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Hullabaloo


Monday, March 08, 2004

 
Klaatu Barada Nikto


South Knox Bubba finds the Non-Sequitor of the Week, which had me cleaning out my ears when I heard it as well.

BEGALA: Greg, one of the ads concludes with President Bush praising freedom, faith, families and sacrifice. What sacrifice has our president asked of the rich?

MUELLER: I think everybody's making money right now. We've got a Hispanic middle class, "The New York Times" reported about last year. George Bush created a Hispanic middle class.


Maybe the RNC is having a hard time recruiting talking heads or something but I'm hearing an awful lot of this kind of bizarre blather lately. I hear Ann Heche is available. She speaks fluent Martian.

 
Bad Hostess Behind Bars

On Friday, a jury convicted Martha Stewart of lying about a 2001 stock sale in which her broker gave her insider information concerning pharmaceutical maker ImClone. On Saturday, the media was saturated with coverage of the verdict--coverage that perpetuated the oft-repeated canard that the Stewart case was somehow an example of corporate wrongdoing. Meanwhile, in a real case of alleged corporate wrongdoing, Bernie Ebbers, the disgraced former WorldCom CEO, and Scott Sullivan, the company's head accountant, were indicted last week in the largest case of accounting fraud in the country's history. But those developments ended up serving as the week's undercard to Stewart's featured event--obscuring the fact that the two cases have little in common, and that the WorldCom case is far more important.

...apparently hungry for sensational news, many of the country's leading media outlets failed this weekend to explain the distinction. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution called Stewart the "highest-profile figure in a procession of corporate scandals that emerged after the tech stock boom-and-bust of the 1990s." The Los Angeles Times described her as "the first major figure convicted by a jury in the wave of corporate scandals." And The New York Times called her "the latest and most prominent executive to be convicted since a wave of corporate scandals unfolded with the collapse of Enron."

So-called "celebrity justice" features have long been a staple of tabloid journalism, but since the O.J. Simpson trial, the media has increasingly treated those cases as hard news...The Times and other upper-tier papers--which ostensibly shun "celebrity justice" news but were unwilling to miss out on the Stewart story--developed a narrative that made no distinction between Stewart's trial and the cases of Ebbers, Lay, and Rigas.


TNR goes on to say "it was a clever way for "serious" papers to get in on a piece of the Martha action--and also retain their respectability," and how this may result in less scrutiny for the more important Worldcom and Enron trials. The public, suffering from corporate scandal fatigue after Martha will feel that justice has been served and are no longer interested. Sadly, they are probably right.

But, I've always wondered why Martha became such a top tabloid story in the first place. She's famous, but that's not the most important element in a tabloid story, certainly not one that garners the kind of wall to wall coverage this one's gotten the last few days.

In order for it to be a truly fine tabloid story it must feature sex or violence, preferably both, neither of which were present in the Martha trial. But, when I watched the week-end coverage I realized where the tabloid element of this story lies. It's the prurient vision of Martha Stewart in a woman's prison, surrounded by tough, tattooed, hardened criminals. Seriously. I must have heard dozens of comments like:

"What will it be like for Martha behind bars, will she be kept from the general prison population for her own safety?"

"Martha will be serving time with the type of women she normally doesn't invite to her dinner parties in Connecticut."

"The women in those prisons probably don't think much of Martha's decorating tips."

"Martha's going to need to learn how to negotiate with women who don't wear aprons and get 300 dollar haircuts."

Now, it's obvious that there are quite a few misogynist men who simply think the uppity business bitch must be shown her place. And, among many women there seems to be a strong resentment of her cold perfectionism. I don't pretend to understand why she evokes such strong feelings in some people.

But, the tabloid media interest in the story became clear as the week-end went on. They are aroused and tittilated by the idea that Martha Stewart could be forced to endure some sort of prison violence, sexual or otherwise. The gleam in their eye as they speculated about her fate was very revealing. Corporate wrongdoing never made these vultures so breathless and flushed.

Our press corps seems to suffer from a strange form of mass sexual neurosis. I don't know why, but time after time they act out a twisted form of immature sexuality when covering certain public figures who apparently confuse them in some way. They really need to talk to somebody about this. This is the kind of thing that can lead people to do bad things and then who knows what could happen? Kelly Arena could find herself in a woman's prison, scantily clad and vulnerable, at the mercy of Big Mama, the ex-Hell's Angel and leader of the cell block who likes to "initiate" all the new girls....



Saturday, March 06, 2004

 
Ad War

With all of this hoopla about the president's ad campaign, I am grateful that Matt Stoller at BOP news, found this great resource at the Museum of the Moving Image called The Living Room Candidate, which shows political TV ads going back to 1952. If you have time, you should look at all of them.

I was particularly fascinated by the
1992 Election Page which showed a Bush Sr ad campaign that was almost entirely based on character assassination. Trust, trust, trust. Character, character, character. Lots of "man on the street" interviews with average Americans saying "there's just something about him I don't trust."

I wouldn't be surprised to see a reprise of this campaign. It's what these guys do. Just check out 1988, if you want to see more (and also dispell the idea that Dukakis never fought back. He did, but he didn't attack back, he defended. That's the difference.)

Anyway, thanks to Matt for the link. It's a fascinating site.


 
All The World's A Stage

Ellen Goodman asks:Presidential election or casting call?

I have long believed that it is a casting call. Just as I think, sadly, that for many people 9/11 and Iraq are now seen as reality TV shows from last season. Kind of like Survivor. The question in this election is whether they want to watch the re-runs.

It's a little bit much, however, that a member of the fourth estate would act surprised by this. After all, Goodman and her ilk cover politics and news events as if they were television shows, critiquing the "performances" of the players, even (especially) themselves, and look at all events through the lens of a pre-ordained narrative.

The president of the United States plays the role of a cowboy rancher when he can't ride a horse and didn't buy his "spread" until he was running for president. He lands in a fighter plane on the deck of an aircraft carrier, prances around in a skin tight jumpsuit and the press never bothers to correct the erroneous impression that he actually flew the plane.

Why in the hell shouldn't the Democrats get a little of that action too? If we are casting the role of "President" I'm definitely going for the face that belongs on Mt Rushmore rather than the one that appears on the cover of MAD Magazine.

This is the way it is, boys and girls, and while I'm not thrilled, I think it's long past time that Democrats got with the program. The TV program.


 
Smite Me

Josh 'n Matt are all shocked 'n shit that the Bush administration is reportedly blocking an Israeli pullback from Gaza until after the elections.

I guess they forgot that our esteemed leader informed the players long ago that he was on a tight evil-smiting schedule and they had to move fast:


"God told me to strike at al-Qaida and I struck them, and then He instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me, I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them."


Mideast peace will just have to wait. The elections have come and God has told him to strike the Democrats. He has no choice. He'll get back to them next December after he smites the sodomites and takes a little R&R in Crawford.

 
Naderama

Over at Pandagon: Kerry vs. The Extremists, Ezra very wisely points out that Nader is probably not someone to be ignored, no matter how much we might like to. As I wrote last week, I think we ignore him again at our peril.

For some reason I'm reading a lot of overly optimistic commentary about this election that strikes me a naive. We have a good chance to win, but there is absolutely no reason to assume that it's a slam dunk, either on the basis of poll numbers, money or enthusiasm. Both sides are loaded for bear. The smart move is to assume that this election is going to be very close and strategize accordingly.

I know that people don't want to hear this, but Uncle Karl has a mountain of money and this being America, that mountain of money is power. And they're not just using it for ads; they are building a turn-out operation the likes of which we've never seen. He has the power of his office to get Judy Botox to cut away at a moments notice to cover his boring flag draped stump speech every single day, replete with canned cultlike shrieks of approval and hand picked children of color. He can control world events in ways that we don't even want to think about. Incumbency is very, very powerful.

All this means is that despite the fact that he is a manipulable moron and a demonstrable failure, he'll be able to command the loyalty of his 45 percent no matter what he does. And, if they play their cards right he'll get a few dumb swing voters who think they are watching American Idol.

Ralph is polling right now at 6%. I'm sure that's too high and he'll come nowhere close to that. But, he will continue to cause trouble and he'll continue to have salience with some who might otherwise be persuaded to vote for Kerry on idealistic grounds. If this election is close --- and I believe that we should plan for it to be --- then it is important to deal with Ralph. If we are going to fight for every vote, all the way down to the precinct level, it's foolish to ignore someone who could possibly get half a million votes, a fraction of which could make the difference.

Ezra's advice is for Kerry to use Nader as a liberal foil. That was my first thought as well. It can only help Kerry look more moderate for Nader to be in the race. The strategy here is that we could possibly get more swing voters by running against both Nader and Bush as extremists.

On the other hand, maybe we could try to convert the Naderites. They were impossible to deal with during 2000, but perhaps we are dealing with a different phenomenon this time. It may be that they could be persuaded with a better knowledge of John Kerry's history of fighting the Republican proclivity for supporting death squads and arming dictators around the world. And maybe if they knew that Kerry was the reigning expert (and senate prosecutor) on the single most corrupt multinational, bipartisan big money scam in history, BCCI, they might be persuaded that he isn't such an establishment tool after all.

Of course, Nader supporters generally demand that a politican be a sort of Knight errant, pure of heart and spirit in every way. So, perhaps the best way to deal with this problem would be to expose their candidate to the same harsh spotlight they shine on Democrats. It wouldn't be pretty, but it might be effective.

Josh Marshall quoted a Gore insider friend of his as saying:

We took Nader too lightly in 00. We didn't challenge him. We didn't point out his sizable personal fortune, his complete lack of assistance on any environmental cause for decades, his sources of funding. Oh progressives do not make this mistake twice in your lifetime or Nader's.


Whether that would convert any votes to Kerry, either swing voters from the middle or shocked and disappointed Naderites from the left, is another question. And that is the question that must be answered.

There are ways to deal with Ralph. But we must deal with him. We can't afford to leave anything to chance.


Friday, March 05, 2004

 
Passionate Denial

Bob Sommerby is defending "The Passion" this week and I don't have a lot to say about it because I haven't seen, and have no intention of seeing, the film. However, I do find it interesting that Sommerby quotes Gibson as saying unequivocally that, contrary to his father's views, he is not a Holocaust denier:

SAWYER: In that New York Times Magazine interview, [Gibson's father] seemed to be questioning the scope of the Holocaust, skeptical that six million Jews had died. So what does Gibson think?

GIBSON: Do I believe that there were concentration camps where defenseless and innocent Jews died cruelly under the Nazi regime? Of course I do, absolutely. It was an atrocity of monumental proportion.

SAWYER: And you believe there were millions, six million?

GIBSON: Sure.

SAWYER: I think people wondered if your father's views were your views on this.

GIBSON: Their whole agenda here, my detractors, is to drive a wedge between me and my father. And it's not going to happen. I love him. He's my father.


To be clear, Sommerby was responding to a correspondent who wondered why nobody had ever asked Gibson right out if he was a Holocaust denier. He isn't trying to defend Gibson's views, per se, although he does say that he didn't find the film anti-Semitic.

Again, I haven't seen the movie so I have no idea if it is or not. But, I did happen to read this Peggy Nooner interview with Gibson in Reader's Digest while I was standing in the grocery store line and his answer was just a little bit more "nuanced":

PN: I read that your father has some very conservative religious beliefs and that he has questioned some of the accepted versions of the Holocaust.

Gibson: My dad taught me my faith and I believe what he taught me. The man never lied to me in his life. He lost his mother at two years of age. He lost his father at 15. He went through the Depression. He signed up for World War Two, served his country fighting the forces of fascism. Came back, worked very hard physically, raised a family, put a roof over my head, clothed me, fed me, taught me my faith, loved me. I love him back. So I'll slug it out until my heart is black and blue if anyone ever tries to hurt him.

PN: The Holocaust happened, right?

Gibson: I have friends and parents of friends who have numbers on their arms. The guy who taught me Spanish was a Holocaust survivor. Yes, of course. Atrocities happened. War is horrible. World War Two killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps. In the Ukraine, several million starved to death between 1932 and 1933.



I don't know about you, but that sounds to me like a guy who doesn't think that the systematic genocide of Jews in WWII was much of a big deal. Moreover, like his father in the New York Times Magazine article that Sawyer references, he is clearly questioning the "scope" of the Holocaust. He even has some handy statistics to back him up as if he's given it quite a bit of thought and has made the point before.

"Some" Jews were killed in concentration camps, sure. War is hell. Atrocities happen. What a bummer.

I can't say absolutely that he is anti-semite based on this comment, but it's not much of a stretch to make that assumption. No matter what, however, it's probably a mistake to be too awfully impressed with his theological scholarship. The guy is clearly a cretinous airhead.




 
"Narrowin' the Noose"


I have been on the case of this little group of Bush administration dirty tricksters called the Office of Global Communications(OGC) formerly the Coalition Information Center (CIC), for over a year and when the Plame thing was first revealed, this guy, Jim Wilkinson, was who I first suspected. When the story first leaked last July, I wrote:

It would be very wrong of me to speculate wildly that the infamous smear operation of the South Carolina primary that is now working right in the White House "communications shop" could possibly be behind this (or, more trivially but just as telling, behind the Drudge Report expose of the "Gay Canadian" reporter.)

[...]

I'm certain that these same people who now work extremely closely with George W. Bush and his advisors would never resort to such dishonorable and undignified behavior in the sacred office of the President of the United States. It's merely a coincidence that the tactics are so very similar.


According to Newsday today:

Also sought in the wide-ranging document requests contained in three grand jury subpoenas to the Executive Office of President George W. Bush are records created in July by the White House Iraq Group, a little-known internal task force established in August 2002 to create a strategy to publicize the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.


So, it now turns out that the "Iraq Group," the supervisory marketing arm of the Iraq march to war is in the sights of the Plame grand jury. Jim Wilkinson is the one member of the administration who is simultaneously a member of the OGC and the Iraq Group.

The thing to remember about both the OGC and the Iraq Group is that they are not just spin artists. They are propagandists. They were very involved with Alisdair Campbell in the "sexing up" of the WMD threat, so it will be very interesting to see if these documents are turned over without a lot of national security hoo-hah.

There is a big story in those documents, perhaps much bigger even than Plame, although the subpoenaes are only for July 2003 so they won't reveal the really interesting stuff about the blatent WMD lies. Because, not to go into too much tin-foil hat territory, there is a very interesting story to be told about the unprecedented "PR" sell-job that the White House coordinated to convince the American (and British) people that Saddam was a "grave and gathering" danger.

Many of you have probably read the paper written by Sam Gardiner, the retired colonel who taught at the National War College, the Air War College and the Naval Warfare College ( in PDF here) in which he claims to have found more than 50 instances of demonstrably false stories planted in the press in the run up to the war and charges the OCG and the Iraq Group as the culprits. This overview of the paper, originally published in The Edge brings up something quite interesting that ties it into the Plame affair:

Colonel Sam Gardiner (USAF, Ret.) has identified 50 false news stories created and leaked by a secretive White House propaganda apparatus. Bush administration officials are probably having second thoughts about their decision to play hardball with former US Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Joe Wilson is a contender. When you play hardball with Joe, you better be prepared to deal with some serious rebound.

After Wilson wrote a critically timed New York Times essay exposing as false George W. Bush's claim that Iraq had purchased uranium from Niger, high officials in the White House contacted several Washington reporters and leaked the news that Wilson's wife was a CIA agent.

Wilson isn't waiting for George W. Bush to hand over the perp. In mid-October, the former ambassador began passing copies of an embarrassing internal report to reporters across the US. The-Edge has received copies of this document.

The 56-page investigation was assembled by USAF Colonel (Ret.) Sam Gardiner. "Truth from These Podia: Summary of a Study of Strategic Influence, Perception Management, Strategic Information Warfare and Strategic Psychological Operations in Gulf II" identifies more than 50 stories about the Iraq war that were faked by government propaganda artists in a covert campaign to "market" the military invasion of Iraq.

[...]

According to Gardiner, "It was not bad intelligence" that lead to the quagmire in Iraq, "It was an orchestrated effort [that] began before the war" that was designed to mislead the public and the world. Gardiner's research lead him to conclude that the US and Britain had conspired at the highest levels to plant "stories of strategic influence" that were known to be false.

The Times of London described the $200-million-plus US operation as a "meticulously planned strategy to persuade the public, the Congress, and the allies of the need to confront the threat from Saddam Hussein."

The multimillion-dollar propaganda campaign run out of the White House and Defense Department was, in Gardiner's final assessment "irresponsible in parts" and "might have been illegal."

"Washington and London did not trust the peoples of their democracies to come to the right decisions," Gardiner explains. Consequently, "Truth became a casualty. When truth is a casualty, democracy receives collateral damage." For the first time in US history, "we allowed strategic psychological operations to become part of public affairs... [W]hat has happened is that information warfare, strategic influence, [and] strategic psychological operations pushed their way into the important process of informing the peoples of our two democracies."


Joe Wilson apparently knew that this propaganda machine inside the White House had something to do with his wife's outing if he was handing out this inflammatory report by Sam Gardiner.

It could have been any one of the Iraq Group miscreants who leaked Plame's identity. I still think that one of them is very likely to have been Jim Wilkinson. He was, after all, privy to the highest levels of information. As Gardiner notes in the paper:

One of the things that struck Gardiner as revealing was the fact that, as Newsweek reported: "as soon as Lynch was in the air, [the Joint Operations Center] phoned Jim Wilkinson, the top civilian communications aide to CENTCOM Gen. Tommy Franks."

It struck Gardiner as inexplicable that the first call after Lynch's rescue would go to the Director of Strategic Communications, the White House's top representative on the ground.


As far as the honor and integrity of these fine people, we have only to look, again, at Jim Wilkinson, strutting around in a phony uniform (just like his boss) who told a member of the press in Iraq:

"I have a brother who is in a Hummer at the front, so don't talk to me about too much fucking air-conditioning." "A lot of people don't like you." "Don't fuck with things you don't understand." "This is fucking war, asshole." "No more questions for you."


Presumably, he toned down his goosestep as he walked away.

Joe Wilson has a new book coming out in May. I can hardly wait.




 
Monster

CNN has Ann Coulter on Blitzer's show defending the president's ad camapign. Ann Coulter. The hideous, evil slag who just two weeks ago claimed that Max Cleland was not a war hero:

Cleland lost three limbs in an accident during a routine noncombat mission where he was about to drink beer with friends. He saw a grenade on the ground and picked it up. He could have done that at Fort Dix. In fact, Cleland could have dropped a grenade on his foot as a National Guardsman ? or what Cleland sneeringly calls "weekend warriors." Luckily for Cleland's political career and current pomposity about Bush, he happened to do it while in Vietnam.


This is, naturally, a lie.

Ed Gillespie must be sorely desperate if the RNC has to resort to being serviced by the saber toothed harpy of West Palm Beach. Too bad Ailene Wuornos isn't available. She would have made a helluva campaign spokewoman, too.

This liar should never be allowed to comment on the air without the "journalist" host of the show confronting her about her years of outrageous lying and slanderous insults. (George W. Bush should also be asked whether he stands by her statements. That seems to be required for Democrats, anyway.)

Somebody ought to tell Wolfie a thing or two about the GOP spokespersons he has on his show.




Wednesday, March 03, 2004

 
King Mook Has Been Radicalized

Whether it's true, nobody yet knows. But, the fact that Howard Stern is telling his loyal radio audience that he was fired by Clear Channel because of his antipathy for Bush is good news for our side. And, it wouldn't be the first time Clear Channel did it.

From Salon:

From the moment last week when Clear Channel Communications suspended Howard Stern's syndicated morning show from the company's radio stations, denouncing it as "vulgar, offensive and insulting," speculation erupted that the move had more to do with Stern's politics than his raunchy shock-jock shtick.

Stern's loyal listeners, Clear Channel foes and many Bush administration critics immediately reached the same conclusion: The notorious jock was yanked off the air because he had recently begun trashing Bush, and Bush-friendly Clear Channel used the guise of "indecency" to shut him up. That the content of Stern's crude show hadn't suddenly changed, but his stance on Bush had, gave the theory more heft. That, plus his being pulled off the air in key electoral swing states such as Florida and Pennsylvania.

This week, Stern himself went on the warpath, weaving in among his familiar monologues about breasts and porn actresses accusations that Texas-based Clear Channel -- whose Republican CEO, Lowry Mays, is extremely close to both George W. Bush and Bush's father -- canned him because he deviated from the company's pro-Bush line. "I gotta tell you something," Stern told his listeners. "There's a lot of people saying that the second that I started saying, 'I think we gotta get Bush out of the presidency,' that's when Clear Channel banged my ass outta here. Then I find out that Clear Channel is such a big contributor to President Bush, and in bed with the whole Bush administration, I'm going, 'Maybe that's why I was thrown off: because I don't like the way the country is leaning too much to the religious right.' And then, bam! Let's get rid of Stern. I used to think, 'Oh, I can't believe that.' But that's it! That's what's going on here! I know it! I know it!"

Stern's been relentless all week, detailing the close ties between Clear Channel executives and the Bush administration, and insisting that political speech, not indecency, got him in trouble with the San Antonio broadcasting giant. If he hadn't turned against Bush, Stern told his listeners, he'd still be heard on Clear Channel stations.

[...]

Walker, South Carolina Broadcasters Association's 2002 radio personality of the year, is suing Clear Channel for violating a state law that forbids employers from punishing employees who express politically unpopular beliefs in the workplace.

"On our show we talked about politics and current events," she tells Salon. "There were two conservative partners and me, the liberal, and that was fine. But as it became clear we were going to war, and I kept charging the war was not justified, I was reprimanded by [Clear Channel] management that I needed to tone that down. Basically I was told to shut up." She says she was fired on April 7, 2003.

Phoenix talk show host Charles Goyette says he was kicked off his afternoon drive-time program at Clear Channel's KFYI because of his sharp criticism of the war on Iraq. A self-described Goldwater Republican who was selected "man of the year" by the Republican Party in his local county in 1988, Goyette -- more recently named best talk show host of 2003 by the Phoenix New Times -- says his years with Clear Channel had been among his best in broadcasting. "The trouble started during the long march to war," he says.

While the rest of the station's talk lineup was in a pro-war "frenzy," Goyette was inviting administration critics like former weapons inspector Scott Ritter on his show, and discussing complaints from the intelligence community that the analysis on Iraq was being cooked to support the White House's pro-war agenda. This didn't go over well with his bosses, Goyette says: "I was the Baby Ruth bar in the punch bowl."

Soon, according to Goyette, he was having "toe-to-toe confrontations" with his local Clear Channel managers off the air about his opposition to the war. "One of my bosses said in a tone of exasperation, 'I feel like I'm managing the Dixie Chicks,'" Goyette recalls. "I didn't fit in with the Clear Channel corporate culture."

Writing in the February issue of American Conservative magazine, Goyette put it this way: "Why only a couple of months after my company picked up the option on my contract for another year in the fifth-largest city in the United States, did it suddenly decide to relegate me to radio Outer Darkness? The answer lies hidden in the oil-and-water incompatibility of these two seemingly disconnected phrases: 'Criticizing Bush' and 'Clear Channel.'"

[...]

At least one radio pro suggests Stern's sudden turn against Bush could prove costly to the administration during this election year. "Absolutely it should be of concern for the White House," says Michael Harrison, the publisher of Talkers magazine, a nonpartisan trade magazine serving talk radio. "Howard Stern will be an influential force for the public and for other talk show hosts during the election. Despite the shock jock thing, Stern has credibility. He's looked upon as an honest person.


I think he was probably dumped because Clear only had him on 6 stations and they could make their point without losing much money. But, it was a political decision whether it was designed to support the wing-nut agenda or because of Stern's "incorrect" opinion of Bush. It's really the same thing.

The only thing that matters is that Stern is pissed and he's connecting the dots for his audience. It's another weapon in our arsenal. This election isn't going to be polite anyway and as we know, radio is hugely influential. It's helpful to have have somebody with a large and loyal audience openly on our side for a change.





Tuesday, March 02, 2004

 
Back In The Tent

I'm relieved. Primaries are tough. It's never comfortable fighting among your philosophical brethren even when you know it's absolutely vital to give the candidates an exhibition season. This one's been a doozy. It's the most memorable primary since 1980, maybe even 1968, despite the early finish.

I'm glad to see that the candidates have been so gracious as the field has been winnowed these last few weeks. They have shown a lot of class by endorsing the winner and pledging their support for the party. In fact, I'm impressed by our bench, generally. It may be the best group of candidates I've seen in my lifetime in one presidential nominating race. It's nice to know that we'll have the necessary talent available to put immediately to work undoing the damage that Junior and the Retreads have caused in virtually every sector of the government . (The sheer volume of destruction they've managed to create in three short years is amazing.)

But then Democrats have often been called upon to clean up the messes that Republicans make of our foreign and economic policy. It seems to be our special burden. And, if we are lucky we are able to advance the cause of progress a bit along the way.

The Democratic Party is on fire right now, thanks to this primary and the perfidy of the opposition. If we can stick together for another eight months, the GOP is going to have to raise the dead to beat our turnout. (Don't think they won't try to do just that, if that's what it takes.)

Now the REAL campaign begins. Good.


Monday, March 01, 2004

 
Beat Me, Hurt Me


Schwarzenegger, Gray Davis to appear jointly on 'Tonight Show'


Is there anyone out there who believes that even one Republican would support Davis if the shoe were on the other foot? Jayzuz, will we ever learn?

Empowering Schwarzenneger like this is a recipe for disaster for California Democrats. As I wrote on American Street, he is hugely popular and is going to put every bit of his popularity on the line for George W. Bush. I'm not saying it will work, but he can guarantee that Kerry is going to have to spend money and time in super expensive California, which he should not have to do.

Boxer, Feinstein and even John Burton are giving Arnold big slurpy BJ's and lending support to these two propositions as if they were sacred texts from Mt Sinai. It's ridiculous. These propositions are band aids at best and simple GOP propaganda at worst. They are not going to solve the budget crisis but they are certainly going to cement the dominance of the Cult of Arnold in the electorate.

The Republicans always fight, even when they don't have to. We, on the other hand, say "thank you sir, may I have another." We have given up the moral high ground on the undemocratic recall travesty and are actively empowering the cyborg they used to seize power. It's pathetic.



Sunday, February 29, 2004

 
Schmuckrakers

Am I the only one who thought that Elizabeth Bumiller made an ass of herself this morning in the NY debate? I know they probably told her to try to keep it moving, but she certainly seemed to relish interrupting with what were usually non-sequitors. She was inappropriately hostile, as if she were upset that the candidates were not giving her proper respect. It was odd, I thought. She should keep her day job as a Heather because she certainly isn't ready for day time.

Not that the others were great. Dan Rather looked as if he needed a double shot of espresso. I don't know what's happened to that guy. At one time he was right up there with Woodward and Bernstein in exposing a corrupt president. He personally turned poor Ron Zeigler into a walking rolaids commercial.

Oh wait. He 's still just like Woodward and Bernstein. Just like them he's part of a fat and flaccid establishment press that is paid to write historical fiction about Junior's bravery and go on television and profess to be willing to sign on to whatever the president wants him to do. I forgot.



Friday, February 27, 2004

 
The Price Of Allowing An Idiot To Be President


Ron Suskind has a mind blowing article up on Slate called The Free-Lunch Bunch - The Bush team's secret plan to "reform" Social Security.

During the 2000 campaign, candidate George W. Bush seemed particularly confident about his ability to pay for Social Security reform. Despite independent estimates that creating the kind of "voluntarily" private accounts he envisioned could cost more than $1 trillion, Bush consistently took the position that he could reform Social Security for free, without undermining promises to baby boomers anticipating retirement over the next several decades.

Why was Bush so sure of himself? According to documents unearthed yesterday from the trove of 19,000 files given to me by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, and a bit of additional probing, candidate Bush and later President Bush believed in the "Lindsey Plan." These documents show us what the president thought about Social Security reform at the only moment over the past three years—the fall of 2001—when he was fully engaged with this issue.

Larry Lindsey, Bush's tutor on economics during the campaign and later chairman of the White House's National Economic Council, devised a scheme based on creative accounting principles. Essentially, it proposed that the government would issue substantial new debt to sustain old-style benefits. This debt would be serviced and paid down by confiscating revenues from the higher returns from those opting for new-style personal accounts

For the first nine months of the administration, this was called the "free-lunch" plan—a painless way to convert to a blended, private-accounts model. Inside of the Treasury Department and the Council of Economic Advisers, however, officials were befuddled by it. Lindsey seemed to have never called upon analysts inside the Social Security Administration to run the traps on his idea. Treasury and CEA did—and the numbers didn't even come close to working out. But that didn't stop Lindsey, or the president, from believing in and promoting the "free-lunch" plan. These two memos on RonSuskind.com, which have never before been released, show what Bush and others in the White House were actually thinking about Social Security reform.

[...]

In the post-9/11 environment, the report vanished with little notice. But should the president take Greenspan's recent suggestion and instigate a debate about Social Security again, we will now have some idea what he means by "reform."


Junior's courtiers are magical thinkers. Bush himself is not nearly intelligent enough to understand this stuff and he trusts all the wrong people. His vaunted instinct is nothing more than emotional responses to appeals to his vanity. How is it possible for one administration to find an important position for every single nutjob in the party?

Oh that's right:

(This discusses foreign policy, but the total cock-up in economic policy is the result of the same forces.)

...Cheney was put in charge of the presidential transition (the period between the election in November and the accession to office in January). Cheney used this opportunity to stack the administration with his hardline allies. Instead of becoming the de facto president in foreign policy, as many had expected, Secretary of State Powell found himself boxed in by Cheney's right-wing network, including Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Bolton and Libby.

The neo-cons took advantage of Bush's ignorance and inexperience. Unlike his father, a Second World War veteran who had been ambassador to China, director of the CIA and vice-president, George W was a thinly educated playboy who had failed repeatedly in business before becoming the governor of Texas, a largely ceremonial position (the state's lieutenant governor has more power). His father is essentially a north-eastern, moderate Republican; George W, raised in west Texas, absorbed the Texan cultural combination of machismo, anti-intellectualism and overt religiosity. The son of upper-class Episcopalian parents, he converted to southern fundamentalism in a midlife crisis. Fervent Christian Zionism, along with an admiration for macho Israeli soldiers that sometimes coexists with hostility to liberal Jewish-American intellectuals, is a feature of the southern culture.


Let's face it. He's a childlike man who is manipulated by people who make him feel powerful.





Thursday, February 26, 2004

 
If That Is Indeed His Name


I don't know who the guy in the turtleneck is, but Atrios is a well known 52 year old performance artist. This guy is an imposter.



 
Smear Collectibles

John Emerson at Seeing the Forest has started a Kerry (and Cleland) Smear Page.

I think this is a good idea. We have to keep track of these things in some kind of systematic manner, if only for water cooler purposes.




 
Hooked

John Kerry just gave me another good reason to vote for him.
It's been awhile since I heard a presidential candidate make a good argument against the death penalty. The last time, I think, was 1988 and that didn't work out too well.

Times have changed, though. The DNA revolution has proved that we are executing innocent people, which has always been my main objection to it. It's good to hear a national candidate make this argument at the right time.

Our death penalty system is a national disgrace. If they want to re-run the 1988 election, fine. Except for all the the peace and prosperity there's not a lot of difference between then and now.


 
Best Post Title Of The Week:

The Merchants of the Temple are Selling Sadomaso-catechisms

It's a damned good post, too.





 
Common Sense

When you compare the fortunes of the Hummer to those of its opposite—Toyota's hybrid Prius, which can get upwards of 50 miles per gallon—it looks like the market may be shifting. First sold in the United States in 2000, the diminutive Prius remained a curiosity as the Hummer rose to celebrity. But sales rose to about 20,000 in 2002 and to 24,000 in 2003. Since the new 2004 model was introduced in the fall, the Prius has been stomping the Hummer. In November 2003, the Prius outsold the H2 by a 2-to-1 margin, according to Autodata. In January 2004, Prius sales were up 82 percent from January 2003.

For the 2004 model year, Toyota initially boosted production 50 percent to 36,000. But demand has been strong enough that production has already been increased to 47,000. And that's still not enough. My Toyota dealer doesn't have a Prius on the lot and says that interested purchasers must put down a deposit today and wait six months. By contrast, my local Hummer dealer has several on the lot.

Comparing the Prius and the Hummer is like comparing apples and oranges, or apples and watermelons. The Hummer costs more than twice as much as the Prius—although the absurd, huge federal tax break available to purchasers of giant vehicles for business use reduces the price a lot. (Those who purchase a Prius receive a smaller and shrinking tax break.)

[...]

Those who buy Hummers and Priuses are symbolic, marginal buyers. But economists will tell you that behavior at the margins can influence entire markets. In the summer of 2002, the marginal buyers were pushing hard for the gas guzzlers. Today, more people are clamoring for fuel-efficient cars.


It's amazing how rising gas prices and a shitty economy can force big macho Americans to wake up. Or listen to their wives...



 
Constitutional Tinkering

The great Charles Pierce writes in on Altercation today to acknowledge the fact that Andrew Sullivan does seem to be genuinely anguished over Karl Rove's craven capitulation to the wing-nuts. He also points out something that I think is important and has not been discussed in any depth (except by me -- to me) which is that this is just the latest in a whole line of assaults on the constitution.

Pierce points out that that this isn't the first time that the constitution has been used to discriminate. Indeed it our sacred document was founded on the heinous 3/5th compromise, so one could say that it took a civil war to purge the document of its inherent discrimination. But, even more recent history shows that a blatant disregard for the constitution, the traditions undergirding it, the fundamental firmament of it have been declared fair game by the right wing.

The impeachment is the best example. That provision clearly was designed not to be used as a political football, what with its super majority requirement for conviction and the obvious definition that it apply to high crimes and misdemeanors. It was used only once prior and that was while the country was just emerging from a civil war in which the president was perceived to be sympathizing with the losing side. Never before had anyone thought it should be used in a case of minor sexual indiscretion that caused no threat to the nation (as a "pillow-talk" spy scandal would, for instance.)

Clinton's impeachment was used as a blatantly political weapon to force him to resign, which thankfully, with the backing of the American people, he did not do. Nevertheless, it loosened the informal but serious restrictions against a powerful congress usurping the will of the people by attempting to remove a duly elected president on dubious legal grounds. Politicians had always before tried to steer clear of this type of unreviewable constitutional messiness because it is just the kind of thing that could truly destabilize what has become the most remarkably stable democracy on earth. No more.

Then, just 2 years later, unelected Supreme Court judges who had been appointed by the candidate's father and/or party decided a national election despite the fact that the constitution laid out a complicated scheme to require that elected representatives resolve just such issues in the congress and be answerable to the people for the outcome.

And as Pierce says:

Why shouldn't C-Plus Augustus look upon the Constitution as little more than a Post-It note for his campaign? It's not like We, The People respect it that much any more. We -- and our representatives -- handed the Bill of Rights over to John Ashcroft for use as a bathmat, after allowing its provisions to be recast as "loopholes" in our jurisprudence and our popular culture for nearly 30 years. The fact that Congress has willingly deeded over its war powers to the executive -- apparently in perpetuity -- is treated as the natural order of things, and not as the towering constitutional heresy that it is. Let's not even get into the fact that any country that truly respected the Constitution would have taken Tony Scalia out for a walk years ago.



There is an undemocratic strain in the modern Republican party that gets stronger and stronger as the far right exerts its muscle. As I wrote here, on American Street, this is becoming a rather serious problem not only for Democrats who have long had to deal with this stubborn GOP unwillingness to compromise on anything, but for Karl Rove who is finding out just what a problem it is trying to govern when a large portion of the electorate insists upon moving further and further to the right every time you compromise or appease them. At some point, the country, moderate at heart, stops supporting such rightward actions and rebels.

This is what forces the GOP to nuclear options like constitutional amendments, violent demagoguery and impeachment. If you can't persuade a majority, and they can't, you end up trying to rule by force.

The far right wing is a very dangerous movement, as Dave Neiwert and others have laid out in such detail. I'm sorry that it took something this obviously bigoted to get someone like Sullivan's attention, but I'm glad it finally has.

However, the fact is that they have been willing to tinker with the constitution for purely political reasons for some time now. It's probably not a good idea to support that no matter who is on the receiving end. It's bad news for everyone.





 
Hubris


If they think it's a good idea to turn America's attention to the fact that Bush lied and exaggerrated and misled the American people on Iraq dozens of times on national television, in great detail, so be it. It's hard to make this president look even worse than he already does, but watching a bunch of blowhard GOP Senators try to explain his actions might just do it.


 
Awakening The Mook Vote

Billmon talks about Howard Stern's booting from six Clear Channel stations on Tuesday, ostensibly because of Stern's Stern's Tuesday broadcast in which they say he used sexually explicit language and graphically discussed a pornographic videotape. (He interviewed the man attached to the appendage in Paris Hilton's video.)

Understandably, that was the straw that broke the camel's back. I'm sure he's never before sunk so low as to feature an interview with someone in the (gasp) porn business.

Obviously, Clear Channel would never, ever try to censor someone for political reasons. That's just unthinkable. So, even though some people might think that his Monday broadcast was the real reason he was fired, they wouldn't be right. Clear Channel, home of Rush Limbaugh and Dr Laura, would never try to stifle free speech by firing someone who said something like this:

Howard: ...over the vacation I read Al Franken's book, Lying liars who... it's great.

Robin: Yeah?

Howard: It's a great... He is phenomenal.

Artie: He's a funny guy.

Robin: That's the one that Bill O'Reilly was upset about.

Howard: I can see why.

Robin: Yeah?

Howard: He does a thing. It's really funny... I bought the book, and I said on my vacation I'm going to read Al Franken's book. Lying liars who lie... I don't even know the title. And uh... the first page he insults me.

Robin: Really?

Howard: yeah, he talks about how I'm, like me and uhh Ann Coulter are McCarthyites or something... like ya know it's was just really insulting. And I And I And I And I just said, ya know...

Robin: You, and Ann Coulter, that's interesting.

Howard: I can get past this if Al doesn't like me. But, I'm not even sure why I'm like McCarthy, but, evidently I am, according to AL and ya know what, if Al says it it must be true because

Robin: because you loved this book and he was right on about everything...

Howard: I loved the book, and he seems to be right on about everything. If you read this book you will never vote for George W Bush.

Robin: Yeah?

Howard: Because, what he does is, he takes everything that you've seen in the newspaper, and goes back and he get 12 Harvard kids...

Artie: (Laughing)

Howard: ...to research everything and to find out what really happened...

Robin: uh huh?

Howard: and when you find out the truth about stuff, it is just frightening and he does a chapter on uhh on Hannity and Colmes from the Fox news network that is so funny... I mean I can't even tell you how funny it is.

Robin: Really? I've got to get this book.

Howard: Somebody outta fund him some money then let him make a movie like what's his name does, Micheal Moore.

Robin: Yeah.

Howard: Yeah. He is he is really good.

Robin: Well he's going to be on that radio, the liberal radio network.

Howard: I'll listen to him. I'll listen to him if it's as good as that book.

Robin; that's what he's planning to do

Howard: Lying liars who lie or something like that

Robin; I know it's all about lies that lying liars tell.

Howard: Yeah, and it's really funny.

Artie: Well he's one of those guys even if you disagree with his politics you think he's funny...

Howard: Yeah!

Artie: ...because he's such a funny guy

Robin: But he convinced you it sounds.

Howard: Oh oh... he was so it was awesome, the book is awesome. I'm going to give tone...

Robin: All right, I'm going to get it.

Howard: ...to Scott Depace who's like one of those guys who the republicans can do no wrong.

Fred: (Southern Accent) No thank you!

Howard: (Southern Accent) I'm not readin' that!

Fred: (Southern Accent) I'm not readin' nun uh dat der bull...

Robin: (Southern Accent) I don't want my mind opened.

Howard: (Southern Accent) Don't open up my mind.

Robin: (Southern Accent) I like it closed.

Howard: Well I've been feeling really horrible about George W Bush since what's going on with the FCC and what's going on in this country with stem cell research. What's going on now

Robin: the abortion thing

Howard: the abortion thing. I feel that there's way too much government in our lives, and I can't believe G W Bush is behind it. I think this guy is a religious fanatic and a Jesus freak.

Robin: Uh huh.

Howard: and he is just on a hell bent on getting some sort bizarro agenda through, like a country club agenda that his father will be finally proud of him. And uhh I I umm I don't know much about Kerry but I think that I'm one of them anybody but Bush guys now, ever since the FCC stuff went down and it directly effects me and even some of the things with the economy.

Baba Booey: Don't you think that it's weird...

Robin: Well, the economy is a big a huge issue.

Howard: I don't think G W is going to win. What do you think of that?


So, suddenly John Hogan, Bush Ranger and CEO of Clear Channel discovers that Howards Stern talks about pornography on his show and is offended.

The day after Stern made the above remarks.

Coincidence, I'm sure.

Billmon believes that Karl is orchestrating this and using Clear Channel as a cut-out to appeal to the religious fnatics who seem to be holding his hand over a flaming burner these days. He may be right.

But, he also says, and I agree, that they are playing with fire with another Bush constituency --- the "Fuck You boys," as Stan Greenberg calls them, or simply the "Mooks" as I call them. Young, white, male assholes, basically. If they vote, it's usually because they've been told to by their culture heroes.

The mooks worship Howard. He is their Rush Limbaugh and if he turns it into a crusade, they'll vote. These guys are amongst the vast alienated 50% of Americans who aren't usually interested in politics. Take away their Howard and they just might get motivated.

The mooks are unhappy.

Might I just mention before I get a slew of e-mails about what a misogynist jerk Howard Stern is, that I agree that he's a misogynist jerk but at this point I just can't get too worked up about it when Rush "Hitlery killed Vince Foster" Limbaugh is being feted at the White House and given a national forum in which to excuse his felonious money laundering and doctor shopping. If he has freedom of speech, then Stern has freedom of speech, period. And if Stern can bring in a few mook votes then I'm with him. I have no interest in playing purity games when this kind of blatent corporate/political gamesmanship is going on.

Furthermore, it's just a little bit galling that a violent, pornographic snuff film that features 15 minutes of big juicy close-ups of hunks of flesh flying off the human body as it is flogged with barbed whips is deemed appropriate for children by supposedly good Christians while they have a complete hissy fit over a 5 second long shot of Janet Jackson's nipple on television.

These people are intellectually incoherent and have no business lecturing anyone in this country about morality.


Corrected to reflect that the correct sadistic flesh gouging implement of the period was not barbed wire, but barbed whips.


Tuesday, February 24, 2004

 
Changing The Most Fundamental Institution Of Civilization

After more than two centuries of American jurisprudence and millennia of human experience, a few judges and local authorities are presuming to change the most fundamental institution of civilization. Their actions have created confusion on an issue that requires clarity.

[...]

The union of a man and woman is the most enduring human institution, honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith. Ages of experience have taught humanity that the commitment of a husband and wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society. Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society.

Government, by recognizing and protecting marriage, serves the interests of all. President George W. Bush



As all 6 of my readers know, I have not only written against gay marriage, but have also been a proponent of changing marriage back to its traditional meaning --- abduction of a woman and seizure of her family's property.

I'm sick and tired of people constantly chipping away at our most sacred institution. Contrary to what our Dear Leader said, while it is true that the human desire for sexual "union" of a man and a woman has been enduring (as well as the sexual union of a man and a man and a woman and woman and in Rick Santorum's case, a man and his dog), the human institution of marriage has been battered about by every culture and every religion like a ping pong ball. It must stop.

Therefore, I am deeply disappointed in our president's decision to back a mealy mouthed constitutional amendment defining "marriage" as just a "union" between a man and a woman that fails to reverse the enormous changes to our most sacred institution that have already taken place just in the last century! My God, does the man have no respect for tradition?

As I have written before, divorce, birth control, women's rights and interracial marriage were all proposed over the vociferous objections of advocates of traditional marriage like me and look where it has led. Now, the concept of marriage is so frayed that it is in danger of disappearing as an institution altogether if we allow gay people to partake. Meanwhile, George W. Bush does nothing to return the institution to its correct traditional moorings.

If we are going to start holding the line on marriage, it is only right that we take on divorce, at least. Certainly, none of the advocates of traditional marriage can argue that taking a succession of wives or husbands while your real wife or husband still lives, is a slap in the face of everything we know to be true about the sanctity of marriage. It's bigamy, actually. (Or trigamy, in the case of Newt Gingrich, which is coming damned close to polygamy or maybe even group sex. See where that slippery slope leads?)

Let's not kid ourselves. As good conservatives noted back in 1916 when they successfully turned back many of the divorce laws, divorce is largely a matter of selfishness on the part of women who refuse to acknowledge their "traditional" role as a second class citizen in the "fundamental institution of civilization." Let's not lose sight of these important insights again.

I will not be satisfied until marriage is at least restored to its traditional state as the following drawing from LIFE magazine in 1905 so aptly illustrates. (Note the clergyman wearing the policeman's hat)



The caption said: FOR THE CRIME OF MATRIMONY THERE SHALL BE NO ESCAPE


If George W. Bush continues on this cowardly road of the easy way out by simply outlawing gay marriage and civil unions, don't be surprised if the government, under inexorable societal pressures for change that just keep building and building as they always have, finds itself out of the marriage business all together as lawyers simply create property and "family" rights contracts for everyone, leaving the sacred, religious, cultural trappings of "traditional marriage" to the individual's religious beliefs.

Now, that would be even worse than "weakening the good influence of society." In fact it would likely spell the end of civilization as we know it.

Wouldn't it?






Update: The Daily Brew has some excellent ideas about who George W. Bush should select as the point men and women on the issue of the Sanctity of Marriage.



Monday, February 23, 2004

 
His teeth were there: Was he?

Yoo hoo. All of you Alabama National Guardsmen who hung around with GWB back in '72 but haven't come forward with the home movies and the polaroids of you and him together at the officer's club because nobody would make it worth your while, ---your time has come.

None other than Gary Trudeau has finally come up with some real money, 10 G's to be specific, for anyone who can prove he was Cap'n T-Ball's comrade in arms down there in 'Bama:

For the past twelve years, George W. Bush has had to endure charges that he didn't take the final two years of his Guard service as seriously as duty required. (For updated timeline, click here.) And the two witnesses who have come forward in support so far haven't exactly cleared things up. We at the Town Hall believe that with everything he has on his plate, Mr. Bush shouldn't have to contend with attacks on the National Guard, which is serving so bravely in Iraq. And we're willing to back up our support with cold, hard cash.

Granted, this has been tried before. In 2000, concerned veterans in both Texas and Alabama offered cash rewards to lure former guardmates of Mr. Bush into stepping forward, to no avail. The problem, in our view, was that these enticements weren't serious enough, that the sums offered were insulting. In contrast, we at the DTH&WP respect how inconvenient it can be to subject yourself to worldwide media scrutiny in general, and Fox News in particular, and are thus prepared to sweeten previous offers by a factor of five. That's right, we're offering $10,000 cash! Yours to either spend or invest in job creation. All you have to do is definitively prove that George W. Bush fulfilled his duty to country.



Gary Trudeau is a top one percenter. He doesn't want to see those tax cuts rescinded. Scratch his back and he'll scratch yours.





 
Go Knowles!


Atrios hosts guest blogger Tony Knowles, Democratic candidate for the Senate in Alaska. I am an ex-Alaskan and have close ties to the state and I can tell you that this is a good guy. This seat is a definite possibility for a Dem pick-up in the Senate (hopefully to balance out the loss of Kerry or Edwards.) Governor Murkowski appointing his daughter to replace him in the Senate and attempting to curtail the yearly stipend the state confers on each citizen has made it a real contest for what should be a safe GOP seat. Knowles is an attractive and popular ex-Governor. He has a real shot.

I must warn everyone, however, that Alaska is a red state and Knowles is likely to be one of those Senators who will be called a "tu-tu" wearing, cowardly, Republican-lite Democrat on certain issues. Alaska is dependent upon federal largesse and is well cared for by Senate appropriations chieftain Ted Stevens. Military spending is a huge part of the economy. Every Alaskan gets a check each year from the oil companies' payments to the state "permanent fund." It is also one of the few states that routinely elects libertarian legislators to the state house and has no state income tax (for now.) Alaskans see themselves as rugged individualists living in the last frontier. Go figure.

So, if Knowles wins, I wouldn't expect him to be a Paul Wellstone Democrat. He'll likely vote for opening the wildlife refuge --- Alaskans want it badly. He is supported by oil companies because oil companies are the biggest and richest companies in Alaska and all successful politicians are supported by oil companies there. And, he's not going to be somebody who will vote against military spending or gun rights either.

But, he won't support right wing attacks on civil liberties, fascist judges or tax cuts for billionaires. He'll support President Kerry or Edwards and if Bush somehow makes it he will vote to block the worst of Bush and DeLay's excesses. He is not Zell Miller.

Still, I think that everyone should recognise that he may end up being one of those awful turn-coat Dems on some important issues if he wins. His constituency is very different from Barbara Boxer's. But, he is a Democrat. And at this point we've got to support Anyone But Republicans. (ABB and ABR are my watchwords. The problem is Institutional Power, folks. The Republican party has shown that they cannot be trusted with it.)

Knowles is a middle of the road guy. But he's our middle of the road guy and we should support him.




 
At Our Peril


It appears that most of the left blogosphere is on the same page in that we should simply ignore Nader's candidacy. After some thought, I was going to agree, in spite of my post below, until I realized that I had been linked to Dean for America and Kos threads where I found the lost spirit of those Deaniacs who sent me loving e-mails and comments a couple of months ago. And once again I was reminded of how much the Dean campaign had at times reminded me of the 2000 Nader candidacy, especially the earnestness and often blind passion for the cause.

I don't know if this will wear off, but I have a suspicion that a fair number of hard core true believer Deaniacs, especially those for whom the cause was really about "taking the Party back," are susceptible to Nader's message. In fact, it would not surprise me to find that a larger number of Nader voters from 2000 had signed on to the Dean campaign than any other candidacy. Of course, since no data exists to back up this claim, just as no data exists to back up the now apparently certain belief than Dean brought hoardes of new voters to the system, I cannot prove it. Regardless, the arguments, emotion and committment have long seemed to me to be related:


Fellow bloggers: I just listened to Ralph Nader on Meet the Press, and he reminds me of why I am interested in politics in the first place. Ralph is a national hero. He is a hero for what he has done for all his causes over the years, especially on the environment. And he is a hero in my book for standing against the corporate interests that rule our country, rule our media, and run both the Democratic and Republican partys.

I agree with every word he said today, and I will vote for him in November.

My sincere hope is that many Howard Dean supporters around the nation will feel as I do, that a vote for Kerry / Edwards is a vote for politics as usual. Howard Dean averaged 15% voter support in the primaries contested so far. If we all threw our support to Ralph Nader it would send shock waves through the political world, on both sides of the divide. It would begin to change politics as usual.

Let's dream a little.



It is true that on these threads many Dean supporters are forcefully arguing against Nader (hence the link to my post below.) I am not suggesting that Dean voters are a monolith. However, it is obvious to me that the only Democratic candidate out there who has mobilized people for '04 who might switch to Nader is Dean. Kucinich's backers may also be tempted, but because Kucinich has not made a fetish of attacking the political system in the terms that both Nader and Dean employ, I don't think his followers are motivated by the same things. Indeed, Kucinich voters are the true blue liberals in terms of policy and philosophy and Kucinich himself is the living embodiment of liberal politics working within the system, as Paul Wellstone was in the Senate.

I don't know how many possible Dean-to-Nader folks exist. I suspect not very many. However, I still believe that despite Bush's precipitous dip in the polls, this election will end up being very close. Bush is weak, but his organization and war chest are not. And, he has the power of incumbency to shape events in ways that we can only dream of. For all the Democrats' motivation, and it is formidable, I believe that it is more than equally matched by the Republicans' desire to hang on to power. We're going to need every single vote.

So I don't believe that Nader is necessarily irrelevant. After all, the GOP has more than a couple of hundred million burning a hole in their pockets. They can easily siphon off a few to help Nader in selected close swing states and we could be in deep shit. I think it's a very, very good bet (to coin a phrase) "that's exactly what they're gonna do."

Therefore, I'm standing by my call for Dean to use his clout with the anti-establishment grassroots to make the case against Nader. Despite what some of my commenters say, I can't see what Dean is going to do during the rest of this campaign that is more important (although I'm certainly willing to listen if anyone has ideas about what it might be.)

This may be a different time, but if anything the Republicans are even stronger institutionally than they were in 2000. We have to fight them on all fronts. It is stupid to leave anything to chance.

We ignore Nader at our peril.




Saturday, February 21, 2004

 
Howard Dean Is The Right Man For The Job


As Howard Dean retools his campaign into a grassroots organization and searches for the best way to launch it, might I suggest that he consider taking on Ralph Nader, as Michael Tomasky suggested he do last summer?

Dean has the most grassroots credibility of any Democrat in the country and could make a huge contribution by doing exactly what Tomasky prescribed:

Attack Nader right now, and with lupine ferocity. Say he's a madman for thinking of running again. Blast him especially hard on foreign policy, saying that if it were up to the Greens [him], America would give no aid to Israel and it would cease to exist, and if it were up to the Greens [him], America would not have even defended itself against a barbarous attack by going into Afghanistan. Have at him, and hard, from the right. Then nail him from the left on certain social issues, on abortion rights and other things that he's often pooh-poohed and dismissed as irrelevant. Cause an uproar. Be dramatic. Don't balance it with praise about what he's done for consumers. To the contrary, talk about how much he's damaging consumers today by not caring who's in charge of the Food and Drug Administration or the Federal Communications Commission.


Dean is the best guy to take on the man who said "there isn't a dime's worth of difference" between the parties, because he's the guy who's been running against the establishment and holds the hearts many of the people who might be inclined to listen to Nader's message. When the guy who called Wes Clark and John Kerry Republicans takes on Nader, disaffected liberals know it's not because he's in the tank. He's no DC dupe.

By using his credibility and prestige in the single most important goal we Democrats have --- beating George W. Bush, he would also bring this party together at a crucial time. He would become the indispensible voice of conscience for the Party, and gain the gratitude and profound respect of all of us.


Thanks to Matt Yglesias for the Tomasky link.




 
Rigged!

Congratulations

...to all the "winners."

Unlike The Poorman and others of the pissing and moaning variety, I have much too much class to contest the results even though all evidence suggests that I didn't win because my legions of fans were disenfranchised by that lying and cheating trial lawyer, Dwight "Diebold" Meredith.

Perhaps some of you are unaware that there are quite a few older bloggers who complained after the fact that they may have voted for Little Green Footballs by mistake because of the bad ballot design. It's difficult to prove, of course, but really, what are the odds that LGF would get more than 100 votes from the Berkeley Bloggers Collective? I'm just asking.

And I suppose it's best if we just forget about the fact that many lefty readers were purged from the blogrolls and e-mail lists before the vote. It's just another little coincidence, I'm sure. Like the fact that everybody voted for "Atrios", the psuedonymous Sonny Perdue of the left blogosphere again even though the exit polls had him losing to both Kos and Calpundit by a huge margin. Right. Must have been another case of failed exit polling. Uh huh.

I don't suppose it had anything to do with the fact that his campaign manager Marybeth "dimpled chad" Williams certified the vote and is now conveniently running for office and getting endorsed by the "big man" himself. Nah. No connection there.

But, I won't mention any of this because I'm not bitter like some others. I am going to Get Over It. But, might I just suggest that we require a paper trail next year?

Update: I would have thought Elayne would be happy enough with the title of the post, but there is no pleasing some people. She should GOI, if you ask me....


 
Losing the Brakes

In "a nation without brakes" Kevin over at The Tooney Bin notes an important talking point to make among your GOP friends at the water cooler: Colin Powell is checking out after this term.

This article discusses the frustrations of the bloodthirsty chickenhawk neocon contingent with the State department, but offers up a startling admission from a right wing think tanker (whom I'm sure is pulling splinters out of his posterior as we speak):

"State has very valuable things to say to the rest of us," said John Hulsman, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank. "They're the listening posts overseas. They make the personal contacts; they know the foreign leaders' quirks and weaknesses."

Hulsman described himself as "more amused than annoyed" by the department's weaknesses. He also isn't bothered by its reluctance to always follow the Pentagon's wishes.

"Nobody likes hitting the brake," he said. "But aren't we glad there's one on a car?"


That's sort of odd, when you think about it. Is "hitting the brake" considered something to like or dislike? Do people wish they could just drive until their cars run out of gas on the side of the road? Or would they be glad if their destination were ordained by where their car ended up? The truth is that a car is undrivable unless it has brakes. It's not really an option. But I digress into a metaphor that is rapidly losing even me...

As Kevin notes in his post, the issue isn't whether Powell really provides any brakes. After his ignominious appearance before the UN, he pretty much flushed his credibility down the toilet. But, according to Fox news the public hasn't quite caught on to that fact. Powell still holds a 75% approval rating, 20% higher than the resident.

I think it is useful to continuously and relentlessly shine the light on the "grown-ups" who are handling Bush, whether it's the "good" ones like Powell who will be leaving or the bad ones like Cheney who are clinging to power. Nobody, not even Peggy Nooner, believes that Junior is really in charge of anything. Even the most die hard Republicans get a little worried at the thought of him behind the wheel with no brakes.

This is, after all, the mental giant who said just this week:

"I flew fighters when I was in the Guard, and I like speed," he said. "It would've been fun to drive up on these banks. ... I'd like to, but I'm afraid the agents wouldn't let me."


I think we can all agree that it's long past time for a brake job. In fact, the automobile of state needs a complete overhaul.


Update: Kevin writes in with the question of who might replace Powell if T-Ball erases his asterisk and actually wins the office. I think they will consider an '04 win to be a total validation of their actions thus far and will become even more aggressively radical than they already are.

Which means that this guy may very well be brought back from the dead to "reform" the State department.

That's when you start to think about stuff like fall out shelters and big cold, northern countries.



Friday, February 20, 2004

 
New Feed

My former site feed went kerflooey. New one at left, via blogger.





 
Buy Your Own President!

Via Cursor, I read about these exciting plans to showcase the GOP as the party of diversity in NYC during the Republican National Convention.

Harris wants the GOP to venture into the outer boroughs. He’s eyeing Flushing Meadows Park in Queens as a possible venue, and is exploring events in the city’s diverse ethnic neighborhoods. The idea is that the sight of Republicans mingling with New Yorkers of all hues will project an image of a new, inclusive GOP to a national audience.

“I fully expect to have events all around New York,” Harris says. “It’s an opportunity to show the country, and the world, what the Republican Party is all about.”


Haha. Good luck. I have the feeling that if the Democrats and the Left in general play this one right, that they can show the world what the Republican Party is really all about.

For instance, the NY Times reports today about a great strategy that I think will entertain and fascinate the media if activists can pull it off with humor and panache:

At one point, as hundreds of guests with invitations waited to pass through velvet barriers to enter the club, a small group of men in bowler hats and women in gowns marched up, chanting, "Four more wars" and "Re-elect Rove."

As the group approached, a man who appeared to be a security agent of some type, was overheard whispering into a microphone: "We've got two groups. One for and one against."

Actually, it was two against. The person was confused by a group that calls itself Billionaires for Bush, a collection of activists who use satire to make a political point. Indeed, members of the Sierra Club, who were protesting on the other side of the street were also confused and began shouting at what they thought was a pro-Bush contingent.

" We want the truth and we want it now!" the Sierra protesters shouted.

The billionaires shouted back, "Buy your own president!"

It took a few minutes, but the police finally realized what was going on when they escorted the group behind the blue barricades as well. Still, the show was not over. A black town car pulled up and out stepped a man whom who the crowd assumed to be Mr. Rove. "There is Karl Rove," people shouted.

Reporters, photographers and television cameramen swarmed the man, but the police pushed them back. Another man lifted the velvet rope to let him enter. But the would-be Mr. Rove walked over to the crowd of protesters and began shaking hands, when finally, again, this was seen to be a joke. It was not Mr. Rove, but an actor playing the part.

Each of the groups has said it planned to stage similar events when the Republican National Convention comes to New York City from Aug. 30 through Sept. 2.


I remember that some activists did a similar thing to protest a Cheney speech in San Francisco where they had a Cheney impersonator shake hands and entertain the crowd. Even the cops were laughing, asking "Mr. Vice President" to stay behind the lines.

Over on TAPPED today, Tara McKelvey links to a Reuters story that reports on "a group of activists from the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign are planning to host "reality bus tours" of local slums during the Republican convention. They’re also going to build a tent city. It'll be called Bushville, of course."

Perhaps as part of their desire to project an "image of a new, inclusive GOP," the convention planners would like to stage one of those exciting events there to show "Republicans mingling with New Yorkers of all hues."

Humor can be a powerful weapon. Especially when the convention itself will be nothing but a bunch of boring windbags telling lie after lie. A little counter programming is definitely in order.



 
The Wrong Study

In One Short Half Hour Republicans twisted themselves into a preznit pretzel and managed to prove the point that all those dumb old scientists were making:


BEGALA: Well, more than 60 leading scientists, including 20 Nobel Prize winners, today said that the Bush administration has -- quote -- "misrepresented scientific knowledge and misled the public about the implications of its policies" -- unquote.

The group includes scholars from both political parties, who say President Bush and his team systematically distort science in order to serve Mr. Bush's political agenda on issues ranging from nuclear weapons to biomedical research to the environment to health.

So, now we know George W. Bush misled us about the war in Iraq. He misled us about the environment, about health care, about science. He certainly misled us about the deficit, jobs and his tax cut. Of course, don't forget his many fibs about his National Guard service. Of course, Mr. Bush's defenders do have an important point. He never lied about Monica Lewinsky. And isn't that really what matters?


CARLSON: Actually, there were not 20 Nobel Prize winners. There were about...

BEGALA: Yes, there were.

CARLSON: Actually, I checked. They were about half that.

BEGALA: So it's only Ten Nobel Prize winners.

CARLSON: It's something called the Union of Concerned Scientists, which is a left-wing and completely discredited, utterly partisan group.

BEGALA: It's totally bipartisan.

CARLSON: No, no.

BEGALA: One of the members worked in the

BEGALA: ... for two Republican presidents.

CARLSON: Right, worked in the Nixon administration. Right. That's exactly right. It is completely partisan. That's why your alert contained not a single specific example of what -- how George Bush had subverted science, because there aren't any. Go on the Web site.



All those scientists are bloodthirsty leftist partisans who clearly don't know what they are talking about. George W. Bush has never subverted science. For instance, the Bush team would never encourage his people to stop using the methods and models to measure economic activity that have been used by the government for decades. They would never say that it was permissable to substitute completely different measurements, having the effect of comparing apples to oranges, in order to give the impression that they are successful when the standard surveys reveal that his policies are miserable failures. That, after all, would fall under the definition of "subverting science" and there is simply no proof that they have ever done such a thing.



BEGALA: I want to bring Mr. Forbes in, because I do want to focus on the promises that President Bush has made.

[...]

BEGALA: But shouldn't he be held accountable for his promises?

FORBES: Even he misunderestimated the damage you guys did to the economy.

BEGALA: Oh, those 24 million jobs we created?

FORBES: All short-term oriented, all short-term oriented. And now the president, as soon as he took office, he reduced tax rates, put in incentives, coped with the disaster of 9/11.

Today, we are creating jobs. There are 2.5 million more jobs today in the United States than there were when he took office, when you look at the right survey of measuring these things. And now we're on track again.

BEGALA: What survey is that?

[...]

SPERLING: But, Steve, we're down 2.9 million sector private -- private-sector jobs since he came into office. Let's forget the recession. Let's forget 9/11. Since the recession ended, we're down a million. Steve, our are standards

FORBES: You're looking at the wrong survey. You're looking at the payroll -- you're looking at ... You're looking at the payroll survey.

SPERLING: I'm looking at what everybody has always looked at and regarded as the most significant survey.

FORBES: You're looking at the wrong thing.

SPERLING: Steve, Steve...

FORBES: As a journalist, Paul, you shouldn't look at what everyone else looks at.


Tuckie? Hello?


Update: Maybe it's better to simply redefine what a job is. For instance, the administration indicates that burger flipping could soon be classified as a "manufacturing" job. That must be where those 2.6 long-term jobs that Steve Forbes says Bush has created are...

Meanwhile, cashing tax free dividend checks is now classified as a job, as is eating dinner and watching the Paris Hilton video on your private plane. Bush has created more jobs than any president in history.


 
They Don't Like It

Atrios quotes Minority Whip, Hammer "hot tub" Delay saying:

Americans "have been tolerant of homosexuality for years, but now it's being stuffed down their throats and they don't like it." DeLay said.


Hmmm. What evocative and detailed images these good Christians use when they talk about gay rights. It's all "man-on-dog" and something "stuffed down their throats" and "being forced to take it."

Where do you suppose these disturbing thoughts come from, anyway?

It's always possible that they make their way into the minds of these fine upstanding Republicans at those junkets put on by their contributors AOL/Time Warner and Comcast, the nation's biggest purveyors of on-line and PPV pornography. But, that's just a guess. It could just as easily be those regular "fact-finding" missions over at the Justice Department where they all annoint themselves in consecrated Crisco and sit around sifting through the evidence in Ashcroft's new war on obscenity.

It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.




 
Oh No! They're Calling Him a Hypocrite!

Here they go. Kerry's Past to Star in Bush's Ads

The beauty of John Kerry is 32 years of votes and public pronouncements," said Mark McKinnon, the chief media adviser. McKinnon suggested a possible tag line: "He's been wrong for 32 years, he's wrong now."


I sure hope they use that one because the response is so obvious.

"32 years ago John Kerry was a highly decorated Naval officer testifying before congress about the unjustified war he fought in halfway across the world. At that very same time, George W. Bush was dodging responsibility and wasting the taxpayers money in Texas and Alabama doing who knows what. He kept doing that for 32 years and he's doing it now."

I love the fact that they have resuscitated the concept of hypocrisy just in time to use it against John Kerry. But, there is some danger in it. After all, we have a cowboy president who can't ride a horse, a wartime president who took many special favors to get out of Vietnam, a businessman president who failed at every single venture he ever went near, a moral leader who sanctions putting the lives of CIA agents in danger for political reasons, a Commander in Chief who took the country into an elective war under false pretenses and a fiscal conservative who has created the biggest deficits in American history and the worst job creation record since Herbert Hoover.

Yes. I think hypocrisy is a fine charge to hit John Kerry with. I'm sure it's deserved. Politics is not an endeavor for the pure of heart and motive. However, hypocrisy is such a sissy little word when you can respond with muscular words like fraud, fake, phony, corrupt, crooked, unethical, unprincipled, manipulable and criminal.

Bring it on, fellas. This isn't our first time at the rodeo.

Oh, and memo to John Kerry: I can't find the $%^!!! link, but I recently read that he was telling anyone who will listen that he won't "cut and run" in Iraq "like his father did." I think the entire Iraq issue is wrapped up in some kind of freakish oedipal complex for him and it is probably a good idea to taunt him about it as much as possible. These guys get apoplectic when they are challenged and it leads them to make mistakes. Don't hold back.


Update: South Knox Bubba has more, saying (as only can) the irony drips like bar-b-cue sauce from the chin of a county ward heeler at a GOP tent revival." What an image...





Thursday, February 19, 2004

 
Harpy Valentine

Sommerby recounts a truly sickening exchange by erstwhile Dukakis campaign manager and now all around backbiting harpy, Susan Estrich, commenting on the Kerry non-scandal. I honestly don't know how this obviously very financially desperate woman sleeps at night, but if you can set aside her unbearable voice long enough to hear what she is saying, you will find something interesting in her foul screech:

ESTRICH: Right. And the story got out, does John Kerry have, as we Democrats like to call it, a Clinton problem? And if it weren't for Clinton, it probably wouldn't be an issue. It didn't make it to Fox News. [sic!] It didn't make it to a lot of the mainstream media. But if you look at the election season, you see the jitters that happen along the elite can translate to voters really quickly. So what I've been hearing in the last week, and it remains to be seen, maybe this was all a Republican dirty trick. Maybe there's no truth to it.

But I think one of the factors that may have been playing in Wisconsin was the jitteriness among primary voters that maybe we don't know everything we need to know. If there is any truth to this, we don't want to go down this road again, particularly when we have got a situation with John Kerry where he doesn't have a wife of 30 years who's going to stand by her man, like Hillary did or Maria Shriver did. When we have this more complex situation where his wife has said I will maim him if I catch him cheating. That got Democrats nervous.


I had actually noticed something like she describes in comments sections around the left blogosphere and it kind of disturbed me. If the Lucianne clique's idea was to make Dems nervous we sure didn't disappoint. I could hear her and Drudge and Coulter cackling fiendishly all the way from DC to Santa Monica.

Democrats have got to get over their fear of the Clenis, just as the GOP needs a lot of therapy to relieve themselves of their obsession with it. As far as I know, every Democrat still running for President has a penis and has used it a time or two. The Right compulsively ruminates about this because it makes them all tingly in certain parts of their usually flaccid bodies. They are going to keep talking about it and enjoying the feelings it gives them and there isn't much we can do about it. Look at the way G. Gordon Liddy swooned over the rather insignificant and embarrassing junior codpiece that lil' Cap'n T-Ball sports.

There is no reason for us to get nervous about this. It's just part of the show. Unless we nominate a sanctimonious homunculous like Joe Lieberman it's going to happen. They have a little insecurity problem that even sending young men and women in uniform out to fight useless wars apparently cannot erase. It's best to let them fiddle and fidget under their Brooks Brothers and Talbots without comment.






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