Well, the bar was set pretty low for Sen. Kerry--pretty much all he had to do was not be a vacillating windbag to win, so I've gotta say he won.
Bush sort of painted himself into a corner on this one by demonizing Kerry so extensively. I suspect that a lot of Americans were surprised to find that Kerry is coherent, consistent, and in fact was respectful of the President in parts.
Bush was Bush--grasping for words, lots of "ums" and "uhs", looking snippy while Kerry answered. He repeated his signature remarks over and over again, implied that Iraq was responsible for 9/11, and kept to his primary story that Iraq must be won and he will win it.
All evidence defies this story, of course, and I think Kerry could have been tougher on the point. I was pleased to see him say, "Just because George Bush can't do it doesn't mean it can't be done," but I think he should have said it more often.
I can't wait for the rest of the debates. This was thoroughly enjoyable.
First phrase in answer to a question: "September the eleventh."
Next question: "Do you believe that if John Kerry is elected that America will be hit by another 9/11 type attack?"
Bush's answer: "I don't think it's going to happen. I don't think they're going to elect John Kerry."
WTF??? How self-absorbed is this guy?
Hopefully you're checking out Daily Kos pretty regularly, but if not, here's a link from the Kos diaries. Jazzmaniac reminds us all that good satire is, in essence, true:
AP-In a stunning display of raw emotion never before seen on national television, President George W. Bush appeared to suffer a psychological breakdown during last night's square-off with Democratic nominee John Kerry.
Political commentators were quick to agree that Bush won the debate.
Read the rest here.
September 29, 2004
Good God He's Always Been This Way
New York Times, June 28, 2000. Bush Would Use Power of Persuasion to Raise Oil Supply
Choice bits from the article, which is SO worth reading: "I would work with our friends in OPEC to convince them to open up the spigot, to increase the supply," Mr. Bush, the presumptive Republican candidate for president, told reporters here today. "Use the capital that my administration will earn, with the Kuwaitis or the Saudis, and convince them to open up the spigot."
More, and if you laugh John Ashcroft will come crashing through your wall:
Asked why the Clinton administration had not been able to use the power of personal persuasion, Mr. Bush said: "The fundamental question is, 'Will I be a successful president when it comes to foreign policy?' "
He went on to suggest, as he did in answer to other questions, that voters should simply trust him.
"I will be," he said in answer to his own question about whether he would be a successful president. "But until I'm the president, it's going to be hard for me to verify that I think I'll be more effective."
Mr. Bush said that the news on Monday that projections of the federal budget surplus were up to $4.2 trillion only confirmed his own earlier estimates. He said he did not expect to increase the size of his proposed tax cut -- $1.3 trillion over 10 years -- just because more money might be available.
"I'm pleased with the way my plan now sits," he said. "Things may change over time."
He brushed off President Clinton's proposal, driven by the new surplus estimates, that he would accept a Republican proposal to cut the marriage tax penalty in exchange for the inclusion of a prescription drug benefit in Medicare.
And finally, in response to comments from Al Gore's campaign manager, Mr. Bush said this: "It's frankly the type of politics people in America are sick of, this kind of finger pointing, calling names and trying to divert attention."
Oh screw it, go ahead and laugh.
David Dreier and The Ethics of Being Queer
In a sign that the culture war is heating up, BlogActive has begun a campaign of outing prominent closeted Republicans.
Now obviously, outing is not a kind thing to do, but BlogActive insists that it only targets Republicans who don't support the gay agenda... I mean, who vote against things like funding to house people with AIDS and Employment Non-Discrimination and really radical things of that nature. Housing and employment being special rights and all...
BlogActive's latest target is the deliciously well placed Representative David Dreier of California. He is a twelve term congressman and the youngest ever to lead the powerful House Rules Committee. And, it turns out, he's as ethically challenged as any heterosexual legislator.
It appears that Mr. Dreier has been employing his live-in partner as his office's Chief of Staff at a salary of $156,600 a year, only $400 less than White House chief of staff Andrew Card and political advisor Karl Rove make.
By comparison, the chief of staff to the chair of the House Judiciary Committee makes $126,000, while the chief of staff to the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee makes just $100,696.
Oh, ethics. I doubt that Dreier is breaking any laws, but as a taxpayer I would like to know if my representative is employing his or her spouse, and if so, that the payscale is in line with other offices.
And in a groundbreaking development, Dreier's opponent in the November election, Democrat Cynthia Matthews has affirmed that she is a lesbian and appears poised to run with these ethics questions as far as they'll take her. “I am especially concerned about the allegations regarding Congressman Dreier’s decision to pay his chief of staff at a rate higher than those with similar positions and experience,” she said.
America's first Gay on Gay race. Will it be the ethically challenged boys who vote against their community, or the opportunistic girl who has wrapped herself in a rainbow flag? November's coming fast, so stay tuned!
And you thought the Bush v. Kerry show was the only game in town.
September 28, 2004
More on Brooks' Assertions about Democracy
The earlier post was written in haste while I was at work, and I'd like to take a few minutes here to get into more detail about the El Salvadoran Civil War and the US role in perpetuating it. David Brooks is being at best fanciful, but more realistically dishonest in his portrayal of elections as being the defining means by which the Leftist insurgency was defeated.
The first thing that Brooks does not make clear is that 1982 did not mark the beginning of El Salvador's electoral process. Salvadoran democracy goes back a long way, but it has been plagued by corruption and fraud. Military coups and juntas further diluted effective democracy, though populist (i.e., leftist; i.e., communist, in the parlance of the day) groups did agitate for additional participation.
This is not Iraq's tradition. El Salvador had a presidential election in 1977, followed by a military takeover, followed by the long-marginalized left opting for war. Iraq's recent history bears no relation.
The civil war of 1980-1992 was punctuated by elections, it's true. It was also exacerbated by Ronald Reagan's policy of stamping out communism wherever it lived. This has merits, let's not even pretend it doesn't, but the 75,000 dead Salvadorans and the congresspeople who were lied to in order to get them to approve funding might find that the methods were inexcusable.
El Salvador had a reasonably democratic tradition prior to the 1982 election that Brooks claims was the origin of a society's defeat of an unwanted leftist insurgency. He's misrepresenting the situation. While elections are undeniably a good thing, what got El Salvador into its civil war in the first place was the lack of legitimacy stemming from having merely a reasonably democratic tradition. This is what the neocons should be studying while they prepare Iraq for fraudulent and inadequate polls in January: not the dignity of casting a ballot, but the dignity of having your vote count.
David Brooks Says Stupid Things
For those who read SimianBrain pretty regularly, you know my high opinion of conservative columnist David Brooks. I find his work to be generally thoughtful, honest, and less partisan than most of the punditocracy. On the other hand, I also find his work to be too easily led by the rosy scenarios of the ideologues of his party, and today's column is a perfect example.
Brooks uses the fact that El Salvador had elections during a decade or more when it eased out of civil war to show that elections alone are the key factor in eliminating insurgency. Mr. Brooks declines to mention extensive US involvement in destabalizing Central American democracies in the 1980s and America's propensity to fund insurgent armies in the region because of Reagan's decision to end communism by any means necessary.
Brooks' point is that by the 1990s, the Salvadorans had themselves a democratically elected government which was able to negotiate with and draw in insurgents, but he fails to mention that by the 1990s, the US government was doing a lot less meddling in anti-Communist ground wars in the region.
And so will go Iraq, Brooks says. If only they can vote, even in imperfect elections, dignity will flower. I want him to be right. It's just that everything else we've been told by this administration about Iraq has been wrong, and I think that what the neocons are missing in this "elections=dignity" equation is that somewhere a government has to derive legitimacy.
What if, as Don Rumsfeld says, elections are held in three-fourths or four-fifths of the country? Let's say that one quarter of the country, generally Sunni Arab regions, are unable to vote.
How will the duly elected Shiite, or Shiite-Kurd, government gain legitimacy in the insurgent-held and insurgent-friendly regions? The only way I can think of is for them to eject American troops, which they can't do because they would all soon be assassinated by the insurgent forces.
I generally appreciate Mr. Brooks optimism, but today I don't want a big picture overview of the happy neoconservative fantasy of the middle east. I want a detailed assessment of how Mr. Bush and his cronies intent to create conditions that will allow for a legitimate government to form in Iraq and build a unified, free Iraqi nation where dignity can flower. As Mr. Brooks points out, it has happened before. What are we going to do to allow it to happen in Iraq?
September 27, 2004
Cliterati Show for Georgians Against Discrimination
Thursday, October 7, 9:00PM Azul in Decatur
For those of you in the Atlanta area, I'll be performing some of my snazzy snarktastic political satire with Atlanta's spoken word supergroup Cliterati next Thursday, October 7 at Decatur's Azul Bar.
It's a fundraiser/rally for Georgians Against Discrimination, who as we know, are working to defeat Georgia's Amendment 1. Amendment 1, as we know, would ban gay marriage, prevent the state from recognizing gay marriages performed anywhere else, and would prevent any state court or state agency from issuing any rulings or creating any status for homosexual relationships (read: Civil Unions, Domestic Partnership, Insurance Benefits, possibly even though private employers, adoption, and so forth). And though there have been people who've posted that none of these laws limit access to the courts, those people are full of shit. This law would prevent a judge from issuing any ruling related to homosexual relationships. Tell me how this doesn't restrict my access to the courts?
When I rule the world, everyone will have to gay marry. Bwaa haa haa haa haa haa.
Amendment 1 is legislative gay bashing, and everyone knows it, and it'll hurt Georgia's economy.
Anyway, if you're in the Atlanta area, don't stay home. This is the most important issue facing Georgians on our ballot. Have a drink, pick up literature, meet your neighbors, and be entertained.
You can hear some of Cliterati's spoken word here and, uh, I'm the one at the bottom. Yeah, it's true, Shamanic isn't my given name. It's not even a nickname that anyone else uses with me. Strictly an online thing. So there you go.
September 26, 2004
Two Faces of Bush
Hurricanes Being a Message From God, And All
I just came across this map of Florida (color coded by each county's 2000 election preference) with the recent hurricanes paths' superimposed.
Message from God?
I'd love to see it updated to include Jeanne. Looks to me like it hit the red counties hardest, too.
I have my superstitious impulses, sure, but I live my life surrounded by atheists and tend to shy away from discussions of the living God. Just know that I'm keenly interested in the development and path of (currently) Tropical Depression Lisa and I'm wondering if God may have an October Surprise of its own planned.
Cable Coverage of Jeanne
Is anyone else watching Anderson Cooper nearly getting killed by Jeanne in Florida? Perhaps CNN could bring him inside... Soon.
September 25, 2004
Growing Up Gay in the Bible Belt
Yeah, I knew I wasn't the only one.
WaPo has a lengthy series beginning today on Michael Shackleford, 17 year old Oklahoma resident, and homosexual. (Hardly the only one in Oklahoma). They've followed him for about a year and report on some of the uniquely Bible-belt obstacles he faces in pursuit of himself.
Southern queers will identify with this. Continues tomorrow, as well.
Wow, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf did an interview with CNN's Paula Zhan. Very, very enlightening, spread the word about this one.
CNN: PAULA ZAHN NOW 8:00PM
September 24, 2004 Friday
ZAHN: Is the world a safer place because of the war in Iraq?
MUSHARRAF: No. It's more dangerous. It's not safer, certainly not.
ZAHN: How so?
MUSHARRAF: Well, because it has aroused actions of the Muslims more. It's aroused certain sentiments of the Muslim world, and then the responses, the latest phenomena of explosives, more frequent for bombs and suicide bombings. This phenomenon is extremely dangerous.
ZAHN: Was it a mistake to have gone to war with Iraq?
MUSHARRAF: Well, I would say that it has ended up bringing more trouble to the world....
So that other dictator, tasked with (and failing at, thus far) hunting down Osama bin Laden, is capable of more honesty than our own kind of elected president.
The No-News-Means-We-Can-Lie-To-You War
September is now the bloodiest month since May for American forces in Iraq. And we're likely to surpass May's numbers, as well. As always, the numbers are here.
Bush: "But what's important for the American people to hear is reality. And the reality's right here in the form of the prime minister. And he is explaining what is happening on the ground. That's the best report."
"Iraq is made out of 18 provinces. Out of these 18 provinces, 14 to 15 are completely safe; there are no problems. And I can count them for you, starting from Basra, moving into Iraq Kurdistan.
There are three areas, three provinces where there are pockets of insurgents, pockets of terrorists who are acting there and are moving from there to inflict damage elsewhere in the country.
So really few care to look at Iraq properly and go from Basra to Nasiriyah to Kut (ph) to Diala to Najaf to Karbala to Diwina to Samawa (ph) to Kirkuk to Sulaymaniyah to Dahoo (ph) to Irbil there are no problems. It's safe. It's good.
There are problems in Fallujah. Fallujah is part of a province, the province is called Al Anbar. It's vast, very big. It has many other important towns, such as Anna (ph), such as Rawa (ph), such as Ramadi. There's nothing there."
It certainly appears to be a bit more widespread than just Fallujah. Maybe Allawi means that the problems are only occuring in population centers, while in the vast western desert, there is little resistance from the miles and miles of sand.
Basra is gradually falling apart, and the British don't know what to do about it. Baghdad, of course, is a hotbed of anti-American violence that no one seems to have any idea how to quell (there are fantastic notions about rebuilding their country and such, but few signs that this is being done. See the Basra link.) There is an increasing notion that the Kurds are waiting for all-out civil war to break out to grab Kirkuk, eject the Arabs and Turkmen, and once again hold the line against events in greater Iraq.
This may be the only scenario where Turkey would allow such an action, as an independent Kurdish area would provide a strong buffer.
Allawi may think he can get away with this degree of dishonesty because in much of the country, journalists are having a tough time moving around. In Najaf, there are reports that foreign jounalists are being intimidated by police. Insurgents kidnapped two French journalists in August, and their conditions are unknown. It's the No-News-Means-We-Can-Lie-To-You war and they're pulling big ones on it now.
The Bush Tell-All Photo Op
Remind you of anyone?
Yesterday's speech was particularly embarrassing. He stood there groveling in front of the congress- thanking them for the war, the occupation and the thousands of Iraqi lives lost... and he did it all on behalf of the Iraqi people. It was infuriating and for maybe the hundredth time this year, I felt rage. Yet another exile thanking the Bush administration for the catastrophe we're trying to cope with. Our politicians are outside of the country 90% of the time (by the way, if anyone has any news of our president Ghazi Ajeel Al Yawir, do let us know- where was he last seen or heard?), the security situation is a joke, the press are shutting down and pulling out and our beloved exiles are painting rosey pictures for the American public- you know- so everyone who voted for Bush can sleep at night.
Does it seem to anyone else that we're living in the time of a modern equivalent to Emperor Nero? Washington DC could be clouded in Sarin Gas, and he'd be far away aboard Air Force One explaining that he's resolved and that America is steadfast, and we'd all be wondering if maybe he thought they were taking him on another fun trip to the Baghdad airport where people clap for him.
Thursday 9/23, George W. Bush: "Mr. Prime Minister, America will k believe terrorist violence may well escalate as the January elections draw near. The terrorists know that events in Iraq are reaching a decisive moment. If elections go forward, democracy in Iraq will put down permanent roots and terrorists will suffer a dramatic defeat."
March 19, 2004, George W. Bush: "It's a good thing that the demands of the United Nations were enforced, not ignored with impunity. It is a good thing that years of illicit weapons development by the dictator have come to the end. It is a good thing that the Iraqi people are now receiving aid, instead of suffering under sanctions. And it is a good thing that the men and women across the Middle East, looking to Iraq, are getting a glimpse of what life in a free country can be like."
It's no wonder, really, that Bush is starting to be compared to "Baghdad Bob", the old regime's highly entertaining information minister who continually issued upbeat assessments to western media while Baghdad fell.
So I'll leave you with this statement from one of these speakers: Baghdad Bob or Baghdad Bush?
"They think that by killing civilians and trying to distort the feelings of the people they will win."
E-mail me your answers. I'll post the speaker's identity tomorrow (as though you can't find it out yourself, but hey, it's the weekend.)
September 24, 2004
George W. Bush Reframes the Debate
It's funny how George W. Bush has changed the dialogue in this country. Now, when I hear that someone is a decorated veteran, I wonder how they came by those medals.
When Chechen rebels took hundreds of hostages in a Russian primary school, eventually killing more than three hundred, I took it as a sign that Russia is winning its war on terrorism.
Everytime I hear about a kidnapping or murder of a civilian in Iraq, I think "Bring 'em on!"
Coming home from work today, I heard a news report saying that al-Zarqawi may have personally beheaded the two Americans who were slaughtered there this week, according to the CIA. And I couldn't help but think: Aw, they're just guessing!
George W. Bush: He said he'd change the tone. He did.
Media Growing Balls
I heard Ken Mehlman, Bush's campaign director, interviewed on NPR this morning, and it was pretty tough-as-nails (scroll down to Helming the Bush Campaign). I believe it was Robert Siegel conducting the conversation, and he kept drilling down on Mehlman about misrepresenting and distorting Kerry's positions, statements, and record. Mehlman conducted himself well, but I think this is emblematic of an increasing toughness in media interaction with the Bush campaign, also in evidence during an extremely combative press conference yesterday with Bush and Iyad Allawi (referenced below, as well).
It's a little late in the Bush presidency for the media to finally be calling them on their trash style of doing business, but I suppose it's better than nothing. Mehlman's radio beating comes a month or so after Chris Matthews verbally tore his head off on Hardball for creative editing of Kerry's remarks from Matthew's show earlier this year.
And, of course, in increasingly pacified Iraq where only Fallujah has a "pocket" of violence (according to Allawi) September is shaping up to be bloodier than August, which was bloodier than July, which was bloodier than June, when the handover was supposed to fix everything.
Do you think it causes them any discomfort to lie as much as they do? Maybe a slight tingling sensation for the small ones, and a burning, itchy rash for every "Iraq is going great!" lie?
September 23, 2004
Bush Means What He Says
This is from the transcript of a press conference with Bush and Allawi yesterday. Bush is answering a reporter's question about helping Iraq. He's talking about Iraq, bear that in mind as you read his ramblings about the "Afghan" army. I just love the irony of the last line here though:
The Afghan national army is a part of the army.
By the way, it's the Afghan national army that went into Najaf and did the work there.
There's a regular army being trained, a border guard being trained, their police being trained. That's a key part of our mission.
But I think the world watches America. We're an influential nation, and everybody watches what we say. And I think it's very important for the American president to mean what he says.
He's walking, talking parody. Whatever shall we do for laughs when he's sent back to Crawford?
That's why I understand that the enemy could misread what I say. That's why I try to be as clearly as I can.
Fiore Takes on Touchscreen Voting
Excellent Mark Fiore flash cartoon here. Headphones would be good if you're at work as there's a soundtrack.
Abusing Big Media
The creativity on the web continually makes me chuckle. This graphic is borrowed from Fantastically Normal:
Polling Insight Courtesy of DKos
Kos provides some insight into a new American Research Group poll here. Kerry leads electorally in this series of state-by-state polls, and ARG is generally considered right-leaning.
Another good place to get amazingly detailed polling analysis is at My DD (that's Due Diligence, if you're wondering).
Kerry's down for the day with a chest cold, seeking to be in top form next week for the first debate. This is going to be a tight race, as these numbers demonstrate, but is completely winnable if Mr. Kerry can just keep hammering Bush's record.
All that Bush is running on, after all, are facile attacks on Mr. Kerry. His foreign policy has been an unmitigated disaster, his domestic policy has caused stagnation, and he ignored all signals that an attack might be forthcoming prior to 9/11. He's avoiding his own record in favor of personality politics, but with a record like that, who can blame him?
September 22, 2004
So, as part of the shake up at work, I've been promoted and am now the point person for my function in the department. My workload has doubled, plus for the time being I have about an hour of admin work I have to do each day while I get certain processes in place and get people in the habit of using them.
I hate not having time to blog each day, especially with the fat broadband at home. I've just been so tired in the evenings, and occasionally so overwhelmed by world events, that it's been hard for me to find the energy to get my thoughts down here.
Hopefully things will settle down shortly and I'll be back at the helm of snark. I have some plans for SimianBrain which I hope to begin working on in October (I've scheduled a five day vacation for early in the month, so perhaps then) so keep an eye out and I'll have updates as I can for the next week or so, then some pretty radical changes.
Kerry's Getting Sharp
Just heard Kerry on NPR, and from what I've been able to glance at in the headlines of the last few days, I'm extremely pleased at how his message has been crafted and sharpened by Lockhart and the other additions to his team.
Last summer I was posting on Howard Dean's blog that this Iraq is a demonstration of George Bush's lack of judgement, and this has become one of Kerry's mantras. (I take no credit, it's just always seemed that way to me and so many others.)
Kerry's notion that events in Iraq when compared to the President's statements about Iraq show how out of touch Bush is are also excellent. I know here in Atlanta, we are acutely aware of the murders of two American civilians in Iraq in the last few days because Jack Hensley is a Marietta resident. Coming home from work yesterday, I was touched as I listened to a very solemn report from the Hensley neighborhood, and then was suddenly catapaulted into Bush Fantasy World when they went to the White House for reaction. Bush said, as he has said so many times, "We will not let the killers stand in our way. We will not let the thugs win," or words to that effect.
An American, very nearly a neighbor of mine, just had his head sawed off by radicals, and Bush's reaction is to announce how resolved he is. In fact, his reaction to everything is to proudly tout his unwavering resolveyness.
I have a suggestion, Mr. President: How about you shove your steely resolve for a change and do something? If I hear the word "steadfast" one more time in reaction to the murder of an American, I may destroy my radio. If I see ol' Steely Jawed blithely ignore another soldier's death because he is too "resolved" to notice it, my television will surely die.
Quit yapping, George! Stop your self-indulgent posturing and talk to our allies. You are killing our people because you think that diplomacy is for pansies. You are murdering Americans because you have been unwilling to make any concessions that might get foreign troops on the ground in Iraq.
Shut up, already. Your resolve is toxic. Your steadfast refusal to entertain any opinion outside of your immediate circle is leading our country down the path of destruction. You are killing us, George. Not just our friends and family in Iraq, but all of us. We are aghast, and your only answer is the repeated issuance of hollow words, told by an idiot, signifying nothing.
September 19, 2004
Air America Hits Atlanta
Dude! 1690 AM, Air America Radio! In Atlanta!
Now I can listen in my car and don't have to be subject to the whims of the Internet stream!
I've been giving it a good workout for the last few days, having heard that the closer you are to the perimeter, the worse the reception is. Since the perimeter is behind the stand of noise-dampening trees behind my back yard, I'm pleased to report that it comes in well in the automobile, not so well in the basement casa I call home.
Still, to have a choice between WABE and anything else for my commute is just delightful. People who are into music don't have this problem, but as we know, I'm into politics and current events and gladly welcome Air America Radio to my neighborhood.
Seymore Hersh on Neocons
Salon provides an interview with investigative journalist Seymore Hersh, who provides this stream-of-consciousness response to the question, "Is there someone who is the Henry Kissinger in this administration?"
Oh, believe me, I pray for one [clasps his hands and looks beseechingly upward]. Wouldn't it be great if the reality was that they were lying about WMD, and they really didn't believe that democracy would come when they invaded Iraq, and you could go to war with 5,000 troops, a few special forces, a few bombs and a lot of American flags, and Iraq would fold, Saddam would be driven out, a new Baath Party would emerge that's moderate? Democracy would flow like water out of a fountain. These guys believe it. They believe WMD. There's no fallback with these guys. These guys are utopians. They're like Trotskyites. They believe in permanent revolution. They really believe. They believe that they could go in with few forces. They believed that once they went in it would happen quick. Iran would get the message. What they call occupied Lebanon would get the lesson. Even the Saudis would change.
Garrison Keillor on Republicans
Thank you Kirkrrt and Billy for this, from Keillor's book Homegrown Democrat (2004):
from In These Times (which excerpted it from Keillor's book): We’re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore How did the Party of Lincoln and Liberty transmogrify into the party of Newt Gingrich’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk? By Garrison Keillor August 26, 2004
Something has gone seriously haywire with the Republican Party. Once, it was the party of pragmatic Main Street businessmen in steel-rimmed spectacles who decried profligacy and waste, were devoted to their communities and supported the sort of prosperity that raises all ships. They were good-hearted people who vanquished the gnarlier elements of their party, the paranoid Roosevelt-haters, the flat Earthers and Prohibitionists, the antipapist antiforeigner element. The genial Eisenhower was their man, a genuine American hero of D-Day, who made it OK for reasonable people to vote Republican. He brought the Korean War to a stalemate, produced the Interstate Highway System, declined to rescue the French colonial army in Vietnam, and gave us a period of peace and prosperity, in which (oddly) American arts and letters flourished and higher education burgeonedand there was a degree of plain decency in the country. Fifties Republicans were giants compared to today’s. Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor.
In the years between Nixon and Newt Gingrich, the party migrated southward down the Twisting Trail of Rhetoric and sneered at the idea of public service and became the Scourge of Liberalism, the Great Crusade Against the Sixties, the Death Star of Government, a gang of pirates that diverted and fascinated the media by their sheer chutzpah, such as the misty-eyed flag-waving of Ronald Reagan who, while George McGovern flew bombers in World War II, took a pass and made training films in Long Beach. The Nixon moderate vanished like the passenger pigeon, purged by a legion of angry white men who rose to power on pure punk politics.
Bipartisanship is another term of date rape, says Grover Norquist, the Sid Vicious of the GOP. I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub. The boy has Oedipal problems and government is his daddy.
The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we’re deaf, dumb and dangerous.
Rich ironies abound! Lies pop up like toadstools in the forest! Wild swine crowd round the public trough! Outrageous gerrymandering! Pocket lining on a massive scale! Paid lobbyists sit in committee rooms and write legislation to alleviate the suffering of billionaires! Hypocrisies shine like cat turds in the moonlight! O Mark Twain, where art thou at this hour? Arise and behold the Gilded Age reincarnated gaudier than ever, upholding great wealth as the sure sign of Divine Grace.
Here in 2004, George W. Bush is running for reelection on a platform of tragedy, the single greatest failure of national defense in our history, the attacks of 9/11 in which 19 men with box cutters put this nation into a tailspin, a failure the details of which the White House fought to keep secret even as it ran the country into hock up to the hubcaps, thanks to generous tax cuts for the well-fixed, hoping to lead us into a box canyon of debt that will render government impotent, even as we engage in a war against a small country that was undertaken for the president’s personal satisfaction but sold to the American public on the basis of brazen misinformation, a war whose purpose is to distract us from an enormous transfer of wealth taking place in this country, flowing upward, and the deception is working beautifully.
The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few is the death knell of democracy. No republic in the history of humanity has survived this. The election of 2004 will say something about what happens to ours. The omens are not good.
Our beloved land has been fogged with fear, the greatest political strategy ever. An ominous silence, distant sirens, a drumbeat of whispered warnings and alarms to keep the public uneasy and silence the opposition. And in a time of vague fear, you can appoint bullet-brained judges, strip the bark off the Constitution, eviscerate federal regulatory agencies, bring public education to a standstill, stupefy the press, lavish gorgeous tax breaks on the rich.
There is a stink drifting through this election year. It isn’t the Florida recount or the Supreme Court decision. No, it’s 9/11 that we keep coming back to. It wasn’t the end of innocence, or a turning point in our history, or a cosmic occurrence, it was an event, a lapse of security. And patriotism shouldn’t prevent people from asking hard questions of the man who was purportedly in charge of national security at the time.
Whenever I think of those New Yorkers hurrying along Park Place or getting off the No.1 Broadway local, hustling toward their office on the 90th floor, the morning paper under their arms, I think of that non-reader George W. Bush and how he hopes to exploit those people with a little economic uptick, maybe the capture of Osama, cruise to victory in November and proceed to get some serious nation-changing done in his second term.
This year, as in the past, Republicans will portray us Democrats as embittered academics, desiccated Unitarians, whacked-out hippies and communards, people who talk to telephone poles, the party of the Deadheads. They will wave enormous flags and wow over and over the footage of firemen in the wreckage of the World Trade Center and bodies being carried out and they will lie about their economic policies with astonishing enthusiasm.
The Union is what needs defending this year. Government of Enron and by Halliburton and for the Southern Baptists is not the same as what Lincoln spoke of. This gang of Pithecanthropus Republicanii has humbugged us to death on terrorism and tax cuts for the comfy and school prayer and flag burning and claimed the right to know what books we read and to dump their sewage upstream from the town and clear-cut the forests and gut the IRS and mark up the constitution on behalf of intolerance and promote the corporate takeover of the public airwaves and to hell with anybody who opposes them.
This is a great country, and it wasn’t made so by angry people. We have a sacred duty to bequeath it to our grandchildren in better shape than however we found it. We have a long way to go and we’re not getting any younger.
Dante said that the hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who in time of crisis remain neutral, so I have spoken my piece, and thank you, dear reader. It’s a beautiful world, rain or shine, and there is more to life than winning.
September 18, 2004
September Becoming Another Bloody Month in Iraq
The death toll for Coalition (in other words, mostly US) troops is presently at more than three per day, and a total of 52 Americans have died in fighting in Iraq so far this month.
These totals continue the upward trend in violence since a summer of low of 42 US deaths in June. I want to share this line from the Iraq Coalition Casualties page to demonstrate how lopsided the numbers are, despite Administration claims that there is a strong a helpful of coalition of nations who are making as many sacrifices as we are. This is the campaign total line:
US UK OTHER TOTAL AVG # DAYS
Total 1030 66 69 1165 2.12 549
AVG is average number of deaths per day since the war began in March 2003, 549 days ago. Highest average month was, of course, March '03, when more than seven soldiers were killed per day during the invasion. Another spike occured in April of this year, when nearly five soldiers were killed per day.
This chart does not factor in the deaths of Iraqi security forces in the "other" column, which is becoming a gross oversight. They've battled alongside Coalition (US) troops in Najaf and Fallujah, to name two particularly bloody places, and it may be time that a column is added for Iraq's own troops as they fight killers in their own country.
Civilian casualties are higher, of course, as the recent volley of suicide and car bombs has shown. The Iraq Body Count page estimates the civilian deaths at between 12,700 and 14,800, but they don't break their numbers out very well and compile from media reports, so it's difficult to know if they're on target, too high, or undercounting.
Which is sort of the point, I guess.
Dirty, Dirty Politics in W. Virginia
Talk about dirty politics: the Republican National Committee has begun sending mailings to voters in W. Virginia claiming that if elected, Democrats will ban the Bible and gay marriage will be the law of the land.
I don't even know what to say here. Could the conservatives who sometimes stop by give me any reason why this sort of disingenuous scare tactic doesn't cause you to stay home on election day? How do you defend this sort of broad-brush smearing of approximately half of the United States public?
And just so we're clear: Liberals oppose banning books. Period. Marriage has always been a state issue, and until Republicans announced that the Constitution wasn't good enough for them, it looked like that would continue in the future.
September 16, 2004
Washington Post: Bush: Kerry Will Expand Government.
Says the most prolific government expander since FDR...
Russia Moves Away From Freedom
Let's take today to read up on Russia. It certainly looks as though the nation's brief flirtation with liberty and democracy has failed and that Vladimir Putin is the latest in a long line of autocratic leaders.
It's a shame. Any thoughts on what went wrong for Russian society after the collapse of communism?
Let's all take it easy on the roads the next couple of days and stay safe. To my friends in Mobile who won't be reading this for a while, keep the candles burning and the spirits up, it's almost over. I'm thinking good thoughts for you.
September 13, 2004
Cool Storm Satellite Pix
Oh hey, over at NOAA they've got super rock n roll pictures and loops of Ivan and Javier. Eye candy for the fearless?
Shake Up At Work
Hey all, my apologies for the lack of posts, but work has become a very high stress environment as upper management considers "realigning" or, worse, eliminating my department. Who would have thought that an employer who outsourced 3,000 low paying jobs overseas could be so cold to the higher paying positions?
Anyway, I think things are going okay and I know that I've put the time into building relationships and demonstrating my worth to the people making these decisions, but you bet your bootie that I'm spending an awful lot of time looking busy. And not blogging. Long story short, things'll be a little more sporadic around here for the time being and I do apologize for that, but hey, I've got my priorities.
In the interim, allow me to recommend Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo (if you're not reading it yet you're hopeless), Eschaton, and Daily Howler for hella-agro media commentary. Enjoy these, and I'll be throwing out the lifelines at work and pushing for normalcy.
Oh, and for Georgians, if I forget to mention it between now and Oct. 2--you've gotta register to vote prior to October 2 if you want to vote November 2. And I know you want to vote November 2, so if you're not registered yet, DO IT NOW!
Thanks. More soon...
September 12, 2004
N. Korea appears to have tested nuclear bomb
North Korea is a nuclear nation as of Thursday, September 9. It's early and I don't want to think about this because it brings me back to the utter failure of US foreign policy from 2002 forward.
Iran is apparently not cooperating with EU demands to drop nuclear ambitions.
I don't want to oversimplify. North Korea has been working on acquiring nuclear weapons for years, maybe decades. It remains that it is one of the leading weapons proliferators in the world and that it sits on a continent which houses nearly half of the human population. The political tensions that lead the region grow more complicated every day (India v. Pakistan; China v. India; Russia v. Pakistan; Russia and China warming their relationship; etc.) and just about the only thing that is clear is that this action requires a military solution and will be unable to provide one.
September 9, 2004
Tax Cuts Causing Stagnant Job Growth?
Here's a really fascinating piece from Slate questioning the wisdom of Bush's Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 and suggesting that its provisions may be playing a role in holding hiring down.
The law accelerated the depreciation schedules for equipment purchased between May 2003 and January 2005, making it more cost effective for companies to purchase equipment than hire workers.
As the piece's author, Daniel Gross, writes:
The Jobs and Growth Act of 2003 aimed to give corporations an extra incentive to rush out and buy more capital goods by allowing them to write off larger chunks of the purchase price more quickly. Buy a $1 million piece of machinery expected to last five years and under the old regime you could write off $200,000 in the first year. Under accelerated depreciation, you can write off half of the total, plus half of the usual 20 percent, in the first year—or $600,000. Corporate executives thus were given a 20-month window in which they could buy new stuff that they needed and get massive tax breaks. But they had to act before Jan. 1, 2005.The problems? Capital expenses today are generally designed to reduce the need for humans. Also, capital expenses often do not involve US manufacturers, thus reducing the stimulative effect from such purchasing in the manufacturing sector.
September 8, 2004
Thanks to Kos
Kos has posted a link to the Daily Show from last Thursday, a run-down of Wednesday's convention activities. John Stewart appears to have enjoyed Zell Miller every bit as much as I did. Six and half minute video clip.
Delta Announces Cuts
7000 jobs, 2000 of which will be Dallas-Ft. Worth, which will no longer be a Delta hub.
They say major cuts in Atlanta, management streamlining, and pay cuts across the board. This follows some 16,000 jobs lost in the last few years at Delta, which may still face bankruptcy.
Other highlights: increased employee cost for benefits (no suprise there).
As I've mentioned before, my primary concern with Delta's difficulties is Atlanta's housing market and overall economic health. I don't like it, but it isn't bankruptcy. Let's keep a good thought that the accountants at Delta will figure it out and that the fed will be willing to cover their shortfalls. Otherwise, all my homeowner friends are in trouble.
September 7, 2004
I keep going to the Iraq Coalition Casualties page today. We're at 999 US Soldiers killed in action in Iraq. I know this wasn't part of Bush's plan, but it's hard for me to accept 1,000 dead and nearly 7,000 wounded US troops are so easily brushed off as a "miscalculation".
These are cold times.
September 4, 2004
Medicare Boondoggle Rises Again
Whoa skippy! Headline: Medicare Premiums To Rise By 17.5%
Percentage Increase Biggest in 15 Years
Why is it that when Republicans "reform" something, it always ends up out of the reach of the people who need it most?
Here's the reason for the increase: "By law, McClellan's agency (Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services) is required to keep adequate reserves in the Medicare account. He attributed about a quarter of the increase to maintaining the trust fund."
And this prompted me to peek into some data on Social Security, that lock-boxed trust fund that Bush pledged never to touch. Well, he touched it. It financed his tax cuts. From August 29, 2001:
This year's federal budget surplus has plunged to $153 billion because of the nation's economic doldrums and the Bush administration's tax cut, meaning the federal government will have to cover $9 billion of spending by dipping into Social Security, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected Tuesday.
What galls me most is the argument that, well, 9/11 happened and there was a war. Yes. I was under the impression that Republicans, the responsibility party, would run a government that had some money stuffed under some mattress somewhere in the event, that, oh, I don't know... Someone attacked us and we had to pay $200 billion-plus in war costs.
Look, I've got $1,300 in credit card debt I'm paying down that drives me nuts. I own my car, I live in a place that I can more than afford. I'm a fiscal hawk; I want to track down deficits wherever they may be hiding and strangle them to death with my own two hands. This is why I can say, "Yeah, I don't want to be alone in a room with Bill Clinton, but I do want him running my country." No other president in my lifetime has given our nation the economic benefits that Bill Clinton did.
Gmail for Troops
Want a simple way to show your support for America's forces overseas? Visit Gmail4Troops where you can donate your extra gmail invitations to people who could really use the extra server space to receive audio, pictures, and video from their families.
What a great idea this is. I've been reluctant to open a gmail account because I'm already juggling several e-mail accounts, but I might do it now so I can hand over future invites to people who really deserve every touch of home they can find.
September 3, 2004
Andrew Sullivan says: "I cannot support him in November."
I share your sorrow Andrew. The GOP is out to get us where we live. Zell Miller's speech the other night, compounded by Georgia's approaching Marriage Amendment battle for the first time filled me with a creeping dread.
I know that the GOP gets called Nazi all the time, and that isn't the point of what I'm about to write. However, the thought that struck me as I lay awake for longer than usual Wednesday night was a deep fear and distrust of my fellow Americans. The poem that came through my mind:
First they came for the JewsFor the first time in my American experience, I lay awake wondering who would speak out for me. These changes are so incremental and the GOP shifts the argument and repeats it so often that finally we begin to hear it come out of our own mouths (see: cutting taxes raises revenue--really? When has that happened? Shouldn't eliminating taxes entirely fill our federal coffers with limitless wealth?).
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.
(Pastor Martin Niemöller)
In Georgia, we're facing this Marriage Amendment. The idea behind it is that homosexuals do not deserve rights, and I think an ancillary goal is to begin the process of making homosexuals so uncomfortable in Georgia that they'll move away. While I'm not opposed to taking my tax revenue to a state where I'll be more welcome, the idea of being chased out of an entire state in the United States because I'm queer is deeply disturbing.
The Marriage Amendment is not the end of this argument, from the Christian Coalition's perspective. It is the beginning. In January, the legislature already plans to ban adoption by gay couples. That is not the end either.
For the moment, the Christian Coalition is constrained by the Constitution, but in a nation controlled by the Southern Conservative wing of the GOP, I have to wonder how fiercely anti-gay assaults on Constitutional liberties would be defended.
Who will stand by me? Who will speak up for me in the America founded on the priciples of liberty and justice for all? I fear that the discussion will be shifted, I fear that fear itself will be used as a weapon to silence those who would stand. I fear for our future, and for the first time, I have truly feared for myself.
The Web Riled by Republican Dishonor of America's Troops
Here's a succint web site outlining how the Republicans are trying to have it both ways with America's troops: Thank you for getting shot at now, come home and we'll slash your benefits and call you unbalanced, unpatriotic, or worse if you seek office.
Note to RNCnotwelcome.org
Hey all you demonstrators of NYC: Thank you. I was very concerned that bad things might happen in New York this week, and aside from the Republicans renominating their failed president, they didn't.
You kept it together, you stayed in touch, you kept the home fires burning for those of us who couldn't be there. We've surfed your fotoblogs, followed along on IndyMedia, and laughed healthily at many of your tactics. We've also been moved to tears: yesterday's anti-war memorial of 978 pairs of boots, each bearing the name and age of an American killed in Iraq was poignant, touching, and solemn.
You did great, folks. The 1700-plus who were arrested have made their sacrifices for American freedoms, and I appreciate it. Just as most of you came from activism at home, I hope that you are energized to return to that more humble, and more important work. Work for congressional candidates. Work for Kerry. Work for more radical groups than those could be, but I hope that you continue working. You've done a service to America. I hope it fuels you to more of the same.
Thank you so much.
Before I read every other blogger's opinion on this, I want to get mine out here, kind of a first response before my attitudes are tempered by the loads of news items I obsessively read....
I give it a solid A. This is obviously a much more mature and steady George Bush than the one we met four years ago, when he repeatedly made me wince by being so obviously out of his league.
The speech itself was exactly what it needed to be: vague and visionary. A short laundry list of items comprising campaign contributors to whom he owes some kickbacks (health savings accounts, for instance) and other things that he won't be able to pay for and likely has no intention of pursuing. Bear in mind that this is a President who is running a $445 billion deficit that he has pledged to cut in half in five years. Think your community college is getting money from the fed? Think again.
The visionary part was his dream for the Middle East. I support freedom and liberty in all places and for all the people of the world. Western governments generally do, and western people generally do, so I am forced to wonder why George Bush, the steadfast leader and obvious charmer, was unable to unite the free world in his quest to liberate those who suffer dictators. I'm not just talking about the government of France. I'm talking about free people everywhere.
I want the Middle East and Africa and large tracts of Asia and Latin America and the global South generally to be free. I want humanity to be free, and I know that George Bush does, too. What I want though is a leader who does not appear to be coercing hesitant allies. I want a leader who rallies the better angels of the free people of the world and brings them to the cause of liberty. It's something I've wanted for a long time.
George Bush was interrupted several times by some of the 500,000 or more demonstrators who have made this week so incredibly American. Millions of free people, including many in Iraq, dislike him with the same intensity with which they appreciated Bill Clinton. Millions have taken to the streets across the free world to protest his policies.
Four more years? Please let's not.
To quote the man himself: Fool me once, shame on me; fool me twice, can't get fooled again. I've given him a chance before. I thought, in those horrific days after 9/11, that he would be able to rise up, rally the world, and unite free people everywhere in a quest to end the monstrous crime of oppression and instead he detoured into Afghanistan on his way to Iraq. He banged the drums of war to tilt the 2002 election and he's trying to do it again.
He mentions 9/11 without ever mentioning that he had warnings one month earlier but couldn't be pulled away from his brush clearing and his wood chopping on his Crawford vacation. He mentions tax cuts without ever mentioning the percentages of the tax burden that have been shifted to the lower income brackets. He talks about opportunity without ever having had to create any for himself. He talks about the blessings of liberty while he works to permanently restrict the rights of gay and lesbian Americans.
I give it an A because I love political speeches and if you haven't been paying attention, you saw what looked like a good man with bright plans. The devil is in the details, and we know how much George Bush despises those.
September 2, 2004
"We Salute Our Troops"
The Republican delegates, who two days ago were wearing band aids with purple hearts printed on them and who are now holding up signs saying "We Salute Our Troops" should be hanged by injured veterans.
Manny's Tavern, the only place to watch the Bush speech
So, I'm heading out to Manny's to watch the speech. I'm the one with dreadlocks listening intently while my friends writhe and hiss. See you there.
The GOP seems to have lost Andrew Sullivan entirely.
A lot of my friends dislike Andrew, but I have a soft spot in my heart for the thoughtful, glasses-wearing gay conservative I used to occasionally catch on the morning shows. He's been a strong and consistent advocate for civil rights and marriage rights. The GOP is not the party for Andrew anymore, and he knows it.
But it could be: Invite the GOP back to the mainstream. We live in a democracy, we need multiple (sane) voices speaking for us.
Another View of the Numbers
I feel obligated to provide a link that Kirkrrt e-mailed me: Wanniski.com
This guy is frequently off the reservation with his observations; so far off the reservation that I'm not entirely sure he's not the last honest broker left. He could also be completely wrong. I've seen nothing backing up a commentary he had on AIDS in Africa nearly a year ago, but that doesn't mean it isn't true.
Anyway, Wanniski's story today is that the New York Times has misinterpreted (misrepresented?) economic data regarding "the Middle Class Squeeze". He finds that, contrary to popular opinion, the ranks of the wealthy have increased, drawing from both the poor and middle class. Let's hope he's right.
Detriot Terror Case Collapses
The Justice Department has determined that mistakes were made in prosecuting a Detriot-area "terror cell" in the days following 9/11, and a new trial has been agreed to for fraud charges. Terror-related charges will not be pursued in the retrial.
The Times fills in some details missing at the BBC's report:
In June 2003, two Moroccan men, Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi, 38, and Karim Koubriti, 26, were convicted on terror and document fraud charges. A third Moroccan man, Ahmed Hannan, 36, was convicted of document fraud. A fourth man was acquitted. The men were never sentenced because of escalating problems over howthe case was handled.
"In its best light, the record would show that the prosecution committed a pattern of mistakes and oversights that deprived the defendants of discoverable evidence," federal prosecutors said in their latest filing.
The nine-month review, which had been ordered by the presiding federal judge, showed that prosecutors did more than suppress evidence. The report said that prosecutors also "created a record filled with misleading inferences that such material did not exist."
Gee, John Ashcroft's Justice Department being overzealous and withholding information? Who would have thought this was possible? On the upside, John Ashcroft's Justice Department has (under orders from a federal judge) revealed its mistakes and is seeking to remedy the problem.
Ashcroft, at this time, has no comment.
September 1, 2004
Alan Keyes, Attacking Blindly
Mainstream conservative Republican senate candidate Alan Keyes opened up with both barrels on Mary Cheney. Describing homosexuals as "selfish hedonists", an interviewer asked him if that meant that Dick Cheney's daughter is a selfish hedonist. "Of course she is," Keyes replied. "That goes by definition."
This is a mainstream Republican viewpoint, mind you. You gonna vote for them?
I had a glowing realization this morning while getting ready to come to work, one of those heartening epiphanies that helps put things into perspective and eases the mind of a gnawing tension that was building there.
Tomorrow night, George W. Bush falls under campaign spending laws. This is not the whole of the realization, but recognizing this fact made events of the last month settle a bit in my mind.
The Swift Boat Vets ads and charges were, of course, timed to hit Kerry when he was most vulnerable--immediately following his nomination when he was forced to curtail his own spending because of the public finance system. They've had an effect, and while it can be said that Kerry has not responded quickly or punishingly enough to the smears (and the media took it's time in deciding that it could call many of the charges "lies"), it can also be said that Kerry was wise not to overrespond.
The laws on campaign spending are arcane and difficult, and I don't claim to know them well. I know that from here on out, George W. Bush will be laboring under the same spending caps, and pulling from the same lump of approximately $79 million that Kerry has been for the last month. Had Kerry dropped his limited resources in August battling charges that have been discredited, we could say that he had wasted two, three, or more million dollars. Especially if he loses.
It's such a rough period, a David and Goliath moment in a race that has largely been two Goliaths, at least when it came to fundraising. For all the talk about how Democrats aren't comfortable with Kerry, etc., he's knocked the shit out of every previous Democratic fundraising record and he's out-raised George W. every month since March.
It was a rough couple of weeks, but if Kerry wins, we'll be praising him later for coolness under pressure and not taking the bait from a bunch lying Swift Boat Vets. And if he loses, it's doubtful that it will have been because of August.
So welcome, George W., to the public finanace system yet again.
"An odd point of view to say the least."
Typing loudly from Atlanta, GA, since 2003.
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