Saturday, August 07, 2004


I'll be gone until early September. Meanwhile, some humble suggestions for your summer reading, genuine revisionist history that will open your eyes, ears, and mind:

Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues by Elijah Wald looks at the myth, music, and influence of Robert Johnson, the brilliant delta blues master from the 30's. If you grew up listening to his recordings, as most American musicians did, you probably ingested a lot of fairy tales about who he was. This book will place Johnson's achievement into proper historical perspective, but the corrected picture in no way diminishes Johnson's greatness. In a sense, the tragedy of his death at 26 beomes even more apparent as he barely realized his potential when he was poisoned with strychnine-laced whiskey. Be sure to order the companion cd to the book, Back to the Crossroads: The Roots of Robert Johnson, a beautiful disc which makes it very clear the extent to which Robert "borrowed" and thoroughly assimilated the styles he heard around him. Of course, you already have The Complete Recordings of Robert Johnson, right? If not, you are missing out on some of the greatest music-making in the world. Get it now.

If you ever suspected that the hagiography that passes for Revolutionary War history might be a bit too pat, you were right. An amazing book, American Aurora tells the story of the early days of the United States from the point of view of the losers, the newspapermen who were persecuted under the Sedition Act of 1798 for daring to criticize the American Saints. Washington comes across as an incompetent general, John Adams as a monarchical wannabe, Jefferson as a man of great ideals but personal cowardice. The story is told entirely through documents, primarily clippings from the Aurora, the renegade newspaper edited by Ben Franklin's grandson, Benjamin Bache (pronounced "Beech"). It's very long, but absolutely irresistible. Don't miss it.

Meanwhile, keep the faith!

Friday, August 06, 2004

News Of The (Very) Weird  

You have to see this site to believe it. Some wack job is the Republican candidate for a district in Tennesee. Be sure to click on "Favored Races." Kos assures us the district is "safely Democratic." I certainly hope so!

Two More U.S. Marines killed in Iraq  

Bush may try to Afghanize Iraq but Americans are still dying over there, as are hundreds of Iraqis in the anarchy we've created.

Total disaster.

Bush Never Made Up His Skipped Guard Duty  

Once again, facts will out. Kevin Drum summarizes Paul Lukasiak's research on Bush in the Guard:
So what do we know? We know that Bush skipped five months of drills without permission, but we've known that since last March. In addition, though, we now know that despite what he says, Bush never made up any of the drills he missed.

By itself, this might or might not be a big deal. However, in addition to a disturbingly large number of still unanswered questions about his service, it's clear that in mid-1972 Lt. Bush decided to skip his required annual physical and quit flying — and apparently nobody complained. He then missed five months of drills and was never required to make them up. Despite this, in 1973 he was transferred to the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver, no disciplinary was action taken, and in 1974 he was honorably discharged.

Who pulled the strings to make this happen? And why?
Hopefully, somebody in the mainstream news will take the time to investigate this carefully. So far, no one has. Too much effort, it requires reading and comprehension.

Kerry Slime Retracted  

Veteran retracts criticism of Kerry:
...a key figure in the anti-Kerry campaign, Kerry's former commanding officer, backed off one of the key contentions. Lieutenant Commander George Elliott said in an interview that he had made a ''terrible mistake" in signing an affidavit that suggests Kerry did not deserve the Silver Star...

The statement refers to an episode in which Kerry killed a Viet Cong soldier who had been carrying a rocket launcher, part of a chain of events that formed the basis of his Silver Star...Crew members have said Kerry's actions saved their lives.

Yesterday, reached at his home, Elliott said he regretted signing the affidavit and said he still thinks Kerry deserved the Silver Star...

Elliott said. ''It was a terrible mistake probably for me to sign the affidavit with those words. I'm the one in trouble here."
Readers will note that I removed as many of the lies as I could from the article in quoting these excerpts. I did so for a reason.

The people trying to slime Kerry are doing so not because they have a legitimate point of view but because they hate Kerry for opposing the Vietnam War. They are deliberately spreading falsehoods in order to muddy the discourse, to turn a clearcut case of heroism into a he said/she said "debate."

But it isn't working. The Bush campaign has publicly repudiated them and McCain has reamed both them and the Bush campaign.

More importantly, the facts speak for themselves. Those who were most in a position to know, Kerry's boatmates, stand by Kerry. As do contemporary Army records.

There is no he said/she said "debate." Kerry deserved his Silver and Purple stars.

End of story.

[Update] A correspondent (B.O.) has kindly corrected some misstatements above:

"As a once-crusty assistant city editor, two minor factual points: It is contemporary "Navy" not "Army" records. Kerry was awarded a Silver Star (third highest decoration for valor) and a Bronze Star (relatively routine in a hot combat zone). He was also wounded in action three times (officially) for which he automatically qualified for a Purple Heart each time. Purple "Heart" and Silver "Star". Navy not Army."

Another Chart: Bush Approval Vs. Terror Alerts  

JuliusBlog has the chart. Go there. Here are their conclusions:
- Whenever his ratings dip, there's a new terror alert.

- Every terror alert is followed by a slight uptick of Bush approval ratings.

- As we approach the 2004 elections, the number and frequency of terror alerts keeps growing, to the point that they collapse in the graphic. At the same time, Bush ratings are lower than ever.

Misleading Chart  

Yesterday, Republican and Bechtel board member George Schultz published a chart in the NY Times purporting to prove that Clinton inherited a recovery and "bequeathed recession:"

Not being an expert on finances, I had no way to judge the chart's accuracy, but a few things looked a bit fishy to me. Fortunately, The Center for American Progress has some experts who convincingly show how misleading this chart really is. Some excerpts:
Shultz's contention that Clinton "inherited prosperity" is misleading; an objective assessment of late 1992 and early 1993 reveals a weak and highly uncertain economic environment.

Overall economic growth was extremely shaky in late 1992 and early 1993: GDP growth when President Clinton took office in the first quarter of 1993 was essentially flat – recorded as negative for most of the last decade, and revised to an extremely anemic 0.5 percent growth in a benchmark revision in December 2003. [BEA]

The unemployment rate stayed persistently high during 1992 and early 1993: Shultz's piece conveniently chose to ignore the unemployment rate, which hovered in the 7.6-7.8 percent range for much of 1992 and was at 7.3 percent when President Clinton took office... [BLS]

While job growth resumed in 1992, it was anemic...

Many of the nation's top economic analysts concurred with the interpretation of a weak and uncertain economy in the second half of 1992... [Numerous quotes from economists are given.]

Shultz's visual representation of the Clinton administration's economic record as somehow flat or ordinary is grossly misleading. President Clinton not only presided over the longest economic expansion in our nation's history, but broke from the previous period's trend and oversaw exceptional progress on nearly every major economic indicator...

Schultz distorts the recent recession and ignores the implications of his own chart:

Inaccurately portrays 2001 recession: Further underscoring the biased nature of his chart, Shultz incorrectly displays the most recent recession as beginning in January 2001 – the last month President Clinton was in office – rather in March 2001 as the independent NBER Recession Dating Committee has established.

Ignores the historic weakness of the current jobs recovery that his own chart displays:  Shultz fails to acknowledge that by his own calculations, we are experiencing the weakest jobs recovery since the Great Depression...

Rotten Employment Growth In July  

Very bad news:
U.S. employers added a paltry 32,000 workers to payrolls last month, the government said on Friday in a report far weaker than expected that will come as unwelcome news for President George W. Bush ahead of the presidential election.

The Labor Department also cut its tally of job growth for May and June by a combined 61,000.


The unemployment rate, however, fell to 5.5 percent from 5.6 percent in June as a separate government survey of households showed robust employment growth. The department cautioned that the household survey was a less reliable barometer of month-to-month changes in employment than its larger survey of businesses.

Wall Street economists polled last week had looked for a payroll gain of 228,000, although a weak employment reading from a service sector survey on Wednesday had some bracing for a weaker number. Still, the lackluster July figure was certain to surprise.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

The Truth Will Out  

President Bush today:
Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.
Hat tip to Atrios.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The Disappeared Country II  

For those of you who think Bush/Iraq is over and done with, Jeanne has a super round-up of news from Iraq and it is very sobering.

Ridge's Bluff  

Tom Ridge in the Times today:
The detail, the sophistication, the thoroughness of this information, if you had access to it, you'd say we did the right thing.
Okay. Let's have access to it.

In another Times article, the reporters give us a breathless behind the scene account of the Bush administration in a panic, trying to deal with this frightening new information. But one thing's missing: any insight into exactly what the information is.

And let's remember, folks: These are the very same clowns who weren't paying attention during the summer of '01. These are the very same clowns who, by their own admission, got it wrong on Iraq. Given their atrocious track record, why should we trust their intelligence judgements now?

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Don't Get Sick, Folks  

Less folks have healthcare being covered by employers:
Nearly 9 million Americans lost their employer-provided health insurance from 2001 to 2003, with low-income workers and Hispanics feeling the biggest impact, according to a study released yesterday.

The economic downturn that started in 2001, as well as a 28 percent increase in the cost of insurance, caused the decline in coverage, the study says.

The stronger economy now emerging could halt the slide but is unlikely to lead to a substantial increase in coverage over the long term, it says.

'Health-care costs — and health-insurance premiums — continue to outpace workers' incomes by a large margin,' said Bradley Strunk, co-author of the study released by the Center for Studying Health System Change, a nonpartisan research group. 'Such rapid growth will continue to strain employers and make private insurance less and less affordable.'

It's Florida On A Log Scale  

Yes, Florida has the potential to be another Florida in November. But after reading this very distressing article in The Nation, it should be clear that there is a very serious potential of hundreds of Floridas this year, and little can be done about it this late in the game.

Of Course They Knew, Iraq Edition  

Sirota and Harvey provide the timeline: author Flannery O’Conner noted, “Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” That means no matter how much defensive spin spews from the White House, the Bush administration cannot escape the documented fact that it was clearly warned before the war that its rationale for invading Iraq was weak.

Top administration officials repeatedly ignored warnings that their assertions about Iraq’s supposed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and connections to al Qaeda were overstated. In some cases, they were told their claims were wholly without merit, yet they went ahead and made them anyway. Even the Senate report admits that the White House “misrepresented” classified intelligence by eliminating references to contradictory assertions.

In short, they knew they were misleading America.

And they did not care.

Hat tip to Atrios.

A Little Birdie Told Me  

While all of us are marvelling at the fact that Bush and Ridge have, once again, snookered the American people into believing a major al Qaeda attack was imminent, here's a little trivial tidbit that fell unannounced into my lap.

Apparently, at least one of the Bush twins will be attending the Olympics in style, ensconced on the Bush family yacht, all 300 feet of it. One more example of how truly meat-and-potatoes and working class the Bushes are, especially compared to that French-looking fellow trying to steal his job.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Political Hate Speech  

Bring it on:
Mr. Bush's advisers plan to cap the month at the Republican convention in New York, which they said would feature Mr. Kerry as an object of humor and calculated derision.
What are they thinking? As an object of humor, Bush is a slam-dunk winner over Kerry.

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