Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Reflex Lying
(Via Atrios ) 2 nights ago, Letterman played a hilarious clip of W trying to give a speech in Florida with this kid right behind him, bored out of his mind and amusing himself. It was so funny that CNN played it a few times during the day yesterday, the first time wondering if the pictures had been faked (the kid is totally ignored by everyone around him), the next 2 times indicating they have been assured by the White House that it is fake. Apparently denial is the first White House response, no matter the truth, whether the charge is national security failure from an insider, or just giving a boring speech, as charged by a late-night comedian. The Bush people got to CNN anchor Daryn Kagan quick. She showed the clip before a commercial break, and then right after it, said this:

"KAGAN: All right, had a good giggle before the break, that video from David Letterman. We're being told by the White House that the kid, as funny as he was, was edited into that video, which would explain why the people around him weren't really reacting. So that from the White House."
Later in the day, with anchor Kyra Phillips (who is truly awful), the denial got more specific:

"PHILLIPS: OK. We're told that that kid was there at that event, but not necessarily standing behind the president. So you can put it all together."
In the next day's show, Dave was peeved because, of course, the White House totally lied, or at least think they can just make stuff up when it will help. No transcript from the show, but a recap on the website gives details:

"Dave says what the CNN reporter said was an out and out 100% lie. A couple hours later, CNN anchor person Kyra Phillips reported that the kid was at the speech but not where the Late Show had him. Dave again makes the claim, 'That's an out and out absolute 100% lie. That kid was exactly where we said he was.' It's true. The speech was at a Florida Rally on March 20th at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. Dave is irked that the White House was trying to make him look like a jerk. But he's glad he got his side of the story out in the open."
Is it possible the White House will find a way to offend every on-air comedian? Howard Stern's website is now almost completely devoted to anti-Bush links, appeals to register to vote, and links to contribute to Kerry. If we can get the sex-crazed, male voyeur vote for Kerry (or if at least I'm no longer the only one...), does Bush stand a chance?

{UPDATE: The links to media I posted yesterday don't work today; they're just too popular. This may work for viewing the original Letterman piece, from Horkulated.}

{UPDATE 2 (Thursday): This story keeps getting weirder. ON CNN today, Kagan acknowledged that the footage was not faked, but claimed that in fact the White House never called to say it was:
"KAGAN: All right, now we need to do something that you'll probably see on 'David Letterman' later tonight. We need to clear up something from a couple days ago. You might recall that we had some fun with some tape that we took from the Letterman show. It's of a kid who had trouble staying alert during a presidential speech in Orlando last month.

So we aired it on this show and then after we did, they had me come on here and tell you that the White House called and told us it was faked.

Well, it turns out due to a, what we might say a misunderstanding among the folks who are usually so fantastic behind me here in the newsrooms, it turns out that was not true. The White House, it turns out, I guess never did call us about the tape. The Letterman show, if you've been watching at night, strongly denies it was fake. Boy, do they strongly deny that. And we've been looking through our tapes and apparently we now see no evidence that it was faked."
Problem is, last night, in a statement CNN surely knew about when they aired that Kagan retraction, Letterman came out claiming that their show had a strong source who assures them the White House indeed DID call:
"CNN is now saying the White House never called them. But why would CNN say the White House HAD called if the White House never did? Hmmm. And Dave reveals that our source, a very good source, confirms the White House DID call the CNN. Hoo boy, this is getting interesting."
Weirder still, the Washington Post gives a nice account of this tale, but about last night says: "Letterman recapped the story and joked that he's hearing that maybe the White House did speak to CNN about 'George W. Bush Invigorates America's Youth.'" But if you watched the show last night it was obvious he was not joking about having a source that assures him the call came from the White House. This makes CNN and the White House look really bad. CNN should know better, and should stop being the White House's poodle. As for the White House, as Letterman producer Rob Burnett said, "we don't need to doctor footage to make our politicians look silly."}

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

They Mean It
First Greg Mankiw said sending jobs overseas was part of the plan, and now Treasury Secretary Snow is piling on.

"Treasury Secretary John Snow says outsourcing of American jobs, a hot issue in the presidential campaign, can help make the economy stronger.

Snow said in an interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer that technology was allowing U.S. companies to downsize and become more efficient by linking contract workers through the Internet.

'You can outsource a lot of activities and get them done just as well, or better, at a lower cost,' Snow said during a stop Monday."

So which part is dumber, that they actually believe the outsourcing resulting from our tilted trade policies is a good thing? Or the fact that, knowing how much people will hate to hear it, they say it anyway?
Air America Radio starts tomorrow
"Morning Sedition" in the morning, and "O'Franken Factor" at noon, EST. If you're not in one of the lucky cities, and don't have satellite radio, catch the web stream here.
0-162 ??
161 more losses, and the Yankees will have baseball's first winless season. They're on their way.
Just Plain Afraid
To quote Gephardt, "miserable failure" is the fear that is driving the White House's tentative approach to the commission. The President doesn't want to meet them, so he agreed to closed-door session with the commission heads only. And he wants to be able to stall them, so he will only give an hour to them. Now, in a shift accompanying the decision to throw "principle" out the window and let Condi testify in public, the President has agreed to meet the whole commission, BUT, as Josh Marshall found in the White House counsel's letter....Bush gets a chaperone. The Vice-President wants to be there know, just in case.

This really should be embarassing. There's no real threat that the commission is going to come down hard on the President. They all sound eager to reach bi-partisan (read, toothless) conclusions and by all accounts they are not going to say the attack could have been stopped. No new smoking guns will come out demonstrating the contrary. This hesitancy on the part of the White House can only be about being scared that the President will say something stupid, or make clear his low level of engagement in policy and decision-making.

And frankly, they've got a better chance of diversion with the whole commission anyway, where a questioner's thread can only be followed for a few minutes before it's someone else's turn, than with only 2, who could dig far enough in follow-ups, even in an hour, to make him uncomfortable. So now he will get relief from a questioner every 5 minutes (and they always spend at least 3 minutes making a speech anyway), PLUS he Cheney will be there to step in if it gets tough.

Thanks for helping us get to the truth, Mr. President.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Coming to His Senses?
I can only hope that this means Nader is starting to realize that Bush, and not Kerry, is the greater threat to American Democracy. Maybe he is waking up to the fact that his lifelong legacy will be forever tarnished is Bush wins a close election again. Maybe he heard that Washington is aflutter with Clarke's charges that the wrong war is being fought, and it struck a chord, since he's waging the wrong one also? Whatever it's cause, I hope we hear much more of this (with a resolution to work together) in the runup to the Convention in July. On the other hand, surely he doesn't think he can leverage a VP slot out of this. He's not that out of touch is he?

"Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader said he will meet with presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry next month to discuss their "common objective" of beating President Bush in November."

Speaking of VP slots, why won't the bizarre McCain rumblings go away?? I'm all for whatever works, and I've admired McCain in some respects, but wouldn't he be an offensive choice to liberal Democrats? I mean, other than criticize Republicans and authoring campaign finance reform legislation, what are his Democratically acceptable credentials? I just can't imagine it working. And if it's done the wrong way, it could drive Nader's numbers into double digits.

{UPDATE: Thomas Friedman is dreaming of Kerry/McCain too}
The Howler Has It Right
The Woodward book has been used by Clarke et al to demonstrate the President's acknowledgement that he did not have a sense of urgency about terrorism prior to 9/11. The Howler (via Atrios) points to a different quote we should be hearing about, from that same book:

"What did Bush think about Iraq’s involvement? You’ll never learn it from your 'press corps,' but the president’s thoughts are on the record—and they tend to support Clarke’s impressions. In Bush at War, Bob Woodward quotes Bush at a crucial NSC meeting on September 17, 2001:

WOODWARD (page 98-99): As for Saddam Hussein, the president ended the debate [about immediate military action against Iraq]. 'I believe Iraq was involved, but I’m not going to strike them now. I don’t have the evidence at this point.'

According to Woodward, Bush 'believed Iraq was involved' in 9/11, although he 'didn’t have the evidence.' What a fascinating bit of text! Readers, is it reassuring to know that Bush 'believes' important things although he 'doesn’t have the evidence?' This passage certainly tends to support Clarke’s portrait of Bush-on-Iraq. But you didn’t see it mentioned last week, despite all the flap about Clarke’s troubling claim."

He's right - this seems to be a devastating quote especially since it's from 9/17, given the White House's present timeline of decisions. If you like longer rants, you'll love the Daily Howler.
Maybe it's Contagious?
Considering what our conservatives are like, I have to use quotes to say that the "conservatives" in France have been turned out by the left in what are essentially mid-term elections. Even being firmly opposed to Bush couldn't save Chirac's party from "a very big warning shot."

The blogosphere was teeming with speculation about why the Socialists won in Spain, but so far no one is weighing in on their victory in France. I'll post a link when I read something interesting about it. I'm hoping for someone to make the case that yesterday's Spain is today's France is tomorrow's US of A in November.
Head-Scratcher Quote of the Day
"There's a time to rise above principles," says John Lehman, Republican on the 9/11 Commission in urging Dr. Rice to change course and testify in public. I agree that she should, but that's a strange way to put it. What does that mean rests above "principles"?

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Those whiny Victims
I don't watch Fox News, so I missed Brit Hume's complaints about how victims don't have a sense of humor anymore. But Atrios caught it.
Rice in Pressure Cooker (sorry...)
I don't expect the Bush team to back away from their refusal to allow Condi to testify in public and under oath before the 9/11 commission, but I'll bet they wish they could. They continue to insist so strongly that it's a matter of constitutional principle (though no one seems able to actually articulate the problem convincingly), that to change course now would be an obvious bow to pressure, and admission that there was not so much principle at work after all. I'm sure they didn't expect the pressure to continue to mount as it has.

"Rice's television, radio and print interviews only reinforced calls for her to testify under oath and in public to the bipartisan 10-member commission, which is investigating the 2001 attacks that killed about 3,000 people. . . .

But with the firestorm over Clarke drawing voter attention in an election year, even Republicans question the wisdom of shutting the public out of what Rice has to say about the attacks that prompted U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. 'We think, in a tragedy of this magnitude, that those kind of (White House) legal arguments are probably overridden,' commission chairman Thomas Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, told Fox News Sunday."

I think it's come down to this: the White House has no real choice but to acknowledge that the President was not focused on the terrorist threat in an urgent way, because he said as much to Bob Woodward. What Rice said on "60 Minutes" tonight is that no enhanced sense of urgency would have led to any different policy, or any different actions, so it wouldn't have mattered.

"ED BRADLEY: The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff at that time says you pushed it to the back burner. The former Secretary of the Treasury says it was not a priority. Mr. Clarke says it was not a priority. And at least, according to Bob Woodward, who talked with the president, he is saying that for the president, it wasn't urgent. He didn't have a sense of urgency about al Qaeda. That's the perception here.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Ed, I don't know what a sense of urgency - any greater than the one that we had, would have caused us to do differently.

If the Commission wants to make a real difference and penetrate the spin from both sides, this is the policy issue they should address. The White House has ridiculed Clarke's insistence that regular cabinet-level meetings on the subject may have "shaken things loose." They say this obssession with meetings accomplishes nothing. I think Clarke makes a convincing case otherwise. If I could ask questions, they would be about that.
For Your Amusement
In honor of the new Coen brothers movie (haven't seen it yet),
The Big Lebowski Random Quote Generator.
What Were You Doing in the Summer of 1987?
If you lived in Tennessee, you were fending off swarms of cicadas. This year they finally return. There are 3 distinct species of cicada that all emerge together in one area, for only a few weeks, once every 17 years (another cicada brood has a 13-year cycle, mostly in the deeper South; we in Tennessee are fortunate to experience both, though thankfully their timetables coincide only every 191 up, 2106). Reading about their impending presence reminded me of an article I read by Stephen Jay Gould, explaining the evolutionary sense of something as seemingly bizarre as a 17-year cycle. As he asks it, "What does an individual cicada gain by indulging in sex so rarely and at the same time as its compatriots?"

"Humans are slowly growing animals. We invest a great deal of energy in raising a very few, late maturing offspring. Our populations are not controlled by the wholesale death of nearly all juvenile members. Yet many organisms follow a different strategy in the 'struggle for existence:' they produce vast numbers of seeds or eggs, hoping (so to speak) that a few will survive the rigors of early life. These organisms are often controlled by their predators, and their evolutionary defense must be a strategy that minimizes the chance of being eaten. . . . they are eminently and conspicuously available, but so rarely and in such great numbers that predators cannot possibly consume the entire bounty."

If cicadas emerged every year, the fattened summer eaters of 2003 would be pointing their offspring to the well of 2004, and the poor cicada, with few other defenses apart from its patience and synchronization, would stand no chance. So, with a longer cycle, predators might enjoy them, but none can depend on them for their own species' existence. Cicadas maximize this protection by not picking just any large number:

"Why do we have 13 and 17 year cicadas, but no cycles of 12, 14, 15, 16 or 18? 13 and 17 share a common property. They are large enough to exceed the life cycle of any predator, but they are also prime numbers. Many potential predators have 2-5-year life cycles. Such cycles are not set by the availability of periodical cicadas (for they peak too often in years of nonemergence), but cicadas might be eagerly harvested when the cycles coincide. . . . 13 and 17-year cycles cannot be tracked by any smaller number.

I'll try to remember how cool that is when they're driving me nuts. They're just trying to flood an unexpected market. It's the only way they can survive.

FYI, there is a new science-related blog getting some deserved attention, named after another Gould article: The Panda's Thumb

Friday, March 26, 2004

I've updated the Polls and More Polls post to include the most recent state and national polls. If they were to hold up, plus the tossups go this way: Bush wins WV, Kerry wins ME and NM, all possible, then the electoral college ends in a 269-269 tie. How much will it suck if, after having 4 years of Bush appointed by the Supreme Court, we have to endure 4 more years appointed by the House of Representatives? Is that what happens in a tie?
Test Your Own Self
This sounds like good news:

"The United States approved the first rapid saliva test for the HIV virus that causes AIDS, health officials said on Friday. The test, made by OraSure Technologies Inc., provides results within 20 minutes with 99 percent accuracy. Other approved rapid HIV tests require blood samples.

'This oral test provides another important option for people who might be afraid of a blood test,' Health and Human Services, Secretary Tommy Thompson said.'"

It seems to me that the benefit is less about physical fears of a blood test than it is the unfortuante stigma or social discomfort in going to a clinic to get tested. This technology should allow people, eventually, to test themselves at home quite easily, like a home pregnancy test (I haven't found any reference to how much it might cost in that format). The down side to it, which would seem to pale in comparison to the positives, is mentioned in the story as well in my nomination for understatement of the day:

"Officials would have to consider how patients might react to the results at home, without health-care workers on hand, said Jesse Goodman, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. False positives could be troublesome, he said."

I was determined today, and for the weekend, to post about non-Bush-related things. I never intended this blog to become about only my anti-Bush sentiments, though they've been hard to ignore. Still, we are well-rounded, smart people aren't we? Well, at least well-rounded. So, I was excited to post about something as positive, and as seemingly unrelated to Bush, as this story about improved HIV testing.

But, alas, in reading around on this, I found this editorial in today's Washington Post, which reminds me how equally well-rounded are the Bush failures:

"...the administration is taking a tortuous approach to AIDS treatment. Rather than back the use of unpatented 'generic' medicines made by foreigners, it appears keen to find excuses to procure patented drugs from U.S. firms. Generic AIDS drugs cost perhaps a quarter as much as patented rivals, even after the latter have been discounted, according to the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres. Using the expensive option, and therefore treating fewer patients, is perverse, given the scale of the pandemic. Of the 40 million people living with HIV, some 6 million are considered to be in urgent need of treatment, but only 400,000 are receiving it."

I appreciate the fact that our FDA has made us, relatively speaking, extremely safe, and is a model for the world in many respects. It's also an effective counter to anti-government buffoons who think there's no need for government regulations as the marketplace will sort it all out.

But...this insistence that foreign-made drugs are not safe is such an obvious, foolish nod to domestic drug companies, I don't know why they think anyone falls for it. I know we can't just stamp "approved" on every medicine every country allows, but there has to be a middle ground. Canada strikes me as a pretty safe place, but the FDA isn't so sure.

Canadians, why are your drugs so unsafe?

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Doug is correct in his comment about the Bush team falling over themselves to respond to Richard Clarke: "It's funny that they keep insisting they were all over terrorism when they came into office, after they’re already on record, shortly after 9/11, admitting that they hadn't focused on it enough."

Equally funny is the way Condi and Cheney have taken opposing positions on how involved Clarke was. But for real comedy, you have to read how Bush made fun of the untruths that helped him send more than 500 US soldiers to their deaths in Iraq:

"Bush put on a slide show, calling it the "White House Election-Year Album" at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association 60th annual dinner, showing himself and his staff in some decidedly unflattering poses. There was Bush looking under furniture in a fruitless, frustrating search. "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere," he said."

I'm trying to not overreact...would I have thought it was funny if Clinton did that? If I supported the war? No major media, only some bloggers, seem to be questioning the propriety of that kind of "joke." So maybe I've lost it, but it really pisses me off.

{UPDATE: The Nation's David Corn had a similar reaction to mine--"Imagine if Lyndon Johnson had joked about the trumped-up Gulf of Tonkin incident that he deceitfully used as a rationale for U.S. military action in Vietnam: 'Who knew that fish had torpedoes?'"}
The Good Argument We Can't Make
Michael Kinsley points out the sheer foolishness of Bush's new ad strategy labeling Kerry a serial tax raiser because in his 20 years in the Senate he's "voted to increase taxes 350 times."

"The best way to see the absurdity of saying that Kerry voted for higher taxes 350 times is to apply Bush's madcap logic to Bush himself. Every year, in the president's budget, there is a table called 'Effect of Proposals on Receipts.' It lists the president's proposed changes in the tax rules and how they will affect government revenue for various periods up to 15 years. Most of Bush's proposals will cost revenue, obviously. But in the four fiscal years between 2002 and 2005, Bush has proposed 63 actual 'revenue enhancers,' as his father used to call them. This doesn't include, as Bush includes for Kerry, his opposition to any tax cuts (and there have been some, such as Democratic proposals to reduce the payroll tax). Nor does the list seem to include any 'supply-side' revenue enhancement by magic or growth. These are actual proposals to take more money out of people's pockets and give it to the government.

At Bush's current rate of 16 "tax increases" a year, he'd have 320 under his belt if he could stay in the White House for 20 years."

The details are fun, but the reality is this is not an argument, again, Kerry has the luxury of having, even though it clearly shows the duplicity of the Bush team. This Presidential race will take enormous discipline and even when the other side is wrong or being unfair, deciding when to wage a response, and when not to, could decide the outcome. Kinsley makes the case better:

"The purpose of a phony statistic such as this one isn't to convince people of its own accuracy. The purpose is to trap your opponent in a discussion he doesn't want to have (in this case about his past votes on taxes), bog down the discussion in silly details that few people will follow, and leave a general impression that where there's smoke there must be fire."

I hope Kerry gets the chance to accuse the President of engaging in "fuzzy math" if Bush makes that particular 350-vote charge in a debate. But after that, stay out of the weeds and remind everyone what the President's tax policies have done to our economy.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Equal Rights for All
Benton County, Oregon has come up with a tidy way of ensuring that everyone is treated equally with respect to marriage:

"Confused by the twists and turns of the US gay marriage issue, Oregon's Benton County has decided to err on the side of caution and ban all weddings. Until the state decides who can and cannot wed, officials in the county have said no-one can marry - even heterosexual couples.

They hit upon the plan to ensure that none of the county's 79,000 residents are subject to unfair treatment."

Under God/Snowball's Chance in Hell
Michael Newdow argued his case in front of the Supreme Court today, trying to get the Pledge of Allegiance ruled unconstitional, and it doesn't matter how right he is. He's not going to win. But, frankly, right now, that's a good thing. We're trying to oust Republicans from the White House and Congress in 7 months. The last thing we need is a Court decision that will mobilize both ends of the religious right: the radical and the just plain nutty. It won't make a difference how loud the Democrats squawk their God-loving disapproval too, the electoral debate will have shifted from our economic decline to our moral decline. And Democrats will lose that debate, even if that's foolish.

Luckily, from what I've heard about the arguments today, there's no reason to think they might even come close to siding with Mr. Newdow (would Scalia have recused himself if there was even the slightest danger?) though they may weasel out by claiming he doesn't have standing to bring the case so they don't have to deal with the arguments. Still, it sounds like it was a fun day. I haven't found an entire transcript yet, but Slate gives a nice account with some details:

"Breyer says that the pledge serves the purpose of unification at the price of offending only a few. Newdow says that 'for 62 years [before it was amended in 1954] the pledge did serve the purpose of unification ... it got us through two world wars and a depression.' But he adds that the idea that if adding in 'under God' is not divisive, why did the country go 'berserk' when the 9th Circuit opinion came down? Rehnquist asks what the vote was in 1954, when it was amended. Newdow says it was unanimous. Rehnquist queries how that reveals divisiveness.

Newdow: 'It doesn't sound divisive? That's only because no atheist can get elected to Congress.' Here is where people actually applaud like it's a ball game. And here is where Rehnquist, who may be feeling the sting of Newdow's comeback, threatens to clear the court."

{UPDATE: Still no full transcript but the NYT has longer excerpts from the arguments, if you're sick like me and like reading that kind of thing}
Interview on Richard Clarke's Rockin' Commission Eve
Salon's Joe Conason interviewed Clarke on Tuesday, just ahead of his impending 9/11 commission testimony. If you've been following that story, and the White House attacks, it's a good read (requires you to watch a brief ad):

"CONASON: You said on "60 Minutes" that you expected "their dogs" to be set on you when your book was published, but did you think that the attacks would be so personal?

CLARKE: Oh yeah, absolutely, for two reasons. For one, the Bush White House assumes that everyone who works for them is part of a personal loyalty network, rather than part of the government. And that their first loyalty is to Bush rather than to the people. When you cross that line or violate that trust, they get very upset. That's the first reason. But the second reason is that I think they're trying to bait me -- and people who agree with me -- into talking about all the trivial little things that they are raising, rather than talking about the big issues in the book."

I'll be adding my thoughts and quotes regarding his testimony in this post tomorrow. Please add yours as well if you're able to hear him. provides streaming video of these hearings.
Energy Plan, anyone?
George W. quoted in CNN during the 2000 Bush-Gore campaign:

"'All of us hope for a day in which we are no longer dependent on foreign sources of crude,' Bush said, while revisiting his assessment that the Clinton-Gore administration 'has no energy policy.'

George W. on Tuesday, March 23, after the cabinet meeting:

"We need an energy plan. The Secretary of Energy discussed the need for an energy plan."

Either he can claim that not having a "plan" is a significant improvement over not having a "policy"...or the administration really hasn't accomplished all that much in terms of energy. At least I never heard Clinton agree that they had no plan, like Bush has implied here. What do they do over at the DOE all day with no plan?

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Busy Reading Afternoon--Don't Tell the Boss
Billmon, in an update, links to a helpful blow by blow account of the Clarke book at The Road to Surfdom. It's no quick read itself (I've only read the first entry, which you have to scroll down to find) but if you don't have the money or the time for a real book and want to know more of what this one's like than you can tell from the brief bits covered in the news, here's the first post.

Also, while I'm at it, Billmon has a spot-on prediction of the story sure to break tomorrow, since David Kay still insists that the President should "come clean" about Iraq.

And lastly for today, Congressman Pete Stark thinks he knows (pdf file) who's responsible for the fact, reported today, that Medicare solvency has been cut 7 years from the last estimate. 3 guesses who it is. It's now set to go broke in 2019, not 2026. For an "I-don't-trust-the-media!" link, you can read the entire Trustees report here.

What are you reading?
Elvis the Author!
Elvis Costello has signed a deal to write 2 books, apparently neither of them a lurid, rock-and-roll tale of sex, drugs and alcohol. I'll probably read them anyway:

"The first book, scheduled for fall 2005, will be a 'series of intimate narrative chapters taking their cue from the styles, themes and characters found in a number of Costello's lyrics.'

The second book will be a 'work of comic philosophy' entitled "How to Play the Guitar, Sing Loudly and Impress Girls ... or Boys.'"
Making the case
Atrios posts part of a statement from Daschle, further excerpted here. This is, I think, exactly the kind of thing we've been talking about here, demonstrating the pattern of outrageous bahavior. Will it stick?

"The purpose of government isn't to make the President look good. It isn't to produce propaganda or misleading information. It is, instead, to do its best for the American people and to be accountable to the American people.

The people around the President don't seem to believe that. They have crossed a line -- perhaps several lines -- that no government ought to cross.

We shouldn't fire or demean people for telling the truth. We shouldn't reveal the names of law enforcement officials for political gain. And we shouldn't try to destroy people who are out to make country safer.

I think the people around the President have crossed into dangerous territory. We are seeing abuses of power that cannot be tolerated.

The President needs to put a stop to it, right now. We need to get to the truth, and the President needs to help us do that."

{UPDATE: Read the whole thing here.}
Playing Politics
from CNN, Clarke bats down the notion that his book was timed to coincide with the election season:

"Clarke said it was the White House itself that was responsible for the book's timing.

'I wrote the book as soon as I retired from government,' Clarke said. 'It was finished last fall. And it sat in the White House for months because as a former White House official, my book has to be reviewed by the White House for security purposes.'

'They're saying, 'Why is the book coming out at the beginning of the election?'' Clarke said. 'I didn't want it to come out at the beginning of the election. I wanted it to come out last year. They're the reason, because they took so long to clear it.'"

Monday, March 22, 2004

Explanations we can understand
from the WSJ (sub. may be required):

"Shortly after a passenger jet crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers raced back to the military headquarters from a meeting on Capitol Hill. The four-star general, acting head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that day, went directly to the Pentagon's command center. With smoke spreading into the cavernous room, he ordered the officer in charge, Maj. Gen. W. Montague Winfield, to raise the military's alert status to Defcon III, the highest state of readiness since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. . . . In the months after Sept. 11, President Bush had a different public explanation about who put the military on high alert. The president said publicly at least twice that he gave the order. During a town-hall meeting in Orlando on Dec. 4, 2001, Mr. Bush said that after the attacks, "one of the first acts I did was to put our military on alert."

Regarding Mr. Bush's statements that he had ordered troops to a higher alert status himself, Mr. Bartlett (White House Communications Director) said the president provided a 'description that the public could understand' and spoke in 'broad strokes.'"

"I did" is pretty hard to understand, he's right. I had to look it up. I wonder what they would have done to Al Gore if he had spoken in such "broad strokes."
Burden of Proof
If Richard Clarke's allegations about the Bush White House are false, they should be demonstrably so. Dr. Rice should be able to produce documents that show that her meeting with Clarke wasn't the first time she ever heard of al Qaeda. Paul Wolfowitz should be able to point to memos and minutes correcting the charge that he did not take the threat of Osama bin Laden seriously and was more concerned about non-existent Iraqi terrorism against the US. Richard Hadley should be able to show, with official directives and memos and follow-ups, that the White House did indeed hear and respond to Clarke and Tenet's warnings about al Qaeda as they claim they did.

The response we are getting instead strikes me as further evidence that Clarke must be correct, and they must be covering up. Attacking his motives, and feeding the press snide one-liners ("This is Dick Clarke's American Bandstand. He just keeps changing his tune," spokesman Scott McClellan said.) should send a red flag up to those covering this story. If they had the goods to refute him, we would hear about it. This is not a case where the prosecution bears the burden of proof. With the nature of the allegations, if he's wrong and they were in fact taking terrorism seriously, not pushing war with Iraq, there should be the records to prove it.
Random, but Serious Question
When did the American Movie Classics Network become the Crap-From-The-80s Network? Or did "Fletch Lives" become a classic while I wasn't paying attention?

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Trappings of Wealth
If my lifetime salary caps were in place, we wouldn't have to watch someone blow good money this way:

"Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, one of the richest men on Earth, pledged Friday to donate $13.5 million for the research into extra-terrestrial life."

I'm all for putting money into science and research, but this is just a man with more money than he knows what to do with. I could have bought a steak dinner, a fancy car and 13 million lottery tickets with that money.
Putting the Fine Point on it
Josh Marshall articulates the big picture that ties together everything wrong about Bush's foreign policy from inauguration through the invasion of Iraq:

"The first months of the Bush administration were based on a fundamental strategic miscalcuation about the source of the greatest threats to the United States. They were, as Clark suggests, stuck in a Cold War mindset, focused on Cold War problems, though the terms of debate were superficially reordered to make them appear to address a post-Cold War world.

That screw up is a reality -- their inability to come clean about it is, I suspect, is at the root of all the covering up and stonewalling of the 9/11 commission. And Democrats are both right and within their rights to call the White House on it. But screw-ups happen; mistakes happen. What is inexcusable is the inability, indeed the refusal, to learn from them.

Rather than adjust to this different reality, on September 12th, the Bush war cabinet set about using 9/11 -- exploiting it, really -- to advance an agenda which had, in fact, been largely discredited by 9/11. They shoe-horned everything they'd been trying to do before the attacks into the new boots of 9/11. And the fit was so bad they had to deceive the public and themselves to do it."

Stupefying and Scandalous
The 60 Minutes interview with Richard Clarke, the National Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism in the Bush White House, who served Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton, was mind-blowing. Americans should be enraged at this President and his advisors. I'm not sure how much more evidence we need, or why the desire to like and believe him outweighs so much that should lead in the opposite direction. The entire interview was damning. Here's a bit from the excerpts on the CBS website:

"'I blame the entire Bush leadership for continuing to work on Cold War issues when they back in power in 2001. It was as though they were preserved in amber from when they left office eight years earlier. They came back. They wanted to work on the same issues right away: Iraq, Star Wars. Not new issues, the new threats that had developed over the preceding eight years.'

Clarke finally got his meeting about al Qaeda in April, three months after his urgent request. But it wasn't with the president or cabinet. It was with the second-in-command in each relevant department.

For the Pentagon, it was Paul Wolfowitz.

Clarke relates, "I began saying, 'We have to deal with bin Laden; we have to deal with al Qaeda.' Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, said, 'No, no, no. We don't have to deal with al Qaeda. Why are we talking about that little guy? We have to talk about Iraqi terrorism against the United States.'

"And I said, 'Paul, there hasn't been any Iraqi terrorism against the United States in eight years!' And I turned to the deputy director of the CIA and said, 'Isn't that right?' And he said, 'Yeah, that's right. There is no Iraqi terrorism against the United States.'"

"I find it outrageous that the President is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it."

Like with Paul O'Neill, I only wish we didn't have to wait for these guys to write books before we hear what's happening at the highest levels of our own government. What if Clarke had resigned in protest back in the summer of 2001 over the lack of attention being given to the threat of terrorism? Is it too much to ask just one official to be angry enough at the time to say "to hell with loyalty?"
Forest versus Trees in Presidential Politics
Jonathan Alter warns that Democrats' constant harping about every misstep by the Bush Administration might have the effect of overhype and leave serious charges about a major scandal toothless. He also believes that scandal to be upon us, in the story of the President's Medicare bill:

"The Democrats are in danger of losing perspective on mendacity in the Bush administration, crying wolf so often that voters stop noticing the real abuses. That's what was wrong with John Kerry's off-mike comments about the Republicans' being a bunch of liars and crooks. To be believable, he has to go to real cases with real culprits, like the Big Medicare Con now coming to light."
"You might think this is standard operating procedure in Washington. It is not. Every White House sends the press secretary out to spin the numbers that emerge on a weekly or monthly basis from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other agencies. But applying political pressure to cook the numbers themselves is a true scandal."

I think he's right. But there is a broader, more important goal in pointing to the "real cases." The upcoming debate has to be framed around the idea that this administration is dishonest, inept and fails the American people generally. And you do that with a catalogue of errors, not just one or 2 major cases. We win not just by saying that serious errors have been made--people get over those--but by convincing people, as early as possible, that the leadership of this country is fundamentally flawed. The Iraq War has already been accepted by voters, and the tax cuts will too if unemployment turns around. But lying and cover-up to get their way will not, especially if it's a pattern.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Bad News/Insult to Injury/Good News on a Saturday Morning
The bad news is that within 50 years roughly half of all species will be lost, as we are in the midst of a great extinction--one of only six, now,that the world has ever seen. Ever. As in, the-last-one-wiped-out-the-dinosaurs ever, according to analysis of 2 new British studies that finally confirm statistically what has been predicted for several years: raiding the rainforest is a bad idea.

Adding insult to injury is that, to no surprise, this development is not the fault of overzealous coyotes just killing for power, or a special new bird with a voracious appetite for butterflies, or a lazy young generation of rabbits that simply don't take the time to procreate. No in fact it is human activity that has put us on pace to grow old in an ecologically "boring" world, in which "areas of the tropics that have lost their forests will have the same damn weeds, bushes and scrawny eucalyptus trees so that you don't know if you're in Africa or the Americas."

The good news is that we humans know how to do some things right. Here's proof of that. If that doesn't inspire you to want to leave the world in better shape, maybe nothing will. I have to believe that with enough sparks like young Ian, and enough smiles like young Spencer's we may just find the collective will to not screw the whole place up in pursuit of, mostly, profit and power. Maybe that kind of hope is what would lead a journalist, on learning that the 6th great loss of species in the history of the world is underway, to give his article one of my new favorite headlines: "Mass Extinction Not Inevitable."
Speaking of Journalism 101
From Drudge come links to 2 stories, one about a major crappy newspaper failing even worse than we knew:

"USA Today said Friday that an examination of the work of journalist Jack Kelley found strong evidence that the newspaper's former star foreign correspondent had fabricated substantial portions of at least eight major stories.

'As an institution, we failed our readers by not recognizing Jack Kelley's problems. For that I apologize,' publisher Craig Moon said."

The other, from a couple years ago, provides all the signs they should have needed to know there was a problem:

"'Journalism is a calling," (Jack Kelley) explains. 'I feel God's pleasure when I write and report. It isn't because of the glory, but because God has called me to proclaim truth, and to worship and serve him through other people.' His role models, he says, are four of 'the greatest journalists of all time'; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John."

Thus, my theory that anytime a person claims to "feel God's pleasure" they're up to no good.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Taking it to Wolf Blitzer
I'd like to see more of this, where spinless shills like Blitzer are taken to task. This is Richard Holbrooke, on Wolf's CNN show, earlier this week about the nonsense surrounding Kerry's remarks about leaders who hope he defeats the President:

"HOLBROOKE: John Kerry said something everybody knows is true. And, Wolf, you know it's true.

And why don't I say just one other thing. Why don't you, instead of staging a silly he said/he said between the White House, which is throwing all this mud at John Kerry after he said something true. Why don't you poll your foreign correspondents on CNN. And ask them who the population and leaderships in the world would prefer to see elected? Very simple.

BLITZER: That may be for future course of action. But there's no doubt that when the president of the United States says to John Kerry, you make this charge, back it up, what's wrong with that? Why can't he say this leader said this to me, this leader said that to me. Why can't he just explain what he meant?

HOLBROOKE: I have been in the last six months in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. I have met with leaders and members of the leadership that lead in every one of those countries.

BLITZER: Be specific.

HOLBROOKE: Look, Wolf, if you want me to say that such and such a foreign minister...

BLITZER: I do, if that's what they said to you.

HOLBROOKE: Wolf, you've been a foreign correspondent for many years, you don't reveal your sources when they're said in confidence. And it would be inappropriate and wrong -- these foreign ministers -- and you know this perfectly well as a very distinguished foreign correspondent.

These foreign leaders say something to you in confidence. They have to work with the incumbent administration. The Bush administration knows that you as a journalist have protect sources. It is self-evident.

John Kerry simply said the truth. Everyone knows it."

Now, how hard was that?
Article 19 Movie Rating: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
***************** 1/2 (17 1/2 out of 19)
Wow is it good. I haven't seen anything I liked as much as this in a while. I liked Adaptation alot - didn't love it - and loved Being John Malkovich. Starting to think that Charlie Kaufmann really knows what he's doing (even if he doesn't know that he knows). I expect to live my entire life without a single idea as good as any of those 3 premises. But what makes him great is that the films are more than a gimmick. I think this one's every bit as good as those other 2. Go see it and tell me what you think.
Congratulations Stevie T and Mayumi!

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Matthew 7:3-5
From the people that brought you The Lord's Prayer, the Golden Rule, and the Sermon on the Mount:

"Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, 'let me take the speck out of you eye,' while the log is in your own eye? You hyocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye."

That isn't exactly what I had in mind for framing important issues in religious terms, but it's all I can think of when I read mind-boggling (mind-blogging?) snippets like this from team Bush (via Spencer Ackerman):

"In a morning meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Bremer warned the Iraqi leaders that they risked isolating themselves and their country if they continued to snub the United Nations."

Maybe they heard of my search for irony and are just trying to help out.
Democracy for America
That's the name of Dean's new organization. Read about it here.

"To help defeat George W. Bush and his agenda in 2004, Democracy for America will focus on key battleground states, mobilizing our supporters and the groundbreaking organizing tools we developed during our campaign – planting seeds on the Internet, meeting face to face at the grassroots, bringing new people into the process. We will use these same tools to support congressional, state, and local candidates across America who stand for our principles."

If the group stays together, and keeps growing, it could be a really powerful force, I believe. I think they need to start a very specific project as soon as possible to keep people coming around. So far, the plans are still very general.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Pot, meet kettle
From yesterday:

"Q: Candidate Kerry has suggested he has support of world leaders. Do you think that should be a factor in the campaign? Was that an appropriate thing for him to say?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I think if you're going to make an accusation in the course of a presidential campaign, you ought to back it up with facts."

Hmmm, backing accusations up with there's an idea. As Kevin Drum wrote: "Next up: President Bush advises John Kerry on the proper pronunciation of 'nuclear.'"
Kenny commented that he enjoyed Philip Glass's music from the Fog of War. He has been one of my favorite composers (Glass, not Kenny)--if a bit smooth around the edges in his older age. It may not be your cup of tea, but even if you don't enjoy his music, I thought you might be impressed by his web site. When you get there, launch "The Glass Engine" (the impressive part). You can hear any piece he's recorded through 2002. Every track, from every recording. Sort chronologically, or by tempo, density, level of joy, sadness (really)...

It is the greatest musician's web site that I know for providing music. If every artist did exactly this, I'd never leave my computer. Oh wait, I never do. What are your favorite, most impressive web sites we should know about?'s new campaign
If you read the Face the Nation transcript I linked to yesterday, you already know this, but Tom Friedman was prepared when Rumsfeld said some foolish things and it made the secretary look pretty bad, though Friedman stopped short I think when he could have really hammered it home. Now, has picked up on that section of video and is using it to urge congress to censure Bush for misleading the public about Iraq. Link to the video is here.

They can Clintonize their way around most of these apparent contradictions, but they sure did hate it when Bill did that.
Up to Here
Gay Republicans have had enough. And they're doing something about it.

"The Log Cabin Republicans this week launched a $1 million TV advertising campaign in swing states targeting President Bush’s support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. [SNIP]

'The radical right wanted a culture war. They’ve got it now,' (LCR Executive Director) Guerriero said during a news conference announcing the campaign. 'This is our line in the sand. We were forced by a sense of history and responsibility to respond immediately and harshly.

Our membership demanded it, and our integrity demanded it. The exclusion and discrimination embodied in this amendment violates the principles upon which the Republican Party is founded.'”

Without trying to be critical, I will just say that I don't understand the process by which a gay person becomes Republican. So, I don't know how large a group they can be, but I'm glad to know they're willing, for now, to put this self-interest above whatever other issues drive them. I hope if I ever found myself under similar attack from the Democrats, I would take them on publicly as well.

Maybe Kerry should arrange a meeting with Log Cabin Republicans? Could he manage an endorsement? Would that even be a good thing?

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Senate Update
DailyKos reports that anti-abortion conservative crazy Pat Toomey is closing in and making a race of it in the Republican primary against Arlen Specter. If Toomey can win, that would be great news to Democratic candidate Joe Hoeffel. Still, Pennsylvania right-wingers seem excited about getting rid of the long-serving Senator:

"A Hoeffel poll gave Specter a weak 44 percent approval rating. But it was a partisan internal, so easy to discount. Then a second poll, featured in the Wall Street Journal, gave Specter a weak 47-37 lead and an even more anemic 37 percent reelect rating. But that poll was sponsored by Club for Growth, who has a reason to hype their candidate Toomey.

But now we have an independent poll, courtesy of SurveyUSA, and the results are even worse for Specter.

Specter 47
Toomey 38
Other/Undecided 15"

I noticed that Bush's introduction of Specter at an event in PA earlier today was a bit weird, even for him:

"I'm honored that Senator Arlen Specter is with me today. Arlen, thank you for coming. I consider Arlen Specter an ally and a friend. Oh, he doesn't do everything you ask him to do all the time, but when you need him -- when you need him, he's there."
Recounting the Death of the Public Domain
Professor Lessig (When was the last time a legal scholar became such a cult hero to young people?) argued the Eldred v. Ashcroft case (re the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act) before the Supreme Court. Though few think he could have won, he disagrees and blames himself in an essay in the new Legal Affairs magazine. To a non-lawyer at least, this reads like there are valuable lessons to be learned here. It's a fascinating, self-critical account of an important argument, one year after the fact.

"My anger with the conservatives quickly yielded to anger with myself. For I had let a view of the law that I liked interfere with my view of the law as it is.

Most lawyers and law professors have little patience for idealism about courts in general and this Supreme Court in particular. Most have a much more pragmatic view. As I read back over the transcript from that argument in October, I can see a hundred places where the answers could have taken the conversation in different directions, where the truth about the harm that this unchecked power will cause could have been made clear to this court. Kennedy in good faith wanted to be shown. I, idiotically, corrected his question. Souter in good faith wanted to be shown the First Amendment harms. I, like a math teacher, reframed the question to make the logical point. I had shown them how they could strike down this law of Congress if they wanted to. There were a hundred places where I could have helped them want to, yet my stubbornness, my refusal to give in, stopped me. I have stood before hundreds of audiences trying to persuade; I have used passion in that effort to persuade; but I refused to stand before this audience and try to persuade with the passion I had used elsewhere. It was not the basis on which a court should decide the issue."

I'm really anxious to read the new book.
Living up to my expectations
While Rummy claims he and Powell have been ordered out of the business of Presidential politics (and Powell didn't get the memo I guess), Pandagon pulls out of Time Mag. a buried paragraph that should have been a headliner, showing that Rove has other intentions for Tom Ridge's outpost:

"Administration sources tell TIME that employees at the Department of Homeland Security have been asked to keep their eyes open for opportunities to pose the President in settings that might highlight the Administration's efforts to make the nation safer. The goal, they are being told, is to provide Bush with one homeland-security photo-op a month."

I guess so long as we're at yellow the guys have some extra time on their hands?
Why Would He Guess That?
Rumsfeld clarified the plan today for replacing the impending loss of Spanish forces in Iraq:

"My guess is, you'll find other countries reacting just the opposite. You'll find countries stepping forward and saying, 'Well, if that's what that country's going to do, we'll do just the opposite. We'll add some troops'. And, we'll see what happens."

I'm sure there are countries that have been just itching to get in, but holding back because Spain was there. Now's their chance!

If he had said he's heard from leaders (instead of just guessing) who are planning to do just that, do you think people would be all over him to name names like they are on Kerry? The difference is, we've known foreign leaders to be against Bush all along (right? I mean, what's the story there, really?), but we don't know anyone begging to get in on that Iraq action...but still our Secretary is guessing there will be some.

The man is totally ridiculous. Is this the plan for jobs as well? Some companies will step forward and say, "well if laying off employees is what that company's going to do, we'll do just the opposite."

{UPDATE: As for Kerry, Hugh Hewitt thinks credibility is the story. I think it's a whole lot of nothing. I'm sure Kerry's talked to governmental figures all over the world as Senator and they've told him what we already know: Bush is not well-regarded abroad. So we're going to parse the word "leaders" and the word "met" and decide it's a scandal of credibility, when Bush lied about why we went to Iraq?}
One way to make a living as a writer
Great moments in online entrepeneurship. It's surreal and would seem to not be a joke:
For less than 50 dollars, you can hire an imaginary girlfriend for 2 months. The girl is real. The relationship is not.(via Making Light)

"When the stated time period is over, you can break up with your Imaginary Girlfriend for any reason you wish. She will write you a final letter begging you to take her back. Of course you can continue your "relationship" by renewing [your subscription], or start over and find a new Imaginary Girlfriend of your choice!"

Insert clever remark below.

Monday, March 15, 2004

A New Liberal-Religious Strategy
In earlier threads we've talked about how best to communicate with people who should be voting their economic interests but are swayed in the opposite direction by religious issues. I wondered if we couldn't frame some of the issues of economic justice in religious terms since we know that if God cares about things human at all, it is a diverse range of things, not just hating abortion and gay people.

But now I have a new strategy, a truly inspired vision. First, we develop a cult hero among the ranks of evangelicals and religious conservatives...maybe in the entertainment industry, not one of those wishy-washy Arnold Schwarzzenegger (sp?) kind of California Republicans but a real serious one. Then at the peak of his popularity, having shown his mettle as a committed Bible literalist, unafraid to engage in God-talk on major networks, we'll have him turn against President Bush.

Oh, wait, apparently Mel Gibson has already done it. Well, almost. I guess Howard Dean was right yesterday: lying to the American people is not a good idea.
Just Being Polite
Remember that big pre-war meeting between Bush, Blair and Aznar? The one that showed we were all 3 big powerful important allies in this multi-lateral effort? It will be fun to see how quickly the Bush team starts reassuring us that the effectiveness of the "international" coalition will not be diminished, now that Spain is getting out of Dodge. Under charges that the Iraq war was a unilateral invasion, Spain was one of the first 2 words out of Rumsfeld's mouth trying to convince us otherwise, as if they played a major role militarily and diplomatically. But now the Pentagon won't want us feeling any more vulnerable than we already know we are, so they'll have to convince us that we're not hurt by their absence, that Spain was an inessential bit player, which really was the truth all along. We were just inflating their role to be polite, right?

On a similar topic, Calpundit is afraid that the weekend election results in Spain could be a victory for terrorists:

"If (if!) the Spanish electorate was punishing Aznar solely because they perceived his actions as being anti-terrorist enough to provoke an al-Qaeda attack, the terrorists have accomplished their goal: the Spanish public has shown that if they are attacked they will vote against a politician who strongly opposed the terrorists."
Get Lessig's Book
Professor Lawrence Lessig, whose blog is linked on the left, and whose book, The Future of Ideas, is one of three Kenny has on his shelf, is giving away said book in exchange for a donation of at least 5 dollars to Creative Commons. He also has a new book coming out in a couple weeks. FYI. Take him up on the offer here.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Community, Activism and Media
Ever since Al Gore invented the Internet, chronic worriers have been concerned that the medium would encourage anonymity and isolation and greatly deteriorate community. Professor Norman Nie delivers the classic criticism: "The Internet could be the ultimate isolating technology that further reduces our participation in communities even more than television did before it."

But blogs (especially those with even greater tools for community than this one) are making the opposite case, making the Internet a medium that invites participation, that challenges lazy journalism in real time, and at its best a place for conversation, not just expression (though even that makes it more participative than television). What and the Dean campaign demonstrate is that it's also becoming a venue that can inspire action. So, with liberals looking for a proper response network to the wall of conservative talk radio, Oliver Willis believes that the world of blogs, not Al Franken's newly announced radio network, is best poised to claim that role:

"The stuff on the slate from Air America is nice and all, but I think that blogs are the real 'alternative media' for the left. JFK 2.0 [John Kerry] just raised $10 million in 10 days largely via the web, and other progressive organizations are starting to tap in big time (The DNC, The DCCC, The DSCC) because they see what's happening via the grassroots."

I agree with him, even though a radio network will be entertaining, and will reach offline audiences. The blogosphere is decentralized, accessible and allows group communication (even if it has to be a bit surface at times, or is limited to 1,000 characters) in a way that only the Internet can. Perhaps a Rush Limbaugh-based media model allows for more coordinated, controlled political themes, but with tens of thousands of conversations going on, not just a single one-way directive, blogs have a better chance of creating and maintaining community and participation. That makes it a better fit as a media network for progressives and independents, as well as a positive contribution to our democracy.

And it keeps me off the streets.

What do you think? Does the Internet build community, or threaten it?
Dean on Meet the Press
Dean was fabulous on MTP this morning, following Condoleeza Rice. Be sure to watch Dean on Larry King on Wednesday, and follow his announcement on Thursday about the future of the grassroots organization. Here are some highlights from this morning:

"TIM RUSSERT: Dr. Rice said that Saddam Hussein was the most dangerous regime in the world.

DR. DEAN: That was ridiculous. This is a pathetic old man who we'd been containing for 12 years by overflights. We had sanctions on him that were paralyzing him. It turned out that there were no weapons of mass destruction, as the administration--although the administration said otherwise. It turned out that there was no relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda or the killing of the 3,000 Americans at the World Trade Center, even though the administration tried to lead us in an opposite direction. The administration simply did not tell the truth about Iraq. The debate is not about whether we should fight terrorism. I supported the war in Afghanistan because I think we did the right thing in Afghanistan, although I think the conduct of the war is not being very well-managed, after the fact. But fighting Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism."

"George Bush got into office with 500,000 fewer votes than Al Gore got. And for the first two years, we all laid down in front of him, we let him get away with all this stuff, and we passed his right-wing program. Furthermore, he governed far further to the right than I ever thought he would, knowing him as governor of Texas. I was just shocked by the stuff that he has passed. The Medicare prescription bill, imagine having your administration order somebody not to testify that it's going to cost $140 billion more than you thought. I mean, if this was going on in the Clinton administration, there would be all kinds of inquiries and hearings and people being fired. What is going on in this Capitol and what is going on in this country?"

I think the issue of Richard Foster, ordered not to tell the true cost of the Medicare prescription bill is, as Johnny Cochran would say, outrageous, and demands more attention. The DNC blog points to his confirmation that his job was repeatedly threatened if he disclosed true costs of the bill before its passage. Dean is right: if Clinton's White House had done this a special counsel would already be appointed.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Why church/state mingling is bad for both
Church-state separationists have to choose their battles, so references to God in the pledge and on money and buildings have not been a high priority; neither have invocations that open official government proceedings, as the Senate and the House do with each day.

In the Tennessee Senate on Thursday, before debate on a controversial constitutional amendment related to abortion, guest minister Clifton Fox apparently didn't know that he was expected to pray generically:

"Fox prayed for the 'innocent babies and innocent mothers' within minutes of debate starting on a proposed anti-abortion constitutional amendment. . . . that senators be protected from 'civil liberty lawyers and lobbyists against life.'

Everyone was shocked and outraged. Democrat Jerry Cooper marvelled: "You don't take a side when you're praying. What about separation of church and state?''

How about, in the name of that separation, we not pray at all, Jerry? It's an affront to both the Constitution and to ministers, who essentially have their prayers censored (and rightfully so, in this arena). If more religious folks realized the constraints placed on religion when it participates in the public sphere, maybe fewer would be so eager to be there.
What is ETA?
If you're like me (lucky you), one of the things you have not kept up with in life is who hates whom in Spain. Amid the speculation that a separatist movement I've never heard of may have been responsible for Europe's second most deadly terrorist attack since WWII, I did a little quick research and found that the group has existed since about 1960:

"(ETA) wants to establish an independent socialist Basque state straddling northern Spain and the southern end of France's Atlantic coast. The Basques consider their culture distinct from those of their neighbours and speak a language unlike any other in Europe. The Basque language (called Euskara) is believed to predate the arrival of the Indo-European languages to the continent, of which French, Spanish, German, Icelandic, Welsh, Serbo-Croat and almost all others are the modern descendants. The Basque region... has historically been one of the richest in Spain."

Guardian's interactive guide to Basque Nationalism in the form of ETA is here. Leaders of the Basque Country (one of the 17 independent Spanish communities) have distanced themselves from ETA and seek independence, or at least greater autonomy through political means. But by my reading, they would seem to have little or no chance of success.

From the why-do-they-hate-the-United-States department? They're still a little touchy about our support for Franco during the 50s, as they had assumed independence would follow the end of the second World War. Most experts seem to think they are not responsible for the bombs on the 11th, but they are still suspected.
Article 19 movie rating: Spartan
Saw David Mamet's Spartan tonight.
Rating ************** (14 stars out of 19, which is --I think-- pretty good.)

Friday, March 12, 2004

Polls and more Polls
National Polls:
Rasmussen Tracking (5/3): Kerry 46, Bush 43
NYT/CBS (3/30-4/1) Kerry 48, Bush 43 (4-28) Bush 43, Kerry 41, Nader 5
Fox News (4/21-22) Bush 42, Kerry 40, Nader 2
IDB/CSM Poll (4/14-19) Bush 44, Kerry 40, Nader 4
Gallup (3/25-28) (4/16-18) Bush 49 50, Kerry 47 44, Nader 5 4
ABC/WaPo (4/15-18) Bush 48, Kerry 43, Nader 6
Zogby (4/1-4) (4/15-17) Bush 46 45, Kerry 45 45, Nader 3 3
Pew (3/22-28): Kerry 47, Bush 46
Newsweek (3/18-19) (4/8-9) Bush 45 42, Kerry 43 46, Nader 5 4
ARG (3/9-11) (4/6-9) Kerry 48 48, Bush 42 43, Nader 2
AP (3/19-21) (4/5-7) Bush 46 45, Kerry 43 44, Nader 5 6

Various State Polls
Alabama (3/15-18): Bush 59, Kerry 27
Arizona: (3/19) Bush 51, Kerry 42 (4/23-26) Bush 41, Kerry 38, Nader 3
Arkansas: (4/14-15) Bush 47, Kerry 45 (5/2) Bush 45, Kerry 45
California: Kerry 53, Bush 40 (4/17-24) Kerry 51, Bush 40
Colorado: (3/31-4/1) Bush 49, Kerry 40, Nader 4 (4/14) Bush 49, Kerry 44
Connecticut: Kerry 49, Bush 36 (3/25-28) Kerry 52, Bush 33, Nader 4
Florida: (4/13) Kerry 47, Bush 46 (4/18-21) Bush 47, Kerry 46, Nader 3
Idaho (3/10-12): Bush 57, Kerry 23, Nader 4
Illinois: Kerry 54, Bush 36 UPDATE (3/8-10): Kerry 47, Bush 39, Nader 2
Indiana: Bush 51, Kerry 45
Iowa: (3/23) Kerry 51, Bush 41 (4/18-21) Kerry 47, Bush 46, Nader 3
Kansas: Bush 57, Kerry 39
Kentucky: Bush 57, Kerry 41
Maryland: Kerry 47, Bush 38 Kerry 48, Bush 43
Massachussetts: Kerry 57, Bush 28
Michigan: Kerry 45, Bush 43, Nader 3 (4/30-5/2) Kerry 47, Bush 43
Minnesota: (3/23) Kerry 47, Bush 44 Kerry 50, Bush 38, Nader 2
Missouri: Kerry 49, Bush 46 Bush 49, Kerry 42
Nevada: Bush 49, Kerry 48 Bush 49, Kerry 38, Nader 4
New Hampshire: Bush 45, Kerry 39, Nader 8 (4/21) Kerry 47, Bush 45
New Jersey: (4/3-10) Bush 48, Kerry 44, Nader 5 (4/20) Kerry 51, Bush 39
New Mexico: (3/30-4/1) Bush 46, Kerry 45, Nader 3
New York: (4/5-12) Kerry 53, Bush 36
North Carolina: Bush 53, Kerry 42
Ohio: (3/10-22) Kerry 46, Bush 44, Nader 5 (3/23-31) Bush 45, Kerry 43, Nader 3
Oregon: (3/19-4/7) Bush 47, Kerry 45, Nader 1 Kerry 46, Bush 45
Pennsylvania: (4/13-19) Bush 45, Kerry 39, Nader 8 (4/16-25) Bush 42, Kerry 42, Nader 5
Rhode Island: Kerry 53, Bush 31
South Dakota: Bush 50, Kerry 39
Tennessee: Bush 48, Kerry 44
Utah: Bush 64, Kerry 31
Washington: Kerry 55, Bush 43 (4/2-5) Kerry 46, Bush 41, Nader 2
Wisconsin (4/28): Kerry 46, Bush 40, Nader 8 Kerry 45, Bush 41, Nader 8
West Virginia (3/24) Kerry 46, Bush 46, Nader 2 (4/15) Bush 46, Kerry 41

(5/3) If we assume victory in any state with a 5 or more percentage point advantage for one candidate right now, the electoral vote looks like this (with 270 needed to become Pres.): Kerry - 176, Bush - 91 (PA and AZ have recently moved out of this strong lead category for Bush)

If we use common sense on the presumably lopsided states that I haven't seen polls for (Bush: Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Nebraska, Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, Alaska; Kerry: Vermont, Delaware, DC, Hawaii), the total is: Kerry 189, Bush 171.

Despite only small leads in the most recent polls in these states, Bush is likely to claim Ark, TN, VA, AZ, OK and LA (though I'm tempted to move Arkansas into the toss-up category because they're tied there in the most recent poll), and Kerry is likely to claim Wisconsin (though polls have been all over the place). That makes it 227-199 for Bush.

That leaves Pennsylvania, Florida, Oregon, Iowa, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Maine, Ohio and Michigan uncounted. Under this scenario, Kerry must win Florida and 2 of the other big three, PA, MI, OH, and win a couple of the rest, OR Florida and 1 of the other big three and run the table on the rest--NH, NM, IA, OR, ME to become President. The polls in those last nine states are very close, 1 or 2 points. But if they fall the way they slightly lean now, Bush wins, 300-234 (with ME uncounted, no poll), because of his small lead in FL, OH, and having led before the present tie in PA. Turning 2 of those 3 gives Kerry the Presidency.
Melissa Rowland: Troubling story of the day
from the Salt Lake Tribune:

"An obstetrician-gynecologist who saw Rowland at LDS Hospital on Jan. 2 recommended an immediate Caesarean section because of problems with the fetal heart rate and an ultrasound that indicated low amniotic fluid, the statement says. However, Rowland left after signing a statement indicating that she understood that leaving the hospital could result in death or significant brain injury to the babies, according to the statement.
Later the same day, Rowland showed up at Salt Lake Regional Hospital and told a nurse that she left LDS Hospital because a doctor there wanted to cut her "from breast bone to pubic bone" and this would "ruin her life," according to court records. In addition, she allegedly told the nurse that she would rather "lose one of the babies than be cut like that."

Now, Ms. Rowland is charged with criminal homicide for refusing to have a c-section.

The blog Body and Soul leads the way in questioning the press's (mis)handling of the story:

"A frightened, mentally ill, pregnant woman, living on Social Security disability benefits, facing eviction, the father of her children gone, went from hospital to hospital looking for help, and no one knew what to do for her or how to reach her. And because of that, she has been in jail for nearly two months and faces murder charges."

Read the whole thing.
Go-Go Salary Caps
I'm endorsing a new economic model today that works like this: there is a limit to how much money you can make. In your lifetime. The limit will be high, like, I don't know 100 million dollars. But it's understood that once you reach the salary cap you really needn't make any more. Get out of the way, and let other people try their hand at your high-paying job, and don't blow your stash on extravagant spending.

Who is the model and inspiration for my proposal? Who will now start offering his services for free or for donations to charity? Who recently decided:

"I've been very well remunerated, as they say, for my talents over the years, so I really don't need the public's money."?

Why, ex-Wham singer George Michael of course.
Beating Expectations: A Local Update
If they can't ban all abortions, they will just ban none at all. The Tennessee State Senate voted for an amendment that would add rape, incest, and health of the mother exceptions to a proposed constitutional amendment 18-15, surprising its sponsor who then withdrew the bill. It would have passed had he left the amended bill out there, but apparently if you can't force a child who's been raped and impregnated by her father to carry the baby to term, it takes all the fun out of being pro-life.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Inept Leadership = One-Term Presidency
I am more optimistic than ever that Bush will be defeated. The political team is reeling, and the policy team seems unable to handle adversity, or even recognize bad news when they hear it. New evidence is so plentiful this evening, I can't decide which makes the best case. For your late-night (or early morning) reading pleasure, I leave you with the choice of 4 satisfying hints as to the way the Bush-Kerry election will turn out.

1. Secretary of Education Rod Paige: "I think you stumped me with that question."
2. Richard Foster, Chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: "I'm perhaps no longer in grave danger of being fired."
3. Bush's new negative ad: Muhammad Horton?
4. Anthony Raimondo, one-time probable nominee for "manufacturing czar": "It's going gangbusters!"

The best news here is not just that Bush's team is showing its incompetence more clearly, but that the opposition party is starting to act like one. Kerry's team is on the ball, the DNC has their act together, and people are just not putting up with the crap.

Pick a story and wear a smile on your face Friday.

{UPDATE: OK, one more thing to make you smile. Political advertising in the blogosphere is everywhere. Democrats have embraced the Internet and it is paying off. One of my favorite ads is for Doug Haines, a Democrat running for congress in Georgia. I don't think he'd mind that I copied it to post here for your pleasure.}
Part of me likes it (the money/fame/power part), Part of me worries (the totally lacking integrity part)
President Bush spoke to the National Association of Evangelicals this morning. His remarks remind me of how difficult it is to hold a governmental power in check when it believes the nation to be (not unlike the Blues Brothers) on a mission from God. Striving to achieve the will of the Almighty sure does help justify and excuse any damage that may be done en route (Jake and Elmore smashed a bunch of cars).

Honestly, until recently I didn't believe George W felt that way himself, only that he recognized how much his base of support did. But I am more and more convinced that he's a card-carrying 700 Club member. Do they have cards? Can we use that in the election, like his Dad used Dukakis' ACLU card?

Today, 3 sentences after using the old-time-religion word, "calling," to describe the NAE's dispensation from God, he uses the same word to describe America's relationship to the world:

"America is a nation with a mission. We're called to fight terrorism around the world, and we're waging that fight. As freedom's home and freedom's defender, we are called to expand the realm of human liberty. And by our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, more than 50 million people have been liberated from tyranny, and they are reclaiming their dignity as free people."

He was introduced today by the NAE President, Ted Haggard. Ted presides over the largest church in Colorado (10,000 members), and is President of the World Prayer Center, the (not making this up) "spiritual NORAD," which is in Colorado I presume because of it's elevated proximity to God.

Ted is an interesting character, and I'm no social scientist, but I believe he has more than a few issues of guilt and self-loathing doubt. In a recent article entitled "Maybe We're Not Christians," he seems to somewhat seriously wonder just that. He said it, not me:

"We have a credibility problem. We have some wonderful churches, but increasingly, people do not seek to be connected. We have some outstanding para-church leaders, but others are seen as self-satisfied right-wing crusaders who wouldn’t hesitate to banish the Supreme Court, establish a Christian theocracy, and use the power of the state to force the non-compliant into godly living. . . .

It is no wonder that the secular world is hesitant to look to Christian leaders for realistic answers to today’s problems. They think that we are just another special interest group, and I doubt that they see us as bastions of wisdom and insight. Salt and light we are not.

Maybe we’re not Christians. Maybe we’re just the most popular religion of the day, using the power of persuasion, the force of our numbers, and the strength of our money to advance our ideology.

Maybe we just believe whatever makes sense to us by default, and we don’t truly—as individuals and as communities of Christians—seek to be genuine disciples and to do God’s work of caring for the fatherless and the widow of our day.

Could we be Pharisees? Our own books, television programs and prophecies should make us wonder.

When we preach, write, lobby, raise money, build, broadcast, threaten, sue and spin, we present conflicting images that don’t stand up very well against the tests of time and scrutiny. We are confusing the world, other Christians, and our families. . . .I know we love God, and we often talk about our love for Him, but the culture of modern ministry indicates that our hearts are far from Him.

If you are like me, you are conflicted. I don't like this column. Granted, there is a part of me that does. But most of me likes the comforts of the church I serve, the way I travel, the way I'm treated by both the public and the body of Christ. I enjoy the political platform we Christians are given.

But at the same time, there is a dark cloud in the back of my mind. . . .We need to ensure that we are not the whitewashed tombs and snakes of our day. We need to be sure."

Wonder how he's going to be sure of that in a way that doesn't make him actually have to stop any of that fun stuff he's worried about? While he waits for God to tell him he's ok, the spiritual NORAD is up and running! Take a 360-degree virtual tour!
Jay Carson in the news...
Kenny, Judith, Stevie T, Trotter,

Deb pointed me to this item in a top-10 kind of list in ABC News' The Note yesterday:

"Things about which Howard Dean was right (from which John Kerry and George Bush can learn):

6. Jay Carson is as smart as he is sexycool."

He's still listed as Dean spokesman in news stories today, so he must be still on the team.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

New Feature: what's on the shelf or in the player
I think it's fun to know what books and CDs are in a person's life. Also it helps give me ideas of what to get next. Use this thread to let us know what you're reading (or most recently read) and what you're listening to in heavy rotation these days. Maximum 3 CDs and 3 Books. I'll put Amazon links and thumbnail pictures up in the left column. Mouse over the image to read titles. This seems more interesting than just the music we've worked into conversation. It will seem less interesting if no one actually lets me know what they're listening to and reading.

Feel free to update regularly.
"The O'Franken Factor", really!
Drudge (sorry) is reporting that the new liberal talk radio network is ready to go on March 31, with Al Franken hosting an afternoon show Monday-Friday:

"'I’m so happy that Air America Radio will be on in three battleground states, New York, Illinois and California….no wait…those aren’t battleground states. What the hell are we doing?' said Franken.

Air America Radio has signed actress and comedienne Janeane Garofalo, hip hop icon Chuck D, radio personality Randi Rhodes, and political humorist Sam Seder to join Franken at the network. Environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., 'The Daily Show' co-creator Lizz Winstead, and business-of-the-media analyst on the public radio program 'Marketplace' Martin Kaplan will also join the network."

Apparently Al's show will really be called "The O'Franken Factor." Will this network make it? I'm hopeful but have my doubts.