had been advised of the cans and to keep them away from secure areas.

The End of the Occupation, Day One 

Here's todays tranquility report on the "End of the American Occupation" of Iraq:

The US Bombed a house in Fallujah, killing thirteen Iraqis and wounding ten. Meanwhile, Iraqi Insurgents shot mortar at a base outside of Baghdad International Airport, wounding 11.

That's what I call a transfer of power!

The Shareef Don't Like It 

If you say that you are mine / I’ll be here ’til the end of time / So you got to let me know / Should I stay or should I go? - The Clash

The Army says it will begin notifying more than 5,600 of those soldiers next week that they are being involuntarily recalled to active duty and could be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan as early as this fall.

"There's going to be soldiers who, yes, will be shocked," said Col. Debra A. Cook, commander of the Army's Human Resources Command and the final arbiter of petitions for exemption.
- AP (June 30, 2004)

Originally I thought the headline, "Army Recalling More Than 5,600 Soldiers", meant we were finally getting out. No such luck. The "We broke it, we gotta fix it" mentality of the center left and the "You break it, you buy it" mentality of Rumsfeld et al isn't cutting it anymore. I know there'll be chaos in Iraq if we go. But at least it will be thier chaos.

If I go there will be trouble / An’ if I stay it will be double / So come on and let me know / Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Dean v Nader 

Looks like Howard Dean will debate Ralph Nader on Friday, July 9 in Washington DC. More details as they become available, but it seems the event will be broadcast on NPR.

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