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saturday, october 23, 2004

The Last Word?
 
Via Glenn Reynolds, blogger Norman Geras gives "the last word on the Iraq war."  
 
Unfortunately, it's actually at least 1,500 words, and redundant words, at that. I took up a machete and attempted to clear my way through the tangled undergrowth of Mr. Geras's verbiage. After about six or seven paragraphs I grew tired and gave up. So I will rely on the Glenn Reynolds condensed version, which is that "There was no persuasive moral case against the Iraq war." (Emphasis added.)
 
(There's one thing I can say for Glenn. He's an idiot, but usually he doesn't go on at length about it.)
 
Here's a sample:
The sole convincing moral case against the war would have had to demonstrate, either for a certainty or else as being highly probable, that the consequences of a regime-change war by the coalition of the willing - a coalition that could, it should be noted, have been bigger but for the opposition to the war - must be a state of affairs even worse than the one the war was supposed to remedy. I submit that it is in the very nature of what I'm calling here the moral immensity that no one could have known this for a certainty or even a probability. Some, of course, did claim to know it - predicting a quagmire from day one or two, Stalingrad in Baghdad, an eruption of rage in the Arab world, and so forth. But the rapid discomfiture of all these predictions reveals just what kind of 'knowledge' this was.
As near as I can tell, Mr. Geras is saying that pre-war predictions that an invasion of Iraq would result in long-term disaster were invalid as moral arguments against the war because they couldn't be proved to be true before the invasion. Further, you'll notice that Mr. Geras has not yet worked up the courage to admit that most of these predictions are turning out to be accurate. And that conditions in Iraq are deteriorating faster than you can say "circumlocution."
 
The clincher for Mr. Geras was the recent discovery of more mass graves.  "The house was on fire," he writes. "No argument against trying to save the people in the house is worth a fig if it doesn't accept this fact honestly, and recognize that there is something considerable to be said for indeed trying to save these people."
 
The recently discovered mass graves date from 1987, however. And back then, when the house was on fire, the Reagan Administration sent Saddam Hussein more matches. We sent in the fire trucks long after the house was gone and the embers grown cold. Granted, there were more recent mass graves. But none, I don't believe, were less than a decade old.
 
At this point I'm supposed to do the "Saddam really was a bad guy" dance. And, of course, he was. But he was a bad guy whose power and influence were on the wane. He could have been taken into hand without wholesale death and destruction.
 
And that last part is something very few public figures have the courage to say out loud. We'll have to wait until Iraq turns into a Muslim dictatorship or is being consumed by civil war. By then there'll be some new "last words," I suspect. 
 
 
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4:57 pm | link

Hear the Drumming
 
The Republicans are recruiting and training thousands of "poll watchers" to disrupt voting in key precincts.
 
In Ohio, the recruits will be paid $100 to be at polling places to challenge voters in heavily Democratic urban precints. Further, the GOP is challenging new registrations to disqualify as many as possible from voting.
 
Will Ohio become the new Florida? 
 
At Daily Kos, Hypothetically Speaking writes,

Last week there were many postings of outrage that several Republican operatives involved in an absentee ballot scandal in South Dakota were quickly wisked away to work on the GOP get-out-the-vote effort in Ohio.

Despite substantial internet and some national media coverage of the story, this issue got nearly zero coverage in the Ohio media.

This afternoon the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported that 5 of the 6 staffers involved in the absentee ballot caper have been indicted. Two of the 5, Nathan Mertz and Todd Schleckeway, are currently working in Ohio. Another staffer who was reported to have been sent to Ohio, Eric Fahrendorf was also indicted, but the Ohio Republican Party claims he wasn't moved to Ohio.

Larry Russell, ringleader of the absentee ballot caper, was also moved to Ohio, but there is no word yet on his fate.

On the plus side, Ralph Nader won't be on the Ohio ballot.
 
Why the Bushies are desperate: Even though Bush has a slight lead in most national polls, Kerry is ahead in the battleground states. This puts Kerry slightly ahead in the electoral college.
 
Here's what's happening: The recent increase in Bush's numbers is coming from solid "red" states that have been in Bush's pocket all along. That means his slight increase in popular votes isn't getting him anywhere electorally.
 
Just for fun I played with some numbers. Right now (according to this site) Bush has 60 percent of the votes in Texas (34 electoral votes) and Tennessee (11 electoral votes).  That's 45 electoral votes. If Bush wins even more voters in those states, he's still got 45 electoral votes.
 
Kerry has small leads in Ohio (20 votes), Pennsylvania (21 votes), and New Hampshire (4 votes). As it stands now Kerry's got 45 electoral votes in those states with way fewer voters.
 
The Bushies must realize they're being out-campaigned in the battleground states, so the only way they can "win" the election is to steal some of those states. It's going to be a mess.
 
 
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10:06 am | link

Outrage du Jour
 
Via Orcinus and Suburban Guerrilla and QrazyQat -- be sure to read this story by Knight Ridder's Meg Laughlin -- "Former Workers Dispute Bush's Pull in Project PULL."
 
In his autobiography and elsewhere, Bush has cited his very uncharacteristic work in 1973 for an inner-city youth program as the source of his ideas about "compassionate conservatism."

"I realized then that a society can change and must change one person at a time ..." Bush said in a video shown at the 2000 Republican National Convention about his tenure at P.U.L.L., the Professional United Leadership League, whose executive director, John White, had played tight end for the Houston Oilers in the early 1960s. ...

"I was working full time for an inner-city poverty program known as Project P.U.L.L.," Bush said in his 1999 autobiography, "A Charge to Keep." "My friend John White ... asked me to come help him run the program. ... I was intrigued by John's offer. ... Now I had a chance to help people."

John White died in 1988. However, his former administrative assistant and others who worked with PULL in 1973 say that Bush is fibbin'.

But White's administrative assistant and others associated with P.U.L.L., speaking on the record for the first time, say Bush was not helping to run the program and White had not asked Bush to come aboard. Instead, the associates said, White told them he agreed to take Bush on as a favor to Bush's father, who was honorary co-chairman of the program at the time, and Bush was unpaid. They say White told them Bush had gotten into some kind of trouble but White never gave them specifics.

"We didn't know what kind of trouble he'd been in, only that he'd done something that required him to put in the time," said Althia Turner, White's administrative assistant.

"John said he was doing a favor for George's father because an arrangement had to be made for the son to be there," said Willie Frazier, also a former player for the Houston Oilers and a P.U.L.L. summer volunteer in 1973.

Many have speculated that the real reason Bush was at PULL had more to do with a court order than with compassion. In his book Fortunate Son, the late J.H. Hatfield alleged that Bush was arrested for cocaine possession, but Poppy got the charges erased in exchange for community service by Shrub. The Knight Ridder report says that a political reporter for the Dallas Morning News had a different story -- that "Bush's father had insisted on the service after Bush was involved in a drunk-driving incident."  

And Dave Niewert of Orcinus writes, "It's worth noting, of course, that this is roughly the same time frame when Bush was missing in action at the Texas Air National Guard. A connection between the two seems not only possible, but likely."

Meg Laughlin's interviewees said that Shrub was not helping to run the program, was not an employee of the program, and was not a normal volunteer, either. Unlike other volunteers, Bush had to sign in and out, and John White was keeping track of his hours. 

A White House spokesman denied Bush had been in any trouble, and that Bush was doing volunteer service for the program but getting paid by the Guard at the time. That should be checked out.  

 
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7:56 am | link

friday, october 22, 2004

Ultimate Revenge
 
Imagine Bill Clinton as Secretary General of the UN. Wouldn't that be delicious? The Freep Hive Mind would explode.
 
Keith Olbermann on MSNBC just did a Countdown segment on the possibility that President Kerry would nominate Clinton to replace Kofi Annan in 2006. And it's said that Clinton is a rock star in the Third World and could get the votes.
 
Then if we can at least get some indictments for BushCo by then, the world will truly be a better place.
 
 
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8:41 pm | link

Figure This Out
 
Bush's campaign schedule is slowing down, according to Anne Kornblut and Rick Klein of the Boston Globe.
This weekend -- less than two weeks before the election, typically a time for frenzied barnstorming -- Bush is planning to spend two consecutive nights far from any battleground, at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Until Election Day, he is making some curious stops for an incumbent locked in such a close race -- traveling to the largely Democratic state of Pennsylvania three times in two weeks, for example, while avoiding the close battleground of Ohio, except for making a stop today, his first since Oct. 2.

Chris Suellentrop pointed out in Slate that Bush seems to be ignoring Ohio.

"Why aren't we going to Ohio? The president hasn't been there in several weeks," a reporter asked McClellan after the plane landed. Oops, the president will head to Canton on Friday, McClellan said. "I think I forgot to mention Ohio."

McClellan's lapse is understandable. Bush seems to have forgotten about Ohio, too. "The Bush campaign is confident it can win the state; as if to prove its comfort level, today marks 14 days since the Republican president last set foot in Ohio," Cleveland's Plain Dealer wrote this past Saturday. By the time Bush arrives in Canton tomorrow, he'll have gone 19 days without campaigning in the Buckeye State. His last stop here was in Cuyahoga Falls on Oct. 2.

A new USA Today-CNN-Gallup Poll gives Kerry 48 percent of the Ohio vote, and Bush 47 percent. Either Bush has decided he doesn't really need Ohio to win, which runs counter to conventional wisdom, or he's arranged for a sure-fire steal.

Meanwhile, armed with a 12-gauge shotgun and chaperoned by a golden retriever, John Kerry went goose hunting on an Ohio farm yesterday.

But back to Bush's campaign schedule. Kornbllut and Klein remind us that Bush pulled something like this four years ago -- slowing down in the final days of the campaign -- and it cost him a lot of votes. 

Four years ago, Bush campaign strategists sailed into the final week brimming with confidence -- some would say overconfidence -- saying they would win more than 300 Electoral College votes and remain in play in heavily Democratic places like New Jersey. Bush spent several days in California and New Jersey at the end, relinquishing precious time that in retrospect would have been better spent in closer battlegrounds, such as Florida.

Despite that, Bush returned to New Jersey this week, traveling to a Philadelphia suburb to deliver a major national security address Tuesday. It was his only public appearance that day. Bush also made a long-shot foray to Oregon after the third debate in Tempe, Ariz.

In 2000 the polls were moving in Gore's favor in the last week of the campaign, giving Gore the popular vote. The Bushies may attribute this to the last-minute revelation of an old DUI conviction on Bush's record. But I also recall that Bush's schedule relaxed toward the end of the 2000 campaign. Gore's didn't.

Kornblut and Klein continue: 

Yesterday, on his 40th visit to Pennsylvania, Bush made two stops, a schedule that saw him leave the White House just before noon and put him back home by 6:30 p.m. Although he spends tonight in Florida, where he will campaign all day tomorrow, Bush is scheduled to be in Crawford tomorrow and Sunday nights. Next week, he is expected to spend three nights at the White House, not leaving for a solid stretch of overnight stops until the Friday before the election.

Maybe he's tired. There's been much speculation that Bush has a secret health problem, especially since he's postponed his annual physical until after the campaign. Many noted that one side of the President's face was drooping during the third debate, leading some to suspect either a stroke or a bad reaction to botox injections.

Taegan Goddard provides the latest state poll numbers here.

 
 
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thursday, october 21, 2004

Burning Bush
 
Is George W. Bush a real Christian, or does he just play one on TV?
 
Ron Suskind's essential New York Times magazine article, "Without a Doubt," is inspiring analysis of Bush's religious faith. Is it sincere, or is it politics? Ayelish McGarvey argues in TAP that Bush is not a Christian at all, but merely an opportunist. McGarvey takes issue with Suskind:
Ron Suskind attempted to trace Bush’s lack of intellectual curiosity, and the policy disasters that have stemmed from that, back to his relationship with God. “That a deep Christian faith illuminated the personal journey of George W. Bush is common knowledge,” Suskind wrote. In other words, the devil, as it were, is lurking among the articles of faith, but not in the heart of the man.

This is a huge mistake, because when judged by his deeds, an entirely different picture emerges: Bush does not demonstrate a life of faith by his actions, and neither Methodists, evangelicals, nor fundamentalists can rightly call him brother. In fact, the available evidence raises serious questions about whether Bush is really a Christian at all.

One can argue that a man who starts a war for the heck of it is not being guided by the Prince of Peace. Indeed, a group of United Methodists are calling on Bush and Dick Cheney to repent:
We are United Methodists bringing a letter of complaint against United Methodist Church members George W. Bush and Richard "Dick" Cheney for their chargeable offenses of crime, immorality, disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church (UMC), and dissemination of doctrine contrary to the established standards of doctrine of The UMC. ... Our hope is that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney (respondents) will recognize the sinfulness of their actions, sincerely repent for what they have done, and move on to change their ways. Although we recognize the improbability of that outcome, we believe that with God all things are possible.
But the fact is that fundies and evangelicals and other conservative Christians make up the most solid part of Bush's base of support for the war in Iraq and most other Bush policies.
 
A big part of Bush's political support was built through his skillful linking of conservative Christian terminology to his political goals. Bush's warmaking also plays into a wholesale fear and hatred of all Muslims that is common to fundamentalist and evangelical Christians. Many Christian leaders teach and encourage a loathing of Islam, in fact. Our struggles with Muslim terrorism are conflated with the ultimate war of Good versus Evil, and Muslims are working for Satan.
 
Although Bush doesn't diss Islam directly, he walks a fine line -- calling Islam a "religion of peace" publicly while giving people like Jerry Boykin prominent roles in the "war on terror." The fundies know that Bush is one of them. And if he doesn't always say so directly, they know it's because he has to placate the devil-worshiping liberal elitists in America who are working for Satan, too.
 
Jesus didn't teach us to hate others, you say? Whatever made you think that Jesus' teachings have anything to do with the religion of Christianity? Especially fundamentalist Christianity? Get a grip.
 
For example, no honest reading of the gospels could lead one to think that Jesus was in favor of capital punishment. Yet the fundies manage to stretch Bible verses to fit whatever they want them to fit, including the death penalty.
 
This isn't new, of course. Christians in the antebellum South believed that Jesus supported slavery.   
"[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God...it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation...it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts." Jefferson Davis, President, Confederate States of America
I've long believed the teachings of Jesus and the religion of Christianity bear the same relationship to each other as cats and raccoons. They share a common ancestor and bear a superficial resemblance, but they are really very different critters.  
 
Christians can generally be divided into those who make some effort to reconcile Jesus' teachings with the dogmas of their faith, and those who don't bother. Fundies are among the latter group. For them, Jesus is just a one-size-fits-all excuse for whatever ignorance they are determined to cling to.
 
So I'm willing to accept that George W. Bush is no more or less hypocritical than many other American Christians, which is to say he wouldn't recognize true spiritual devotion if it bit his butt. 
 
 
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wednesday, october 20, 2004

The Big Dog Returns
 
I just heard -- next Monday, Bill Clinton will appear at a rally in Philadelphia with John Kerry. Hmmm, it'd be fun to have a really big turnout there, huh?
 
 
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2:11 pm | link

Stealing Home
 
Robert Kuttner writes in today's Boston Globe: "The Republicans are out to steal the 2004 election -- before, during, and after Election Day."
 
This isn't news to anybody. But consider -- a nationally known commentator writes this in a major metropolitan daily a few days before the election, and no one will be shocked by it. The die-hard true believers at Free Republic and Little Green Footballs won't believe it, of course, since in FreeperWorld only Democrats cheat. But the rest of us just say, yeah, that's what's happening. Sure enough.
 
Voter fraud isn't new, but a statement like this just before a national election would have been shocking in the recent historical past. The fact that it's not shocking just shows how far we've fallen.
 
Kuttner continues,
Before Election Day, they are employing such dirty tricks as improper purges of voter rolls, use of dummy registration groups that tear up Democratic registrations, and the suppression of Democratic efforts to sign up voters, especially blacks and students.

On Election Day, Republicans will attempt to intimidate minority voters by having poll watchers threaten criminal prosecution if something is technically amiss with their ID, and they will again use technical mishaps to partisan advantage.

Of course there has been widespread fraud in the past. Many of us remember the miraculous Mayor Richard Daly (not the current one; his daddy) of Chicago, who could raise voters from the dead. But in all of American history I do not believe fraud has been practiced so openly on a nationwide scale.
 
The days of the Democratic city bosses who counted on votes of the long deceased are gone, writes Kuttner.  
The press has reported isolated abuses, such as a few Florida snowbirds trying to register in more than one state. But any fair comparison of election abuses this year will reveal that one party is expending energy to register as many supporters as possible and assure that that their votes will be counted, while the other one is registering its supporters but also systematically trying to keep the opposition's votes from being cast. There is simply no comparable Democratic program of ballot suppression.
Further, says Kuttner unoriginally, if the election is close party lawyers will keep the results tied up in court for many days thereafter.
 
The Village Voice has a voter digest page with links to vote fraud stories.  Richard Hasen at Slate presents five nightmare scenarios in which the election might be settled by litigation.
 
Meanwhile, the righties are having a fine time whooping it up over the crack-for-votes case in Ohio. What we know so far is that a woman named Georgianne Pitts, a volunteer working on behalf of the NAACP National Voter Fund, admitted giving crack cocaine to Chad Staton to register voters. Unfortunately for Ms. Pitts, the 124 registration forms submitted by Mr. Staton were obvious fakes.

Within an hour, Defiance County elections workers had deduced that the batch of 130 was mostly faked forms, said Laura Howell, the county elections board's deputy director.

"We could tell by the handwriting that many of them were written by the same person," she said. "And of course we know the streets. Defiance being a small town, many of [the forms] had streets not even in Defiance."

And so elections workers immediately began sending out letters, addressed to the people listed at those addresses, as a precaution to ensure that a Mary Poppins, a Jeffrey Dahmer, or a Janet Jackson didn't, in fact, live in Defiance County, she said.

Letters also went out to George Foreman, Brett Favre, Michael Jordan, and Dick Tracy, among others in the bundle to see if the post office would return them as undeliverable.

Letters even went out to a handful of people registered on forms with different personal identifiers but the same name: Chad Staton.

Although some bloggers have suggested that Karl Rove could be behind this, I think it's more likely that Ms. Pitts, who has a considerable criminal record, came up with the crack-for-votes idea on her own, and that she and Mr. Staton are a couple of idiot losers.

Here's a case the righties won't be talking about. In Florida, about 4,000 registration forms submitted by Republican organizations are under investigation.

Authorities in at least three Florida counties are investigating more than 4,000 suspicious voter-registration forms submitted on behalf of college students, some of whom say they already had registered elsewhere or that their party affiliation was changed to Republican without permission. ...

"I decided it was fraud," Alachua County elections supervisor Beverly Hill said Tuesday, a day after she turned over about 500 of roughly 1,200 suspicious forms to the local State Attorney's Office in Gainesville. She said her staff spot-checked 30 of them, "And they were, across the board [saying], 'No, I never intended to do that.' "

Leon County elections supervisor Ion Sancho said he's received 3,000 photocopied registration forms, some of which he showed to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement because they looked strange and did not seem to make sense.

A few Florida students have discovered their party affiliation was switched from Democrat to Republican without their knowledge. Although this probably won't matter in the general election, those who were already registered legitimately in one place and fraudulently registered somewhere else may find themselves out of luck on election day. Florida college students are advised to check to be sure they are cleared to vote.

I've made up my mind that if on November 3 we find that the outcome of the election will be decided by litigation, I will hit the road to wherever the fight is nastiest and start a riot.  

 
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tuesday, october 19, 2004

Head's Up
 
Be sure to read this Robert Scheer column on a 9/11 report the Bushies are keeping under wraps until after the election.
It is shocking: The Bush administration is suppressing a CIA report on 9/11 until after the election, and this one names names. Although the report by the inspector general's office of the CIA was completed in June, it has not been made available to the congressional intelligence committees that mandated the study almost two years ago.

"It is infuriating that a report which shows that high-level people were not doing their jobs in a satisfactory manner before 9/11 is being suppressed," an intelligence official who has read the report told me, adding that "the report is potentially very embarrassing for the administration, because it makes it look like they weren't interested in terrorism before 9/11, or in holding people in the government responsible afterward."

I wonder if there's any way to pressure somebody for release of this now?

Speaking of pressure, it appears Sinclair is partially backing down. Read this and previous posts at Talking Points Memo.

 
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6:46 pm | link

Dear World
 
A few days ago the British-based Guardian launched Operation Clark County, encouraging readers around the world to email voters in Ohio regarding their choice for President. On request a Guardian reader is given the email address of a voter in Clark County, Ohio, "a place where a change of mind among just a few voters could make a real difference."
 
The Guardian doesn't tell its readers to urge Ohioans to vote for Kerry. They don't have to. Most of the world is watching our little election intensely. Most of the world hopes and prays that George W. Bush is about to disappear into the ashcan of history.
 
The Guardian urged the email writers to be polite. Some of the responses were not. Samples:

Have you not noticed that Americans don't give two shits what Europeans think of us? Each email someone gets from some arrogant Brit telling us why to NOT vote for George Bush is going to backfire, you stupid, yellow-toothed pansies ... I don't give a rat's ass if our election is going to have an effect on your worthless little life. I really don't. If you want to have a meaningful election in your crappy little island full of shitty food and yellow teeth, then maybe you should try not to sell your sovereignty out to Brussels and Berlin, dipshit. Oh, yeah - and brush your goddamned teeth, you filthy animals.
Wading River, NY

KEEP YOUR FUCKIN' LIMEY HANDS OFF OUR ELECTION. HEY, SHITHEADS, REMEMBER THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR? REMEMBER THE WAR OF 1812? WE DIDN'T WANT YOU, OR YOUR POLITICS HERE, THAT'S WHY WE KICKED YOUR ASSES OUT. FOR THE 47% OF YOU WHO DON'T WANT PRESIDENT BUSH, I SAY THIS ... TOUGH SHIT!
PROUD AMERICAN VOTING FOR BUSH!

You radical leftwingers are worse than the Taliban. I suggest you stand back and take a good hard look at yourselves.

PS: When do you propose to add Michael Moore to your staff of lunatics?
United States

I can understand a "none of your business" response, but was the vehement rancor really necessary? Of course it wasn't, but we're all used to it, aren't we? Those righties are a prickly bunch.
 
Libertarian James Bovard, author of The Bush Betrayal, shares some of the email responses to his book: 

You are a communist bastard! ... Let him [Bush] finish the job. Finish getting those terrorist bastards that threaten our freedoms and our peaceful way of life – that life we are so accustomed to, that we forget where we've come from and what it took for us to be where we are today! So don't forget that there are those out here who put there lives on the line for assholes like you to have the freedom of speech- to say what you will – and so can I!

You are nothing but a piece of trash. You and the other scum of the earth who enjoy being called the "elite media" will receive a lot of appreciation from the left-wing activists who, like you, harm the USA with your dribble and made-up sources. You can't report what any reputable journalist would write. You just write what you want to hear and couldn't care less for the truth. You are a gutless individual.

Writers were especially incensed about Brovard's opinions of Abu Ghraib:
Colledge [sic] hazing is a hell of a lot worse than abu ghraib. ... I think we should be torturing these SOB's... They are killing and mutilating our people! Your concern over the so called "torture" of the prisoners is ludicrous when one looks at how barbaric they are to begin with. What you are caling "torture," most people would call callege [sic] hazing. ... Again you make the Terrorist out to be the good guys and the US out to be the bad guys! ... My heart really bleeds for those poor abused Iraqi prisoners. Why don't you spend as much time writing about those Americans getting their heads sawn off? Pull your head out of your ass and wake up. Saddam isn't the 20th hijacker. People like you are...
Etc. etc. Anyone who has ever expressed even a midly progressive opinion on an Internet forum has been blasted with similar sentiments. And of course these responses have "defense mechanism" written all over them. People speaking from a cool, rational perspective don't react like this. People foaming at the mouth with hate and fear react like this.
 
The question is, what are they afraid of?  
 
Terrorism is an easy answer, but not, I think, the correct answer. Swarms of virtual brownshirts existed long before September 11. And as my daughter has pointed out to me, fear of terrorists seems to increase the further one goes from anywhere likely to be a target. What Paul Craig Roberts called "feel-good, macho, Muslim butt-kicking" is far more popular in the rural "heartland" than in Manhattan. The tendency to sort all Muslims into the same basket (i.e., America-hating terrorists) is also more common among Bush supporters, who also have a palpable disdain for all things European.
 
(And all things Asian or African or Latino, for that matter. So far Australia is still OK. Mel Gibson used to live there, after all.)
 
But Bush supporters are not just afraid of foreigners. I am increasingly alarmed at the way the Bush campaign subtly plays Americans against each other. Crowds of "heartlanders" in Michigan and Missouri and Ohio are told that John Kerry is not just a liberal, but a Massachusetts liberal. The worst kind. In BushWorld Massachusetts is a tainted, alien place.
When the Democrats chose Boston for their convention this year, former House majority leader Dick Armey of Texas said, "If I were a Democrat, I would feel a heck of a lot more comfortable in Boston than, say, America." [Link]
New Yorkers are accustomed to being dismissed as aliens. They were not shocked when an Iowa delegate showed up for the Republican Convention in Midtown and proclaimed, "I left God's country. They could use a bunch of people from Iowa to come here to show New Yorkers what life is all about, what being patriotic is all about, and what country is all about." Pissed off, yes, but not shocked.
 
But the Bushies explicitly encourage the "heartlanders" to hate the coasts. The Atlantic coast (especially the northeast) is suspect for its alleged liberal elitism. The Pacific coast is the home of Hollywood permissiveness and San Francisco gayness. Ron Suskind quotes Bush political consultant Mark McKinnon:

All of you do, up and down the West Coast, the East Coast, a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street. Let me clue you in. We don't care. You see, you're outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don't read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it's good for us. Because you know what those folks don't like? They don't like you!

Which brings me to the whole "heartland" phenomenon. The vast middle of the country used to be called the "Midwest." This is a charming vestige of the 19th century, when civilization mostly clung to the East Coast, and the rest of the country was either the "middle" West or the "far" West. And the southeastern part of the country was the South or the Deep South, a world and culture away from the Southwest. But the Bushies smush South and Midwest and mountain states and prairie states and every part of the country not touching an ocean into the "heartland." 
 
And the implicit message is that real Americans live in the "heartland." The rest of us are just hangers-on.
 
Speaking as someone who grew up in Missouri and who lived in Ohio for many years, I can understand a certain amount of resentment of the coastal "metros." Popular culture in America is all about the coastal states. Fads and trends begin on the coasts and work their way inward. Television programs are nearly always located in California or New York. The territory between coasts is sometimes dismissed as "flyover" country.
 
But I didn't grow up being afraid of New York. I don't remember the naked rage against non-"heartlanders" that seems to exist now. So I don't entirely understand it. But I am deeply concerned.  
 
 
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9:35 am | link

monday, october 18, 2004

Doom and Gloom
 
This morning I posted an expansion of yesterday's blog on The American Street. I decided not to repeat it here because it's too depressing.
 
Liberal Oasis is more upbeat than I am, as is Chris Bowers on MyDD.
 
 
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10:00 am | link

sunday, october 17, 2004

Power Play
 
On TV, George Stephanopolous is saying current polls show a small gain for Bush. I know that a lot of people on the Left Blogosphere say that the polls do not reflect the electorate. But in a rational world Kerry should be way ahead. I can't help but think there are too many likely voters who are out of their bleeping minds.

It's not entirely the voters' fault. In a rational world, Bush and his minions would be skewered alive for initiating the Iraq War, trashing the economy, and generally turning the U.S. into a bad joke. Instead, television news is saturated by well-groomed airheads chattering about whether John Kerry will be hurt by his Mary Cheney remark in the last debate.

Michael Kinsley writes a wickedly revealing portrayal of how the Bushies turn reality on its head as a campaign tactic. Pretend for a minute that Kerry is the author of the Declaration of Independence. Here is Rove (speaking through Bush) spinning it:

President Bush: "My opponent, you see, wrote -- or he helped to write -- this document, this so-called Declaration of Independence. And in it, see, he says something about how we hold these truths to be self-evident. Now, self-evident is just a fancy word -- or actually it's two words: Of course I know that! I can count! -- it's just a fancy way of saying you don't have to say anything because folks already know it.

"In other words, he's saying that you don't have to tell the truth. Well, I just happen to disagree with that. I think the truth is one of the most important things in our great country. The truth is American. And it's good. It's good to tell the truth. But my opponent disagrees with that. He thinks you don't need to tell the truth. And I happen to think that's wrong. It's a difference in philosophy, you see."

Newspaper Headline: "Kerry Opposes Truth, Bush Charges; Opponent Responds, 'Issue Is Complex' "

Don't kick Kerry over the Mary Cheney remark. If it weren't that, it would have been something else.
 
Right now we need someone with the stature of a Walter Cronkite or an Edward R. Murrow to pull the curtain back and show voters the truth. But no such person exists. And  with nearly three weeks to go before the election, I  am terrified that the good done by the debates will be undone.

Melanie of Just a Bump in the Beltway is more optimistic than I am this morning.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had bosses like this, just plain embarrassing to be around. And every time they get hired by somebody a couple of steps up the foodchain from me, we are told that the new hire is going to save the department, the division, the unit. Within days, everybody in the shop scrambles to make sure that they won’t be culpable or in the vicinity when the new idiot needs to be taken down. ...

The usual strategy is that the new hire in upper management is defended and defended until reality is stretched so far that the cognitive dissonance has become a laughing matter around the water cooler. When even the troops who wanted and needed to like the new hire start to avoid him/her, it is only a matter of time.

I've seen the same thing, but in my experience reality doesn't set in "within days." More like "within years," and not until the idiot's blunders have cost the company a great deal of money over an extended period of time.

Melanie's point is that if Bush wins another term the Republican Party will be shattered as party moderates and traditional conservatives move away from Bush's radical agenda. That could be, but I think it's just as likely that a Bush win would so strengthen the radicals' power that defections would be unthinkable (or suicidal).

Think horsehead scene from The Godfather.

Bush's approval rating has drifted steadily downward since September 11, and if given a second term there's no reason to think that trend would not continue. Perhaps in a year or two a whopping majority of voters would realize they'd been had. But by then it would be way too late.

If Bush wins, the next step has got to be an all-out effort to get him impeached. And if that fails, we dissenters will have to scramble to avoid being rounded up and "detained." Think Abu Ghraib.

All is not lost (yet), however. Check with ACT  to find out what you can do to beat the Bushes.

 
 
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"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

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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."

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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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