Thursday, September 30, 2004

There's a very good reason Allawi's speech to Congress last week sounded so much like Bush's fairy tales --
They shared speech writers:
"...administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the prime minister was coached and aided by the U.S. government, its allies and friends of the administration. Among them was Dan Senor, former spokesman for the CPA who has more recently represented the Bush campaign in media appearances. Senor, who has denied writing the speech, sent Allawi recommended phrases. He also helped Allawi rehearse in New York last week, officials said. Senor declined to comment."
As Josh Marshall observes, "The whole Allawi speech was exactly what the most cynical observer would have figured, a cheap Bush-Cheney '04 campaign stunt."

In the same story, we learn that to combat the perception that violence is growing in Iraq, the US has "curtailed distribution of reports showing increasing violence in that country." Well, that helps.

A reportedly private email from Wall Street Journal correspondent Farnaz Fassihi has been making the email rounds today. It's pretty grim reading:
[excerpt] "Iraqis like to call this mess 'the situation.' When asked 'how are thing?' they reply: 'the situation is very bad.'

What they mean by situation is this: the Iraqi government doesn't control most Iraqi cities, there are several car bombs going off each day around the country killing and injuring scores of innocent people, the country's roads are becoming impassable and littered by hundreds of landmines and explosive devices aimed to kill American soldiers, there are assassinations, kidnappings and beheadings. The situation, basically, means a raging barbaric guerilla war. In four days, 110 people died and over 300 got injured in Baghdad alone. The numbers are so shocking that the ministry of health -- which was attempting an exercise of public transparency by releasing the numbers -- has now stopped disclosing them.

Insurgents now attack Americans 87 times a day."
Well, the debate is beginning and I'm still at work. Will be for awhile, yet. I'll catch the KRON 4 rebroadcast at 10 p.m. But do your thing, folks! Counter Republican Spin! (Scroll down to the bottom of that post for links to counterspin opportunities.)
Juan Cole thinks BushCo is pressuring the FBI to hold off on several high-profile arrests -- in the Valerie Plame case and in the Larry Franklin (likely Pentagon spy) case -- until after the elections... Geez, what a cynic.

Judges are coming to their senses about the Patriot Act --
From today's NYT:
A federal judge struck down an important surveillance provision of the antiterrorism legislation known as the USA Patriot Act yesterday, ruling that it broadly violated the Constitution by giving the federal authorities unchecked powers to obtain private information.

The ruling, by Judge Victor Marrero of Federal District Court in Manhattan, was the first to uphold a challenge to the surveillance sections of the act, which was adopted in October 2001 to expand the powers of the federal government in national security investigations.

The ruling invalidated one piece of the law, finding that it violated both free speech guarantees and protection against unreasonable searches. It is thought likely to provide fuel for other court challenges...
But the Torture Act marches on --
From the WaPo story:
Under the Hastert bill, U.S. authorities could send an immigrant to any country, regardless of the likelihood of torture or abuse. The measure would shift to the deportee the burden of proving "by clear and convincing evidence that he or she would be tortured" -- a burden that human rights activists say is impossible to satisfy. It would bar a U.S. court from reviewing the regulations, which would fall under the secretary of homeland security.

The provision would apply retroactively, to people now in detention and those who may have already been secretly deported under classified procedures to countries with well-documented histories of torture and human rights violations.

It also would allow U.S. authorities to deport foreigners convicted of any felony or suspected of having links to terrorist groups to any country -- even somewhere that is not a person's home country or place of birth, contrary to current practice.
If you've got the stomach for it --
The October Vanity Fair has an incredible piece on the theft of the 2000 election. I've only been able to skim it so far, which is probably a good thing. I'm sure I'll have more to say tomorrow. SCOTUSblog provides the article in two PDFs, here and here.

Here's what we all need to know --
about the forged document story that CBS killed after embarrassing itself over Bush's Guard documents. It's the story of how Bush tricked the nation (well, 50% of it, anyway; the other half resisted) into an unjustified invasion of Iraq.

Since it's all about the post-debate spin --
the DNC has sent out an e-mail providing the URLs of online post-debate polls. Here's where you can vote/comment on the "performances":
ABC News
CBS News
Fox News
USA Today
"Rights are like muscles, they disappear if you don't use them." --
Please read the whole thing. Here's an important excerpt:
We should always, especially when it is difficult, exercise our freedoms of speech and assembly, and I mean the word exercise. Rights are like muscles, they atrophy and aren't there when you need them if you don't use them. The first amendment is in trouble not just because of John Ashcroft and the USA Patriot Act, but because of a pall of self-censorship – some have spoken up with great courage, but many have been silenced not simply by the acts of the authorities but by the prison of their own fear. Still, if people could stand up to Pinochet, if the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo could march in Buenos Aires during the time of the generals, if people spoke up in Prague in the 1980s, we can take a stand here, far more than we do. An atmosphere of repression exists specifically because people don't speak up against it. When you speak up, you are not repressed – you might be suppressed or punished, but you have freed yourself. Too, a tyranny can rise more easily by shutting up a thousand people than a million, and that's a reason to stand up and speak out.
(And here's the very important report she cites.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Please read this important post on legislation that will make torture tactics even easier, and then write your representatives!

"(Cheney) was against getting bogged down in Iraq before he was for it." --
John Edwards, on Don Imus today, in response to this delicious discovery of a significant Cheney flip-flop (which you really should read, to see how insightful Cheney was 12 years ago).

Bush's ever-shifting rationale for invading Iraq --
Wouldn't it be fun if, in one of the upcoming "debates," someone asked Bush to reconcile his many rationales for invading Iraq?

"The (Crawford, TX) Iconoclast wholeheartedly endorses John Kerry." --
When I linked yesterday to the story about Bush's hometown paper, I should have urged you: don't just relish the news -- read the editorial, because it's quite good. Here's how it starts:
Few Americans would have voted for George W. Bush four years ago if he had promised that, as President, he would:
• Empty the Social Security trust fund by $507 billion to help offset fiscal irresponsibility and at the same time slash Social Security benefits.
• Cut Medicare by 17 percent and reduce veterans’ benefits and military pay.
• Eliminate overtime pay for millions of Americans and raise oil prices by 50 percent.
• Give tax cuts to businesses that sent American jobs overseas, and, in fact, by policy encourage their departure.
• Give away billions of tax dollars in government contracts without competitive bids.
• Involve this country in a deadly and highly questionable war, and
• Take a budget surplus and turn it into the worst deficit in the history of the United States, creating a debt in just four years that will take generations to repay.

These were elements of a hidden agenda that surfaced only after he took office.

The publishers of The Iconoclast endorsed Bush four years ago, based on the things he promised, not on this smoke-screened agenda.

Today, we are endorsing his opponent, John Kerry, based not only on the things that Bush has delivered, but also on the vision of a return to normality that Kerry says our country needs.
Negativists and naysayers --
From WaPo yesterday:
A growing number of career professionals within national security agencies believe that the situation in Iraq is much worse, and the path to success much more tenuous, than is being expressed in public by top Bush administration officials, according to former and current government officials and assessments over the past year by intelligence officials at the CIA and the departments of State and Defense.

While President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others have delivered optimistic public appraisals, officials who fight the Iraqi insurgency and study it at the CIA and the State Department and within the Army officer corps believe the rebellion is deeper and more widespread than is being publicly acknowledged, officials say.
Actually, we've already got the state-run television; it's called FOX --
David Sirota:
"Our political system is starting to resemble the kind of banana republic authoritarianism we claim to despise. The only things missing are government-sponsored mural portraits of George W. Bush splashed on sides of buildings and state-run television.

Who knows? With Bush’s aircraft carrier stunt, Fox News’ incessant propaganda, and the White House now telling journalists it has a “different set of rules” for those who give too much coverage to the president’s opponents, anything is possible."
How goes that Faith Based Intiatives program? --
How else? It goes to favorites, it goes with no accountability, and it goes without any measurable results. Modus operandi. If this were a Democratic initiative, Republicans would be demanding congressional hearings and independent investigators. See Amy Sullivan for more.

The sad thing is, I'm not at all surprised at this --
Most Bush supporters know nothing about his positions:
Majorities of Bush supporters incorrectly assumed that Bush favors including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements (84%), and the US being part of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (69%), the International Criminal Court (66%), the treaty banning land mines (72%), and the Kyoto Treaty on global warming (51%). They were divided between those who knew that Bush favors building a new missile defense system now (44%) and those who incorrectly believe he wishes to do more research until its capabilities are proven (41%). However, majorities were correct that Bush favors increased defense spending (57%) and wants the US, not the UN, to take the stronger role in developing Iraq’s new government (70%). (via Daily Kos)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Via Body and Soul last week, I learned about about What She Said - an all-female blogger roll (addressing the widespread perception that there aren't many female bloggers). If you're newly visiting from the Left At The Altar profile there, welcome and thanks for your interest! And if you haven't visited What She Said, do check it out.

Debatable --
I caught NPR's "Fresh Air" this afternoon as I was driving back from class, and the substitute host was talking with James Fallows, who analyzed Bush and Kerry's debate styles for a recent feature in the Atlantic Monthly. He played some audio clips, contrasting the Bush of 1994 -- speaking (for him) rather fluently and with fairly complex, well-formed thoughts and words -- with the Bush of today. (He also played a segment of a Kerry debate.) The interviewer asked about the obvious differences in 1994 Bush and 2004 Bush, and Fallows offered up two possibilities: first, that Bush speaks the way he does now on purpose, trying to sound "tough" and "direct," and second, that Bush is more comfortable in his encounters with clearly friendly audiences, and in less formal settings. (Hmm, nothing about the presenile dementia hypothesis.) Today, Krugman and Marshall both remind us where the outcome of any presidential debate is ultimately decided: in the post-debate cable and network spinfest, where the really important things like body language are analyzed.

Bush's hometown paper endorses... Kerry! --
Daily Kos has the story and excerpts.

More (and more) on the Republican "Block the vote!" movement -- Here are parts 3 and 4 of Moving Ideas' series on manipulating elections. The first two parts, which I linked to a little while back, are available there, too.

As long as we're on the subject of Bush Democracy --
Here is a story about the administration's plans to buy off the Iraqi elections.

If you keep a lot of antacid on hand --
You might want to stick this electoral vote count site on your "favorite list." Take note (take heart?) of this observation: "It is becoming increasingly clear that the pollsters are producing the results that the people paying the bills want to hear. Even pollsters who were once thought to be above suspicion are now suspicious. Gallup, for example, is now normalizing its samples to include 40% Republicans, even though the 2000 exit polls showed the partisan distribution to be 39% Democratic, 35% Republican." (Which reminds me, did you see MoveOn.Org's ad in today's NYT paper edition?

While Bush was failing to find oil in Texas --
John Kerry was spending his first term "in the Senate investigating the Iran-Contra drug scandal in Nicaragua, the role of the Panamanian government in drug trafficking and the corrupt activities at the Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI)." Read more here and here.

Fewer choices, higher costs --
Um, was this how BushCo advertised the Medicare reforms?

"Seeds represent entire civilizations, miniaturized to fit into the palm of our hand" --
A food historian tries to preserve heritage seeds against agribusiness' monoculture mentality... The article reminds me of a cool preservation group I knew of when I lived in Tucson, Native Seeds/SEARCH; they're still at it.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Hey, the Bill Foundation needs your help --
This rescue organization does great work, and lots of it, but they're out of money (if you link, scroll to the bottom of that page for the story of Ferris). Throw 'em a bone if you can.

I said I wouldn't use that word again, so here goes --
"In another (pick one) shameful/reproachful/repugnant display of (pick one) deceit/dishonesty/treachery" Republicans continue refining their fear, intimidation and voter disenfranchisement programs. (If you have the time, follow the links in that last one to some really useful analyses.)

Ron Reagan Jr in an interview with the Sunday Herald--
"The reality of this administration is so ugly that most Americans, even those who are more or less opposed to the administration, really don't want to come to grips with that. This is an administration that has cheated to get into the White House. It's not something Americans ever want to think about their government. My sense of these people is that they don't have any respect for the public at large. They have a revolutionary mindset. I think they feel that anything they can do to prevail - lie, cheat, whatever - is justified by their revolutionary aims."
For those who prefer to think in graphics --
NYT has a cool interactive graphic feature that tracks Bush's approval ratings, the money race, House and Senate races by state, etc.

Kinder, gentler homophobia? --
"By way of explaining that it's her Christian duty to love all homosexuals, Maureen explains that God loves Jeffrey Dahmer, too. Then she produces this theory about people whose sexuality is non-hetero: 'I think the reality is that there are mistakes. There are handicapped people too. There are people that are retarded. We are not perfect. God does not make us all perfect.'"...Jana Prikryl reviews two thought-provoking books describing two very different paths taken by gay Christians.
Words of caution from the election monitor par excellence --
Still Seeking a Fair Florida Vote

By Jimmy Carter
Monday, September 27, 2004; Page A19

After the debacle in Florida four years ago, former president Gerald Ford and I were asked to lead a blue-ribbon commission to recommend changes in the American rlectoral process. After months of concerted effort by a dedicated and bipartisan group of experts, we presented unanimous recommendations to the president and Congress. The government responded with the Help America Vote Act of October 2002. Unfortunately, however, many of the act's key provisions have not been implemented because of inadequate funding or political disputes.

The disturbing fact is that a repetition of the problems of 2000 now seems likely, even as many other nations are conducting elections that are internationally certified to be transparent, honest and fair.

The Carter Center has monitored more than 50 elections, all of them held under contentious, troubled or dangerous conditions. When I describe these activities, either in the United States or in foreign forums, the almost inevitable questions are: "Why don't you observe the election in Florida?" and "How do you explain the serious problems with elections there?"

The answer to the first question is that we can monitor only about five elections each year, and meeting crucial needs in other nations is our top priority. (Our most recent ones were in Venezuela and Indonesia, and the next will be in Mozambique.) A partial answer to the other question is that some basic international requirements for a fair election are missing in Florida.

The most significant of these requirements are:

• A nonpartisan electoral commission or a trusted and nonpartisan official who will be responsible for organizing and conducting the electoral process before, during and after the actual voting takes place. Although rarely perfect in their objectivity, such top administrators are at least subject to public scrutiny and responsible for the integrity of their decisions. Florida voting officials have proved to be highly partisan, brazenly violating a basic need for an unbiased and universally trusted authority to manage all elements of the electoral process.

• Uniformity in voting procedures, so that all citizens, regardless of their social or financial status, have equal assurance that their votes are cast in the same way and will be tabulated with equal accuracy. Modern technology is already in use that makes electronic voting possible, with accurate and almost immediate tabulation and with paper ballot printouts so all voters can have confidence in the integrity of the process. There is no reason these proven techniques, used overseas and in some U.S. states, could not be used in Florida.

It was obvious that in 2000 these basic standards were not met in Florida, and there are disturbing signs that once again, as we prepare for a presidential election, some of the state's leading officials hold strong political biases that prevent necessary reforms.

Four years ago, the top election official, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, was also the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney state campaign committee. The same strong bias has become evident in her successor, Glenda Hood, who was a highly partisan elector for George W. Bush in 2000. Several thousand ballots of African Americans were thrown out on technicalities in 2000, and a fumbling attempt has been made recently to disqualify 22,000 African Americans (likely Democrats), but only 61 Hispanics (likely Republicans), as alleged felons.

The top election official has also played a leading role in qualifying Ralph Nader as a candidate, knowing that two-thirds of his votes in the previous election came at the expense of Al Gore. She ordered Nader's name be included on absentee ballots even before the state Supreme Court ruled on the controversial issue.

Florida's governor, Jeb Bush, naturally a strong supporter of his brother, has taken no steps to correct these departures from principles of fair and equal treatment or to prevent them in the future.

It is unconscionable to perpetuate fraudulent or biased electoral practices in any nation. It is especially objectionable among us Americans, who have prided ourselves on setting a global example for pure democracy. With reforms unlikely at this late stage of the election, perhaps the only recourse will be to focus maximum public scrutiny on the suspicious process in Florida.
Taking the "high road" with the Republicans ---
You just have to see it (and here's a bit of useful explication on the GOP's increasingly repulsive and widespread efforts to simply scare voters into voting for Bush)

Not that I'm paranoid or anything --
And at least one of you will be sure to let me know that I am, but what are the chances that CBS got duped into accepting forged documents on Bush's guard service precisely so that they would be completely discredited/discouraged from running this far more important and credible story on the administration's being duped by forged documents on Hussein's fictional attempts to buy yellow cake uranium from Niger, a story that has much darker and more far-reaching implications?

Settling for proportional voting in Iraq --
As Josh Marshall points out, Rumsfeld's new plan for elections in Iraq has a precedent in the Supreme Court's Florida decision.

Does Not Compute --
Try to square this with the happy talk coming from Bush and Allawi (the latter of whom went on Newshour and said, of course among other things, that (a) the press is focusing on negatives in Iraq and (b) if Hussein were still in power, there would have been more terrorist attacks on US soil, by now, a claim that even Colin Powell can't bring himself to support): "Less than four months before planned national elections in Iraq, attacks against U.S. troops, Iraqi security forces and private contractors number in the dozens each day and have spread to parts of the country that had been relatively peaceful, according to statistics compiled by a private security firm working for the U.S. government." (In the process of trying to keep the regain the upper hand, the US is presently killing more Iraqi civilians than the insurgents are.)

Googlebombing --I comb Google News regularly, and am always startled by how many - as Josh Marshall puts it - "fringy right-wing nutball sites" appear as newslistings. The apparent explanation: Googlebombing by fringy right-wing nutballs.

Why can't HE say that? --
It's kind of a problem when a journalist does a better job of explaining John Kerry's positionon Iraq than John Kerry does than John Kerry does.

This will probably surprise you --
A Boston Globe analysis finds that both presidential candidates engage in exaggeration and cherry-picking... "But Bush appears to be the worse offender this year, in terms of the number of misleading claims and the consistency of their appearance in his stump speech. A review of Bush's public statements in recent days reveals a number of areas where he is repeatedly using exaggerated claims and incomplete statistics, in an apparent attempt to fit his campaign themes."

Another language threatened --
The last woman proficient in Nushu died last week (thanks for the heads-up, JC):
Yang Huanyi, China's last woman proficient in the mysterious Nushu language, died at her home last week. She was thought to be 98. Yang learned possibly the world's only female-specific language from seven sworn sisters as a girl. Nushu characters are structured by four kinds of strokes, including dots, horizontals, verticals and arcs. Linguists believe her death marks the end of a 400-year-old tradition in which women shared their innermost feelings through codes incomprehensible to men.
Here's a story from earlier this year ("Each word is like a flower," Hu Cui Cui, aged 12), and some info on Nushu.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Hmmmm --
"Islam has made several trips to the United States in recent years, including one in May for a charity event and to promote a DVD of his 1976 MajiKat tour. He donated half the royalties from his most recent boxed set to the Sept. 11 Fund to help victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon." So then... Why exactly was it necessary to deport him THIS MONTH, in a breathless morning news headline-dominating scarefest, and not in May or during any of his previous "recent" trips to the US?

Emblairessment --
I have a friend who, for awhile, kept pointing to Blair's endorsement of the Iraq invasion as "proof" that Bush and the neocons were right to pursue it, because Blair - afterall - is an intelligent and reasonable man, not given to reckless impulses that disregard the advice of experts and the lessons of history. Then again...
"Tony Blair was last night forced on to the defensive over Iraq after explosive leaked documents revealed that he was warned a year before the invasion that a war could send the country into meltdown. The Prime Minister was advised by officials that the country risked 'reverting to type' - with a succession of military coups installing a dictator who could then go on to acquire his own weapons of mass destruction - and that British troops would be trapped in Iraq 'for many years'.

Even his own foreign policy adviser, Sir David Manning, concluded in a private note that President Bush had no answer to the big questions about the invasion - including 'what happens on the morning after?' The memos, showing how detailed military planning was even a year before the invasion, will prompt renewed questions about whether better planning for the aftermath of war could have prevented the bloodshed now engulfing Iraq."
Election Protection Volunteer Opportunities --
For those who have the resources and flexibility, here's an opportunity to PROTECT THIS ELECTION! Hats off to my friends DC and CW who are taking their vacation in Florida so that they can volunteer in Dade County on Election Day!

Words so good they hurt --
I'm pretty sure I linked to this piece by Hal Crowther before, but instead of hunting for that post, I'm going to link to it again. It's one of the most eloquent pieces I've read on the realities of this election. Here's a great bit of it, but please read the whole thing:
These are facts, not partisan rhetoric. Do any of them even make you restless? The cynical game these shape-shifters have been playing in the Middle East is too Byzantine to unravel in 1,000 pages of text. But the hypocrisy of the White House is palpable, and beggars belief. If there's one American who actually believes that Operation Iraqi Freedom was about democracy for the poor Iraqis, then you, my friend, are too dangerously stupid to be allowed near a voting booth.

Does it bother you even a little that the personal fortunes of all four Bush brothers, including the president and the governor, were acquired about a half step ahead of the district attorney, and that the royal family of Saudi Arabia invested $1.476 billion in those and other Bush family enterprises? Or, as Paul Krugman points out, that it's much easier to establish links between the Bush and bin Laden families than any between the bin Ladens and Saddam Hussein. Do you know about Ahmad Chalabi, the administration's favorite Iraqi and current agent in Baghdad, whose personal fortune was established when he embezzled several hundred million from his own bank in Jordan and fled to London to avoid 22 years at hard labor? That's just a sampling from my haystack. Maybe I can reach you as an environmentalist, one who resents the gutting of key provisions in the Clean Air Act? My own Orange County, N.C., chiefly a rural area, was recently added to a national register of counties with dangerously polluted air. You say you vote for the president because you're a conservative. Are you sure? I thought conservatives believed in civil liberties, a weak federal executive, an inviolable Constitution, a balanced budget and an isolationist foreign policy. George Bush has an attorney general who drives the ACLU apoplectic and a vice president who demands more executive privilege (for his energy séances) than any elected official has ever received. The president wants a Constitutional amendment to protect marriage from homosexuals, of all things. Between tax cuts for his high-end supporters and three years playing God and Caesar in the Middle East, George Bush has simply emptied America's wallet with a $480 billion federal deficit projected for 2004 and the tab on Iraq well over $100 billion and running. "A lot of so-called conservatives today don't know what the word means," Barry Goldwater said in 1994, when the current cult of right-wing radicals and "neocons" had begun to define and assert themselves. Goldwater was my first political hero, before I was old enough to read his flaws. But his was the conservatism of the wolf -- the lone wolf -- and this is the conservatism of sheep.

All it takes to make a Bush conservative is a few slogans from talk radio and pickup truck bumpers, a sneer at "liberals" and maybe a name-dropping nod to Edmund Burke or John Locke, whom most of them have never read. Sheep and sheep only could be herded by a ludicrous but not harmless cretin like Rush Limbaugh, who has just compared the sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners to "a college fraternity prank" (and who once called Chelsea Clinton "the family dog" -- you don't have to worry about shame when you have no brain).

I don't think it's accurate to describe America as polarized between Democrats and Republicans, or between liberals and conservatives. It's polarized between the people who believe George Bush and the people who do not. Thanks to some contested ballots in a state governed by the president's brother, a once-proud country has been delivered into the hands of liars, thugs, bullies, fanatics and thieves. The world pities or despises us, even as it fears us. What this election will test is the power of money and media to fool us, to obscure the truth and alter the obvious, to hide a great crime against the public trust under a blood-soaked flag. The most lavishly funded, most cynical, most sophisticated political campaign in human history will be out trolling for fools. I pray to God it doesn't catch you."
What happens on November 3rd? --
Here's what Alternet's Kim Haddow and Holly Minch say:
If Bush Wins

We may all be tempted to apply for Canadian citizenship in the event that President Bush wins his first election. But a Bush victory means serious work for progressives.

Consider the political positioning of your organization: What can we do to stave off four more years of disaster? If Bush is (re?) elected and you are working to reauthorize the Endangered Species Act, raise the minimum wage, or secure voting rights for convicted felons – you may need to forget federal action and work the grassroots and statehouses even harder. Now is the time for a serious strategy re-assessment.

If Kerry Wins

After the dancing in the streets, after the effects of celebratory champagne, we've still got work to do. Many progressives may be tempted to go home and forget about politics for a while. But if we want to make a Kerry win meaningful, we have to be strategic and smart starting November 3rd.

Progressive groups will have a real opportunity to redefine their political positioning. We'll all have to consider what we need to do to position ourselves to influence the new Administration. How can we position ourselves to see policy victories over the next four years?

And how fast do we need to mobilize to do it? Kerry will be looking for administrative action in the first 100 days to overturn damage done by the Bush administration, and we should be ready to supply him with ideas on the issues that matter to us.

A Kerry win will also mean some fundamental shifts in organizational thinking. Progressive groups will need to evaluate their programs and shift from a defensive posture to a proactive one. Now is the time to retool. Are there issues or campaigns you want to launch in this new environment? This also applies to organizing and messaging.

If No One Wins

There's a very real possibility that we may experience another cliffhanger. Given how close the margins are expected to be in many states, we may see recounts that drag on for days or weeks. And it may not be just the White House this time around – we may also see recounts in hotly contested Senate races that have the ability to tip the balance of power.

If you are working in a swing state where the election is contested and recounts are hot, for heaven's sake mobilize! Take a lesson from the 2000 Bush campaign, which turned out supporters, credible talking heads and staged rallies from day one of the Florida recount. Be vocal and visible in case of a recount in your area. Work the media, who will undoubtedly descend upon the story like bees to honey.
There's more here.

Debates --
Yesterday morning, getting ready for work, I heard a reporter on "Good Morning America!" talking about how brutally divisive this election is, and how deep and heated the sentiments run. He showed a clip of Kerry supporters "beating up" a Bush supporter, and a clip of Bush supporters "beating up" a Kerry supporter, and then said that even the format of the debates specifies that the candidates not be near each other --- almost implying they might just come to fisticuffs themselves. No, one suspects the greater issue in the debate format specifications is that Kerry will physically tower over Bush, and the Bush campaign doesn't want that to be too apparent for too long (in the first round of 2000 debates, if I remember correctly, Bush was given a riser to stand on). It's remarkably shallow, of course, but in this campaign, macho image does appear to be everything.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


(1) I linked to this fabulous cartoon briefly back in July, but at the time, the SF Chronicle didn't archive their strips and the link vanished after a couple of days. Now they're archived! So go and enjoy more of Donald Asmussen's "Bad Reporter"!

(2) I'm very lucky: I have friends write wonderfully, think clearly, exhibit much more patience and generosity of spirit than I, and demonstrate it more regularly than I deserve to enjoy in the emails they send. Here's an example, from my friend and occasional "comment" contributor, Anne, who was able to attend a talk by Bishop Thomas Gumbleton last night:
"I just got back from hearing Bishop Gumbleton, and he was WONDERFUL -- so inspiring. His general topic was, how to be people of peace in a post-9/11 world. He spoke of the foundation for peacemaking as resting on the twin pillars of justice and forgiveness, the latter defined as "that particularly Christian way of love: enemy-love." He drew on the scriptures to show how Jesus stood for these two foundational practices that can be seen as embracing the concept and practice of nonviolence. I was especially struck by this statement: "Jesus taught us how to die, not how to kill." It reminded me, again, of Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship: "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." (Old non-inclusive translation!) Gumbleton told many stories of people he has met in his travels, famous and not, who exemplify the way of nonviolence in their work for justice and love. I was very moved by all this, and inspired to keep on with the work to get change in the leadership of our country -- not only change from what we have now, but continuing work for change away from using force and war to solve problems. You just contrast what I heard tonight with the claims of G.W. to be Christian, and it makes you want to weep. Thank God for the prophets we have in our midst!"
(3) The numerous critical responses to Bush's speech to the UN made me read it more closely, which allowed me to take note of this gem: "We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace." I wonder if he tried that shoe on before he said it? (Gruesomely mixed metaphor intended.)

Kofi Annan also spoke to the UN yesterday: "Those who seek to bestow legitimacy must themselves embody it, and those who invoke international law must themselves submit to it." Hmmm... I didn't find the entire transcript, so I have no context; I wonder, whoever could he be talking about?

(4) I hope he's wrong, but Juan Cole's observation is consistent with human behavior in other risky situations.

(5) I'm not as keen a Michael Moore fan as many on the political left, though I appreciate his documentaries. But he can be counted upon to rally the troops just when it's needed, and his message this week is pretty darn good...

(6) Even the Air Force Times sounds suspicious of Bush's "honorable
discharge." (Via Daily Kos)

(7) This would really be a problem if a gay man were desperate enough to "look at (him) like that"... Jimmy Swaggart says "I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm gonna be blunt and plain; if one ever looks at me like that, I'm gonna kill him and tell God he died." As this article points out, Swaggart's threat amounts to hate speech, which is - among other things - an FCC violation. Let's see if the FCC takes the same principled stand on homophobic hate speech that it takes with nipple exposures.

(8) OK, just GUESS who wrote this:
"Osama bin Laden is saying exactly what the enemies of the western empires said through the 20th century: The price of your occupation, the price of your empire in our world, is terror. The Islamic terrorists of 9/11 were over here because we were over there. We took sides in a religious civil war, their war, and they want us out of that war. The 15 hijackers from Saudi Arabia did not fly into the World Trade Center to protest the Bill of Rights. They want us off sacred Saudi soil and out of the Middle East."
Patrick Buchanan! In a book (perhaps even more shockingly) recommended by Liz Smith.

(9) The Pentagon is selectively blocking access to the Federal Voting Assistance Program web site - the site through which most American civilians living overseas register to vote. An anonymous DOD employee spoke with Salon:
"This is a completely partisan thing," one Defense Department voting official told Salon. The official, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of being fired, is one of the many people in the department assigned to help both uniformed military personnel as well as American civilians register to vote. The offical described the Pentagon as extremely diligent in its efforts to register soldiers stationed overseas -- for instance, voting assistance officers have been told by the department to personally meet with all of the soldiers in their units in order to help them register. But the department has ignored its mandate to help overseas civilians who want to vote, the official said.

Not surprisingly, political pollsters believe that uniformed military personnel, especially military officers, lean toward Republicans in their voting habits; American civilians who live abroad, meanwhile, are particularly progressive. One recent Zogby survey, for example, showed that voters with passports supported Kerry over Bush by a margin of 55 to 33 percent.

The official -- a self-described Democrat who adheres to requirements of non-partisanship as a voting officer -- could see no explanation other than pure political trickery in the Pentagon's decision to block the FVAP Web site. "There is no way in hell that this is not a deliberate partisan attempt to systematically disenfranchise a large Democratic voting bloc," the official said.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

I've been taken to task for recently using the term "repugnican" when I am repulsed by Republican tactics -- tactics such as tampering with election databases, intimidating non-Republican voters, distributing literature with incorrect election dates in neighborhoods where the electorate is less likely to vote Republican, distributing outright falsehoods as campaign literature, paying party operatives to make up lies about Democratic candidates, slandering the patriotism or service records of Democratic veterans, manipulpating legislative processes so that there is no possibility for fair votes, and perhaps even orchestrating the whole CBS guard document dispute. For Bush-era Republicans, the "ends justify the means" every time. No matter the means. And that disgusts me. It offends me as a Christian, it disgusts me as a human. But my admittedly small-minded "repugnican" designation has been compared (in private correspondence, not in the comments below) to --- are you ready for this? --- the vitriol spewed by Rush Limbaugh. The man whose utterances amount to inflammatory hate speech strung together with conjunctions. The mind, she boggles. If anyone else has taken that much offense, I deeply apologize. It was small of me, yes; Limbaughian -- never occurred to me. In the future, when I am remarking on a repugnant tactic being deployed by the Republican party, I will clearly introduce it with something like, "in another (pick one) shameful/reproachful/repugnant display of (pick one) deceit/dishonesty/treachery, the RNC..." instead of using my petty shorthand.

Good EJ Dionne column, but don't expect anything to come of it --
But a guy who is supposed to be so frank and direct turns remarkably Clintonian where the National Guard issue is concerned. "I met my requirements and was honorably discharged" is Bush's stock answer, which does old Bill proud. And am I the only person exasperated by a double standard that treated everything Bill Clinton ever did in his life ("I didn't inhale") as fair game but now insists that we shouldn't sully ourselves with any inconvenient questions about Bush's past?

I'm as weary as you are that our politics veer away from what matters -- Iraq, terrorism, health care, jobs -- and get sidetracked into personal issues manufactured by political consultants and ideological zealots. But the Bush campaign has made clear it wants this election to focus on character and leadership. If character is the issue, the president's life, past and present, matters just as much as John Kerry's.
The company he keeps --
DeLay's top PAC consultants have been indicted.

Bush's speech to the UN --
If you can't bear to listen to it, you can always read it. Seems to have taken a kinder, gentler tone since UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan reminded everyone that this war was illegal.

George Bush's version of "democracy" --
Sue Niederer attended a speech by Laura Bush and demanded the First Lady tell us when her children were going to serve; for her forthrightness, she was arrested and charged with trespassing. Charges have since been dropped.

I soooooo want to see this museum! --
The National Museum of the American Indian is open and looks spectacular.

Monday, September 20, 2004

I feel really bad when multiple days go by with no postings. Sorry about that. I spent the weekend trying to catch up on reading assignments and avoiding audiovisual contact with news (I failed in this long enough to hear one ABC anchor announce Friday night that the Kerry campaign faced "watching the race slip through their fingers," and then go on to describe the statistical dead heat in the polls. I tried hard, but I couldn't make the logical connection between a statistical tie and "watching the race slip through their fingers").

But I broke from the reading long enough to go "on record" (if going "on record" includes having a conversation over beer and pizza with three other people) with my conviction that this will be the ugliest, most contentious, most disputed, most debilitating and confidence-shaking election the United States has ever seen. Of course, I wasn't exactly creeping out on my own twig with this. But it has consumed my thoughts from time to time: what becomes of a nation's citizenry when they discover that their democratic elections are charades? What did we do in 2000? Repugnicans at least had the forethought and dramatic flare to entice local well-to-do activists to stage a fake "populist uprising" outside the rooms where chads were being counted and recounted. Democrats ultimately managed to harry the court-appointed president's motorcade on the way to his coronation, but were apparently too stunned to mount a serious protest. Barbara Ehrenreich says we need to be ready this time:
In addition to all the poll monitoring, touch screen protesting, etc., we need two things. First, some agreed-upon group to declare the election fair or fraudulent. This may not be an easy or obvious call, according to my friend the political scientist Frances Fox Piven: "If this election is stolen, it will be stolen at the most local level, and we won't know right away." Maybe the OSCE can be relied on to pass judgment, or maybe the ACLU should be appointed to do the job, with MoveOn spreading the word.

Second, we need a plan of action for the all-too-likely event that the election is determined to be tainted. "Hitting the streets" sounds good, but if we each do it on our own, the neighbors will just conclude that we're taking out the recycling or assessing our leaf-raking issues. Asked what we should do, Linda Burnham, of Count Every Vote 2004, suggests people start planning now for local demonstrations at election boards. Piven recommends nationwide protests that are both "nonviolent and disruptive," possibly on inauguration day. John Cavanagh, director of the Institute for Policy Studies, writes: "On February 15, 2003, over ten million people in over 600 cities around the world took to the streets to say no to Bush's [war on Iraq.] Another stolen election will require coordinated efforts like this, on a larger and more sustained basis, until the stolen goods are returned. Mega-networks like United for Peace and Justice, which played a central role in February 15 as well as the recent mass march at the Republican Convention, will need to retool so they can play a central role."
If you think this is a paranoid fantasy (and probably only one or two of you do), read Anne-Marie Cusac's roundup of the thuggish tactics already in practice in several swing states. And read about the stunning security flaw Bev Harris has once again uncovered - this time in Diebold's central vote tabulating computers. And about the little mistake that fortunately lost only a couple hundred votes this time (in, where else?, Florida). Moving Ideas is doing a series this month on the technical and procedural pitfalls facing this election. Here are parts 1 and 2 (hopefully I'll remember to link to the remaining segments). And here's how the Florida courts are already lining things up for the Bush family.

It's all about the frame --
Daily Kos got a review copy of George Lakoff's new book and has posted a preliminary and very detailed review. If he keeps this up, I won't have to buy the book! And speaking of new books -- here's Seymour Hersh on his, Chain of Command. Oh, and let's just indulge ourselves: here's a Guardian interview with Kitty Kelley on her new book.

Kerry speech today --
Here's the text of John Kerry's speech today. It's a hard line to toe for someone who says that even now, even knowing what he knows, he'd still have voted to authorize the attack on Iraq. But this seems to have put BushCo on the defensive for now, especially judging from Bush's desperate innuendos:
Mr. Bush, in a campaign appearance in Derry, N.H., later in the day, directly responded to Mr. Kerry's contentions that he was misleading people on Iraq, saying that criticism of the administration's policies was undermining the efforts of American troops in battle.

"Mixed signals are the wrong signal to send to the enemy," the president said. "Mixed signals are the wrong signals to send to the people of Iraq, mixed signals are the wrong signals to send our allies, and mixed signals are the wrong signals to send our troops in combat."

"Anytime we put our troops into harm's way, they need to have the full support of the United States government — the full support," Mr. Bush said.
Last weekend Kerry charged that Bush has a secret plan for a massive troop call-up after the elections. (Meanwhile: some existing guard troops are being held in lockdown after trying to visit their families before shipping out. Does anyone wonder why Guard recruitment is down in many
areas (see here and here, for example)?

And they called us the "coalition of the wild-eyed"? --
I can't decide which is more outrageous and unbelievable: that the RNC actually distributes @#%$ like this as campaign literature, or that they apparently have an audience for it.

You would were expecting democracy? at a Republican convention? -- Many, many, many unlawful arrests of protestors by an overzealous, overpumped, overprimed police force.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Amazon's new search engine --
Wow. At first glance, A9 is pretty darn cool. A little intrusive, perhaps, in that you have to register to access some of the niftiest features (like the ability to store notes you jot down about sites you visit), but the organization and layout is really handy. I never thought I'd encounter a decent alternative to Google, but I'm going to have to spend a little time with this! (They also have an incentive plan; a teeny tiny discount on Amazon shopping for registered users of A9.)

Thursday, September 16, 2004

GREAT new "From Where I Stand" column by Joan Chittister:
Have you heard this one?

Jokes go around the globe on Internet these days faster than Superman and his speeding bullet. I get the impression that the Internet is one long, soundless, isolated snicker. In my mind's eye, I can see people sitting alone at computer screens, reading the latest joke, head thrown back, mouth open, laughing to themselves -- silently: a kind of perverse variation on Munch's "Scream." I got one of those last week, for instance, that I can't help remembering from time to time throughout the day. Especially when I read the news.

The joke is about a politician who dies unexpectedly and finds himself at the gates of heaven trying to get inside. But St. Peter is puzzled. "I'm not sure this is really where you want to be," he says. "I think you better spend a day in hell, then spend a day up here. After that we'll decide where you belong." With that Peter puts the politician on a down elevator.

When the politician reaches the netherworld below, he's astounded to find running fountains, manicured lawns, palm trees, cocktail parties and a championship golf course. A very gracious and smiling fellow, Satan himself is serving the drinks and taking orders for gourmet meals. When the time is up, the politician is genuinely disappointed to leave.

Up in heaven again, the politician discovers that all the people float on clouds singing alleluias and playing harps. It's restful and peaceful but kind of dull.

"Look," the politician says to Peter. "I can't believe I'd ever say this, but I really think I'd be a lot of more satisfied in hell."

"Done," says St. Peter, and puts him back on the elevator.

This time, when the door opens, the politician finds himself in a barren wasteland, his friends dressed in rags and gathering garbage, the devil in horns and poking people with his trident.

"What is going on?" the politician cries. "Where are the drinks, the golf course, the tuxedos, the shrimp appetizers, the banquet orders?"

"Ah," the devil says. "That was yesterday. Yesterday we were campaigning. Today you voted."

The laugh is silent because it's hard to admit that we all get fooled this way too often. Now, in the cruelest possible way, it's going on again.

About five years ago, I did some lecturing in Africa and the groups who engaged me went out of their way to show me something of their countries. They took me to visit game preserves, of course, but also clinics run by nun-nurses, schools, townships, tribal folklore displays, and down-at-the-heels cities.

But most of all, I remember the signs on telephone poles that reminded the population that one in every four people they met coming down the street had AIDS. I remember being taken to a small village of about 15 grass huts where every family had at least one person who was emaciated, listless and dried out from the sun, someone with AIDS.

Most of all, I remember strips of convent properties that went on for miles, building after building, compound after compound, all of them AIDS orphanages and all of them filled to capacity. Some of them kept hundreds of children behind huge metal fences. The children all came from families where both parents had died from AIDS, and most of them were infected as well.

And that's where the joke comes in. George Bush promised to provide matching funds of $1 billion to African nations that are working to reduce the incidence of AIDS.

Of the $1 billion promised, only $200 million has been released. Silent laugh. So much for campaign promises.

What's more, Bush refuses to contribute to the International Global Fund created for that purpose and instead started his own program in order to support only programs that refuse to teach about condom use as part of their sex education programs. Another silent laugh. Bush's concern for women goes by the wayside here. Women married to infected men are, as a result, simply doomed to becoming infected themselves or to giving birth to infected children.

The Bush plan also refuses to distribute generic drugs -- long proven to be just as effective in the treatment of HIV/AIDS as name brand therapies -- for fear of backlash from U.S. drug companies that produce the more costly remedies. Laugh another silent laugh with all the drug companies about how clever U.S. aid is in creating markets for U.S. products rather than providing the real aid that the target nations want.

Finally, as I said last week (Don't be fooled: It's simpler than they tell us ), Bush has yet to call for debt reduction for these nations so that they can release more of their own funds for medical aid to their own people. Laugh with all the bankers now, too.

If Bush released the money for drug therapy that he promised he would when he was campaigning, 400,000 people would now be in treatment. Instead, the AIDS epidemic is devastating Africa one person at a time. The implications of that will affect every other part of the world.

Africa's women are dying from behavior they never engaged in. Its HIV/AIDS-infected children are being warehoused. The world is now the breeding ground of an epidemic that every major international body calls the world's greatest security risk.

And all the while, there's a clock running on Times Square that is counting the $177 million dollars a day that we're spending on saving the world from the weapons of mass destruction that the Iraqis did not have, fighting the new terrorists that we ourselves created this time, and creating an outrageously expensive, long-term military beachhead in a region of the world that resents us more every day.

At the end of the day, the Internet joke may really be on us. We buy campaign promises and we vote. Then we fail to monitor those promises, we make little or no association between one issue and another. Then we wonder why the world goes barren before our very eyes and what we thought was heaven turns into another kind of hell.

Keep laughing. But silently. It may not be as funny as we thought.

From where I stand, it's time to get out all the campaign promises of the last election and ask whether we got heaven or hell this time.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

60 Minutes gets a zinger in --
I forgot all about the expected 60 Minutes follow-up to last week's "docu-drama" until I just happened to turn on the TV while I was feeding the dogs and heating up my own dinner. Low and behold, Dan Rather was just introducing his interview with Col. Killian's secretary, Marian Carr Knox. Knox says that she did not type the documents presented, but that the contents are correct. She believes someone tried to reproduce memos she actually typed, somewhere along the line. But she did not dispute the gist of 60 Minutes' story. And Dan Rather closed with this zinger:
"Having said that, 60 Minutes feels that it's important to underscore this point: Those who have criticized aspects of our story have never criticized the major thrust of our report -- that George Bush received preferential treatment to get into the National Guard, and once accepted, failed to satisfy the requirements of his service. If we uncover any information to the contrary, that information will also be reported."
These guys are probably off the Christmas card list --
From USA Today:
Senators from both parties accused the Bush administration Wednesday of incompetence in its efforts to rebuild Iraq and said the United States could lose the war unless it improves security and gets more money into the Iraqi economy.

Among those harshly criticizing the White House at a hearing were the two top Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Chairman Richard Lugar of Indiana and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

Of the $18.4 billion Congress approved last year for Iraqi reconstruction, only $1.1 billion has been spent because of violence and other problems. Hagel called that record "beyond pitiful and embarrassing; it is now in the zone of dangerous."

Even Lugar, who is not usually given to strong rhetoric, said the failure to inject funds into the Iraqi economy quickly was "exasperating for anybody looking at this from any vantage point."

The hearing was called to discuss a new administration plan to reallocate $3.5 billion in reconstruction funds, primarily to Iraqi police and military training.

Hagel told two State Department officials they had "inherited a mess" from a year of Pentagon-supervised government in Iraq and expressed doubt that the United States was winning the war. "It's not a pretty picture," he said.

The two witnesses — Ronald Schlicher, deputy assistant secretary of State for the Iraq bureau, and Joseph Bowab, deputy assistant secretary for foreign assistance programs and budget — conceded under questioning that the administration has fallen short of benchmarks touted over the past year:

• None of the 32,000 Iraqi police put on the beat since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein has gone through a full training program, Bowab acknowledged.

• Of $13 billion pledged by other countries to aid Iraq's reconstruction, only $1.2 billion has been spent.

• The administration has created only 110,000 jobs for Iraqis, leaving a pool of unemployed young men, many of whom have become willing recruits for insurgents. The new reallocation is intended to provide 800,000 jobs, but many are short term, some for as little as one month.

Schlicher said the amount of money spent since the transition to an interim Iraqi government in June had doubled.

But he added, "We have to do much better, and we will."
And this summarizes a "classified National Intelligence Estimate prepared for President Bush in late July (that) spells out a dark assessment of prospects for Iraq." Has anyone read it to him, yet?

If you like this bumpersticker...

You can get yours here!

Some of you know I've returned to school this semester, part-time (because, alas, I can't extract myself from the fulltime job right now); I'm embarking on a graduate program in ethics. Posts might get a little spare from time to time, especially around midterms and finals, but they'll be here. I am constitutionally unable to ignore news and commentary I find about the topics of this blog, and similarly unable to restrain myself from sharing them.

However, book-reading will be another story (no pun intended). If it's not assigned on one of my syllabi, I'm not allowing myself to read it. (And I've already got a towering pile of unread books that now must wait until the semester break.) So, sadly, I must take a pass on Arthur Schlesinger's new book, though it pains me.

It's less painful to pass on Kitty Kelley's newest, as I'm not really a fan. However, her fans are legion, and that somehow makes it all the more delightful that she has trained her renowned excavating skills on the Bush clan. I haven't been reading or watching her interviews, but James Wolcott has, and he sees something newly snooty about them:
"The hypocrisy of the cable newsers reeks to low hell.

For years they've been hyping and peddling every variety of fishy speculation and brazen assertion about the Clintons, Vince Foster, Monica, Gary Condit-Chandra Levy, Laci Peterson, this rape case, that abduction case; they've rolled out the ratty carpet for every Swift Boat slob; and now, now, they decide to get loftily anal."
Tapped's Matthew Yglesias has a good post with some good links today, about Putin's shocking power grab on Monday. And just exactly how much can our president say about this? Absolutely nothing. (In fact, he's probably cheering Putin on and taking notes.)

How important is Osama bin Laden to George Bush? --
"WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 - Three years after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency has fewer experienced case officers assigned to its headquarters unit dealing with Osama bin Laden than it did at the time of the attacks..." That's pretty much all you need to know, though there's more here.

If it seems like Iraq gets worse each day --
it's because it does. "It is beginning to look like, and feel like, civil war."

Polls --
Take a deep breath, exhale slowly, get a grip on yourselves, and get back to work: Kerry is getting back "on message" - as they say; and the bounce is dwindling.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Republican Priorities --
In full view in their legislative agenda for the next two months.

George Bush, Soft on Terror --
Read about it here, or in Bob Graham's new book Intelligence Matters or Uggabugga's diagram, both of which I've linked to before.

Bush AWOL no matter how you cut it --
Maybe you've already encountered this US News and World Report analysis elswhere, but it renders moot the whole debate over whether the CBS documents are legitimate.

Winning the hearts and minds --
Yesterday's US bloodbath in Baghdad, which included the on-camera killing of a journalist and the killings of numerous Iraqi civilians (including children), is drawing the scrutiny and disgust it deserves.

Please look at these faces...

And then look at this face...
as it lies once again about the fabled "links" between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda (Powell, on "Meet the Press" yesterday, continued to contradict Cheney)...

And then ask yourself, how is it that Iraq does not seem to be factoring in this election?

For history and perspective on Al Qaeda's aims, Juan Cole is always indispensable --
I'd recommend this whole post, but here's an important segment:
Al-Qaeda has succeeded in several of its main goals. It had been trying to convince Muslims that the United States wanted to invade Muslim lands, humiliate Muslim men, and rape Muslim women. Most Muslims found this charge hard to accept. The Bush administration's Iraq invasion, along with the Abu Ghuraib prison torture scandal, was perceived by many Muslims to validate Bin Laden's wisdom and foresightedness.

After the Iraq War, Bin Laden is more popular than George W. Bush even in a significantly secular Muslim country such as Turkey. This is a bizarre finding, a weird turn of events. Turks didn't start out with such an attitude. It grew up in reaction against US policies.

It remains to be seen whether the US will be forced out of Iraq the way it was forced out of Iran in 1979. If so, as al-Zawahiri says, that will be a huge victory. A recent opinion poll did find that over 80 percent of Iraqis want an Islamic state. If Iraq goes Islamist, that will be the biggest victory the movement has had since the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. An Islamist Iraq might well be able ultimately to form a joint state with Syria, starting the process of the formation of the Islamic superstate of which Bin Laden dreams.

If the Muslim world can find a way to combine the sophisticated intellectuals and engineers of Damascus and Cairo with the oil wealth of the Persian Gulf, it could well emerge as a 21st century superpower.

Bin Laden's dream of a united Muslim state under a revived caliphate may well be impossible to accomplish. But with the secular Baath gone, it could be one step closer to reality. If you add to the equation the generalized hatred for US policies (both against the Palestinians and in Iraq) among Muslims, that is a major step forward for al-Qaeda. In Saudi Arabia, al-Qaeda has emerged as a dissident political party. Before it had just been a small group of Bin Laden's personal acolytes in Afghanistan and a handful of other countries.

Although the United States and its Pakistani ally have captured significant numbers of al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a whole new generation of angry young Muslim men has been produced. Al-Qaeda has moved from being a concrete cell-based terrorist organization to being an ideal and a model, for small local groups in Casablanca, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and elsewhere.

The US is not winning the war on terror. Al-Qaeda also has by no means won. But across a whole range of objectives, al-Qaeda has accomplished more of its goals than the US has of its.
Ann Coulter tops the Ego Meter --
As demonstrated by Uggabugga. And, hmm, do you think she actually reads the Bible, or just recommends it? Because if she reads it, she missed some things about bearing false witness...

This is America on Bush --
Hecklers are "traitors," subjected to physical abuse and unlawful detention, by tax-payer funded Secret Service agents.

And here's a complete history of the Bush Empire, cartoon-style --
Part I, Part II, and Part III.

A friend writes --
"I would love to have an election in my lifetime where I can vote FOR someone and not against someone else."

David Horsey editorial cartoon, 9/10/04

The Assault Weapons Ban expires today --
Exhibiting the moral courage and backbone which (he tells us) characterizes his every decision, today Bush allows the assault weapons ban to expire so that he can collect the endorsement of the NRA. Have a look here, here, and here for some thoughts on this outrage. (Just a question: how exactly is it "Rambo tough" to carry a weapon so fast and so overloaded with ammunition it requires no marksmanship whatsoever?) Here's the proper link for the cartoon above.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Hmm, how long before we hear someone call this "memogate"? --
To some, the authenticity of the CBS documents is in dispute. I thought it was just conservative conspiracy theorists until I heard George Stephanopoulos discussing the complaints as if they were credible. But even then... The major network news all treated the Swift Boat Liars as if they were credible, too. Apparently Dems are worried enough that they have suggested the documents were plants by Republicans! Interesting that when Dan Bartlett was interviewed by CBS, he was neither suprised by the documents, nor defensive enough to float the possibility that they were fraudulent. The White House even handed out copies to the media. 'Course, if those Dems are right, and it's all a "set up," then Bartlett's lack of surprise is, well, not surprising. He would have known it was coming. In any case, Kevin Drum has a tidy idea: ask the guy who worked with Killian if he got the same kind of pressure from higher ups!

Oh, this is funny --
(I really, really wanted to say, "J----, this is funny!" But I wasn't raised to talk like that, and I'd upset my parents...) Anyway, enjoy.

Two can play that game --
Kerry does a little Bible-thumping of his own:
"Four years ago, George Bush came to office calling himself a compassionate conservative," Kerry said. "Well, in the story of the Good Samaritan we are told of two men who pass by or cross to the other side of the street when they come upon a robbed and a beaten man.

"They felt compassion, but there were no deeds. Then the Good Samaritan gave both his heart and his help."

Kerry added: "It is clear: For four years, George W. Bush may have talked about compassion, but he's walked right by. He's seen people in need, but he's crossed over to the other side of the street."

Thursday, September 09, 2004

From today's Daily Mislead:
The White House is currently attacking those who raise questions about President Bush's National Guard record. They say the questions about Bush's failure to fulfill his commitment are "dirty politics."1 Yet a look at the record shows that it was President George H.W. Bush - and his top campaign strategist George W. Bush - who tried to smear the National Guard and military record of their opponents.

As reported in the August 23, 1988 Los Angeles Times, then Vice President George H.W. Bush's campaign co-chairman John Sununu went on national television to impugn an opponent's dealings with the National Guard during Vietnam. Sununu specifically claimed Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX) had improperly helped get his son into the Texas National Guard during Vietnam. Bentsen's son served in the very same National Guard unit at the very same time as George W. Bush. The Bush campaign's attacks came just days after Bush's allies on Capitol Hill launched a vicious attack on Gov. Michael Dukakis (D-MA) for receiving a draft deferment during the Korean War.2

At the time of the coordinated attack, George W. Bush was serving as a senior adviser to his father's campaign.3

1."New Questions On Bush National Guard Duty ,", 9/08/04.
2. "Report that Bentsen Got Son into National Guard Also Denied; Dukakis Angry about Charge of Avoiding Korean War," Los Angeles Times, 8/23/88.
3., 9/04.
What goes around... Well, sometimes.
In a long interview/profile with writer David Remnick, in this week's New Yorker, Al Gore perfectly describes George W. Bush:
“The real distinction of this Presidency is that, at its core, he is a very weak man. He projects himself as incredibly strong, but behind closed doors he is incapable of saying no to his biggest financial supporters and his coalition in the Oval Office. He’s been shockingly malleable to Cheney and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and the whole New American Century bunch. He was rolled in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. He was too weak to resist it.

“I’m not of the school that questions his intelligence,” Gore went on. “There are different kinds of intelligence, and it’s arrogant for a person with one kind of intelligence to question someone with another kind. He certainly is a master at some things, and he has a following. He seeks strength in simplicity. But, in today’s world, that’s often a problem. I don’t think that he’s weak intellectually. I think that he is incurious. It’s astonishing to me that he’d spend an hour with his incoming Secretary of the Treasury and not ask him a single question. But I think his weakness is a moral weakness. I think he is a bully, and, like all bullies, he’s a coward when confronted with a force that he’s fearful of. His reaction to the extravagant and unbelievably selfish wish list of the wealthy interest groups that put him in the White House is obsequious. The degree of obsequiousness that is involved in saying ‘yes, yes, yes, yes, yes’ to whatever these people want, no matter the damage and harm done to the nation as a whole—that can come only from genuine moral cowardice. I don’t see any other explanation for it, because it’s not a question of principle. The only common denominator is each of the groups has a lot of money that they’re willing to put in service to his political fortunes and their ferocious and unyielding pursuit of public policies that benefit them at the expense of the nation.”
Wow. Perfect. And he has this to say about Bush's "blessed are the rich and powerful" brand of Christianity:
“It’s a particular kind of religiosity,” he said. “It’s the American version of the same fundamentalist impulse that we see in Saudi Arabia, in Kashmir, in religions around the world: Hindu, Jewish, Christian, Muslim. They all have certain features in common. In a world of disconcerting change, when large and complex forces threaten familiar and comfortable guideposts, the natural impulse is to grab hold of the tree trunk that seems to have the deepest roots and hold on for dear life and never question the possibility that it’s not going to be the source of your salvation. And the deepest roots are in philosophical and religious traditions that go way back. You don’t hear very much from them about the Sermon on the Mount, you don’t hear very much about the teachings of Jesus on giving to the poor, or the beatitudes. It’s the vengeance, the brimstone.”
Read the whole profile. He's a funny, angry, adaptable, passionate, complicated figure. (And remember, he not only won the popular vote in 2000; he won "more than any Democrat in history, more than any candidate in history except Ronald Reagan in 1984...")
(1) OK, I stand corrected on at least one of my "impressions" of the 60 Minutes Interview last night. Apparently, the Killian memos were all new developments, and Actually do add to the growing evidence that Bush went AWOL. Eric Boehlert (buck up and waste a few seconds on the "ad" in order to get a free "day pass" to Salon to read this, unless you're already a subscriber) has a terrific compilation of the published evidence, so far, that is really worth reading if this story interests you at all. I suspect the Bush Believers will dismiss even these developments: "what does it matter what he did 30+ years ago? The man found Jesus!" It matters that he "found Jesus" in the mid-80s, and yet continues to lie - every time the question comes up - about his service in the Texas Air National Guard.

(2) Bush wants to skip one debate this fall, because his handlers are afraid there will be "partisan" questioners (via Atrios; here's the WaPo story). How pathetic. The man appointed to be president of us all refuses to engage with us all. I caught a news report yesterday morning -- I can't remember which network -- about an extended session of heckling that Kerry endured at an appearance on Monday. The reporter closed his report with the pointed comment that unlike Bush events, where attendees are carefully pre-screened and attend by invitation only, Kerry events are open to anyone, thus hecklers are more likely to get in. I was astonished. He actually provided balanced information to the viewers!

(3) Respondents polled in 32 out of 35 countries would prefer Kerry over Bush. I wonder how many of those 32 countries we'll invade if Bush/Cheney are installed for another 4 years?

(4) Nobody at the White House will apologize for Cheney's repugnant threat (that not voting for Kerry will result in another attack on the US), but they're changing the official transcript to make it sound like he didn't say it! (via Tapped, which has more)

(5) This information needs to be a Kerry advertisement:
In March of this year, Cheney attacked Kerry for having “repeatedly voted against weapons systems for the military,” hammering the senator for voting “against the Apache helicopter, against the Tomahawk cruise missile, against even the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.” He said this record has “given us ample doubts about [Kerry’s] judgment and the attitude he brings to bear on vital issues of national security.”

What Cheney leaves out of his stump speeches is the ironic fact that almost all of the cuts Kerry voted for were endorsed or originally proposed by Cheney himself. At issue is not the cuts themselves, but the hypocrisy of Cheney attacking an opponent who merely followed his lead.
There are many specific examples. This needs to get around.

(6) Charles Pierce on the Daddy Party:
Card is now the White House chief-of-staff, and it was he who had to interrupt the ensemble reading of The Pet Goat in order to tell George W. Bush that someone had flown airplanes into the World Trade Center, thus starting the clock on the now-famous Seven-Minute Glaze. Card was talking to the two delegations about that moment, clinging to the GOP talking points like a nun to her beads. The president “didn’t introduce fear into any of those young children or through the national media, to the American people,” explained Card. Then, he attempted to explain how the president feels about the 200 million-odd souls who are, after all, his employers:

“It struck me as I was speaking to people in Bangor, Maine, that this president sees America as we think about a 10-year-old child. I know as a parent I would sacrifice all for my children.”

Let us leave aside any discussion prompted by Card’s remarks that might uncomfortably contain the word “Fatherland.” Let us take him at his word -- namely, that the president of the United States looks at the world’s longest-standing free democratic republic and sees...

A middle-schooler.
(7) Interesting. When I watched that PBS special about Bush's faith last spring, I noticed that in the "early George" film clips Bush spoke differently. He spoke with far less of a drawl, less slur, more fluidity, and - dare I say it? - even a touch of articulateness. Now, he always sounds drunk, he reaches for words, he delays faster-thinking questioners by saying "let me finish" and then concluding with something disconnected and puzzling. So check out this letter to the editor of Atlantic Monthly, posted by Kevin Drum; it offers a very logical hypothesis...

(8) I hope my hardworking gun control activist friend will forgive me when I say -- I'm glad this dog had access to an unlocked revolver.