Saturday, October 02, 2004

For the Record

One last Saturday post, then I'm off to NOLA for a night of fun.

I've noticed a lot of wingnuts have attacked John Kerry for his phrase "global test," as if there's something wrong with considering the worldwide implications of a particular policy. However, before they begin thumping their chests too loudly, condider this from pResident Bush at Thursday's debate:

Again, I can't tell you how big a mistake I think that is, to have bilateral talks with North Korea. It's precisely what Kim Jong Il wants. It will cause the six-party talks to evaporate. It will mean that China no longer is involved in convincing, along with us, for Kim Jong Il to get rid of his weapons. It's a big mistake to do that.

We must have China's leverage on Kim Jong Il, besides ourselves.

And if you enter bilateral talks, they'll be happy to walk away from the table. I don't think that'll work.

Hmmm. Bush seems to have his OWN global test. China and/or North Korea get veto power over this pResident's foreign policy...
Sometimes I Write Letters

A rare Saturday post--I've lately taken to giving myself weekends off--hell, there's plenty of other things out there to read, and when I really gave up on weekend posts there was a minor health concern (a swollen elbow--fortunately that's gone now). Anyway, this ridiculous editorial raised my hackles this morning to the extent that I fired off the following to Deborah Saunder's, who wrote it:

Ms. Saunders,

Per your op-ed, the following response:

---I reread Kerry's very long and also ponderous remarks before he voted in favor of the October 2002 resolution authorizing force in Iraq. Kerry never mentioned Osama bin Laden. (Is that the fault of Bush, too?)

The resolution was in regards to Iraq, not Al Qaeda. To equate the two is, quite simply, racist. Perhaps you think "all A-rabs look alike," but a rational individual knows the difference between fundamentalist Islamic lunatics and the secular evil embodied by Saddam Hussein.

---The resolution said, "The president is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate" (my italics) to defend U.S. interests and enforce the U.N. Security Council resolutions that Hussein was flouting.

What's more, Bush had warned the United Nations that it would be irrelevant if it failed to enforce its resolutions even as Kerry says he believed Bush would only go to war as a "last resort."

"Necessary and appropriate" doesn't mean "immediate and without forethought." If I authorize someone to drive my car, for instance, I don't expect them to use it with utter disregard for safety. I don't expect them to drive it over a cliff.

Bush himself admitted that force should be used only "as a last resort" in Thursday's debate. That he's come to this conclusion only after disregarding advice from everyone except a small group of neo-conservatives lobbying for the PNAC agenda is shameful. It has led to the death of over 1,000 US soldiers, and over 10,000 Iraqi civilians. Additionally, thousands more soldiers have been wounded, many seriously, just like thousands of Iraqi civilians.

Perhaps you consider that an acceptable price to pay for the ouster of Saddam Hussein. If so, ask yourself if it would be just as acceptable if a friend or loved one was among those killed or wounded. If you STILL consider the price acceptable, then I'd like to ask--which friend or relative would you be willing to see dead or wounded in exchange for the ouster of Saddam Hussein? Would you be willing to tell that person directly?

Bush certainly did warn the United Nations that it would be irrelevant if it failed to "enforce its resolutions." But you ignore the fact that the United Nations was in the process of "enforcing its resolutions" when Bush demanded they evacuate Iraq so he could launch his splendid little war. Bush also ignored major last minute concessions offered by Hussein's government in a final, desperate action to stave off invasion. Perhaps if we'd allowed the United Nations to enforce their resolutions regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, we would have discovered that Iraq had no Weapons of Mass Destruction, thus rendering Bush's justification for immediate invasion moot.

By the way, that doesn't mean Saddam Hussein wasn't a vicious, evil despot. But an examination of the record reveals that Saddam's despotic reign was not Bush's casus belli (his words). Possession of banned weapons was Bush's justification for invasion--a justification now known to be in error.

Bush now goes hat-in-hand to the United Nations, requesting assistance from the organization he dismissed as irrelevant. I don't think it's any surprise that the reception from the UN has been cool, to say the least.

---Bush can joke about how Kerry said he voted for $87 billion in troop funding before he voted against it. Worse, however, is the chilling fact that Kerry withheld his support for the spending bill after he told "Face the Nation" it would be reckless and "irresponsible" to vote against it.

Kerry voted for a resolution that actually provided funding for the war--a resolution that Bush explicitly threatened to veto. I don't see you expressing any degree of outrage that Bush would threaten to veto funding for a war he started. Interesting. You simply ignore the fact that the resolution upon which Bush insisted has no mechanism for RAISING any of the $87 billion dollars in appropriations. Instead, the cost of war is added to the ballooning federal deficit.

John Kerry's position has been consistent--he voted to grant the president authority to use force against Saddam Hussein, if Bush thought it necessary. He expected that Bush would use this power wisely. Instead, Bush chose to use this power rashly. His invasion was poorly planned to such an extent that we are now in a quagmire. If Kerry made a mistake, it was in assuming that George W. Bush would use prudent judgment when using the authority granted to him.

Under those circumstances, running against George W. Bush is an appropriate response.



Friday, October 01, 2004

George the Witless and his Minions

In addition to fake "undecided" voters (Atrios has more), TalkingPointsMemo found another instance of crass behavior by those stumping for Dubya. It looks like Carl Cameron, like the idol he worships, is--how can I put this diplomatically--hmmm--humor challenged.

Cameron wrote what he thought was a witty little piece that earlier ran on the Fox "News" website. In it, several statements attributed to John Kerry were, in actuality, pulled right out of Carl's ass.

So Fox "News" lies--that's not surprising. And the fact that they're also completely lacking in taste--well, I guess that isn't really news either.
Democracy, One Kicked-In Door at a Time

While the US public observed the debate, Samarra experienced democratic shelling. The New York Times has the details as well as a series of photographs.

At a certain point, things become pretty obvious and no amount of "optimism" can gloss over the reality...
Thought So

The Talent Show found a copy of Bush's notes from last night's debate. (link via Atrios).
Spin Cycle

With the debate out of the way, the real work of the debate begins: the pundits are pretending to take a stance, while in reality they're cautiously eyeing each other, the media, the polls, and hell, maybe even some of the big-league blogs as they look for guidance.

Team Bush is relentlessly doing their best to counter the obvious--that their guy looked like, well, a chump. Here's a video from the Democratic National Committee that uses Karl Rove's observation against him: if people really DO watch television as if the sound is down, then footage of Bush reaction shots can only reinforce the opinion that the man is quite simply bizarre. Was it too much caffiene that caused the odd eye rolls? The lip and mouth movements? Jeez, at times Bush looked like nothing so much as a man trying to crawl out of his own skin.

The Democrats should emphasize this. For now, it seems as if the "it was inconclusive" meme has taken hold--which, as I noted below, is an indication that Kerry won. But since the decision is really a function of the spin cycle, Team Bush, their fellow travelers, and any media lackey they can cajole or intimidate, will work hard to minimize the real damage from last night. They'll stick to their talking points the way cement sticks to a stoolie's shoes, and hope the rest of the media buys into it.

Kerry must counter this AND stick it to Bush. As I said, Bush looked at times like he was trying to crawl out of his own skin--well, when he didn't look like he was doing his best to channel Richard Nixon. The "more of the same" point WILL resonate with the public, which is getting wary of Bush's delusional "optimism" in the face of the Iraq quagmire. And Bush will be weak on the economy.

Well, I'm gonna go read some more spin--I've been checking out the usual websites, and like the pundits I like to slam, I'll be reading the tea leaves (hey, at least I'm not pretending to be an expert and clamoring to get on TV). Right now, I think it's possible that Rove can cow the media into calling last night's debate a wash--but a picture tells a thousand words, as the saying goes, and Dubya's picture last night was one of a scared bully. If the Democrats continue to hammer him on how he looked, and how pathetic he sounded, Bush may well find himself in a good sized hole.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

And Another Thing

On the spin front: watch for this from the Rethuglicans--Guiliani is shamelessly hawking the following talking point: Kerry believes "Iraq is the wrong war, at the wrong time, at the wrong place, and this is the wrong message to send, blah blah blah..."

Funny enough, it IS the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

But the Senator must counter this immediately, lest the media make that "Kerry's Song."

Rudy is also peddling "the mixed message of Kerry" meme. Asshole.

To counter, Edwards did ok, Biden a little better, on the theme that Bush promises nothing but "more of the same," hammering that home. So, who will America believe-- Bush, or their own lying eyes?

Karen Hughes is pushing her own version of Rudy's theme. One thing's certain: Bush is putting the chit that is his entire administration on the Iraq square and hoping the number comes up on the roulette wheel.

Now the lesser lights are being given a chance, under the guise of "here's the spin." No, the spin was the first round folks. These are the B-listers. They're working on the "build media appearance bullet points" of their collective resumes. They'll try, but they neither have--nor are allowed to have--the gravitas of the top dogs...

Kerry, IMHO, MUST immediately point out that he didn't say "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time." He did say "I would never have fought it the way Bush did and now the mess must be cleaned up." He must make that point AND counterpunch on the issue that Bush can only promise more of the same--and Bush has the added drawback of not being able to, well grasp reality. Years ago, that would've pretty much settled things, but...welcome to the 21st century.

If Kerry does manage to get these points across, then that's good news. If not, he will be framed in the same way that happened in August--he's a flip-flopper, his war record's a lie--and he's a possible traitor (watch for that to be the last refuge of any desperate Bush scoundrel).

Kerry can also emphasize that Bush is responsible for the mess in Iraq and the war on terror--indeed, this is the entire Bush agenda. However, it's a weak agenda--it's a losing strategy (literally) if run in Bush's way, and it promises nothing to the American public--except continued hard times (while the rich get richer--but that's for a future debate), or, as Biden and Edwards said, "more of the same," which isn't exactly "optimistic," as Bush tried to claim.

Oh, and did you hear when Bush said something like "Director Mueller comes every day to my office--when I'm in Washington," or words to that effect? What, the guy can't even get to the city where he's supposed to report for work? If Bush loses, look for that to be a "defining moment" (although Dubya mumbled it badly, which means it's less likely to be reviewed).

There's also the whole "body language" thing. C-Span did a split screen--they had to drop Kerry's podium by a significant amount for his and Bush's head to be at the same level. Plenty of folks noticed this, but I don't think it will matter, because I'm guessing the networks for the most part followed the "rules" and only showed one candidate at a time. This was too bad--Bush's reactions, if anyone paid attention, were truly bizarre. I'm not sure what he 'wrote' on the notepad he was allowed to have, but I'd hardly be surprised if it was mostly doodles.

And remember when he said something like "I don't take it personal, I'm a calm guy..."? He did so with all the sincerity of a used car salesman (or, as my sister said in early 2003 a "used war salesman").

I liked the Kerry line that went something like "Bush invaded Iraq after 9/11 was like FDR invading Mexico after Pearl Harbor," but I'm fraid that will be lost, along with the Halliburton line. Oh well. I also thought Kerry really nailed Bush in the "character" exchange (as Nightline put it), putting Bush in a most uncomfortable position.

OK, supposedly the instant polls (ABC & CBS) show Kerry as the "winner" of the debate. Hmmm. I'm not exactly unbiased, and I also know the decision won't truly be rendered for a day or two, but...we'll know if Bush's gambit takes hold depending on how quickly Kerry counters the notion of "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time." Funny enough, it looks like Iraqis will have a tremendous influence on the vote in the United States.

Oh--and is it just me, or did everyone over a certain age cringe just a bit when Kerry said something like "the biggest problem facing America is nuclear proliferation..."? At least he said NU-cle-ur instead of NU-cue-lur (although Bush probably SCORES points down here for that). Ouch. To put this in the best possible light: he didn't attribute it to his daughter...

Then Bush showed his own inability to recall recent history by agreeing with the point, followed by a cheap attempt to push missile defense. He snatched a draw from the jaws of victory on that one, and then blew the question badly on Russia ("VLAD-ih-meer?"--his base doesn't care and those on the fence think that's pandering).

OK, Nightline's on, so I'm gonna check out the last of the cheap TV spin. My prediction? If Kerry really won big, look for punditry along the lines of "it's inconclusive" (sometimes masquerading as 'they each said what we expected'). If Kerry didn't win big--well, the Bush team will play the final trump card of "by not losing, Bush won."

A tie in this case will go to the incumbent. That's a high hill for Kerry to climb, but Bush could stumble. It'd be nice if he did tonight.

One last thought: On C-Span, a Bush supporter just said "President Kerry--uh, I mean Senator Kerry..." That might tell us something. And Rove looks a little out of sorts. He's chanting the party line--but not with any enthusiasm.

That's hopeful.

Final Update (midnight): Oh, and did Bush subsume our national interest to China's? I think he did--more than once. Hmmm.
Uff Da

One last post before I immerse myself further in tonight's entertainment. I tell you--C-Span really comes through at times like this.

I'm watching the final preparations before the house lights go down, the curtain comes up, and...

What a bunch of fucking hall monitors! Every last one--Shalala, the other woman, Lehrer...jeez.

So much for strictly following the rules of my drinking game. Time to imbibe.

Jazzmaniac at DailyKos gets it right:

Bush Suffers Breakdown On TV, Wins Debate

In a stunning display of raw emotion never before seen on national television, President George W. Bush appeared to suffer a psychological breakdown during last night's square-off with Democratic nominee John Kerry.

Political commentators were quick to agree that Bush won the debate.

Laying his head upon the podium, Bush began to speak in a soft, high-pitched voice. His microphone was able to pick up questions apparently aimed at his father, former President George H.W. Bush, rather than his opponent. "Daddy. Daddy. Daddy, why don't you love me? " Bush whimpered.

Cokie Roberts, in a post debate roundtable on ABC, stated that such actions "clearly presented a softer, sensitive side" of Bush, "that every man in America will identify with."

Moments later Bush appeared to regain his energy, bolting upright and loudly asking "What's a nigga got to do to get a drink around here?" He then began pounding on the podium while chanting "Jack and Coke, Jack and Coke, Jack and Coke" repeatedly.

MSNBC's Chris Matthews was quick to point out how the alcohol reference would resonate with "Joe Six-pack," while CNN's Wolf Blitzer heralded Bush's use of "the `N' word," as "an appeal to the hippity-hop generation."

As Bush crumpled to the floor, his rival, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, implored the audience to "give the President some air." Kerry also called out to the audience, asking "Is there a doctor in the house?" a clear violation of the debate rules...

Bush's debate performance was seen by most as dealing a harsh blow to Kerry's presidential aspirations.

"If a soiled heap of laundry on the floor isn't what we need in our war against those who would do us harm, I don't know who is," stated debate moderator Jim Lehrer.

Wish I'd thought of this...although, if allowed to edit just slightly, I'd have Kerry saying, "Is there anyone among us in the house who is a doctor?"
Staying the Course

Reuters reports on today's bombing in Baghdad:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Insurgents detonated three car bombs near a U.S. military convoy in Baghdad Thursday, killing 41 people, most of them children rushing to collect sweets from American troops.

Then there are today's other bombings:

In two other attacks, a suicide bomber blew up his vehicle near a U.S. checkpoint outside the capital, killing two policemen and a U.S. soldier, and a car bomb killed four people in the restive northern Iraq town of Tal Afar.

Oh--and maybe Bush isn't so steadfast after all--here's a story titled "Bush's Top Ten Flip-Flops:"

Short Version:

1. Weapons of Mass Destruction

2. Nation Building and the War in Iraq

3. Iraq and the Sept. 11 Attacks

4. The Sept. 11 Commission

5. Free Trade

6. Homeland Security Department

7. Same-Sex Marriage

8. Winning the War on Terror

9. Campaign Finance Reform

10. Gas Prices

Maybe I'll also thrown one down whenever Bush says he's steadfast--or words to that effect--or whenever he implies that John Kerry isn't.

Meanwhile, on the subject of steadfast, is it just me, or does it seem that Tony Blair AND Michael Howard are going out of their way to insure Kenneth Bigley doesn't make it home alive? Jeez. If Mr. Bigley DOES manage to survive his ordeal, I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if he tried to claim political asylum--since England appears to care not one bit about him.


If you are looking for reasons to tip a glass tonight during the debate, I can think of few better than "one drink each time Bush mentions how much 'progress' we've made in Iraq." That, and whenever he backs away slightly, and begins shaking his head (see yesterday's post about this) will be when I'm self-medicating.

Poynter Online (link via Cursor) has an email written Wall Street Journal reporter Farnaz Fassihi, offering personal observations about the situation in Mesopotamia. It lends a lot of creedence to the notion that whatever Bush has used, be it alcohol, drugs, or just some seriously rose-colored glasses, his view of Iraq bears about as much relation to reality as Baghdad Bob's did back in March/April of 2003:

Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under virtual house arrest... I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets. I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling...

Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to 'imminent and active threat,' a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come...

Iraqis like to call this mess 'the situation.' ..

What they mean by situation is this: the Iraqi government doesn't control most Iraqi cities, there are several car bombs going off each day around the country killing and injuring scores of innocent people, the country's roads are becoming impassable and littered by hundreds of
landmines and explosive devices aimed to kill American soldiers, there are assassinations, kidnappings and beheadings...

A friend drove thru the Shiite slum of Sadr City yesterday. He said young men were openly placing improvised explosive devices into the ground. They melt a shallow hole into the asphalt, dig the explosive, cover it with dirt and put an old tire or plastic can over it to signal to the locals this is booby-trapped. He said on the main roads of Sadr City, there were a dozen landmines per every ten yards...This is in Shiite land, the population that was supposed to love America for liberating Iraq...

The insurgency, we are told, is rampant with no signs of calming down. If any thing, it is growing stronger, organized and more sophisticated every day. The various elements within it-baathists, criminals, nationalists and Al Qaeda-are cooperating and coordinating...

I went to an emergency meeting for foreign correspondents with the military and embassy to discuss the kidnappings. We were somberly told our fate would largely depend on where we were in the kidnapping chain once it was determined we were missing. Here is how it goes: criminal gangs grab you and sell you up to Baathists in Fallujah, who will in turn sell you to Al Qaeda. In turn, cash and weapons flow the other way from Al Qaeda to the Baathisst to the criminals. My friend Georges, the French journalist snatched on the road to Najaf, has been missing for a month with no word on release or whether he is still alive...

America's last hope for a quick exit? The Iraqi police and National Guard units we are spending billions of dollars to train. The cops are being murdered by the dozens every day-over 700 to date -- and the insurgents are infiltrating their ranks. The problem is so serious that the U.S. military has allocated $6 million dollars to buy out 30,000 cops they just trained to get rid of them quietly...

One could argue that Iraq is already lost beyond salvation. For those of us on the ground it's hard to imagine what if any thing could salvage it from its violent downward spiral. The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back into a bottle...

I asked a 28-year-old engineer if he and his family would participate in the Iraqi elections since it was the first time Iraqis could to some degree
elect a leadership. His response summed it all: "Go and vote and risk being blown into pieces or followed by the insurgents and murdered for cooperating with the Americans? For what? To practice democracy? Are you joking?"

There's quite a bit more to the email. I don't see how anyone could read it and somehow conclude that Iraq is even remotely on-track when it comes to the vainglorious fantasies the neo-cons pushed when they bellowed their incessant war cry a year and a half ago.

The Gift

Here's a Top Ten list any progressive could support. Ralph Nader's 10 Ways to Beat George W. Bush is presented as a "gift to the Kerry/Edwards campaign," and makes a good set of talking points around which the left can and should use to push Kerry towards a genuine progressive agenda:

1. The Failed Presidency of George W. Bush Shows he is a Compassionless Conservative.

2. Bush is Not Telling the Whole Story on Casualties in Iraq and the Likely Return of the Draft or Facing Up to the Challenge of Peace in Israel-Palestine.

3. Protect the Environment and Face Up to Global Climate Change.

4. Confront Corporate Crime & Corporate Welfare and Challenge Corporate Control of Government.

5. Expand Worker's Rights by Developing an Employee Bill of Rights and Providing a Living Wage and Health Care to All NOW.

6. End the Drug War and Restore, Expand Civil Liberties and Constitutional Rights.

7. Institute a Fair Tax Where Workers' First $50,000 in Income is Not Taxed, Where the Wealthiest and Corporations Pay their Share; Tax Wealth More than Work; Tax Activities We Dislike More than Necessities.

8. Create More Jobs by Investing in America's Infrastructure, Investing in Americans, and Withdrawing From Trade Agreements that Cost us Jobs.

9. Announce an Exit Strategy for Iraq With a Definite Date of Withdrawal.

10. Face Up to Increasing Poverty Especially Among Children and Demand an End to Commercial Exploitation of Our Children.

The details of each point can be found at Counterpunch.


Q. How many...American casualties is Saddam [Hussein] worth?
A. Not very damned many.

That's was too easy. Saddam Hussein isn't worth a warm bucket of shit. But, who asked--and answered--that rhetorical question?

This person did.
Real Questions

From Hullabaloo, here's a link to Real Voices, which is trying to raise money to run some very high quality and hard hitting political advertisements questioning Bush's Iraq debacle.

Apparently at least three ads exist, but only one is presently featured on the web site: Cindy Sheehan talks about the death of her son, the pain it caused, and the hurt she felt when realizing how Bush rushed to war without leveling with the American people. According to Digby, Sheehan's use of her free speech rights to question the war has resulted in wingnuts branding her a traitor. Then said wingnuts proceeded to steal candy from babies, viciously kick puppies, and throw elderly people to the ground...

OK, so the last sentence is just me guessing. But I wouldn't be surprised.

One of the ads not yet featured on the site apparently does what I suggested a few posts ago--it asks the very obvious question of why would Bush be so crass as to warble "bring 'em on" when it became apparent that we were seeing the beginnings of an Iraqi resistance movement:

Another features a California mother named Jane Bright, who remains livid about Bush's rash "Bring 'em on!" challenge. "Mr. Bush," she says, "I have no way of knowing whether the insurgent who killed my son ever heard your foolish taunt. But thanks to you, Mr. President, I have the rest of my life to wonder about it."

When it takes a grieving mother to ask why a president could be so outrageously stupid, it's a clear sign that the press no longer functions as anything remotely resembling an independent institution. We might as well call them TASS and put them on the government payroll.
Goddamn Blogger

The post immediately below this took almost an hour to show up after I posted it. Four times I reposted to no avail, and six attempts to REPUBLISH crapped out at progress ranging from 10 to 40 percent complete.

This is the second time this week that I've had problems with Blogger, and I've already resigned myself to experiencing problems at least once a week...

It's still frustrating, though. I've gotten to the point where I won't dare hit the publish button without carefully copying and pasting into a separate text document first.
Debate Masters

Here's the coda to James Wolcott's post this morning:

I would advise Kerry to reach into Bush's chest and pull out his beating heart and hold it up to the world if I didn't think it might upset some of the 'Security Moms' whose votes could prove so decisive in the coming election.

Not entirely bad advice. Previously, Wolcott bemoaned the "schoolyard taunting" that's defined the punditry of, well, certainly Fox News, if not the entire press corps. And when the big shots in the national media aren't engaged in serious discussion of whether or not John Kerry's tan is the result of UV radiation or a bottle of bronzing agent, they pass the ball to local hacks who don't seem to know the difference between genuine news and campaign spin.

The previous link is courtesy of Timshel, and if you have a moment, check out his own take on the matter.

Now, from what I've heard and seen, the debate itself will supposedly be less sound-byte derby and more Sominex...whereupon any of a number of pundits, either directly in the employ of partisan organizations or fellow travelers, will begin the process of pontification. The process itself is annoyingly slow, since the pontificators lack a critical component that any self respecting pontiff usually insists upon--ad hoc infallibility--and must instead rely upon provocative evasion until the tea leaves/polls permit a veer towards one or the other candidate. Once identified, sound clips will provide both an after-the-fact justification (combined with a "reinterpretation" of their initial evasiveness) and a resume bullet point which will serve to explain the need for further television appearances by the pundit in question.

I guess that could be considered good for the economy, if nothing else. Otherwise unemployable gasbags presumably need food, shelter, and clothing as much as anyone.

If this was a real forum, though, I think this editorial from the Texas Iconoclast of Crawford, Texas (yes, Bush's hometown), is a good starting point for any genuine questions one might have for our dress-up-in-a-flight-suit-in-chief. I'm sure most folks stopping by have likely seen it, but if you have the time, give it one more look. Whoever is asking the questions tonight couldn't do much better for a crib sheet than the entire piece.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Five Stages of Bushism

Link via Atrios to the post from The Talent Show...

While not mentioned, I've noticed Bush has the curious habit of shaking his head and looking down, particularly when he's braying and barking while stalling for time (Stage 3). Library Chronicles links to Wonkette's debate drinking game, but I think my own will be based on the Bush head-shake (which looks in part like a "shake out the cobwebs" thing and part arrogance, although perhaps it's confusion masking as arrogance. Rove probably told him to look down on the working press).

Of course, the debate itself will be relentlessly chewed and rechewed by the media until one side or the other's spin points carry the day. TalkingPointsMemo has more information about this, as well as a link to a Paul Krugman op-ed that make for good reading. I've also seen various posts noting that right-leaning pundits have an edge in the media--which suggests that Bush has a head start in the spin wars. Hell, at least a few wingnuts might declare Bush the winner even if he ate a live baby while at the podium...

That said, I don't expect too many of the punditocracy to step out on a limb unless one or the other candidate is clearly overmatched. And the debate formate seems to work against this. Bush right now is probably spending a lot of time memorizing cue cards and catch phrases, while I hope Kerry is being told that he won't be on the floor of the United States Senate. The pundits, if one can judge from the past (and pundits are notorious creatures of habit), will be cautious once the closing statements have been made, and will solemnly declare that no "knock-out punch" was delivered. Perhaps one or two will cross the line from punditry to hackdom and pull a George Will, but for the most part I expect everyone will play a waiting game.

Then watch as they attach their press credentials (and their souls) to whichever candidate seems to show a bump in the polls.

The real question, perhaps, is: do the pundits themselves rent their souls out to the highest bidder, or is this a group deal negotiated by whomever own title to them in the first place?

Via TalkLeft, here's one of the latest Kerry ads to hit the airwaves--and it hits hard at George W. Bush's flip-flops on Iraq.

Like this analysis piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, it takes aim at the rationale-of-the-month approach Bush has taken in regards to the necessity of invasion, immediate invasion, immediate invasion IMMEDIATELY and damn the UN, damn our allies, etc. etc. (Chronicle piece courtesy of The Left Coaster). In fact, the Bush administration has given over TWENTY different reasons when asked why they were so anxious to invade. It seems like every week or so there was a "new and improved" reason for the invasion--except that none have held up.

There were lies about WMD's. The liberation of the Iraqi people seems a little odd as well, considering that the resistance is mostly comprised of Iraqis (the vast majority of Iraqi citizens AREN'T in the active resistance, but they agree that the US should get out), there's the Abu Ghraib debacle (and similar incidents at other prisons) which at once manages to be vicious, evil, AND stupid, they lied about Hussein's ties to Al Qaeda--check out the link above for the complete list. It's a war in search of a reason--which makes for a pretty flimsy case FOR war.

And the war itself is hopelessly botched--I've posted before about this (somewhere deep in the archives--hell, even I don't feel like searching around). We had too few soldiers on the ground to begin with, we had no understanding or insight as to local leaders, customs, or laws, it looks like we had a bad shortage of translators, and now we can't even spend money earmarked for reconstruction because the security situation is so poor. To top it all off, a thousand plus soldiers have been killed AND we've spent almost $140 billion dollars thus far, with NOTHING to show but chaos and concrete walls.

The only thing Bush has been steadfast about is his foolish decision to invade in the first place. Yes, he insists, he'd do it all over again in a heartbeat. Well, that's easy for him to say under the circumstances. I'll bet he'd be whistling a different tune of he was threatened with a call-up to finish his National Guard committment.

Iraq Success: Only 2,368 Attacks on US Forces in last 30 Days

The New York Times has an article and nice graphic to go with it. Compare it to a political map showing population density, and it's hard not to think that the insurgency pretty much operates wherever you have people.

Additionally, Chris Bowers cites this story, which indicates the resistance is mostly home grown, with foreign fighters comprising less than 1,000 individuals (or, as Bowers notes, less than 5% of those who've taken up arms).

Unlike Allawi's and other's lies, all 18 provinces in Iraq have had violent reactions to the US occupation. Interestingly, the article notes that attacks have subsided in Fallujah--because that's a "no-go" area for US troops.

William Saletan writes in Slate that Bush tries to have it both ways in Iraq--less violence means we're winning, and more violence means we're winning. This is a fitting stance for Bush--more cheerleader than genuine leader.

Our lightning strike took Baghdad fairly rapidly (although not as fast as some thought, given surprising levels of irregular resistance and weather), but now what do we do? Abu Ghraib destroyed what little credibility we had left--credibility which was already largely gone thanks to our inability to reconstruct a country devastated by sanctions and war.

Consider: in 2002, we had Saddam Hussein in a box, surrounded by US and/or allied forces to the north, south, and west, the northern provinces comprising the Iraqi Kurdistan regions (there are two) were essentially autonomous, Iran was to the east (certainly not a US ally, but definitely not an Iraqi ally either), entire sections of Iraq were under "no-fly" rules for Iraq but not for the US AirForce--and now, two years later, there's all but out-and-out general insurrection.

George W. Bush should have been more careful about what he asked for--because he got it.
Going to Extremes

While it wasn't perfect, the series Extreme Oil on PBS, which finished its run here in Louisiana last night, was noteworthy. If nothing else, it allowed interested viewers a chance to look behind the curtain at what's required to ensure plenty of gasoline at the local pump. Oil is big.

The image that really leapt out last night was file footage of a breach on the Alaska pipeline. Crude flew out like water from a firehose. A previous episode focused on problems associated with drilling in Ecuador. Funny enough, once big oil moved into the producing regions in South America, health issues familiar to anyone here in Louisiana arrived down there too.

I'm not a tree-hugger, but you can't watch this kind of industrial-scale devastation without asking questions about policies and priorities. We're stuck in the hornet's nest that is Iraq, we consider the fiefdom of Saudi Arabia an ally (recall that fifteen of the nineteen hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi nationals), Russia under Putin is clamping down on civil liberties in a desperate attempt to stop terrorists there, Iran is a declared enemy, guerrillas in Nigeria are threatening war (another cause for the recent price spike)--and what's the response here? More and bigger SUV's and pickup trucks...

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Following Dear Leader's Example

I found this story at DailyKos, and immediately recognized the irony--Bush set a wonderful example for the roughly one third of soldiers who've taken issue with being called up from IRR.

Of the 1,662 ready reservists ordered to report to Fort Jackson, S.C., by Sept. 22, only 1,038 had done so, the Army said Monday. About 500 of those who failed to report have requested exemptions on health or personal grounds.

"The numbers did not look good," said Lt. Col. Burton Masters, a spokesman for the Army's Human Resources Command. "We are tightening the system, reaching the people and bringing them in."

Masters said most of the requests for exemptions are likely to be denied: "To get an exemption, it has to be a very compelling case, such as a severe medical condition."

I wonder if "staying out late and pretending to work on a political campaign" qualifies as a "severe medical condition."

Oh, and one other thing--these folks are being called up to serve in Iraq. Bush skipped out on serving STATESIDE.

Expectations and Reality

Full Disclosure: I had no idea that Chris Bowers was one of the big leaguers in the blog world until I happened upon his name and site (see the post below). Since he apparently is, I'm taking a look, and came across a nice set of citations about Iraq and the war.

Given the extent of media management these days, it doesn't surprise me that a lot of this stuff manages to find its way down the memory hole. The fact that Bowers shined a nice bright light on them is to his credit.

Guess I've found more reading material.
Worth Clicking Through the Ad

Salon does their own blog piece today, focusing on James Wolcott, who's site I'll be adding to the roll before too long. Gawd, it seems like all sorts of blog articles are floating around the internet lately--the New York Times ran a six or seven page piece in their Magazine section, Atrios layed down some rules of his own, and Billmon showed up in the Los Angeles Times commenting on the death of the blog. Other articles apparently are there for the reading at Kos, Chris Bowers, Washington Monthly, Hullabaloo, Steve Gilliard, and so on.

But I digress. The Salon piece is pretty good, and, as the title says, worth clicking through the ad for--or, if you're a subscriber, you're getting your money's worth.

For those without time, here are a few (update: well, more than a few, but not all) choice quotes from Wolcott, on the subject of blogs, attack poodles, and the media:

I have a lot of interests that you can't get into print, you know, just because they won't sustain a 3,000-word piece...

What I think is so fantastic [about blogs] is that there is so much more talent and braininess out in the country than you would know from just reading magazines. Frankly, if you go to a newsstand and read most magazines you're reading the same damn people that you've read for 20 years...

But I do feel like one of the things that has to be ongoing is the deterioration of CNN. What in the world is going on there? I can't even tell anymore if it's malice or just ineptitude...

Everybody on CNN is overexposed. It seems like you get Wolf Blitzer and Judy Woodruff 20 hours a day. And Larry King. I do like the fact that Larry King doesn't seem to fit in any known universe. It's like, you've got news, news, and then "Larry King talks to psychics! Ask your dead relatives a question! Tonight!" ...

And the "Capitol Gang"! God Almighty, if we could exile them to an island, maybe they would cannibalize each other...

what is Bob Novak still doing on the air? I honestly do not understand how Bob Novak, with all the slimy stuff he's done over the years, is still not only on the air with CNN, but one of their main players...To have Novak sitting on "Crossfire" when they're actually discussing the Valerie Plame case!...

Look at what a pathetic old coot William Buckley has become. He made a very lame statement about Iraq, but when I saw him recently, promoting his new book, the main thing he wanted to come out for was the family marriage amendment. Oh, man! You've lived your life, you've learned all you've learned, you've met all these people -- and this is what you want to come out for? This is your last hurrah?...

Something that really struck me: The people I would have thought were a little more classy, a little more moderate in the conservative ranks, they jumped on and defended [the Swift Boat ads]: George Will, Bill Kristol. Now that may be a sign of how desperate they are for Bush to win. In the past, the classier conservatives would have disassociated themselves from that sort of thing...

There's a kind of a freaky admiration that media biggies have for the right wing; they sort of admire the nastiness. They consider people on the left wimpy. And even though Democratic senators have actually served in uniform, the swagger is on the right. A lot of this is masculine mode. If you look at the way Chris Matthews talks about certain people, he gets turned on by a certain kind of machismo in politicians. It could be a totally false machismo, but that is often what people get turned on by...

Also, one of the things they like to do with liberals is call them whiny. They like to portray them, in effect, as women. There's a lot of sexism involved, not to mention there is also a tremendous amount of racism...

[Michelle Malkin is] completely manufactured! There are all these people writing all these very good critiques of her history, in terms of internment of the Japanese, and how she got the history wrong. And I'm sure she did. But to me that's not the real purpose of the book. One of the things I always do with the attack poodles is, I ask myself, why are they doing this now? Why this, why now? One of the things she's doing with the internment is she's laying the groundwork for all sorts of ethnic considerations and profiling. That's part of what she's doing, because if you justify the Japanese internment, you can then justify the internment of other people. If you look at her other writing, she is big on racial profiling.

...a lot of them just are into their shameless careers. One of the things you find out about people is that there is a real addiction to being on TV. And once people start appearing on TV, they can't bear not appearing on TV...

A lot of what these people do for projects, is simply another way of getting a round of TV appearances. Like Ann Coulter has a book coming out -- it's about something like, "How to Talk to Liberals, if You Must" or something like that, and I thought, that's real desperation, that's sort of when you really run out of topics...

Believe it or not, I just spent about fifteen minutes editing this down.
Stopping at Nothing

Last night, after doing my weekly exercise routine, I took the time to carefully go over some of the links listed at these posts from Hullabaloo and Washington Monthly, particularly this from Legal Fiction.

Short version: the fixers are working overtime in Florida, Bush v. Gore is a disaster that might well be repeated, and the sheer cynicism that ultimately made Dubya our pResident the last time is so thick that it doesn't surprise me that the media has done their best to simply ignore it--minus some solid journalism in Florida itself, and folks like Greg Palast.

If anyone thought that the Florida debacle couldn't happen again, check out this--from The Independent in England.

The news article and the post from Legal Fiction are two sides of the same coin, and for folks wanting to exercise their democratic rights, it's the political equivalent of a wooden nickel. Intimidation tactics are being used against mostly African-American voters (i.e., likely Democratic), while Latino/Hispanic voters (read: Cuban-Americans, i.e., likely Republicans) were knowingly omitted from a felon list (recall that Florida permanently denies felons the franchise without explicit restoration of said rights).

In an earlier post, Digby links to this New Yorker article by Jeffrey Toobin, which does a nice job of summarizing for the lay person the dualistic provisions of the Voting Rights Act (short version of this: the VRA has two parts, voter access and voter "integrity," that is, parts of the law seek to enable citizens by providing them access to the franchise, other parts are designed to mitigate fraud. You can probably guess which political parties emphasize which sections--although Toobin's article notes some interesting tangents as well). If you want some background, the article isn't a bad place to start.

To describe the Rethuglican efforts to suppress votes as despicable is an understatement. But we might as well recognize it as normal behavior on their part, and be ready to take steps against them. Too many people have paid too high a price for the right to vote to allow a small group of anti-democratic ideologues to get away with this.


Monday, September 27, 2004

Iraq in Real Time

From Fubar at Needlenose, here's a link to, of all sites, FOX News--the Baghdad Cam. Showing live, streaming video from Al-Firdos Square, I'll admit that this might be something from Faux that I'll check out from time to time.

That said, I've had this running for almost seven minutes, and I've seen exactly two vehicles. Given the time of night there, it wasn't possible to tell what kind they were (Humvees, Toyota truck, or whatever). But I'll check back a little later.
Happy B'Day, and Thanks for the Old School Posts

Murph from Life Goes Off celebrated a birthday (yesterday, I think), so pass him good wishes out on the Left Coast--and stop by his site if you feel like reviewing some passages from Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. Billmon, lately posting at the Los Angeles Times, added the cover art from the paperback version to his site today.

F&L on the Campaign Trail was the first Hunter Thompson book I came across--at, of all places, the Iberia Parish Public Library. It's worth a look (or several--I recall checking it out of the library a number of times. If Ashcroft had been foisting the Patriot Act on us in the late 70's/early 80's, lord knows what might have happened to me). Murph thinks there are any number of similarities between the campaigns in 1972 and 2004--and he's right.

To be sure, Kerry is no McGovern, which can cut both ways. McGovern, for all his faults, is still perhaps the most decent individual to run for president in my lifetime. He was a genuine war hero, he ably represented his constituents, he took the right stance against a disastrous and foolish war--though, interestingly, McGovern voted FOR the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964 (which might be the ONE thing you could hang on the guy). McGovern also spoke out in favor of civil rights and women's rights when so-called conventional wisdom considered these to be fringe issues.

No, Kerry is no McGovern. However, there are parallels between George W. Bush and Richard Nixon--although NONE of the parallels could be considered beneficial for Dubya.

For the record: I happen to think Nixon's foreign policy credentials are overrated--as Gore Vidal wrote

...the war that he pretended to have a plan to end in 1968 kept right on going through 1972 and almost up to his own political end. The trip to China was made because no other President could ever have done so--thanks to Nixon, who would have been busy intoning, "I am not saying that President Johnson is a Communist. No. But I am questioning his judgment on Communism." He played that broken record for an entire career and did more damage to the country than a single photo-op with Mao could ever undo.

At the same time, though, Nixon at least understood what the hell was going on in Vietnam, even as he became part of the problem. Bush CREATED the problem in Iraq, yet he simply doesn't seem to understand--or want to understand--the damage he's done, not just to that country, but to the entire region.

Bush, though, like Nixon, operates a stealth White House. The press isn't so much ignored as it is openly disdained--and shut out. Like Dick Nixon, Bush campaigns only in front of carefully vetted audiences. Like Dick Nixon, Bush carefully cultivates an outsider's presence (although UNLIKE Dick Nixon, who was a genuine outsider, Bush has all the eastern elite credentials one needs to fit into high society). Finally, Bush has Karl Rove, who, now that I think of it, DOES seem to sort of look like the result of morphing Haldeman and Erlichman (but not subtracting to bring the size down to a single individual).

Murph also notes an interesting point Thompson made back in 72--even back then, some people were sick and tired of voting for the lesser of evils. He noted that by 1976, you'd have a whole generation of folks who wouldn't give a damn about politics, as they'd never had a positive voting experience in their lifetime (interestingly, Thompson later wholeheartedly endorsed Jimmy Carter, whom he saw speak sometime in either 1974 or 75--I believe The Great Shark Hunt has the written article). However, consider that, since McGovern went down in flames, the candidates the party has run--Carter, Mondale, Dukkasis, Clinton, and Gore--aren't exactly an A-list (OK, Clinton grew into the part, some might say, but 92 was a strange election. Most of the big-name Democrats wouldn't run against Bush, whom many considered a shoo-in following Gulf War I. Clinton was the best of the B-listers--and everyone forgot what a lunk Bush I was as a campaigner). None of these folks really inspired a great degree of passion.

Neither will Kerry. However, progressives can vote for him in good conscience, provided that we realize that John Kerry, like everyone else wearing the sash of the DLC, will need to be agressively lobbied even though we DID vote for him. Kerry will need to be told forcefully that the war in Iraq CANNOT be won, and therefore the proper thing to do is seek an exit strategy. Kerry will need to be told forcefully that good paying jobs are an absolute must for a healthy economy, and therefore he needs to come up with a program to mix and match private and public finance to create these jobs (I for one would start with a large investment in our infrastructure). Kerry will need to be told forcefully that investment in public education on ALL levels MUST be a priority, as this is by far the most cost-effective investment a society can make in its future.

It's time for the fat-cat lobbyists to take a number and wait their turn. They've been feeding at the public trough since the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Simply electing John Kerry won't change that--but electing him, then letting him KNOW how he got elected (provided the big shots don't simply do away with democracy)--could possibly set the agenda for genuine investment in the country.

Or it could be four years of Anybody But Bush...

From Sparkly at Democratic Underground Forums (and reposted on the Democratic Underground Top Ten List), here's a handy guide on what to expect from the media come next Thursday's presidential "debate:"

If he's serious, they'll say he's glum, gloomy, pessimistic, and uninspiring.
If he's jovial, they'll say he's phony and trying too hard.

If he's serious, he's, presidential, the war-time commander in chief.
If he's jovial, everybody wants to have a beer with him.

If he's forceful, they'll say he's too aggressive, mean, negative, desperate.
If he's calm, they'll say he's weak, unsteady, dull, lacks energy.

If he's forceful, he's strong, resolute, unwavering.
If he's calm, he's prepared, on-message, disciplined, reserved.

If he's specific, they'll say he's wonkish, presenting "laundry lists," being overly-intellectual, show-offy, and nobody likes the smart kid.
If he's not specific, they'll say he's vague, criticizing but not offering solutions, not addressing the issues, and nobody knows who he is.

If he's specific, he "lays out his plan" and "makes his case."
If he's not specific, he's spanning the issues, giving a global presentation, painting a broad outline of his plans.

If he jokes, they'll say he lacks gravitas, trivializes important issues, doesn't understand troops are in harm's way, nation's at war, disrespects the president, etc.
If he doesn't joke, they'll say he needs to lighten up, he's too stoney, he's wooden.

If he jokes, he's a man of the people, a regular guy, people relate to him.
If he doesn't joke, he truly cares about the American people and his sincerity resonates with voters in this difficult time.

Plus, if he finds his podium and doesn't trip on his way to it, he's surpassed all expectations. (Extra points for correct pronunciation of "Abu Ghraib" or "nuclear.")

Sorry to crib the whole list, but it's a good one and worth taking a look at--and more likely to be accurate than any punditry you might hear before the event itself.
War is Peace

Most of y'all have probably either seen this article itself or at least linked to a post by one of the big time bloggers:

Operations by U.S. and multinational forces and Iraqi police are killing twice as many Iraqis - most of them civilians - as attacks by insurgents, according to statistics compiled by the Iraqi Health Ministry and obtained exclusively by Knight Ridder.

This could go a long way in explaining why our efforts in Iraq have met with so little support from the people we're ostensibly liberating. Since April, when George the Witless insisted "heads must roll," our efforts have done just that--killing roughly 3,500 Iraqi civilians, and injuring another 13,000 or so. Unfortunately, the dead and wounded in this count AREN'T insurgents. Think about that.

In real numbers, we've produced a 9/11 in Iraq since April. Proportionally, this would be the equivalent of almost a dozen 9/11's. And this figure does NOT include deaths in Iraq prior to April of 2004 (note: the link is inclusive). And these are likely conservative estimates.

This is a country that will have elections in four months?

And when Iraqi citizens aren't dodging democratic shells, they're forced to dodge plain old criminal bullets: homicides have dramatically increased in Baghdad over the course of the last year or so. Compare the number of gunshot deaths in Baghdad this year--3,000--with the number in Chicago in 2003--598 (more than any other US city, according to this website). Remember when Rumsfeld, and his lackeys in the media like Brit Hume suggested that Iraq was somehow safer than the United States? Funny how that's no longer touted.

Meanwhile, Dubya acts more like a cheerleader than a real leader--last week's Q and A with the press being example front and center. Check out Riverbend's take on Bush's claim that electricity has now been restored to prewar levels--or head back to Juan Cole's site for the truth about the UN election monitors and Iraqi police/security forces.

It's one thing to hope for the best. It's quite another thing to ignore the collapsing building that Iraq has become--and no amount of high handed rhetoric from the Bush campaign can take away from the fact that in Iraq we are hanging on by our fingernails.

Sure, we could opt for the genocide approach, and already there are rumblings that suggest this option is being considered. However, the question then becomes "how many are we willing to kill? Ten million? Twenty-five million? Neither Hitler nor Stalin was that bloodthirsty, and Saddam Hussein was a piker compared to them.

Thing would have to improve at this point if you even wanted to call Iraq a quagmire.