The Mahablog: Truth and the Bush Administration

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August 29
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saturday, august 7, 2004

Believe It ... Or Not!
OK, one more. The Republican Party is scraping for money. Or it must be.
According to the New York Times, Bush fund-raisers are being charged a "convention fee" of up to $4,500 per person for themselves and each guest. These fund-raisers, some of whom raised $200,000 or more to re-annoint Bush, will also have to pay for their own transportation, hotel rooms, and optional events.

Republican officials say the fees have risen this year - they topped out at $1,750 in 2000 - because of the new McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which eliminated the unlimited so-called soft money contributions that used to make up a large part of the party's finances and were traditionally used to pay for convention events. Now operating on a leaner budget, the Republican Party chose to pass the costs on to those attending the convention rather than spend cash that could be used to support President Bush in the election.

This is really cute: The Republicans hired a company called LogiCom Project Management to manage travel arrangements and run "optional events" like cocktail parties, concerts, and other power shindigs for the fund-raisers. According to the Times, the fees LogiCom collects can be turned over to the Bush campaign without being subject to Campaign Finance Laws. That would not have been true if the RNC had collected the fees directly.

Fundraisers attending the recent Dem convention got to go to their shindigs for free.

bobnovak.jpgTo add insult to injury, last week Bob the Lizard wrote that the Republican Party won't get to draw up its own party platform this year. Karl and Karen have a secret platform they plan to spring on the convention without allowing time for debate. The Party of Lincoln is now the Party of Rubber Stamps (and walking ATM machines).

With the Republican National Convention's platform committee convening in New York less than three weeks from now, no draft platform exists, no subcommittees have been named, and no special lodging for committee members has been assigned. Rather than signifying sudden collapse of accustomed Republican efficiency, all this looks more like a coolly calculated plan.

The suspicion has grown that President Bush's re-election strategists -- Karl Rove and Karen Hughes -- do not want the open debate over principles and policy that has characterized Republican platform-making for a generation. The carefully guarded Bush campaign game plan is to present delegates on the platform committee with an unpleasant surprise when they arrive in New York: a trimmed down document with virtually no time to debate it. ...

A platform executive director was finally named last week: Washington lobbyist Anne Phelps, an ex-White House aide who before that was Frist's chief health adviser. Newly appointed platform communications director Ginny Wolfe, another former Frist aide, started her stint at the platform committee this week by being supremely uncommunicative to this column.

What the Bush campaign seems to be building is what one veteran GOP operative told us is ''the antithesis of traditional Republican platforms. After all, when you're proud of your positions, and confident of their rightness, you want to explain them. When you're afraid to talk about them, well . . .''

This is the Reptile talking, mind you. Believe It ... Or Not!


9:33 pm | link

Believe It ... Or Not!
Here's a story that is absolutely astonishing. The writer relates how "journalists" misreported a quote by John Kerry.
Be still, my heart.
Marcus Mabry of Newsweek wrote,
When asked by a reporter what he would have done if he had been “caught in a Florida…classroom on September 11,” Kerry said he would have politely excused himself and told the children “the president has to something to attend to.” For journalists attending Unity, the mini-firestorm that ensued offered a rare glimpse into how reporters can fail to get it right.

Almost immediately, the presidents’ surrogates, led by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, condemned Kerry for Monday-morning quarterbacking. Most media portrayed Kerry’s comments as red meat for true believers. But neither a groggy Tim Russert speaking the next day on the Today show nor the front page of The Washington Post noted that the Kerry remark had been in response to a specific question about what he would have done had he been president at the fateful moment.

Shocking, isn't it, how a Big Gun journalist like Russert would just take handouts from the Republican Party and read 'em on air without checking out the context? Shocking .... yeah, shocking. Yawn.

Anyway, the real story coming out of the Unity convention, for minority journalists, was that Bush bombed.

“He’s worse than I imagined,” said one Asian journalist of the president’s flat delivery. “Why does Kerry get such grief for not being a good speaker?” During his speech the president looked like he was getting a tooth extracted.

Nice detail: Both Kerry and Bush spoke at the convention. Both men got standing ovations when they walked on the stage. Kerry got a standing ovation when he left the stage. Bush didn't. And here's the grand finale:

... there was something disingenuous in the Republican onslaught. Most polls showed Kerry with a modest bounce  after the Democratic National Convention in Boston. But what all the polls showed was that even those voters who would not cast their ballots for Kerry “if the election were held today,” had decided that he was credible on issues of national defense and homeland security. President Bush’s double-digit lead over his challenger on who would better handle terrorism and homeland security—the president’s signature issue—had evaporated. On the issue of Iraq, specifically, Kerry was polling better than Bush. The Democrat, too hapless to get a bounce out of his Boston coronation, was nibbling at, if not eating the president’s lunch.

The Giuiliani campaign—not to mention the volley of ads from anti-Kerry Vietnam vets condemning his right to his war medals—had more to do with countering Kerry’s success at narrowing the leadership gap than what the Democrat said to a group of minority journalists on a Thursday morning in August.

A Newsweek reporter got the story straight. Believe it ... or not!


8:57 pm | link

Believe It ... Or Not!
This one's just bizarre. A reporter for the Portsmouth Herald named Karen Dandurant was assigned to cover the arrival and departure of President Bush at the Pease Air National Guard Base on Friday. She and other reporters were searched twice. And then things got strange.

Satisfied that we weren’t carrying anything dangerous, the guardsmen and Secret Service agents led us through a hallway and onto the back of a flatbed truck - where we weren’t allowed to leave until after the president left at 2:30 p.m.

We talked to no one except some of the friendly guards, who took pity on us after a few hours and brought us water. Of course, that led to other problems, and one of us had to be escorted to the bathroom and back. She was the only one who got to walk.

Noticing a flurry of activity at about 12:15 p.m., we knew the plane was on its way. In fact, two planes landed, a C-9 Nightingale and a Gulf Stream 3 - the president was aboard the latter. ...

We watched as he spoke with members of the Portsmouth Little League team of 11- and 12-year-olds that won the New Hampshire state championship and went on to the New England regional Little League tournament in Connecticut. ...

Our view of the president was blocked by a large limousine parked in front of him. Soon, a caravan of 22 cars, limousines, vans, sport utility vehicles and state police cruisers headed off toward Stratham.

The president’s departure was scheduled for 2:40, which left the media with more hours to kill.

We read novels, played hangman, watched the time creep by and chatted.

Finally, Bush and his entourage returned. In minutes, he was back on the plane, and it was all over.

We were free to leave.

Believe It ... or Not!


8:28 pm | link

friday, august 6, 2004

It's Stupid's Economy
White House forecasts record budget deficits!
Only 32,000 new jobs in July! Job growth slowed for fourth straight month!
High oil price hits stock markets!
Stocks drop like a rock on July payroll news!
Quicken tells me that today before noon my net worth dropped $828.57, and I'm not much invested in stocks. Can we hit -$2000 by the time the markets close? Let's go for it! Thanks, President Bush!
Regarding the budget deficit -- you might have read reports like this one from Reuters --
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. budget deficit will hit a record $445 billion this year, according to a White House report on Friday that is sure to fuel election-year wrangles about President Bush's economic policies.
The figure is well above the 2003 shortfall of $374 billion, the prior record in dollar terms. But the mid-session review forecast is $76 billion less than the $521 billion the White House projected in February.
Last night at the Union Square Barnes & Noble (see also The Woman Raised by Wolves), Paul Krugman said that when the $521 billion figure was announced in February, people who understand these things were scratching their heads and wondering where that number came from. Last February independent experts were thinking it would be more like $445 billion. Clearly, said Krugman, the Bushies artificially inflated the number in February so that in August it would appear the economy had made some progress.

12:23 pm | link

The Woman Raised by Wolves
There is a lot of important stuff in the news today, like the job numbers, and I also want to tell you about the Al Franken-Paul Krugman talk I went to last night, but I really need to kvetch about The Woman Raised by Wolves. I hope you won't mind. You know I don't talk about myself all that much.
The background to this is that, like a lot of people at the riper end of "middle age," I have osteoarthritis and nearly always have some discomfort in my back, especially since I don't like to take the fool Celebrex pills I was prescribed because they make me groggy. And a few days ago I (although I take no personal responsibility) sprained my back or pulled it or did something to it, the point of which is that I've been limping around with severe back pain that is only relieved when I sit down. It's not as bad now as it was last week, but still bothersome.
So last night my son (home from college) and I took a Metro North train to Grand Central, where we stood around a while by the Clock until my daughter (who works nearby) could meet us, and then we took a subway to Union Square and grabbed a bite to eat and walked to Barnes and Noble. By the time we got to Barnes and Noble my back felt seriously inflamed, plus there was a severe stabbing/shooting sensation in my hip whenever I put weight on my right foot. The joys of aging.
Now, by the time we got to Barnes and Noble the room in which the talk was to occur was already standing room only, but one could still enjoy the show on TV monitors in the cafe. But there were no available chairs in the cafe, either. I asked a B&N staff person if there were more chairs; no, there were not.
At this point I was a little panicky, because I was reaching a point at which I would not be able to walk at all if I couldn't relieve the pressure on my back for a while. I was either going to have to find a chair or leave. Sitting on the floor was not an option, because the back was not about to let me go through the movements required to sit on the floor, never mind get up again.
So I'm looking around the cafe for an empty chair, and there were none, save one. One lonely chair. With a hat on it. Next to a young woman guarding it zealously. While I watched several people approached her and asked about the chair, and she would let no one take it. 
Soon there were several dozen people standing around without chairs, but the chair with the hat on it remained empty.
After at least fifteen minutes, I could take it no more. I limped up (at this point I couldn't even stand up straight) and asked her if the person she was saving the chair for was able bodied. I mean, I could have some sympathy if she were saving it for her poor arthritic aunt. But without answering my question she just said no, I could not take the chair.
I am in severe pain, I said. I have a bad back. I really need to sit down to relieve the pain. I said this very explicitly.
Nope. She was saving it for her friend, and that was that.
I started to walk away, because I was raised Lutheran in the Midwest and am therefore a wuss about these things, but a woman sitting nearby looked at me and said, just take the chair. So I hauled the chair away to a spot in view of a monitor. The young woman called after me that I could have the chair only until her friend showed up.
Less than five minutes later she was in front of me saying I had to give the chair back because her friend was there. "Friend" was a man I judged to be in his early 40s, who appeared to be in good physical condition. And I said no, you can't have the chair back. I really need a chair.
And then she threw a temper tantrum. She stomped her foot (literally!) and screeched, You are the rudest person I have ever met.  Friend, hovering nearby, was regarding me with disgust. Then they both stomped away to the escalator and left.
And that was The Woman Raised by Wolves.  Possibly Friend grew up in the same pack, but I can't say.
So if you're in New York City and hear a young woman (thin, curly black hair, accent I didn't recognize) complain about the rude woman in the Union Square Barnes and Noble cafe who took the chair she was saving for Friend, ask her what forest she is from and if her mother enjoyed the flea collar she got for Christmas.
Thanks much. I feel better now.

11:20 am | link

Faux Faces Facts 9:45 am | link

Pop Quiz
Following his custom, Kerry also suggested Bush had rushed to war in Iraq without due consideration of the consequences. That charge drew a sharp, personal response from Bush, who was campaigning in Columbus, Ohio.
"Committing troops into harm's way is the most difficult decision a president can make," Bush said. "That decision must always be a last resort. That decision must be done when our vital interests are at stake, but after we've tried everything else."

In Iraq, he said, "I felt we had a compelling national need" to attack after diplomacy failed. [LA Times/Associated Press]

Does anyone remember exactly what "diplomacy" had "failed"? I sure don't.

This was at the bottom of the same article:

The president also introduced plans that would let employees legally choose time off instead of overtime pay.

"I think the government ought to allow employers to say to an employee, 'If you take some time off and work different hours, you're allowed to do so — if you want to accumulate time to spend with your families, spend with your parents, spend for being re-educated, you're allowed to do so,' " Bush said.

Isn't it wonderful the way Bush frames his cheap-labor initiatives as help for families? Absolutely astonishing.

7:48 am | link

thursday, august 5, 2004

Helping Karl Rove
This evening I was in the Manhattan/Union Square Barnes & Noble for a talk/book signing by Paul Krugman and Al Franken (their most recent books just came out in paperback). I plan to write about this tomorrow. It was interesting. 
Later in Grand Central I picked  up the August 9 issue of New York magazine to read on the train home. There's an interview of Norman Mailer by his son, John Buffalo Mailer, that I recommend highly. I especially want anyone planning to come to New York City for the RNC convention protests to read this article first. Some highlights [emphasis added]:

JBM  ...Of all the cities out there, why would the Republicans pick New York to hold their convention?

NM I would say they are hoping for ugly attacks. If I were a voice in top Republican circles, I might be offering this advice: “What we need for New York is a large-scale riot. Some of those activist kids will be crazy enough to do a lot on their own, but we can do better with a few of our guys, well-placed, ready to urinate on the good American flag. ...

JBM There could be such people out there. But the Republicans may not even need them. There are thousands of 15-, 16-, 17-year-old anarchists who are truly angry. These kids don’t really know what anarchy is all about, but they do know that when they throw a brick through a window, it makes them feel good and there’s a chance they will end up on television. This feeds into the celebrity craze that America is under right now of “Get on TV, man! That’s when you’re really important!”  ...

NM  ... Do the activists really know what they’re going into? That’s my concern. Or do they assume that expressing their rage is equal to getting Kerry elected? It could have exactly the opposite effect. The better mode may be to frustrate the Republicans by coming up with orderly demonstrations. Now, when I was young, the suggestion to be moderate was like a stink bomb to me. An orderly demonstration? What were we, cattle? You have to speak out with your rage. Well, I’m trying to say, we would do well to realize that on this occasion, there are more important things than a good outburst. I wish we could remind everybody who goes out to march of the old Italian saying: “Revenge is a dish that people of taste eat cold.” Instead of expressing yourself at the end of August, think of how nicely you will be able to keep expressing yourself over the four years to come if we win. Just keep thinking how much the Republicans want anarchy on the street. I say, don’t march right into their trap.

There will be juvenile hotheads who haven't yet figured out that not everything in the world is about them. They don't want to hear that their self-indulgent temper tantrums will help Bush win the election, maybe for real this time. If there's one thing that stands out clearly from the anti-war movement during the Vietnam era it's that protester violence and property destruction solidified support for Vietnam and Richard Nixon. Remember that.

10:18 pm | link

Show Me
A couple of days ago the people of my state-of-origin, Missouri, voted to ban gay marriage in the state by 72 to 28 percent.. Proposition 2 ("Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman?") brought out a record number of voters. According to the Springfield News-Leader,

Turnout was at its highest level since the state began tracking it 24 years ago — at least 42.8 percent of Missouri's nearly 3.5 million registered voters cast ballots — according to the office of the secretary of state.

Voter turnout also broke records in several counties, including Greene, where the number of ballots cast Tuesday was comparable to recent non-presidential November general elections.

I've read some analysis suggesting this vote indicates a swing to Bush in one of the larger swing states. To which I say, maybe. But maybe not.

Tuesday was a primary day in Missouri. I've been looking at the numbers, and for what it's worth:

  • 241,956 more people voted in the Democratic primary than the Republican primary.
  • 41,574 more people voted for Proposition 2 than voted in the two gubernatorial primaries combined.
  • Rasmussen Report poll released on the same day as the primary has Missouri "leaning Bush," but by only 4 points, which is pretty much where it's been for a while. 

What does this mean? Maybe nothing. But it may mean that gay marriage isn't all that much of a "wedge" issue. We can assume that some portion of people who voted "yes" on amending the state Constitution would not be in favor of amending the federal Constitution, for example. And Senator Kerry says he is opposed to gay marriage but thinks it is a state issue. Also, we can assume that many Democrats who voted "yes" may not base their vote for President on that one issue and still plan to vote for Kerry.

The numbers also suggest that lots of voters who rarely vote crawled out of the woodwork to bash gays. Whether they will crawl out of the woodwork again to vote for Bush remains to be seen.  


3:31 pm | link

Faux Nooz Strikes Again
I picked this up on Kausfiles, of all places -- scroll past Teresa is a liability, Kerry didn't get a bounce, time for Dems to panic blah blah blah, and read the part that starts Franks: Kerry Was Right About 'Nam!
Fox's Sean Hannity didn't look too happy today when now-retired Gen. Tommy Franks backed up John Kerry's old claims of atrocities in Vietnam.... After Hannity had detailed Kerry's charges--which included stories of beheadings and the shooting of innocent civilians--Franks agreed with them. The "things Kerry said are undeniable," the general told his surprised host, explaining that "things didn't go right" in Vietnam. ...
Kaus goes on to say that the official transcript has Franks saying, in effect, that he didn't think the things Kerry said were undeniable. However, if you can stomach looking at Sean Hannity's face for a couple of minutes (keep Pepto Bismol handy) and look at the video, Franks really did back up Kerry's stories of atrocities, much to Hannity's surprise.
I don't have a direct link to the video, but you can go to this page and scroll down to "the General speaks" in the right-hand column, and click on "part 3." No point sitting through the whole thing.
It's remarkable to me that so many are still in denial about the Vietnam atrocities. It was common knowledge in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as the draftees came home and talked about it. The My Lai Massacre was one of the few cases in which their was solid documentation.
Hannity goes on to read statements by Kerry from 2002 in which he explained why he would vote for the war resolution, followed by Hannity rolling his eyes over Kerry's opposition to the war now. What Hannity doesn't say, of course, is that Kerry's biggest fault was that in 2002 he chose to believe what the Bushies were saying about nuclear capability and WMDs. Duh.  

7:28 am | link

wednesday, august 4, 2004

(I'm gong to free associate for a while. I hope you won't mind. I will get to a point eventually.)
This morning I stumbled onto this essay by Terry Heaton, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I'd like to add a little to it.
I want to skip down a few paragraphs to the part about tribes, because here the author is close to something important but not all the way there. Start with the paragraph that begins,
In the Postmodern worldview, people are united through the concept of tribes, where attraction takes center stage.
On the surface this sentence may not make sense, especially for people like me who have yet to figure out what postmodernism is. However, it caught my eye because I have long made sense of current human civilization by seeing it as made up of vast, overlapping tribes. It is helpful here to provide a definition of tribe, which Heaton does:

tribe n 1 group of (esp. primitive) families or communities linked by social, religious, or blood ties, and usually having a common culture and dialect and a recognized leader. 2 any similar natural or political division. 3 usu. derog set or number of persons, esp. of one profession etc. or family. (Oxford)

The difference between a tribe and a mere association is that the tribes you belong to (you may belong to several) make up a big part of your self-identity. Put another way, a tribe is an association with an institution or other group of people that your ego attaches to. So, when your tribe is threatened, particularly by another tribe, the ego reacts as if the self is threatened.

Further, long-held tribal identities are nearly impossible to shake loose; most people cannot divorce themselves from a tribe without going through all manner of existential angst.

For example, a person raised Catholic may come to disagree with most Church teaching but hesitate to switch denominations because it just plain feels uncomfortable. That discomfort comes from a primordial part of the subconscious warning us it's dangerous to leave the tribe. We might be eaten by saber-tooth tigers, or something.

I see the joining of tribes as an instinct given us by our early hominid ancestors that is hardwired into our species. Human beings can no more avoid joining tribes than they can avoid breathing. We form tribal identities with families, with communities, with nations, with ethnic or racial groups, and with institutions (religions, football teams, political parties). Tribes also form around philosophies or ideologies.

There are even tribes of people who are opposed to tribes. These people can be identified by how much they quote Ayn Rand to show how uniquely individual they are.

Freepers are an obvious example of a postmodern tribe. They will defend their Freeper fellows and leaders, such as George Bush, beyond all logic and reason, and they will do so with all the fierceness (and lack of intellect) of a wolf defending his pack. No facts, no argument, can shake their absolute faith that the Right is right. For individual Freep, Freepery is an extension of themselves, and if you discredit Freepery, you challenge a Freeper's very existence. It may be easier to reason with a wolf than with a Freeper.

Postmodern tribes differ from ancient tribes in that they are less geograpically based than they used to be. These days it's possible to join a tribe of people scattered about the entire planet. Although we still may classify Americans by city, state, or region -- Southerners, Yankees, Westerners, New Yorkers, Texans, Hillbillies, Hoosiers, etc. -- these identities mean less today than they did a century ago, and a century from now they may be gone entirely.

Many have commented on the Red State-Blue State nonsense within which our current political struggles are framed. Voting patterns do not neatly fall within state borders. What we're really looking at are tribal populations, which still tend to be more concentrated in some regions than in others. Over time, this will change. Even the "solid South" must eventually break up and become more tribally diverse.

Finally, I get to what may be an important point: I believe support for George W. Bush is based almost entirely on tribal loyalty and identity. Mostly he's got a couple of mega-tribes, such as what's loosely called the Religious Right, which is actually made up of several overlapping, socially conservative Christian tribes. And he's got a mega tribe called "political conservatives," which is made up of anti-government, anti-socialist, anti-tax, anti-multicultural (we used to call these people "bigots"), and anti-modernism tribes, among others.

IMO most members of these tribes will stick with Bush no matter how badly he screws up, because he's their tribal leader, and tribes must be defended at all cost. If you lose your tribe, other tribes will catch you and cook you in a big pot and decorate their huts with your shrunken head.. 

Bushism leaves real conservatives in an uncomfortable position, however. Their tribal instincts tell them to be loyal to the "conservative" tribe, but reason tells them Bush ain't no conservative. On the other hand, the pull of tribal loyalty may be strong enough to keep them from voting for Kerry. This will be an interesting group to watch in the coming weeks.

But what about support for John Kerry? I believe support for Kerry is based less on tribal identity than on an expectation he can perform the job of President of the United States well, or at least a damn sight better than Bush. We liberals and progressives and Democrats for the most part, I think, do not (yet) consider John Kerry to be our leader. He's more like the knight we've hired to go out and slay the dragon.

However, the ferocity with which we dislike the Bushies does come, at least in part, from our tribal loyalties.  The Bushies really do want to catch us and cook us in big pots, etc. We are not imagining this.

Some commentators have made a big deal of the perception that most likely Democratic voters are less excited about Kerry becoming President than they are about getting rid of Bush. But what this really says is that support for Bush is based on primordial emotions, mostly fear, while support for Kerry is based more on judgment and reason. 

We don't need to apologize for that.

11:23 am | link

Cry Wolf 6:09 am | link

tuesday, august 3, 2004

That Socialist Rag
Business Week has an interesting take on the Democratic convention. I don't agree with it 100 percent, but I do like the evaluation of television coverage:
The TV networks. The broadcast networks get one of the most valuable pieces of corporate welfare that exists anywhere: free use of our nation's broadcast spectrum. In exchange, they owe the public a little bit of public service. That means real coverage of public affairs issues. And it should mean extensive coverage of political conventions and Presidential debates. By opting to air just one hour of the Democratic convention on three of the convention's four nights, ABC, NBC, and CBS let the public down. The once-venerable Big Three networks missed the highlight of the convention -- Barack Obama's fabulous keynote address -- and they skipped newsworthy speeches by Jimmy Carter, Wes Clark, Max Cleland, and many others. Their pathetic efforts at voiceover sophistry and punditry in Boston -- and an equally paltry presentation slated for New York -- give them a couple more well-deserved black eyes.
Cable TV. CNN, the leading purveyor of news to Democratic voters, also ended up with egg on its face. All too often, the self-described trusted news source, opted to show its viewers the yakking faces of its own TV personalities rather than the action on the floor. For example, the network missed most of the electric speech by Clark. Sometimes, less commentary and more news would be good news. Fox -- CNN's conservative competition -- was so relentlessly negative that it might as well have advertised its coverage as a donation from media mogul Rupert Murdoch to the Republican National Committee and the Bush campaign. Thank goodness for C-SPAN!

10:53 am | link

Most of the al Qaeda surveillance of five financial institutions that led to a new terrorism alert Sunday was conducted before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and authorities are not sure whether the casing of the buildings has continued, numerous intelligence and law enforcement officials said yesterday.
More than half a dozen government officials interviewed yesterday, who declined to be identified because classified information is involved, said that most, if not all, of the information about the buildings seized by authorities in a raid in Pakistan last week was about three years old, and possibly older.
"There is nothing right now that we're hearing that is new," said one senior law enforcement official who was briefed on the alert. "Why did we go to this level? . . . I still don't know that."
Oh, but we know. This is all leading up to an attempt to ban protesters from Manhattan during the RNC Convention.
Updates: See also Billmon here, Kevin Drum here, and uggabugga here and here. Stirling Newberry says "We should get the warning about 911 any day now."
And always, Paul Krugman.
koolaid.jpgAnother update: Talk about freaking unbelievable ... this poor idiot child defends the Bushies by saying " 'not new' does not equal 'no threat.'" Nobody, of course, said there was "no threat." As I described below, New York City has been on high security alert -- armed National Guard, bomb sniffing dogs, security checkpoints -- ever since 9/11. This is a good thing. But you don't terrify people half to death on three-year-old "intelligence." Not something a wingnut could possibly understand, of course.
6:49 am | link

monday, august 2, 2004

Eat Dat Crow!
Remember that long-ago time (last Friday) when the wingnuts were crowing about an ABC/WaPo poll that showed people trusted Bush (52 to 37 percent) to protect the U.S. from terrorism?
Well, now there's a new ABC/WaPo poll that says people think John Kerry is "better qualified to be commander-in-chief," by 52 percent to 44 percent.
Eat dat crow, Bushies! Eat it eat it eat it!
On the other hand, you'll notice the new news story about the new poll leads with a caution that Kerry didn't get much of a convention bounce, but then goes on to say that Kerry's position as a candidate is much stronger in several ways than it was before.
Today's Egg on the Face Award goes to Robert Moran of National Review Online, who said today,
That dull thud you hear may be the John Kerry flop of 2004.
The media wanted a post-convention bounce for the Democrats' presidential nominee. The Washington Post, acting as political consultant, highlighted the rosy findings of its convention focus groups among swing voters. They tried.

But polling suggests that the Boomer centric "Boston Me Party" that nominated John F. Kerry, may have been a flop. The most recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted Friday and Saturday (the best time to measure a possible post-convention bounce), actually found Bush ahead of Kerry 50 percent to 47 percent among likely voters and behind Kerry by three points among registered voters in a two-way race. In a three-way race this research found Bush ahead 50 percent to 46 percent among likely voters and tied at 47 percent among registered voters.

Note that this poll also has a 4-point margin of error. So much for the three-point lead. 

NRO must switch allegience from ABC/WaPo to CNN/USA Today/Gallup because the latter is the only poll that puts Bush ahead. The most recent ABC/WaPo, American Research Group, CBS/New York Times, Newsweek, and Zogby polls all show Kerry moving ahead.

This is no time to be complacent. We've got several weeks to go. I've seen enormous shifts in poll numbers as Election Day approaches. Still, the Dems are off to a good start. Smells like victory to me.

6:54 pm | link

Just Another Day in New York
Is this just another bogus security alert? Who knows?
Al Qaeda allegedly is planning to bomb the financial district, again. New York Newsday says the streets around Grand Central Station are closed, also, and Grand Central is nowhere near the financial district. Newsday has a photograph of a van being searched. The building in the background is Saint Patrick's Cathedral, which is even further away from the financial district than Grand Central.
New Yorkers may be feeling a bit more trepidation than usual, but I'll bet not that much. New York City has been on perpetual high security alert since 9/11. The armed National Guard and NYPD bomb-sniffing dogs and security guards that ain't lettin' you go noplace unless you can prove you got business there are just more things to maneuver around, like the sidewalk vendors and subway musicians. Fuhgeddaboudit
Notice that Newsday had to find a tourist to get a usable person-on-the-street quote.
New Yorkers have also learned to live with little inconveniences like being stuck on a halted subway because of a security alert and the occasional evacuation because a bomb-sniffing dog fixated on some abandoned package. (Bomb or bacon? I always wonder.)
New Yorkers shrug it off, but it's a constant reminder that we aren't really much safer from terrorism than we were on September 10, 2001. I wonder if some Red State citizens were to wake up to armed National Guard and sniffer dogs and security checkpoints, would they still trust Dubya so much?
The real fun is in speculating what political motivation lies behind this alert. Was Tom Ridge ordered to cry wolf to distract the electorate from John Kerry? Do the Bushies plan to manufacture an excuse to ban protesters from Manhattan during the RNC convention? (My money's on the latter.)

7:39 am | link

sunday, august 1, 2004

Gender and Other Wars
Molly Ivins wrote today:

... the one topic the D's, in their determined-not-to-be-negative mode, are avoiding like said skunk is Iraq. ... The more or less official Democratic line is whether you were for the war or against it, the administration screwed up the implementation beyond recall, which I suppose works politically and has the added virtue of being true.

Nonetheless, I don't think it gets us far enough: We spent at least 20 years after Vietnam arguing about what we needed to learn from that experience, and I don't want to see the lessons of Iraq confused.

It is not just a matter of Use Overwhelming Force and Have an Exit Strategy (two lessons from Vietnam). It really is much more important to understand why we should not have invaded in the first place.

Not just a case of bad information on the WMD, on the supposed ties to al Qaeda, on the nonexistent nuclear program, etc. We need to get it through our heads that the real mistake was invading in the face of almost universal opposition from the rest of the world.

There may be a time and place where we will have to act unilaterally, but this wasn't it. Painfully, clearly not.

I'm sure I've said this before, but to this day there are people who insist we could have "won" in Vietnam, without considering what "winning" would actually look like (occupation and insurgency without end) and what the point might have been. These are the same people who today think we already have "won" in Afghanistan and Iraq, and those pesky insurgents are just die hards who won't face reality.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Pope: Women Are Holsteins

The Pope declares gender war in the name of ending gender war:
The Vatican yesterday depicted what it claimed were women's characteristic traits: 'Listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting.'
So does this men men's characteristic traits are self-absorption, hostility, arrogance, unfaithfulness, derision, and impatience?
... 'women, in order to be themselves, must make themselves the adversaries of men'. Such confrontational thinking was 'leading to harmful confusion ... which has its most immediate and lethal effects in the structure of the family'.
Women become adversaries of men when men try to keep us in a tiny gender-role box. It's not good for men to live in tiny gender-role boxes, either.

Gender war also encouraged a perilous blurring of the distinctions. 'To avoid the domination of one sex or the other, their differences tend to be denied, viewed as mere effects of historical and cultural conditioning.'

Translation: Women should just accept being Holsteins.

Such a view ignored qualities that arose from a woman's unique ability to give birth. This 'allows her to acquire maturity very quickly, and gives a sense of the seriousness of life and of its responsibilities.

Men are not supposed to sense the seriousness of life and of its responsibilities?

 A sense and a respect for what is concrete develop in her, opposed to abstractions which are so often fatal for the existence of individuals and society,' says the first high-level pronouncement on gender issues since the Pope's 1995 'Letter to Women'.

I believe there are traits, such as aggressiveness, that may be more pronounced in one gender population than the other, but variations among individuals are stronger than variations between sexes. I also believe that dogmatic and  ideological rigidity equals brain death. 
When dogmatists and ideologues try to enforce control, yin and yang will become unbalanced.  But when dogmatists and ideologues butt out, yin and yang will find harmony. This is something the Taoists figured out 25 centuries ago. Maybe someday the rest of us will catch up.

7:16 pm | link

History Lesson
Howard "Leave the Money on the Night Stand" Fineman just said (on the Chris Matthews Show) that no presidential challenger ever unseated a commander in chief. I assume he meant in time of war.
This ignores the fact that, in at least two instances I can think of, the sitting commander in chief withdrew from the presidential race in time of war. Harry Truman might have run for re-election in 1952, but the Korean War and the (rightful) dismissal of General MacArthur had so weakened him politically that he abdicated his position as Democratic standard bearer to Adlai Stevenson. General Eisenhower, who pledged to "go to Korea" and settle the matter, was the winner.
And in 1968, Lyndon Johnson could take no more and stepped away from the campaign. Herbert Humphrey lost to Richard Nixon, who had dropped broad hints he had a "secret plan" to win the Vietnam War (D.R.: Maybe he didn't say that, but he did leave the impression).
Iraq is turning into a fiasco of Vietnam proportions. If the news media were doing the same job reporting events that was done during Korea or during Vietnam, by now Bush would be so discredited he might be stepping down, also, were he not a monomaniacal a--hole.
Going further back, most historians believe Abraham Lincoln was losing the 1864 campaign until General Sherman took Atlanta in September and made the Civil War look, finally, winnable.
The lesson might be that war presidents are darn near unseatable if the electorate supports the war. If it doesn't, that president is in big political trouble.
What will happen when a war president seeks reelection at a time when most of the electorate is turning against the war? I don't believe that has ever happened before.

12:00 pm | link

He Said, She Said
I'm watching "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." Mary Matalin is saying -- well, no, it's more of a nasal whining -- that the DNC Convention was a "convention of hate" and that the Democrats are hypocrits for saying they hate negative smears while, at the same time, criticizing the Bush-Cheney record. Inotherwords, we're not allowed to disagree with Bush because that makes us "haters." Inotherwords, standard GOP talking points.
And how tired are we of the typical "he said, she said" format of political television talk shows? How actually useful is it to pit a Republican operative against a Democratic operative and have them shout their talking points at each other, and over each other, while the "journalist" acting as moderator sits there, dumb as a post, providing no context, offering no challenges even to blatantly false information shouted by the operatives?
Jay Rosen of PressThink offers an intelligent criticism of this format. The format evolved to deflect criticism of bias -- see, we let both sides have their say, so we're not biased. But (a) this approach hasn't stopped the criticism; and (b) thanks to "he said, she said," the American public doesn't know what's true and what's not. Rosen quotes Zachary Roth of The Campaign Desk:
The only way to stop the campaigns from continuing to grossly distort the truth is for the entire press corps -- not just the Times and the Washington Post, but USA Today, the Associated Press, and the TV networks, which are the source of news for many more voters--to point out these distortions, immediately and unequivocatingly, using their own reportorial (as opposed to editorial) voice.
(You young people* won't remember this, but television journalists used to do that. I remember television reporters taking apart Richard Nixon's speeches and pointing out all the inaccuracies in them. It was in those days that Spiro Agnew, with the help of speechwriter Patrick Buchanan, went on the warpath against news media and created the "liberal media" myth, never mind that the media had been just as hard, if not harder, on Lyndon Johnson.)
Watching Zell Miller on Meet the Press. Inexplicable. I can only assume he plans to switch parties, as he has no future as a Democrat, but is remaining a nominal Democrat for now in order to be a more effective propaganda tool for the GOP. Because clearly he is taking orders from the GOP.
Can we say "wrong side of history," Zell?
Here's a lovely DNC convention wrapup written by a North Carolina newspaper reporter. Be sure to read the part about John Edwards.
*Anyone under the age of 35

8:24 am | link

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Radio Archive

Ben Merens, "Conversations with Ben Merens,"
September 9, 2004, WHAD Milwaukee, 90.7 FM

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September 15, 2004, 90.1 FM.



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The Loyalties of George W. Bush

Terror Alert Level






"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918


The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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