Sid's Fishbowl
A proud member of the reality-based community (aquatic division)
Saturday, July 31, 2004

You can run, but you can't hide:

Bush Visits Worried Workers of the Rust Belt:
Bush has been appearing in front of almost uniformly supportive crowds, with his campaign or the White House carefully dispensing tickets as a tool for weeding out dissent. But there was no disguising or diverting the pain in Dover, once a flour- and steel-milling center, where Bush's eight-bus caravan passed by rain-soaked residents waving signs such as "We Need Jobs" and "Thanks for Stealing My Daddy's Pension."


In Dover, Bush's bus, emblazoned "The Heart and Soul of America," was greeted by a barefoot, red-headed girl carrying a poster that said, "My grandpa lost his job! -- your Turn!" Her older sister, wearing flip-flops, brandished one that said, "My grandpa lost his job -- you should too!"
The flip-flops were a nice touch.

So today, in Canton, Ohio, home of the Timken Corporation, President Bush says the rich don't pay taxes. From the Official White House Press Office transcript:
THE PRESIDENT: [Kerry] said he's only going to raise the tax on the so-called rich. But you know how the rich is, they've got accountants. That means you pay. That means your small business pays. It means the farmers and ranchers pay. That's the wrong medicine for this economy, and we're not going to let him prescribe it.
Yep, you heard it right. The rich has accountants and they don't pay taxes.

This coming from our millionaire President, whose assets equal at least $8.8 million and possibly more than $20 million. And he's running for office with an even wealthier man, Vice President Dick Cheney, who currently earns up to $5.9 million a year (including payments from his former emplyer, Halliburton Corp.) and has personal assets worth as much as $86 million. I'll bet they both keep plenty of accountants in business. Ya think?

(via Daily Kos)

Media Matters for America watches CNN so you don't have to:
On July 30, the day after Senator John Kerry's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, CNN Crossfire host Tucker Carlson stated, "His [Kerry's] plan for Iraq, such as it is, is to have other people, dark skinned foreigners, from the Middle East fight our war for us. He said it last night in his speech. I watched his speech."
Text of John Kerry's Acceptance Speech at the Democratic National Convention (
I know what we have to do in Iraq. We need a president who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden, reduce the cost to American taxpayers, reduce the risk to American soldiers. That's the right way to get the job done and bring our troops home.
Oh, and the Media Matters folks missed this gem from later in the show:
Kerry is trying -- Kerry is trying to be conservative. But one issue on which he really is, by any definition, out of step with the mainstream is his contention that abortion ought to be legal and protected until the moment of birth. It seems to me he is going to lose a lot of votes on that, and he well should. Do you think he will moderate that position at all?
Is he stupid or just venal? You tell me.

Update: If anyone is proposing to have a force of "dark skinned foreigners from the Middle East" in Iraq, it's the Bush Administration. From the International Herald Tribune:

Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has called on Muslim nations to join a proposed force of Islamic troops.... Powell said it was premature to say if Washington backed such a force but said it supported the principle.

No Arab nations are now in the U.S.-$ led coalition. Saudi Arabia, where Powell also visited on his Middle East tour, suggested sending a force from Islamic and other nations. Saudi troops or those from other nearby Iraqi neighbors would not be included.

A deployment by Muslim nations would be a public relations coup for the United States, which has seen the U.S.-$ led coalition in Iraq reduced by the withdrawal of the Philippines, Spain, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras.
P.S. I didn't add those dollar signs -- they were in the original IHT story...

John F. Kerry on the new Bush campaign slogan: "The last time we had a president who ran on a slogan of turning the corner was Herbert Hoover, and he ran on the prospect that prosperity was just around the corner," Kerry said. "I don't want to run talking about turning the corner. I'm running to climb the mountain and get to the top."

No shame. None at all. This disgusting move from Bushco says it all:

Before the rally, Bush met with 10 steelworkers from Timken Co., the world's largest maker of steel tubing and roller bearings, which in May said it would close three plants in Canton, affecting 1,300 employees.

"They're concerned, I am too," he said. Bush had pushed for his tax cut package as a way to boost job growth at one of the company's facilities about 15 months ago.
Yeah, right. Bush's supporters in the Timken family gave him huge donations in exchange for staging a mammoth event there promoting his tax cut. His policies resulted in the loss of 1300 jobs. Christopher Brauchli has an excellent summary in : Bush and the Timken Plant, a Year Later:

On April 24, 2003, the president stood alongside W.R. 'Tim' Timken in the Timken Company plant in Ohio and urged the employees to support his proposed tax cut for the rich. He didn't use those words since that would have offended the hourly workers most of whom were not among the rich but many of whom were in the audience. If enacted, said Mr. Bush, the tax cut would spur economic growth assuring his audience of continued employment if not huge tax benefits. The only difference between the effect of the tax cut on the worker and the rich person was the rich person would get more money for doing nothing whereas the worker would get more money by remaining employed.

The tax cut passed in 2003. In that year Mr. Timken earned more than $2.6 million and reportedly received tax breaks of approximately $59,000. Timken workers had jobs throughout 2003 and, in addition enjoyed a tax reduction as well. Figures compiled by Citizens for Tax Justice suggest that 89% of Ohio residents among whom many of the Timken workers were certainly numbered, received tax cuts closer to $100 than to $59,000. The small amount of benefit received by ordinary workers from the tax cut was made up for by the fact that they still had jobs and were, therefore, earning money.

As Mr. Bush's speech made abundantly clear, the tax cut was a win-win situation for the idle rich and industrious worker alike. Emphasizing the point and using Timken Company as an example, Mr. Bush said that: "The future of this company is bright and therefore, the future of employment is bright for the families that work here."

I wasn't there but I can imagine the applause from the workers who were excited about the fact that their future with Timken was assured. Mr. Bush's visit had nothing to do with the fact that Mr. Timken was one of Mr. Bush's big supporters and, according to Campaign Money Watch, raised $600,000 for Mr. Bush in one night. His visit in 2003 was nothing more nor less than serendipitous.

Mr. Bush spoke at the plant in April of 2003. The future of the company looked bright for the "families that work here" as Mr. Bush said. Then a strange thing happened.

On May 16, 2004, slightly more than a year after Mr. Bush's visit, Mr. Timken decided to close the plant in which Mr. Bush spoke and two other Timken plants in the Canton area. He made the decision even though the tax cut passed and even though he saved $59,000 in taxes as a result of its passage. The closure had nothing to do with the fact that the tax cut didn't provide the promised benefits. It had to do with the fact that Mr. Timken decided to close the plant.

Closing the plant means that 1,300 people who were told by the president one year earlier that they had a bright future now have neither bright future nor jobs. They would be forgiven for asking what Mr. Bush had in mind when he uttered those words. People without jobs, after all, often think the future is not very bright.
I wrote about Timken a bunch in May. Here is the key story. Here is another, and another, and another.

Anyone want to guess how those 10 "representative" Timken workers were chosen?

I would love to see John Kerry visit Canton, Ohio and invite all 1,300 of those laid-off workers and their families and friends to hear what he has to say.

Just to bring everyone up to speed...

Someone has written our Dear Leader a shiny new speech which he is apparently reading very well, all over states in the heartland of this great country, in front of crowds that have apparently signed loyalty oaths to ensure that they will cheer on command, not wear inappropriate T-shirts, and think only good thoughts. In this shiny new speech, he says: "After 19 years in the United States Senate, my opponent has had thousands of votes, but very few signature achievements."

Amusingly, John Kerry was elected to the Senate in 1984 and took office in 1985. Unfortunately for Bush-Cheney '04, any comparison of the two candidates that involves 1984 or 1985 will have to focus on the fact that George W. Bush spent most of both years drunk and possibly putting indeterminate amounts of white powder up his nose.

Anyway, in fairness to both candidates, I'm reviewing their "signature achievements," one year at a time, for 19 consecutive years starting in 1986, the year in which George W. Bush decided to stop being a lazy drunk and took his first steps down the road that led to where he is today. Scroll down to read the entries for 1986, 1987, and 1988. If anyone has any good stuff they want to contribute, feel free to pass it along in the comments.

This timeline is really interesting.

This unauthorized biography is downright mean.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Signature achievements:

George W. Bush continues working on Dad's campaign:

[Lee] Atwater was hardly the sole practitioner of negative campaign tactics, but he was considered the Picasso of that political art form. The Bush campaign's attacks on Dukakis -- for a prisoner-furlough system in Massachusetts and his veto of a bill requiring the Pledge of Allegiance in schools -- were a far cry from Reagan's upbeat "Morning in America" campaign in 1984.

Atwater and the young Bush came to be close friends working together on the 1988 campaign....

"W is a visceral, instinctive politician; so was Lee," said a Republican who was close to Atwater before he died of cancer in 1991.

Bush served as his father's liaison to a wide array of outside groups, but he proved particularly useful as a bridge to evangelical activists. Most of the establishment Republicans on the campaign staff did not know quite what to make of this emerging political phenomenon.

Even to conservatives who did not know Bush's religious convictions, his plain-spoken manner and clear dislike for the Washington elite appealed to activists put off by the establishment strategists who dominated his father's campaign staff.

To build relationships with conservatives, the younger Bush met with religious leaders such as James Dobson and Jerry Falwell. He chatted up small-business owners at the 1988 convention of the Christian Bookseller's Association, where he distributed a book about his father that was written to appeal to evangelicals. He cultivated ties with anti-abortion leaders.

By the time he was done helping guide his father into the White House, Bush had evolved into a far different politician from what he had been in his younger years.
He also bought the Texas Rangers in a sweetheart deal that year and traded Sammy Sosa to the Cubs.

Meanwhile, Kerry gets a divorce:

In 1988 Kerry and his first wife, Julia Thorne, were granted a 'no-fault' divorce after 18 years of marriage. They cited the generic grounds of 'irretrievable breakdown of the marriage,' according to divorce records.
He also saved a colleague's life:

Republican Senator Jacob "Chic" Hecht from Nevada rushed out of a GOP Conference luncheon gasping for air because he was choking on a slice of apple. Kerry happened to walk off a nearby elevator and hurriedly performed the Heimlich maneuver. "He sized it up in a split second and saved my life," "Every year at Christmas my wife and I call John Kerry and thank him for saving my life," -- Jacob Hecht
Complicated, isn't it?

Signature achievements:

Kerry blocks Cheney gas price hike:
In 1986, then-Congressman Dick Cheney proposed a tax on oil that would have raised gasoline prices and laid 400,000 workers off. The Congressional Research Service, in coordination with staffers from the Senate Energy Committee, studied the effects of Cheney's bill on consumers. The report states that if Cheney's plan had been enacted in 1986 it would have cost consumers $1.2 trillion.

Senator Kerry helped stop Cheney's proposed gas price hike, co-sponsoring a resolution in opposition to the plan. Even Cheney's fellow Republican lawmakers opposed his gas price hike -- 15 Senators joined Kerry to sponsor a resolution in 1987 to stop Cheney's bill.
Bush gets a job working on Dad's campaign.
Jim Pinkerton, an advisor to the elder Bush's campaign, was interviewed by PBS in 2000:

We really came to know each other in 1987 when he came to work full time at the Bush campaign.... It was apparent that, yes, he was literally the eldest son. Was he sort of the obvious future, once and future king, future inheritor of the Bush mantle? Not at all. I mean, I really didn't think of him that much in political terms back then. I thought of him as sort of a business man. During the course of that campaign he got involved with the Texas Rangers and so on. And while I always thought he had a political dimension to him -- he had in fact run, but he had also lost in 1978 -- I figured "Look, here is just a guy who is sort of sorting out his options, going through what a lot of people go through at 40" or whatever he precisely was at that time, about 40. Just looking for sort of a way to make a contribution, and whatever options he wants to put in front of himself it will be better if in fact his father wins.

So what was his role?

His role was to show up every day, and see what needed to be done. And then he went on a fair number of trips.
Hey, this is fun. SCLM, are you paying attention?

Signature achievements:

George W. Bush gives up drinking:

In the hangover after a boisterous 40th birthday party in 1986, Bush decided to give up drinking as part of what he describes as a broader and more gradual spiritual awakening.
''Drinking began to compete with my energy,'' he recalls in his autobiography. ''I'd be a step slower getting up.'' He has been less precise about whether he ever used illegal drugs, denying any use in the past 25 years.
Freshman Senator John Kerry begins a fierce investigation of the Iran-Contra scandal:
The Republican senators who controlled the committee owed their majority status to Reagan's popularity. Privately, they were feeling increasing pressure from a shadowy figure at the White House, a Marine lieutenant colonel named Oliver North, who was orchestrating support for the contras.

But behind the scenes, Kerry had forged an unlikely alliance with Senator Jesse Helms, the hidebound conservative from North Carolina. As the senior Republican on the committee, Helms was the key to Kerry's hopes. And the key to Helms was the drug war.

In the course of their investigation, Kerry and his staff had found evidence that some contras had ties to drug smuggling. If there was one class of villain that Helms deplored as much as the communists, it was drug traffickers.

On matters of political philosophy, Kerry and Helms were polar opposites. Yet each was something of a maverick, contemptuous of the capital's courtiers and willing to rock the clubby Senate. "I spent time with Jesse," Kerry recalls. "I talked to him. Talked his language. Jesse didn't believe the same things I did in many cases, but he was a gentleman. He was a man of his word."

As Kerry finished his presentation, the senior members turned to Helms, taking his temperature on the issue. "Jesse? What do you think about this?" asked Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the panel, according to a transcript of the then-secret session. "I know you are a contra supporter."

"I will tell you what I do not support, and John Kerry and I have talked about this: anybody sending drugs into this country," Helms told his colleagues. "I do not care whose side they are on."

Helms was on board. The committee reached a consensus: It would investigate the contras and the contra-drug connection.
Our year-by-year comparison continues.

Can you keep a straight face while reading this report?

"When it comes to choosing a president, results matter," said Bush, who spent a week in self-imposed silence at his Texas ranch during the Democratic convention, which he summed up as a collection of "clever speeches" and "big promises."

"My opponent has good intentions. But intentions don't always translate into results. After 19 years in the United States Senate, my opponent has had thousands of votes but very few signature achievements," Bush said.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush did not see the speech.

"He went to sleep last night. That was a late speech," McClellan told reporters, but he said Bush had "read some of the coverage."
Where, oh where to begin? First of all, let us please please please make the 19 years before GWB took office a matter of public debate. While Kerry was toiling in the Senate and doing some fine work (including the investigation of the Iran-Contra scandal that led to multiple criminal convictions in the Reagan White House), George W. Bush was whooping it up, drunk and disorderly, presiding over one failed business after another, until he finally made a magical transformation into a born-again Christian, had his Daddy buy him a baseball team, and ran for Governor of Texas.

Please please please will some reporters do some comparisons of what each man was doing during each of those 19 years? Let's be sure to ask about Harken Energy and Enron. And then let's talk about the 19 years before that. C'mon, media, you can do it! One year at a time. "Signature accomplishment" for each one. Anyone up to the challenge?

And what's this bullshit about a late speech? Kerry took the stage at 10:00 PM EDT. Do you mean the Leader of the Free World is tucked in before 10:00? Doesn't he realize that the Greatest President Who Ever Lived (the guy they buried last month) used to take naps during the daytime so he could watch programs that came on past his bedtime?

Somehow, I expect that President Kerry will work much longer hours.

I officially retract anything nice I may have said about CNN, after reading this CJR Campaign Desk report:

Defenders of Fox News, CNN's arch rival, argue that Fox takes a conservative slant to offset CNN's liberal stance. Critics of both think, by contrast, that CNN, badly bruised in the ratings war, has stooped to slavish imitation of Fox's most dubious ploys and policies.

After tracking last night's coverage, we know where we stand.


CNN is so desperate for conflict that it's willing to repeat every possible Republican-generated criticism, without making any attempt to sort through which are valid and which aren't. This often entails allowing Republicans to recycle charges which have been shown to be untrue or misleading, without correcting them..."
Read the long, long, long list of excerpts. Be sure to have a barf bag handy.

Back in August 2002, Bush claimed the shitty economy was all Clinton's fault:

Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, in separate speeches Wednesday, both claimed the U.S. economy was already in recession when they were inaugurated in January 2001, implying the blame for the slowdown rested on President Clinton's shoulders.

"When I took office, our economy was beginning a recession," Bush said in a speech at a Mississippi high school.
Except there was no recession, apparently. Reuters reported today:

In annual revisions to U.S. gross domestic product numbers released on Friday that could fuel a politically charged debate, the Commerce Department rewrote the history of the recent downturn by revising away a decline in the second quarter of 2001.

The new figures, which reflect more complete source data, show economic activity peaked in the second quarter of 2001, not the fourth quarter of 2000.
So, Mr. President, if you want to blame someone for the crummy economy and the loss of more than a million jobs, and the shrinking wages of the average American, just look in the mirror.

And let us know if you don't see your reflection. That would be an interesting data point.

William Saletan says Bush and Rove have no one but themselves to blame:

I don't know how much of John Kerry's acceptance speech the candidate penned himself. I don't know who suggested which lines, how many drafts there were, or who edited them. But I can tell you who wrote the speech: George W. Bush.

The power of the speech, reflected in a deafening series of ovations that consumed the FleetCenter tonight, came not from Kerry's biography or the themes he brought to the campaign two years ago. It came from his expression of widespread, pent-up outrage at the offenses of the Bush administration.
I cannot wait for the debates.

A refreshing Reuters article on Republicans defecting to Kerry's camp:

  • Ohio resident Bob Stewart says of President Bush: "He's been a world-class polarizer. I don't know if I can stomach four more years with him as president. He misled us into the war in Iraq and has mismanaged everything since...." Stewart is a Republican, one of an unknown number of such voters who plan to back John Kerry, out of despair over the war in Iraq and disappointment over budget deficits and social policies. "I just have a gut feeling that Kerry can be trusted to make the right courageous decisions and will make a good president. He showed that with his heroism in Vietnam," he says.

  • In Michigan, Dan Martin has run for local office as a Republican. He says his biggest disappointment is that Bush's reputation as a "compassionate, conservative" governor of Texas hasn't proven true in the White House. "The foreign policy is a mess. The offensive in Iraq is reckless and built on bad decision making. On the domestic front I understand that terrorism has struck and he's occupied but any real progress on a domestic agenda has ground to a halt."

  • Ron King, a black Vietnam Veteran, said: "I always voted Republican before but I'm against Bush ever since I found out that he doesn't love this country. His so-called military record is a sham. And the worst part is that he lies so much. He lied about weapons of mass destruction."

  • Lloyd Huff, 64, retired director of the Dayton Research Institute in Ohio, says he has "voted for a Republican in every presidential election I can remember" but it will be Kerry this time because "the Bush administration has been the most deceitful, duplicitous, secretive administration this country has ever had. Going to war in Iraq was a horrible, horrible mistake," he said. He accused Bush of "an arrogant, swaggering cowboy mentality ... he has done more than anyone to inflame the Muslim world by his words and actions."
Any Republicans in your family or among your friends? Send 'em this article...

Hey, if Secretary Ridge is unhappy with his low-paying job, maybe he just needs to chill. That seems to be the Bush campaign's recommendation:

A campaign worker for President Bushsaid on Thursday American workers unhappy with low-quality jobs should find new ones -- or pop a Prozac to make themselves feel better.

"Why don't they get new jobs if they're unhappy -- or go on Prozac?" said Susan Sheybani, an assistant to Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt.

The comment was apparently directed to a colleague who was transferring a phone call from a reporter asking about job quality, and who overheard the remark.

When told the Prozac comment had been overheard, Sheybani said: "Oh, I was just kidding."
Ha ha ha ha ha. Something tells me Ms. Sheybani is going to be looking for a new job soon.

Poor Tom Ridge:

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is considering stepping down after the November election, telling colleagues he is worn out from the massive reorganization of government and needs to earn money in the private sector to put his teenage children through college, officials said.


Ridge, 58, has explained to colleagues that he needs to earn money to comfortably put his two children, Tommy Jr. and Lesley, through college, officials said. Both are now teenagers. Ridge earns $175,700 a year as a Cabinet secretary.
Gee, don't you think most Americans would love to have that kind of problem? Didn't the Bush tax cuts help, Mr. Secretary?

Given that the average American family makes something less than $70,000 per year, how are they supposed to put their kids through college? Oh, I see. They can send their low-paying job to Bangalore and then take a high-paying consulting job in corporate America. Right?

Note to Secretary Ridge: Kerry and Edwards have a plan to offer tuition credits to the families of the middle class, which you (barely) fall into. They also will roll back the tax cuts on people making more than $200,000, which means you don't have to worry about paying more taxes under a Kerry Presidency.

Oh wait. You won't have a job. Darn.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Max Cleland. My God, what a great intro. The Boss for a soundtrack.

OK, John, knock it out of the park.

Update: Kos  said, eloquently, what I was struggling with: "May Saxby Chambliss rot in hell for how he slandered Max. "

More update: I was amazed to turn on CNN after watching the speech on C-SPAN. I tuned in late, so I might have missed  something (Digby in particular was complaining about CNN's slanted analysis), but what I saw was Jeff Greenfield doing a very fair analysis, pointing out three killer sections of JFK's speech that hit hard at the heart of the Bush campaign. No snarkiness, no Republican talking points, just a solid analysis. Even the Aaron Brown panel that followed was above-average. Maybe there's hope.

Personally, I thought the speech was excellent. After a rough start, he got on track quickly, hit all the right notes, and turned the negative rhetoric back on Bushco. We'll see what happens in NYC in September.

This excerpt from the New Republic article, "July Surprise," was published in Talking Points Memo more than three weeks ago:

A third source, an official who works under ISI's director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed tnr that the Pakistanis "have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs [i.e., high-value al Qaida targets] before [the] election is [an] absolute must." What's more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: "The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington." Says McCormack: 'I'm aware of no such comment.' But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July" -- the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
We cannot let our so-called liberal media let this story die. It doesn't get any more blatant than this.

Joshua Micah Marshall says "[W]e noted in May and then The New Republic reported out extensively early this month, that this White House has been telling the Pakistanis for months that they wanted to see a big-time al Qaida leader -- hopefully bin Laden -- produced during the Democratic convention."

Today, on the day that John Kerry gives his acceptance speech, CNN has this breaking news alert: Pakistan captures high-level al Qaeda operative.

It's not Osama, but it'll have to do.

Josh says this will be a litmus test for the media:

I'd be very, very curious to hear whether when, oh say, CNN goes on about how this al Qaida guy has been hauled in they will mention at all, or with any consistency, that one of the most respected political magazines in the United States reported just weeks ago on the pressure the administration has been placing on the Pakistanis to serve up an al Qaida bad guy on this day.

Will they make the obvious connection? Or will they just ignore it?

This is just the latest, but perhaps the most blatant, example of how this administration has placed politics and, really, political dirty tricks above national security itself, and along the way persisted in defining political deviance down until tactics we used to associate with banana republics start to seem commonplace here.

And while we're at it, this is yet another example of how truly important it is that we democratize the Middle East. Because once we have, some of them will be able to come back here and redemocratize us.
Interestingly, Ashcroft held a press conference that included this guy's mug shot (along with six others) in early June. As CBS News noted at the time: "Some officials believe al Qaeda's goal is not to aid one candidate over another so much as to show it can influence voters ... just as it did in Spain earlier this year when bombs demolished commuter trains and toppled a prime minister who had backed the U.S.-led Iraq war."

Something for all of us to remember: The bombs didn't topple the Spanish government. The people toppled the government that lied to them about the perpetrators of the bombing, in a blatantly political attempt to gain political advantage.

Think we Americans are as smart as the Spaniards?

Will Ferrell captures the core of Bush's cluelessness in this excellent parody video.

If you like it, send money to ACT.

(Via Approximately Perfect)

Billmon finds the historical roots of the Republican party in Asimov:

The three laws:
1. A Republican may not injure a corporation, or, through inaction, allow a corporation to come to harm.
2. A Republican must obey the orders given it by corporations except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A Republican must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Do you think Will Smith will be working security at the Republican convention?

Well, at least for a few minutes this week I did, after hearing first Barack Obama and then last night watching Al Sharpton bring down the house in Boston. Talk about passion and soul!

The Rude Pundit had a nice summary of the Reverend Al's most excellent in-your-face Bush-bashing remarks. As the name befits, of course, the commentary contains many instances of the Cheney-word:

Last night, Rev. Al Sharpton fucked up the shit of the Democratic stage show going on in Boston. Going off script, going longer than his allotted six minutes, Sharpton spoke with a passion and rage that distilled so much of what people wanted to hear, especially the people in that convention hall who, if they heard one more fuckin' time about Kerry's Vietnam War experience, they were gonna drown themselves in the Mekong.

Sharpton delineated, incisively, the differences between the Bush world of violence and fear and a vision of an all-encompassing nation devoted to truth, justice, creating a real American way: "I have come here tonight to say, that the only choice we have to preserve our freedoms at this point in history is to elect John Kerry the president of the United States," he said, reminding voters that if they want to keep civil liberties safe, they'd better elect someone who won't appoint more Scalias and Thomases to the Supreme Court. (Said Sharpton, "I suggest to you tonight that if George Bush had selected the court in '54, Clarence Thomas would have never got to law school," thus giving the runny shits to the bowels of Kerry's campaign team.)
And poor Bob Graham, who had to follow Sharpton on stage, went over about like ... oh, I don't know, maybe Judy Collins trying to play a couple of sweet acoustic songs after Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band have just blown the roof off the joint. Nothing wrong with Judy, and nothing wrong with Bob Graham, but it's just cruel to make anyone follow Al after that thundering performance.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Gee. What a surprise.

I.R.S. Says Americans' Income Shrank for 2 Consecutive Years:

The overall income Americans reported to the government shrank for two consecutive years after the Internet stock market bubble burst in 2000, the first time that has effectively happened since the modern tax system was introduced during World War II, newly disclosed information from the Internal Revenue Service shows.

The total adjusted gross income on tax returns fell 5.1 percent, to just over $6 trillion in 2002, the most recent year for which data is available, from $6.35 trillion in 2000. Because of population growth, average incomes declined even more, by 5.7 percent.

Adjusted for inflation, the income of all Americans fell 9.2 percent from 2000 to 2002, according to the new I.R.S. data.


In the past, overall personal income rose from one year to the next with relentless monotony, the growth rate changing in response to fluctuations in economic activity but almost never falling.

But now, with many more ordinary employees joining high-level executives in having part of their compensation dependent on stock options and bonus plans, a volatile and relatively unpredictable new element has been introduced to the incomes of millions of workers.

"Risks used to be confined largely to executives and business owners with large incomes,'' said Edward N. Wolff, an economist at New York University who studies wealth and income.

"But now for many people with more modest incomes their earnings are more volatile,'' Mr. Wolff added, leaving them more vulnerable to losing pay they count on to meet regular expenses like mortgage payments, car loans and day-to-day living costs.


Before the recent drop, the last time reported incomes fell for even one year was in 1953. The only other time since World War II that the I.R.S. reported an interruption in income gains was from 1947 to 1949, but that was because of changes in the tax law at the time that affected how income was reported rather than an actual fall.
What a mess.

Who knew The Onion was actually reporting real news? Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over'.

Ironically, this was written in January 2001, just days after Bush assumed office.

It would be funny if it weren't so damn true.

(via a commenter at Washington Monthly)

Xan at Corrente has this hilarious suggestion:

The rafters are ringing with applause, whistles, shrieks of joy. The band is playing a jazzed-up version of James Taylor's "Carolina In My Mind." The candidate releases his wife from the post-introductory hug and steps to the podium.

He waves, then makes the sit-down gesture to the throng. As the tumult begins to quiet he reaches conspicuously into his pocket for a sheaf of notes. Into the relative quiet he begins to read....

"I thank you more than words can say for the support that has led to my being here tonight.

It is therefore with a heavy heart that I must tell you I cannot accept your nomination for the Vice Presidency of the United States. Recent health problems have arisen which..."
Into the absolute dead silence which has filled the hall his next words ring out clearly:

"How the heck did Dick Cheney's notes get mixed in here??"
Okay, there would be some logistical problems as paramedics would have to be summoned for many delegates, and hotel laundry services would be overloaded with the number of people who soiled their own or other peoples' garments with involuntary spitting of beverages, but I really think it could work.
Oh, for the days when Comedy Central did true alternative convention coverage.

I'm getting sick and tired of all this discussion of bloggers at the convention. I'm especially sick and tired of the Dave Winers of the world who insist that they can define what a "real" weblog is and isn't.

Matthew Yglesias writes: "At the end of the day, blogging is just a mode of presenting text (and, to some extent, images) and a set of computer programs that make it easy to present text in that way. It's not a method of doing things. The result, I think, is that the phenomenon of the 'blogger' has no real future, though the phenomenon of the blog does."


Blogs are a form of publishing. Although it would have been possible to do a blog 10 years ago, it is infinitely easier today because of the existence of sites and tools that are geared toward instant publishing. Blogs can take an infinite number of forms, from diaries of meaningless blather by a bored teenager to professionally run, group-authored sites.

The blog form is interesting because it's essentially a friction-free printing press. Just like Gutenberg's original, it can be used in many ways, to produce many things.

Because he invented one of the original blog publishing tools, Winer believes he should be able to define the genre for all of us. That's silly. Just as it's been since the days when humans carved pictographs on cave walls, it's still about the content. Write some interesting stuff, and you can put it in front of the world in a matter of seconds. Write some crap, and hey--you can have it in front of the world in seconds. If you're a discriminating consumer of news, you'll gravitate toward the interesting stuff, regardless of how it was produced.

PS: Winer's coverage of the Democratic convention is unbelievably self-indulgent and, in his own words, boring beyond belief. Truly representative samples:

I'm being interviewed by CNN right now, Jeff Greenfield, and they want a shot of me typing something into my weblog....

During the less interesting speeches I'm listening to music on iTunes, and sometimes I have much better background music than everyone else....

I got out of my seat, introduced myself to the Talkleft blogger (she said on her blog that she's sitting next to David Sifry who I know, of course), she pointed out Atrios, I asked if I could take his picture, and he said yes....

Some big news. My picture is on John Kerry's blog. Hey I'm smiling....

Patti Labelle just came on to do an equipment check. She's just awesome. There are bloggers all around me on the blvd, the connectivity kind of sucks, I'm the lucky one, I've got a line. Behind me Dave Weinberger says "I've got no signal."
Winer never misses an opportunity to proclaim that his blog is the oldest one on the Internet. Yeah, well, sometimes an old man is wise. Sometimes he's just an old fart.

Note to Dave: Jesse and Ezra at are sitting in the same room as you. Each is less than half your age. Collectively they are kicking your ass with content that is funny, insightful, meaningful, and not self-indulgent. Take the headphones off for a second and go ask them how they do it.

Brilliant work from Juan Cole:

Dick Cheney was doing some counter-programming to the Democratic National Convention by speaking on the West Coast at Camp Pendleton.

He said, "Terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength. They are invited by the perception of weakness."


The question is whether the quagmire in Iraq makes the US look weak. The answer is yes. Therefore, by Cheney's own reasoning, it is a mistake that opens us to further attacks.

Reuters reports, "Cheney said Americans were safer and he stood by prewar characterizations of Iraq as a threat despite the failure to find weapons of mass destruction and new warnings by Cheney and other administration officials that another major terrorist attack may be coming."

Iraq was not a threat to the United States. Period. Let me repeat the statistics as of the late 1990s:

US population: 295 million
Iraq population: 24 million

US per capita annual income: $37,600
Iraq per capita annual income: $700

US nuclear warheads: 10,455
Iraq nuclear warheads: 0

US tons of lethal chemical weapons (1997): 31,496
Iraq tons of lethal chemical weapons (1997): 0

While a small terrorist organization could hit the US because it has no return address, a major state could not hope to avoid retribution and therefore would be deterred. Cheney knows that Baathist Iraq posed no threat to the US. He is simply lying. I was always careful not to accuse him of lying before the war because who knows what is in someone else's mind? Maybe he believed his own bullshit. But there is no longer any doubt that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, no active nuclear weapons program, no ability to deliver anything lethal to the US homeland, and no operational cooperation with al-Qaeda. These things are not matters of opinion. They are indisputable. Ipso facto, if an intelligent person continues to allege them, he is prevaricating.
The whole piece is brilliant. If you're not reading Juan Cole regularly, you're missing out.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

John Emerson at Seeing The Forest has an excellent analysis of how the media missed the point of the 9/11 Commission's report:

The media consensus seems to be that the 9/11 Commission report either exonerates Bush, or else says that Bush and Clinton were equally bad. But the consensus is wrong.

Here's Richard Clarke's verdict: "Yet, because the commission had a goal of creating a unanimous report from a bipartisan group, it softened the edges and left it to the public to draw many conclusions. Among the obvious truths that were documented but unarticulated were the facts that the Bush administration did little on terrorism before 9/11, and that by invading Iraq the administration has left us less safe as a nation".

Most of the media have taken the report's discreet refusal to draw any conclusions to mean that they should not draw any conclusions either. But as Clarke says, the report merely leaves it up to us to articulate the "obvious truths" ourselves. (As I have phrased it, "Some assembly is required"). One of these truths is that the Bush administration's pre-9/11 counter-terrorism performance was poor, and definitely worse than Clinton's. Another is that the link he claimed between Iraq and al Qaeda -- one of the main justifications of the war -- was non-existent.
I haven't had a chance to read the full report yet, but the one chapter I have read made me sick to my gut. We really, really, really need adults back in the White House.

I just love Media Matters for America, for calling Tucker Carlson on his bullshit:

CNN Crossfire co-host Tucker Carlson claimed that former President Bill Clinton called Republicans (whom Carlson said are "half the country") "wackos" in his July 26 speech to the Democratic National Convention. When CNN host Larry King corrected Carlson during a panel discussion on Larry King Live, saying, "He [Clinton] didn't say 'wacko,'" Carlson retracted and reworked his charge as follows: "[W]hat he did say was, '[T]hey [Republicans] need a divided America,' and that's -- I don't know -- pretty stout criticism. I don't think it's entirely fair. And coming from the former president, I think it's a bit heavy."

The text of Clinton's convention speech, free of any reference to anyone as a "wacko", is available here.
Except for the fact that he's telegenic, Carlson has nothing to offer. The circuits that connect his brain to his conscience appear to have been permanently seared. He's Bill O'Reilly with a bow tie, and every time I listen to his "analysis" of anything on CNN, I'm baffled that he has a job. I'm especially dismayed that PBS gave this putz his own show.

On last night's three-hour PBS coverage of the Democratic convention, Gwen Ifill interviewed a female delegate from Florida. The transcript isn't available, and I can't find a rebroadcast of the segment anywhere, but I know what I heard and still can't believe the jaw-dropping question she slipped in at the end of the interview.

The Floridian delegate was bright, articulate, and passionate. Ifill asked if she was anti-Bush or pro-Kerry. "Both," came the reply, without hesitation. She doesn't like what Bush is doing to the country, but she's excited to be supporting Kerry. Fair enough.

Then the subject turned to the 2000 Florida vote. The delegate said that everyone who was at the convention was determined to see that it didn't happen again. "Our votes weren't counted." So Ifill follows up with this zinger: "Now, four years later, can you look back at those events and laugh?"

I'm not sure I could have answered that question. I might have just stared at her and asked if she was crazy. Or I might have grabbed the microphone and started pounding on something. But the woman from Florida stayed cool and didn't miss a beat: "No. They stole the election from us, and we're here to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Laugh about it? Ha ha ha ha ha.

If anyone finds a transcript or a tape of this interview, I'd be interested in seeing it.

This is sickening.

CSPAN-2 showed some old convention footage tonight, including JFK's famous "New Frontier" acceptance speech from the 1960 convention. I was a bit too young to watch that one (although I remember Goldwater's 1964 speech). And anyway, I grew up in a staunch Republican household, so I might not have heard his words over all the hissing from the adults. But I was struck by how appropriate that earlier JFK's sharp words were for the current era:

[W]e are not merely running against Mr. Nixon. Our task is not merely one of itemizing Republican failures. Nor is that wholly necessary. For the families forced from the farm will know how to vote without our telling them. The unemployed miners and textile workers will know how to vote. The old people without medical care--the families without a decent home--the parents of children without adequate food or schools--they all know that it's time for a change.

But I think the American people expect more from us than cries of indignation and attack. The times are too grave, the challenge too urgent, and the stakes too high--to permit the customary passions of political debate. We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future. As Winston Churchill said on taking office some twenty years ago: if we open a quarrel between the present and the past, we shall be in danger of losing the future.

Today our concern must be with that future. For the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do.

Abroad, the balance of power is shifting. There are new and more terrible weapons--new and uncertain nations--new pressures of population and deprivation. One-third of the world, it has been said, may be free -- but one-third is the victim of cruel repression -- and the other one-third is rocked by the pangs of poverty, hunger and envy. More energy is released by the awakening of these new nations than by the fission of the atom itself.
I have commented on the similarities between Nixon and Bush, of course, most of them focusing on their paranoia and obsession with secrecy, and their fundamental dishonesty.

There's a difference, though. Nixon was a genuinely smart, curious man, who did a few great things and was done in by his tragic flaws. Bush is incurious and banal, and he blew his one shot at greatness by abusing the mandate the entire world gave him after 9/11.

Jack Kennedy took a pointed personal shot at Nixon:

We know that it will not be easy to campaign against a man who has spoken or voted on every known side of every known issue. Mr. Nixon may feel it is his turn now, after the New Deal and the Fair Deal--but before he deals, someone had better cut the cards.

That "someone" may be the millions of Americans who voted for President Eisenhower but balk at his would be, self-appointed successor. For just as historians tell us that Richard I was not fit to fill the shoes of bold Henry II--and that Richard Cromwell was not fit to wear the mantle of his uncle--they might add in future years that Richard Nixon did not measure to the footsteps of Dwight D. Eisenhower.
And Bush 43 doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as his Daddy. I hope this JFK can come up with some rhetorical flourishes that are as good as those great words from four decades ago.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Well, now that Atrios has revealed his real name (Duncan Black), the ranks of anonymous bloggers have gotten a bit smaller. I'll keep my true identity secret for a little while longer, though.

Although of the 42 people who read this site regularly, at least 16 know me personally. Hmmm. This might be trickier than I thought.

Less than two months ago, President Bush was singing the praises of Lakhtar Brahimi, the U.N. Special Envoy to Iraq. At that time, Bush said:

Mr. Brahimi made the decisions and brought their names to the Governing Council. As I understand it, the Governing Council simply opined about names. It was Mr. Brahimi's selections and -- Ambassador Bremer and Ambassador Blackwill were instructed by me to work with Mr. Brahimi. As we say in American sports parlance, he was the quarterback. And it seemed like a good group to me.
So, what's the quarterback saying today?

Juan Cole unearthed this recent interview in an Austrian paper:

[Brahimi] said Iraq would no doubt recover from the chaos in which it was presently. ''The question is only, how long will it take? And what will the normalization cost?'' The price up till now had already been very high . . . Brahimi said the resistance in Iraq was difficult to analyze. Alongside the old cadres of the Baath regime of Saddan Hussein, there was a strong group of Iraqis which for patriotic reasons attacked any form of occupation. . .

Here, action was needed by the Interim Government of Iyad Allawi.

''It must prove that it has real sovereignty, and that it's not just a puppet of the Americans. But that's difficult with 150,000 foreign soldiers in the country.'' . . .

Asked whether the Iraq war had harmed the ''war on terrorism'', Brahimi said: ''The Iraq war was unnecessary. It created more problems than it solved - and it brought terrorism to Iraq.''

Brahimi, who was formerly U.N. envoy for Afghanistan, warned that the country was on a dangerous course. The regional warlords had too much power and influence. ''There are presently developments similar to those events of 1992 which led the Taliban to success.'' At that time, Afghans had welcomed the Taliban as liberators from the chaos and arbitrary rule of the regional warlords, said Brahimi.
For those keeping score, as Cole notes, more than 100,000 died in Afghanistan after the chaos of the early 1990s opened the door to the Taliban. So far, the casualty count in Iraq is about a tenth of that, but this game is, sadly, in the first quarter.

I'm tanned, rested, and desperately trying to catch up on two weeks worth of blogging. Oh, and my publisher expects me to do a bunch of work that's been piling up while I was away. Go figure! All the A-league bloggers are in Boston anyway, so don't expect me to even try to compete with them.

Anyway, Al Gore's speech warmed my heart, and I have the Big Dawg's speech on the TiVo for later viewing. But today's news carried the perfect metaphor. While the Democrats are having a party in Boston, George W. Bush is literally stumbling:

President Bush, for the second time in two months, took a tumble on his mountain bike while riding on his Texas ranch, a White House spokeswoman said on Monday.

"During an 18-mile ride, as bikers often do, the president took a minor spill and scraped his knee," spokeswoman Claire Buchan said. She said the president did not require medical attention after the spill.

Bush had a similar mountain bike mishap at his ranch in late May, when he toppled over while riding downhill on soil loosened by rainfall, and suffered minor cuts and abrasions. [Sid's note: Loosened by rainfall? Not exactly. As I noted back then, there had been zero precipitation in the Crawford, Texas area for a week before the last great Texas bike crash. These guys lie about everything.]

Last year, he toppled off a high-tech Segway scooter at the Bush family estate in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Oh, to have this sort of ironic juxtaposition every day.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

No, not the Neil Young album. Although it's a great soundtrack for what we're going through these days.

I'm away for a couple weeks recovering from my latest project and preparing for the next one. I may get to a Wi-Fi connection and post something here or there, but don't count on it.

I'll be back in time for the Democratic Convention. Be good to each other.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Stitchin' Sedition:

A few days ago, we noticed that the GOP's outreach campaign to female voters for BushCheney '04 is... W Stands for Women.

And we thought to ourselves, excuse us? In what POSSIBLE way does W stand for Women?! Other than in the strict alphabetical sense, that is. Why stop at 'women' when there are SO MANY other things that W is for. Here is our list.
My pick, of course, is Worst. President. EVER.

Tommy Chong is a free man again: "Tommy Chong, out of prison after serving nine months for selling bongs, is scheduled to appear on the Tonight Show tonight." I'll Tivo it so I can zip past Leno's blithering.

World O'Crap reviews the new book If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It, by conservative Hugh Hewitt, which basically argues:

[I]f you don't want to work to elect Republicans in every election, then you are undoubtedly one of those people who don't care about the future of the United States, and you deserve to die in a terrorists attack.
I believe the book should probably be called If It's Not Close, We Don't Need to Cheat. But what do I know?

Do you know someone who's planning to vote for George W. Bush this fall? Ask them to read this:

Bin Laden Is Said to Be Organizing for a U.S. Attack

Osama bin Laden and his chief lieutenants, operating from hideouts suspected to be along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, are directing a Qaeda effort to launch an attack in the United States sometime this year, senior Bush administration officials said on Thursday.

"What we know about this most recent information is that it is being directed from the seniormost levels of the Al Qaeda organization," said a senior official at a briefing for reporters. He added, "We know that this leadership continues to operate along the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Counterterrorism officials have said for weeks that they are increasingly worried by a continuing stream of intelligence suggesting that Al Qaeda wanted to carry out a significant terror attack on United States soil this year. But until the comments of the senior administration officials on Thursday, it was not clear that Mr. bin Laden and top deputies like Ayman Zawahiri were responsible for the concern.
Scary, isn't it? We used to be very concerned, according to Colin Powell, in December 2001:

The Bush administration's focus remains on Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan, Powell said. U.S. Special Forces and Pakistani troops are searching caves along the Pakistani border for clues to the location of the al Qaeda leader. Powell said Bush intends to persevere for as long as it takes to track down bin Laden and destroy his terrorist network.
But something happened a few months later, and the White House lost interest. It sounds like they think they actually won the war in Afghanistan and defeated bin Laden:

Q: But don't you believe that the threat that bin Laden posed won't truly be eliminated until he is found either dead or alive?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I say, we haven't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban.

But once we set out the policy and started executing the plan, he became -- we shoved him out more and more on the margins. He has no place to train his al Qaeda killers anymore. And if we -- excuse me for a minute -- and if we find a training camp, we'll take care of it. Either we will or our friends will.

--George W. Bush, White House Press Conference, March 13, 2002
And then ask why we have 140,000 troops in Iraq and a few thousand in Afghanistan. Maybe it's because we gave up?

Donald Rumsfeld, Abu Dhabi Television interview, April 28, 2003:

Well, the armed forces of the United States and the United Kingdom, were designed to deal with armies, navies, and air forces, and they do that. They do it very well. They weren't designed to do manhunts. Now you just made the statement that [Bin laden and Mullah Omar are] still at large -- they're still free. I don't know that that's true. I don't know where Bin Laden is. He may be dead. He may be alive. He may be injured. He certainly is not out in the open, making video tapes and leading the Al-Qaida at all.
Or maybe he is. So, do you feel safer now than you did on September 12, 2001?

Bush let Osama bin Laden get away. Don't let him get away with it.

Juan Cole:

Al-Hayat says that the Iraqi Ministry of Health released statistics showing that some 400 Iraqis have been killed and over 1600 wounded in violence since Prime Minister Iyad Allawi came into office on June 28.

When I read these numbers in the Arabic, I did a double take and could barely believe them. I thought I must have missed some key phrase. But no, that's what the article says."
That total covers 10 days. Of course, the United States Government does not count civilian or military casualties in Iraq, so it's impossible to add these numbers to any authoritative running total. But the number is clearly over 10,000 and possibly double or triple that. Disgraceful.

Pentagon Says Bush Records of Service Were Destroyed:

Military records that could help establish President Bush's whereabouts during his disputed service in the Texas Air National Guard more than 30 years ago have been inadvertently destroyed, according to the Pentagon.

It said the payroll records of "numerous service members," including former First Lt. Bush, had been ruined in 1996 and 1997 by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service during a project to salvage deteriorating microfilm. No back-up paper copies could be found, it added in notices dated June 25.

The destroyed records cover three months of a period in 1972 and 1973 when Mr. Bush's claims of service in Alabama are in question.

The disclosure appeared to catch some experts, both pro-Bush and con, by surprise. Even the retired lieutenant colonel who studied Mr. Bush's records for the White House, Albert C. Lloyd of Austin, said it came as news to him.

The loss was announced by the Defense Department's Office of Freedom of Information and Security Review in letters to The New York Times and other news organizations that for nearly half a year have sought Mr. Bush's complete service file under the open-records law.
Nothing to see here. Move along.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Fascinating report on Ashcroft's inability to cope with ethics in the Plame investigation:

The briefings raise questions about the appropriateness of Ashcroft's involvement in the investigation, especially given his longstanding ties to Rove. Senior federal law-enforcement officials have expressed serious concerns among themselves that Ashcroft spent months overseeing the probe and receiving regular briefings regarding a criminal investigation in which the stakes were so high for the Attorney General's personal friends, political allies, and political party. One told me, "Attorneys General and U.S. Attorneys in the past traditionally recused for far less than this."

Great music, memorable slogans. Visit the Sloganator Memorial (1.7MB download) and laugh. Great music, too.

PS: I would love to see these on signs held aloft by protesters in NYC this September.

(Thanks to Sadly, No! and Beat Bush Blog for the pointer.)

It is going to take Tom Ridge weeks to scrape all this bullshit off his shoes:

Ridge Says Terror Threat Is Increasing but No Details Yet:

American intelligence analysts have credible information that Al Qaeda terrorists are planning another attack in the United States, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said today. But he said that the chances of heading off an attack were better than ever, and that there was no reason to raise the terrorist-threat level for now.

Mr. Ridge said reliable information pointed to an attack in which terrorists would try to "disrupt our democratic process." He added that extra protective measures would be in place at the political conventions, even though there was no specific indication that they were targets.

"We lack precise knowledge about time, place and method of attack, but along with the C.I.A., F.B.I. and other agencies, we are actively working to gain that knowledge," Mr. Ridge said.

Mr. Ridge delivered his assessment at a briefing in which he again seeemed to be walking a tightrope: urging people to be alert but conceding that he could not advise them on what exactly to look for. And he held out the hope that American intelligence and law-enforcement agencies would yet be able to pin down details.

Mr. Ridge brushed aside any suggestion that the administration was trying to create a widespread sense of unease that might work to President Bush's advantage less than four months before the election.
Yeah, so let's see... We don't know where, when, or how, but the chances of heading off an attack are better than ever. Is there any planet on which that logic works? Bizarro World, maybe?

Unfortunately, this is all sounding so familiar. Anyone remember Condi Rice's testimony before the 9/11 Commission?

Condi said, "When threat reporting increased during the Spring and Summer of 2001, we moved the U.S. Government at all levels to a high state of alert and activity." Yep, that's what Ridge is saying now.

Condi said, "The threat reporting that we received in the Spring and Summer of 2001 was not specific as to...manner of attack." OK, that's the same in summer 2004 as it was in summer 2001.

Condi said, "[T]he Department of Defense issued at least five urgent warnings... The State Department issued at least four urgent security advisers and public worldwide cautions on terrorist threats... The FBI issued at least three nationwide warnings to federal, state and law enforcement agencies... The FAA issued at least five civil aviation security information circulars... The CIA worked around the clock to disrupt threats worldwide... This is a brief sample of our intense activity in the high threat period of the summer of 2001. Yet, as your hearings have shown, there was no silver bullet that could have prevented the 9/11 attacks." Uh, OK. So just like in 2001, the Administration is runnng around issuing warnings, but they don't know where, when or how an attack might happen, so they don't have a "silver bullet," so it's probably going to happen again.

Anyone want to tell me again why these guys are in charge?

It doesn't matter whether you're a Democrat or Republican. You should worry about the impact of this election on the future of civil rights in this country.

The next President of the United States will be able to appoint at least two and perhaps four Supreme Court justices.

If George Bush is elected, he will be able to appoint anyone he wants to, and the Republican-controlled Congress will rubber-stamp his selections. Democrats may try to embarrass the nominee during confirmation hearings, but they won't have the guns to block the final vote. It is a dead certainty that Bush will appoint more zealots like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas to the court. In fact, one of the litmus tests for any new Supreme Court nominee will be how willing he or she is to defer to the Bush Administration's vision of the all-powerful executive branch.

By contrast, if John Kerry is elected, he will not be able to appoint radicals to the Court, even if he wants to do so. His selections will instead face extraordinary scrutiny from a Republican-controlled Congress. If he nominates someone who is more than a millimeter to the left of center, that judge will go down in flames during the confirmation process. For each opening, Kerry will have no choice but to pick a cautious, quiet judge whose qualifications are impeccable, whose record is unexciting, and whose views are moderate.

If John Kerry is elected, in other words, the next justices appointed to the Supreme Court will be men or women whose stated views and judicial history are acceptable to a broad spectrum of Americans. And they will serve for decades. Isn't that the result that most Americans want?

If you've got a friend who's wavering on how to vote this fall, make sure they understand this issue.

MyDD resurrects a Life in Hell comic from 1993:

Bongo: Why is the TV saying America is proud again?
Binky: We just bombed Iraq again in our War Against Terrorism.
Bongo: Did we win the war against terrorism?
Binky: Nobody knows.
Bongo: How many terrorists did we kill?
Binky: Nobody knows.
Bongo: We didn't kill too many innocent people, did we?
Binky: Nobody knows.
Bongo: How many terrorists did we kill last time?
Binky: Nobody knows.
Bongo: How many innocent people did we kill last time?
Binky: Nobody knows.
Bongo: I know this is off the subject, but when will Democracy be restored in Kuwait?
Binky: Nobody knows.
Bongo: How do we know how proud we should be?
Binky: We have to use our imaginations.
Why do those rabbits hate America?

The Charleston Gazette - News:

A worker with the Federal Emergency Management Agency who wore an anti-Bush T-shirt at the president's July Fourth rally in Charleston [West Virginia] has been sent home to Texas.

Nicole Rank, who was working for FEMA in West Virginia, and her husband, Jeff, were removed from the Capitol grounds in handcuffs shortly before Bush's speech. The pair wore T-shirts with the message "Love America, Hate Bush."

The Ranks were ticketed for trespassing and released. They have been given summonses to appear in court, Charleston Police Lt. C.A. Vincent said Wednesday.


On Sunday, Charleston Police Sgt. R.E. Parsons said Nicole and Jeff Rank were in a no-trespassing area and refused to leave.

The White House coordinated the president's visit to the state Capitol. Organizers described it as a presidential visit, not a political rally. State and federal funds were used to pay for the presidential visit.

Dozens of people who attended Sunday's event wore pro-Bush T-shirts and Bush-Cheney campaign buttons, some of which were sold on the Capitol grounds outside the security screening stations.
Yeah, we got freedom of speech. As long as you don't say too much.

(Props to Atrios for the link, apologies to The Neville Brothers for ripping off the punch line.)

Election Officials Consider Security Options at Polls:

U.S. officials are expressing concern that terrorists will try to disrupt the presidential election in November by launching an attack around Election Day, but they are only now planning to raise the subject with local election officials.


Election officials around the country say they are eager for advice on how to address security worries but say they are baffled at the idea of securing the nation's 193,000 polling places.

Election administrators also express worry that posting police officers near or in polling sites might discourage some people, especially immigrants and members of minority groups, from voting.


U.S. officials point out that if attacks follow the model in Spain, they would come in the days before the voting and be against civilian targets, rather than on Election Day against polling places.
And if those terrorists decide to do something different, attacks could come on Election day. Or in late July. Or September. Or maybe the day after Election Day. Or not at all!

So be prepared. For whatever.

Mark Schmitt (a very smart man) lays out the reasons Why Cheney Can't Leave. The possible replacements in the Administration all have too much blood on their hands, Giuliani would never be acceptable to the right wing, and McCain would never say yes. Here's the kicker:

I also have come to think that there may be some truth to the idea that Cheney is the driving intelligence behind the entire Bush presidency. The insistence on being interviewed together by the 9/11 commission is one huge hint; the many instances in which Cheney seems to speak for the administration but with a tone and argument totally unrelated to Bush's, is another. The fact that Bush sometimes gets his message into line with Cheney's, rather than the other way around, speaks volumes. And if Cheney is driving the decisions, then the man who picked the vice president is unlikely to fire himself.

There is also the fact that, except for Larry Lindsey and Paul O'Neill, and George Tenet, this administration cannot fire anyone. It is such a rigid, stay-on-message corporate culture that the information that someone has to go cannot penetrate to the top.

I am beginning to think that behind all the bluster, George W. Bush is a frightened, confused individual, totally unable to understand the magnitude of the decisions he got talked into making, and dealing with it by becoming paralyzed, letting the individuals who represent power centers within his administration, such as Rove, Powell, Wolfowitz, Cheney and Rice run off entirelly on their own. Those who are able to manage the president's message, such as Cheney, are at a bureacratic advntage. But politically, this White House is a sitting duck, and as a matter of psychology, I think the Final Days of this crowd will make for amazing reading.
I've worked for guys like this before. This analysis is dead-on.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Big John comes out swinging:

Kerry, campaigning with Edwards in the midwestern city of Dayton, Ohio, countered that "it seems to me as if he (Bush) doesn't have a record to run on, he's got a record to run away from, so he's just attacking everybody."

Kerry said Bush was right one thing about Cheney. "He was right that Dick Cheney was ready to take over on day one, and he did and he has been ever since, and that's what we got to change."
Yeah baby!

OK, this is a can of worms. But the Christian Science Monitor is one of the most balanced sources around:

Christian Zionists, an Evangelical subset whose ranks are estimated at 20 million in the US, have in the past two decades poured millions of dollars of donations into Israel, formed a tight alliance with the Likud and other Israeli politicians seeking an expanded 'Greater Israel,' and mobilized grass-roots efforts to get the US to adopt a similar policy.


In the US, premillennialist teaching has spread through TV and radio evangelists and, most recently, the "Left Behind" novels and prophecy websites.

Supporters range from avid believers to more passive participants who nonetheless believe in prophecy and watch for its fulfillment, scholars say. Such teaching may attract more followers in times of stress, observers suggest, as it offers one explanation for disturbing world events.

"[Christian Zionists] create a worldview into which people walk and don't realize how big a move they've made," says Martin Marty, religious historian and co- director of the Fundamentalist Project, set up to study worldwide religious reaction to modernity. There are sincere people in the movement who pray for the conversion of Israel but don't take up the political program, he says.

But he and others, including some Evangelicals, are increasingly concerned that many Christian Zionists have become activists whose actions could ultimately have serious - even disastrous - consequences.

"The danger is that, when people believe they 'know' how things are going to turn out and then act on those convictions, they can make these prophecies self-fulfilling, and bring on some of the things they predict," says the Rev. Timothy Weber, president of Memphis Theological Seminary in Tennessee, and author of "On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel's Best Friend."

"Before the Six-Day War, dispensationalists were content to sit in the bleachers of history explaining the End-Time game on the field below, pointing out events and identifying players," Dr. Weber adds. "But after expansion of Israel into the West Bank and Gaza, they began to get down onto the field and be sure the teams lined up right, becoming involved in political, financial, and religious ways they never had before."


Members of Congress in sympathy with the Christian Zionist point of view have taken positions contrary to administration policy, which supports a Palestinian state.

House majority leader Tom DeLay (R) of Texas, while visiting the area, said, "I don't see occupied territory; I see Israel." Speaking on the Senate floor, Sen. James Inhofe (R) of Oklahoma said Israel had a right to the land "because God said so."

In a 2002 appearance on Chris Matthews's "Hardball" show, former Rep. Richard Armey (R) of Texas, then House majority leader, proclaimed his support for "transporting" the Palestinians to other countries.

"In Israel, this position is regarded as somewhat like that of the Ku Klux Klan in the US," says Gorenberg. "These American figures are taking positions way to the right of the Israeli mainstream."


"When political conflicts are framed as theological wars, we lose the ability to deal with them - the only solution is the final one," warned Jeff Halper, a professor of anthropology at Ben-Gurion University.

Christian Zionist ties to Jewish fundamentalists are disturbing to many Israelis, the majority of whom are secular, added Dr. Halper. The most explosive possibility relates to the prophecy that the Jewish temple will be rebuilt on the Temple Mount, where Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque now sit. Some Christian Zionists in America "are becoming quite involved financially and otherwise in the so-called Temple movement," says Weber.

When he talks to Christian Zionists about the destruction of the Dome of the Rock, some say, " 'Well, this is all prophesied - it's bound to happen,' " Weber says. Some suggest perhaps an earthquake will clear the mount. One predicted that "in an Arab-Israeli war a surface-to-surface missile aimed at Jerusalem will miss and hit the Dome of the Rock."

It's this kind of perspective that worries knowledgeable observers. Such mixing of prophecy and politics "could start World War III," says Dr. Marty.
Sometimes it seems that the war in Iraq was just the first step on that road, doesn't it? I had no idea there were 20 million people in the U.S. who were a part of this movement. That's a truly frightening thought.

A White House press release said today that the President had signed "H.R. 2751, which modifies human capital management authorities of the General Accounting Office (GAO) and renames the GAO the 'Government Accountability Office.' "

Has a real ring to it, doesn't it? Government. Accountability. So when does it start happening again?

The Bush campaign's new ad, starring John McCain, is called "First Choice." In the press release announcing the ad, the campaign calls McCain "John Kerry's first choice for a vice presidential running mate." By implication, of course, that means Edwards is an inferior second choice.

Ironically, kos found quotes from McCain earlier this year in which it was revealed he was Bush's first choice for VP in 2000. So Dick Cheney was Bush's second choice as well.

Ha ha ha...

Update: Balkinization says, "The Dems should run an ad noting that Al Gore was the country's first choice for President."

TBogg has adorable pictures of John Edwards' and Dick Cheney's kids.

They're really worth seeing.

(via Suburban Guerrilla)

The Chicago Tribune quantifies just how close we are to losing freedom of speech. A new national poll has the very depressing numbers. Of course, they don't want to see Janet Jackson's boob on free TV again, but 55% think violence and sexual content should be restricted on cable TV too, and 52% think the government should "impose restrictions on information and content that appears on the Internet."

But this is the one that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

Twenty percent say negative reporting on the war should not be allowed. Twenty percent say critical editorials against a war should not be allowed. About the same number feel that the 1st Amendment itself goes too far. A little over 10 percent say the Patriot Act, which expanded government search and surveillance powers, didn't go far enough.

Put those numbers together and think about a nation as a roomful of, say, 10 people.

The poll indicates that at least two of those people, and in some cases as many as five or six of them, would embrace government controls of some kind on free speech, particularly when it has sexual content or is heard as unpatriotic.
Now blow up another big building or set off a small dirty bomb or mail out some more anthrax and watch those numbers go over the top.


Tuesday, July 06, 2004

It's official

The Sept. 11 commission, which reported no collaborative links between Iraq and al Qaeda, said on Tuesday that Vice President Dick Cheney had no more information than commission investigators to support his later assertions to the contrary.

The 10-member bipartisan panel investigating the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington said it reached its conclusion after reviewing available transcripts of Cheney's public remarks asserting long-standing links between the former Iraqi president and Osama Bin Laden's Islamist militant network.

"The 9-11 Commission believes it has access to the same information the vice president has seen regarding contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq prior to the 9-11 attacks," the commission said in a statement.

The vice president's office had no immediate comment on the commission statement.

Assertions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and could be prepared to provide chemical or biological agents to al Qaeda for attacks on the United States were a main justification for President Bush's decision to invade and occupy Iraq. No such weapons have been found.

Soon after the Sept. 11 commission said in staff report last month that there was no evidence of a collaborative relationship between the two sides, Cheney continued to assert that long-standing links existed.
Add your own punchline...

Fafblog! has the Republican attack ad you haven't seen. Yet.

"I'm Senator John McCain, rugged individualist. I march to the beat of my own drummer and I don't give a damn about 'parties' or 'politics.' I'm a man's man."
[John McCain tearing a bear in half with his teeth]

"I'm also made of guns."
[still photo of a cannon popping out of John McCain's chest, killing alien]

"And I want you to know that if we don't re-elect George W. Bush, someone will detonate a nuclear bomb in America."
[sinister close-up of Saddam Hussein with arm around a beret-wearing John Kerry]
Somewhere, Karl Rove is saying, "Damn, wish I'd thought of that!"

The Cosmic Iguana says Kerry did it right:

They say that picking a VP is the first best test of a presidential candidates performance in office. Bush One picked Dan Quayle, proving that he was in outer space. Bush Two allowed Cheney to pick himself, proving that he was a tool.
On the other hand, Bill Clinton showed that he could 'think outside the box' in picking Al Gore.

By picking John Edwards, John Kerry has picked an optimistic and forward-looking co-candidate, who will help him beat Cheney-Bush in a landslide... as long as there is actually an election....
No election? But that could only happen if... Oh. Never mind.

Before John McCain sold his soul to Karl Rove, he had nothing but kind things to say about John Edwards, as Kos noted today:

In Four Trials, John Edwards has written movingly of people who were terribly wronged, and whom he helped seek some measure of justice with great skill, determination, and genuine compassion. He shows a perceptive appreciation in these accounts for the strength of his clinets' character. And, in the loving portrait of his son, Wade, and the deeply touching account of his loss, John reveals the strength of his own character and give the reader a look beyond a political biography into the heart of a good man.
Funny, I don't recall McCain saying a good word about the strength of George W. Bush's character. Do you?

And Atrios has this McCain quote on Edwards, one month after Bush's inauguration:

He's got the ambition, the talent and the brains to go very far, to be president of the United States.
-Charlotte Observer, 2/26/01

Did someone in the Kerry campaign do a brilliant head-fake on the New York Post? Or are they just a bunch of incompetent sleazebags? I'm not sure they'll ever be able to live this down.

Expect some truly nasty coverage of the Dems this summer as retaliation. Of course, you could have expected that anyway.

Update: The Post doesn't have the story up on their Web site anymore, but I do!

Kerry Picks Gephardt

(If you want to link to this, please copy the file and put it on your own server, OK? I've got limited bandwidth...)

Salon's Joyce McGreevy watched Fahrenheit 911 in a parallel universe. Her version was called "Scare-N-Hype 411," and the most memorable part, for me, was this:

But the most stirring sequence is the penultimate scene, in which a young man on the eve of his surrender to Wal-Mart, bids farewell to his mother:

"Tom Snode: Maybe it's like Ashcroft says. A fellow ain't got privacy of his own, -- maybe just a little peace in the big privatization, the one big secret energy company that belongs to a few deserving souls, then --

Ma: Then what?

Tom Snode: We'll be all around in the dark -- we'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look -- wherever there's a fight in Iraq, so wealthy people can eat, we'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, we'll be the guy. We'll be there in the way Cheney yells when he's mad. We'll be there in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know budget cuts are ready, and when some people are cheatin' the tax structure the rest of us support, and livin' in the second houses they built on untaxed profits, we'll be th-- oh wait, we're still waitin' on the invite to that one."

The movie closes with a charming montage of sun-dappled wheat fields, nuclear families watching a fireworks display, the farmer in the dell, the happiest girl in the whole USA, a butcher, a baker, a fundamentalist policymaker, a basket of kittens, and workers in hardhats enjoying a wholesome chuckle over a blueprint. A news crawl at the bottom of the screen reminds viewers to report any suspicious voter registration and to expect terrorist attacks as they exit through the central mall.
Normally, I'm a fan of alternate realities, but this one was a little too close to the real thing.

(via Suburban Guerrilla)

This nice note from John Kerry just arrived in my e-mail inbox:

Dear Sid,

In just a few minutes, I will announce that Senator John Edwards will join me as my running-mate on the Democratic ticket as a candidate for vice president of the United States. Teresa and I could not be more excited that John and Elizabeth Edwards will be our partners in our journey to make America stronger at home and respected in the world.
OK, for a second there, I thought he said "John Elizabeth Edwards." Those of you who have seen The Producers on Broadway know why that's funny.

No complaints here. Edwards is the anti-Cheney, and that's good.

Juan Cole explains:

US observers keep expressing puzzlement as to why the killing of hundreds or thousands of insurgents has not had an impact in repressing the guerrillas. They don't seem to get it that Iraqi clans still matter and that when they kill an Iraqi, they anger the man's brothers, uncles, and first and second cousins, some of whom step forward to take his place. In the US a lot of people don't even know their cousins and certainly would not sacrifice their lives to avenge one. Iraq is not like that. So, it isn't really even a matter of ideologies, necessarily. The US military has incurred enough clan feuds to keep the insurgencies going. And, of course, Iraqi and Arab nationalisms are powerful enough that people hate seeing Western troops in their country. The line between being angry about it and being angry enough to pick up a gun is a thin one.
We kill more than 10,000 civilians and wound who knows how many more, in a country that's less than 1/10 the size of ours, and we don't understand why they're angry. Sigh.