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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, September 21, 2004

 
Tin Foil Freakshow

On Hardball just now, Ben Ginsberg just claimed that Barnes, the NY Times, the Boston Globe, CBS, Joe Lockhart and Terry McAuliffe coordinated the memos story and the liberal media just isn't giving it the kind of scrutiny they gave the Swift Boat story.

Chris asked whether this controversy now means that the public should also be skeptical of the media's Iraq reporting going forward.

Deborah Orin made the important point that the bloggers who "exposed" the forgeries also are very skeptical of the reporting on Iraq so perhaps that should be a lesson for all of us.

Advantage: Idiots




 
Masterdebator

Ezra has it right on the debates.

We know he beat the friendly, funny, charismatic Weld. But what's rarely noted is that he also beat John Edwards in the series of one-on-one debates they held at the end of the primary. Edwads came off as nicer and funnier, sure, but he lacked the gravitas and policy knowledge of Kerry. I watched those confrontations expecting to vote for Edwards, but got up from the couch a Kerry supporter. It was clear to me then, as it is now, that the empathy and charm that pols like Edwards and Clinton possess are not applicable to elections fought on serious, scary ground. As I've said before, Bush only won (and he didn't even do that) in 2000 because the country was at peace and the economy was doing well, voters were unconcerned and thus won over by the friendlier, funnier candidate -- that was a popularity contest. But in a time when voters want serious leaders who demonstrate competence, strength and judgment, Bush's glib moralizing and self-effacing jokes are not going to save him. In contrast, Kerry's boring wonkishness and obvious thoughtfulness (not to mention his 4-inch height advantage -- two of the debates are standing) just might.



I sincerely hope that's true. I also think that this time the press may just be a bit less likely to fall back on their script simply because the Iraq story seems to be heating up as we go into the stretch. They used the press conference today to talk almost exclusively about Iraq and didn't mention the CBS nonsense.

I can't believe there is any question that Kerry will beat Bush in the debates when it's obvious that your average ten year old would beat him. But we have to take into account the press corpse which seems to adore his incoherent blather and buy into the idea that making sense is secondary to winning debates than presenting a manufactured regular guy image. So, it's always possible that in spite of what we all see with our eyes, we will be told that Bush won the debate because Kerry was too tall or something. But, I'm hopeful that the electorate is a bit more serious than last time and will see the contrast between a man of real substance and an empty suit.

I do think that Ezra took Atrios and Yglesias a bit too literally. I think their gnashing of teeth about Bush's great strength in the town hall format was a little tongue in cheek exercise in lowering expectations. Nobody really believes that Bush is good in debates, but the game requires that you set up Kerry as a big loser in order to defy expectations. Politics is so dumb these days.




 
Why Should I?

40 percent of Army reservists fail to report to Fort Jackson

COLUMBIA--Only about 60 percent of reservists ordered to report to Fort Jackson have reported so far, Army officials said.

As of Tuesday, 186 of the 309 members of the Individual Ready Reserve ordered to report to the Columbia base had arrived, said Lt. Col. Burton L. Masters, spokesman for the Army's Human Resources Command.

"We're not surprised by those numbers at all," Masters said.

Most of those who have not reported are seeking exemptions from active duty or delays in reporting, he said.

Those who have not reported or applied for a delay or exemption will be considered deserters if they do not show up within seven days of the date they were told to report for duty, Masters said.

"We are going to go the extra mile to work with people," he said. "But if they don't report, the Army will track them down."

Troops subject to the recall have been on active duty but have not completed their eight-year obligation to the Army.

The Army said 5,600 individual reservists were being recalled to active duty; 4,500 were to report to Fort Jackson. However, orders have been cut for only 3,667 of the soldiers to return to active duty, Masters said.


Many people believe that the fact that the president went AWOL during his time in the National Guard has set a bad example for those he has called to serve in Iraq today. They fail to see why they should be forced to do something the president used his influence and connections to avoid.

One Republican has spoken out:

The President's actions have had an intangible and coercive impact upon military personnel. To turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to it would be shame on us. The question soldiers and sailors ask is: I took an oath to swear to tell the truth. And I also took an oath to uphold the Constitution. How can this President take the same oath and not be truthful and remain in office? If I were to have done what the President did, I would be court-martialed.

You see, we also have to recognize that each of the services are recruiting young people all across the Nation. At boot camp they infuse these young people with the moral values of honor, courage and commitment, and they're teaching self-restraint, discipline and self- sacrifice. Military leaders are required to provide a good example to those young recruits, yet when they look up the chain of command, all the way to the Commander in Chief, they see a double standard at the top. Again, it is the President that sets the tone and tenor in the military, just as he does for law enforcement.

I believe the President has violated this sacred trust between the leaders and those of whom he was entrusted to lead. I also spoke in my presentation that it was the President's self-inflicted wounds that have called his own credibility into question not only in his decisionmaking process, but with regard to security policies.


Oh wait. Pardon me. That was House Manager Steven Buyers speaking before the Senate during president Clinton's impeachment trial. A president getting a blow job obviously sets a very bad example for the troops. But, running out on your own military committment and then sending men and women to fight in a useless war overseas is a perfectly fine example and nobody in the military should ever think otherwise. My bad.




 
Makeup to Breakup

This article pretends that the reason the campaigns insisted on having their own makeup people for the debates is because of Richard Nixon's five o'clock shadow, but the real reason is that in the last debates somebody sabotaged Al Gore by making him look like a circus freak on national television. I've always been curious as to how that happened. I'm glad to see that the Kerry campaign isn't taking any chances.

It's also not surprising that the Bush team agreed seeing as how they must have makeup special effects professionals close at all times to cover Junior's many pratfalls flat on his face.




 
Dreams and Visions

I just had the strangest dream. I thought I saw a president who spoke in complete sentences, in great detail, in direct response to questions posed to him in a press conference. It was bizarre and freakish. It made me feel fevered and nostalgic for some reason.

Then I heard a president talk about the pessimistic National Intelligence Estimate. He explained, "The CIA laid out several scenarios. It said that life could be lousy, life could be OK, life could be better. And they were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like," he said. "The Iraq citizens are defying the pessimistic predictions."

I realized that I was not sleeping and our waking nightmare is still ongoing.

Still, it was nice to dream of what might be if we had a president who was sentient and aware --- how much more secure we would all feel with someone in charge who is in control of his faculties. Someone who wasn't living in a fantasy world. It would be such a relief.




 
OhMyGoodness

New York Post :

The hot rumor in New York political circles has Roger Stone, the longtime GOP activist, as the source for Dan Rather's dubious Texas Air National Guard "memos."

The irony would be delicious, since Rather became famous confronting President Nixon, in whose service a very young Stone became associated with political "dirty tricks."

Reached at his Florida home, Stone had no comment.


Well, it certainly wouldn't be the first time ole Rog has been called upon to do a little dirty work. He was one of the original ratfuckers back in the day. I wrote about Stone back in August of 2003. Here's just one of his more recent forays into dirty tricks:

What the world watched was a G.O.P. melee. When Geller walked out of the room with a sample ballot, the crowd accused him of stealing a real one and responded as if he had just nabbed a baby for its organs. Geller says he was pushed by two dozen protesters screaming, "I'm gonna take you down!" Luis Rosero, a Democratic observer, claims he was punched and kicked. Republicans dispute the charges, but video cameras caught scenes of activism that had morphed into menace. The organizers in the RV outside, who G.O.P. protesters have told Time were led by hardball Washington strategist Roger Stone, had phone banks churning out calls to Miami Republicans, urging them to storm downtown. (Stone could not be reached for comment.)


I have no doubt that he could have done this. And, by the standard of proof set forth over the past 12 years by Chris Vlasto, Jeff Gerth, Susan Schmidt, Ceci Connolly, Brit Hume, Judith Miller, Howell Raines, Lisa Myers, Jackie Judd, Dan Rather, John Stossell, Chris Matthews, Paula Zahn, Bill O'Reilly, Fred Barnes, and all the rest of our news media, that makes it worthy of endless hours of speculation and long in-depth articles about his past quoting many unnamed sources saying that he's guilty. Bring it on.




 
Smart Polls

Today DonkeyRising features a study by Alan Abramowitz that shows the ARG September poll was was highly accurate in the the 2000 election ---- certainly far more accurate than the wildly up and down Gallup poll.

They've just released the first 20 states of their 50 state poll for this year. Unsurprisingly it shows what we all know to be true. The reds are red and the blues are blue --- and it's going to be a street fight in the purple states.

Here's the ARG web site.




 
Deja Vu Vu

This passage from "Citizen Perot" by Gerald Posner reminds us that where there's a Bush campaign, there are often strange Texans wielding information and evidence that blows back on the ones who fall for it:

IN JULY 1992, Ross Perot hastily called a press conference to announce he was dropping out of the presidential race. He reentered the race on Oct. 1 and, through infomercials and solid performances in the presidential debates, soon approached 20% in the polls. Then he made a decision that stopped his momentum cold: he agreed to a 60 Minutes interview to present the "real reason" for his earlier withdrawal.

On Sunday, Oct.25, he told startled viewers he had pulled out after receiving "multiple reports" that there was a Republican plot to embarrass his daughter by disrupting her summer wedding, and that there was also a plan to distribute a computerized false photo of his daughter. After the show Perot was widely ridiculed, and many believed his reasons were bogus.

Some aspects of this scandal have long been known, yet the details were always murky. The full account, now available, reveals that while Perot did have some basis for his bizarre charge, he appears to have relied on sources of dubious credibility. The episode provides insights into the behind-the-scenes intrigue of political campaigns, as well as painting a disturbing portrait of FBI incompetence.


Read the whole thing. It's very reminiscent of the bizarre tales we've been reading about these last few days. Funny that.




 
The Big Mea Culpa

Tim Grieve at Salon.com thinks that Dan Rather may have inadvertantly provided the template for the speech we've all been waiting for George W. Bush to give:

I no longer have the confidence in the intelligence that led me to take our country to war. I find I have been misled on the key question of whether Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. That, combined with the complete lack of evidence that Saddam Hussein had any role in the attacks of Sept. 11, leads me to a point where — if I knew then what I know now — I would not have started a war in Iraq, and I certainly would not have done so if I'd known that more than a thousand U.S. troops and thousands more Iraqi citizens would be killed in the process.

"But I did start the war. I made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry. It was an error that was made, however, in good faith and in the spirit of trying to make America safer.

"Please know that nothing is more important to me than people's trust in my ability and my commitment to keeping America safe. "



As Grieve points out, all it would take is a very little bit of cutting and pasting on Microsoft Word and Junior could show that he has as much integrity as Dan Rather.







Monday, September 20, 2004

 
Chapter Two

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Washington, DC--Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie issued the following statement on CBS’s admission today that memos regarding the President’s National Guard service are not real.

“We accept CBS's apology for a breach of the journalistic standards that provide the American people confidence in news organizations, but some disturbing questions remain unanswered.

“CBS has now answered questions about the authenticity of the documents but questions remain surrounding who created the documents, who provided them to CBS and if Senator Kerry's supporters, Party committee, or campaign played any role.

“Did Bill Burkett, Democrat activist and Kerry campaign supporter, who passed information to the DNC, work with Kerry campaign surrogate Max Cleland? Did Bill Burkett's talks with ‘senior’ Kerry campaign officials include discussions of the now discredited documents? Was the launch of the Democrat National Committee's Operation Fortunate Son designed with knowledge of the faked forged memos? Terry McAuliffe said yesterday that no one at the DNC or Kerry campaign, ‘had anything to do with the preparations of the documents,’ but what about the distribution or dissemination?

“In an effort to regain the trust of the American people CBS should not only investigate the process that led to the use of these documents but they should identify immediately those engaged in possible criminal activity who attempted to use a news organization to affect the outcome of a Presidential election in its closing days.”


This is where it's going folks and the cable-whores are eating it up with a spoon tonight. Look for congressional and justice department investigations (maybe a grand jury) and nightly ratcheting up of leaks and speculation on the gasbags shows. They may even call the Barbizon School of blond former prosecutors up from the minors for this one. That's how these trumped up Wurlitzer frenzies work. I could write the narrative in my sleep.

Here's a little parlor game for everyone. Let's assume that I'm right and this story is rapidly shifting to a "whodunnit in the Kerry campaign." What should Kerry's strategy be and what should the surrogates do on the cable shoutfests to get ahead of this?






 
Rigged

Following up my post below on the new stepped up Justice department efforts to root out Democratic voters and throw out the votes of those who do manage to vote, Jeffrey Toobin has an article in the New Yorker on the same subject. Jesus, it's going to be tough to win this one even if we win this one. It's not just the voting machines:

On October 8, 2002, Attorney General Ashcroft stood before an invited audience in the Great Hall of the Justice Department to outline his vision of voting rights, in words that owed much to the rhetoric used by L.B.J. and Lincoln. “The right of citizens to vote and have their vote count is the cornerstone of our democracy—the necessary precondition of government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” Ashcroft told the group, which included several veteran civil-rights lawyers.

The Attorney General had come forward to launch the Voting Access and Integrity Initiative, whose name refers to the two main traditions in voting-rights law. Voter-access efforts, which have long been associated with Democrats, seek to remove barriers that discourage poor and minority voters; the Voting Rights Act itself is the paradigmatic voter-access policy. The voting-integrity movement, which has traditionally been favored by Republicans, targets fraud in the voting process, from voter registration to voting and ballot counting. Despite the title, Ashcroft’s proposal favored the “integrity” side of the ledger, mainly by assigning a federal prosecutor to watch for election crimes in each judicial district. These lawyers, Ashcroft said, would “deter and detect discrimination, prevent electoral corruption, and bring violators to justice.”

[...]

Von Spakovsky, a longtime activist in the voting-integrity cause, has emerged as the Administration’s chief operative on voting rights. Before going to Washington, he was a lawyer in private practice and a Republican appointee to the Fulton County Registration and Election Board, which runs elections in Atlanta. He belonged to the Federalist Society, a prominent organization of conservative lawyers, and had also joined the board of advisers of a lesser-known group called the Voting Integrity Project

The V.I.P. was founded by Deborah Phillips, a former county official of the Virginia Republican Party, as an organization devoted principally to fighting voting fraud and promoting voter education. In 1997, von Spakovsky wrote an article for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, a conservative research group, that called for an aggressive campaign to “purge” the election rolls of felons. Within months of that article’s publication, the V.I.P. helped put von Spakovsky’s idea into action. Phillips met with the company that designed the process for the removal of alleged felons from the voting rolls in Florida, a process that led, notoriously, to the mistaken disenfranchisement of thousands of voters, most of them Democratic, before the 2000 election. (This year, Florida again tried to purge its voting rolls of felons, but the method was found to be so riddled with errors that it had to be abandoned.) During the thirty-six-day recount in Florida, von Spakovsky worked there as a volunteer for the Bush campaign. After the Inauguration, he was hired as an attorney in the Voting Section and was soon promoted to be counsel to the Assistant Attorney General, in what is known as the “front office” of the Civil Rights Division. In that position, von Spakovsky, who is forty-five years old, has become an important voice in the Voting Section. (Von Spakovsky, citing Justice Department policy, has also declined repeated requests to be interviewed.)


Well, I feel much better about these coming elections knowing that such a fair minded, non-partisan civil servant is working to ensure that all goes well.

In case anyone is wondering about the Voter Integrity project, it is another poisonous tentacle of the VRWC run by Helen Blackwell, wife of Morton Blackwell uber-conservative co-founder of the Moral Majority, recently renowned for the classy act of handing out purple band-aids at the Republican convention. (More on Blackwell at Democratic Veteran.)

I think it's also a good bet that Spakovsky is friends with the infamous Buckhead, fellow Atlanta republican elections board supervisor and federalist society clone.

Sometimes I think this whole VRWC could fit into a large jacuzzi.




 
Mighty Casio Needs To Crank Up

I wonder what would happen if Democrats worked as hard at discrediting this bogus polling as the Republicans have worked at discrediting those stupid National Guard documents?

Of course we couldn't fall back on decades of charges of liberal bias to get anyone to pay attention, but if even the Wall Street Journal admits that the polls are screwy you'd think we could get just a little attention to the polling firms' bizarre and unsubstantiated notion that there are suddenly much larger numbers of self-identified Republicans in the country than ever before.

I wonder if it might then be possible to reframe the horserace coverage to the real story. Why is an incumbent president who had a 90% approval rating for a large chunk of his presidency having such a hard time closing the deal? Incumbents don't usually have to fight for their lives in the middle of a war unless something has gone terribly wrong.

Oh, and by the way, if the president were really 13 points ahead, he would not have agreed to three debates. This is, after all, a president who has faced the press in formal news conferences fewer times than any president in history. He would not subject himself to three sessions of unscripted questions if he were confident he had it in the bag. They know they're tied and need to break out.




 
Framing The Argument

I'm busy today and don't have time to write much, but since I noticed that both Kos and Jerome Armstrong are writing about Lakoff's new book, I thought that I would repost a piece of mine from almost a year ago about Lakoff and his framing of the two parties.

Let me emphasize that my criticism is not of his analysis or of the substance of his frame, but merely of the idea of the Democrats using the frame literally to try to sell our ideas, particularly during a national security crisis. In fact, I think using his frame plays into Republican hands. I never hear Lakoff doing this, but I sure have heard a lot of Democrats saying we should. And that, I think, is absolutely wrong.

Frame Up


A number of readers have written to me today asking if I’m familiar with George Lakoff, whom Atrios points to in this interesting interview, because I discuss this kind of thing quite a bit here on Hullabaloo. As these guys guessed, I’ve read his work and have been very influenced by it. He is completely correct, in my view, about the immense power of framing issues with language and image and his ideas about candidates as “identities” is right on the money.

If I have a beef with Lakoff it’s that the one frame he’s most known for --- the Republican “strict father” and the Democrat “nurturing parent” --- is one of the more unfortunate metaphors for the progressive cause that I can imagine.

It’s not that he’s wrong in his analysis, it’s that he’s used the wrong terms to frame it. (Yep. You heard me. I hereby accept the 2003 Shameless Intellectual Arrogance Award. Thank you very much.)

I don’t think it’s a very good frame to begin with because it isn’t honest. Let’s not pretend that the real frame isn’t “strict father” vs “nurturing mother.” The frame doesn't really make sense otherwise. And, rightly or wrongly, this frame makes the tension gender based, and in doing so it defines progressive leadership as female leadership, something that is an indistinct and still evolving archetypal image. This puts progressives at a disadvantage because people don't immediately associate women with public leadership just yet. That will, of course, come to pass in the not too distant future (I hope.) But framing isn't a matter for wish fulfillment. To work, it must be immediately recognizable. The fact that Lakoff didn’t use the obvious "father-mother" construction indicates to me that knew that this was a problem.

I do not mean to condemn him completely for the fact that his framework is being used to give Republicans an advantage. He has never suggested that Democrats use this as a campaign slogan or even a public identity and yet I read people all the time who think that this “nurturing parent/mother” image is a winning one for the Democrats. I think that it informs a lot of thinking about what issues on which the Democrats should run even when the political environment makes those issues far less salient than others, regardless of what polls say people care about. And, just because we are the “nurturing parent” party does not mean that the way to win elections is to pretend that the only problems worth addressing are those that can be solved with nurturing --- or that nurturing can solve every problem.

Lakoff says that the progressive worldview is:

“Children are born good; parents can make them better. Nurturing involves empathy, and the responsibility to take care of oneself and others for whom we are responsible. On a larger scale, specific policies follow, such as governmental protection in form of a social safety net and government regulation, universal education (to ensure competence, fairness), civil liberties and equal treatment (fairness and freedom), accountability (derived from trust), public service (from responsibility), open government (from open communication), and the promotion of an economy that benefits all and functions to promote these values.”

The conservative worldview, the strict father model, assumes that the world is dangerous and difficult and that children are born bad and must be made good. The strict father is the moral authority who supports and defends the family, tells his wife what to do, and teaches his kids right from wrong. The only way to do that is through painful discipline — physical punishment that by adulthood will become internal discipline. The good people are the disciplined people. Once grown, the self-reliant, disciplined children are on their own. Those children who remain dependent (who were spoiled, overly willful, or recalcitrant) should be forced to undergo further discipline or be cut free with no support to face the discipline of the outside world.


I believe that this is all true. But, I don’t like the “strict” and “nurturing” characterizations any more than I like the “Father” and ”Mother” dichotomy.

If it is necessary to frame the political divide in family terms, I might have done it as “rigid parents” vs. “conscientious parents.” The analysis remains the same, but the words don’t imply character traits that people automatically associate with strong vs weak leadership, but rather they connote negative vs positive leadership.

The word “strict” does imply discipline but self-discipline is valued by most people, even if cruel methods to attain it are not. And the word strict does not, as Lakoff seems to say, necessarily correlate to abuse and heartlessness in most people's minds. “Rigid” on the other hand, implies narrow mindedness and inability to admit error along with a severe, uncompromising temperment.

The word “nurturing” does exactly what Lakoff admonishes the Democrats to stop doing, which is play into the GOP framework. The right has been framing the left and right for many years as the "nanny state" vs "individual freedom." "Nurturing parent" and "nanny state" are too closely related. “Conscientious”, however, encompasses all the empathetic qualities that Lakoff ascribes to the left, but also implies a willingness to react with strength where necessary. A conscientious parent responds to hostile threats as well as well as cries for help.

Both traits are equally masculine and feminine, so there is no archetypal leadership image associated with them.

From a tactical communications standpoint, it is very important for the left to acknowledge that Lakoff is telling us that our current method of framing ourselves is as flawed as the way the other side frames us. (Indeed, I’ve just argued that the master himself has made a major error.) But, even if I agreed with his framework, it would still not be useful to merely parrot it and assume that it is a good tactical framework merely because Lakoff himself is a progressive. The point of all this is to frame issues in such a way as to persuade the undecideds and apathetic and at least some members of the opposition to agree with our side of the argument. That means we have to stop preaching to the choir all the time.

And framing alone is not enough. We also have to take into account certain realities about how people arrive at political decisions these days. It’s my observation that they rely on simplistic symbolism and image more than they have in the past, mostly because of the pervasiveness of the shallow celebrity culture and television's position as the epicenter of the American community. (I’ll elaborate on that in a later post.)

As Lakoff says in the article:

In the strict father model, the big thing is discipline and moral authority, and punishment for those who do something wrong. That comes out very clearly in the Bush administration's foreign and domestic policy. With Schwarzenegger, it's in his movies: most of the characters that he plays exemplify that moral system. He didn't have to say a word! He just had to stand up there, and he represents Mr. Discipline. He knows what's right and wrong, and he's going to take it to the people. He's not going to ask permission, or have a discussion, he's going to do what needs to be done, using force and authority. His very persona represents what conservatives are about.


I think this is right on the money. Schwarzenegger’s campaign rested solely on his scripted action-hero persona. In fact, this may be the first election in which all pretense of substance was completely abandoned in favor of purely manufactured Hollywood symbolism. The “crisis” that precipitated the recall wasn’t real, the ensuing voter “anger” wasn’t real and the winning candidate wasn’t real. The entire narrative was scripted as a loose form reality TV show in which the drama was pushed and prodded by the “producers” even though the outcome wasn’t preordained. It was “real” in the same way that “Survivor” is real.

As Lakoff rightly points out, this stuff is important and the Democrats are just not getting with the program. The other side is doing it with a tremendous amount of sophistication and almost unlimited financial backing. California is the most populated state in the nation and if it can happen here, a Democratic state, it can happen nationally. In fact, in many ways, election 2000 was an early version.

Meanwhile, many on our side seem to believe that there is something distasteful about framing issues and using symbolism and metaphor to win elections as if being unable to govern honestly is the natural consequence of using these communication techniques. This is wrong.

It is only a method to get our ideas across and make the American public see our candidates in a way they are comfortable with. There is no reason that politicians must be vapid in order that their campaigns and issues are communicated through positive framing, metaphor and symbolism. It’s just that the Republicans have such geeky, unpleasant politicians and policies that they have no choice but to pick people like manufactured movie stars or dynastic restoration figures as their symbols and then destroy the opposition with ruthless character assassination.

Here’s a little example of framing that worked for the Democrats. As much as any position on issues or rhetorical brilliance, Bill Clinton, for all of his wonkish intellect, won in 1992 mostly because he symbolized the changing of the guard from the WWII generation to the baby boom. The cold war was over; the boomers were middle aged and ready to take power. There were two important symbolic moments in that campaign, both of which Clinton seemed to instinctively grasp and where his natural gifts as a politician served him well.

The first was when he played “Heartbreak Hotel” on the sax with his shades on, an unprecedented act of post-modern presidential media coolness. The other was showing the footage at the convention of John F. Kennedy shaking a 17 year old Bill Clinton’s hand – an almost literal passing of the torch from the guy who inspired the baby boomers with an inaugural speech in which he said “the torch has been passed to a new generation.” It was brilliant. Clinton understood his historical moment and framed that election as Young vs Old, Change vs Stasis and he used his own quintessential baby boomer narrative (and all that that entailed, good and bad) to make that case.

The task for Democrats in 2004 is to recognize this historical moment and muster all the tools at our disposal to frame this election in our favor and nominate the most qualified candidate whose image and personal narrative best serves as a metaphor for the current zeitgeist.




 
Planning Ahead

I'm telling you, if we win this election and it's close, the wheels are in motion for the RNC to contest it. You can see it in the way they are telling their people to vote absentee ballot, by the fact that they've appropriated the Democratic rallying cry "make sure your vote counts" and by this:

Voter Probes Raise Partisan Suspicions

Democrats, Allies See Politics Affecting Justice Department's Anti-Fraud Efforts

Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney David Iglesias in New Mexico launched a statewide criminal task force to investigate allegations of voter fraud in the upcoming presidential election. The probe came after a sheriff who co-chairs President Bush's campaign in the state's largest county complained about thousands of questionable registrations turned in by Democratic-leaning groups.

"It appears that mischief is afoot and questions are lurking in the shadows," Iglesias told local reporters.

[...]

The probe is one of several criminal inquiries into alleged voter fraud launched in recent weeks in key presidential battlegrounds, including Ohio and West Virginia, as part of a broader initiative by U.S. Attorney General John D. Ashcroft targeting bogus registrations and other election crimes. The Justice Department has asked U.S. attorneys across the country to meet with local elections officials and launch publicity campaigns aimed at getting people to report irregularities.

[...]

Justice officials say it is the department's duty to prosecute illegal activities at the polls, and stress that civil rights lawyers are also working to ensure that legitimate voters can cast their ballots without interference. Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra said that "the department must strike a proper balance and we cannot be deterred from investigating allegations of criminal voter fraud."

Civil rights advocates and many Democrats, however, complain that the department is putting too much emphasis on investigating new voter registrations in poor and minority communities -- which tend to favor Democrats -- and not enough on ensuring that those voters do not face discrimination at the polls. More attention should be given to potential fraud in the use of absentee ballots, which tend to favor Republicans, the critics say.

They also charge that announcing criminal investigations within weeks of an election -- as was done in New Mexico on Sept. 7 -- is likely to scare legitimate voters away from the polls.

"I'm concerned that the Justice Department is being overtly political," said Nancy Zirkin, deputy director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. "Bells are going off for me because searching for voter fraud has often been a proxy for intimidating voters."

The Justice Department's guidelines say prosecutors "must refrain from any conduct which has the possibility of affecting the election itself."

"A criminal investigation by armed, badged federal agents runs the obvious risk of chilling legitimate voting and campaign activities," the department's manual on elections crime says. "Federal prosecutors and investigators should be extremely careful to not conduct overt investigations during the pre-election period or while the election is underway."

Experts on both sides acknowledge that faulty or bogus voter registrations are a persistent problem. For example, one study found that 5,400 dead people cast votes over a 20-year period in Georgia. But experts question whether the phenomenon is widespread, and elections officials say they are most concerned about absentee ballot fraud.

"The problem is, you don't know if the voter is being coerced, misled or bribed, because it all happens away from public scrutiny," said Denise Lamb, New Mexico's election director.

[...]

Still, in recent months, elections officials in swing states have reported thousands of problematic registrations, including addresses that do not exist, duplicate names, the names of deceased voters and names that appear to be copied out of a phone book by the same person. Republicans have pointed to such registrations as evidence of possible widespread election fraud.

"Violations of voter registration laws, registering dead or nonexistent people to vote, creates the opportunity for Democrats to disenfranchise legitimate voters on Election Day, which on any scale is something that should concern all voters," said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Christine Iverson.

Elections officials of both parties, however, say that bad registrations do not necessarily translate into Election Day fraud. New identification laws, as well as signature checks, make ballot-box stuffing extremely difficult, they say.

[...]

But many Democrats are suspicious of the prosecutors' motives in the most recent cases -- most of which involve GOP complaints and alleged wrongdoing on behalf of Democratic candidates -- and are uneasy with Ashcroft's role in overseeing such probes. Ashcroft, a former Missouri governor and senator, came under fire during his 2001 confirmation for vetoing bills that would have promoted voter registration in St. Louis, a heavily African American Democratic stronghold.

[...]


But civil rights advocates worry that, in the case of criminal investigations such as the one in New Mexico, investigators will have to go door-to-door to question new registrants before balloting. In the 2002 South Dakota elections, state and federal agents questioned hundreds of newly registered Native Americans, a key constituency for Democrats in that state. The probe resulted in charges against one woman, which were subsequently dropped.

"Often there's no real basis for these fraud allegations," said Jonah Goldman of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The New Mexico probe was launched in part at the request of Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, who chairs the county's Bush-Cheney campaign. The announcement came after a district court judge ruled against plaintiffs in a Republican-led lawsuit that sought at-the-poll identification requirements for new voters registered through drives. As proof that change is needed, the plaintiffs listed a number of questionable registrations in their lawsuit, including one from a 13-year-old. But several women whose registration cards were attached to the lawsuit testified they registered twice by mistake and that no fraud was involved.

Democratic groups have been pushing to register new voters in New Mexico, which Bush lost by 366 votes in 2000. The Democratic Party has testified that changing ID rules would disenfranchise some voters, and spokesman Matt Farrauto called the criminal probe "worrisome."

Iglesias's spokesman, Norman Cairns, said the FBI is investigating "questionable voter registrations." But he added: "Our objective is not in any way to influence this election."


So, the investigations themselves may intimidate voters most likely to vote Democratic. And if we still manage to win, they will form the basis for contesting the election. And, it's purely coincidence that all these investigations are sought by the GOP against Democratic GOTV efforts.




Sunday, September 19, 2004

 
OxyMorons For Truth

Jay Rosen has written a very interesting post on the journalistic ethics and dramatic narrative surrounding the memo controversy. He makes the very interesting observation that much of this is unfolding as a spectacle of political theatre as much as anything else:

That report, which Rather hosted, announced to the nation the sensational existence of documents CBS had failed to authenticate.

This is the crime of which the network stands accused in the theater of election year politics, and in a longer history of resentment that some see as coming to a fiery end in Rather's acts of self-destruction. Whether that's true or not, CBS has to understand that its news division has become protagonist (or villain) in a 60 Minutes-style scandal story, an investigative drama, not just an investigation.

The documents were "sensational" because of the revelations in them about the character and conduct of the President in a bitter election-year struggle. If they had forgeries inside them, then the charges CBS aired were very likely attempts at political sabotage. For the network to be involved in something like that goes beyond bounds of forgivable error.


This is no doubt true. The thought of a network or major newspaper acting as a tool of political sabotage to sully the character of a president is chilling indeed.

But, I can't help wondering why this orgy of recriminations is happening over this incident when there have literally been thousands of even worse examples of the press willingly acting as partisan tools over the past 12 years or so, much of it fed to them directly by political operatives. Why is the thought of Dan Rather being used for partisan political purposes (if indeed he was) so shocking when we know that the mainstream press has been the victim of hoax after hoax by such outfits as Citizens United for years?

Did anyone ever call Jeff Gerth on the carpet for falling for the Scaife financed "Arkansas project" propaganda on the NY Times Whitewater stories? How about the chinese espionage "scandal" which was also a right wing hack job that proved to be absolutely bogus (aided and abetted by our good friend Rep. Chris Cox and his wholly discredited Cox Report.) Did anybody pay a price for pimping the Vince Foster story for the Mighty Wirlizter? Troopergate? The White House vandalism and stolen gifts stories? The list is endless. Years and years and years of hoaxes and smears and lies that led to tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money wasted on investigations that went nowhere and NOBODY SAYS A FUCKING WORD about the press's incestuous involvement with those who perpetrated these expensive frauds on the American public. (I won't even mention the elephant sitting in the middle of the room with the words "Saddam and 9/11" tattooed on his forehead.)

The lesson in this is clear. Dan Rather made a big mistake all right, but it wasn't the one that the rest of the press corp is unctuously wringing its hands over. The lesson is that he should have never have shown the documents. He should have done the story with some guy in the shadows with his voice disguised saying that "he'd seen the documents." He should have hinted darkly at death threats and used many anonymous sources without ever producing any kind of proof. He should have dribbled the story out over a couple of weeks on the CBS evening news instead of presenting it all at one time.

Oh yes, and he should have done the story about a Democrat. Nobody ever gets in trouble for committing journalistic malpractice against them. In fact, it's a career booster.


For the record: I have no idea if the Killian documents are real or forged or whether they were manufactured in Niger or by elves in Karl Rove's office and nobody else does either at this point. When I wrote that it was a dirty trick, I did so with the ironic preface, "according to the new rules of journalism and truth" and "good enough for GOP government work" which should have been a hint that I was, at the very least, being flip. As far as I'm concerned, this story is now in the permanent realm of conspiracy mongering and I am exercising my right to set forth whatever conspiracy fits my personal political bent. That's the way it's done nowadays, boys and girls. Credibility and intellectual consistency are for losers.




 
Tribal Leadership

Sports Illustrated readers overwhelmingly voted Mr. Bush the better athlete and sports fan, a conclusion the magazine's managing editor, Terry McDonell, finds baffling.

"Clearly Kerry is a much, much, much, much better athlete," he said, noting that Mr. Kerry has long played competitive hockey and also regularly snowboards, Rollerblades, windsurfs and kite-surfs.

"Kite-surfing," Mr. McDonell said, "is the hardest, most radical thing to do. It's what the most extreme surfers are doing."

Mr. Bush, in contrast, was a cheerleader, and not, Mr. McDonell notes, the kind that did flips. "It's like spirit club."

[...]

Mr. McDonell puzzled over what all this shooting and fishing had to do with being leader of the free world. "Within sports, you can see leadership," he said, "but that does not mean going to a Nascar event will make you a good president."

Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University, said that voters have a primal need to know that a candidate is a member of their tribe. "If you're sitting around watching sports on a Sunday and you know your president is also sitting around watching sports, you're not only in intellectual sync, you're probably in some biological sync on some level," said Ms. Fisher, who is the author of "The Sex Contract: The Evolution of Human Behavior."


So, a bunch of potbellied Nascar fans are voting for George W. Bush because they imagine he and they are great athletes due to the fact that they like watching other people drive cars. Is democracy great, or what?






 
It's Not Hype

tristero says that he plans to devote some time to blogging about John Kerry's exemplary career and I think I'll join him in that effort. Kerry is sadly underappreciated by Democrats and I think it's important that we start to point out what a fine man he truly is.

For instance, how many of you knew that after Kerry came back from Vietnam and formed and then left Vietnam Veterans Against the War, that he was the co-founder of another highly effective advocacy group called Vietnam Veterans of America:

tristero says:

Tonight, I'll briefly remind all of us that, after Yale, after Vietnam, after protesting the war with VVAW. Kerry co-founded a different group whose purpose was to move beyond the differences that divided the Vietnam generation. Dedicated to aiding all those who fought in Southeast Asia, it's called Vietnam Veterans of America, "the only national Vietnam veterans organization congressionally chartered and exclusively dedicated to Vietnam-era veterans and their families," currently with over 50,000 individual members.

VVA receives no government funds of any kind whatsoever. But it provides philanthropic assistance to Vietnam Vets that need it, works with homeless vets. and has worked for twenty years in the effort for a full accounting of POW/MIAs.

In addition, the VVA site says they are "single-handedly leading the fight for judicial review of disabled veterans' claims for benefits. The result: In 1988, Congress passed a law creating the U.S. Court of Veterans appeals. This allowed veterans to appeal VA benefits denials to a court and required VA to obey the rule of law." Furthemore, they've pressed the Agent Orange issue, helping to press the Agent Orange Act which has resulted in the Veterans Administration paying compensation for nine Agent Orange-related diseases.

[...]

Given both the heroic nature of his Vietnam service and his efforts to oppose the war, Kerry's co-founding of VVA seems a minor accomplishment. But there are only a handful of people capable and willing to make the effort to start something like this. Kerry has the character to do so, and the skills to do it extremely well. Kerry's co-founding of VVA, which would proudly cap the entire public service accomplishments of a lesser person, is often overlooked because Kerry's well-known achievements are so numerous and yes, truly great ones.


I urge you to read the whole post here and remind those you talk to that Kerry has been an advocate for veterans every day since he came back from Vietnam, not just as someone who lobbied to end the war, but as someone who has worked on behalf of his greater band of brothers from the very beginning. His life was shaped by his experience in Vietnam, the crucible of his generation. At every turn he did the right thing, from bravery in battle to speaking truth to power to trying to get some justice for all the poor grunts who suffered in that war to reconciliation with North Vietnam. This heroic image is not hype set forth just for political purposes. It's really him.

John O'Neill and his swiftboat liars couldn't shine his shoes.




Saturday, September 18, 2004

 
Voting Integrity

In case anybody's wondering about the integrity of the voting systems in Georgia, they can relax. The elections board members have looked into it and have found nothing at all to worry about:

Touch-screen opponents have alleged that Barnes' and Cleland's 2002 upset defeats are suspicious because of a last-minute fix to the machines.

[...]

To many people, the solution seems simple. Consumers go to a store and are given a receipt listing what they purchased. So why can't voting machines produce a similar piece of paper the state can use to ensure the integrity of elections?

[...]

"It really adds nothing to the system, [and] the people who think it will don't understand the history of voter fraud we've had with paper," she said.

Cox strongly defends electronic voting, calling Georgia's voting machines "the best solution available."

[...]

In October, the Fulton County Elections Board sent Cox a letter that asked pointed questions about the security of Georgia's voting machines. The state's largest county uses 2,975 machines. Harry MacDougald, a Republican board member, wrote the letter after hearing about Rubin's report.

Cox wrote a six-page response explaining the procedures in place to ensure the machines cannot be manipulated.

The Fulton board replied Dec. 1, telling Cox she had alleviated members' concerns.

"I feel reasonably comfortable," MacDougald said recently. "There's always a theoretical possibility [of tampering]. That can never be excluded, regardless of the voting technology. But the measures that were previously in place, with the new measures and technical fixes that are being made, bring the issue within a reasonable degree of security."


That Buckhead is a real renaissance man, isn't he? Where does he find the time to study typography and forensic document investigation on top of his legal work for the VRWC, serving on the local elections board and spending vast amounts of time on Freerepublic? Busy, busy, busy.

One thing I might warn everyone about on this voting technology issue. Be advised that if we win and it's close, the set-up has been put in place for Buckhead and his grubby little friends to rush online claiming that we stole the election. I have a hundred bucks riding on it. Projection has gone beyond a psychological diagnosis to an actual propaganda tool.



Thanks to Mitch for the heads up
 
He'll Sacrifice You Too

Via Suburban Guerilla, I am reminded once again why it is important that Bush used his influence and connections to get out of fulfilling his obligation in the National Guard during wartime. It's because he is now forcing poor schmucks likethis to go back on active duty in his misbegotten war in Iraq because he signed a form incorrectly. Bush has no moral authority to ask today's soldiers to play by the rules when he flagrantly disregarded them himself.

A man who served the eight years required under his ROTC contract remains an Army reservist obliged to report for active duty because he failed to sign a resignation letter, a federal judge has ruled.

Todd Parrish, 31, had sought to block the Army from calling him to active duty until his lawsuit on the issue was decided.

But Judge Louise Flanagan denied the request on Friday, meaning that if the Army denies Parrish's administrative appeal, he could be forced to go on active duty while the case is litigated.

Parrish signed the ROTC contract while a student at North Carolina State University. He argued that his military obligation ended Dec. 19, following four years of active duty and four years in the reserves.

His attorney, Mark Waple, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.

Army lawyer Maj. Chris Soucie told the judge that Parrish could be recalled to duty because he failed to sign a resignation line on a letter asking for an update on his personal information.

Parrish, a married communications officer, said he sent the Army a letter resigning his commission and did not sign the line on the form because he thought he had already resigned.


All this for a war we did not need to fight.

This brings up another point that people really should pay attention to if they are going to be doing any work with young people in the coming few weeks. If the military is so desperate for troops that they would force a guy back to active duty on this kind of a technicality after he's just served eight years,(and they are) it looks more and more as if they are going to try to institute a draft after Bush is elected. It's hard to see how they can avoid it.

Dave Johnson has more on this at Seeing The Forest:


The Draft – A Reason to Vote if You’re Under 30

You already blew it: You didn't vote last time, or voted for Nader or Bush, and now you're gonna get drafted. There's no way around it now, the draft is almost a certainty.

You're hearing about Reserve and National Guard units being called up, and about people not allowed to leave the military even though their term is up. Have you thought about what this means to you? You KNOW this means they're having trouble finding enough soldiers to go to Iraq, right? Of course Bush doesn’t want to start the draft BEFORE the election. Duh! But what do you think happens the day AFTER the election?

I repeat, they are having trouble finding enough soldiers to go to Iraq. Think about it. Right, you're gonna get drafted.

Or, maybe you think they can't do that? Maybe you think the draft doesn't happen in America. Maybe you think they can't just grab your ass up off the street, stick a rifle in your hands and send you off to war? Of course not, that NEVER happens. Right.


And, they've been preparing for it for some time now:

Nov. 3, 2003 | The community draft boards that became notorious for sending reluctant young men off to Vietnam have languished since the early 1970s, their membership ebbing and their purpose all but lost when the draft was ended. But a few weeks ago, on an obscure federal Web site devoted to the war on terrorism, the Bush administration quietly began a public campaign to bring the draft boards back to life.

"Serve Your Community and the Nation," the announcement urges. "If a military draft becomes necessary, approximately 2,000 Local and Appeal Boards throughout America would decide which young men ... receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service."

Local draft board volunteers, meanwhile, report that at training sessions last summer, they were unexpectedly asked to recommend people to fill some of the estimated 16 percent of board seats that are vacant nationwide.

Especially for those who were of age to fight in the Vietnam War, it is an ominous flashback of a message. Divisive military actions are ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. News accounts daily detail how the U.S. is stretched too thin there to be effective. And tensions are high with Syria and Iran and on the Korean Peninsula, with some in or close to the Bush White House suggesting that military action may someday be necessary in those spots, too.

[...]

Even among those who think the public might support a draft, like Bandow at the Cato Institute, few believe Bush would dare to propose it before the November 2004 election. "No one would want that fight," he explains. "It would highlight the cost of an imperial foreign policy, add an incendiary issue to the already emotional protests, and further split the limited-government conservatives." But despite the Pentagon's denials, planners there are almost certainly weighing the numbers just as independent military experts are. And that could explain the willingness to tune up the draft machinery.

John Corcoran, an attorney who serves on a draft board in Philadelphia, says he joined the Reserves to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War. Today, he says, the Bush administration "is in deep trouble" in Iraq "because they didn't plan for the occupation." That doesn't mean Bush would take the election-year risk of restarting the draft, Corcoran says. "To tell the truth, I don't think Bush has the balls to call for a draft.

"They give us a training session each year to keep the machinery in place and oiled up in case, God forbid, they ever do reinstitute it," he explains.

"They don't want us to have to do it," agrees Dan Amon, a spokesman for the Selective Service. "But they want us to be ready to do it at the click of a finger."


The DOD webpage referred to in the piece above has been purged, oddly enough. Luckily it was saved by Information Clearinghouse:

Serve Your Community and the Nation

Become a Selective Service System Local Board Member

The Selective Service System wants to hear from men and women in the community who might be willing to serve as members of a local draft board.

Prospective Board Members must be citizens of the United States , at least 18 years old, and registered with the Selective Service (if male). Prospective Board Members may not be an employee of any law enforcement occupation, not be an active or retired member of the Armed Forces, and not have been convicted of any criminal offense.

Once identified as qualified candidates for appointment, prospective Board Members are recommended by the Governor and appointed by the Director of Selective Service, who acts on behalf of the President in making appointments. Each new member receives 12 hours of initial training after appointment, followed by 4 hours of annual training for as long as he or she remains in the position. They may serve as Board Members for up to 20 years, if desired.

Local Board Members are uncompensated volunteers who play an important community role closely connected with our Nation's defense. If a military draft becomes necessary, approximately 2,000 Local and Appeal Boards throughout America would decide which young men, who submit a claim, receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service, based on Federal guidelines.

Positions are available in many communities across the Nation.


If there was ever a man with less moral authority to call up a draft than the phony AWOL flyboy, I don't know who it would be. He has even less than someone who went to Canada --- at least that person had to live with the consequences of his actions. This was a guy who had the gall to shove to the front of the line, play around with a million dollar airplane for a couple of years and then check out early for reasons we can only speculate about. It takes a lot of nerve for a man like that to tell soldiers who volunteered to go over and fight his losing battle for him. For a man like him to draft young men and women against their will is simply unthinkable. Yet, that is exactly what he is thinking.

All young people in this country should vote for John Kerry and they should drag their slacker friends to the polls with them. He faced all these choices head on in the crucible of his generation and he came out a man of strength and integrity. Bush ran away. Young people should realize that he will not hesitate to put their lives on the line to cover his ass. He did it to his fellow young men when he was twenty one years old, he's doing it to reserves and national guard troops today and he'll do it to young people with a draft tomorrow. It's in his character to make others fight his battles and clean up his messes for him.




 
The Death Of Common Sense

A weight may soon be lifted off a Maryland woman charged with carrying a concealed weapon in an airport.

It wasn't a gun or a knife. It was a weighted bookmark.

Kathryn Harrington was flying home from vacation last month when screeners at the Tampa, Fla., airport found her bookmark. It's an 8.5-inch leather strip with small lead weights at each end.

Airport police said it resembled a weighted weapon that could be used to knock people unconscious. So the 52-year-old special education teacher was handcuffed, put into a police car, and charged with carrying a concealed weapon.

She faced a possible criminal trial and a $10,000 fine. But the state declined to prosecute, and the Transportation Security Administration said it probably won't impose a fine.

Harrington said she'll never again carry her bookmark into an airport.


I think this explains why Bush remains even in the polls.




Friday, September 17, 2004

 
Buckhead Revealed

I haven't necessarily bought into the conspiracy theories about the Rovian interest in the allegedly forged CBS documents, but something is rotten in Blogland:

It was the first public allegation that CBS News used forged memos in its report questioning President Bush's National Guard service — a highly technical explanation posted within hours of airtime citing proportional spacing and font styles.

But it did not come from an expert in typography or typewriter history as some first thought. Instead, it was the work of Harry W. MacDougald, an Atlanta lawyer with strong ties to conservative Republican causes who helped draft the petition urging the Arkansas Supreme Court to disbar President Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the Times has found.

The identity of "Buckhead," a blogger known previously only by his screen name on the site freerepublic.com and lifted to folk hero status in the conservative blogosphere since last week's posting, is likely to fuel speculation among Democrats that the efforts to discredit the CBS memos were engineered by Republicans eager to undermine reports that Bush received preferential treatment in the National Guard more than 30 years ago.

Republican officials have denied any involvement among those debunking the CBS story.

Reached by telephone today, MacDougald, 46, confirmed that he is Buckhead, but declined to answer questions about his political background or how he knew so much about the CBS documents so fast.

"You can ask the questions but I'm not going to answer them," he told The Times. "I'm just going to stick to doing no interviews."

Until The Times identified him by piecing together information from his postings over the past two years, MacDougald had taken pains to remain in the shadows — saying the credit for challenging CBS should remain with the blogosphere as a whole and not one individual.

"Freepers collectively possess more analytical horsepower than the entire news division at CBS," he wrote in an e-mail, using the slang term for users of the freerepublic site.

MacDougald is a lawyer in the Atlanta office of the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice and is affiliated with two prominent conservative legal groups, the Federalist Society and the Southeastern Legal Foundation, where he serves on the legal advisory board and has been involved in several high-profile cases.


[...]

MacDougald helped draft the foundation's petition in 1998 that led to the five-year suspension of Clinton's Arkansas law license for giving misleading testimony in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case.

And MacDougald assisted in the group's legal challenge to the campaign finance law sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.). The challenge, ultimately presented to the U.S. Supreme Court, was funded largely by the Southeastern Legal Foundation in conjunction with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the law's chief critic, and handled by former Clinton investigator Kenneth W. Starr.

[...]



Last week, MacDougald once again plunged into a politically charged controversy — but this time his participation was anonymous.

Operating as "Buckhead," which is also the name of an upscale Atlanta neighborhood, MacDougald wrote that the memos that CBS' "60 Minutes" presented on Sept. 8 as being written in the early 1970s by the late Lt. Col Jerry B. Killian were "in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatino or Times New Roman."

"The use of proportionally spaced fonts did not come into common use for office memos until the introduction of laser printers, word processing software, and personal computers," MacDougald wrote on the freerepublic website. "They were not widespread until the mid to late 90's. Before then, you needed typesetting equipment, and that wasn't used for personal memos to file. Even the Wang systems that were dominant in the mid 80's used monospaced fonts.

"I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old. This should be pursued aggressively."

The Sept. 8 late-night posting — written less than four hours after the CBS report was aired — resulted in a flurry of sympathetic testimonials from fellow bloggers, spreading within hours to other sites. The next day, major newspapers such as The Times and the Washington Post began consulting forensic experts and reporting stories that raised similar questions.

[...]

While bloggers and some conservative activists hailed Buckhead as a hero in their longtime efforts to paint the mainstream media as politically biased, some Democrats and even some conservative bloggers have marveled at Buckhead's detailed knowledge of the memos and wondered whether that suggested a White House conspiracy.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe even speculated openly to reporters that the whole thing could have been orchestrated by White House political advisor Karl Rove. The Bush campaign called the allegation "nonsense."


Using the new laws of journalism and truth, this is all that's needed as proof that this was a Rovian operation from the get-go. This guy is no expert on typography, and he's an extremely well connected Republican operative who has worked at the highest level of GOP legal circles. That's good enough for GOP government work.

This was a Republican dirty trick.






 
Hell, We Want To Outlaw Apple Pie, Too

If there's one thing liberals are all about it's censorship

Campaign mail with a return address of the Republican National Committee warns West Virginia voters that the Bible will be prohibited and men will marry men if liberals win in November.

The literature shows a Bible with the word "BANNED" across it and a photo of a man, on his knees, placing a ring on the hand of another man with the word "ALLOWED." The mailing tells West Virginians to "vote Republican to protect our families" and defeat the "liberal agenda."

Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said Friday that he wasn't aware of the mailing, but said it could be the work of the RNC. "It wouldn't surprise me if we were mailing voters on the issue of same-sex marriage," Gillespie said.


Ed Gillespie is surprisingly stoic in the face of political hate speech, lately. Seems he's learned to hold back the tears and keep a stiff upper lip when political operatives spread scurrilous lies and outright falsehoods. What a brave little soldier.

By the way, when did the Democrats finalize plans for the "ban the Bible" movement, anyway? Here I thought I was in the loop. How are we doing on the kitten strangling and the grandma slapping? It's so hard to keep up.




 
What If God Was One Of Us?

Atrios says that even Little Russ now believes that the insurgency in Iraq is actually aimed at defeating Bush in November. In fact, we must now assume that all bad acts everywhere in the world are aimed at that one particular goal.

If this is true, we need to ask ourselves why God would throw three huge hurricanes in a row at the southeast of the United States just before the election. Coincidence? I think not. Obviously, God wants Bush to lose.

...voters apparently do punish politicians for acts of God. In a paper written in 2004, the Princeton political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels estimate that "2.8 million people voted against Al Gore in 2000 because their states were too dry or too wet" as a consequence of that year's weather patterns.

Achen and Bartels think that these voters cost Gore seven states, any one of which would have given him the election.


God is definitely sending a message. Spread the good Word.




 
Solipsism For Dummies

I know that it's hard to understand why anyone would vote for George W. Bush, but the fact is that most people just don't think he's that bad. And the ones that listen to talk radio and watch FOX think he is a downright genius. Sometimes, the world doesn't make much sense, does it?

Mark Kleiman tells it like it is:

A reader says:

Democrats are panicking because they aren't thinking about how this election looks to the median voter. A partisan Democrat looks at Bush and sees: 1) upcoming disaster on Iraq and Al-Qaeda (latter brought about by former); 2) upcoming disaster on climate change and the environment; 3) upcoming disaster on the economy; 4) upcoming disaster on the Supreme Court. Then he or she wonders, "how in the world could anyone vote for this man? We're going to hell in a handbasket! The fact that Kerry isn't miles ahead shows that he's an abysmal candidate, and can never win!" And then Kerry becomes Gore-ified, with the potential of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The problem with this model is that all these disasters are UPCOMING. Policy wonks, politically educated and motivated Democrats can see them (or at least they think they can). But there is absolutely no reason for the median voter to look at the situation that way. The voter is rationally ignorant. He or she is not going to spend time digging into policy details, considering potential budget models, etc. What does this voter see? The economy isn't fabulous, but it isn't terrible. Maybe there will be environmental problems, maybe not, but at this point, there isn't anything in front of his or her face. Newsweek might say that Iraq is a disaster, but I don't see it: maybe it's just tough. I'm not comfortable with it; we probably made a mistake, but it's not clear what we do now. Besides--in Vietnam, we were losing 2,000 soldiers A MONTH. We were told that Reagan's deficits would kill us, but they didn't: every economist has some model. I'm not real satisfied with the way things are going, but things could definitely be worse, and it's tough out there. 9/11 taught us that.

All of this leads to basically what we have now: a very close election, with Bush up by a very small margin. That means that campaigning, and money, and turnout, and events, will determine things. But it is NOT a reason to think that somehow Kerry is doing a lousy job. WE think that no one in his right mind would vote for Bush, but we're not the median voter.

Put another way, panic is the product of solipsism. It should stop.


I think it's stopping. Dems are starting to recognize that as inexplicable as it is, this election is going to be close. So, maximize the strategy, get a slacker to the polls, volunteer to phone bank, download Liberal Oasis's handy "suggested answers to tough questions about Kerry" and use them at the water cooler. Keep giving money.

For a variety of reasons this is a rare presidential race that will depend upon turn-out. That's us.




Thursday, September 16, 2004

 
Storyline

Drafts of a report from the top U.S. inspector in Iraq conclude there were no weapons stockpiles, but say there are signs the fallen Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had dormant programs he hoped to revive at a later time, according to people familiar with the findings.


...which explains why the "gathering danger" was so "grave" that we had to launch a war immediately, without allies, without enough troops and without a plan for reconstructing the country. There wasn't time to put those things together before Saddam revived his dormant programs under the nose of the newly admitted weapons inspectors.

And it's all worked out so very well:


The National Intelligence Council presented President Bush this summer with three pessimistic scenarios regarding the security situation in Iraq, including the possibility of a civil war there before the end of 2005.

In a highly classified National Intelligence Estimate, the council looked at the political, economic and security situation in the wartorn country and determined that — at best — a tenuous stability was possible, a U.S. official said late Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The document lays out a second scenario in which increased extremism and fragmentation in Iraqi society impede efforts to build a central government and adversely affect efforts to democratize the country.

In a third, worst-case scenario, the intelligence council contemplated "trend lines that would point to a civil war," the official said. The potential conflict could be among the country's three main populations — the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

It "would be fair" to call the document "pessimistic," the official added. But "the contents shouldn't come as a particular surprise to anyone who is following developments in Iraq. It encapsulates trends that are clearly apparent."


So, we rushed into the war for no good reason and things are going to hell in a handbasket. It's likely that we have created far more danger for ourselves and others by these actions.


John Kerry thinks that it's a mistake to rehire someone for a job if they've made these kinds of catastrophic errors:

Citing an intelligence estimate prepared for Mr. Bush in late July that presents a bleak picture of prospects in Iraq, Mr. Kerry said the president was turning his back on his own intelligence and ignoring the reality that Iraq was increasingly in the hands of terrorists.

"He didn't tell you this," Mr. Kerry said, even though "his own intelligence officials have warned him for weeks that the mission in Iraq is in serious trouble.''

"That is the hard truth, as hard as it is to bear," he said, adding,

"I believe you deserve a president who isn't going to gild that truth, or gild our national security with politics, who is not going to ignore his own intelligence, who isn't going to live in a different world of spin, who will give the American people the truth, not a fantasy world of spin."


What is this fantasy world of spin you speak of?


"This country is headed toward democracy," Mr. Bush said at a Thursday morning campaign rally in St. Cloud, Minn., about five hours before Mr. Kerry made his remarks at the Guard conference. "There's a strong prime minister in place. They have a national council, and national elections are scheduled for January. It wasn't all that long ago that Saddam Hussein was in power with his torture chambers and mass graves."


The Vice president thinks that the most important thing is that you make decisions, a simple and rather basic job description for the world's most powerful position:

Vice President Dick Cheney campaigning in Reno, Nev., took issue with Kerry's remarks at the National Guard convention. "Senator Kerry said today that leadership starts with telling the truth, but the American people also know that true leadership requires the ability to make a decision," Cheney said.


Oddly, however, he doesn't seem to think it matters if every single decision is wrong.








 
Pious Phony

Current and former White House aides, as well as religious leaders close to the president, maintain that underneath Bush's religious references is a no-frills set of classical Christian beliefs that he holds firmly but voices softly.


Kevin Drum notices this new talking point that's beginning to float around about Bush being a nice mainstream Christian instead of the fundamentalist zealot that many portray him to be. I read the same article in the Washington Post this morning and wondered about what "classical Christian" belief this was:

"Aides found him face down on the floor in prayer in the Oval Office. It became known that he refused to eat sweets while American troops were in Iraq, a partial fast seldom reported of an American president," according to Stephen Mansfield author of "The Faith of George W. Bush."


Now I've always wondered if he was really praying or if he'd had a few too many "pretzels" myself. (And as for the sweets thing, he must be jonesing for a candy bar big time, by now.)

Frankly, I don't think Bush is the least bit religious. I think it's as phony as the rest of him. Phony cowboy, phony flyboy, phony Christian. The only authentic thing about him is that he's a self-centered fratboy who's greatest faith is in his ability to get away with anything. A real Christian would never have made fun of Karla Faye Tucker the way he did. (A real human being would never have made fun of Karla Faye Tucker ...)

Apparently the evangelicals have taken it on faith that this guy is one of them because his speech writer is adept at using familiar religious phrases and he often evokes God as his guiding spirit. But, it's clear to me that he is nothing but a rich prick playing a role for people for whom he has nothing but contempt.




 
Man With A Plan

You know, I don't know why Atrios is so upset about people like Woodruff and Gergen and Carlson obviously spewing RNC talking points about how Kerry has to come up with a plan for Iraq in order to win, but Bush doesn't. The logic is obvious.

Suppose you hired a contractor to put on a new roof and he ended up creating a huge hole in it instead. The contractor simply denies that a hole exists and keeps telling you to relax that your new roof is coming along just fine. The other contractor in town drives by and says he can fix that hole in your roof. You ask him how and he says, "well, I'll have to take a look at it and see how much damage is done but I have years of experience and a lot of good workers and I can get the job done for you. I'll tell you one thing, that guy you've got working on it doesn't know what he's doing. The hole's getting bigger while we stand here looking at it."

Gergen, Woodruff and Carlson would pick the first contractor because they know his work. (And he's a blast to have a beer with at the end of the workday.) The second guy refused to say exactly what he would do without looking at the damage up close so he can't be trusted.

All of these people are very highly paid analysts and they know what they are doing. We should listen to them.




 
My Big Endorsement

After exposing the "undecideds" for the attention craving egomaniacs they are, Larry David more or less threatens them with my Slacker Project:

If we really had any brains, we wouldn't spend another second on you, but on the people who can truly make a difference: the "unlikely" voters. And there are millions more of them than there are of you. Those people aren't after attention, they're just incredibly lazy. The only way they'll register to vote is if someone shows up at their door with a form. And then the only way they'll actually vote is if you carry them to the booth.

Not only are they lazy, they're also indifferent. They just don't believe that voting can have an effect on their lives. Well, it just so happens that right after I voted for the first time, I landed myself a big fat job in Hollywood, a biopsy came back benign and I met my future wife as soon as I walked out of the voting booth. Coincidence? You decide.


I'm telling you, all you have to do is get them registered and tell them that it will really mean a lot to you if they will vote for John Kerry. You'll take care of the details of getting them registered, getting them absentee ballots or getting them to the polls.

Just one slacker per person, that's all we need.




 
Cannibals

On the CNN morning show they just did a story on Jason Blair receiving $3,000 to speak at a college. Apparently, the students were not happy and gave Blair a very hard time.

One of the happy talking whores (the grizzled, creepy one) said, "who are they going to get next? Dan Rather?"

I thought I was watching FOX.





Wednesday, September 15, 2004

 
Maximizing The Strategy

Everybody needs to read Liberal Oasis every day. Bill Sher's analysis of the way the game is played in invaluable. It will make you feel better and it will give you things to think about.

Today he has a long post up about our marching orders called "Your Mission: Maximize The Strategy." The following is just a small excerpt and I urge you to read the whole thing:


At this stage of the game, those of us on the outside do the most good by helping the campaign execute strategy in the grassroots, not by rehashing strategy.

There may be news items to flag, and specific attack lines to suggest, but wholesale strategic overhauls are not worth batting around anymore.

And they can be debilitating.

What was worse in 2000?

The fact that Al Gore didn't ask Bill Clinton to campaign much for him?

Or the fact that people wouldn't shut up about whether Bill Clinton should campaign with him?

In that case, Gore had a tough call to make.

While partisans were convinced Clinton was gold on the campaign trail, polls showed he turned off a large chunk of independent voters.

Monday morning QBs still lambaste Gore for his call, under the "every decision was a bad decision" logic when assessing "losing" campaigns.

But to this day, they can't be sure that a heavy dose of Clinton would have meant a popular vote loss too, or if it just wouldn't have made a difference.

And we also don't know what would have happened if the party just got in line and backed Gore's strategy to the hilt.



I've been thinking about this all day and I think part of what is going on with us Democrats is that while it is natural to treat the race like it's a sporting event our mistake is in thinking that we are the fans. We sit around the metaphorical bar and kibbitz about what the manager should and shouldn't do. Don't pull Pedro! That's nuts!

But this isn't a sporting event in which we are all observers. We are players in this game and it actually matters what we do and say. Our attitude, our intensity, or energy and our willingnesss to walk the precinct and put up signs and talk to our friends can all affect the outcome. The manager can't listen to all of our conflicting advice, but he sure needs us to play to the best of our ability.

There's a lot we can do and each of us has to figure out what that might be, from work on the ground to calling up Grandma Millie and making sure she's registered to vote (and knows that Bush's pals at Enron said they were screwing her during the energy crisis.)

And, the very least we can do is make sure that if the issue of politics comes up in our daily lives that we unequivocally say out loud that we support Kerry and think he's a good man even as we make our case against Bush. (The ABB meme served its purpose and it's counterproductive at this point.) Kerry's working his ass off on our behalf to take down little Junior. We owe him some respect for that and we need to help him make that affirmative case for change.

Here's a little idea for a personal political project that each of us can undertake. Surely, we all know one person who doesn't usually vote, an apolitical type who isn't interested. This country is crawling with them. This is the election to get them registered and make sure they vote, whether by sending them the link for an absentee ballot or offering to pick them up and take them to the polls on election day. Everybody knows somebody like this. If we all make sure that we each get one person to vote who wouldn't otherwise give a damn, we win.

So, think about it. Which of your slacker friends can you get to vote this year? Take the initiative. They won't mind. They don't care. Make that work for us.




 
Nothing To Hide

February 13, 2004

Russert: But you authorize the release of everything to settle this?

President Bush: Yes, absolutely. We did so in 2000, by the way.


April 28, 2004

Q He's bringing up an issue that was bounced around this room at length --

MR. McCLELLAN: And it's been fully addressed, and all the records have been released, and the President fulfilled his duty and was proud to serve and be honorably discharged from the National Guard.


September 8, 2004

Q Will the Commander-in-Chief insist that his Pentagon get to the bottom, find every last document of the National Guard service?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that's what the President directed back in February.

Q Are you frustrated, or is he, that more documents are surfacing?

MR. McCLELLAN: All the personnel, payroll, and medical records have been made public, and the President directed back in February that the Department of Defense do a comprehensive search and make all the documents available, and we had assurances that they had done that and, unfortunately, we have since found out that it was not as comprehensive as we thought. So they've continued to go and look for additional documents.

Q Is the President frustrated, irritated by this?

MR. McCLELLAN: See, that's why I pointed out that all the personnel, payroll and medical records have been released.

Q How do you know that?

MR. McCLELLAN: They've assured us that all those records are out, and in fact, you have those records.



WaPo September 16, 2004:

White House press secretary Scott McClellan hinted that more documents regarding Bush's National Guard service may soon be released. Asked whether officials in the White House have seen unreleased documents, McClellan called that "a very real possibility." Other officials with knowledge of the situation said more documents had indeed been uncovered and would be released in the coming days.


 
Hobgoblins

Geraldine Sealey of Salon.com reports:

Republican congressman Christopher Cox is asking for a formal congressional investigation into CBS News' use of what he calls "apparently forged documents concerning the service record of George W. Bush intended to unfairly damage his reputation and influence the outcome of the 2004 presidential election."

Less than a month ago, though, Cox used a different standard to judge the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," whose every allegation about Kerry's service in Vietnam turned out to be inaccurate and was most certainly intended to damage Kerry's reputation and influence the outcome of the election -- and was reported endlessly without appropriate skepticism in the media. From the CNN transcript:

"Blitzer: Chris Cox, you're a good Republican. Should the president specifically denounce this ad put out by these Swift Boat Veterans for Truth?"

Cox: Well, this is obviously what's going on now with campaign finance reform, 527s and so on. There's a lot going on around the campaigns that the campaigns don't control. I think that, for the candidates, the risk is, if you try and take ownership, either positively or negatively, of what's going on around you, then it looks as if you're even more involved. With respect to the facts underlying all of this, there was a book published by swift boat veterans. It ought to rise or fall on its own merits, just as with 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' which is loaded with factual inaccuracies."

But Cox isn't content to let CBS' report "rise and fall" on its own merits. He wants Congress involved.


Yes. Christopher Cox is a little bit, shall we say, "inconsistent" about these matters. For instance, back in July 2003, he was very upset about another issue pertaining to media and the government:


U.S. Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach), Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, sharply criticized a decision by the U.S. Secret Service to interrogate Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Michael Ramirez about the subject of a recent editorial cartoon. The cartoon, based on an award-winning photograph from the Vietnam War, depicts Bush with his hands behind his back as a man labeled “Politics” prepares to shoot him in the head. The background of the drawing is a cityscape labeled “Iraq.”

“Those of us in Southern California are used to seeing Michael Ramirez’s political cartoons in the Los Angeles Times,” said Chairman Cox. “They are amusing, insightful, sometimes historical, sometimes biting—but never illegal. I was disappointed to read that the U.S. Secret Service, according to an agency spokesman, was considering ‘what action, if any, could be taken’ against Mr. Ramirez for his recent cartoon depicting political attacks on President Bush.

“The use of federal power to attempt to influence the work of an editorial cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times reflects profoundly bad judgment,” Chairman Cox said in a letter to Secret Service Director Ralph Basham.


You see, it is bad judgment to use federal power to influence the work of a conservative editorial cartoonist. A news organization making a controversial claim about the president is subject to a full congressional investigation, however. Anyone can understand that.





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