30 September 2004

DNC communiqué re the debate tonight

I got this as an e-mail from the DNC.

Tonight, don't let George Bush's henchmen steal another victory. We need your online help immediately after the debate, so save this email, print it out, and have it ready with you as you watch the first Presidential debate tonight.

We all know what happened in 2000. Al Gore won the first debate on the issues, but
Republicans stole the post-debate spin. We are not going to let that happen again, and you will play a big role.

Immediately after the debate, we need you to do three things: vote in online polls, write a letter to the editor, and call in to talk radio programs. Your 10 minutes of activism following the debate can make the difference.


National and local news organizations will be conducting online polls during and after the debate asking for readers' opinions. Look for online polls at these national news websites, and make sure to vote in every one of them:
ABC News: http://www.abcnews.com/
CBS News:
Fox News:
USA Today:
And be sure to check the websites of your local newspapers and TV stations for online polls. It is crucial that you do this in the minutes immediately following the debate.


Immediately after the debate, go online and write a letter to the editor of your local paper. If you feel John Kerry commanded the debate and had a clear plan for fixing the mess in Iraq, put it in your letter. If you feel George Bush dodged tough questions on Iraq and didn't level with voters, put it in your letter.

With just a few clicks, you can write your letter at our online media center:



Do you listen to national or local call-in shows on the radio? How about on TV? Call them and let them know what you thought of John Kerry's plan to keep America secure and George Bush's continuing refusal to admit the truth about his record.
Here are some national shows to get you started. (All times are Eastern.)

Air America (all day): 646-274-2346
Alan Colmes (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.): 212-301-5900
Ed Shultz (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.): 701-232-1525
Bev Smith (7 p.m. to 10 p.m.): 412-325-4197
Doug Stephen (5 a.m. 10 a.m.): 1-800-510-8255

Find shows in your area on our media website:


Your actions immediately after the debate tonight can help John Kerry win on November 2. Make your voice heard!

Don't forget to visit our 2004 Debate Center before, during, and after the debate for important information, including questions Bush must answer, a Bush/Kerry contrast on keeping America safe, and Bush Debate Bingo, a game you can play with friends during the debate.


And after the debate, check your email for a very special message.

Thank you,

Terry McAuliffe

Schwarzenegger vetoes port smog curbs

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday vetoed a bill to force the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to limit air pollution, angering environmentalists who said the health of surrounding residents was being threatened by dirty air from ships, trucks, trains and wharf equipment.[Los Angeles Times.]

This is what comes from yielding to media imagemaking and electing a Republican as governor.

I find it disheartening that just as the catastrophe of 2000 failed to lead to electoral college reform, the disaster of making Shwarzenegger governor of this overwhelmingly Democratic state has failed to lead to any push for reform of the idiotically structured Recall provision in California's Constitution.

Debate Video

Josh Marshall notes that "Fox News will control the video cameras filming the debate. So you know everything will be on the up-and-up. "

carnet - Word for the Day, September 30

carnet · kar-nei; -net · noun
1. An official pass or permit, especially one for crossing national boundaries.
2. A book of postage stamps.
3. A subway or commuter railway ticket, for a week or month (French or Canadian).
Etymology: French, carnet, "notebook," from Old French quernet, "pocket notebook," from quaer, "quire." [See quire, abbr. qr. or q.; a set of 24 or sometimes 25 sheets of paper of the same size and stock; one twentieth of a ream; or a collection of leaves of parchment or paper, folded one within the other, in a manuscript or book].

29 September 2004

Connie Rice: Top 10 Secrets They Don't Want You to Know About the Debates

A friend in New York sent me this, from NPR. Similar points were made in an interview last Friday on Bill Moyers' Now.

NPR.org, September 28, 2004 · After weeks of political wrangling, Sen. John Kerry and President Bush will square off for the first of three key presidential debates. Both camps have agreed to an elaborate, 32-page contract that spells out everything from the size of the dressing rooms to permitted camera angles.
But the controversy over the debates threatens to overshadow the events themselves. Some citizen groups complain that the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) isn't as non-partisan as it should be, and that Kerry and Bush won't be pressed on urban issues. Commentator Connie Rice says that's just the tip of the iceberg, and she's got another Top 10 list -- this time: Top 10 Secrets They Don't Want You to Know About the Debates.

(10.) They aren't debates!

"A debate is a head-to-head, spontaneous, structured argument over the merits of an issue," Rice says. "Under the ridiculous 32-page contract that reads like the rules for the Miss America Pageant, there will be no candidate-to-candidate questions, no rebuttal to your opponent's points, no cross questions or cross answers, no rebuttals, no follow-up questions -- that's not a debate, that's a news conference."

(9.) The debates were hijacked from the truly independent League of Women Voters 1986.

"The League of Women Voters ran these debates with an iron hand as open, transparent, non-partisan events from 1976 to 1984," Rice says. "The men running the major campaigns ended their control when the League defiantly included John Anderson and Ross Perot, and used tough moderators and formats the parties didn't like. The parties snatched the debates from the League and formed the Commission on Presidential Debates -- the CPD -- in 1986."

(8.) The independent and non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates is neither independent nor non-partisan.

"CPD should stand for 'Cloaking-device for Party Deceptions' -- it is not an independent commission on anything. The CPD is under the total control of the Republican and Democratic parties and by definition bipartisan, not non-partisan. Walter Cronkite called CPD-sponsored debates an 'unconscionable fraud.'"
(7.) The secretly negotiated debate contract bars Kerry and Bush from any and all other debates for the entire campaign.
"Under what I call the Debate Suppression and Monopolization Clause of the contract, it is illegal for the candidates to debate each other anywhere else during the campaign," Rice says. "We need a new criminal law for reckless endangerment of democracy."

(6.) The debate contract effectively excludes all other serious presidential candidates from participating in the debates.

"This is what I call the Obstruction of Democratic Debate Rule, which sets an impossibly high threshold for third-party candidates... Where are we, Russia? Isn't Vladimir Putin wiping out democracy in Russia by excluding all opposing candidates from the airwaves during his re-election campaigns.? Most new ideas come from third parties -- they should be in the debates."
(5.) All members of the studio audience must be certified as "soft" supporters of Bush and Kerry, under selection procedures they approve.
"It's not enough to rig the debate -- they have to rig the audience, too? The contract reads: 'The debate will take place before a live audience of between 100 and 150 persons who... describe themselves as likely voters who are soft Bush supporters or soft Kerry supporters.' We should crash this charade and jump up in the middle to declare ourselves hard opponents of this Kabuki dance."

(4.) These "soft" audience members must "observe in silence."

"Soft and silent... In what I'm calling the Silence of the Lambs Clause of this absurd contract, the audience may not move, speak, gesture, cough or otherwise show that they are alive and thinking."

(3.) The "extended discussion" portion of the debate cannot exceed 30 seconds.

"Other than the stupidity of the debate contract, what topic do you know can be extendedly discussed in 30 seconds?"

(2.) Important issues are locked out by the CPD debate rules and party control.

"Really important but sticky or tough issues get axed, because the parties control the questions and topics," Rice says. "For example, in 2000, Gore and Bush mentioned the following issues zero times: Child poverty, the drug war, homelessness, working-class families, NAFTA, prisons, corporate crime and corporate welfare."
(1.) Fortune 100 corporations are the main funders of the CPD-sponsored debates, and the CPD's co-chairs are corporate lobbyists.
The CPD is run by Frank Fahrenkopf, a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist, and Paul Kirk, a top gambling lobbyist," Rice says. "And the.biggest muliti-national corporations write the checks that fund the CPD -- Phillip Morris, Anheuser-Busch and dozens more. The audience may have to be silent and motionless, but the corporate sponsors can have banners, beer tents, Budweiser girls handing out pamphlets protesting beer taxes -- a corporate-sponsored circus to go along with the Kabuki Debates. Could we get a more fitting description of our democracy?"

Bush's Denial

The following was sent to me by a colleague, who received it as an e-mail written by a long-time friend of her family's.

Is the President of the United States capable of dealing
with an obvious problem if he denies that it exits?

As we all know, last week, he pointed to Afghanistan as an example of success in bringing democracy to the region. J. Alexander Thier is a fellow at the Hoover Institute, a lifelong conservative Republican, and the man that our President sent to Afghanistan to help them form a democracy by advising the constitutional and judicial reform commission of Afghanistan. Here is what he had to say: "President Bush describes Afghanistan, the first front on the war on terrorism, as a success....In 2002, President Bush promised a 'Marshall Plan' for the country, with the goal of turning Afghanistan into a stable, democratic state. On Tuesday, before the United Nations General Assembly, the President said that 'the Afghan people are on the path to democracy and freedom.' Yet in nearly three years we have failed to create security, stability, prosperity, or the rule of law in Afghanistan... The root of the problem is that we invaded Afghanistan to destroy something-the Taliban and Al Queda-but we didn't think much about what we would grow in its place. While we focused on fighting the terrorists (and even there our effectiveness has been questionable), Afghanistan has become a collection of warlord run fiefs fueled by a multibillion dollar opium economy. We armed and financed warlord armies with records of drug running and human rights abuses stretching back two decades. These decisions were made for short term battlefield gain - with disregard for the long term implications for the mission there."

He also points out that Doctors Without Borders, an organization famous for providing medical services in the most desperate and dangerous conditions in the world has pulled out of Afghanistan after 24 years. They felt safer during the Soviet occupation than they do now.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has supervised the elections in Kosovo and Bosnia, has pulled its election monitors out because it is too dangerous. Eight of the presidential candidates have asked for a delay in the elections because it is too dangerous to campaign.

My point is that before you can go somewhere, you have to be truthful about where you are. Our administration is lost. It is as if they are trying to drive to Los Angeles from New York with a map that only covers the east coast. They claim success where failures are obvious. Bush cannot think of a mistake he has made. The goal in Iraq is terrific--Install a democracy in the region and let it spread. It has been tried many times in the region, and always failed, mostly from leaders being bull headed. He has got everyone focused on winning in Iraq. I thought we already had won the war. We are now trying to keep the peace, a much tougher job. While he has us all focused there, let us remember that our good friends in Pakistan have sold nuclear weapons to North Korea, but are still our good ally. It was, allegedly, a rogue scientist doing that, not the government. The day after he was caught, he was pardoned by General Musharraf. When the U.S. asked for the right to question him, we were not allowed. Our good friend and ally, Saudi Arabia, is where 15 of
the 19 9/11 hijackers were raised. Is this a coincidence? Every morning on state sponsored Saudi TV, and in state sponsored schools, children are taught that it is wonderful to die for Allah when killing the infidel. Maybe if our President gives the Saudi foreign minister another hug and another invite to the ranch, they will stop teaching like this. Let's be open and real about where we are--in deep trouble. At the moment we are not building or saving anything, anyone or any place. I am certain that good policy makers can come up with some good ideas, but first we have to know that we are in a very deep hole, and simply sending more guns, more troops, more advisers, and destroying more of the country, is not working.

The world has changed. Fifty years ago, the US represented sixty percent of the economic activity of the world. It is now 25%, and for that we are totally dependent of foreign nations to finance our economy. We no longer have the raw might to make everyone quake in their boots when we walk by. We are a very important and great citizen of the world, but no longer its sole driving force. Let's get used to it and do our best.

Crawford, Texas Paper Snubs Shrub

Please check out this article in the Los Angeles Times.

My father, Walter Studhalter (who was born and raised in Texas, but got out while the gettin' was good), comments:

The Publisher of the Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, W. Leon Smith, deserves special mention for coming out for Kerry. He gave well thought-out reasons, not Texan reasons, like [Bush] having shot his cow or peed in his spring. The Times article also mentions that Kerry supporters in Crawford include the mayor and the pastor.

As for the proprietress of the "Yellow Rose Gift Shop," a Bushie, ask me who the Yellow Rose of Texas was and I will tell.

If you want to know, you'll have to e-mail me.

The Big Fix

A colleague sent me this, commenting that it's very, very depressing.

Jeffrey Rosen writes in TNR today:

It's November 2, and the presidential election looks close in Ohio. An army of lawyers are dispatched by the Bush and Kerry campaigns to scour all 11,614 precincts in the state for any hint of voting irregularities. Within hours, both sides have filed competing suits in state courts challenging the standards for counting provisional, absentee, and military ballots, as well as for the use of different voting machines. Within days, Laurence Tribe and James Baker are filing petitions to the Supreme Court, arguing that Bush v. Gore--the case that decided the 2000 election--compels the justices to intervene. The justices, who once confidently predicted that Bush v. Gore would have no effect on future elections, are horrified. Even the Bush v. Gore dissenters are shocked at the mess the decision has created. After all, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called Bush v. Gore a "one-of-a-kind case" as recently as February 2003 in a speech to San Diego law students, adding optimistically, "I doubt it will ever be cited as precedent by the court on anything."


Unfortunately, the hopes that Bush v. Gore would fade from memory like an embarrassing dinner guest have proved to be wildly mistaken. And, if the election is close, the nightmare scenario described above seems all too likely to come to pass. During the four years since Bush v. Gore, the case has emboldened political candidates to file a tangle of litigation challenging election procedures in federal and state races--from the recall of Governor Gray Davis in California to the replacement of Senator Robert Torricelli in New Jersey. Moreover, in response to the legalization of politics that has followed Bush v. Gore, Democratic and Republican legal swat teams have been assembled to challenge the results of the 2004 presidential election if the vote in any state proves close enough to provide the margin of victory in the electoral college. And, even if the presidential election is not close, Bush v. Gore will continue to haunt congressional and local elections in November and beyond. "You could have dozens or even hundreds of cases filed on the Wednesday morning after the election," says Jack Goldsmith of Harvard Law School. "Given the litigation opportunities in Bush v. Gore, you could have real, real uncertainty for many weeks and months, not only about national elections but about local elections. And it's likely to get worse."

If this came from anyone but Rosen I would think it was another of those Greenfield-esque parlor games in which they sit around on CNN for hours at a time in stultifying discussion of bizarre election scenarios that will never happen. But we'd be fools to ignore the fact that Bush vs Gore is a cancer that has the potential to metastisize very rapidly if this election is as close as we expect it to be.

If you haven't had a chance to read the fascinating in-depth article in Vanity Fair this month about the Florida debacle in 2000, here are the (pdf) links to it--- Part one and Part two. It opens with a conversation between two of the Supreme court clerks who seem to have had the exact same opinion that I forcefully espoused at a dinner party during the recount drama (as I imagine many others did throughout the country.)

Shortly after the presidential vote in November 2000, two law clerks at the United States Supreme Court were joking about the photo finish in Florida. Wouldn't it be funny, one mused, if the matter landed before them? And how, if it did, the Court would split five to four, as it so often did in big cases, with the conservative majority installing George W. Bush in the White House? The two just laughed. It all seemed too preposterous. Sure, friends and relatives predicted that the case would eventually land in their laps, but that was ignorant, naïve talk -- typical of people without sophisticated legal backgrounds.

A majority of the justices were conservatives, but they weren't partisan; mindful of the Court's fragile authority, the justices had always steered clear of messy political spats. Moreover, the very jurists who'd normally side with Bush were the ones most solicitous of states' rights, most deferential to state courts, most devoted to the Constitution's "original intent" and the Founding Fathers had specifically provided that the Congress, not the judiciary, would resolve close elections. To top it off, the Court rarely took cases before they were ripe, and the political process in Florida was still unfolding. "It was just inconceivable to us that the Court would want to lose its credibility in such a patently political way," one of the clerks recalls. "That would be the end of the Court."

Boy, was I ever wrong. And as you read the article the sheer partisan nature of the court's involvement becomes even more obvious than we have previously known. The article goes on to show how Anthony Kennedy, widely considered dumb as a post and obsessed with his own grandeur, had been staffed by the right wing with a cadre of federalist society Hitler Youth who "guided" him the partisan direction Big Tony and the Chief wanted him to go. (Our gal Sandy, it turns out, was in the tank from the get-go.)

The Bush's petition for certiorari - that is, for the Court to take the case?went initially to Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose task it was to consider all emergency motions from Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. For Kennedy, then 64, a man known to relish the pomp and circumstance of the Supreme Court and his own, often crucial role in close cases, weighing such a momentous matter must have been glorious indeed. Batting aside a Thanksgiving Day plea from the Gore campaign to pass on the case, Kennedy urged his colleagues to take it on, suggesting that the Court was absolutely the essential arbiter of such weighty matters. He conceded, though, that Bush faced an uphill struggle on the law. When Kennedy's memo circulated, one flabbergasted clerk had to track down Justice John Paul Stevens on the golf course in Florida and read it to him over the phone. Under the Court's rules, Kennedy needed only three votes beside his own for the Court to hear the matter. Quickly, the four others who make up the Court's conservative block signed on: Chief Justice William Rehnquist, along with Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Sandra Day O'Connor.


As was customary, the Court did not detail how many justices had voted to hear the case, or who they were, and Gore's lawyers didn't really want to know. At that point, they felt a certain faith in the institution and in the law: it was inconceivable to them that the court would intercede, much less decide the presidency by a vote of five to four.

As you continue through this article you see that this was the problem for the Democrats throughout the recount period. It wasn't cowardice, it was a naive faith in the rule of law. It was the last vestige of true, internalized belief that the American legal system was immune from naked, opportunistic partisanship.

Desperate for legal advice, Klain reached out to prominent firms in the capital of Tallahassee. He found little help. "All the establishment firms knew they couldn't
cross Governor Bush and do business in Florida," recalls Klain. And so he improvised,
pulling together a team headed by former secretary of state Warren Christopher, now a Los Angeles-based lawyer in private practice. Christopher, Gore felt,would imbue the team with an image of decorous, law-abiding, above-the-fray respectability.


Unlike Christopher and company, Baker spoke to the press loudly and often, and his message was Bush had won on November 7. Any further inspection would result only in "mischief." Privately, however, he knew that at the start he was on shaky political ground. "We're getting killed on "count all the votes," he told his team. "Who the hell could be against that?"

Baker saw his chance that Thursday, November 9, when the Gore team made a formal request for a manual recount in four counties: Volusia, Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade. Asking for a recount in these large, Democrat-dominated counties left the Gore team fatally vulnerable to the charge that they wanted not all votes counted, as Gore kept claiming in his stentorian tones, but only all Gore votes. Yet the Bush team knew full well that Gore could not have asked for a statewide recount, because there was no provision for it in Florida law. A losing candidate had 72 hours to request a manual recount on a county-by-county basis or wait until the election was certifed to pursue a statewide recount. The requests had to be based on perceived errors, not just the candidate's wish to see recounts done. Certainly, Gore chose counties that seemed likely to yield Gore votes. But he chose them because that's where the problems were.

Proper as this was by Florida election law, the Democrats?strategy gave Baker the sound bite he'd been seeking: Gore was just cherrypicking Democratic strongholds. It was a charge the Bush team wielded to devastating effect in the media, stunning the Gore team, which thought its strategy would be viewed as modest and fair.

Foolishly, Gore thought that being modest and fair still meant something. He was not prepared for a streetfight. And, looking back I realize that I wasn't either. Like a green youth I didn't believe they'd actually go that far. Even after the impeachment sideshow, an event that solidified my belief in the lethal, fascistic nature of the modern Republican party, I was not fully prepared for the no holds barred approach they would take in this situation.

It is what led me to the point at which I am able to say without any sense of restraint or caution that I would put NOTHING past them --- even a staged terrorist attack. This is because every time I think they have some limits, they prove me wrong. As the old saying goes, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice...won't get fooled again....

Gore and his team knew that the Republicans would fight with everything they had, but they still maintained some faith in the legal system to require basic fairness in something this important. And, even the most cynical of us thought that the egos of the Supreme Court justices would never allow them to make a purely partisan decision because history would remember them as whores.

If I had any political idealism left it died on the day that Antonin Scalia stopped judges from counting votes in Florida.

This article shows that fix was in from the beginning. Had Gore audaciously requested a statewide recount he would have been accused of not following the strict laws that required him to show problems in each precinct. It was always headed to the Supremes and once they took the case, the interviews with the Supreme court clerks show that there was never any question about who would win. It was always a decision in search of a rationale.

If Jeffrey Rosen is correct and dozens of lawsuits await filing in close races out there, all based on this ill-considered opinion, then we are likely to see a repeat. After all, the same five vote majority still sits on the court today. And like all the others who voted for this irresponsible, unqualified, incompetent boob in 2000, they are not likely to admit their mistake and vote otherwise this time out.

This time, we must operate on that assumption and prepare for a knife fight --- in the courts and in the realm of public opinion. There are no rules other than winning.

I urge you to read the entire article. There is much more about the disenfranchisement of the black community and the shocking actions they've taken since then to supposedly update the voting system. (Kevin Drum has more on this latest.) With fine fellows like "Buckhead" working on the wing nut Voter Integrity Project, and Ashcrofts new intimidation tactics, this election could be very, very ugly.

Iraq Study Sees Rebels' Attacks as Widespread

JAMES GLANZ and THOM SHANKER in the New York Times today report that attacks in Iraq are widespread both geographically and in numbers, contrary to the Bush administration's misleading statements, including its orchestrated "speech" by Allawi to Congress.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 28 - Over the past 30 days, more than 2,300 attacks by insurgents have been directed against civilians and military targets in Iraq, in a pattern that sprawls over nearly every major population center outside the Kurdish north, according to comprehensive data compiled by a private security company with access to military intelligence reports and its own network of Iraqi informants.

Krugman on the debates

Josh Marshall has excellent comments about Krugman's New York Times article yesterday on the real effect of the debates.

Outing politicians

See Michelangelo Signorile's article in the New York Press about the outing of politicians. California's Congressman David Dreier, a right-wing Bush supporter, is about to be a target of such a public outing. See Eschaton.

Lateen -- Word for the Day

lateen · l&-'tiin · noun

1 : a lateen sail, a triangular sail extended by a long spar slung to a low mast
2 : also lateener
-'tii-n&r/ : a lateen-rigged ship

: being or relating to a rig used especially on the north coast of
Africa and characterized by a lateen sail

Etymology: French (voile) latine, literally, Latin (Mediterranean) sail

28 September 2004

Singularity Sky

I have more or less sworn off of science fiction (except for Jack Vance, who insists his work isn't science fiction anyway)... for the past ten or fifteen years. It just seemed that nothing being published was especially interesting or well written enough to bother with.

Happened across Singularity Sky by 40 year old Brit Charles Stross. It's very high tech (he's an IT person by profession), and military (not usually a good combination), but it's sparklingly original and fun. First solid RECOMMEND I can give a sci-fi book since at least Eon by Greg Bear.

NPR's Ivan Watson on Iraq

Check out Alex Chadwick's interview with NPR war correspondent Ivan Watson. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4048942

Watson reports that there is simply no question that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating into chaos, and that the U. S. has already completely lost the war for the "hearts and minds" of the people of Iraq.

E. L. Doctorow: The Unfeeling President

By E.L. Doctorow

The Unfeeling President

I fault this president for not knowing what death is. He does not suffer the death of our 21-year-olds who wanted to be what they could be. On the eve of D-Day in 1944 General Eisenhower prayed to God for the lives of the young soldiers he knew were going to die. He knew what death was. Even in a justifiable war, a war not of choice but of necessity, a war of survival, the cost was almost more than Eisenhower could bear.
But this president does not know what death is. He hasn't the mind for it. You see him joking with the press, peering under the table for the weapons of mass destruction he can't seem to find, you see him at rallies strutting up to the stage in shirt sleeves to the roar of the carefully screened crowd, smiling and waving, triumphal, a he-man.
He does not mourn. He doesn't understand why he should mourn. He is satisfied during the course of a speech written for him to look solemn for a moment and speak of the brave young Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
But you study him, you look into his eyes and know he dissembles an emotion which he does not feel in the depths of his being because he has no capacity for it. He does not feel a personal responsibility for the 1,000 dead young men and women who wanted to be what they could be.
They come to his desk not as youngsters with mothers and fathers or wives and children who will suffer to the end of their days a terribly torn fabric of familial relationships and the inconsolable remembrance of aborted life . . . they come to his desk as a political liability, which is why the press is not permitted to photograph the arrival of their coffins from Iraq.
How then can he mourn? To mourn is to express regret and he regrets nothing. He does not regret that his reason for going to war was, as he knew, unsubstantiated by the facts. He does not regret that his bungled plan for the war's aftermath has made of his mission-accomplished a disaster. He does not regret that, rather than controlling terrorism, his war in Iraq has licensed it. So he never mourns for the dead and crippled youngsters who have fought this war of his choice.
He wanted to go to war and he did. He had not the mind to perceive the costs of war, or to listen to those who knew those costs. He did not understand that you do not go to war when it is one of the options but when it is the only option; you go not because you want to but because you have to.
Yet this president knew it would be difficult for Americans not to cheer the overthrow of a foreign dictator. He knew that much. This president and his supporters would seem to have a mind for only one thing -- to take power, to remain in power, and to use that power for the sake of themselves and their friends.
A war will do that as well as anything. You become a wartime leader. The country gets behind you. Dissent becomes inappropriate. And so he does not drop to his knees, he is not contrite, he does not sit in the church with the grieving parents and wives and children. He is the president who does not feel. He does not feel for the families of the dead, he does not feel for the 35 million of us who live in poverty, he does not feel for the 40 percent who cannot afford health insurance, he does not feel for the miners whose lungs are turning black or for the working people he has deprived of the chance to work overtime at time-and-a-half to pay their bills - it is amazing for how many people in this country this president does not feel.
But he will dissemble feeling. He will say in all sincerity he is relieving the wealthiest 1 percent of the population of their tax burden for the sake of the rest of us, and that he is polluting the air we breathe for the sake of our economy, and that he is decreasing the quality of air in coal mines to save the coal miners' jobs, and that he is depriving workers of their time-and-a-half benefits for overtime because this is actually a way to honor them by raising them into the professional class.
And this litany of lies he will versify with reverences for God and the flag and democracy, when just what he and his party are doing to our democracy is choking the life out of it.
But there is one more terribly sad thing about all of this. I remember the millions of people here and around the world who marched against the war. It was extraordinary, that spontaneous aroused oversoul of alarm and protest that transcended national borders. Why did it happen? After all, this was not the only war anyone had ever seen coming. There are little wars all over he world most of the time.
But the cry of protest was the appalled understanding of millions of people that America was ceding its role as the last best hope of mankind. It was their perception that the classic archetype of democracy was morphing into a rogue nation. The greatest democratic republic in history was turning its back on the future, using its extraordinary power and standing not to advance the ideal of a concordance of civilizations but to endorse the kind of tribal combat that originated with the Neanderthals, a people, now extinct, who could imagine ensuring their survival by no other means than pre-emptive war.
The president we get is the country we get. With each president the nation is conformed spiritually. He is the artificer of our malleable national soul. He proposes not only the laws but the kinds of lawlessness that govern our lives and invoke our responses. The people he appoints are cast in his image. The trouble they get into and get us into, is his characteristic trouble.
Finally, the media amplify his character into our moral weather report. He becomes the face of our sky, the conditions that prevail. How can we sustain ourselves as the United States of America given the stupid and ineffective warmaking, the constitutionally insensitive lawgiving, and the monarchal economics of this president? He cannot mourn but is a figure of such moral vacancy as to make us mourn for ourselves.

Word for the day, September 28

demimonde · 'de-mi-"mänd, -mE-, -mOnd · noun

1 a) : a class of women on the fringes of respectable society supported by wealthy lovers b) : the population of prostitutes in a given locale

2 : a distinctive class, group, or activity that is often an isolated part of a larger class, group, or activity ; especially : one having a questionable reputation or little prestige

Etymology: French demi-monde, from demi- ("half") + monde ("world"), from Latin mundus

Reply to a Bush Supporting Former Colleague

My Bush supporting former colleague, in a running dialog, asked, "Is it a good thing to fight people that set off car bombs, kidnap and murder civilians for the sole reason they look, believe and have a different nationality than you? Yes or No. "

My answer:

...To answer your question, there is obviously a major difference of philosophy. Interventionism vs. reserved realpolitik, or whatever you want to call it.

Car bombs, terrorism in foreign countries, etc. are evil. I won't go into the "one man's terorrist is another man's freedom fighter," argument, because I don't make it. I think killing innocent civilians for a cause is almost never justified. (The qualification is because there are situations, during major conflict, where it's unavoidable). Having said that, the question boils down to are we as a nation justified in playing the world's policeman?

There obviously is no simple answer to this question. There are times when our national interest is served by involving ourselves in actions overseas to try to address a specific security threat or honor alliance commitments, etc. Generally, however, I think we are not made safer, in particular, by trying to police the middle East. This is an area, as you seem to acknowledge, where there is a culture of violence, and where ethical values of the Islamic civilization do not value the rights and lives of individual human beings the way we do. But short of re-colonizing and governing the entire region in order to impose Pax Americana (probably both impracticable and far too expensive for 21st Century America's resources), I don't see how any rational foreign policy can be based on anything other than our own national interests, which primarily center on our own national security. I harangued you already about the role of seeking peace in Palestine / Israel as an essential component of this equation, which the Bush administration has contemptuously ignored, so I won't try to make that point all over again.

But the national interest question is, so to speak, the rub. The case that Iraq posed a threat to our national security was made on the basis of lies and deception. You may disagree, but that's my conclusion. Iraq was not a significant threat to the U.S., and even though its dictator presided over a neoStalinist regime, it did not ally itself with Islamist terrorists, did not have a military capability to threaten the US, and was contained and containable. Again, you may disagree, but evidence to the contrary is very weak. Such a case can more sucessfully be made against Iran and Syria, or as to the military threat part, N. Korea, than against prewar Iraq. The limited police action launched by the U.S. against Iraq toppled its weakened dictatorship, but the chaos that ensued was the result of horribly bad planning, bad leadership, bad execution, and woefully inadequate resources. There is no reason, if this was worth doing, for the US to assume the entire burden. Without international participation, especially money, the case for doing it on a humanitarian basis just doesn't make sense, in terms of U S national interests. Again, this is my opinion. It's also the opinion of roughly 55% of the American people, according to current polls.

Obviously, war begets chaos and violence. That doesn't mean that Bush is responsible for the car bombings and beheadings, of course he isn't. But the fact is that the policy has led to this situation, and his administration is to blame for the mismanagement of the post-conquest situation. They had no realistic plan for occupying Iraq, and the current mess is the result.

It is a terrible situation there, which whoever is the next president, will be tremendously costly and difficult to work through. There's no turning back the clock. We have a presence there and cannot just walk away tomorrow. But I would feel a lot more secure with another captain at the helm, one who didn't just make an arrogant and petulant speech to the United Nations; one who is not contemptuous of allies who are almost monolithically in disagreement with our policies. It is arrogant of us to assume that we must be right and they must be wrong, without listening to them. Many of the more negative assessments of what would occur in the wake of a US invasion have been proven correct.

So, sure, in the abstract, we want to fight these evils. But in the concrete, real world, we cannot defeat every evil, especially not alone, and this war, and especially its aftermath, has been handled very badly. I believe it has made America less safe, not moreso, and has made it virtually impossible in the near term to work towards a general peace in the Middle East. The neo-conservative agenda is based on unrealistic assessments and wrong beliefs about what the people in that region want, and how they feel about the West.

As an example, I read where a large percentage of even the "peaceful" folks in Iraq, the ones who just want the power back on and for the fighting to stop, believe that America faked 9-11 in order to have a pretext to invade Iraq. With this kind of distorted worldview, lack of free information, lack of modern critical thinking, lack of Western style ideation, to use a semiotic term for it, you can never win the "hearts and minds" struggle. It becomes an exercise in futility, and the most rational policy is the same as the policy during the cold war: containment, not open conflict.

I won't even go into the role of oil in the mix, but as a basis for war, I think it is a moral cipher. We have no right to wage war for resources, and if that is, to whatever extent, a reason we're doing it, then it's not justified. Again, some will obviously disagree, but that's my view.

Winner of the Debates... consider Trivia only

Krugman's Article in the NYT today is excellent, as usual. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/28/opinion/28krugman.html?hp .. In a nutshell, the Media, esspecially the Cable channels, can be expected to focus on trivialities in their "analysis" of the upcoming debates, and you can more or less count on their conclusion that Bush will have "won," because he will have, as Krugman puts it, done "a pretty good Clint Eastwood imitation," as if this were what qualifies someone to be President.

Dems on the "Ground War"

From: http://www.newdonkey.com/2004/09/three-votes-and-cloud-of-dust.html
Three Votes and a Cloud of DustThroughout this election cycle, spinmeisters from both parties have regularly boasted "their team" was going to have a big advantage in the "ground game" of turning out voters on Election Day (or even before that, in the case of absentee ballot voters). For the most part, media types have blandly reported both sides' claims, creating the impression that Democratic and Republican GOTV efforts would cancel each other out. Finally, somebody went out and checked. On the front page of the Sunday NYT, Ford Fessenden
reports on a Times study of registration numbers in the two most crucial battleground states, Ohio and Florida. And it confirms two things I've felt strongly about, but had little more than anecdotal evidence to support: (1) this is going to be a high-turnout election (which in itself is helpful to Democrats), and (2) Democrats are way, way ahead in the ground game. I won't go through the numbers; you should read the whole story yourself. But they are overwhelming in Ohio. In Florida, the Democratic advantage is equally striking, but the actual number of new voters being registered is much lower, for a very obvious reason: stormy weather. And that, too, is a special problem for the GOP, since Republican-leaning areas of the state have been hardest-hit. It's kinda hard to run phone banks or send emails (much less run television ads) in places with no electricity or phone service. Parts of the Florida panhandle will be literally dark for weeks, even if the horrific wave of hurricanes finally ends. The same problems, of course, make accurate polling difficult, so we should all take any Florida polls with a large shaker of salt over the next couple of weeks. Even the Times report slips over the line from empirical data to partisan mythology in citing Republican ground-game success in 2002 as an indication that the GOP may do better than the Ohio and Florida registration figures suggest. As always, the example used is Georgia, where Ralph Reed got a chance to test-drive the GOP's state-of-the-art "72 Hours of Hell" (or whatever it's called) GOTV effort, producing upset wins in Senate and gubernatorial races. I know a little bit about Georgia, and it's clear to me that the 2002 Republican GOTV effort in that state is not generally replicable in battleground states across the country. What happened in Georgia is that the massive growth of Atlanta's exurban communities gave Republicans something they've rarely had in the past and still don't have in most parts of the country: heavy geographical concentrations of conservative voters where a big uptick on total turnout guarantees a large partisan harvest, just like the minority neighborhoods that have long given Democrats a better reason to invest in GOTV. Georgia Republicans figured that out, flooded the exurbs with every dollar and every knock-and-drag technique imaginable, and won. Republicans may be able to use the same techniques to boost their turnout in states like Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Florida, though there are pro-Democratic demographic trends in all four states that may be equally or even more significant. But states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Wisconsin, simply don't have the kind of massive exurban growth that makes Republican GOTV investments pay off so handsomely. And even in states like Minnesota that do have rapid exurban growth, it's worth noting that non-sunbelt exurbs are not as culturally conservative, or as overwhelmingly Republican, as those in the South and parts of the West. I think it's increasingly clear that if Kerry (and other Democrats in battleground states) are two or three points behind on November 1, they might still win. Getting to the point where the "ground game" can be decisive, however, means succeeding in the "air war" of convincing persuadable voters to smile upon the donkey.