Saturday, November 15, 2003

Infotel Threatens To Sue Blogger  

Infotel, which apparently sells books of directory listings, has threatened to sue this blogger over things said in her comments. Justene has taken her comments down, but if you want to read them go here. One of the commenters posted this link to a BBB report on Infotel which asserts an "unsatisfactory business performance record" for the company.

Seraphiel's Daily Cartoon Roundup  


Bono Speaks In Canada  

via email from Seraphiel:

I just heard something really extraordinary. Bono from U2 just spoke at the Liberal convention where the new leader of the Liberal party who will be the new Prime Minister is being "selected". He's a MUCH better speaker than any of the politicians... Really straight talk about the kind of problems that exist in the world, and the kind of things that need to be done to end them. The kind of stuff that gives most politicians ulcers. I wonder if he was invited to speak as a kind of proxy for the new PM, to send a message about what the new PM would do, but not have it come from the new PM's mouth. Really quite remarkable. Among the many things he had to say about the way the world, and the US in particular, is going wrong, was this quotable line.

"It's cheaper to stop people hating you than it is to defend yourself against them."

Then he told a story about an Auschwitz survivor who had long wondered, when they were being shipped off in cattle cars, why none of the people who were watching never asked where they were going. Then he said, in reference to US foreign policy, that

"the difference is that this time we know where the train is going, and the question is, how many people are willing to lay across the tracks. I'm one, and I believe Paul Martin is another. I think Canada is prepared to lay across the tracks."

The 8000 or so people in the Molson centre in Toronto went crazy.

Schedule Stuff  

Blogging will be light for the next week or so. I'll probably be posting one or two things every evening, tho. If you need an instant fix, read some of the blogs in the list on the left. They're all great.

It's Be Nice To Nick Kristof Day!  

Great job:
If Afghanistan is a White House model for Iraq, heaven help us. 
Read why. Kristof is spot on.

Bush Is The New McGovern  

Now that I have your attention...

The general wisdom, either stated outright by Kevin Drum, or implied by Ruy Teixeira, is that Wes Clark must be The One because Dean is not electable.


I'm completely agnostic on who "should" be the nominee.* Clark and Dean are the two frontrunners and imho, either has the potential to be a great president. But so would Kerry, Edwards, or Gephardt.

The simple fact is that by any standards the leaders in the Democratic primary are all different and all superb. We have an embarassment of riches here. And the future for all the candidates as participants in "The Emerging Democratic Majority" that Ruy writes about augurs well for the party and the country - yes, I'm including even Sharpton and Moseley Braun who have both done great work this last few months, more than a lot of people will credit them for.

In any event, it looks like the race is down to Dean or Clark. I like Clark, a lot. And I like him even more because, as this poorly disguised anti-Clark article in The Economist clearly shows, the GOP is very anxious to write him off. Nevertheless, I'll try to show here how Dean is electable:

1. George W. Bush is 2004's George McGovern. Incredibly, no one, in either party, seems to have made this obvious comparison.** Bush is the candidate far removed from the center of American political discourse. His plans for the country are hopelessly muddle-headed, his idealism is a danger to the world, and he is woefully incapable of building coalitions to govern effectively both here and abroad, to advance this country's interests. As with McGovern, this shouldn't be a left/right battle; Bush's politics and actions are too far afield for anyone in the center of American politics to endorse, including the beleaguered and oppressed Powell Republicans. Which leads to:

2. If the truth about the Bush administration is told in language that attracts the media's coverage and investigation, Al Sharpton would beat Bush in a landslide. Not only is Bush is too radical, but he is too incompetent, and - despite 4 years of on the job training which he has thoroughly flunked - still too inexperienced to be trusted with the presidency.

3. Even if only a small fraction of The Disaster Which Is Bush seeps into the American media unfiltered, any truly strong candidate, like a Dean or a Clark, will trounce Bush. To ensure this happens:

4. The Democratic establishment, including the Clintons, Gore, and Lieberman (who has as much a chance as Kucinich) must back whomever gets the nomination enthusiastically. Not only will the candidate be excellent, but anything less than full support will give Bush's supporters - who are desperately trying to salvage a radical agenda they've advanced since the 50's - an opportunity to destroy the Democratic candidate and the party for good. Yes, Hillary Clinton may lose out in her only chance to become president in 2008, but that, for many reasons, is far more of a long shot than Dean defeating Bush. And whether it's Clark or Dean, Bush simply must be defeated, a goal that overrides any personal ambitions at this point.

5. A positive vision - not a Big Idea, but morally clear truths about America and its role for its citizens and the world - can easily be articulated by Dean that is neither liberal nor conservative, but simply American. Americans are not only plain-speaking individuals, but a clear-headed people who rely more on their own commonsense than think-tank ideologies to guide their decisions. Americans are smart, decisive, well-trained, hardworking, and ambitious people who are also flexible when needed as well as compassionate and generous to a fault.

Call it "The New Americanism" or "The Real Patriotism" or "American Self-Confidence" but whatever you want to call it, Dean will fit it to a T.

6. Dean is the only candidate who understands that to defeat Bush, you don't react to him. You get him to react to you, not in generalities but on specifics. He gets his opponents react to him, not only because he's the frontrunner, but because of how he says things. That was the lesson of the Confederate flag flap. To date, he is the only candidate who has managed that trick.

Bush's handlers are masters at agenda setting. Dean instinctively knows that you redefine every issue so that you get your opponent to talk about it within your frame. (Even if Dean backed down on the Confed flag, he backed down on an issue defined his way. No one was talking about Gephardt's formulation. Dean controlled the discourse). Not even Clark, the most adroit of his challengers, is as supple as Dean.

Dean is prepared to fight fire with fire. He does it extremely well. The man who becomes president in '04, whoever that is, will be the one who does this the best.

[UPDATE] Excellent op-ed by Michael Tomasky on the same subject. Tomasky's is more knowledgeable and sober. But what I wrote is funnier. We both are saying the same thing, tho.

[UPDATE] Matt Yglesias makes the important point that no Dem will be immunized from Bush's attack dogs. But he links to this brilliant, and sobering, fantasy of what an anti-Dean attack ad will look like next year.

*Originally, I had a Dean quote at the top of my blog. Then I had a Clark quote. Now, there's a Gore quote. Obviously, I like the sentiments expressed in each, but I am not "for" one of these people over the others.

**Forgive me, Mr. McGovern and forgive me, McGovernites (I, too, voted for McGovern, of course). I don't mean the real man George McGovern, I mean the straw man concocted by Nixon. The image painted of McGovern was precisely the one I've painted above, but with the politics flipped.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Variations On A Song By Neil Young  

Hopeless, hopeless, hopeless, Hope...less. Josh Marshall sums up the latest efforts to duck responsibility for the Bush/Iraq fiasco:
[T]he ultimate articulation of the Chalabistas' trinity of accountability, responsibility and blame ...

Neocons come up with the harebrained idea. The US Army takes it on the chin. And the CIA, the State Department, the Democrats, miscellaneous foreign moderates and other deviants get saddled with the blame.

A nice division of labor, ain't it?

Everyone needs to lend a hand to figure out how to prevent a descent into catastrophe. But first there's got to be some accountability, a threshold recognition that the people who navigated us into this mess aren't the best suited to help us find our way out of it.

Telling us we didn't give them enough control over things the first time isn't a particularly convincing response.
He's absolutely right. But "everyone" knows what it will take:

1. Bush must be replaced.
2. The UN or some other international group must coordinate the reconstruction of Iraq.

To which I invariably add, one without the other is insufficient. Nor are both necessarily enough.

Therefore, since Bush will not resign or be impeached, the earliest possible time things *may* start to resolve is in January of 2005.

For anyone to get more specific at this point is a waste of time. The situation in Iraq, and the world, is too unstable right now to go into any detail. But the two points asserted above will hold true regardless of the world situation and regardles of whether "we" stay or withdraw.

Filibusters: The Facts  

Not that it matters, because the dust up is not about facts, but about raw power, but People For the American Way has a nice summary of what the arguments and counterarguments about the federal judiciary.

Again, facts will get you nowhere debating with people who side with Bush on this. But it's good to know they're on our side.

The Great Awakening: Not  

This is not Nick Kristof's finest day. Via Altercation, Allen Brill takes issue with Kristof's alarming statistics about the rise of evangelicalism in the US:
[Kristof] returns to the theme from time to time that the country is headed toward a radical cultural split with secular liberals on one side and an increasingly dominant Christian Right on the other. [A Kristof column] depended upon the recent Pew Research Center survey and the increase in the percentage of respondents who “completely agree” with three statements about prayer, Judgment Day and the existence of God.
       The numbers just don’t back up Kristof’s assertion. Membership in religious organizations, including Christian congregations, has actually declined slightly since 1990 as has church attendance and donations. Even the data that Kristof cites shows that strongly traditional religious sentiments on prayer, Judgment Day and God’s existence peaked in the late 90’s and has declined slighly since then.
       Kristof’s vaunted “evangelicals” are a vaguely-defined group that is anything but homogeneous from either a theological or political standpoint. The Pew survey finds that 30% of Americans are “evangelicals,” but it lumps together all who consider themselves “born again” under the “evangelical” label to arrive at that figure. This includes liberal Episcopalians who have adopted the “born again” language and African-American Baptists who always vote Democratic. If Kristof or anyone else is interested in using “evangelical” to predict political behavior, the category should at least be limited to the 21% of whites who identify themselves as “born again.” Using more exacting criteria, public opinion researcher George Barna, himself an Evangelical, finds that only 5% of Americans are “evangelicals.”
       Finally, Kristof is wrong about Americans moving in two different directions on “moral,” i.e. social issues. The Pew survey shows that the views of even conservative Christians have been moving to the left. In 1987, only 22% of white evangelicals disagreed with a statement that local school boards should have the right to fire homosexuals. By 2000, that percentage had grown to 40%. While white evangelicals were the only group in which a majority still supported firing homosexuals, the trend among them is clear.
       American politics is a good deal more complex than what Kristof presents.

Using Poor Kids As A Cover To Pay For Bush's Hotel Suite In NY  

Dirty tricks:
It is an unusual charity brochure: a 13-page document, complete with pictures of fireworks and a golf course, that invites potential donors to give as much as $500,000 to spend time with Tom DeLay during the Republican convention in New York City next summer — and to have part of the money go to help abused and neglected children.
[P]art of the money would go to pay for late-night convention parties, a luxury suite during President Bush's speech at Madison Square Garden and yacht cruises.

2 More US Soldiers Died In Iraq  

2 More.
Two American soldiers were killed and three were wounded when their convoy struck an improvised explosive device about 45 miles north of Baghdad, the United States military said today.

The convoy was traveling north along Highway 1 when the attack occurred at about 4:30 p.m. on Thursday in Samarra, the United States Central Command said in a statement. The wounded were taken to a hospital, but no other details were released.

The deaths bring the number of Americans killed since major hostilities were declared at an end on May 1 to at least 158.

Put "Hold The Vitriol" On Hold, Continued  

At the end of the previous post, I said that mainstream Republicans were the ones spouting hate speech, but for the most part, mainstream Democrats were not doing so.

For a quick example -I could, with a little effort, find even more stark examples - let's just turn to this article which I've been studying:
The strategy will involve the dismissal of Democrats as the party of "protests, pessimism and political hate speech," Ed Gillespie, Republican National Committee chairman, wrote in a recent memo to party officials -- a move designed to shift attention toward Bush's broader foreign policy objectives rather than the accounts of bloodshed. Republicans hope to convince voters that Democrats are too indecisive and faint-hearted -- and perhaps unpatriotic -- to protect US interests, arguing that inaction during the Clinton years led to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Democrats are (perhaps) unpatriotic and certainly indecisive as well as faint-hearted. Democrats also are protestors, pessimistic, and hate speech mongers. And their inaction caused 9/11. That's a memo from the head of the Republican party.

The Democratic response?
"It seems to me they [Republicans] are benefiting from having the bully pulpit and just repeating their message all the time," former Clinton national security expert Daniel Benjamin said. "But at the end of the day, bad news on the ground trumps all that repetition in Washington. And they have a real problem on their hands squaring those two things."
Republicans are repeating the same message. But there's genuine bad news that's contradicting their message.

Later in the same article, Republicans accuse the Democrats of "partisan anger," parotting the ideas of the "loony left," and insinuate that Democrats think Americans are not very smart, and are incapable not only of speaking clearly but of moral clarity.

The Democrats counter that the Karl Rove "has lost a step or two" if he thinks that Republicans can run for reelection on right-wing think tank doctrines. And Dean adds, "A preemptive strategy never fits into an American strategy...The first time we used the preemption policy, it got us into an enormous amount of trouble."

Ok, Mr. Kristof. Which party is spewing vitriol here?

[UPDATE] via a bunch of links beginning with Atrios comes this repulsive little fantasy and a discussion. Of course, he's not advocating killing so many Democrats. Of course not.

[UPDATE] Spinsanity on the attempt by Republicans to spread "Democrats engage in political hate speech" meme.

[UPDATE]The Howler's all over Kristof.
Are today’s liberals as bad as those [Clinton era] cons? Unless you simply enjoy propaganda, the answer quite plainly is “no.” Have you seen Bush murder lists on TV? Have you seen a major “religious figure” selling tapes which call Bush a serial killer? Have you seen a succession of high-profile probes trying to show that Bush killed his best friend? In short, have you seen anything like the wave of insanity that typified the Clinton-Gore years?

No, you haven’t; those eight years were special. But during those years, pundits like Kristof hid beneath desks, silent, trembling, quaking with fear. Now Kristof complains—about naughty libs, claiming they’re as bad as those cons. He gets a few e-mails from fist-waving liberals, and Kristof suddenly finds his voice. Silent then, complaining now: In that odd progression of events, you see the strange shape of an era.

Sorry. No public liberal resembles Ann Coulter, and nothing like the hounding of Clinton has yet been aimed at President Bush. That Clinton era was uniquely deranged. Why can’t Nick Kristof just say it?

Put "Hold The Vitriol" On Hold  

"Hold The Vitriol" is the title of a Nick Kristof op-ed on the non-issue of Bush hating.

Kristof really, really doesn't get it.

For a heavily syndicated right wing commentator, genuine hate speech - for example, suggesting that Democratic candidates should be shot - is merely a pardonable, overemotional reaction to a buddy's death.

But if an opponent of Bush suggests the very same thing, Kristof starts frothing that such language literally tears at the very fabric of democracy and jeopardizes the Democratic Party's chances to gain seats in the election. It could even trigger a civil war.

Read on for the details.

This is a recent excerpt from right wing columnist Kathleen Parker:
Here's a note I got recently from a friend and former Delta Force member, who has been observing American politics from the trenches: "These bastards like Clark and Kerry and that incipient ass, Dean, and Gephardt and Kucinich and that absolute mental midget Sharpton, race baiter, should all be lined up and shot.
Here is what Nick reported:
I see the fury in my e-mail messages. In a fairly typical comment, one reader suggested that President Bush and his aides are "lying, cynical greedy pirates who deserve no better than a firing squad."
Here is what Parker wrote in response to her correspondent's suggestion that Democratic candidates should be shot:
OK, so he's a little emotional. We'll pardon him, given that earlier in the day he had learned of a pal's death in Afghanistan with whom he served several years. His friend was a veteran of many wars.
Here's how Nick responded to the Bush haters:
Anyone who isn't concerned by the growing political incivility in this country doesn't remember how the antagonisms in Europe became so caustic that they often blocked governance (not to mention triggered civil wars in Spain and Greece). Already, in this country the public vitriol discourages public service.

The left should have learned from Newt Gingrich that rage impedes understanding — and turns off voters. That's why President Bush was careful in 2000, unlike many in his party, to project amiability and optimism.

Core Democratic voters are becoming so angry that some are hoping for bad economic figures and bad Iraq news just to hurt President Bush.
Ok. First...

To suggest that anyone should be shot is completely beyond the pale. It is unpardonable and, if done by someone with access to weaponry, needs to be taken seriously by the appropriate law enforcement authorities.

Second. The kind of hate speech Kristof deplores is mouthed every day by mainstream Republicans, from Ed Gillespie to the House Majority leader to the Attorney General and so on. And with few exceptions, most Democrats and liberals never rise to the same level of hate.

You want examples? For starters, you can go to the post directly above this one.

[UPDATE: After Kathleen Parker published her op-ed, the contents of the letter she received from the soldier were altered and toned down. Whether she did so at the request of the soldier, as she claims, or at the request of editors who had slighly more sense of what should and shouldn't be printed, is unclear (I believe the latter is more likely). Regardless, the fact remains that the original letter suggested that Democratic candidates should be shot. Parker finds this pardonable overemotionalism.

I do not.]

Bush's Poll Numbers Still Not Low Enough  

But they're moving in the right direction:
The survey of a random sample of more than 1,000 voters, which echoes the results of other recent national polls, found that 55 percent of respondents believed that the administration went to war on the basis of incorrect assumptions, particularly the notion that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the US or its allies.

And despite subsequent denials by senior administration officials, an overwhelming 87 percent of the public felt that the administration before the war portrayed Iraq as an imminent threat. While 42 percent believed that the administration did have the evidence to justify such a depiction, a strong majority of 58 percent said that it did not.

Straw Man Alert!  

Bush has no shame:
US President George Bush says he will not be upset by mass protests planned for his visit to London next week.

In interviews with UK journalists, he said: "I can understand people not liking war, if that's what they're there to protest. I don't like war."
No, George. They are there to protest your completely unnecessary, brutal and counterproductive war.

Quote of the Day  

Josh Marshall on Iraq:
In this whole unfortunate business, the White House took our preeminence and mistook it for omnipotence or something near to it. And by treating our preeminence as omnipotence they've put our preeminence into question.
To add an additional $.02, I have no doubt that other countries are now doing whatever they can to confront our pre-eminence. The only question is whether they will continue to do so once a sensible president is in office. For more about this idea, go here.

Bush's Non Plan For Iraq  

LiberalOasis has an excellent analysis today.

"Everybody's" Using Ambien, General Powell?  

This is seriously no good:
"Yes. Well, I wouldn't call them [sleeping tablets]," Powell said. "They're a wonderful medication -- not medication. How would you call it? They're called Ambien, which is very good. You don't use Ambien? Everybody here uses Ambien." [link via Bob Harris at This Modern World]
Okay, sometimes I have insomnia, so a couple of years ago, I asked my doctor for something and he prescribed Ambien. I have one tablet left. You couldn't pay me enough money to swallow it.

The good news: If you have trouble falling asleep, you will fall asleep on as little as half a tab.

The bad news:

1. It can be highly addictive. And if you use it for more than a week, you may quickly find yourself building up a tolerance. I did.
2. The sleep you get is not all that restful. I noticed a definite decline in certain kinds of reasoning. And in memory.
3. Moodswings are exaggerated. I found myself getting irritated after a few nights of Ambien, and very depressed.
4. Withdrawal exacerbates the moodswings. After about two or three weeks, I realized that Ambien was just about the worst thing I could take to relieve insomnia. So I stopped, leaving that one last dose unused (yeah, if I remember I'll throw it out tonight). For about two weeks, my unusually strong bad mood continued.

(In general, my propensity to stop using addictive substances is pretty good. I quit smoking cold turkey, for example, and haven't used any "recreational" drug in at least 18 years. When I've had the misfortune to require morphine for emergency pain treatment, I've taken it until the pain abates, and then stopped. I don't ascribe this to willpower, but to some quirk in my biochemistry.)

So, General Powell, if you and "everyone" else is using Ambien, I strongly suggest you stop right now and get a good, natural night's sleep. I'm sure the stress you are under must be punishing, but the worst thing you can do is to make it even more brutal by perpetuating a chemical dependency.

And if you know any superiors who are taking it, urge them to stop immediately.

Some less anecdotal information about Ambien (Zolpidem) which is related to benzodiazepenes and is classified as a sedative/hypnotic:
A variety of abnormal thinking and behavior changes have been reported to occur in association with the use of sedative/hypnotics. Some of these changes may be characterized by decreased inhibition (e.g., aggressiveness and extroversion that seemed out of character), similar to effects produced by alcohol and other CNS depressants. Other reported behavioral changes have included bizarre behavior, agitation, hallucinations, and depersonalization. Amnesia and other neuropsychiatric symptoms may occur unpredictably. In primarily depressed patients, worsening of depression, including suicidal thinking, has been reported in association with the use of sedative/hypnotics.
And you can find out more about Ambien's deleterious effects here.

I don't find drug abuse a trivial problem, nor is it funny or sardonically amusing. Powell's statement is extremely worrisome and probably reflects far more widespread abuse in the higher levels of the current US government (and previous administrations, both GOP and Dem) than anyone cares to admit.

Seraphiel's Daily Cartoon Roundup  


The Nader Of The Right  

Ex-judge Roy Moore, he of the Ten Commandments fame, may have something up his no longer be-robed sleeve. Next week, Mr. Moore says he will make an announcement that "could alter the course of this country." Mr. Moore also said, "The battle to acknowledge God is about to rage across the country."


Methinks the laddie is going to run for president.

Oh, the delicious irony of it if true! It would serve as proof beyond doubt that God has a better sense of humor than mortal humankind can possibly imagine.

Roy Moore For President.

There's a certain logic to it. For Bush, who is highly dependent on the extreme religious right for support, has betrayed them.

Wtf, Tristero, are you hallucinating? Religious nuts have never had it so good in this country!

Ah, but that's not how they see it.

Exhibit A: In an attempt to masquerade as fair and balanced, William Pryor, a Bush nominee from Alabama for the judiciary, led the fight against Roy Moore, despite the fact that in the past, when the stakes weren't so high, Pryor supported Moore's shenanigans.

Exhibit B: Bush has never publicly supported Roy Moore.

Exhibit C: Bush has not moved fast enough against abortion or spoken out as clearly as desired against gay marriage.

We'll see. One thing's for sure. Neither Moore nor his followers are going away. And something tells me that Moore running for Alabama's governor isn't ambitious enough for the clown guy. No, he wants national policy to change. So it's either the House, the Senate, or Top Dog. And Moore, methinks, is barking like he wants the best doghouse in the world.


A Congressional conference is now trying to agree on prescription drug legislation. But beware of politicians bearing gifts — the bill will contain measures that have nothing to do with prescription drugs, and a lot to do with hostility to Medicare as we know it.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

The Meatrix  


Thomas Powers: Must Reading  

Go immediately to the New York Review of Books website and read The Vanishing Case for War by Thomas Powers. A man who knows truly of what he speaks, Powers examines the full Bush administration case for war over the past year, and demolishes it. It is, as they say, a definitive article. Herewith, the opening and closing:
The invasion and conquest of Iraq by the United States last spring was the result of what is probably the least ambiguous case of the misreading of secret intelligence information in American history. Whether it is even possible that a misreading so profound could yet be in some sense "a mistake" is a question to which I shall return...

[T]he functioning of our democracy is threatened by the nexus of the White House and a too-pliant CIA- a closed loop of presidents who know they want, intelligence chiefs willing to make the argument and classify the evidence, and members of Congress under their spell.
And then there's this, from the middle of the article:
[T]he United States is certain to pay a debilitating price for the conquest of Iraq for a generation, and the argument over the cause of the disaster is sure to be long and bitter.

When you read Powers' dissection of Powell's UN speech, you will be furious all over again. But read it anyway 'cause it's brilliantly written.

Ted's Not So Excellent Adventure  

Rall's imagined what a "recruitment letter from Saddam"might read like.

Note to rightwingers: No, I don't agree with it. No one agrees with it, you silly ninnies. It was just a really bad idea for a satire that backfired.

Like when William F. Buckley advocated tattooing the forearm and buttocks of any gay man with AIDS...

Oops! I forgot. Buckley was serious. Well, Rall was kidding, but like Buckley, he can't write.


Kevin Drum links to this article in today's Washington Post:
The recent string of high-profile attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq has appeared to be so methodical and well crafted that some top U.S. commanders now fear this may be the war Saddam Hussein and his generals planned all along.

Knowing from the 1991 Persian Gulf War that they could not take on the U.S. military with conventional forces, these officers believe, the Baath Party government cached weapons before the Americans invaded this spring and planned to employ guerrilla tactics.

"I believe Saddam Hussein always intended to fight an insurgency should Iraq fall," said Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division and the man responsible for combat operations in the lower Sunni Triangle, the most unstable part of Iraq. "That's why you see so many of these arms caches out there in significant numbers all over the country. They were planning to go ahead and fight an insurgency, should Iraq fall."
Hoo. Boy.

On April 8, I wrote privately to Seraphiel about the war:
Horrible. And those reports of troops melting away. Christ, why do I keep on recalling the Iliad, Trojan Horse and all? I hope that those premonitions are only that. There's been enough suffering, inflicted and endured.
Around April 14, Kevin Drum wrote a post in which he said he was puzzled by the fact that Saddam's army hadn't really fought that much. I wrote a private email to Kevin:
There could be the arabian equivalent of a Trojan Horse at work here. But here's why the Bushites aren't worried [which they weren't at the time]:

If there is no Trojan Horse, Iraq subsides gradually into a miserable state, like Afghanistan, and is forgotten by the US electorate.

If there is a Trojan Horse, it would horrify the US as the troops suffer severe casualties. It would serve as justification for further middle east adventures.
To another friend, I wrote on the same day, April 14, in response to a Stratfor Weekly article:
I can't shake the awful feeling of a Trojan Horse at work in Iraq. That's what I would do, lull the US into assuming "victory," then when they're in the middle of the cities, attack and inflict heavy, heavy casualties which might weaken support back in the States or cause such rage that Bush inflicts even more dreadful calamities.
And to a third friend on the same day:
I can't help a feeling of dread about all this. I keep on thinking there's a Trojan Horse and when the US is all settled in, there's gonna be a horrific counterattack. I hope to god I'm wrong.
Man, I'd really, really like to be wrong about these things.


Here's one to remember.

Bill Frist, the Republican Senate Majority leader -the very definition of a "mainstream" GOP leader - posted an opinion poll. When the results didn't go his way, he repeatedly changed the question to skew the results.

Here are the details, with screenshots via Texas Patriot. The subject: the Democratic filibuster of far right judicial nominations by the Bush Administration.

The poll originally asked the question: "Should the President's nominees to the federal bench be allowed an up or down vote on confirmation as specified in the Constitution?" What this means is, "Should the Democrats stop their filibuster and allow the Senate to vote on, thereby approving, these four judges?"

Well, as you can see, the vote was not going the way Frist wanted it to. So someone at Frist's site changed the question before the poll was finished. Now it read, "Should the Senate minority block the body's Constitutional duty to provide the President's judicial nominees with an up or down vote?"

Did you notice something? Everyone who voted "no" the first time would likely vote "yes" this second time. But Frist 's site didn't change or reset the tallies! So suddenly a majority, who had voted AGAINST the Republicans was supporting them.

There is a phrase for this: voter fraud. But believe it or not, after the poll closed, the question was changed again.

And that's not all. Texas Patriot shows that even after the poll closed, pro-Republican votes continued to be counted.

The fraud and utter cynicism on display here, on a major Republican's website, is simply mind boggling. But remember: This is merely a silly little online poll and the fraud was easily tracked, documented and exposed. As Texas Patriot also pointed out, given this kind of behavior, there is every reason to assume that Republicans will try, if they think they can get away with it, to rig the national elections. Need I remind you that the head of one of the top computer voting machine companies actually promised to "deliver" the electoral votes from Ohio to George W. Bush in 2004?

I see no reason to treat this as an idle boast.

UPDATE: Reuters adds some interesting stuff to the story. And Atrios once more makes the big time!

Times Profiles The Memory Hole  

A coupla weeks ago, The New York Times was unceremoniously scooped by a relatively obscure website called The Memory Hole . As you may recall, I was steamed that the NY Times knew so little about how to handle electronic documents that I sent the reporters a free copy of Adobe Acrobat 6 for Dummies to help in their research.

Well, never let it be said that the Times doesn't recognize a debt. Today, in the Circuits section, there's a pretty good profile of Russ Kirk, Memory Hole's proprietor. Go read. And check out the site. There's some great stuff there.

Seraphiel's Daily Cartoon Roundup  


Strategy '04: Gillespie's Memo On RNC Tactics  

Yesterday, Atrios linked to this article that published excerpts from a Republican Party memo detailing Bush's strategy for 2004. It is well worth reading in as dispassionate a fashion as possible, paying attention to both their specific techniques as well as their language.

I hope to return to this memo in some detail in the following days, using it as a springboard to discuss Democratic strategy, but here are some preliminary observations:

You Can't Argue With It

The RNC memo is irrefutable. Not because it has much truth, of course, but because it has been designed very carefully to make arguing with it a hopelessly complex task.

For example, Ed Gillespie, RNC chairman wrote that the Dems will be dismissed as the party of "protests, pessimism, and political hate speech." If you try to counter this alliterative trilogy (in fact, there are four explosive p's in the phrase) you will quickly find yourself overwhelmed as it covers so much at once. The phrase is crisp, succinct, and memorable.

It Came From Focus Groups

The memo has been focused-grouped within an inch of its life. Republican strategists have determined that there is still much gold left in the well-mined veins of Clinton bashing. They have decided to blame Clinton for 9/11 without saying it directly, perhaps by not even mentioning Clinton by name.

According to the memo, the investigation of four al Qaeda incidents from the 90's were not conducted properly. They were dealt with as criminal, not terrorist, acts.

Get it? It's easy to refer to this idea in shorthand as "criminal misconduct." And we all know the Clinton administration and the Democrats engaged in criminal misconduct all the time. Sure it doesn't make sense, but we're talking about scoring rhetorical victories, not logical ones. Just try arguing with the "criminal misconduct of the al Qaeda investigations by the Democrats" to get a sense of how bolloxed up one will get in trying to refute it.

(This meme has another useful function as well. It brands only Islamist violence as "terrorist." Christianist terrorism -McVeigh, Rudolph- are different in kind.)

It's Ballsy

Rather than retreat, the strategy is to refocus and attack. If Democrats want to carp on Iraq, the Republicans respond that Iraq is merely an untidy piece of a large, new, and "breathtaking" vision to defend America. And rather than avoiding buzzwords that may be poisoned if the Democrats seized on them, the RNC wholeheartedly embraces them.

Gillespie describes the Bush Doctrine as "pre-emptive self-defense." This recasts the bizarre, indefensible, PNAC notion of "preemptive unilateralism" as sensible foreign policy. To argue with PU is easy - just use the abbreviation - "PU." But to argue against pre-emptive self -defense is like trying to argue against "tax relief" or "partial birth abortion." The moment you accept the phrase and try to speak against it, you've lost.

So, instead of trying to avoid a dicey subject, by finessing Iraq and the larger "war on terrror," the Republicans will meet the Democrats head on, but on their own terms.

Now there is more going on as well in the RNC memo. Apparently, Gillespie drafted this prior to the release of all the "good" economic news. And there is nothing reported about religion, civil rights, and poverty. In fact, there is no mention of domestic issues whatsoever. Why? The emphasis is not on fear of the outside world, but of doing something "bold" to ward off the outside world. Implicit is the assumption that if America is simply impermeable to attack, it can solve all its own problems easily.

Now, inquiring minds want to know, what is to be done? I'll give you a hint:

Fight fire with fire. Ignore the Republican strategy.

Sounds contradictory, doesn't it? Not in the slightest.

To be continued.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Plan Now For NYC GOP Convention!!  

Once again, now is the time to make sure we'll be able to protest the Bush convention next summer. If London is any example, Bush really will try to close down most of midtown NY during the convention.
Peace protesters planning a march to mark the US president's state visit next week say police are planning to seal off large parts of central London.

It follows a row between the Metropolitan Police and civil rights campaigners over the use of anti-terror powers against protesters at an arms fair in September.

Campaign spokesman John Rees told BBC London: "It seems as if they (the police) are going to comply with the White House's request to create an exclusion zone in central London during George Bush's visit.

"And they have told the Stop the War Coalition they won't agree to a route that goes through Parliament Square or Whitehall."

...James Rubin, former US assistant secretary of state during the Clinton presidency, said there were two issues for the White House to consider.

"One is after 9/11 and the possibility of a direct attack on the president and his entourage that has existed in the last couple of years, security caution is very high," he said.

"But there's also something else new in that President Bush is coming to a country that was the scene of enormous demonstrations.

"I think he is coming to a city that will represent extreme opposition in large numbers to what he has tried to do in Iraq."
BTW, I wrote the ACLU about this and they replied that they are working on ensuring that we will be able to demonstrate in NYC next summer. I trust that they are doing what they can. But we'll see.

Link via Atrios.

In The Music Biz, You Play Or Die  

A few days ago, I posted a contrarian view about an inflight radio company that you paid in order to be interviewed. I said that while it was surely despicable, in fact the reality of the publicity/promotion racket -which includes getting to yak on talk shows about your opinions - is equally awful. The only difference is that this new company is cutting out the middleman, saving thousands of dollars.

I wasn't kidding. This article gives you some idea about what actually happens in the music business. While murder is not an everyday occurrence in the quest to get a record played and charted, neither is integrity:
When Kevin Hughes arrived in Nashville, he was an innocent small town boy from Illinois who wanted to make it behind the scenes of the music business.

He got a job at Cash Box , the now-defunct trade journal that once dominated the country music industry.

"He was just excited to be there," said Hughes' brother, Kyle. "Because he was doing what he wanted to do. He loved it."

Hughes wasn't dealing with famous artists on major labels but with hopeful unknowns trying to break in. He managed the independent music charts, which kept track of the unknown artists and how often their songs were being played in the radio.

The Power of Payola

Radio airplay, key to the success of any newcomer, was the field where record promoters play hardball.

Promo kingpin Chuck Dixon and his partners knew all the tricks of the trade — and one of them was to get disc jockeys to move his records up toward No. 1 on their playlists.

The playlists were supposed to reflect real airplay. But they never did, said promoter Gary Bradshaw, a former partner of Dixon's.

Bradshaw told ABCNEWS' Primetime he got the DJs to move these records through the age-old practice of payola. "You brought them to Nashville. They couldn't afford a hotel rooms and meals, and so we purchased that for them."

There were offers of free cruises, house payments, car tires — even new septic tanks, he said.

Dixon and company were manipulating the charts, and in turn making a fortune from aspiring artists like Mickey Jones. Jones told ABCNEWS he spent thousands of dollars on promotional fees to Dixon.

In return, Cash Box made him "Male Vocalist of the Year" — even though he never sold a single record.

Death's Long Shadow

Dixon was lining his pockets with hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in cash, according to Bradshaw.

But rigging the charts wasn't something Hughes was willing to do. "He mentioned to me that he was being offered money and other things to put songs on the charts that weren't legitimate, weren't even being played," said Kyle.

"He was getting ready to blow the whistle on Chuck Dixon and the whole way that Cash Box was being run," Bradshaw said.

Hughes knew he was in danger, and his brother could sense it even over the phone. One hour before Kevin died, the brothers spoke for the last time.

"He was very concerned about something, you could tell by the tone in his voice, he was nervous, and almost scared," said Kyle. "At the end of the conversation he told me he loved me on the phone. And when he said that I knew something was wrong because we didn't talk about that on the phone."

Thirteen years after the murder of Kevin Hughes, police arrested Tony D'Antonio.

Prosecutors believe Dixon ordered the murder and D'Antonio carried it out. Earlier this fall a Nashville jury found him guilty of first-degree murder.

Planned Parenthood Construction Halted By Vigilantes  

One of the state’s largest construction companies has dropped a contract to build a Planned Parenthood facility where abortions would be provided, about six weeks after the start of a locally organized boycott of the project.

San Antonio-based Browning Construction Co., which has built schools, hospitals, government buildings and amusement park facilities, pulled out of the project Tuesday when it couldn’t get subcontractors to do the job.

“We just couldn’t do the contract,” said James Browning, owner of Browning Construction. “We could not mobilize the troops.”

Danielle Tierney, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, called the boycott organized by Austin-area subcontractors who oppose the facility a “campaign of harassment and intimidation.” She vowed the building would be completed.

“We knew full well there would be harassment,” she said. “We will get it done.”

Planned Parenthood broke ground in September on the privately funded $6.2 million project, which would include a medical facility that will provide abortions. It also would provide myriad other medical treatments for women and men, including gynecological services, HIV testing, vasectomies and cancer screening.

Planned Parenthood currently does not perform abortions in the Austin area. The facility is scheduled to open by fall 2004.

The Austin Area Pro-Life Concrete Contractors and Suppliers Association announced the boycott shortly before the project began. Chairman Chris Danze, owner of Maldonado and Danze Inc., an Austin concrete contractor, said every concrete supplier within 60 miles of Austin had agreed not to supply materials.

Well, That's One Way To Keep The News Happy News | U.S. troops more hostile with reporters
With casualties mounting in Iraq, jumpy U.S. soldiers are becoming more aggressive in their treatment of journalists covering the conflict.

Media people have been detained, news equipment has been confiscated and some journalists have suffered verbal and physical abuse while trying to report on events.

Although the number of incidents involving soldiers and journalists is difficult to gauge, anecdotal evidence suggests it has risen sharply the past two months.

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